The Shape Of Water: A Review

Getting my boyfriend to come watch a romantic movie with me is like trying to get me to not eat an entire bar of chocolate. It ain’t gonna happen! So I was pretty convinced I as gonna have a serious fight on my hands getting him to the cinema. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I  suggested  Del Toro’s latest Oscar hopeful as his immediate response was “Okay, the half five showing or the half nine?” YES!

You see, the thing is The Shape of Water isn’t just your typical romance, if anything it subverts the general notion of a romance and if anything that just makes it even the more romantic and the best part is, guys don’t actually realise they’re sitting there watching a film with the central theme of love.

The Shape of Water is the latest offering from critically acclaimed Guillermo Del Toro, the same man behind Pan’s Labrinyth and the Hellboy movies. Just like Pan’s, The Shape of Water is set against another war backdrop offering the audience the escapism so popular in current cinema. In contrast to the murky and bloody Spanish Civil War we saw in pan’s we are transported to 1960’s Baltimore where a lonely and mute cleaner of a secret Government laboratory lives and spends most of her time either with caring Gay neighbour Miles or her co-worker, Zelda. Spoiler alert: she tends to spend a lot of her time fingering herself in a bath….

When the government facility she cleans gets a new creature that has been captured by our antagonist Colonel Strickland, played by the devastatingly good Michael Shannon our curious protagonist Elisa forms a close bond with it after she discovers the creature is a humanoid amphibian . After the creature gets caught up in the ongoing Cold War between America and the Soviet Union with the Americans wishing to use the creature to help them get into space and USSR ordering their Soviet Spy at the base to destroy the creature. If this is starting to confuse to you, don’t worry! As both plots are wound together tightly by the end to merge beautifully. After realising what the Americans intend to do with the creature she’s become very attached to, Elisa plans to free him.

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I’ve decided I’m not gonna go any further into the plot as I realise I’ve probably spoilt enough of this film for you guys!

The beauty of The Shape of Water lies with its visual appeal. The film is stunning, enough said. It’s an actual treat for the eyes. Del Toro knows how to seduce his audience, he knows how to grab at their imagination and ignite their senses. In terms of awards, Del Toro hands down deserves Best Direction. His perfect crafting of visuals and music combined suits every moment the actors make.

One thing that really springs to mind when watching this is the B movie and what probably inspired Del Toro slightly, Creature from The Black Lagoon. In a twist, the monster is the character that gets the girl which gives a fresh turn on the beauty and the Beast convention. Award gold if I ever did know it.

However, in terms of Best Screenplay I have to hand it to Shape of Water. Although it’s probably been one of my favourite films of this year so far it doesn’t do anything to the stellar script of Three Billboards. I think part of it is to do with the fact that our protagonist Elisa is mute which does take away from the actual dialogue but it’s a stellar turn from Sally Hawkins.

All in all, if you fancy a film that you wish to get lost in and also resonates with you, this is your flavour.

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Mini break in Stratford Upon Avon

I think I should probably  rename this blog, “That time we pretended we had gone back in time to the Tudor times…”

Is it just me that finds the months of January and February really depressing?!

Seriously, I feel as though they are the two months of the year that are the darkest and gloomiest. Who really wants to get out of bed in the cold and dark? Not this girl!

Anyways, since me and the boyf (yeah I just used that abbreviation) both had a week off, we decided we’d throw caution to the wind and book a little UK break somewhere. We decided on Stratford Upon Avon as we it wasn’t too much of a hassle to get to via train and also, because I am a massive Shakespeare lover so it was about time I went  and paid a visit the land the famous writer was from!

With us still doing the house up we were quite strapped for cash so it had to be a real ‘budget break’ in certain ways, so we just booked the good ole Travelodge for our accommodation although next time we pay a visit we will definitely be booking into one of the more gorgeous old fashioned hotels that are scattered all over the centre of the town. In terms, of a good quality cheap and cheerful hotel, Travelodge has everything you could want (and at £60 a night we were laughing), it was only a ten minute walk from the city centre attractions and really close to the shops so it was a win win for us.

On the first day we got there, we had a bit of time to kill before we could check in so we went for a nice long walk along the river and ended up visiting the church were Shakespeare is buried. I discovered two things on this walk, 1, I really didn’t need to bring my walking shoes as Stratford is not as ‘country’ as I thought and 2, Shakespeare was a proper short guy!

In the night we just headed to a cute thatch roofed pub for some good old fashioned pub grub! I tried an open pie, which is a bit like a quiche only fancier and loved it! Gotta try new things you know!

The next day, we decided to be really good tourists and went to check out all the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust sites. Of course we had to have brunch first! We went to one of my fave brunchy  restaurants  that we discovered two years ago when we were in Salisbury for Valentines Weekend. It’s called Boston Tea Party, and my ultimate breakfast choice is the Sweetcorn Hash. It’s beaut!

We got the Full Story tickets which were brilliant value for money at £20.25 per adult as it meant we could go see all five of the sites and have still access to go again for the next 12 months. That means another trip to Stratford could be on the cards! 😉

I loved seeing all the historical buildings, they were so dreamy. I really felt like I was back in time, just hanging with Shakespeare and Co! The Birthplace Trust really do look after the sites and are very welcoming to all visitors. I think they do a brilliant job in maintaining the history and home of such a well loved national treasure. It’s so important for future generations aaannd I’ve just realised how preachy I sound so I’m gonna stop the Shakespeare preaching right now!

We did as many of the sites as we could do before they shut. Choosing to end the day at Halls Croft, the home of Shakespeare’s daughter and her doctor husband with a scone and slice of Victoria Sponge. It was bloody lovely! I absolutely loved Hall’s Croft as it was the sort of old country building that had beautiful plants growing on the side of it. It kinda reminded me of Belle’s house in Beauty and The Beast. Damn, I love a place that makes me sing Disney songs.

We decided to leave Anne Hathaway’s Cottage until the last day, thinking it’d be rather nice to do the home of Shakespeare’s true love and where his own love story blossomed on Valentine’s Day, not that we’re an overly romantic couple of anything like that! The cottage had hundreds of years of history and still had a descendant of Shakespeare’s living in it right up until the 1900’s! Afterward, we headed over to the cafe and tried a bowl of Pottage with a Tudor Roll. Pottage is basically boiled veg in a broth and apparently they would have eaten a lot of it back in the day!

To finish our little break we made a stop to the Royal Shakespeare Company and watched their production of Twelfth Night, Adrian Edmondson and Kara Tointon both starred in it and were absolutely fantastic. It was a mixture of funny and sad in places and I personally think it’s a play that shows off all of Shakespeare’s true writing genius.

After that, we headed back on the train home. Both tired and rejuvenated from a lovely few days! As a writer myself, I left feeling truly inspired and motivated for the next stage of my writing career. Now, I just need to finish that bloody script I’m working on!

Disclaimer: This blog was not sponsored or paid for by any third parties. All opinions are my own. 

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: A Review

3 billboards

There’s one time of the year when everyone seems to go absolutely mental over drama’s in the film industry, awards season. Usually, I refuse to go see the films that are pinned for Oscar dominance, I tend to find them a bit too pretentious or they end up being a massive disappointment. sorry to be controversial but La La Land just wasn’t my cup of tea! However, awards season does seem to be the one time of the year making a drama actually seems to pay off for producers and investors.

This year I bucked my trend of ditching the Award buzzing films and decided to just give em a go! Starting with the hotly anticipated, Three Billboards…

Three Billboards tells the story of  Mildred Hayes, a grieving mother whose on a mission to find the man guilty of raping and killing her teenage daughter, this film is not for the faint hearted.

Out of frustration with the police department she rents three billboards in order to spark action in the town’s sheriff, Chief Willoughby, played by the fantastic Woody Harrelson. However, instead of motivating, the billboards  anger the townspeople including the sheriff and his racist and homophobic colleague, Jason Dixon.  To complicate matters further, as it’s common knowledge that Sheriff Willoughby is dying from pancreatic cancer the townspeople harass and even threaten Mildred and her depressed son in an effort to get her to take down the billboards, nevertheless, Mildred remains firm and stubborn to her cause which leads to both tragic and comic moments of dramatic perfection.

Three Billboards is the latest cinematic offering from the genius of Martin McDonagh, the same writer/director who brought us the deliciously dark In Bruges (2008) and Seven Psychopaths (2012). Just like these two, McDonagh is able to fine tune the balance between comedy and utter tragedy in order to truly get to an audiences gut.

However, Three Billboards is not just an Oscar worthy drama, it’s a film that speaks to the universal mass, its a tale of a Mothers love and how far it stretches, even in this films case, beyond death. As a young female who went through the traumatic experience of losing her own mother, this left a large lump in my throat.

Nevertheless, in true McDonagh style there wasn’t long until I was laughing  at something ridiculous the character had said or done. That’s the gift of McDonagh he offers audiences a truly human cinematic moment with themes in his films that can shock but also inspire and he does this once again with Three…

It speaks of revenge, of how dangerous and damaging the quest for it can be and it manages to blend it effortlessly with the beauty of forgiveness.  It’s a humbling and moving cinematic experience.

In terms of structure, as everything with McDonagh it’s down to a T. The worthy and enjoyable protagonist of Mildred who wants nothing more but to see her daughters’ killer brought to justice is the very beating heart of the film. What could very well become a very stereotypical portrayal of a Southern American town  which cleverly represents the antagonist of this piece actually becomes a lot more vivid and three dimensional. In the end, the film is more of  journey and the ending hits the perfect thematic note.

Overall, if you plan on seeing this in cinemas, I highly recommend you too. Even if you’re not a fan of seemingly low budget drama this film will not disappoint. A true Oscar contender if I ever did see one.

 

 

 

The Truth About A Scriptwriting Masters…

So you want to be a scriptwriter?

Fantastic, good on you. Now the hard part…how do you get into the industry?

For me, I wanted the opportunity of being able to teach Scriptwriting so I decided to do a masters, that way I could get feedback on my own writing each week, meet other writers, have a writing structure and a qualification which meant I could teach. I’m also working in a part time teaching position whilst doing this, working on other writing projects and attending various networking events across the UK such as London Screenwriters Festival to help me break into the industry.

However, something that me when I started the Masters last year was how many of the other writers on my course believed they just had to do the Masters and they would be guaranteed a spot in the industry, a place at the table, blah, blah, blah. They turn up at class every week with their script and get their feedback and then moan that they’ve had no industry opportunities put in their lap. Yes, I understand that they’ve paid a lot of money to do the course (FYI, so have I) but if they want to be in the industry and they want to write then they need to be proactive.

A masters is cute and cushty and great to help with your writing development BUT if you’re going to use the masters as a way to get into the industry DON’T DO IT! save yourself some money and just go on a few writing courses, join a writing group, attend festivals. There are several other and cheaper ways of becoming a great writer.

Believe you and me, your wallet will thank you!

 

Scriptwriting Opportunities for New Writers

As you guys know I’ve been a screenwriter now for about seven months and don’t get me wrong they’ve been pretty hard going! But once I had my first script under my belt I felt ready to go out into world of TV writing and kick arse!

In these last seven months, I think I’ve been on the majority of scriptwriting courses that are on offer to new emerging writers in the UK. Some of them, were amazing and I met some brilliant writers and learnt so much. Others….nawtt so much! If anything I just felt like I was literally throwing my precious money away.

Anyway I thought I’d present this little guide to going after opportunities as a scriptwriter to you guys so hopefully you can go after similiar opportunities and get value for your pennies!

Scriptwriting Opportunities that I found valuable:-

Scriptwriting North

Scriptwriting North is a fantastic hub for all writers in the North of England. It’s run by a really lovely woman called Beth who told me about the masters course that I am now on. For me, this place was absolutely fantastic as they taught me everything I needed to know before setting down a writing my first script. I have attended two ‘courses’ with them, one was a intensive day course for beginners which was a bloody brilliant day as it just gave me all the information I needed and in just one day! The second course was more like an intensive day of writing in various locations across Manchester but it was packed full of writing exercises, feedback sessions and food! If you live in the North and want to write, get in touch with Scriptwriting North.

BBC Writers Room

The BBC Writers Room is a great place with loads of resources for writers. The most amazing thing about the Writers Room is the extensive opportunities it provides for new writers on the scene. From it’s twice a year submission windows for drama and comedy writers to the external opportunities and competitions it posts on it’s ‘opportunities’ page. I also recently attended a free event in the BBC building in Salford with the Writers Room which had a Q&A with TV writer Sally Abbott. It was a lovely event and provided so much insight into the industry.

London Screenwriters Festival

This is like the holy grail for scriptwriters! Seriously! This event happens every year in London. Its a fantastic festival completely dedicated to all things scriptwriting that happens over the course of a weekend. Meet fellow writers, network, Q&A’s, pitch workshops, meet producers and so much more! The only downside for writers not based in London (such as myself) is the travel to London, the price of accommodation and then of course, the actual price of the festival itself. I couldn’t attend last year but I will definitely be attending this year, so will be blogging the entire weekend!

Scriptwriting Opportunities I regret paying for:-

Two Day comedy Writing Masterclass with Rob Grant

Okay, absolutely nothing against this course but I just don’t think it was worth the ridiculous price I had to pay! (£250, if your interested). It was run by Rob Grant, who was a writer and creator of a sitcom for a TV Series called Red Dwarf. Learning about how his career started and the in’s and out’s of what he knew was brilliant. However, the second day of the course, when he had to write a topical sketch show script for actors to perform that evening was totally pointless to me. I wasn’t interested in writing sketch comedy and if anything that’s the last thing producers want writers to send in to them.  If you’re in London though and interested in Sketch comedy then it’s right up your street!

And that’s it for now. I’ll do another writing blog post soon which will focus on writing competitions I recommend!

Good luck to you all and thank you for reading!

 

BBC Writers Room Event at Media City 

Well hello! 

On Monday I happened to attend my first ever BBC Writers Room event. It was specifically for scriptwriters in the industry and was absolutely fantastic as it gave me so much information and motivation to just get on my arse and write! 

It was a good opportunity to network with brooms BBC people, such as the head of the northern writers room and other writers. It was also a chance to have a sneaky look inside the BBC offices, which were so cool! Even if I did have to have an airport style security check before I got in! And I also got to wear a badge with my name on which made me feel so professional!


 The event was a Q&A with writer Sally Abbott whose written everything from Eastenders and Casualty to her own award winning afternoon drama called The Coroner. She gave us so much information including how she started out in the industry herself and how she goes about her writing process. 

For me personally it was so motivating to be in a room full of writers and inspire each other. Also, Sally’s experience and expertise was invaluable advice and guidance which has really give me the kick up my arse I needed for my writing. 

Comedy Writing Course in London! 

Hello there! 

So I’m back this week with an exciting travel/ work blog. Last weekend I braved the capital all on my lonesome for a course in comedy writing. 

As you guys know my true ambition is to write a sitcom one day so I thought this course would be right up my street! 

I stayed in a shared apartment in Camden, the accommodation itself was quite affordable and convenient. I will admit I had a tiny panic when I got to the entrance and thought I wouldn’t be able to get in and then walking up the stairs with no bannister. But in the end the place proved quite good value for money. However, I think next time I’d stay somewhere a little quieter as I was right in the middle of Camden market! 


I choose the two day course at The Comedy School as its a truly unique organisation that specialises in all things Conedy and also does amazing charity work and providing fantastic opportunities for up and coming artists in comedy. 
The course was run by the writer of a well known and long running British sitcom called Red Dwarf. His name was Rob Grant and he was absolutely lovely and hilarious. His story into writing was very inspiring and it was brilliant to get an insiders guide into how the industry works and where the best opportunities are at. The first day of the course was mostly Rob talking about different aspects involved in comedy writing, it was really informative but by the end of the day we were knackered! 

In terms of food, it wasn’t all posh cuisine I’m afraid as such as I’d have loved to have tried loads of different cuisines I was so knackered by the end of the day that I couldn’t be bothered queuing for restaurants. On the Friday night I got a takeaway, it wasn’t all bad though as I went to Itsu. Itsu is a London based  Japanese chain which specialises in Sushi, Noodle and Broth dishes. I ordered the vegetable dumpking broth, it filled me up but it wasn’t the nicest thing I’ve ever had from there. On the Saturday I just grabbed a sandwich from spar and then had a McDonalds. So glamorous! On my last day I treated myself to Pan Au Chocolat and a cup of tea to get me through the last day. 

The course was based right by Regents Park so it meant I was also able to do a little exploring of the park and the beautiful Camden. On the last day of the course, we split up into groups and wrote sketches for a radio style sketch show that would be performed by actors that night. It was intense but an amazing learning curve and although sketch writing isn’t my forte it brilliant to see the whole process taking place in just one day. 


The actors delivered our material brilliantly and I was very impressed with how they interpreted our writing. The course was quick and very intense. I’d say the first day was more for sitcom writers and the second day was more for sketch writers. Of course, both days were useful. All in all, after an exhausting weekend I left more inspired and determined to succeed as a comedy writer!