Monday, June 27, 2011


Is the latest draft of your screenplay giving you a sinking feeling? Don't go down with the ship.

I love the poet, Muriel Rukeyser, because she understood that "the world is made of stories, not atoms". You don't have to be a poet to understand this, but it helps. Have a look around. Stories are a force of nature. We didn't evolve from apes; we sprang into life fully formed and thoroughly anxious, embodied by stories.

Story is our essence, the source and expression of every relationship, ambition, dread, birth, death and discovery. Our humanity and inhumanity is rooted in, tangled in the mystery of "how come?" and the suspense of "what next?"

Story is Nature's way of becoming conscious of itself, and as storytellers we work with it to become conscious of ourselves. One writes a story to find out why one is writing it, and in the process discovers that the story is writing us as much as we are writing it.

When Jackson Pollack spoke of a painting as having a life of its own he underscored the central insight of every mediumistic artist. To work as a medium, the screenwriter/filmmaker must forge intimate and emotionally vivid relationships with ALL of the characters necessary for finding the story, and only some of these characters actually exist in the script. In the act or acts of forming and testing these relationships, the screenwriter/filmmaker begins to realise that the story is neither mine nor theirs, but ours.


WHERE'S THE DRAMA? is the leading question at the heart of the development of every screen story, yet "drama" is usually the very element that many filmmakers leave out. Why is this? And what can be done about it?  Find out what you, the writer - as one "character" among many - can do to revolutionise screen storytelling and the world of screen culture generally. Industry and non-industry film and programme makers - as well as film audiences, reviewers and critics - are invited to become part of the web's most exciting and unique online "conversation". Discover and explore the world of mediumistic, dramatic screen storytelling.

Join today. It's FREE!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

LET'S DO LUNCH : Story & Script Services

Informal Story Consults
with Billy Marshall Stoneking


In the course of writing your next film, there will be times when all you really want is someone you can sit down and talk to about the story, the characters and the process. You don't want a script editor or an exhaustive assessment; you don't want someone who's going to tell you it's great simply because they're your partner or because they like you. What you want is an honest-to-god conversation with someone that understands drama and the journey and terror of writing a dramatic screenplay, someone with whom you can air your anxieties concerning what you're doing, and who will assist you in uncovering some of the as-yet-undiscovered possibilities concerning the story that is trying to get itself told. If you're feeling lost in the project or doubting its worth, or suddenly lacking in the confidence you need to finish the next draft, book yourself in for a conversation and a coffee.

The popularity and success of this informal and inspiring approach to script development has already been phenomenal. Satisfaction guaranteed or you pay NOTHING. So, let's do lunch, eh? and talk about it.

Writers and writer/directors, producers, and others with a project at any stage of development are invited to book a consult now.

USUAL VENUE: In Sydney at the Fundamental Food Co., Glebe Point Road, Glebe (across from Cornstalk Books) Mondays - Fridays (by appointment only - use BUTTON above right to make an appointment)

Special rate: Only $50 per hour

Satisfaction guaranteed or you pay nothing!

SKYPE CONSULTS also available by appointment -
SKYPE ID: billy.marshall.stoneking

BOOK ONLINE using BUTTON above right, or write to


BILLY MARSHALL STONEKING encourages writers to tell the stories that MEAN something to them – that is, stories in which the storyteller has an emotional investment, stories that the storyteller feels passionately connected to and needs to tell.

The role of the script editor is to ILLUMINATE, to assist and guide the cinematic storyteller in uncovering and fully exploring the emotional meanings that lie buried in their characters' actions, and to ensure that that these actions clearly dramatise the storyteller’s understanding of the story world that inhabits him/her.

It is a truism, but probably worth repeating: the journey of the storyteller is a journey of self-discovery. It starts from the known and moves towards the unknown. It isn’t simply a case of the writer writing a story; the story also writes the writer!

Stoneking has consulted on numerous award-winning and commercially successful short and feature films, documentaries and television series, including CHOPPER (Andrew Dominick's AFI award-winning film), THE MAGICIAN (SBS-TV series by Scott Ryan), RICHARD and TWO (Maya Newell), THE SAVIOUR (Academy-award nominated short by Peter Templeman), BIRTHDAY BOY (Academy-Award nominated 3D animation short by Sejong Park), OUT ON THE TILES and ALI AND THE BALL (Dendy and St Kilda Festival award-winning films/scripts by Alex Holmes), and many many others.

You've spent weeks, maybe months or even years, working with your characters and your story and you're no longer sure if it's as good as you "think" it is... why not go the extra distance and be absolutely certain its as good as it can possibly be before you enter it into the next screenplay competition or offer it up to a film school selection panel, or an agent or a production company.
For a new screenwriter, breaking into the motion picture industry is never easy. Some enter screenplay competitions in the hope they'll gain much needed exposure. Others query and submit their original screenplays directly to agents and producers. Whether you choose the screenplay competitions/movie contests or festivals route, or submit your script to agents and producers directly, you only get ONE chance, so make it count!
Stoneking's coverage gives you an opportunity to test your screenplay on an astute and objective "audience", and receive the kind of constructive feedback that will illuminate your script's strengths and weaknesses.
Those who use this service will receive notes covering story, premise, plot, character development, dialogue, structure, format, and production value.

Address initial enquires to Stoneking at

Sunday, June 19, 2011


William Goldman has been quoted as saying that a screenplay is not written, it’s re-written, and most of the screenwriters I know would readily agree with this. Nevertheless, it would seem that many of the writers I work with don’t always work in a way that indicates that they fully appreciate the fine art of re-writing, which is itself a thoroughly creative act or series of acts demanding as much if not more of the writer than the blank page. When considering the nature of the beast, one could do worse than to conceive of re-writing as a re-write of the writer, who – by the way – is also one of the characters whose actions are germane to the success or otherwise of the story-being-found. However, all of this is so much theory until one actually sits down and faces the problems that come with any constructive and useful re-writing of a screen drama. When facing the potential horrors of the next draft, one might do wll to consider the following:

1. Take a break between your last draft and your next one. Walk away from the computer. Clear your thoughts. Take a drive, or a short holiday – break the routine with which you’ve become accustomed. Stay away from the script for at least a couple of days. Or even a week. When you come back to what you are writing, come back fresh, as a virtual stranger.

2. Print the script out on paper.

3. Take the printed copy and find a comfortable place – preferably NOT where you usually write. The more remote the better (a public bus, for example) or a table at the back of an uncrowded cafĂ©)

4. Read the whole script through, crossing out everything that is not absolutely relevant or emotionally meaningful to the building and releasing of energy. This includes dialogue and BIG PRINT. Get rid of as many “ands” and “buts” as possible. Avoid passive voice and prosaic description. Make it live. Make it lean. Excise everything that is not absolutely essential to the spirit of the characters and their story.

5. Inscribe ALL changes onto the computer, print out new draft. Go for a walk. Leave it for a day.

6. Print out new draft, read through the entire draft, noting all the things you like. Use “ticks” or even take the pages you like and set them in a separate pile. Do the same for those sections or pages that are just ok (use a “+”), and for the pages you hate (use an “X”).

7. Take the first fifteen pages. Check the rhythm and flow of the visual action, shot by shot, scene by scene. Identify the objectives of each character in each scene. Make sure that each one is “fighting” or struggling for something.

8. Using a pen, writing on the script, “blow up” or expand upon those scenes that lack drama ad/or clarity. Delete any scenes that do not instance change in the fortunes of the characters. Make sure that your main characters are active and that their actions are clearly motivated.

9. Identify the "dramatic problem" (disturbance or catalyst) that compels the main character/s to act. What is driving the central character/s and what dramatic question does the existence of this problem prompt one’s audience to ask?

10. Keep working on the first ten to fifteen pages until they work for you - the writer – as well as for your (imagined) audience. (See AUDIENCE)

11. When you are satisfied that you cannot do anything more to improve the opening fifteen pages, go on to the next fifteen pages and repeat the process.

12. Continue to work on the script, fifteen pages at a time until you have reached the end. Under no circumstances must you go on to the next fifteen pages until you are satisfied with the fifteen pages that you are currently working on.

13. When you have reached the end, go for a walk. Take a few days off. Come back to the script fresh and enter ALL the changes you have made to the script into the computer. Relax. Take a few days off.

14. Come back to the computer fresh. Read through the script from the perspective of your audience. Use ticks to check off what you like, pluses to indicate what is ok and X’s to signify what still needs work. An astute audience will be cognizant of many issues simultaneously, e.g.: is the story emotionally logical. Are the actions of the characters clearly motivated? Is the action and dialogue concise? Does it convey the emotional energy that is germane to the characters’ predicament? Does it conduct the audience into a relationship with the characters? What is confusing? Are there unneeded repetitions?

15. For dialogue, read it out loud in the patches where it feels rough. Read it to a stranger. On a bus or a train. You will hear what it is that you don’t need or what sounds inauthentic. Cross out everything that isn’t coming from the character that is actually speaking it. (NOTE: A lot of dialogue that is written performs as internal notes to the writer that the writer has written to him/herself. Beware those “writer-talking-to-himself lines”.

16. After polishing the draft, have some actor friends do a read of the script; pick someone good to do the narration.

17. Fill out a Drama Report. Have everyone who attended the reading fill out a Drama Report (See DRAMA REPORT) – take a few days off.

18. Re-read script. Read reports. Repeat entire process as required.

Friday, June 10, 2011


Film theorist, Richard Barsam has written: “The best nonfiction film is a creative film, not a literal record of some happening or a straightforward piece of argument or a twisted piece of propaganda ... as with all art, the question is one of degree: the degree of creativity ... The best nonfiction films are best not because they are the most informative or the most persuasive or the most useful, but because they are the most creative, effective, and valuable human documents that can be made from the circumstances represented in them ...”

Where's the Drama? is proud to present a unique collection of documentaries that dramatise the veracity of Richard Barsam's observations. Collected together on one site, these documentaries represent a broad cross-section of styles and concerns. Each in its own way tells a dramatic story and provides vigorous evidence that is sure to stay with the viewer long after the film has ended.

Whilst the films collected here do not represent an exhaustive collection of the best or even the most creaive docos (in Barsam's sense of the word), they do provide a rather comprehensive selection of issues, concerns, obsessions and characters that will hold your attention.


For those readers interested in a more comprehensive discussion of the art of documentary, please visit THE DRAMA OF DOCUMENTARY at