Saturday, December 01, 2007


What does 30 quid buy you these days? Half a hairdo? A night in a crap hotel? A Czech hooker? Among my spam this week comes an invitation to join the latest in a long line of short-lived film networking websites. bills itself as Scotland’s premier resource and networking community for anyone working, or wishing to gain experience, within the film and television industry. All for just £30 a year.

After all, when you can’t make a living out of the film business, surely the next best thing is to exploit all those wannabe filmmakers who are either too dumb or too lazy to find out for themselves that film isn’t some clandestine closed shop. All the information’s out there for free if you can be bothered to look, so who needs to spend 30 quid a year to read content written by other members who presumably joined up because they don’t have a clue about the business either.

You can’t shoot them for trying, but if I want to give somebody my money, I like to know who I’m giving it to. On FilmingFolk you'll find a Terry Dray, who has a single credit on IMDB as an AD on a short made five years ago, alongside Lynzie Dray and Christine Davidson, plus a couple of outfits purporting to be production companies, neither of which musters a Google ranking. Like, how much do they know about making films? Or, like most companies here, have they made the standard couple of shorts and the odd corporate?

Especially not enticing is the rate they charge for script feedback. I mean, £279 for ‘extensive analysis’ of a feature script? Are they kidding? Even the Script Factory only charges £75 for a feature script and at least they've got some screenwriting chops.

As for FilmingFolk’s 'short film competition', this really beggars belief. For a start they’re charging £25 to enter (£40 if you want feedback). And the prize? I quote -

The winning script will be produced using a professional producer, director, crew and actors and will go into pre-production on Monday 3rd November 2008 for a 7 week shoot, which includes, development, pre-production, the shoot and edit time”.

Hello-oh? A 7-week shoot for a short? I think FilmingFolk must’ve got D minus at film school, because any idiot knows the shoot is the bit where you have a camera and actors, not the bit when you sit in front of a computer editing, or rewriting the script. It makes you wonder what the losers get – two scripts produced by FilmingFolk Productions Ltd?

If this sounds like a slagging, you’re dead right. It’s one thing to be fleeced by professionals, but it’s another to get mugged by a bunch of amateurs who clearly don’t have the first clue about making films or is qualified to teach anyone else how to. Because if they could, then why aren’t they doing it? Here's why - nobody in the real film business wants to fund films these days, especially films in Scotland. Even big grown-up filmmakers who know what they're doing can't make a living. So unless you want to starve...

FF has got what must be the world's wordiest website with delusional claims about how they deal with ‘industry professionals’. If that's so, then what’s the point of submitting the finished film to BAFTA Scotland? What do you think Alison Forsyth is going to do with it, apart from use it as a coaster? And as for the claims about getting the film to festivals – it’s just pish. Anybody can fill in a form for a festival but getting accepted is a whole lot harder.

If FF wants my advice, they should cut the crap, post their CVs, and get rid of their dumbass terms and conditions. By all means be in business, but don’t lie about your so-called expertise because you come across like a bunch of chancers. I've been shaken down by better than you guys. And finally, stop spamming me. I’d rather throw thirty quid down the toilet than sign up to you lot.


Blogger David C said...

Sorry, not really a comment, more a plug for my blog:
Just random thoughts on films, hopefully amusing to some.

12/02/2007 6:22 PM  
Blogger Leanne Smith said...

What am I, your agent?

On you go, son...


12/02/2007 7:59 PM  
Blogger Lucy said...

TWO HUNDRED AND SEVENTY NINE QUID!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Clearly I am working for the wrong people. Do they get any takers? If I was rich I'd almost do that just to see what I got out of morbid curiosity.

Since we're pimping our own asses here, you can get "extensive analysis" from moi for £65. What?! ; )

12/02/2007 8:43 PM  
Blogger Leanne Smith said...

Hi Lucy,

I got that wrong - actually the price they quote on their site is 269 quid, so I was a tenner out.

But it's more complicated than that you see, since they charge different rates depending on the number of pages you send.

Do you think somebody should tell them they're a wee bit overpriced?


12/02/2007 9:12 PM  
Blogger Lucy said...

I *think* you may have already done that mate in a roundabout fashion. With a sledgehammer.

12/03/2007 8:28 PM  
Blogger Leanne Smith said...

Handy tool when it comes to pointing out greed and stupidity, my dear...


12/03/2007 9:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unrelated (almost): Do you know anything about the results of the Channel 4 Pilot trawl for free talent? Did anyone actually get on to it? Was it just Scottish writers, or did they take people as far south as, say, Alnwick?

I sent a devastating submission, but I'm in Wales so the post mule hasn't got here yet with my invitation to join them.



12/04/2007 8:51 AM  
Blogger Leanne Smith said...

As far as I know, JB, Pilot was open to all comers, not just Scottish writers. If you look at my previous posts and comments, the terms were fairly offputting, not just to folk outside Scotland but to writers based here too. I just think it's another ill-thought-out scheme. No way should 12 writers have to go through a year of so-called development for a pittance with no travel and accommodation for only one script to come out the other end. Surely there's a better way of coming at this...

Good luck with the project.


12/04/2007 10:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good spot on this. It's only one of many dubious sites, workshops, courses going on at present up here. Workshops on how to successfully pitch your idea to TV, run by someone who's never successfully done that (and has inflated his CV); Read Kerr and Napier courses, being run by people with little or no practical experience in the industry, beyond jobs with quangoes, or stints with broadcasters - but having generated next to nothing themselves.

I speak as someone who makes a decent living writing (at present - who knows about tomorrow?), and think the exploitation of people who'd like to get into the industry is awful - especially when backed by Scottish Screen - themselves staffed by a bunch of never-was's.

I think your hostility to competitions such as the Pilot Scheme is a little misguided, though - love them or loathe them, it's a way in, and a way ahead. Not in an ideal world, but then TV isn't, and never will be.

Best of luck

12/04/2007 5:07 PM  
Blogger Leanne Smith said...

Thanks for that.

You're dead right about all these workshops and courses here. As somebody who did a course a few years ago, I came out with nothing but a pile of debt and a low opinion of most of the 'expertise' on offer.

The situation we've got now is even more ludicrous - an entire industry based on the idea of making film and TV and not actually making any. There are more people making a living off the fantasy of a viable film/TV business - administrators, course tutors with no practical or recent experience, unemployed actors reinvented as script gurus, you name it - than not.

I disagree about these recent TV schemes though. Would you work for a year for 100 quid a week like on the Pilot scheme? It might be a way in as you say, but I don't think Channel 4 drama should be subsidised by underpaid writers. At least when you write on spec, you own your work. And I doubt a year of development can turn slave wage work into TV gold.


12/04/2007 6:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

With regard to the TV schemes, Leanne - this isn't a recent phenomenon, and it was always thus (at least, it has in the twelve years I've been writing). The unfortunate truth is, it's like a closed shop that a new writer has to find a way to penetrate - it's very tough. People who go to film schools (the proper ones, and not the wee diddy ones that have sprung up of late) have a look-in; spec scripts are another (though commissioning editors' offices are piled high with such efforts, and without the backing of a good agent or producer, most don't get read - or if they do, it's to nick the idea, and give it to a writer who they know and trust); now and then, the powers that be will decide to champion someone above all else, as they did with Lynne Ramsey or David McKenzie - though these people tend to be exposed as out of their depth as soon as they step out from beneath the safe umbrella of quango patronage. Another way in is competitions.

The two shorts I had made (both commissioned from competitions - three years apart), I ended up significantly out of pocket personally. Like most other people, I did this in my spare time from my day job. I subsequently quit my day job on winning an amount of money in another competition, and gave it a real go - getting an agent on the back of this was a major way in. I wouldn't have got a decent agent without the competitions.

I understand it's not perfect, and almost everyone has to work for free for a long period to find a way in. It's shit, but it's the way it is. I don't think Cha 4 should be subsidised by under-paid writers either - however, those short-listed, and the eventual winner, will get a significant leg up.

Hard, but true.

12/05/2007 11:47 AM  
Anonymous Dublin Dave said...

Great post, Leanne.

I've got substantial writing credits for TV and I wouldn't dream of charging someone to help them along. I've read scripts from people looking to break in, hell if they were good I've even got them a trial script on a show or phoned a producer to put in a word for them.

People charging others for script analysis when they have NO or limited fucking credits is on the rise but WTF?

We help each other along because we were once that unloved, unproduced writer, not to line our our pockets with cash from the gullible and desperate.

Dublin Dave

P.S. 30 notes for a Czech hooker? Are we talking hairy arsed Eastern European rugby players?

12/05/2007 5:56 PM  
Anonymous blinded said...

I like your blog, very interesting read. Any chance you could make it black text on white? The white text on black is giving me a headache.

12/07/2007 3:56 PM  
Blogger Lucy said...

I'd have to disagree about Anonymous' comments about what I assume are Mead Kerr's courses.

I've gone on numerous courses over the years and in comparison to some of the overpriced drivel I have sat through, Adrian Mead and Claire Kerr work extremely hard, go out of their way to help people, encourage networking within their classes and keep their costs low. Not only that, they don't "teach" cos they can't "do": they've actually made films and Adrian has written for TV.

Having said that I too think it's atrocious that so many out there cash in on screenwriters' desire to get ahead with dubious concepts and formulas, but on the flipside people also have to make money, so part of the equation is choosing wisely I think and asking others who've "been there" before you.

12/07/2007 5:50 PM  
Blogger Leanne Smith said...

You're the first to complain, but I aim to please. I'm planning to give the blog a whole new look over the Christmas hols, so I'll bear the text thing in mind.


12/07/2007 5:52 PM  
Blogger Leanne Smith said...

Hi Lucy,

The comment wasn't about MEAD KERR, they were referring to REID KERR, a two-bit college like so many others offers courses in film and TV.

As far as getting script advice is concerned, there's plenty of us bloggers only pleased to advise. That said, when it starts to become a full-time job, there's no harm in charging a reasonable rate for your time and wisdom, but not 269 quid.


12/07/2007 6:07 PM  
Blogger Leanne Smith said...

To Anonymous and Dublin Dave,

Sorry I didn't get your comments sooner - I forgot to check the moderation page, lazy bint that I am.

First, Anonymous - congrats - you've clearly worked your arse off to get where you are. I totally agree with you about the lot of the first-time writer trying to break through.

It's interesting what you say about the likes of David Mackenzie and Lynne Ramsay - I think they were championed less for their writing chops than the perception of them being 'auteurs' - directors first, writers second. How many first-time feature films are made by writer /directors in the UK? Usually it works for one or two films until - like you say - they're exposed when the real world makes commercial demands on them.

What do they say? The harder you practice, the luckier you get. That's what any writer has to do. the trick is to keep writing.

Dublin Dave - nice to hear from you. WTF indeedy - it's so great to hear from someone who genuinely gives others a hand. If only this were the case in Scotland, where most of the advice isn't worth having, or people are too busy kicking the ladder away when they get up a few rungs themselves.

Happy writing and good luck to you both.


12/07/2007 6:20 PM  
Blogger Lucy said...

Ah OK, my apologies to Anonymous. I hadn't heard of them, though I've heard mixed reports on a variety of courses, particularly MAs. Some of the advice these "centres of excellence" give out seems highly dubious.

And you're damn right on blogging and script advice, that's why I have my blog. I don't mind admitting it's not *entirely* philanthropic, I have to earn a living and the blog brings me clients and contacts. I'm also involved in a course myself but unlike others it works on both the creative and marketing front and gets writers in touch with real prodcos and real pitching sessions, which is why I do it. I wouldn't ever get involved with a shoddy outfit that promises more than it can deliver.

I've been incredibly lucky over the years, people have helped me a lot and it's only right that I help others as much as I can too.

12/07/2007 6:23 PM  
Blogger Leanne Smith said...

Cheers Lucy,

Adrian and Clare are among some of the good guys here, so I wouldn't put up with anybody slagging them.

Your course sounds interesting. I think the marketing side of things is sorely missing when it comes to addressing the commercial realities while still trying to slip some originality past the money.

I try my best to help out other writers too, but if I'm honest most of the scripts I get in are beyond redemption. Still, you can learn as much from a duffer as you can from a masterpiece!! Well, sometimes...

Chin up!

12/07/2007 6:56 PM  
Blogger Lucy said...

Defo Leanne, sadly some scripts out there are just from the very bowels of hell! ; )

I've been meaning to say for some time that I'd like to speak to you about stuff "off-blog" too but couldn't find an email on your profile (though could be looking straight at it). Email me if you like, Bang2write"at"aol"dot"com.

Have a great weekend!

12/07/2007 7:05 PM  

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