The Colouring Book

Written by Toby Smith

Toby is, to quote the late Jean-Luc Godard, "a film addict - absolutely crazy about cinema." He has an eclectic taste, from splatter-fests to Polish arthouse, and is always eager to explore new genres and storytelling possibilities. He has won several awards - and been nominated for numerous others - for his short scripts, and is hard at work on getting his "second first film" written, to quote Godard again.

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What topic do you discuss in your script? And why?
'The Colouring Book' analyses the actor-director relationship and the psychological toll it can have on those involved. It's also about the way in which our behaviour changes when the camera is pointed at us, how it strips us down and makes us vulnerable. I'm doing this to make viewers think about what they're watching, what went into making what they're watching... an active viewer is a participant in the film, and I'd like everyone to be active.

How do people feel after reading your script?
I would hope people feel more aware of the power of film. The images on our screens are not without consequence.

Do you think that films can change people for the better or for the worse?
I think film can change someone positively or negatively. People can live beautiful lives because of the media they consume, whilst others can become miserable. I don't believe, for instance, that an individual film can prompt violence, but a media culture of violence and misery can dampen anyone's spirits, or worse.


According to 3-act dramaturgy, how would you define your story?
In the first act, the director wants to get his daughter to listen to him and do some colouring for the camera, despite her not wanting to. In the second act, they clash and he tries to learn how to "direct," only to reduce himself to a raging tyrant. In the third act, he faces the consequences of this, in the form of an eternal guilt.


How does the main character develop?
The main character, the director, begins with the drive you'd expect from any director: passionate, motivated and so on. He wants to capture this "moment" no matter what. As he faces resistance, the competency you would expect vanishes, and he is reduced to slinging expletives. Then, when he faces the reality of what he has done, he begins to realise how awful he is, how sick this desire to "capture" is, which forces him to reflect on who he is and what he does. It is up to the audience to decide whether or not he comes to any finite conclusions.


What actors do you imagine in your project (typologically)?
I think Paddy Considine would be great as the director. His work in 'Dead Man's Shoes' shows he has a vulnerability and a fiery intensity that would really suit the character. I have no concrete ideas as to who would play the daughter, though they would have to be able to capture a childish tantrum perfectly.


Why do you think your script should attract director?
I think it would be a good showcase for performance, so a director could really show their skill with actors. It's also a story with a blend of realism and surrealism, so managing to move between the two requires a great deal of finesse. Any director worth their salt would be up for the challenge.


At which festivals did you receive the award?
I have submitted the script to numerous festivals and am currently awaiting feedback. I'm very excited to hear what is said.


Which screenwriters are your favorite and why?
My favourite screenwriters are Krzysztof Kieslowski (and Krzysztof Piesiewicz), Michael Haneke, David Lynch, Ingmar Bergman... I could go on.

About which topics are your screenplays?
As stated prior, it's all about the actor-director dynamic, about directors' muses.


What motivates you the most to write screenplays?
A lot of people always say, "if you want to write, read," but I think this goes along with something else. If you want to write, watch. Ideas come to me not in words but in images. The idea for 'The Colouring Book' came with an over the shoulder of a child colouring, and I can trace that shot back to a Haneke film I saw... if you're not open to watching all kinds of cinema, your ideas will never branch out beyond what you already have.


What are your plans in future careers?
In the future, I'm planning on collaborating on writing a feature script, as well as completing my first solo feature script, which asks questions about the ramifications of reproducing real-life tragedy on film. I hope to finish it soon.