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Draft two act two…

January 4 2011  Categorized Under: Writing  Add Comment

The re-writing continues. We have had positive feedback about our revised Act One from a possible director.

His comments about the script in general were taken on board, we worked through the story again, we saw things from a different view point and we started writing Act One again towards the end of last year. Now we have had encouraging reports back about that, we are going to start re-writing Act Two (a), the next 30 minute (roughly) section of the screenplay. This means re-arranging the cards, checking the plot lines, seeing what scenes still work and writing new ones to replace old… It’s all great fun and a very interesting experience.

The story is essentially the same though we’ve lost one character and developed a minor character to fill the role of the character now cut; that in itself was an interesting exercise, and you can easily see, when a film gets made and then shown, how scenes and even whole characters are cut. Our character of Jane won’t even make it through draft two of the writing, let alone to filming, and who knows who may end up on the cutting room floor by the end of the process. It could even be us writers! It’s not uncommon for the original writers to go and new ones to be brought in… I’d better stop talking about that now, just in case.


Shocking the Donkeys draft two

December 16 2010  Categorized Under: Writing  Add Comment

The latest news on the Shocking the Donkeys project.

shocking the donkeys

Draft 2

Things have been a bit quiet on the blog recently and that was to be expected. After finishing a first draft of the script in November, it was sent off to the production company who are interested in taking the project further. They, in turn, sent out a copy of the script to a possible director.

And this is where we start to get the first of the creative input from other people. This is where the process of writing a screenplay becomes collaborative. After a couple of weeks the possible director (not mentioning names here, as nothing is decided), replied with his input. And how useful was that?

Very useful. You’ve got to be able to take on board other people’s comments and criticisms when you collaborate on anything, and we got back exactly what we wanted: direct and to the point ideas, comments, criticisms and a really big boost to our confidence. It’s clear that what we had done came off the page and onto the reader just fine, and it is also clear that we have something that could appeal to more than just a gay audience. That was what we were aiming for, but this new input has shown us other ways that we can do it – things we can do to widen the audience if you like.

So our next stage is Draft Two, which we have started working on. This isn’t so much to say ‘yes sir’ to a possible director, but it’s a way of picking up on things we missed, and improvements we feel that can be made based on the suggestions from someone independent and who knows what he is talking about. (And, after a break from the script for a few weeks we came back to it with fresh eyes of our own.) We agreed with most of what was written – in the feedback -  and so we’re going back to some of the script and seeing how we can improve it. It’s fun and exciting and a good exercise in writing, if nothing else.

So for the next few weeks, and over Christmas, we will be busy with that. But more blog posts will be posted when there is more news.


First reading of the script

November 24 2010  Categorized Under: Writing  Add Comment

1st read through

Last night, November 24th, a small group of volunteers got together to read aloud the first draft of the script for Shocking The Donkeys. We were not actors and the idea wasn’t to make a professional recording of the script. The idea was to get it onto tape so that Jack and I can listen to the words, like listening to a radio play. And the other main idea was to get input from the readers, and, for that reason, a discussion followed the table reading and recording.



Some interesting points came up from the ‘cast.’ There were some typos to correct, but only a very few. We were lucky enough to have an American (from New York) reading the part of Alex, the character from New York, and so some of his dialogue is now going to be modified – only to take out what might be southern-isms and put in New York-isms. (Why do I always hear American voices as Blanche from the Golden Girls? Is that just me?)

We were also able to discuss the characters and the team felt there were no weak characters – all those months of building the characters, structuring the plot and developing the characters seems to have paid off. there were laughs at the right moments, some quieter times during the poignant scenes, and even the sound effects of bells when called for – though that was completely coincidental and did make us all giggle. We were recording in Horio, on Symi – the Greek island where James lives, and there are 13 churches in this village, one of which chimes the time and half hour.

But we’ve got everything on tape now and I need to put it up onto the PC so I can send it across to the UK for Jack to listen to, in a dark room… then we can set about making some adjustments. But I am happy to say these are only going to be minor adjustments.


A quick update on the first draft, by James Collins

November 11 2010  Categorized Under: Writing  Add Comment

For everyone who’s been following the progress of Shocking the Donkeys, here’s a quick update on where we are with the script.

I (James) am almost finished my final check of the final version of the first draft. Jack have been through it to check for repetitions and to make some of the ‘black stuff’ that I wrote more succinct. (You can see from reading our blogs here that Jack is more succinct with words than I am.) All I have to do now is double check that I am as happy as I can be at the moment with the dialogue and descriptions and then… well, then we are hopefully on to the next stage.

So, did it take long to write this first draft? No, only seven months.

I checked back and the first time we actually started emailing and talking about this project was in April this year. After seven months of swapping ideas, building characters, structuring the plot and the relationships between characters and after doing all that background work, which was at times hard and dare I say it a little tedious… Well, after all that (and much of the donkey-work was done by Jack) it actually only took me one week to write up the first draft. Well, one week and a bit as I’d done a dummy Act one already – a 30 page script which took us up to a point where we thought everything was going to change for our main character. Then, having written half of Act 2, I re-wrote Act one as the original Act 1 then felt too long and ‘lop-sided.’ Things read much better after that bit of radical re-organising. So I steamed on and had the full 102 pages (as it stands at the moment) by the end of the week. Mind you I was working long hours as the inspiration flowed…

But the point is, without all the work during those seven months of planning and building, the draft would a) not have come together so quickly, b) not have come together so easily and c) not have been as well structured as it now is. With all the hard work done, I knew the characters and what had to happen when, and things just fell into place from there.

Anyway, that’s where I am at the moment. A couple more days and I’ll be able to say ‘the first draft of Shocking the Donkeys is ok for now, send it to the producers and let’s take it from there.’

Mind you, as a friend in the biz once said about musicals, ‘a musical is never written, it is re-written’ and the same applies to screenplays.

Ramble over – off to check through Act 2 now.


Why do you treat me like this?

October 27 2010  Categorized Under: Top donkey, Writing  Add Comment

Last time we looked at treatments and focused on what kind of a document a treatment is. We’ve nearly finished writing the treatment for Shocking the Donkeys and the next stage is to start writing a script.


Part of Horio, Symi, a possible shooting location

The treatment we are writing is a detailed scene by scene blueprint of what happens (called by some a beat sheet, by others a scriptment). But why do we bother with this?

When authors construct a story there’s a lot going on in their heads about what characters are thinking and feeling and doing at any particular moment. In a novel it’s easy to show this. You just write it down. “Inside, John was seething, but he just kept smiling as if nothing had happened.”

If you stop to think about that for a moment, ask yourself how a movie might show this moment. You cannot film thoughts and feeling. You have to show them in some way. If John’s anger was so successfully concealed from view (as the book described) how, then, is the film going to show it?

This is why the treatment is sometimes called “the book” because it contains the details a novel contains but which somehow need to be conveyed in the script by other, more visual means.

There are ways of doing this, of course. The audience might already know enough from previous scenes to realise that what John has just experienced has made him angry. Or there may be a close up of a slight clenching of the fist behind his back. These are devices. But the anger needs to be clearly stated in the treatment so that others (like the director or actor) can judge if the script itself actually delivers on this bit of subtlety.


The donkey’s back is broken

October 17 2010  Categorized Under: Writing  Add Comment

Sounds alarming – but no real donkeys involved here (well, almost). This is just to let you know we have broken the back of Shocking the Donkeys, the screenplay.


Toon by Clive Wakfer and Sarah Bassett

What that really means is we’re getting close to finishing the treatment for Act 2. As I’ve revealed before, most writers of screenplays find Act 2 rather daunting. Act 2 is this vast desert of 60 blank pages that must be crossed, and in which writers can so easily lose their way.

We are now well past the half way mark and into what are effectively the closing stages of the act with the climax well in sight.

The problem we have always had with our Act 2 is not the lack of ideas but too many ideas. We have had to be pretty ruthless in keeping things down to an absolute minimum.

One of our more inspired bits of plotting, which we’re definitely keeping in, is a donkey chase. There is a point where Petros has to get to the harbour as quickly as possible, and the only transport he can lay hands on is a donkey.

My friend Anne Zouroudi, author of the Greek detective series of novels published by Bloomsbury, who set her first book in Symi, says she wants to be there when we film it. I just hope we can find a donkey with sufficient acting talent to pull it off.


Progress Report

October 4 2010  Categorized Under: Day to day, Top donkey  Add Comment

Last time I mentioned there had been a lot going on with Shocking the Donkeys, much of which I can’t share with you yet. And that’s still the case. It involves all the delicate negotiations over financing the movie. And so far, it’s all good news.

Symi, a possible filming location

Symi, a possible filming location

What I can say is that our executive producer, Matthew John, is in talks with a consortium of investors who love the whole idea of the movie and are keen to see it made. We hope to have more news on this soon.

Lots of other things have been going on in the background as well. We’ve acquired two dedicated domain names:

As yet, there’s nothing to see, but in due course these websites will have an important role in promoting the movie. We had to snap up these addresses now in case someone got in there ahead of us and held us to ransom.

And there has also been a write up about the movie in Down Town, the premier Greek weekly lifestyle magazine that belongs to the same stable as OK and a range of other prestigious publications. It’s all in Greek, of course, but we’ll see if we can publish a translation on our press pages.


No Page 30 blahs here

September 21 2010  Categorized Under: Writing  Add Comment

It’s been a while, so straight off I’m sorry for the delay in bringing you the latest blog. But lots has been happening, much of which I can’t share with you yet, but it’s all good news. So watch this space.

shocked goat

Shocked goat?

Last time I wrote about the page 30 blahs and how that problem wasn’t affecting us. I hinted that we maybe had the opposite problem – too much material. And that in fact is proving to be the case. An embarrassment of riches, in fact.

And that’s what’s tied us up this last week. As you know, we’ve completed the treatment for Act 1 and we’re working on Act 2. We’ve completed the first 10-minute sequence of Act 2, and we’re currently working out the next 10-minutes.

But we’ve got enough material for about 30-40 minutes and we really are having to make hard choices here.

This part of Shocking the Donkeys is all about the dreadful things Menni (the grandmother) gets up to in trying to get rid of Alex (the wicked American boyfriend who wants to marry her grandson, Petros).

Menni has a cunning plan. Well, a series of cunning plans really. She has to get rid of Alex if she is going to stop the marriage.

So what we’re busy doing is whittling down her cunning plans so they only last about ten minutes. Not an easy task. But I can tell you that a donkey is involved. Oh, and some goats. Bet that gets you thinking!


Shocking the Donkeys article in Down Town Magazine

September 9 2010  Categorized Under: Day to day  Add Comment

Shocking the Donkeys was recently featured in the Greek magazine Down Town. Click the photo to see a larger version of the article, which is written in Greek. Or click here for the PDF version.


Down Town article


The page 30 blahs

September 6 2010  Categorized Under: Writing  Add Comment

Having finished the treatment for the first act of Shocking the Donkeys, we now stand on the threshold of what some writers call “the page 30 blahs”.


Symi, a Greek island

This is a fascinating phenomenon that only applies to screenplay writers of feature movies and when I first read the phrase I said “that’s me!”

To explain: if a 120-minute movie consists of 120 pages of screenplay (which it’s supposed to do) then Act 2 should start around page 30 in the script.

Now most screenplay writers start out with a good idea of how the movie begins, how it ends, and roughly what happens in the middle. They usually steam through the first act with the white heat of creativity and stand triumphantly on the threshold of Act 2 ready to forge ahead.

And that’s where it all starts to go horribly wrong. Suddenly, they’re faced with this vast empty desert of 60 minutes (60 pages) of Act 2, and they don’t know how they’re going to fill it. Apparently, this happens to virtually every screenwriter at least some of the time, if not all of the time.

And that’s why some clever spark coined the phrase “the page 30 blahs”. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. The great danger is you get panicked into filling those 60 pages with a whole series of incidents that have little to do with driving the plot or developing theme or character – just to reach the other side of this desert.

Fortunately, this isn’t happening with Shocking the Donkeys. In fact, it’s almost the reverse. We’ve structured this so deeply over the last few months that our problem is going to be squeezing it all in to those 60 pages.

Which is to say that we’re already steaming ahead with mapping out the first dozen or so scenes in Act 2 and Menni and Petros are starting to lock horns.