Peter Langmead's Blog

Film Director, Screenwriter, Composer, Steadicam operator, Social Documentary Photographer. My latest film is The Borderline, released on December 4, 2019.

Writing Film Scripts 1: In the Beginning!

When I was young, a long time ago, I worked often in Nigeria, spending two weeks to a month there and then the same in the United Kingdom. At some point, I became freelance and had little to do in the UK other than spend money like water, so I started writing novels, as one does, with a gold-plated Sheaffer that I still have forty five years later. At this time, pens were common, and computers were unusual: I used a 'typist'. My pen came even before a portable Adler Tippa S, which I dearly loved and transported around my relatively small world with pleasure, having it confiscated itinerantly by Arab immigration/officials before losing it completely, together with cameras.

Director Peter Langmead with Steadicam, Denis Borrow, Dixon Mumba and Geoffrey Chizuwa Director Peter Langmead with the Steadicam, DoP Denis Borrow 'advising', actor Dixon Mumba standing-by, soundman Geoffrey Chizuwa in the background.

Now I had moved onto writing endless reports, which started with an Epson PX-8 and ended recently with a ridiculously powerful laptop, albeit relatively old, captured by a more mobile writer/editor. But on that one at least, I started my more recent career of writing scripts, absurdly difficult scripts. I wrote two librettos: 'Damyna, Damyna, the Opera' and 'The Legend of Konga Mato'. Why did I do this? Because I am into opera and have always loved it; because I studied classical music composition as a result, as a flautist; and because I reasoned writing a script was quicker and easier than speed reading every appealing novel and short story of the last five years to assess them as material for an opera.

I was not wrong and do not at all regret it. I have travelled a lot since receiving my Sheaffer pen for my 21st birthday, when I had aspirations of being a journalist, and I have no end of stories, anecdotes and experience to draw upon, from Africa, where I have lived and worked for most of my life, to the Far East, where I lived for more than a decade. People often say, if you want to write, read, and read lots. I don't know if this was said by writers, but I concur that, even though I have a bank of events and memories to draw upon, it is easier and cheaper, and you will write better. The brilliant Stephen King is right, If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others:read a lot and write a lot'. (Garrett Brown used aSteadicam to film the toycar scene in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining.) If you want to be a screenwriter, watch the best films, read the scripts and follow the links.

I live in Zambia, Africa. Many people dream of being writers.My company focuses on journalism but, here, I look at film scripts. I have written three film scripts for my own films, two are produced,Damyna the Musical and The Borderline, and the third is in pre-production. Given the many books on scriptwriting, you might wonder why I would do this. In the film industry, if you cannot get a job making films, you teach, and if you teach, you write books by aggregating the opinions of your students. If you are in the industry, you know some of the books I am talking about. There are two books you want, Saving the Cat by Blake Snyderand Screenplay by Syd Field, and a degree may help. The book you need is The Hollywood Standard by Christopher Riley. The book about real life is Adventures in the Screen Trade by William Goldman. All these authors have filmmaking experience. After two years of writing scripts and directing films yourself, you will get the message, and it is done.

Writing scripts is graft: this is not about loafing by the pool under a brolly drinking vodka martini. Even though I have done that, in Maputo, it remains an eight-hour day. Your name is not Callie Khouri, and you are never going to meet Ridley Scott. If you ever make any money out of writing scripts, then you have been lucky. Also know that advice has no value; if it did have value, it could be sold. While I have experiences that can generate film scripts, probably you have not; and you may have studied English literature, but probably you did not; so, the beginning for you is to adapt a book. I will tell you the book next week and why it is so appropriate; meanwhile, let me know your guess and why.

Best regards,

Peter Langmead

Remember, if there is no spit on your lens, you are not close enough - I do not know who said that but it is true. There are all sorts of interesting things about my film productions, opera and books on social photography on this site.

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The Next Movie

The script is prepared for my next movie and pre-production is in progress. This is the most time-consuming part of filmmaking and production is expected to begin at the end of the year,