Gala Evening at Chawton with Julian Unthank

Chawton HouseThere can be no better location for the finale of the HWS season than Chawton House and Library.  Stephen Lawrence, Chawton’s Chief Executive and author Lindsay Ashford, his partner, made us feel at home as we toured the house, ventured into the garden when the rain stopped and ate strawberries and cream in the courtyard and kitchen.

June 2013 123 HWS Chairman, Barbara Large introduced the special guest, Professor Joy Carter, Vice Chancellor of the University of Winchester who praised Barbara for making the HWS and The Winchester Writers’ Conference the respected and successful organisations they are today.  She described her own role at the university as falling into three parts: a business woman, a diplomat and a politician.


Barbara reminded the audience that the HWS was borne out of a £2000 grant two years ago and then gave a creative synopsis of events that the HWS had enjoyed this second season.  The speakers that have given us pleasure and inspiration across the past ten months were:  PD James, Mark Morris, Nicolette Jones, Steve Tasane, Rosalinda Hardiman, Graham Hurley, James McConnachie, Jane Wenham-Jones, Christopher Reid, Julian Stannard and Madeleine Milburn.  She encouraged people to join the society before the end of June for £25 – this is less than £1 per hour for time spent listening and learning!

June 2013 122Treasurer, Crispin Drummond assured the audience that the finances are in good shape and that a constitution will be circulated to members for comment and approval preceding an AGM in October

Events Secretary, David Eadsforth introduced the superb guest speaker, screenwriter Julian Unthank who grabs our attention in Doc Martin, New Tricks, The Bill and various other TV dramas.  Julian started as an animal trainer for films, then went to film school with the intention of becoming a producer but then decided he’d prefer to write the scripts himself.  His first film was a short, Potemkin: The Runner’s Cut and had Charles Dance as the main character.

Julian UnthankJulian also won numerous awards, including Raindance Film Festival, for his short film, Love at First Sight starring John Hurt and Phyllida Law.  He has used this film as his calling card in the increasingly competitive film world. Many experienced and good writers are finding it tough to get work as so much drama has been cut.  He cited the old TV soaps as the breeding ground for talent but these don’t exist today so even getting into the business is more difficult than it has ever been.

Julian’s illuminating and energetic presentation, Hidden in Plain Sight – the Secret Structure of the Screen Story, made sure that we will never look at films or TV in the same way again…

Using four distinctly different creative genres:  Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Love at First Sight, The Apprentice and a 40 second Dulux commercial, Julian outlined his 17 beat structure that makes for a successful dramatic outcome.

Act One [1/4 of the total length of feature]

1          Opening image [generally an opposite image from the final one]

2          Set up [approx 10 pages – can take up 50% of writing time]

3          Controlling idea [character might state the theme e.g. Do you believe in love at first sight?]

4          Inciting Incident [spurs movie on]

5          Debate [moment of self doubt?]

6          Turning Point

Act Two [1/2 of the total length of feature]

7          B story [contains controlling idea]

8          Promise of Premise [trailer material – easiest to write]

9          Mid point [the mood hangs on this]

10        Things go wrong

11        False defeat or victory

12        Moment of Truth

13        Turning Point 2 [creating more build up]

Act Three [1/14 of total length feature]

14        Finale

15        Climax

16        Resolution [often the main character usually has the last word]

17        Final Shot [defines how the story has moved from the opening shot]

Julian hung all four “dramas” onto this structure and we were amazed how accurately it worked.  He uses Final Draft software for script writing and encouraged everyone to write as visually as possible as so much film has less dialogue than it used to have.  He cited that in the UK drama tends to have 65% dialogue against 35% in the US. Shane Black is his favourite writer of action genre [Lethal Weapon, Iron Man 3, the Last Boy Scout]  and his recommended books are:

How to Write a Movie in 21 days – Viki King

The Writer’s Journey – Christopher Vogler

Screenplay: the Foundations of Screenwriting – Syd Field

Save the Cat – Blake Snyder

Story – Robert McKee

Teach Yourself Screenwriting – Ray Frensham

The Screenwriter’s Bible – David Trotter

Dr Gary Farnell led a resounding applause from the audience who had been privileged to hear the equivalent of a full day’s workshop condensed into an evening.

Barbara wrapped up the evening by extending her thanks to everyone who had made the evening such a success.  She gave bouquets to Lindsay Ashford and Laura Hubner and was presented with one herself by Crispin Drummond for her constant and indefatigable efforts on the Society’s behalf.
Report by Carole Hastings

What our members say:

“Dear Barbara, Thanks very much to you and your lovely team for another wonderful finale to Hampshire Writer’s Society’s second season. It is especially magical being in Chawton House with all its literary associations.

We had a fun evening, melting in the atmosphere and enjoying a picnic and the tour.

Obviously the highlight of the evening was Julian Unthank who was so enthusiastic and open about how to write a screenplay! Fantastic stuff! It almost makes one want to have a go!

Many thanks again!”

Joan Robinson-Harris


“What a fabulous evening! And a cracking end to our second season. Julian’s talk/workshop/insight into being a scriptwriter was electrifying, and I shall certainly be reviewing everything I’ve written.

Karin and Gary stole the show though, when they nearly brought the house down with Karin’s comedy sketch.

Thoroughly enjoyable, all the best, Celia. “


“…It was a memorably great evening and we all enjoyed it very much. One of my students, Jan won a prize for ‘Toggles’ which made the evening even more special. Thank you and all the committee for organising such a special evening and all for £2.50 or £5. Amazing!…”


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