Author: Erin Sastre

10 Memorable Movie Kisses

A kiss can convey so much emotion and feeling, and there’s no better way to capture this than on film. From an innocent first crush as a child to a passionate declaration of love, a kiss is a way to communicate how someone feels towards another. In honour of World Kissing Day, here are 10 of the most memorable kisses in film in no particular order:

1. Lady and the Tramp


The iconic scene from the beloved 1955 animated film is one that has been parodied and reenacted countless times. It is such a sweet, unexpected moment that shows how even movies meant for children can tug at our heartstrings and make us believe in love. But this scene almost wasn’t in the film. Apparently, Walt Disney himself had a hard time being convinced to include it in the final cut. He thought that two dogs partaking in fine dining were pushing the limit in terms of humanisation. Ultimately, Walt was convinced to keep the scene, and audiences have loved it ever since.

2. The Notebook

Oh, the drama that comes with kissing in the rain! As a rainstorm starts, Noah (Ryan Gosling) rows to shore, where Allie (Rachel McAdams) demands to know why Noah never wrote to her. After the revelation that Noah had indeed written to Allie, they share a passionate kiss. This film was McAdams’ first foray into leading lady status, and it cemented Gosling as the “hey girl” heartthrob we know him to be. It also had couples saying, “If you’re a bird, I’m a bird,” to each other for months after its release.

3. My Girl

When you’re young, navigating life, love and friendships can be confusing. That’s exactly what happens to Anna Chlumsky’s 11-year-old Vada in the 1991 film. While sitting under a tree with her best friend Thomas J., played by a young Macaulay Culkin, the two share an innocent first kiss “just to see what’s the big deal.” It’s a brief, yet relatable moment in a film chalked full of them. 

4. The Godfather Part II


Not all kisses are the product of romantic love. In the 1974 continuing saga of the Corleone crime family, mafia boss Michael (Al Pacino) is trying to figure out which one of his close associates betrayed him. In this famous scene, Michael grabs his brother Fredo Corleone (John Cazale) tightly by the head and kisses him. This is what’s known in the mafia as “the kiss of death” and signifies that a member of the crime family has been marked for death, usually because of perceived betrayal. He follows the kiss with the line, “I know it was you Fredo; you broke my heart.”

5. Call Me By Your Name

This is the most recent film on this list, but it’s one that is sure to have a lasting impression for years to come. It’s another a tale of first love and how intense it can feel. 17-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet) falls for graduate student Oliver (Armie Hammer) who also happens to be his father’s research assistant. The scene where the two share their first kiss is beautiful and warm. The film is one of the most celebrated and talked about LGBTQ movies of the past decade as it depicted a tender yet relatable relationship. It was so loved that a sequel is reportedly in the works.

6. Breakfast at Tiffany’s

The film adaption of Breakfast at Tiffany’s differs from Truman Capote’s short story in many ways, but the “happily ever after” ending is the most memorable difference between the two. In the scene, Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) races through the wet, rainy New York streets in search of the no-name cat she kicked out of her taxi cab. When she finds the cat, she is overcome with emotion and shares a passionate kiss with Paul (George Peppard). It’s a familiar moment where the main character’s emotions finally get the better of them. The only thing that makes this classic “kiss in the rain” better is the fact that the no-name cat is sandwiched between the two the entire time.

7. Spider-Man

Another kissing in the rain moment, but this time it’s upside down. The scene where Spider-Man (played by Tobey Maguire) is hanging upside down and receives his first kiss from Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) after saving her from a group of thugs. It’s an iconic image that puts a twist on the typical “token-of-appreciation” kiss.

8. From Here to Eternity

Few kissing scenes can rival Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr embracing on the beach as waves crash around them. It’s so perfectly dramatic and passionate that it’s hard to believe that they didn’t have true feelings for one another. It’s rumored that Lancaster suggested the actors lie down for the kiss as opposed to the standing kiss that was written in the script. This change makes all the difference and earns the film a spot on this list.

9. Titanic

Now seems like a good time to queue the off-key humming/singing of “My Heart Will Go On.” The iconic song plays in the background of another iconic romance scene. As Rose (Kate Winslet) stands at the front of the ship with her arms extended to her sides, Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) stands behind keeping a careful hold of her. The sweet moment where she is “flying” ends in an even sweeter kiss between the two characters. Their love transcends their vastly different social circles and has you rooting for a much deserved happy ending. *Spoiler,* they don’t get one. The fate of the real Titanic was a grim one, so you kind of know what you are signing yourself up for when you watch the film.

10. The Princess Bride

A case of mistaken identity and the revelation that the man she believes is kidnapping her is none other than her “dead” lover, Westley (Cary Elwes) lead to this reunion-spurred kiss. Because Buttercup (Robin Wright) believed that the Dread Pirate Roberts killed Westley many years ago, she pushed him down a mountainside. As he tumbles down, the truth is revealed as he says “as you wish,” something which Westley used to say to Buttercup. Buttercup realizes that the man in black is Westley, so she Buttercup goes down after him and they share a kiss after many years apart.

Filed under: Film History, Filmmaking, In Our OpinionTagged with: , , , , ,

11 Iconic Dance Scenes in Film

Bust out your dancing shoes and turn on some music! In honour of International Dance Day, here are 11 of the most iconic dance scenes in film.

1. “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” Dirty Dancing (1987)

The lift says it all. The most iconic image from the film comes from the dance number Baby (Jennifer Grey) and Johnny (Patrick Swayze) have been training most of the film for. While it may not be the backdrop they expected, Baby and Johnny’s final performance sparks the desire to dance in all of the assembled guests. The film ends by showing everyone in the hall enjoying themselves and dancing together.

2. “Love My Way,” Call Me By Your Name (2017)

The ‘80s backdrop and music transforms a night out into the first real moment of closeness for the main characters. Oliver’s (Armie Hammer) carefree and goofy dancing, which launched hundreds of memes and filled the hearts of the audience, prompts Elio (Timothée Chalamet) to join in. Even the song acts as a way for them to get close to each other without expressly saying it.

3. “Canned Heat,” Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

In an effort to help his best friend, Pedro, make up for a nervous, rushed speech during the high school presidential debate, Napoleon (Jon Heder) takes centre stage in front of his entire school and starts dancing. Not just any dancing, but full-body, stage-crossing disco-like moves that come out as the music takes over. It’s a dance that has been parodied many times since its release, but it’s one that garners standing ovations every time.

4. Jack Rabbit Slims Twist contest, Pulp Fiction (1994)

Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) and Vincent Vega (John Travolta) take centre stage during a twist competition at the fictional restaurant, Jack Rabbit Slims. The somewhat improvised dance is electric, and combined with the setting, instills nostalgia for the ‘50s and old Hollywood. Thurman recently said that she was terrified of shooting this scene which would end up becoming one of the most iconic moments in the film.

5. “Old Time Rock and Roll,” Risky Business (1983)

A classic tale of a teen having free range of the house while the parents are away. Joel Goodson (Tom Cruise) pours himself a glass of whiskey, turns up the music and slides across the hardwood. The outfit alone is a classic and is a go-to look for fancy dress parties as it is minimal yet classic, much like the dance itself.

6. The Full Transformation, Black Swan (2010)

Natalie Portman plays Nina Sayers, a committed ballerina who earns the lead role in a production of Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake”. It’s a film about a woman’s descent into madness as she finally succumbs to the darkness in her mind. The dance is entrancing as she “transforms” into the black swan and it visually shows her development throughout the film.

7. “The Time Warp,” Rocky Horror (1975)

It’s just a jump to the left! From the cult classic film came “The Time Warp,” a dance that became an audience favorite during screenings as it sparks participation. “Normal kids,” Brad (Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Susan Sarandon), happen upon an old castle when their car breaks down and are ushered into a great hall where a kooky group of conventionists are dancing and singing. You’re probably just as confused as Brad and Janet are as they watch the action unfold, but you’re also intrigued. It’s a song that will inevitably get stuck in your head and make you want to join in on the dancing.

8. “Singin’ in the Rain,” Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

A Gene Kelly classic, the titular number is impressive and certifiably iconic. After getting a good night kiss from Kathy (Debbie Reynolds), Kelly’s Don Lockwood happily splashes about the puddles and dances out his feelings. It shows a man falling in love and happily singing about it as the rain falls from above.

9. “We Are Not Alone,” The Breakfast Club (1985)

A group of teenagers from different social circles is all locked in a room together for a Saturday detention. They seem to have nothing in common, but after a full day of fighting, smoking and sharing emotional secrets, they end up leaving with a new understanding of themselves and each other. The dance scene is peak ‘80s and acts as a welcome break to both the characters and audience from all the sitting around.

10. “We Go Together,” Grease (1978)

The lyrics of the song make absolutely no sense, but that doesn’t stop it from being absolutely fun. It’s the perfect (yet absolutely bizarre) ending to the coming-of-age musical. The entirety of Rydell High is brought together for the last day of school carnival and, naturally, they all burst into song and dance. It’s whacky and energetic and will have you tapping your feet along to the beat.

11. “Footloose,” Footloose (1984)

Let’s dance! The entire movie builds up to the final scene of the unofficial senior prom which Ren (Kevin Bacon) organizes in an act of rebellion to the town’s ban on music and dance. The prom turns out to be a success and it features one of the most iconic dance sequences in film.


Filed under: Acting, Film History, Filmmaking, NewsTagged with: , , , , , ,

Four Things a Literary Agent Does

10 Strategic Steps To Get A Literary Agent | Four Things An Agent Does | What Does a Publisher Do? | How Much Do Literary Agents Charge? | The Query Letter | 10 Tips for Writing Loglines | How Creatives Reject RejectionGallery of Rejection

So you’ve written a great book. You’ve put the time, effort and tears into creating your masterpiece, but there’s one problem… you have no way to get people to read it. Sure, your mum and best friend are more than willing to give you praise for your work, but you deserve to see if your book can be enjoyed by the masses. But how do you get it into the hands of a publisher and therefore into the hands of readers? The answer is simple, you need a literary agent.

It must be said that most literary agents receive about a 15 percent of sales commission. “But why would I want to pay for an agent?” you might ask. You may find yourself wondering if dishing out extra money is worth it, but in the long-run it is.

Think of your agent as an investment. You may not get an immediate return, but your long-term gains will be much greater than they would be without one. Your book will, most likely, be purchased for a much greater amount when you have an expert advocating for it.

Here four things an agent does and why you should have one:

1. The job of an agent is to get your book purchased.

An agent acts as a middleman and will send out your manuscript to a potential publisher who would like to bid on it for its publication. Agents have a vast network of contacts and relationships with editors at publishing houses. They have the knowledge and experience to know what editors look for in a manuscript and know the best publications to send them to. An agent knows which publishing houses are on the lookout for the next big fantasy novel, a new horror writer, or which aren’t currently accepting submissions. In addition to the wide number of contacts they provide, agents bring a level of quality in the eyes of editors. Editors know that books submitted by an agent have been through a reviewing process, so those will usually go to the top of the pile. An agent wouldn’t represent a bad writer, so if you get one they believe you have a fighting chance and so will editors.

2. They try to get you the best deal.

An agent’s job is to negotiate all of the contracts with publishers. This part of their job is pretty straightforward because they make more money when you do. As someone who works on commission, it’s in their best interest to negotiate contracts that benefit you. Sure, you could try and do it yourself, but agents also take care of any disputes, royalties, and film rights. You may not know much about these issues, so it’s best to let a professional deal with them. Agents will also advocate for you in terms of negotiating an extension for a deadline and scheduling your book tour dates. Having someone to manage the business side of your book will free up your time and allow you to write a great sequel!

3. They offer valuable suggestions and advice.

A good agent will often give you input regarding your novel. They do this to help it become more marketable. The goal of an agent is to get your book sold to a publisher, so they will want to make sure it is the best it can be before its submission. Yes, they want to help you. No, you shouldn’t treat them like an editor and make them read your book line-by-line. Their job isn’t to offer you grammar revisions or help you learn how to write well. Their job is to offer suggestions and it’s your job as the writer to decide if you want to include them. An agent is all about the business behind your book, so they want to help you make changes that will sell more copies. 

4. You have someone who is ‘always on your side.’

It’s good to restate again that an agent won’t make money unless you do, so they will advocate on behalf of you. They want you to turn a profit so they make one as well. To do this, an agent will provide you will encouragement and try to keep you on the right path when it comes to writing. An agent will remind you about deadlines and be frank when it comes to revisions. They want your career to flourish, so they will be your ally throughout the process. But it’s important to keep in mind that they aren’t there to be your personal assistant or banker. An agent will want you to be successful and for you to find your audience.

Overall, a writer’s best ally is their literary agent. It’s important to invest in one so that your book will be successful. An agent brings so much to the table and is such an integral component of a writer’s toolkit. Don’t try to navigate the publishing process on your own; get an agent and get your book sold. 

Learn more about ‘What Literary Agents Do (And Don’t Do) For Writers.


Filed under: Promotion, Marketing and Distribution, Screenwriting, UncategorizedTagged with: , , ,

[BOOK REVIEW] Shoot Like Tarantino: The Visual Secrets of Dangerous Storytelling

Ask anyone for a list of the most prolific and artistic filmmakers, and Quentin Tarantino will most likely be on it. His work is so distinctively identifiable that anyone who views one of his films will instantly recognise it as his. In addition to the artistic use of violence on display throughout his works and his way with characters and dialogue, the way he shoots his scenes puts an unmistakable “watermark” on each of his films.

“A huge part of Tarantino’s storytelling comes from his screenwriting and the way he directs actors, but he has such an advance understanding of screen language that he’s able to tell stories more efficiently than most directors.”

In Christopher Kenworthy’s guide, Shoot Like Tarantino: The Visual Secrets of Dangerous Storytelling, Tarantino’s tricks for elevating tension and action are exposed for the reader’s pleasure. Kenworthy, the author of the best-selling Master Shots books, chooses to dive into the visual techniques of Tarantino by analysing some scenes from several of his famous films.

Kenworthy makes a point to say that he didn’t try to learn any background information regarding the scenes he chooses to include. He didn’t want to read about other theories; he just wanted to analyse the scenes as they are and truly discover the technical aspects behind the shots. He also realises how easy it can be to be sucked into the entire film and gloss over the scenes in question, so he recommends that readers switch off the sound and take in only the visuals.

Before jumping into the first scene, Kenworthy makes sure to disclose the fact that the book will undoubtedly spoil the movies for those who haven’t seen them. Nothing is worse than overhearing a spoiler-filled conversation about a film you were dying to see or scrolling through Twitter only to find that the “twist” ending is no longer going to be one for you. Kenworthy understands this, and he is insistent that readers actually watch the films first before reading the book.

Getting to the actual “meat” of the book is where it gets fascinating. Readers can choose to go the traditional route and read it from start to finish or they may choose to bounce around reading only the chapters of interest. But filmmakers who need this book as a source of inspiration for building unbearable tension in a scene or including a deliberate anticlimax are those who benefit most. They can choose to read only the chapters that address these techniques and quickly get back to shooting their film.

For example, if a reader really wanted to know how to film a group conversation, they can turn to page 105 and read up on how Kill Bill: Vol 2 featured a perfect one. Kenworthy makes it super easy to understand the details that make each scene work by including stills so readers can clearly see what he is getting at.

In the case of Kill Bill: Vol. 2, he breaks down the famous flashback chapel scene. This scene, which has been shown in glimpses throughout the film, isn’t meant to be a surprise. It’s meant to be a culmination of what the viewer already knows is inevitable. The art of this scene comes from the interaction between the characters and how they are placed.

“When two groups are talking, shoot the main characters from several positions, but shoot the minor characters from one angle. This will help the audience identify with the main characters.”

By following this method, the audience will feel closer and more connected with the main character, while the characters shot from one angle feel more distant and disconnected. The way this scene was shot put an emphasis on showing the characters in what may seem to be a normal situation, but slowly building a sense of unease. The unease is heightened with the introduction of a new character.

“When you’ve established a group conversation and dynamic, cutting to an additional character who interrupts the flow of the scene can increase the sense of impending doom.”

Kenworthy’s analysis of this particular scene is just one example of what is found in the book. There are great insights to be read and any filmmaker who wishes to even embody an ounce of Tarantino’s mastery can benefit from the information found inside. By no means; however, are the scenes in this book meant to be copied. They are provided only to serve as a starting point or a source of inspiration.

Shoot Like Tarantino: The Visual Secrets of Dangerous Storytelling is a great resource for filmmakers looking to improve the visual impact of their scenes. It allows filmmakers to understand how certain scenes succeed in their efforts and how they can shoot their own. Once a filmmaker reads this book, their ability to craft their own great scenes should greatly improve. And who knows? They may just become the next Tarantino.

Filed under: Book Review, Directing, Filmmaking, In Our Opinion, Technical CraftTagged with: , , , , , ,

The Problem With True Crime

If you’ve logged into your Netflix account recently or scrolled through your Twitter feed, you’ve most likely seen a trailer for a true crime film or tweets about Zac Efron’s portrayal of Ted Bundy. But this isn’t anything new. The intense fascination with true crime has always been there. Whether that be in the form of a podcast à la Serial or numerous books on serial killers such as Manson, Bundy, and Dahmer; killers and criminals are given immortality through all forms of media.

When it comes to true crime, I, too, fall trap to and feel sucked into the intense world of the subject. Sometimes there’s even the inexplicable feeling of rooting for them to evade the police before you realise what that really means. You instantly shove those feelings out of your mind and think to yourself, “no, this guy is truly evil. I can’t feel sorry for him.” But that’s the thing, so many people do, and that’s ok… to an extent.

Films often transport you into the world of the subject, even true crime films. You can’t help but feel enthralled by the dark turns the character takes during the narrative. As a filmmaker, it’s ok to dramatise the events, but there’s a difference between wanting to create that entranced feeling and glorifying the subject.

This issue has been brought up recently with the Sundance premiere of “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile,” a biopic of Ted Bundy. The film has drawn many polarising reviews since its appearance at the festival. Its trailer, filled with grinning heartthrob, Zac Efron, and energetic rock music is also an extreme departure from what you might expect for a film about a serial killer.

Critics say that the tone of the film doesn’t match the dark subject matter. According to Variety’s Owen Gleiberman, “the movie is compartmentalizing Bundy’s evil by focusing on Bundy’s human side.” The film “can’t resist making Bundy look like a little bit of a rock star at times even though the movie purports to condemn him,” says The Playlist’s Rodrigo Perez.

The film does nothing in terms of bringing new information to the table or telling it through a new lens. Instead of telling the story from the female perspective of Bundy’s long-time girlfriend, which is the argument made by the film’s director, Joe Berlinger, the film fails to do anything innovative. Taking the perspective of his girlfriend, Elizabeth Kloepfer, is “nothing more than disingenuous lip service perhaps to engender good will to savvy (and woke) audiences hoping to see some female agency (which the film does not deliver, though boy it does try all of sudden late in the game),” according to The Playlist.

The film’s focus on the more “human side” of Bundy amplifies the charming, charismatic persona he had. This is all the more emphasised with the casting of Efron, whose appearance as Bundy in the trailer sparked an instant Twitter meltdown. Hundreds of people started swooning over the “hotness” of Bundy. Netflix, the streaming service who bought the rights to the film, even got involved in the conversation by saying on Twitter: “I’ve seen a lot of talk about Ted Bundy’s alleged hotness and would like to gently remind everyone that there are literally THOUSANDS of hot men on the service – almost all of whom are not convicted serial murderers.”

It’s not that attractive actors shouldn’t be cast as serial killers who were also considered good-looking. The issue is that there are implications that come with choosing to tell stories in a glamorised way and society’s subsequent obsession with them – that raise ethical questions and concerns.

Who do we value more? The wise-cracking, ‘charming’, well-dressed, well-educated necrophiliac mass murderer? Or the young women?” asks Lucy Jones of The Independent.

Judging by the recent news, films, and reactions, I’d say the former. People are entranced by good-looking people who do bad things. We are taught as children through media and stories that bad people are not supposed to look nice. As adults, we still somewhat hold on to this belief. We can’t seem to wrap our heads around the fact that beautiful people can do terrible things, so they fascinate us.

One thing’s for sure, the obsession with true crime stories and serial killers doesn’t seem to be “dying” down anytime soon. Because of this, filmmakers must be careful when they choose to tell the stories of serial killers. They have to understand that the people in these stories are real, which means their victims are too.

It brings up the issue of responsible filmmaking and how necessary it is to tell the stories of such terrible people. Of course, I don’t have the answer to this. Yes, responsibly told stories have value, especially when they bring to light new evidence and information. Yes, the stories are a reflection of the people they portray, not the other way around. But ultimately, filmmakers and their audiences must realise that they are finding entertainment in what were some of the worst moments of people’s lives.

While we as an audience can close our laptops and walk away from the tragedies we just experienced on the screens, the families of those who lived it don’t have that luxury. This is especially true when it comes to Bundy and “Extremely Wicked” as some of his victims’ loved ones are still alive. While we can fast forward through the gorier scenes that make us a bit too sick to our stomachs, they actually lived through them.

If you’re interested in writing crime, be sure to sign up for our Crime Writing from the Trenches of Hollywood Masterclass.

Special early bird offer! Crime DramaBook this class before June 1st, 2019 and get a copy of Jennifer’s book Forensic Speak: How to Write Realistic Crime Dramas worth £19.99 FREE. Read our review here!


Filed under: In Our Opinion, NewsTagged with: , , , ,

[BOOK REVIEW] The Director’s Six Senses

“‘Director’ is not a description of what you do; it is something you become. You are a director 24/7. You should always have your ‘director senses’ alert.”

The idea that you have to use all of your senses to be a great director is one that the author of The Director’s Six Senses, Simone Bartesaghi, firmly believes in. Sight, sound and overall vision may seem obvious in their connection to directing, but the fact that smell, taste, and touch were also deemed equally as important was surprising to me. Of course, you can’t touch, smell or taste a movie. But these senses can be interpreted and must be considered when it comes to the filmmaking process.

Smell is such an elusive sense and it is interestingly applied by Bartesaghi as a metaphor for performance. He insists that it’s easy to “smell a lie” when it comes to a performance, but then again, every performance is a lie. It’s all a matter of playing pretend but doing it SO well that it seems true.

Films feel real because of the alternate realities they convey. They transport the audience member into that world and make them believe that, even if only for 90 minutes, it is all real. That’s why smell and the “stench” of a bad performance can be detrimental to the believability of a film.

“If what happens on the screen doesn’t feel right, if the behavior of the characters seems forced, then we snap out of the movie and the whole immersive experience is gone.”

Touch is the biggest sense to focus on when it comes to production design. Every human touches the lives of others and the world around them in some way, and their environment is a direct result of these interactions. As Bartesaghi says, “you’ll notice very quickly that their world is often a reflection of their identity.”

It is important to realise this when it comes to crafting the environment that will be shown on screen. A chaotic, creative character can live in a very cluttered and personalized home, but if their boss is a neurotic neat-freak, their work desk can be devoid of personality. This is because every scene should be a reflection of how the environment or other characters force the character to behave or interact.

“Touch is the perception of the environment. It’s important to remember that we are trying to portray on the screen the truth about our reality and it’s important that we pay attention to how, in real life, we react, perceive, and use things.”

Taste is another sense that doesn’t immediately come to mind when you think of directing, but it’s one that should be developed over time. This time Bartesaghi chooses to refer to taste as the feeling that is left and stays with you even after the film is over.  As director, you are in control of the story and can dictate how your audience feels as a result. It sounds quite manipulative, but it’s true.

If you want the ending to be so heart-wrenchingly sad that the audience can’t help but feel a piece of them die with the rolling of the credits, that’s your call. But to quote a famous uncle, “with great power comes great responsibility.” You don’t want to drive your audience away; you want to carefully steer them towards the ending reaction you desire.

The Director’s Six Senses doesn’t quite reach its full potential as far as sense related metaphors go. But, Bartesaghi redeems himself with the idea that a director’s senses must be alert and useful when it comes to noticing things others may not. That’s why this book, while at times a bit too on-the-nose, is a good resource for the aspiring filmmaker that’s interested in how to be a good director and not necessarily good at directing.


Filed under: Book Review, Directing, In Our OpinionTagged with: , , , ,

How to Pitch Your Project

So, you’ve got a great idea for your next film. You’ve got your characters and plot details all thought out. You can see it all clearly in your head, but as soon as you run into the person who can make it a reality, you freeze. Your moment to pitch your great idea is gone with the closing of the elevator door. Pitching can be stressful, but it’s one of the most important things to master in the world of filmmaking. All films start with a pitch, so it’s a skill worth sharpening. No matter where you are or who you are pitching to, here are some tips to make your pitch perfect:

1. Create a Connection

Make sure that you create some sort of connection with the person you are pitching to before you jump right in. If you succeed in pitching your idea, you will be working with this person. Get to know them a little bit and try to see if they may actually be interested. Don’t waste your time if they are avoiding you and staring into their phone screen.

2. Keep it Short and Sweet

You may only have one shot to pitch your idea, so don’t lose the interest of the person you’re pitching to! Be descriptive, but use keywords to keep things concise. Think of your pitch like a rich piece of chocolate. You want it to be delicious and memorable but not overwhelming. If it’s too sweet, it may upset the person’s stomach.

3. Preparation is Key

If the person you are pitching to is interested, they will ask questions. This is a great sign because it shows they were following your idea and want to hear about it more. Have an answer and be prepared to clarify anything that may seem confusing or incomplete. It’s your idea, after all, so make sure you really know it well.

4. Get Them Hooked

If someone came up to you and just started droning on and on about something in a monotone, unenthused tone, would you be interested in what they had to say? Of course not! Being excited about your own idea is super important in getting someone else interested in it. To really sell your idea you have to seem truly passionate about it.

5. Make it Visual

Don’t just tell them about your idea, show them. Most people love visuals because they can show what the finished idea may look like. If you are taking inspiration from a certain film, book, famous location, or even person, pull up some photos to accompany your idea. Visuals show creativity and that you have truly thought out your idea.

6. Practice Makes Perfect

This sage advice applies to almost everything, including pitching. Practice pitching to yourself in the mirror and really listen to what you’re saying. Does it sound boring? Change it! Are you too forceful? Tone it down a bit. Another good way to practice your pitching is to attend our Live! Ammunition! Pitching Competition London. This is a great way to get some feedback on your pitch from a panel of industry executives and a live audience. Be sure to sign up for our Pitching Skills Workshop too!


Filed under: Filmmaking, Filmmaking CareerTagged with: , , , , ,

[BOOK REVIEW] Filmmaking For Teens: Pulling Off Your Shorts

Filmmaking can seem like a daunting task, especially for the first time filmmaker. When you’re a teenager, that process seems even more intimidating. In Filmmaking For Teens: Pulling Off Your Shorts 2nd Edition, Troy Lanier and Clay Nichols try to simplify the process by breaking it down to its bare bones.

The beauty of this book is that Lanier and Nichols know their audience. They come across as funny and down-to-earth in order to relate with their readers and avoid sounding like they are lecturing them. From the very beginning of Chapter One, Lanier and Nichols choose to acknowledge the fact that teenagers are individuals who may not like to follow rules. They take this generalisation and run with it for the whole book.

“You’ll make your own decisions, find new ways of doing things, make your own mistakes, and eventually wish you’d done what we’d suggested. That’s all part of the deal.”

Filmmaking for teens

Teenagers have a shorter attention span and the authors realise this. At the end of each chapter, a “reshoot” section is included to give a quick recap of each chapter’s main idea. This gives the reader an even better breakdown of what’s absolutely necessary when it comes to the filmmaking process.

Additionally, the book is full of useful tips and exercises to get the reader’s film concept created, screenplay done, and get an ideal number of crew members together. One such example of a useful exercise is what the authors call “blab.” In this exercise, the teen would give themselves 10 minutes to write whatever comes to mind.

“Just start writing. Anything. It could be a to-do list. It could be a letter to a favorite pet, anything, just get the pen or cursor moving across the page.”

They tell the reader to just keep writing no matter how nonsensical the ideas or words may seem. This concept of “blabbing” can lead to unexpected ideas. This exercise discourages teens from relying on typical clichés as ideas during conceptualisation and gets them to develop brilliant and refreshing ones. 

Lanier and Nichols even manage to make the editing process seem like a breeze. What is usually the longest part of the filmmaking process is simplified so that teens can get it done as quickly and painlessly as possible. In doing so, they make sure the readers’ films keep moving forward.

Overall, the authors want to make sure that their readers finish their shorts and set a deadline to do so. The book is their way to motivate teenagers to get a move on and actually accomplish their goal. It suggests setting a festival’s entry date as the deadline for completing the film. The authors then give useful information on how to submit the films, market them, and eventually distribute them.

In the end, Filmmaking For Teens doesn’t try to be something it’s not. The book isn’t trying to be the end-all-be-all authority on how to make a short film. It is a simple, easy read that gives good insight into the process of filmmaking without becoming overwhelming. It gives teens the things they absolutely must know and skips over the things they don’t. This book is a great starting point for young filmmakers looking to gain insight into the world of film. Lanier and Nichols’ main goal is to get the dreamers who love films off the couch and behind the camera, and any teen who reads this book can succeed in doing just that.

Our rating:

Get your very own copy of Filmmaking For Teens at your nearest bookstore, or from Amazon >HERE

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Why More of the Industry Needs to Embrace ‘Inclusion Riders’

It’s been about a year since Frances McDormand’s 2018 Oscars acceptance speech and her mic-drop worthy moment of bringing the term ‘inclusion rider’ to the forefront of the industry. Since then, other actors have taken to promising equality in their future projects. Three days after the award ceremony, Michael B. Jordan promised that his production company would make sure inclusion riders were written into contracts for any upcoming projects. Just recently, Regina King promised in her 2019 Golden Globes acceptance speech that all future projects she produces will have a crew that’s at least 50 percent female.

But what exactly does the adoption of these stipulations mean for the industry?

In theory, inclusion riders should help diversify the vastly unequal environment of Hollywood. People of color, women and underrepresented individuals should be given a voice and equal opportunity for employment in the industry. The idea of this is great, but it’s harder to see the effect of it take form. While individuals themselves can insight change, the reality is that it’s hard to see true change until the larger corporations support the initiative.

So has there been any progress on that front?

Long story short, yes. In late 2018, Warner Bros. announced that it would introduce an inclusion rider policy, becoming the first major player in the entertainment industry to do so. The company promised to “create a plan for implementing this commitment to diversity and inclusion on our projects.” They also promised to issue an annual report showing its progress. The report has yet to be released, so it’s hard to see if there really is any progress on the diversity front.

The fact of the matter is that the company’s commitment to its new policy is a step in the right direction. Where Warner Bros. spoke up about the issue, many others chose to stay mum on the subject. Sony, Disney, Universal, and others are guilty of doing this. They haven’t made any real commitments to adding a diversity clause or policy to their hiring practices for positions on or off screen.

Even the streaming giant, Netflix, who has been producing more and more content helmed by women directors and featuring people of color leads, is lagging behind. Films like Beasts of No Nation and Okja feature diverse casting, but Netflix has chosen to avoid adopting any official policy regarding diversity. In an interview with USA TodayCEO Reed Hastings said they’re “not so big on doing everything through agreements. We’re trying to do things creatively.”

While that’s great in theory, the “creativity” of Hollywood historically hasn’t been able to make significant changes. If one were to rely on creativity over a physical contract stipulation, nothing would get done. Netflix spends billions on content, so why can’t they dedicate some of their time and money on something that could definitively change the industry? These powerhouse studios make up such a huge percentage of the distribution channel that they can lead the way towards change. Yet, few of them seem to have the drive to. This is where the real problem lies. 

It’s not like there aren’t incentives to adding diversity to films. Studies show that films which feature diverse casting outperform those that don’t. They also show that people of color make up almost “half of ticket buyers who attended the opening weekends of some of the most successful films released within the study period.” Studios pledging to support ‘inclusion riders’ would most likely see an increase in overall sales and audience members.

Overall, it’s great to see new commitments to diversity by individuals in Hollywood. Go ahead and praise the Regina Kings, Brie Larsons and Michael B. Jordans of the industry because they are doing a great thing! You, yourself, can even take part in inciting change by adding an ‘inclusion rider’ clause in your film viewing. But we must realize that while promises to include underrepresented individuals is a step forward for the industry, nothing can truly change until more of the larger studios follow through with them as well.


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