Brain 2 Page

One of the things I’ve struggled with in the past is getting ideas out of my head and onto the page. I guess every writer is different but I find that as soon as I start writing, I have a flood of other ideas so I’ve always been looking for a quick, easy and efficient way to collect things before I write a page here, write a page there etc.

I’ve attached a template (Brain2Page) I developed to capture the things I think are helpful. Just for fun, I’ve used it in re-visiting what was my second ever idea for a feature film (circa 2003). It’s very rough and not done in any real depth but for the benefit of showing what the template is, I think it will suffice.

Usually, when I am first getting the idea out I tend to start with a premise, a set-up of the dramatic question. What is the challenge? This is the what if question? This is a great starting point for developing ideas. I.e. What if a down and out boxer had the opportunity to fight for the heavyweight title and gain the love and self-respect he so desperately craved? (ROCKY).

From here you should be able to establish a genre or mix of genres. I’ve read a ton of different things on the internet about the following point but for me, it always helps me explain my ideas – I call this the ‘Vs’ or for the benefit of the template, the ‘Ball-Park’. This is what the idea is informed by or influenced by so people can picture it quickly. So, if I have an idea for a road trip/journey movie I might say it’s Thelma & Louise vs. Easy Rider vs. Stand By Me. Some will tell you you shouldn’t do this, some will say it’s essential, all I can tell you is – WEAR SUNSCREEN! (Inside joke….for me).

I always like my characters to grow throughout the film or learn something so I have a section here on ‘the Moral of the Story’, the classic being ‘With great power comes great responsibility’ (Spiderman). What do your characters learn? How do they change? What is the moral of the story? (What is the point of the film?)

The next section is the Outline. This, for me, is usually a general brain dump and sometimes takes the form of almost a scene-by-scene where I write action after action whilst including the odd line of dialogue. The only rule I live by here is; IT’S FOR ME! So it has to be funny/scary/thrilling and most importantly, INFORMAL. F**k grammar – How quickly can I get back into the idea is what is important.

I’ve included a ‘Rules’ section here because the first idea I used this template on was an idea for an animated feature (something in the guise of ‘Up’ or ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’). Animated features can be wacky but I have found the more wacky and expansive the idea, the more rule making you have to do so it doesn’t hurt to start developing  a rule book. I.e. In Star Wars pretty much anything goes although there is NO time travel or teleportation…you see what I mean.

Whenever I come up with an idea, I often come up with one or two scenes I really like just out of nowhere. Maybe I’ll think of a killer opening shot and a perfect ending for a story that I’m not entirely sure I know how to tell. Either way, I find it helpful to just note potential scenes as if you’re writing an outline or scene-by-scene and you’re in act 1 but an idea for a climax comes up then you want to capture it straight away not wait for it to come around in the process!

Finally, something that really inspires me when I write is a good soundtrack! I have found this helps in keeping a good handle on the tone of the work and it can go a long way in bringing to life the environment, time and world you are creating. Just look at the music played in the montage scene in sport films…It’s commonly understood that you’d never write specific music into a script, this is for other people (directors etc.) but again, this is something that is for my benefit. Being a keen music fan, if I was ever asked then of course I’d offer an opinion but I’d usually keep this ‘soundtrack’ to myself.

Anyway, I hope this template helps – I know I have found it useful.

Good luck with getting those ideas down and keep on chasing the dream!

Oh…and there’s this, a timely reminder on advice sought from stangers;






Masterclass with Aaron Sorkin

If you’re interested in Scriptwriting you’ve probably seen this latest Masterclass being advertised. When it comes to writing for the screen, Aaron Sorkin is probably considered one of the best in the business (‘A Few Good Men’ and ‘The Social Network’ immediately come to mind).

The Masterclass, an online course of video lectures and workshops sounds like a great opportunity for writers to learn a lot but to also network with other writers on the course.

Since I started writing I’ve learnt there are two schools of thought when it comes to courses, qualifications etc. Vs developing your craft as you go. I’ve read a bit online from people who think courses wouldn’t work for them and they think they’re a waste of money. I guess it comes down to what works for you but having done the MA I think courses can be extremely useful.

Like many other budding writers learning their trade, I’m quite stuck for time with working full time and having very young kids, everyone has a busy life these days! This is why I have found the MA so useful. When you’re stuck for time and you’re at an age where you shouldn’t be thinking “When I grow up…” it’s extremley useful to have someone to help guide you along the road. I think all writers should follow their instincts in what they’re working on but a little guidance goes along way. The last couple of years has certainly allowed me to develop at a faster rate than I would have on my own.

Also, courses are a great way to meet other writers and make connections. I’ve met some great people on my course and it’s been every bit more valuable in that everyone seems to have vastly different tastes in what they like and want to write.




The Script Lab

The Script Lab is a great online resource for screenwriters. Most of the content is based around feature films but you’ll find so much great content there including interviews with successful screenwriters, downloadable scripts and a wealth of other helpful advice.

There are a few great articles about character development that I have used and they also have a YouTube channel that is worth subscribing to.

Check it out;




Moving forward…

So I managed to get the first draft of my major project (a feature film length script) done just in time for the feedback session on the MA residential weekend. I can’t say it was a pleasant experience, it’s hard to have something you’ve spent so much time on be picked apart but overall it was useful.

I’ll admit my pride took a bit of a dent when the flaws of the script were pointed out but I understand this is all part of the process. Now I have to take it on the chin, dust myself down and go back to work.

There are some major problems with the script but I have a better understanding of how to start putting it right. At the moment I feel like I have most of the pieces for the jigsaw but I don’t know how to lay it all out.

In hindsight it seems the weekend came at the perfect time because I have been asked to help work on a short script by a Dutch writer/director who is writing in English. My plan is to take some of the lessons learned in Gregynog and put that newly acquired knowledge into practice. This is also a great opportunity to keep working and have a small time out from my major project.

After my feedback session (all 2 hours of it!) at Gregynog I had some time to myself to really think about what I’ve learnt over the last 18 months. I’ll post a little something about this in due course but for now it’s back to the drawing board with ‘Black & White Town’.

Here’s a nice little motivational clip for all those MA Scriptwriting students who are wrestling with their first rewrites…


Some thoughts on ‘Black & White Town’

‘Black & White Town’ (I’ll refer to it as BWT from here on) is the working title of my major project, a feature length film.

The title comes from the song ‘Black and White Town’ by a band called Doves. It’s not a song I was over familiar with I just remember the video featuring some kids in a typical town not too dissimilar to where the film is set. I don’t know why, it just felt like a nice fit and the fact that the film is set in and around Port Talbot, South Wales against the backdrop of the steelworks seemed to go nicely (I’ve driven past the steelworks thousands of times and seeing the smoke and steam rising out of the chimneys has always been a powerful image).

The idea was first envisaged some years ago all be it in a heavy industrial town in North America. However, with the deadline looming and massive amounts of research already ahead of me I thought I’d cut myself some slack and bring it home back to the UK.

This story was developed before the recent steel crisis and I’m still not sure how to incorporate this into the story. Maybe it’s an opportunity to look at the story from a different angle? I’m not sure yet. Although I’m from Swansea and not Port Talbot it’s still easy to see the massive impact losing the works would have on the area. Like many others I hope a solution can be found to this issue and those employed in the works and supporting industries can look to the future with a bit more reassurance. You can read more about the steel crisis here:

I’d describe ‘Black & White Town’ as being a family/sport drama. The first module for the second year of the MA was to produce a Pitch, Synopsis and Treatment. The pitch for BWT is;

“An amateur boxer faces a race against time to repair broken family ties and overcome her own demons by venturing into the world of Mixed Martial Arts.”

I see the film as primarily a family drama but I’ve decided to incorporate the world of Mixed Martial Arts as a way of getting the protagonist to face her demons and overcome her flaws which are always running from problems and having low self-esteem, themes which are commonly associated to stories in the sporting world.

Following hours and hours of story development and scene by scene structuring I am now in middle of the first draft. Hopefully I’ll get the first draft ready in time for Gregynog where we’ll be reading through them.








It sure ain’t Pong…

When I started the MA I envisaged writing purely for film. However, as I’ve mentioned before, since starting the MA my eyes have been opened up to a whole other world of possibilities.

When I was young computer games looked a lot different to how they do now. Okay, I wasn’t around when Pong first hit the shelves but if you look at games today it is astounding to see how detailed they are in story and gamer experience.

Here are some cut scenes from a game called ‘Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II’. In the game you play as a jedi/sith hero who is on the edge as an apprentice of Darth Vader. The game allows you to fire up the lightsaber and get hacking away and each level/mission is intercut with these lovely scenes as the story and journey progresses. This merges the gaming and cinematic experience.

It’s exciting to see how this will develop over the coming years with the gaming industry going from strength to strength. Lot’s of opportunities out there script writers so maybe it’s time to dust off that old Sega in the attic and get back involved!

Alternatively, if you just fancy a game of Pong try this;



Learning to Fly

On 29th April 2016 I will be handing in the first draft of my new feature length film script. Well, that’s the plan anyway! The idea is to have the first draft ready for the script readings at the residential weekend in May (Gregynog: The Sequel).

Following the completion of my Major Project Treatment and a number of tutorials it appears I’m almost ready for take-off! I’m almost ready to type those two very simple but exciting and scary words “FADE IN”.

In my last tutorial I had some feedback on the treatment (outline) and it was encouraging that I had made almost identical notes to my tutor in relation to things I needed to improve or develop further.

I’m in a totally different place to where I was when I started writing. When I started out writing scripts for short films and features I usually jumped straight in and steam rolled my way through. This approach gives rise to a whole host of problems. It’s really difficult to ensure you have continuity when you’re plotting the next beat of the story on the basis that “it would be cool if this happened”. The biggest improvement I’ve made since starting the MA is developing the story from the perspective of the characters. In my current project character choices seem to be far more logical and things just seem to make a lot more sense. Writing the pages and pages of back story and character profiling has also given me a fairly strong foundation to work from.

At the moment I’m planning out the next three months of my life. I hope to have a scene by scene structure in place by the end of February ready to start writing in March. Needless to say March and April will be a very quiet time for me. When I have the story and scene by scene nailed down I’ll share my pitch and talk a little bit more about the project itself.



Writers Guild

Before Christmas I became a member of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain. The WGGB is a professional trade union for writers and they offer some really great services.

The WGGB can advise on contracts, pay rates and pensions. They also host a number of training and networking events. If you’re thinking about writing for a living then I suggest you sign up too.

Writers Guild of Great Britain

During my application I was asked to write a little bit about myself and my life as a writer. Here is the finished article;

When did you first realise you wanted to write for a living?

Two years ago, at the age of 32.

Which writer, past or present, do you most admire?

Rob Gittins (EastEnders and many other things) ran a workshop for my MA in Scriptwriting course. Rob had loads of great advice, funny stories and was a good down-to-earth bloke.

What was your first published (or performed) credit as a writer?

Following the completion of my MA in Scriptwriting (September 2016) I’ll be filming two short films I’ve written.

Which piece of writing work are you most proud of?

I am currently developing an idea for a TV series which I’m very excited by. It’s a classic tale told from a different perspective. It makes me smile every time I work on it.

Who or what inspires you to write?

I think the key to being happy is to do something you enjoy for a living. I’ve worked in McDonald’s, as a building labourer, data entry clerk, that guy who puts leaflets in boxes and a whole host of other things. Writing is by far the thing that makes me happiest so I want to do that now.

How do you switch off when you’re not writing?

I can’t really remember the last time I switched off. When I’m not writing or developing things for the MA in Scriptwriting I’m working full-time, going to my Brazilian Jiu-jitsu club, playing with my kids (three and one years old), helping my mum and grandma out or just doing things around the house. Switching off sounds nice, I’ll try that one day.

Which one piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Get out there and do stuff. I find ideas come flooding in when I’m actually out there meeting people, going places, reading articles in the paper or just chatting with friends down the pub. I definitely don’t subscribe to the Apple-laptop-in-a cafe-all-day approach. I used to look back and regret the time I spent doing jobs I didn’t like but actually it’s provided me with some really great stories.

Why are you a member of WGGB?

I’m hoping to meet other writers and take advantage of some of the events the WGGB puts on. I’d also like advice on contracts, agents and rates.

Dave Morgan is a 34-year-old writer living in Swansea, South Wales. He is currently studying an MA in Scriptwriting at the University of South Wales, Cardiff. After having worked on ideas for stories for over 10 years, he has decided to pursue a career as a professional scriptwriter.

Give the boy a chance!

It’s been a very busy month for me. I’m now going all guns blazing on my new major project and developing the story ready to submit a treatment by January 4th (which is also my wife’s birthday – a good omen). I’m on the 3rd version of the story outline and just need to nail down a few more things before I draft a treatment.

Earlier in the month I attended the second residential weekend of the MA course. I chatted through the first draft of the outline with my tutor and also got to share my idea with my course mates. I had some encouraging feedback from the tutors on the theme and character flaws/goals. I think I’m almost ready to get cracking on that treatment now and it looks as if I’ll be working over Christmas this year. This is fine, I enjoy writing and this is the price that has to be paid to be successful so bring it on!

One thing I wanted to share was a realisation I came to when scoping out the story for my major project. In the first draft I felt it lacked something, some punch. It lacked real drama. There was conflict in the story but it was clear that I needed to raise the stakes and put more pressure on my characters. I just happened to catch ‘Billy Elliot’ on TV one night when I was deep in development which is a perfect example of great family drama. I’d seen the film before but one scene which stuck out for me this time was the (Spoilers!) father’s decision to break the picket line in the miner’s strike because he thinks it’s the only way to help his son follow his dream. Excellent! Forcing a character to go against everything he believes out of love for his son. This is a fantastic scene and after Billy’s dancing in the street to The Jam’s ‘Town Called Malice’ (I’m a big Jam fan) it’s my favourite in the film.

This won’t do it justice but here is the scene;

Three drafts of the outline later and I’m happy to say I’ve really ramped up the stakes and if I can recreate something half as good as the scene above then I’ll be a very proud man.

C’est la vie

A few days after the last residential weekend in Uni (back in October) I hit a wall with my major project. The idea, a crime/revenge thriller had been spiralling out of control for some time and got to a point where I felt I didn’t have the time to really sit down, pull in the reigns and crack it. The plan was to have the story told from the perspective of three main characters who were a police inspector, the head of a criminal family and an innocent bystander caught up in the heist.

This project was undeniably influenced by some of my favourite films including Pulp Fiction, Heat, The Departed, 36 and Anything for Her. I really can’t rate some European films highly enough (36 and Anything For Her).

Here is an early (and way too long) version of the initial pitch;

A rookie police officer turns her back on the law in a bid to exact revenge on a crime family who killed her husband during a bank robbery. As she starts on her journey she uncovers a dark family secret that threatens to tear the family apart. The investigation team, struggling to deal with deception amongst their own ranks face a race against time to bring down the group responsible for the crime and uncover the identity of the person who is picking the family off one by one.

Large parts of the idea (somewhat changed from the original pitch) were very strong and it is certainly something I will return to at some point. Essentially the story would be told from three different perspectives with all character journeys and choices interlinked. This would mean sharing the on-screen time out between the characters and this was proving difficult to develop. The one thing I didn’t want to do was to strip this particular idea back to a generic good guy vs bad guy style story. I want to tell this story with a large cast and not limit myself because it’s easier or more economical. As a result I’m putting this idea back in the drawer until I have the time and the skills to develop it exactly the way I want it.

It was a very difficult decision to put the brakes on this idea and since taking writing seriously this has without a doubt been the toughest time I’ve had to endure. I’d put a lot of time and effort into the idea and it’s frustrating to change direction now. However, I’d much rather do it early on than be further down the road with it and then changing it. I’m all for putting my head down and pushing on but it’s important to be heading in the right direction!

The last month has been a real low point for me in terms of writing and I found that when I started stuttering with this idea all my creative energy vanished. After fretting for a few days and generally being quite useless I picked up another idea I had, one I feel a lot more comfortable with. It has fewer characters and the character arcs/journeys are far easier to visualise (more on this soon!). The real positive to come out of it was that after scribbling down a rough draft of the treatment the ideas started flowing back and this has done wonders for my confidence. I can’t help but think that just sitting down and writing anything can help like keeping the motor running so you don’t stall.

So, one major project out the window (or back in the drawer), one major project back on the table and a notebook filling up with new ideas.

C’est la vie!