How to Make a Movie

The End

This guide is not for the entire film process. For those seeking that, you need money and practice. This is for the first step. The script.

First you need characters that the audience can relate to.

Then you need a setting.

Finally you need a goal, particularly for one character (your antagonist).

Eg: Two managers, in fast food stores, one aiming to make the ideal food (a chiko roll), or a father and son, in outer space, and the father seeks reunion.

To stop that goal being reached there needs to be obstacles.

Eg: a feud or a Jedi battle.

Obstacles can take many forms. The classic process is the Hero’s Journey, where there is conflict, division, self-realistion and atonement (basically every Will Farrell movie), so the character has changed along the way.


Stage one: establish characters, scene, goal, introduce major conflict and a sign of resolution. For a major 90min movie this is all done in the first 10min.

Stage two: make the goal hard to reach, and by the end of this stage it seems impossible. This is the next 70min of a 90min movie.

Stage three: Goal is achieved, and character has learnt a life lesson. The final 10min.

A good example of playing with this format in the Bendigo Comedy podcast was with Tara Bell and Mike Elliott. There the antagonist was an overly happy guy at a store, and he wanted to work at a store closer to town, or the city as he considered it. On his way to the interview was a Mosque protest, and the protesters did not respond well to the happy guy getting on their tram. Despite the conflict, the happy guy made the angry people see that life was good, characters changed, and the happy guy got to his job interview. The end.

It’s a simple structure often repeated. The hard thing is making the pieces of a movie fit, as changing a character’s motivation can change the entire film (eg: it doesn’t make sense for Greedo to shoot first).

Ultimately it’s about building a plot line, because as Alfred Hitchock said, “I’ve written the script, now all I need is the dialogue.”*

*actually I can’t find the actual Hitchock quote. Maybe he didn’t say it. Anyway, it’s a good quote.

Bendigo Writers Council – March workshop 2016 – Wayne Gregson on column writing

Speaking about the newspaper industry, journalism and the distinction of being a writer, Wayne, let’s be honest, painted a bleak outlook. He is known locally for his work at the Bendigo Advertiser, including his Down the Mall column, and has worked with newspapers throughout Victoria, including writing a column that was printed nationally. The dot points that follow are notes from the talk, therefore reflecting Wayne’s opinions. (In some cases my opinions are listed in brackets [aka parentheses].) At the end of this article is a summary of a short talk I had with Wayne on the issues raised.

  • A journalist’s job is to report events, not to send a message that helps form an idea.

  • A writer must communicate an idea, and that is the distinction of a column writer to a journalist.

  • A writer must give honesty and that can be scary for a writer to do.

  • Wayne believes journalists do not work for money, as the money is too low to attract the money seeker. (Though I would argue that it can attract the fame seeker who wants to see their name in the byline and influence society. This is Rupert Murdoch’s key motivation.)

  • Columns are the attractive part of the paper compared to the dry journalism, yet column writers are also poorly paid. (I have seen many people complain about their work and pay. If you are a writer or journalist, or anybody, you’ll unlikely be happy with your pay. So better that you’re happy with your career/work.)

  • The Bendigo Advertiser in the 1990s employed 30 staff to ensure facts and content was accurate. Now it is 12 employees (at most) and content is not always checked for facts or grammar.

  • Column writers can have fun, including word play, which is something journalists don’t do because journalists only do facts and not fun.

  • It is arguable if journalists in newspapers today do, in fact, stick to reporting facts or whether they try to influence opinion. (I suggest taking the same news event as reported in The Age, The Herald Sun and The Australian, and read to see if the use of language could influence opinion)

  • The Herald’s language is/was targeted at someone who didn’t finish school, and therefore the journalist really had to know their topic in order to explain it clearly enough. A journalist for The Age could write to a higher comprehension level but that allowed for some laziness.

  • Back in the day if you got a fact wrong, you personally apologised to the people involved.

  • Reporting is only to be concerned with who, what, when, where, and why.

  • One of the best writers of a column according to Wayne was Lennie Lower, who wrote fun articles, drank heavily, and died young. There is a book of Lower’s articles.

  • In some circles the column is content where advertising should be. (I see that in most circles the blog is where the column have moved.)

  • With the loss of local newspapers there has been seen a reduction of local community involvement. Less people attending events etc.

  • More people read online, but there is so much clutter there, there is less pay. Example: a leading online news service, the Huffington Post, does not pay contributors.

  • Papers are dying because people believe all creativity should be free, because it is free on the internet.

  • Terry Pratchett, a famous writer, was a journalist before having more fun.

  • Dave Barry is a column writer at the LA Times. They pay him and therefore he has time to do a good job at writing.

  • A newspaper should tell you something about the community that you don’t know.

  • Exercise: a message was sent around the room in a whisper, it was returned with great error. Proof that the further from the source you are, the greater need to check facts. This was also shown by the example of a book that analysed newspaper reporting.

At this point the workshop stopped for a tea break and I asked Wayne if, given that newspapers are dying, that journalists and column writers don’t work for money, and if the paper is of high importance to a local community, should papers adopt a Not-for-profit model.

He believed this was impossible, and a little foolish, as only competition helped generate funds and lowering the revenue expected would lessen pay further and reduce the standard of reporting and writing. He stated that society receives the media that it deserves, and if people are not willing to pay for it, then they should not have one. The only exception that could possibly work is the ABC, and even that has faults.

I proposed a kind of donation system that people pay their local newspaper so that it may continue to operate and that society can continue to have the benefits of a local media service.

He believed this was a good idea.

Bendigo Writers Council – February Workshop 2016: Angela Savage on Crime Writing

This was a great talk with many tips and exercises for writers of all genres. Below is only a fraction of the advice Angela gave to our attendees, and should wet the appetite for those who haven’t attended a Bendigo Writers Council workshop before.

  • Focus on your passion. Do what you want, not what other people are doing.

  • In crime, and everywhere, if the story is good enough the exact facts do not matter.

  • Learn about the world, again good general advice, as it will also improve the scope and believability of your writing.

  • If you are excited by it, others will be too. When writing for your audience, remember that you are your first audience, and if you enjoy and are excited by the writing then others should be too.

  • Angela didn’t like her first novel attempt. It was thin on plot and big on self exploration.

  • The drive of any story is in the idea, character or setting/situation. Decide on one for the theme.

  • Crime writing is fun, you learnt things and people read it.

  • Angela’s first book took five years and seven drafts before acceptance by the publishing.

    • It also had 30,000+ words removed at the line edit stage by the publisher. This was because it lacked pace. Angela’s latest book only had 300 words removed.

  • The first draft is only getting the story down. The second, third, and forth draft is writing.

    • It might take 6 months to write, but then 6 years to edit.

    • If you forget something in a redraft, it probably wasn’t that important.

  • To help with plotting look at moments and consider “what if”. Take your character on a walk before story writing. Where does the idea, character or setting/situation lead. Whenever stuck, revert to that.

I took another four pages of these notes.

For more on crime writing contact Sisters in Crime or Brothers in Crime.

For details on the next Bendigo Writers Council workshop see this link:

Bendigo Writers Festival: In Praise of Short – with Zoe Dattner, Cate Kennedy, David Musgrave, David Astle, and Carmel Bird

This panel praised short story writing, though in essence they truly praised concise and deliberate writing of any length. While it could be (though wasn’t) argued that in a novel a writer is forgiven for occasional lose prose, yet there is no place to hide or waste in a short story. In the short story, words are often used at their most selective. This is a skill short story writers learn, and it also applies to their choice of setting and events. The whole construct can be challenged due to the exposure. This is writing that would benefit a novel. Words and sentences should alwyas be considered, and not wasted.

Bendigo Writers Festival: I’m Watching Closely – with Anne Howard and Max Gillies

The entertaining comedic character actor Max Gillies spoke well on his concerns and interests on the state of satire, aided by Anne Howard’s engaging questions. While topics of history, future, appropriateness and morality of the use of satire and the fine line of mocking people, and the great use of identifying detail in comedy, I would like to ask another question: In comedy, especially satire, a character should be ignorant of their flaws, though in exposing someone’s flaws a person’s perceived respect and trustworthiness can reduce and so decrease the chance people will vote for them, therefore politicians and people are now suing comedians and why they are so careful in the presentation of themselves, thus is comedy harmful to the political process, and would the public be willing to vote for someone who admits their flaws?

Bendigo Writers Festival: Words and Images – with Anne Manne, Robyn Davidson and Raimond Galta

“Honey, you’re not going to like what I’m going to do to your book,” is what Robyn was told by a prospective producer of her book. Ultimately the true stories these writers recorded could be seen as having be made into fiction films, though the writers understand the film making process and accept that “They tried their best.” These writers were not involved in the screenwriting process, and did not expect to be. When they were asked questions about the script, their answers were not listened to, and they did not expect them to be. The only time they were involved was on specific request, and they were surprised and happy by the inclusion.

Bendigo Writers Festival: Resilience – with Scott Alterator, Terry Jaensch, Geraldine Wooller and Cate Kennedy

A resilient character is one you can identify adversity and still continue against it. Reading about a character who is being confronted with obstacles is interesting, as the reader sees the character plough forward with coping mechanisms, face the issues and people, and recover or attempt to rebiuld themselves in some way. Resilience in a character is about the character having an optimistic/hopeful and active approach to the stones the writer throws at them.

Bendigo Writers Festival: Writing Game – With Kate Larsen, John Purcell, Alli Sinclair, David M Henley and Alicia Sometimes

A very generous and engaging panel gave an optimistic discussion about writing. Not optimistic about the money in writing, nobody ever does, yet they gave a freedom to the worried writer about the future. There is no need to have a gazillion twitter followers or to hide for fear of failure. The key to publishing success is to be active, regardless of percentages and results, and to be genuinely friendly. To follow the money a writer could target systems and all the marketing tricks, however even doing this does not guarantee publishing deals, and so the better result is gained from enjoying the writing on its own, engaging in your writing community by any means (online and/or in person) and enjoying yourself. Doing the opposite will make you angry and a jerk, and nobody wants to help the person who’s being a jerk.

This Week in Writing: You’re not the Shakespeare you think you are

Pepe le Pew: child entertainer and racist sex pest who hunts females, knocks them down, and then rejects them when he finds out they aren't white enough for him. I never liked him.
Pepe le Pew: child entertainer and racist sex pest who hunts females, knocks them down, and then rejects them when he finds out they aren’t white enough for him. I never liked him.

For the historians among you, the self-publishing project is on hold as an editor is searched. In the angry time, here are some notes on writing I have learned aka learnt aka found.

  • Slang words are, in a way, easy to understand, slack, words. They usually are also close to the people who use them, and are used to form a group.
  • Drug transporters would no longer use terms “grass” “mull” “mary jane” “reefer”, because Johnny Law would know what they mean.
  • The use of slang words in writing could be the use of words that will take six years to be determined as real words by a dictionary company, or take six years to be failed to be understood.
  • Much exhaled playwright Shakespeare used/recorded/invented 1700 slang words. If he was alive today he’d probably be considered a confusing Melbourne hipster who writes a blog full of gobbledygook.
  • Microsoft Word doesn’t like it when I write the word “movies”. Is there no plural to “movie”?
  • Over 3,000 people clicked on my article about Marriage Equality. None of them wrote a negative response. Is that 3,000+ “yes” votes?
  • At a philosophy talk I was confused at what everyone was arguing about. As far as I could tell they were all agreeing with each other. They were confident that they didn’t agree with each other. That’s philosophy for you.
  • I heard a theory that was something like: When climbing a mountain you can not see what is on the other side. There might be a better way to the top. You need to talk to other people to find out, to hear their ideas, or else take the long trek around to experience it yourself.
  • To finish writing a book is, in that way, like climbing a mountain to the top.
  • I’m self-editing. It requires me to be very critical of my own writing. Sometimes I like my work, sometimes I don’t. It’s the times I don’t that are the hardest. I feel I am up a mountain and don’t know how to keep going. I need someone who can tell me about the other side, or if there even is another side, or drag me down, or tell me to go to bed, or to say “keep going”, or something. The mountain is chilly the further up you are.
  • Does this mountain analogy make sense?
  • Children’s books allow for the use of slang words. Either because children understand words at a slow rate, and thus the easy slang of words are the first they learn, or because people don’t expect more from them, or because the “in crowd” knowing of slang words makes the book intriguing to children.
  • I’ve been asked about writing a children’s book.
  • There are many sub sections to writing for children, as they develop in separate spurts. Australian teachers call these spurts “grades”.
  • To start with, the 3-7 age group
    • This age group spans the child being read to, and reading the book themselves
    • Usually 395 words
    • Pictures help tell the story
    • No need to be descriptive, as picture tells story (story is like the text of a film script)
    • No need to supply illustrations to publisher (usually best not to)
    • Important to think of why it will sell, the marketing angle, to help get published
    • Parents like to read rhyme, are familiar with rhyme, and children anticipate rhyme, which helps them learn reading
    • Story does not have to rhyme for publisher if market angle is good
    • Structure: Problem, character has at least three attempts to fix and must succeed in end
    • Don’t have child get too scared
    • End happily
    • Animal characters are good, as it allows more freedom to the writer
    • Publishers do not want angry/mean adult/child characters, but an angry/mean opossum/badger would be alright (eg: not good if Pepe La Pew was a real person.)
  • As always the voice, oh my, the voice required to tell the story is the hard part to writing.
  • If you’re going to start writing, just enjoy it and worry about the slang, mountain or voice later. Those can be the job of a guiding editor/friend/yourself.
  • I don’t know what Frozen is. Can someone tell me?

This Week in Writing: I’m not funny. My Characters are Funny.

In the process of trying to get published I thought I’d share some events. Here’s last weeks:


  • Engaged and fearful of marriage Ian Fleming wrote Casino Royal. I'm probably the opposite of this.
    Engaged and fearful of marriage Ian Fleming wrote Casino Royal. I’m probably the opposite of this.

    At 40 years of age Ian Fleming started his James Bond series. I’m close to that age but without the publishing connections or a James Bond character. So we’re not quite peas and carrots.

  • I’ve identified two editors for the Wine and Spirit Travel Diary. One editor is in Hobart. She thinks my writing is “funny”… in a good way.
  • I know I’m not funny. See title.
  • It is crucial to have an editor who supports the writing voice, and one who questions the lame parts of the story. It’s not personal. It’s character.
  • In life outside of writing I’ve decided to take the low distraction approach. Today it helped me write more. It’s risky to exclude elements in life that might be called distractions, but if excluding them help obtain the goal then that’s the sacrifice.
  • Last week I had eight “likes” and two “views” for the best piece of writing I’ve posted here for a long time. I don’t know how that happens. Do me a favour and read it here: