2014 Writing Talks by John Richards

February 20, 2014

john richards

Looking to book a talk for your library, writers group or geostationary killer satellite? John Richards has a range of talks about comedy and screen-writing which would be an excellent addition to your event calendar.

John is a writer, broadcaster and public speaker, best known for the ABC1 series Outland (“Polished, assured and full of zing” – The Sunday Age, “Sensational writing, a great ensemble, and universal themes of love, loss, and friendship… a hit…” – The Weekend Australian). He’s also written for stage and radio, presented the podcasts Splendid Chaps and Boxcutters and is a regular contributor to radio and print, including ABC774, Joy 94.9 and RRR.

These are some of the talks he offers:

How To Write Funny: Tools For Sitcom Writers

How did Mad About You develop plot out of of characters traits? How did John Clarke construct an episode of The Games? How did Dan Harmon use an 8-step process to plot Community? John Richards, writer of the acclaimed ABC1 comedy Outland, will show techniques and tools you can use for writing narrative (funny or otherwise).

When TV Goes Wrong

No matter how well-planned or organised your production, things can go wrong. An actor dies; a network wants a change of direction; or the original idea simply doesn’t work. Suddenly your suburban soap opera is full of vampires, your lead has a new face and you’re burning through a pile of money while sobbing in a corner. John Richards, writer of ABC1’s acclaimed comedy Outland and presenter of the Splendid Chaps and Boxcutters podcasts, presents an exploration of the television shows that adapted, mutated and occasionally triumphed under the weight of external pressures. From Chances to Supertrain, The West Wing to Frontline, this show will give hope and despair to anyone interested in narrative storytelling.

The Outland Story

In 2005 writer John Richards and comedian Adam Richard wrote a pilot script for a sitcom about a gay science fiction fan club. After being turned down by the ABC and SBS, John decided to film it in his lounge room on a budget of 500 dollars. It travelled the world’s film festivals before being seen by the ABC, who thought it might make a good sitcom. Outland was finally filmed at the end of 2010, edited in 2011 and aired in February 2012 to critical acclaim. John discusses the writing and development of Outland, how it went from an idea in a cafe to a six part series on ABC1, and how to have an overnight success seven years in the making. He’ll share his experience and advice for writing comedy and how to get a show on the television in (slightly) less than a decade! Inspirational story or cautionary tale? You be the judge!

The rate for each talk is $300, which covers a 50-minute talk (including video clips) with discussion and question period afterwards. If you would like to engage John as a speaker for your library or organisation, contact him at outlandonline@gmail.com.

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John Richards is a writer and broadcaster who was co-creator and writer of the ABC1 comedy Outland (“Sensational writing, a great ensemble, and universal themes of love, loss, and friendship… a hit… Pick Of The Week. ” – The Weekend Australian. “…quite frankly, one of the best Australian series I’ve ever seen. Outland is an outrageously great series” – Trespass Magazine). He has also written sketch comedy for ABC television, Channel 10, and radio including JJJ and Radio National. He was a writer and performer on RRR’s acclaimed mid-90s sketch comedy The Third Ear (“boldly rides roughshod over the concerns that feed the modern media… The Third Ear is good.” – The Age Green Guide). In 2013 his Eurovision-themed play Songs For Europe was deemed “Pick Of The Fringe” by Aussie Theatre (as well as “refreshingly original – the writing is crisp and multi-layered and the performances terrific. …you should consider this an absolute must-see of the Fringe” by Stage Whispers and “an impressively rendered telling of loss, hope, art and spirit” by Crikey).

He was a presenter on the TV discussion podcast Boxcutters from 2008 to 2013 (deemed one of the world’s best podcasts by both ABC 774 and The Age, and winner of the Chronos Award in 2011) and part of the iTunes-chart-topping podcast Splendid Chaps (“part intellectual panel discussion and part nerdy Tonight Show” – The Age, “combines analysis, enthusiasm and irreverence” – Sydney Morning Herald, “a smash hit” – Time Out). He has hosted radio shows on JOY 94.9 and RRR, been a contributor to Red Symons’ and Jon Faine’s shows on ABC 774, a guest on BBC Radio Five Live and John Safran’s Sunday Night Safran on JJJ, and featured on ABC TV’s Big Ideas, hosted by Waleed Aly.

He is a regular contributor to publications including Encore, Mumbrella, Cult and DNA, contributed to the text books Media Reloaded (Cambridge University Press) and Queers Dig Time Lords (Mad Norwegian, USA) and is a script assessor for Screen Tasmania. He has been guest lecturer and speaker for many organisations including RMIT, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, the Wheeler Centre, The Screen Youth Futures Festival at BMW Edge, Continuum 7 at ether, the Emerging Writers Festival and various Melbourne libraries.

If you would like to engage John as a speaker for your library or organisation, contact him at outlandonline@gmail.com.

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Words, Words, Words: The World Of Blurbs

September 22, 2008

It’s festival time in Melbourne. Actually, it’s always festival time in Melbourne. Arts, Film, Comedy, Fashion, Writers, Design, Stencil, Cycling, Jazz, Brass, Animation, Fringe, Moomba, Tap, Travel Writing, Italian, Scarf, Funk… and that’s just the first five pages of Google results. Melbourne has a festival for everything. But how do you decide which film to see? Which comedy show? Which travel writer? Which scarf?

In most cases your guide will be the festival program, and the description of each event. 150 words need to convince you to commit your time and money, to get off the couch and turn off those old tapes of Chances – “The best kabuki puppet western you’ll see all year!” “I laughed so hard I mislaid my socks!” “Gong Li is the most beautiful woman on Earth!”

Anne-Marie Peard wrote about the launch of the Melbourne Fringe Festival program a couple of weeks ago, and we talked about blurbs during the Melbourne International Film Festival. But what makes a good blurb? What needs to be in that magic paragraph to pull in the punters and let the sun shine in?

The Outland Institute assembled a panel of experts to address this deeply important issue…

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John’s MIFF blog – House Of Blurbs

July 25, 2008

One of the thrills of the Melbourne International Film Festival is Program Day. You wake up so early, just as the sun is starting to peek into the window. On tippy-toe you creep down the stairs, clad in your pyjamas and Wong Kar-Wai slippers, to find that special package under the Festival Tree. You undo the ribbon, gently unwrap the layers of gaily-coloured tissue paper, and finally – there it is. The Festival Program. Now the circling can begin…

Film, fringe and comedy festivals all follow much the same template when it comes to their programs. Only a single photo and a short blurb help you to decide what’s Hot, and what’s Book Of Revelation. For MIFF there’s roughly 150 words in a standard description. A generic blurb looks something like this:

FILM TITLE

“Fulsome but uselessly vague praise!’ – International Newspaper

Character X, a (vending machine repairman/factory worker/university lecturer) in (Taipei/Seattle/Bucharest) is drawn into a web of despair in this new film from Director Y. Like (an unwieldy and confusing metaphorical reference, possibly involving World War I or Iraq), FILM TITLE is a (harrowing/hauntingly beautiful) insight into (the pain of a middle-class couple in crisis/child prostitution/zombies). An exceptional work, FILM TITLE further explores the themes of Director Y‘s FILM YOU DIDN’T SEE (MIFF 2005).

D/S Director Y S Grace Park, Julianne Moore L Esperanto w/English subtitles 35m/2007/193 mins

And honestly, that’s often enough to give you an idea whether you want to see it or not. You may just need to know the director, the subject matter or the genre to make your mind up. But sometimes it’s too vague, especially if the film is extremely complex or falls between categories. Sometimes the descriptions themselves cause confusion, leading the audience to believe the film is something that it’s not (the blurb for 2006’s Flanders led many to expect a World War I drama, rather than the modern-day piece it actually was).

As with most things in life, the internet has changed things for the better. Oh internet, is there anything you can’t do?

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