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Lawrence Gray
Director , Producer , Screenwriter , Author
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Hong Kong Screen Writers' Newsletter 24 July 2009

Hong Kong Screen Writers' Newsletter 24 July 2009

CONTENTS:

•    I NEARLY SHOT HONG KONG

•    SOUNDLESS WINDCHIMES

•    WHAT TO WRITE

•    PARTY TIME

•    TEACH YOURSELF SCREENWRITING: The Movie

If you wish to tell us about your Hong Kong film projects, please send your information to lwgray@netvigator.com


About our publications

The HKWC has published four critically acclaimed anthologies of short stories - Haunting Tales, Sweat & the City, Hong Kong Whodunnits and Love & Lust - which are available at selected Dymocks bookstores and from our website. Read more at:

http://www.hkwriterscircle.com/Publications/Publications.html


  • I NEARLY SHOT HONG KONG

I am glad to say that my short film “Gong Neui” at least got me a mention in Time Out and HIPHONGKONG.COM. And that people kept thinking that Lawrence Wong, one of the other participants in the I Shot Hong Kong contest, made the movie. It just shows that an old Gweilo can do a Canto-comedy firmly fixed in the lives of the younger generation. Unfortunately the audience voted for the much less funnier film, FIN, a documentary about dismembering sharks.

Anyway my ears rang with compliments, the audience laughed even though they didn’t need to, and there was a whoop of cheers when the name of my film was mentioned. And even the making of the film was as near painless as these things can possibly get due to the excellent work of the actors. I hope I can work with them again on a much bigger project… I always have more projects. For a constant up-date of my procrastination and occasional spurts of energy, you can check out my web site www.lawrencegray.com where I’ve taken reluctantly to blogging. Hell, I’m even twittering nowadays. Since I used to do this before it became fashionable I realize the futility of it all but I suppose I’d better do it if only to tell people they are talking rubbish when they say all my obscurity is due to my deep suspicions of self-promotion and self-promoters.

In the meantime though, join us in the first week of August for the next Screenwriters Workshop. We have a number of projects under review that we will discuss and if you have new ones, you are welcome to bring them along. And as for those of you already in the Workshop… READ THE TREATMENTS, WRITE DOWN YOUR COMMENTS AND SEND THEM TO ME SO THAT I CAN PASS THEM ON TO THE OTHER MEMBERS OF THE GROUP! Now that’s not too subtle is it?

Our aim – or at least my aim - is to create a core of energetic writer/film makers who will do the work necessary to develop their projects and get them made and distributed.

If you want to join, let me know.

Lawrence Gray

Hong Kong (Screen)Writers' Circle

lwgray@netvigator.com

  • WINDLESS SOUND CHIMES

Here’s a Hong Kong Movie that was never quite one because Kit Hung registered his company in Switzerland and therefore technically it aint a Hong Kong one.

Kit might not have exactly planned this, but being in tune with the rhythms of European cinema probably got it into the Berlin International Film festival – A top of the range festival that turns away far more than it accepts.

I met Kit a few years back when he tried to explain to me the plot of the movie. It sounded like nearly every story I had heard other young HK filmmakers wanting to make, except for the bit about it being about two blokes getting it on. So I nodded my head and said, hmm, a bit of a tough sell. He told me it was in pre-production and he’d be shooting it so he had got the funds despite my reservations.

And, as is often the case where film projects are concerned, in the making of it, is the making of it.  So go see for yourself. It’s on at The Broadway Cinematique from the 23rd July.

Kit Hung will attend a Q&A after the 7:30pm show on the 24th July.

http://www.soundlesswindchime.com

Starring:

    Lu Yulai, Bernhard Bulling

Screenplay by:

    Kit Hung

Directed by:

    Kit Hung

Produced by: Jacqueline Liu, Liliane Ott, Min Li Marti, Philip Delaquis, Stefan Zuber

Awards:

    - Teddy Award Nominee, Berlin International Film Festival.

    - Best New Director, Turin GLBT international Film Festival

    - Audience Award, Turin GLBT international Film Festival

    - Special Jury Mention, Best Feature Film in Competition, Turin GLBT international Film Festival

Plot outline:

    Soundless Wind Chime is the poetic journey of Ricky, searching for the lost soul and the past of his deceased Swiss lover – Pascal. The film shows a battle of love, lust, reality, memory and illusions and the grief everybody bears every day.


  • WHAT TO WRITE!

Movies get made not because they should get made, but because they can get made. On my last trip to Hollywood I found myself stuck in Santa Monica’s Holiday Inn re-writing a script so that it could be passed on to Russel Crowe’s agent and not be immediately turned down because there was no obvious Russel Crowe role. What an obvious Russel Crowe role is, I’m not sure, which might be why we’re still looking for a bankable cast.

The point being that I had written a script that would be expensive to do and the immediate reaction of producers when confronted with these problems was to adopt a business plan that required attaching one big star. The lesson being: if you conceive of an ensemble piece without any big central characters, do not have extravagant locations requiring lots of hotel accommodation.

You should also understand that the business model for low budget productions usually takes into account raising funds from Government backed film funds. And those usually have various regional requirements concerning cast, crew, and location.

If there are no government funds available, then you are looking entirely for private investors with small amounts of money. To hook them you have to have a plan for recouping their investment or they will lose their money and thus, you will not make another movie with those guys.

If you want to write Hollywood scripts then write big, write Transformers Three, and get to the Studios pitching and displaying your samples so that you can get a chance of being commissioned to work on the big franchises. If you’re over forty, hate pizza, or can’t drive, LA might not be for you. And so TV writing is a good option, but that means getting into the TV business with all the trimmings. If none of these options grab you, or are available to you, which is the case if you are confined to Hong Kong, and triply so if you only think in terms of English language material, then you are writing for the so called independent film world.

That means, since Independent Producers never have any money and rarely pay for scripts, you have to be a producer, whether you like it or not. Ignore this and you will write scripts that can never be made or you will be trapped writing and re-writing for people who will never pay you.

Most business plans I see are full of nothing more than wishful thinking, irrelevant information, and doctored statistics. They don’t fool anyone.

So outline a distribution plan and a realistic method of recouping costs. If your low budget movie can get into some decent festivals and have good critical response then various art house circuits will take it. So, if your script is capable of being art house material then say what festivals you are going for and what sort of returns such movies make. That’s a question you might pose Kit Hung when you go see his movie on the 24th.

What makes an art house movie? Hard to say. Certainly good photography helps so you need a good cinematographer involved in the project. Is there one? If so, that’s relevant to the business plan. Other factors might be a director with a good portfolio of student work, advertising work, short movies or even feature work. Or of course, it might be you. And you are probably the weak link in the whole project. In which case, surround yourself with strong assistance. You might need to give out shares in the ownership of the movie to lock them in. Or maybe this is all friends and favours. They will be friends until they start work on the project and then it will be all business. Get written contracts. If your assistants are as un-bankable as you however, then maybe you need Plan B.

Before we go onto that let's just mention that even though your film might not be art house, low budget comedies and crime movies are both capable of being lucrative. They usually depend upon recognizable local actors and local cinema distribution before recouping funds through TV and DVD sales. They will get limited distribution in various regions, or even slip into the Art House circuit by the back door. Very low budget variants with first time directors and three men crews, if miraculously high enough in production values, scripts and performance, can also fit in with the Art Entertainment arena and do deals with Art house circuits. And then through that exposure they can get TV and DVD deals. This is the area you and your HD camcorder can reasonably dream of fitting in with.

What are your options in Hong Kong? They are a lot better if you are dealing with a Chinese language movie. Though that limits your overseas sales. But this is not an area traditionally connected with English language movies, so unless you have some special connection to an overseas market beyond merely the language, you are running into trouble.

Analyze your situation and come up not just with Plan A, where everything goes right, but also Plan B, where you can at least recoup costs. This could be a straight to DVD option.  So how are you going to handle that sort of distribution? Who are the distributers that you will deal with and what kind of deals do they do? What sort of publicity are you going to do? You need to do some homework here and get to know all this.

Another revenue source can be on-line downloads but these are not known for doing great business, unless the film has already been a success in the cinema and even then on-line distribution is only just beginning to take off. Is your film low budget enough to be able to recoup funds this way alone?

On-line distribution is where the self-financed, self-directed, self-produced near no-budget movie finds itself unless very lucky. Writing for this market – though market is perhaps too generous a term - might be the only way you can get that first directing gig!

When developing scripts for your debut, you should think in terms of no-budget productions and cleverly try make that an asset.  You might, as they say, go viral, and use an on-line success to allow you to scale up your operations next time around. You might then even plug into the Art Entertainment circuit and get Cable TV stepping in to give you and yours a pay day.

To sum up: think through what you are trying to achieve when writing the script and who your audience is. And have a plan beyond merely finishing the script and hoping for something to happen. Avoid bankruptcy!

More Musings on Writing etc. can be found at www.lawrencegray.com

 


  • PARTY TIME

The Young Socialites

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Time:    

15:00 - 21:00

Location:    

Pool side house, Strawberry Hill Street:    

8 Plunkett Road, The Peak

Phone: 60984453

Email: zonden@hotmail.com_____

Speak up! Aug 5th

HK's Official Artists Meetup

SPEAK UP!- Hosted by Kate Sullivan and Roger De Leon from E.V.E.N.T( An International Artist Company) http://www.artisteventscompany.com/ Hong Kongs most popular Artist network

Host:e.v.e.n.t.

Time:Wednesday, 05 August 2009 21:00

Location:MINT: Central, HongKong

  • TEACH YOURSELF SCREENWRITING: The Movie

http://www.videojug.com/film/how-to-format-your-film-script

http://www.videojug.com/film/how-to-format-scenes-in-a-film-script

http://www.videojug.com/film/how-to-describe-action-in-a-film-script

http://www.videojug.com/film/how-to-format-dialogue-in-a-film-script

http://www.videojug.com/film/how-to-get-feedback-on-your-script


  • LIBRARY OF ON LINE SCREENPLAYS

http://www.screenplays-online.de/


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I write and direct movies.

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Johor Bahru, Malaysia
Gender
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Member Since
October 19, 2007

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