Script to Screen Offers Double Treat

Script to Screen offered Auckland’s screenwriting community a double treat last week, hosting television writers Rachel Lang and Peter Cox at The Writer’s Room on Tuesday night and visiting screenwriter, teacher and filmmaker Canadian Amnon Buchbinder at the Wine Loft on Saturday afternoon. Buchbinder is in town for the Telecom International Film festival, promoting his latest film, Whole New Thing.

‘This past week provided wonderful opportunities for screenwriters’, said Rebecca Kunin, Executive Director of Script to Screen. ‘They had a chance to hear Rachel Lang, Peter Cox and Amnon Buchbinder speak about writing across a range of formats and genres, on the small and large screen. We are delighted with the ability of all three speakers to provide inspiration and candid advice to both working screenwriters and to those just starting out’.

In the July Writer s Room, Rachel Lang and Peter Cox talked to a capacity crowd about creating television drama. Peter wrote on the popular series, Insiders Guide to Happiness and was the head writer for the satirical mockumentary The Pretender. Rachel is the co-creator of Outrageous Fortune and Mercy Peak and has been writing for the children’s fantasy series Maddigans Quest.

Both acknowledged television as a collaborative writing medium. ‘I like working with other writers’, said Rachel. ‘It’s faster, and it’s more fun. They have thoughts and experiences I would never have and arguing about stories and characters usually makes them better’. Peter stated that he writes in the first instance for himself but he and Rachel both acknowledged the tensions involved in the collaborative writing process, relationships with networks, and the final impact of television audiences and ratings.

Peter emphasised that writers of drama must develop a clear sense of who their characters are at the core this will give rise to strong story lines. With Insiders Guide, Peter explored characters forced to confront themselves after experiencing loss. This self realisation drove the multiple plot lines of Insiders Guide. ‘Once you start to walk the characters around’, said Rachel, ‘that’s the proof of the pudding. How will your five or ten pages stand up over twenty hours in a one hour form?’

Both Peter and Rachel agreed that writing for television can be a great career but one must be aware of the sometimes harsh realities of writing for the format. As Rachel said, ‘Having a good idea, dreaming it up and writing it down is only the beginning of the process.’

Amnon Buchbinder took time out from the film festival circuit last Saturday afternoon to spend time with the local screenwriting community and talk with MC Norelle Scott about his latest film, Whole New Thing, the process of writing film scripts, and his new book, The Way of the Screenwriter, which offers an engaging Taoist perspective on the craft of screenwriting.

‘A story is a living thing’, said Buchbinder, ‘and you have to understand it as a whole. It has life systems: plot, theme and characters and these systems create the story. A living thing is not the sum of its parts. It cannot be pulled apart and analysed’.

Buchbinder works as a story editor too and says, ‘A lot of damage is done by trying to fix things. Problems in the script have to do with our weaknesses as writers. When I advise writers, I force them to work from their weak place rather than from their strengths. It’s also about becoming more conscious of the story they’re trying to tell, the universalities of it, rather than just fixing problems.’

Script to Screen’s popular screenwriting series, The Writers Room, continues this month with a session focussing on Short Film. David Rittey (We the Living, Closer) and Michael Bennett (Kerosene Creek, Cow) are confirmed speakers, with Te Radar coming on board as MC.


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