How To Shoot Your First Film with Screenwriter Jonathan Hall

Sunday 19 August 2018

Jonathan Hall is a seasoned screenwriter with credits such as BBC’s Doctors, as well as award-winning short films In The Mood and Mr Thornton’s Change of Heart. Jonathan’s recent feature SOLO! is an inspiring story for all filmmakers – it’s the ultimate example of making it happen on your own. 
SOLO!  is a musical, romantic comedy and was shot over in Valencia, Spain and recently selected for the Marbella Film Festival.  If you’re struggling to imagine your ideas off the page, then Jonathan’s interview and tips are not to be missed!

1)  Jonathan’s 2 Top Tips 

You know you’ve got enough grit and determination, but how exactly can you help your chances of getting ‘through the door’?
  • Know Your STRENGTHS – Jonathan knew early on his focus was always on the STORY. Think about your own strengths, is it character/theme? Explore your writing projects by using this as a jumping off point. HOW does it tie your story and characters together and does it showcase your writing at its best?
  • Be ACCOUNTABLE & Enter Competitions– There’s been a lot of talk about the pros and cons of entering competitions lately, however they are a great way of holding yourself accountable and working to a deadline. Treat it as the job you already have, show up and get it done. The bonus is you may end up winning!

2) Be Pro-Active & Move Beyond Your Writing

Stop waiting for permission and do it on your own like Jonathan… But be realistic and prepared to work for what you want. So, get networking and do your research!
  • Be Prepared to Step Back – Think as a producer. Don’t spend ages writing about a set piece with 300 Vikings riding elephants on a beach! Know what turns producers off and avoid doing it! Think can this be easily translated onto the screen?
  • BIG Ideas & Clever Writing– IF you’re set on writing those Vikings with elephants, then be clever about what you write. Look at other films who have inspired your project, how did they render big ideas as images?
  • Do Your Research– Research the production companies that made these films, and know what they would be looking for. For instance, small indie companies known for rom-coms will unlikely be considering a big-budget Sci-fi. Use this knowledge to your advantage.
3) Start with A Short & Aim For The Stars
Jonathan made several short films (one of which had Kelly Brook star as the lead). As a writer/producer this was invaluable experience when it came to understanding HOW to write successful scripts for the screen – star power is REAL! 
  • Attracting Talent To Your Project – Don’t pretend to have done more than you have. It’s a small industry so be honest from the start. Look at talent than can add levity to your project, and don’t be afraid to approach them even if you have no salary to pay. No matter how small the role is, make it intriguing enough for them to WANT to be a part of your project.

4) Just DO IT! 

Jonathan conceived SOLO! as he sat in a café in Spain and saw the local brass band perform. Use your experiences and surroundings and just GET IT DONE.
  • Work with what you’ve got– Structure your script around what you’ve got, for instance your environment – how can you use it to tell a story? (Especially if you’re writing a short).
  • Ask Others  – Look at your network … Who else could you get involved? Be honest if there’s no pay in it (there usually never is at the beginning) – you’d be surprised how many will still want to be involved in the ‘right’ project!


  • Find Your Strengths– Know what they are and use them to your advantage! How can you showcase this?
  • Think Like A Producer– Know how to write what Producers want to make!
  • If You Don’t Ask? You Don’t Get! – Be brave and approach well-known talent. Often the opportunity to be part of something truly creative, even for free, is hard to turn down.
  • Work with what you have– Start with a short film, use a simple concept and structure it around what you can use for free. This means locations, props, anything and everything. Simple is often better when it comes to great concepts.

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