Monday, November 12, 2012

Robert McKee In London

Up early and out to the Barbican on Saturday for The London Screenwriters’ Festival and the London Breakfast Club presentation of The Primacy of Story with Robert McKee. This was an unexpected treat, discovered via the Alliance of Independent Authors' Facebook forum.

The lovely lady next to me, a sitcom writer, had come down from Yorkshire for the talk and the woman in the row in front from Ireland, such is his pulling power. Coffee, pastries, even a pencil and notepad were included in the £16 ticket price so a bargain as well.

The first thing I wrote on my notepad was 'Euroscript', being discussed by the people in the row in front. A Google reveals something interesting straight away, "Channel 4 Head of Drama Piers Wenger is looking for pilots targeting 16- to 34-year-olds for transmission on E4 next year - from both "new and established writers with big ideas." Then I wrote - recommended by either the MC or McKee, can't remember, a way for new writers and film-makers to get their work known. And that's before the kick-off. It was all massively inspiring and I feel much closer to getting back to writing again.

A few notes:

On story
All stories express > how & why life changes. For better or worse. CHANGE is the great terror. AS long as things don’t change in life you’re SAFE. CHANGE introduces JEOPARDY.
Eg You meet someone and fall in love > opens door to hell.
Story ALWAYS about change.
Make emotional sense of life even if ABSURD.
Story that > persuades & proves truth of itself. Beautiful metaphors for life.
Facts are not the truth. Fact > Life > Meaningless.
Trick is how & why what happens happens.
What writers do is see beneath the surface of human behaviour to real forces, the real hows and whys, and interpret into story to explain that truth.

On writing
Are you a writer who LEADS or FOLLOWS?
Fine writers lead us into the next revolution of story.
Are you an original artist? Or imitator?
Long form TV has the best writing in the US, not movies. Long form tv has great characters, more complex than ever before.
What could be coming is the 100 hour story. The content will have to be fantastic, with such complexity of character that in the 99th hour they will take action to reveal a quality never seen in the previous 100 hours.

My favourite quote of the day
"Critics of the 3 act structure – ARSES. So far up their own arses they need windows in their stomachs to see where they’re going. What they complain about are happy endings..."

And later, in the Q/A session

Q: Why do we have to avoid natural resolution in endings?
A: BEGIN STORY – Create TENSION and unanswered questions.
ENDING if nothing resolved > upset the audience. No meaning. Feel you’ve cheated them. With an open end, writer saying I can’t make sense out of life, I just have no fucking idea. CONTRACT with the READER, it’s a RITUAL. It’s RUDE to leave unresolved tension.
STORY fits the mind – the mind wouldn’t do it to itself. Our minds thinking about future hang on HOPE… It’s a CONTRACT, come to my story is a BIG request. You’re obliged to return the favour with MEANING…

He's got a new book coming out "Character", which, he said, might as well be called Human Nature.

If you have 100s of £s to invest in your writing and have the 4 days free there's a full seminar coming up in London. IF ONLY!!!!! But am so happy to have had the opportunity - London Screenwriters' Festival 2013 Breakfast Club - thank you. Here's another happy McKee customer, Russell Brand, who puts it so eloquently - 'McKee is a master of the form and a servant to the craft, motivated by great love. Enthusing to be around - in harmony with higher principles....' He's very funny too...

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