Saturday, December 16, 2006

An old abusing of God's patience

Or :
If I be served such another trick, I’ll have my brains ta’en out, and buttered, and give them to a dog for a new year’s gift.

The Merry Wives of Windsor: Act 3, scene 5


I went to see the RSC’s new seasonal production, Merry Wives - The Musical, last night. I went blind, not having seen any reviews, and was therefore able to form a perfectly unclouded judgement about the quality of the show.

Shit.

Not even the combined powers of the dames Judy Dench and Simon Callow could raise it above the level of brutal mediocrity. Watching the pair of them was like seeing your physics and geography teachers mug, slap-thigh and hoot their way through an end-of-term variety entertainment. Simply cringe inducing.

My friend and I decided we hadn’t paid to be held hostage, so burst through a fire escape and onto the rainy streets of Stratford during the interval, and had an excellent night elsewhere with the hour and a half we stole back from this witless, charm-free lampoonery.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The internet can read my mind

I’ve been trying to think of a word. It’s been driving me mad. It’s not a particularly obscure word, but for some reason it’s eluded me all day. I’ve broken out Roget’s. I’ve tried Googling around the definition. I’ve tried to remember in which book I came across it, and scanning the index. I’ve paged through old diaries trying to find it.

Five minutes ago, I surfed to dictionary.net, and beat my bollocks with bamboo if the word of the day - syncretic - is not the very one I’ve been straining to recall all day.

I must try and use this new power for good.

Friday, December 01, 2006

On The Wire

There’s an endlessly quotable interview over at Slate with David Simon, co-creator of The Wire. Season Four ends next Sunday, and the unfolding destinies of Dukie, Randy, Michael and Namod have created easily the best TV I’ve seen all year.

Amongst the many gems in the interview, I particularly liked:

On The Wire, we were trying to explore this stuff you don't see—the dope on the table, all that has been done to death. Sometimes the real poetry of police work is a couple of detectives with their feet on a desk in the backroom looking at ballistics. And that sounds like anti-drama. But that's the trick to making good drama; the drama has to be earned. There have to be moments of anti-drama. You can't make a good show based on pure verisimilitude, pure anti-drama. But you have to acknowledge a lot of ordinary life. Most TV doesn't do that.

If I had to write a police procedural right now, I'd put a gun to my head. And I really have to say this, even Homicide [on which Simon was a producer and writer] was prisoner of the form. On shows where the arrest matters, where it's about good and evil, punishing crime, the poor and the rich, the suspect exists to exalt the good guys, to make the Sipowiczs and the Pembletons and the Joe Fridays that much more moral, that much more righteous, that much more intellectualized. It's to validate their point of view and the point of view of society. So, you end up with same stilted picture of the underclass. Either they're the salt of earth looking for a break, and not at all responsible, or they're venal and evil and need to be punished. That's a good precedent for creating an alienated America.


And this contextualises the show really nicely:

In our heads we're writing a Greek tragedy, but instead of the gods being petulant and jealous Olympians hurling lightning bolts down at our protagonists, it's the Postmodern institutions that are the gods. And they are gods. And no one is bigger.


If you haven’t been watching this magnificent drama what the hell are you waiting for? Actually, I don’t want to hear your excuses. Go and get the DVDs now.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Even more free scripts

Big update on simplyscripts today, which includes the pilot for Heroes. It’s not far off what appeared on screen, although there are one or two key changes, particularly to the story of indestructible cheerleader Claire Bennett. Hiro remains totally awesome.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Committed? Maybe I should be.

Thanks again to Lucy, for arranging a great night out on the tiles, and Piers for providing sofa-bed and fry-up. Sadly, I never did get to see any bra-straps.

I got home at about six, after leaving at one-thirty, just missing my first train. The one I did catch hilariously featured a young child serially vomiting over a table full of passengers as I listened to Tom Waits.

Luckily my car started fine; a relief, as I had spent the last half-dozen stops of my journey with an unreasoning paranoia that I’d left the lights on all weekend.

Not so! Hurrah!

One of the things to come out of our little get-together, was the setting of certain annual targets for our merry band of scribo-bloggers. Mine is the same as this year, which I have not managed - four hour (45 min) long scripts to be completed through 2007. I’ve written one ninety minute feature in ‘06, so I guess that could count as fifty percent completion, if one feels generous. I’m all about the self-loving, so 50% it is.

Plus added incentive! For each completed teleplay, a bottle of Sainsbury’s finest bubbly, courtesy of Piers. Obviously he is hedging his bets, based on my prior performance, but he underestimates the motivational power of booze.

Four scripts coming right up.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Square one

That’s the house sold, then. To the ex-girlfriend of one of my five-a-side friends. Small place, this.

It absolutely pissed down on Thursday night, which was unfortunate, since I’d left the car window open. I haven’t seen such soggy upholstery since ushering pensioners out of a Daniel O’Donnell concert. The floor and seat were absolutely soaked, but I drove into work, manfully.

I didn’t drive home, though, because running the heater to dry her out had drained the battery. Balls.

After a jump-start on Saturday, I drove round to my folks’ to use their dehumidifier. Everything went great guns, with every bead and drop of water giving it up eagerly, gracefully withdrawing from the fabric and condensing in the bucket. It ran that way for a good fifteen hours or so, until next door’s cat started playing with the extension cord, destabilising the dehumidifier and upsetting several pints of water straight back on the floor, the whiskery ginger fucker.

The extraction continues.

Someone up there is laughing at me.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Kinky Galactica

So maybe I need to watch that again, but did Saul Motherfucking Tigh just make an eyepatch out of his dead wife’s panties?

Weirdo.

All that Tigh goodness and a Cylon threesome. Go, Baltar!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The more things change...

10 years ago today

I’m going to have to book an appointment with Louise, in order to spend some time with her. Even though we live together, I can’t get her alone and I can’t just leave things to fade.

I never expected this to work.

5 years ago today

I spent a while staring at the mirror last night, trying to look myself in the eye to see if there was anything there. I decided. I don’t feel twenty-five. I don’t feel grown-up, like an adult. I don’t feel like a man.

I don’t know what I was expecting. Something I could add to myself, to extend myself. Something I could use to define myself. I couldn’t see, or feel, anything. Only my reflection. There is only me, and not much of that.


Fun times! I may make this a regular series. Louise, by the way, is doing very well, a producer on high-profile Radio One shows. We haven’t spoken in years.

Once, I could have gone back fifteen years, but I threw those away in a fit of pique. Count yerselves lucky.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Wakey, wakey, hands off snakey

Lazy arsed writers, who know they should be putting in a pre-dawn hour or two before shipping off to work, ought to take immediate advantage of the switch back to Greenwich Mean Time.

Set the alarm to conjure yourself into existence an hour earlier than normal. Your body won’t be able to tell the difference, but your soul will rejoice. Go on!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Don't touch that dial

Article in the NYT about the pleasures and pitfalls of serialised dramas, and the extremely Darwinian world in which they live and battle for a now more than once-bitten audience’s commitment. Like many viewers now, I won’t even look at a show until it’s aired four or five episodes and isn’t in apparent danger of cancellation.

My own feeling has always been that twenty-two episode seasons are too long for this type of storytelling. Too much padding, with time often wasted on third and fourth-tier characters, and lashings of deliberate ambiguity to pad the season out, makes me tune out pretty quickly. I’m loving Heroes at the moment, but if they haven’t averted nuclear apocalypse before the end of the season and moved onto the next challenge, I’m out of there.

The thirteen episode model seems much better to me. It focuses the storytelling on what truly matters, and does away with the myriad and meaningless sub-plots I always want to fast-foward through. No-one can tell me that The Wire would be improved by the addition of nine episodes per season, and I don’t think you can find tighter storytelling than that. Even the credits are meaningful.

More importantly, though, it requires less commitment from a curious audience to catch-up with just thirteen episodes on DVD. Lost is shedding viewers between seasons, because potential new eyeballs don’t have time to squeeze in twenty-four episodes between finale and premier. As talk in the UK about committing to longer runs of shows ramps up, I wonder if there’s too much effort being made to imitate a troubled model rather than stick with something better for the audience.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Marching orders

I feel like I’ve only just moved in, but now my landlord’s showing me the door. He’s selling two rental properties to fund an extension on his own home. That’s got to be one motherfucking enormous games room or granny-flat.

So I have until January, maybe longer if it takes a while to find a buyer. I can stay after January on a two month rolling basis, but I suppose I should start keeping my eye open for somewhere else.

My landlord’s invited me to make an offer, but how in god’s name can I do that? I earn £18k a year. Eighteen grand for the shit I put up with. Someone’s getting a good deal. I can’t afford to buy a house. I left uni nine years ago with a 2:1 and my salary’s the healthiest it’s ever been. Thanks to an heroic lack of ambition, I’ve never made enough to have to pay back my student loan, which has slowly gathered a negligible amount of interest over the past decade. Savings? Fuck off.

Anyway, if I don’t want to be back on the street, hustling and pimping my arse to the highest bidder, I’d better start scoping the estate agents.

Renting is such an unbelievable racket in the UK; most landlords are pretty shady operators, who give you the keys and then develop powers of invisibility until they want to chuck you out. Many properties are rat traps, despite £600 a month or more rents. And yet, what other choice is there? My parents changed the locks when I moved out. Bought a pack of hounds. And bricked up my room. It wouldn’t have been so bad, except I’d secretly let it out and there was a Dutch exchange student in there at the time. She normally came and went by the window, but one day the dogs got her on the way down and, well, they never did find her leg.

How many of you guys own your own places, and how in God’s name did you manage to afford it?

Monday, October 23, 2006

There's another word for that, you know

Uh-oh, watch out, here be SPOILERS for Season Two of Doctor Who...

Russell T Davies in The Independent:

It's all there for the taking, I do it gladly. The ending of Doctor Who, where we had to separate the Doctor and Rose, that was unashamedly taken from the Phillip Pullman novels. They're brilliant, and every child reads them. So that creates a resonance, when they've got a story in one part of their minds and they see Doctor Who and think, 'Oh right! You can change stories!' If you want to get pretentious about it, it's exactly what Shakespeare did. As long as you put yourself into it I think it's all there for the grabbing.


So you’re not nicking other people’s ideas, you’re creating resonance. How silly of me!

As for Torchwood, I thought it was daft, but I enjoyed it. Different enough from most of the bollocks on telly to be worth a watch, at any rate. I couldn’t help thinking I’d already seen it done by Warren Ellis, though. Captain Jack’s not exactly Elijah Snow, but Burn Gormley is Drums, or I’m a monkey’s uncle. Got to love the Doctor’s severed hand-in-a-jar though. And Captain Scarlet! Torchwood is green!

Maybe you need to lay off the videogames if...

It’s a foggy evening, and you’re taking a regular shortcut home through the graveyard.

A construction team in town are operating some kind of cutting machinery. By the time the sound reaches you, it resembles a fading air-raid siren.

At the same time, your iPod shuffles to a bad encoding, and all it plays is static.

And suddenly, it’s all you can do to control your bladder.



That theme still scares the bejeezus out of me.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Here's one I made earlier

Apologies to everyone using a feed reader - such as NetNewsWire - to check out the blog, who will have noticed I’ve presented them with 25 unread posts this morning. Unfortunately, this is what happens when you switch from plain old Blogger to their swanky new beta platform.

I’ve waited a couple of months to make the move, despite having my template ready to go for ages. I had concerns over the way comments were handled, and the feeds are not especially robust, but I can live with that for now. Enough people have sailed the beta-sea without capsizing for long enough that I figure it’s safe.

Converting my template to work with the layout features was a bitch of an effort, but I think it looks rather pretty. Now I need to think about whether or not it’s worth adding labels to 238 posts. At least I won’t have to do them one at a time.

Good work, Blogger.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Camino gets useable

Sometime in the last month, some clever fellow added RSS detection to the nightly builds of Camino. This was the one thing keeping me from switching from Safari to a more widely supported browser.

So now with feeds, find-ahead type, tasty rendering and, using plug-ins, session restore and custom search engines, Camino is finally ready for the day-to-day.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Robin Wood?

Terrible. Just terrible.

An insipid, bloodless, humourless pantomime. Where was all the money spent? Certainly not on extras. And the editing, my god! He’s standing by the door, now he’s near the window, no, he’s behind you! Nor let us not speak of the quality of the dialogue, for speech it resembled not at all.

I don’t know what this wants to be. In tone and execution it’s far closer to Maid Marion and Her Merry Men than any previous Robin Hood telling, but shows not a trace of the imagination displayed by that fondly remembered children’s series.

Boo. And hiss.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

There is no time

If I lived in North America and had a DVR, it would be pretty backed up by now. I don’t have a DVR, but I do have Bittorrent and a web connection, and the available GBs on my hard drive shrink every day, as they’re written over by TV shows I don’t know when I’ll find time to watch. I can’t fit in twenty hours of television a week. Here’s Dexter starting on Showtime, and I haven’t even finished Brotherhood yet.

I’m gonna have to slim things down a bit. The Wire, Battlestar Galactica and Veronica Mars are so far the only torrents guaranteed a place in the queue. I’d like to see Rob Thomas continue to name his villains of the week after aging rock artists - this week Donald Fagen, next week David Gilmour, maybe.

Heroes, Prison Break, Studio 60, Weeds, Dexter, House, Smith, The Unit, Jericho, Kidnapped, and Supernatural. I can’t watch them all, I must be merciless.

And those are just the U.S shows. DMc’s love for Slings and Arrows has convinced me to check that out. I’m quite enjoying Irish drama Legend, and some bastard at Barbelith recently turned me on to anime Bleach. We in the U.K got new Spooks recently, and Robin Hood starts Saturday. I was out fencing last night, learning to kill with honour and panache, so would anyone like to give their impressions of Kudos’ latest, The Amazing Mrs Pritchard?

You know, I think I may actually have a problem here. I need someone to take my TV away. I’m at work from 9, and leave a key under the recycles box, if anyone wants to sort me out. Since you’re going to be in my house anyway, please clean the bathroom before you leave.

I’m going to go and read a book, now.

The Brightonomicon, if you must know.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

One page

From my brain to your screen, via the dancing magic of nimble fingers, an answer to Red Right Hand’s challenge:
Let us see what it is you write. One page, no set-up or explanations. It doesn't necessarily even have to make sense out of context. One page won't hurt you.
It won’t hurt me, but I can’t be responsible for what might happen to you. RACHEL How does it end? Frank is whimpering now. ILEM We eats him. RACHEL Good boy. FRANK No, no, this isn’t right. It’s... Rachel grasps his jaw, shutting him up. She forces open his mouth, he’s absolutely paralysed with terror. She reaches into his mouth and rips out his tongue. She releases Frank. Frank falls to the floor and starts to crawl towards the door. Before he can make it across the room, she steps on him. Frank looks up at her, pleading. She licks the bloody end of his severed tongue, pops it in her mouth, and chews. Eventually she swallows it. She turns to Ilem. RACHEL Time to hunt. You’d better divide. She drops to her knees, straddles Frank. Turns his head toward Ilem. Ilem becomes hazy, blurred, out of focus. There seem to be two of him standing where there was one. His two faces peel apart, his whole body splits into two, each with two faces. RACHEL (CONT'D) My special little pet. Rachel strokes Frank's cheek, leaning closer.

Lea Delaria

Some friends and I went to see Lea Delaria and her band play at our little local theatre last night. Chipping Norton is a dyed-in-the-wool blue Tory town, and the theatre is only ever attended by a single demographic - smug, stuffy, grey-haired, weekend-home owning horse-teethed slapheaded cunts.

I’ve got Double Standards, and I knew not to expect a cosy night of Cole Porter ballads and other examples from the songbook, but I was worried how the rest of the audience would react to a 200lb Fred Dibnah looking lesbian gal, belting out killing arrangements of songs by Jane’s Addiction, Patty Smith and The Doors. Sure enough, one or two were out of their seats and back to the foyer within a couple of tracks, their reserve unable to cope with the sheer level of swing released upon the crowd. But those that stayed had a blast. She and the band tore that place up like motherfuckers. It was awesome. Her voice is absolutely remarkable, and what she does to The Ballad of Sweeney Todd is revelatory.

Delaria is touring in the UK throughout October and November.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Mmm-mmm

I just found a chicken in my freezer I never knew I had. Poor thing must have wandered in there one day and let the door shut behind it.

Friday, September 15, 2006

By special request

The now gainfully employed Mr Dixon rags on me to write a new post, my previous headline having outstayed its welcome. He’s got a point, but I got nothing, being just about the most lazy-assed, procrastinatory bastard I know.

In the last six weeks I should have written a bible for a six part series, and made headway on a sample episode, as part of a challenge laid down by Piers. Himself, William and Katherine have all written up terrific and very different concepts, and I can’t wait to read their scripts. I’ve missed every milestone on the way so far, but fear of humiliation made me step up this week. The bible’s taking shape, and I’ve got two weeks to crank out an episode. If When that’s done, it’s fourteen day screenplay time again at the start of October. Motherfuck. My effort from last time ‘round’s still lying about, waiting for another pass. Actually managed to get some industry feedback on the bugger. The famous Mr Moran (yes, really, we have to call him Mister now) may be too busy to read scripts these days, what with being an all-star screenwriter and all, but at least I can say he read one of mine, back in the day. Up to page 42 at any rate. You don’t want to know what I had to do to make him get that far. I’m still walking with a stoop.

I told myself in January to write four screenplays this year. Still time.

I love The Wire. Love it, I tell you, with unnatural lust. I love its constant reinvention, love its scope, love Bubbles and Omar and, most of all, hoping against all the available evidence he’ll eventually get something right, I love Prez.

Hours have been wasted trying to convert this template to work with Blogger’s new beta. There are some great improvements on the current system, but Moses, it’s flakey. Don’t know if you noticed, but there’s a new version of iTunes - nice to see Apple actually bought another company’s idea, rather than just snatch it bandit style. Don’t hold your breath waiting for TV shows and movies, fellow non-Americans.

I’ve applied for a new job. There is no chance in hell I’ll get it, but when I saw the ad I knew I had to give it a shot just so that I could say I’m trying. Don’t ask me what it is, though. The description was so vague, I’m really not sure what I’m sending away for. The hiring company in question are seeking:

someone with a strong visual imagination, who is happy to work collaboratively within our Origination Team.
The person should have:
        •        A sense of audience
        •        A sense of performance
        •        A sense of innocent comedy
        •        The ability to write stories within the disciplines of the television production process


Sounds perfect, whatever it is.

Wish me luck if you like, but given my level of experience it’s going to take more than luck to land this. Pray for me, maybe, because right now I can’t find anything else I want the fuck to do.

There you go, Will. More soon. Maybe.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Fuck Black People

So, did BBC2’s Shoot the Messenger send you scrambling to join the BNP on Wednesday night?

No, me neither, although sadly I will admit that I did feel a certain sneering contempt begin to poison my mind amidst all the jibes at hair extensions, decorated nails, African names and gospel. Another chance to look down on people who aren’t like me.

But that was my problem, not the writer’s.

I realised I was being a dick, and stopped.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Danger UXB

Don’t let this happen to you.


If you bought a laptop, or a battery from Apple after October 2003, then go here to see if you’re eligible for a replacement.

This is the best news ever. With a dead battery and a hard drive displaying a bad case of bad-sectoritis, I was all prepared to retire my Powerbook rather than pay to replace both. But now that I’m getting a free battery, installing a fresh HD makes a lot more sense.

Three cheers for Sony’s shoddy QA!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Nothing pretty about it

So farewell Bullock, Swedgin, Jane, EB and all the rest of you Deadwood cocksuckers. You should have had another season because, man, that was a depressing finale.

I hope John from Cincinnati turns out to be a corker, but it'll be difficult to think of it as anything other than the show they cancelled Deadwood for.

At least HBO still have The Wire. I would once have sworn Deadwood was the greatest slice of TV ever made, but that was before I got caught up with David Simon’s Baltimore opus. Since then, no contest. Season Four starts Sept. 10th. Watch it.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Clean Sweep

For a show that the Sci-Fi Channel originally thought was “too British” to pick up, Doctor Who certainly did well enough at the Hugo awards.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Cognitive dissonance was a friend of mine

I showed my CV to a friend at work. She thought the opening statement could do more to sell my abilities and personality, and she was right, of course; the problem with it was that it was too unfocussed, as if I didn’t really know what I want to do.

Which I don’t. I mean I know - ultimately - what I want to be doing, but in the interim, how am I to live? So she gave me a book, Take Your Own Aptitude Test, which contains loads of exercises to test verbal reasoning, acuity skills, spatial ability and so on, as well as a section on personality profiling and a thorough motivational exam. It’s supposed to help you know yourself, your skills and limitations, and give you some idea of what you might be happy doing. I spent two hours doing all the exercises, and in the end it told me I was a highly literary motivated loner with strong verbal reasoning and acuity skills. A born script reader, in other words.

Interestingly, the tests were also good at pointing out what jobs you’re not likely to be good at, won’t enjoy doing, and are psychologically unsuited to. Imagine my surprise when all the results indicated that if there were any career from which I should be prepared to gnaw off my limbs in order to escape, it’s sales and account management. Under no account should I attempt the job I’ve been doing for over three years and expect to do it well or, indeed, to be happy. Well, I guess that confirms I’ve just been faking it all this time.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Serpentes on a Shippe!

Geoffrey Chaucer recaps the latest production helmed by the gild of beekeeperes:

So whan the ship had on the ocean saylede for two houres and was on the rollinge wawes of the see, anon the lockes of the caskes breste forth and the snakes weren loosed. Right so the hoolde of the shippe was fulle of al maner of serpentes that hisse and crawl vpon the erthe, such as amphisbanae and aspides, vipers the which aren sum tyme called berardes, and bosk-addres and cheldires whos bite causeth shakynge and sodein deeth, egges-wermes and water-naddres, slow-wormes and ophites and manye othir thinges that movede serpentli. And syn thei had brethede depe of the Far-Amoun, thei were wood as if thei weren on cracke.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A personal message from the showrunner, and a cheap shot from your blogger

I got an email from Joe no-don't-tell-me-I-know-how-to-spell-it Straczynski today, personally apologising for his tardiness in releasing the most recent volume of his Babylon 5 scripts. Apparently Ron Howard’s got him chained up inside a coal bunker somewhere, and he’s got these new B5 D2DVD stories to write and produce.

Personally, I think it’s all procastination so he can forever delay publishing his scripts from the final season.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Astounding admission from ITV drama head

A few people have linked to this one already, but it’s so remarkable, I had to as well. Andy Harries, head of drama production at ITV gave a no-holds barred interview with The Guardian today (if you’re not already registered, do it now - it’s a great site). Just like Simon Shaps in April, Harries is more than willing to admit that ITV has not only screwed the pooch, but left its children open-mouthed and starving while blowing their college funds on setting up the pooch with its very own fuck-pad.

The interview begs the question that if everyone at ITV knows their output is so fucking unwatchable, what the hell have they been doing for the last five years? Fiddling while the damn network burns?

From the piece:

Harries is tasked with wooing back mainstream viewers after a terrible summer, with a line-up studded with top-class yet familiar drama. These include a refreshingly modern-looking Cracker, revived after 10 years, and Helen Mirren's final bow as an alcoholic DC Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect 7. His department's other autumn ITV offerings include the third series of Life Begins, starring Caroline Quentin, and the return of Vincent, with Ray Winstone.

When asked to pinpoint why ITV is haemorrhaging viewers, his observations are equally candid. Allen, he remarks, was "well-intentioned, but the difficulty was the business became more important than the channels".

He illustrates the Allen era lack of focus on ITV1 this way. "If you make a two-hour drama for ITV, the actual running time is 94 minutes, for Channel 4 it is 101 minutes, that's seven more minutes," he says. "It's not about more or less advertising, it is largely promotions clutter. On Channel 4 the drama plays better.

"Don't you think that the ABs [upmarket viewers] have stopped watching ITV because it has become unwatchable? Hundreds of people tell me this. There is too much clutter, and it is putting people off. ITV is so unfashionable. It doesn't have to be like Channel 4, but it should be modern. It looks like a bargain basement."

Allen presided over the move of the news to 10.30pm in 2001, which Harries says created great openings for BBC drama and terrible problems for ITV creatives, because they had to make shows that ran from 9pm to 10.30pm. "They wanted drama to run for 90 minutes. That's a very uncomfortable slot, writers find it very difficult to write for it. It's a five-act structure instead of three," he explains.

"I was very vocal about getting it back to an hour [a decision made this year]. Good shows - Murder City, Vincent, Island at War - all suffered, and this may have been a factor in some not being recommissioned."

In addition, he thinks the ITV Network Centre, which picks the shows, lacked direction, with drama catering too much for older women."Every broadcaster makes mistakes. But in the past five years ITV's compounded mistakes have added up. Drama has not delivered as well as it should or could do," he says.

He owns up to his fair share of flops. "I don't think our drama is big enough, or must-watch enough. We've had too many series, and we have lacked conviction."...

...And what about the future? "All of my success is down to long-term relationships with writers, once you have a creative partnership that is how good things come out. The television market here is developing into centres of excellence, I would like to be a centre of excellence for serious drama, single dramas and movies."


I didn’t watch the aforementioned Murder City or Island at War, but Vincent was badly hampered by having to fill an hour and a half. I hope when it returns it’s down to a tighter hour. I also hope ITV can eventually find their way back out of the rut they’ve driven themselves into, and that once Charles Allen’s replacement takes over we’ll see fewer of the network’s executives publicly slagging off their employer and making something watchable instead.

Something's got to be holding it all up

I’ve seen this going around, and since mine’s in a particularly bad way right now, you’re getting a what’s on the desk entry:
 
        •        Bearded, wheezing G3 iMac, with wireless ethernet bridge, currently playing Jenny Lewis, and running iTunes, Safari, TextEdit, Montage, Mail, MacJournal, NetNewsWire, Accounts and Quicksilver.
        •        Books: Guitar for Dummies, The Man in My Basement, Blood Meridian, Black Hole and Copenhagen.
        •        Notes for six-pack series challenge bible.
        •        Copy of Breach Birth I keep meaning to redraft.
        •        DVD of Between the Lines, season three.
        •        A handful of dusty, primed but unpainted Citadel miniatures (Empire Militia).
        •        Ticket stubs for Stoppard’s Rock and Roll at The Duke of York’s.
        •        A bottle of 18 year old Glenmorangie.
        •        Unpaid bills.
        •        Statement from pension company.
        •        Passport (to renew).
        •        Moleskine.
        •        Stack of index cards.
        •        Wristwatch.
        •        Keys.
        •        Wallet
        •        Chewing gum
        •        Tub of pens.
        •        Mobile phone.
        •        Home phone.
        •        Digital camera.
        •        iPod.
        •        Remote control for unknown piece of equipment.
        •        Glucosamine gel for my gammy hip.
        •        Tiny lavender cushion.
        •        Photo album.
        •        Tribal mask
        •        Issue apiece of Edge, Uncut and Broadcast.
        •        2 half-empty mugs of tea.
        •        Loose change.
        •        Lamp to see the destruction by.
 
God, what a state.

For sale – good runner, full service history

I spent the weekend, hunkered down and in retreat, writing my CV. I’ve been working in the same office for three and a half years, in four positions, and haven’t kept my resume up to date at all. Ending up here was an accident, as I’d been made redundant from my last job and this was the first thing I saw that I could do and needed someone ASAP.

I’ve been crazy to stick around so long. It was one of those situations that was wrong, but comfortable nevertheless. Fatal, really.

But enough is enough. I need some of my self-respect back, thanks very much. I’m here because I needed a job. Now I need something different. I need some options.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Ghost town

I’ve just come back from a couple of days in London, visiting a friend. We took some walks, had some drinks, went to a couple of shows. I tried to keep score of the number of buses carrying Severance ads, and though I lost count, I’m pretty sure they had the edge over those advertising Snakes on a Plane. It was an extremely pleasant trip, made all the more pleasant by the fact that London is empty right now. This afternoon, carrying my two armfuls of luggage, I walked along Oxford Street, from Tottenham Court Road to Marble Arch, in a straight line.

Bliss. Except for the black London bogies I'll be picking all week.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

My hips are going too

I've just plucked my first grey hair. It's not right, I'm supposed to be immortal, for heaven's sake. Sage, immortal and ageless, not some moldering codger with greying temples and freakishly hairy wolfman ears.

I can't get old, I won't have it. Surely someone out there's willing to offer eternal youth for a used soul.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Apple Sunday

The second big event of the Apple calendar, WWDC, kicks off in San Francisco tomorrow. What new goodies will it bring to the faithful? New Powermacs? The long-fabled iPhone, or the long wished-for Apple tablet/PDA? How about about that touch-screen iPod?


And will we find out if Apple have finally managed to FTFF with Leopard? Read The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs (UH-OH - Apple's legal strike-force have had this blog put down. Shame on them) to pick up some hints. And before teh Steve gives his keynote tomorrow, make sure you have your WWDC bingo card close to hand.



I sorely need a new computer, so I’m hoping iMac updates are in the offing - my Blueberry DV is coming up to seven years old. It’s now on its second logic board and third hard drive, and the CRT is going green. But a computer that’s six and a half years old, still in use every day and running the latest operating system, is a testament to good engineering. My first Mac, I’ll be ever so sorry to eventually see it go.

Or should I get another laptop, instead? I love the portability provided by my Powerbook. It’s over three years old, the battery (its second) is dead and ever since I dropped it, the hard drive is no good. There’s no point replacing the faulty items, it wouldn’t cost much more to buy a new Macbook.

Might, or mobility? Oh, the soul-bending dilemmas of modern life.

Some shilling now.

Other Mac users may like to know that Montage, Mariner’s new addition to our screenwriting arsenal, recently reached Version 1, and was released for the moderate price of $149. Now, to be completely honest, I’m not quite entirely comfortable vouching for it just yet. Version 1 still has several kinks, which means I’m often working against the app rather than with it. However, most of these have been addressed with the 1.0.1 betas, and I hope when the update is released, I’ll be perfectly happy to recommend it to anybody. In the meantime, why not play with it a while? Version 1.0.1b3 can be downloaded here. The software is fully functional for thirty days, and if you like it, and want to support its development, it’s available for $99.99 (53 quid) until August 11th. Go to the online store, and enter “newera” in the promotional codes field at the bottom of the page. You can then select the download edition at the reduced price.

I’ve been testing Montage since February, and think it’s got massive potential. If you don’t like it, or have ideas on how to improve it, head to the support forums and make them known. The development team are determined to provide the best screenwriting solution on OSX, and welcome feedback.

YouTube addicts tired of seeing the site frequently pull its most entertaining material may like to know that they can now download and save videos to their Mac, iPod or PSP using the $15 (8 quid) TubeSock. My current YouTube fave is Darth Vader being a smartass, which, for some reason, just never gets old. Remix genius.

A jolly nice pre-release version of the Web Kit based browser Shiira is out in the wild. With such innovative features as Tab-Expose, Full Screen browsing and lovely HUD-style panels, this is a very attractive beast, and fast to boot.

Finally, Tables is a new spreadsheet application, which might please those of us still waiting for Apple to get their shit together and produce a proper Appleworks replacement. Only at Version 0.16, it’s already looking pretty neat.

Category: Computing and Web

Friday, August 04, 2006

Kiss my fairly used arse

How the holy hell do ISPs get away with advertising unlimited useage services, where “unlimited” has been redefined as “40GB?” And why can't they all come to some kind of agreement as to what constitute "peak" and "off-peak" hours?

Who's running this dumb-ass infrastructure anyway? The BBC don’t tell me I can only watch so many hours of colour TV every month, and whenever I switch on after that everything will be black and white.

Can anyone recommend an ISP that can offer either a truly unlimited, or up to 100GB a month, service?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Fat chance.

If anyone would like to bung me a grand and a half for a new laptop, you know where to find me.

I’ll send you Christmas cards every year. And I never send anyone Christmas cards. Ever.

Cheers.

Monday, July 31, 2006

The madness begins again

Ha’n’t it been warm? July passed me by in a succession of soggy days and sticky nights. I knackered my hip playing football, and almost broke my nose. My old friend Mark went missing, and then turned up in Paris. I rescued a mad drunken girl from a malevolent locked lavatory. Fed-up of feeling fed-up, I prescribed myself St John’s Wort to try and clear my more or less fifteen year melancholy, and when the fog lifted, decided I really hate my job. David got married and I had a wonderful weekend acting as best man, fretted about my speech for weeks and then got through it in three minutes to laughter and applause. Maybe I’ll try and YouTube that, if I ever get a copy.

Throughout this, the blog, like my garden, took on a sick yellow tinge and began sporting cracks that’d swallow a cat. Most of my visitors now come from Google, following search strings such as:
        • frightened of dying
        • scat maniac
        • it hurts your cock is too big
        • does wanking make your stomach hurt
and, bewilderingly:
        • what is on seeing the elgin marbles by keats about

As I write, I’m an hour away from August, which, socially, is going to take an even greater toll than July. This month I’ve done practically no writing that wasn’t speech writing. In August, though, I have a mission.

If you thought the two week screenplay was a mad idea, wait till you get a load of the two month TV series. This challenge, initiated by Piers, begins in 50 minutes, and ends on the 30th September. The two month series involves a group of UK writer-types who must each start from scratch to come up with a bible and sample episode for a primetime 6x60min drama. Just as with the two week screenplay, I have no idea what I’m going to do, but I have an 18 year old bottle of Glenmorangie to help me out, and I’ll try and keep you all up to date on the progress. Promise.

Category: Uncategorised

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Crafty reading

So I’m the most recent reader to have finished Alex’s eagerly awaited Crafty TV Writing.

Well, I say finished, but truthfully I skipped almost a third of it. Chapters six through nine, Preparing to be a TV Writer to Moving Up the Food Chain: Writing on Staff were simply not relevant to me, either because I live in the UK, or I’m not at a point where I can take advantage of the advice. I fully expect to get around to them at some point, as my writing and (hopefully) career (hopefully) develop.

This doesn’t mean I don’t feel like I’ve got my money’s worth now. There is so much meaty mind-food in Parts One and Two, particularly chapter four, Bad Writing and How to Fix It (Or at Least Get Away With It), that I’m sure pages will be falling out before long due to frequent re-reads.

Good stuff.

Next: Christopher Booker’s The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories. This is a thick, thick book with teeny tiny writing, and will take me the rest of the year to read, but I was hooked before I’d finished the introduction in the shop, and had to have it. I will let you know if it was worth it. In 2007, sometime.

Category: Books and Comics

Game

England’s performance yesterday was woeful; but having just now played an hour of football in similar heat, I feel for them. I may have to spend the rest of the day in a cold bath.

At least RTD bought his game to Doctor Who last night. When the Cybermen admitted they hadn’t built that sphere, I thought, oh no, they’re not going to go there again are they? And then they did, and fuck me, it was awesome.

Category: Movies and TV

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

All are welcome

Don’t forget, if you’re in London tomorrow, and want to get together to talk toot in a bar, then be at the Dover Castle from 6:30pm.

Also, I seem to have forgotten my blog’s birthday. The poor, neglected, black-lunged child of mine was a year old yesterday. Pip pip. Wisest thing I ever did.

See you tomorrow.

Category: Meatspace

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A right old knees-up

The Bournemouth screenwriting cabal are having a BBQ on the 29th for anyone too broke to attend the Screenwriters’ Jamboree in Cheltenham. Now, Bournemouth is a bit far for me, and I’d probably be turned away at the gate for not being trendy or beautiful enough, even if I were to show up with an ass-kicking fruit salad, but, it just so happens I’m having a drink with the estimable Piers Beckley that day anyway. As this will most likely be my one and only London visit for 2006, anyone who can is welcome to join us in the Dover Castle, near to Oxford Circus tube.

Piers will be there from 6:30; I hope you won’t let him get lonely, as I will be arriving from the sticks a little bit later.

Piers has kindly provided a map. See you there, with luck.

Category: Meatspace

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Won't anybody think of the children?

From Media Guardian:
 
ITV has confirmed it will close its inhouse children's programme-making department, saying it hopes to sell it as a going concern.

 
The moment OFCOM allowed ITV to prune the number of hours per week dedicated to children’s programming, the writing was on the wall. It can’t be long before ITV ditch children’s shows completely. As I wrote previously, this is a godawful shame. A good number of our current top-tier writers began their careers penning children’s programmes on ITV. Some of my earliest and fondest TV memories are of the often terrifying Dramarama (Paul Abbott, Kay Mellor). My imaginary and ultimately tragic love affair with Charlotte Coleman began with Marmalade Atkins (Andrew Davies), and it was while catching up on Press Gang via DVD that I finally found my purpose in life.

And Top of the Pops is going too. Well, frankly, good riddance to that. But the rest of the day’s news is terrible.

Category: Movies and TV

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Ew.

I may be a frustrated perpetual masturbator, but at least I don’t have a paving slab for a girlfriend.

“We even have a lovelife.”

Get that twisted shit off my screen now!

Category: Movies and TV

Friday, June 16, 2006

Hwæt! Ic swefna cyst secgan wylle

Behold! I will tell you of a wondrous dream.

Anything’s possible. A screenplay in a fortnight. 90 pages, 14 days. They said it couldn’t be done. Well, it’s doable, alright. It ain’t pretty, it fact it’s rough rough rough, and ropier than an old sea-dog’s sceptic prick, but for your amusement and delight I now present:

Breach Birth:

When Chris’ girlfriend announces she’s pregnant, he panics and abandons her, but a clean break proves hard to make when his escape is prevented by psychotic demons invading sleepy Portcrick. Now the only way he can stop the apocalypse is by learning that looking after number one is no way to live a life.


Yes indeed. If only to prove I wasn’t stringing you along the whole time, here is the fucker. Mispellings, misplaced sub-plots and misnamed characters intact. Don’t read it, for god’s sake. I certainly won’t be for a couple of days. Confirm the page count, give me my rosette, and let me start rewriting.

Still, even with its plentiful faults, I couldn’t be more proud. SIx years of unproductive self-doubt washed away in two weeks. I am a motherfucking screenwriter.



Category: Writing


The big push

Nearly. There.

I thought about bunking off today, but too many people at work know I’ve embarked on this insane endeavour, including my boss, so I’d never have got away with it. However, I did manage to knock off an hour early, and so here I am, newly cycled home and ready to put in those last fifteen or so pages. A fag and a beer and I’m off.
 
Boy, these are going to be rough.
  
But be they as rough as a cowboy’s stubble, they will be finished. See you after midnight – an extension has been offered, but accepting the lifeline after all this would unman me. I pass no judgement on those who do, however. I am a lonely, lonely person with no other commitments or responsibilities beyond my own gratification. But you know, beyond never knowing love, I'm happy in my way.

Category: Writing

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Day twelve

Three pages last night, a paltry attempt.

This was for an action sequence which, currently, hinges on an illogical and stupid act committed by one of the characters. Where I should have just applied the elbow grease and run straight through and onto the next thing, I kept stopping to clarify things and make the action more believable.

I don't have time for that sort of thing now. With only two days left, it's got to be nonsense, inconsistency, exposition and deus ex machina, along with brutal suppression of self-criticism, from here to FADE OUT.

Category: Writing

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Day eleven

I’ve had a blast up to now. But tonight has been hard. I’ve written half a page of crappy dialogue and it’s starting to feel like a real slog.

The problem, paradoxically, is that having written 56 pages, I can see the finish line and that doesn’t work for me because if I can see the line I can see what comes after, namely rewrites.

All of a sudden I find myself obsessing over my script’s weaknesses. I’ve become acutely aware of what’s wrong with it and have started questioning whether it’s worth going on at all. Dialogue is lifeless. Sub-plots haven’t played out. Characters are interchangeable. Sequences are jumbled. It’s all a load of shit.

And I find that my time is in demand this week. I don’t know if I have the resources to do everything else I have on my plate, along with another 30-40 pages.

How to get around this? One solution that comes to mind is to skip to the end. Write the climactic showdown in the lair of the beast so to neutralise any anxiety about reaching a denouement within the time-frame, and then fill in the gaps over what remains of the week.

As one of the things I’m most worried about is a propensity for meandering and woolgathering, this strikes me as a good plan. Writing without direction is a bad idea, so if I skip straight to the chase, having that climax done, ready for me, will stop me going from pillar to post to get there.

Anything to keep me going, basically.

Category: Writing

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Weekend update

Yesterday was an utter wash-out. Following a farcical shopping fiasco, I walked along to the pub to watch England’s exceedingly dull game. The plan was to watch the match, then go home and spend the evening writing 15-20 pages. Unwittingly, I became quite drunk, and when I got home and put on some music, I was surprised to discover the track listing had been altered and that the first track was followed immediately by the last. Eventually, my intoxicated mind was able to piece together that I had slept through the entire thing. I devoured the stored contents of my fridge, watched Doctor Who and passed out again.

I have written some truly terrible scenes today. And my chronology is completely shot. Time seems to be moving at different rates depending on location. The only choice is to place all but one thread in suspended animation until I can get everyone together again, in the same place.

What a fudge.

Never mind.

Continue.

Category: Meatspace


Saturday, June 10, 2006

On day six, and a torturous metaphor

Only five pages last night. I played football after work, and could barely lift a match when I got home, let alone a laptop, or even a pencil. Still, soldiered on.
 
The disciplines of writing and exercise have many points of comparison. No one can go into a gym for the first time in years and complete a two hour workout or lift 100lbs without herniating. You have to work in short bursts, starting with the 15lb block.
 
Likewise, although any writers just starting out will be told they need to write for at least two hours a day, I wouldn't advise trying this unless you’ve already developed a modicum of writing stamina. Two hours is a long time to concentrate on something you're unfamiliar with. Concentration is a fragile thing, and before you know it, you'll be firing up Safari or Firefox, totally discouraged. Puny weaklings like us should not try and match pace with the Atlases of our acquaintance. We need a easier regimen to follow, to build our endurance.
 
Start slow, try to do a half hour a day. And don't try to lift the 250lb monster. Again, keep it small, and build up. On day one, you'll spend half an hour planning out the most unoriginal, cliched tripe, or putting down flat, tin-eared dialogue and still end up breaking out in a sweat, wheezing like your grandad's accordian, or your nan’s bowels.

Half the battle is keeping at it. Going back to the gym, or desk, even though you can still barely function from the last visit. You may be feeble now, but soon you’ll feel the muscles tighten and see the flab disappearing. It gets easier.
 
Eventually, you'll be taking part in iron-man tournaments, or writing non-stop for hours on end, layering in sub-text, throwing the most unpredictable reversals at your readers and generally feeling fitter than you've ever done. I'm not there yet, nowhere near in fact. I can just about cope with writing three pages at a time. Then I need to make a cup of tea, or roll up a smoke, before settling in to attack another three. But this way I can write, so far, around nine pages in an evening.
 
Just do a little bit, often, and it'll do you good.

Category: Writing

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Day five. On day six (cursed Blogger)

Twelve pages last night. Twelve pages that felt like four thousand. Hard work because it was only right at the end that something exciting happened, but the hours those twelve pages took to write translate to what, probably ten minutes on screen? So hopefully not as torturous to read as they were to write - anyway, things should really start to ramp up now.

Game on.

Category: Writing

Day five

Gah, probably shouldn’t have had so many large drinks last night.

Category: Writing

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

14: the story so far

Certain people have shown some concern that they are barely at double figures in their screenplay page count. I’m surfacing to tell you guys not to worry. This hearty competitor is yet to reach double pages.

I haven’t posted on this development, not for shame, but only because I haven’t given myself the time to be reflexive or self-aware, or let doubt arise.

Here’s how it’s going:

  • Pre kick-off:


  • I resolve to get the four year idea of Lyonesse rising out of my system once and for all. As there is no time to research WW1 further I decide to update the setting to modern day. This proves harder than I imagined, and two weeks later, after innumerable false starts, and half hour before the starting pistol, I finalise my logline:

    When his girlfriend announces that she's pregnant, Chris prepares to do what he does best and bail, but the army of Hell invades his sleepy town and cuts off his escape, so he must take responsibility if he is to avert the apocalypse and save them all.


    It's all I have.


  • Day one:


  • A broad outline of the opening section. I write the first scene to meet my protagonist and to see if i have any writing chops at all. I'm quite pleased with the result.


  • Day two:


  • A broad outline of the closing section. It's the old collapsing lair routine. I catch The Mummy on BBC1 and there it is in all its big budget glory. So I realise the only way to get through this in a hurry is to leave no trope unturned, no cliche unlicked.


  • Day three:


  • A broad outline of the middle section. Christ, my balls ache. Doing what I want for once has really given me the horn. Or maybe I should reposition my laptop.


  • Day four:


  • I line up the beginning, middle and end in their correct order. Gaping plot holes became apparent. I pride myself that my hasty, expedient solutions are both narratively and thematically satisfying. All this done at work while being called a "fucking joker," by arsehole customers. Have a large drink when I get home.

    Feel I have enough to put together a beat sheet. And I do. Six 15 minute sequences of 8 beats each. Pleased as punch. Have a large drink.

    Write up progress. Still plenty of time to get a few pages done tonight. I feel like a large drink first, though.

    Ten more days. Ten pages a day, and a day for tidying things up.

    This day all doubt dies.

    Category: Writing

    In other news

    Shaun Ryan has gots the go-ahead for a seventh (sixth? Fifth and three quarters? Whatever, airing in 2008) season of The Shield, though there may not be much of the strike team left by then.

    Deadwood fans can shuck off their veils of mourning. David Milch and HBO have reached an agreement that will allow Milch to complete his tale of the lawless west in two two hour movies.

    I said it before, but maybe no-one else was excited as me, so I’ll report it again: Jane Espenson is writing for Battlestar Galactica. Jane Espenson! Battlestar Galactica! Isn’t that great?

    No word of a lie, but Saturday’s Doctor Who eclipsed even The Girl in the Fireplace in terms of scale and sheer awesomeness. “I’m right behind you. Don’t. Don’t look at me. One look and you will die.” Brrrr.

    Category: Movies and TV

    Saturday, June 03, 2006

    A few notes for Friday (or Saturday - where does the time go?)

    It has begun - the fourteen day screenplay is upon us, and although I’m nowhere near as ready as I could be, and strongly suspect that I’ll be spending the next two weeks furiously laying track as a train barrels towards me, I’m quite excited. I’ve put myself in a position where I no longer have a choice - I have to do this. Failure means erasing my blog from history and slinking away under a bar somewhere.

    Yes, the stakes are high, but this is the only way I’m going to find out if I can do this.

    But I am not alone. Several fellow scribeosphereans have taken the pledge, and just as I will try and blog my progress over the period, hopefully so will the following good people:

               Matt Courtney

               Stephen Repacholi (local boy!)

               Optimistic Reader

               Bonnie Gillespie

               James

               One Slack Martian

               Dave

               Twixter Scripter

               A.M.

               Robert Hogan

               Robin Kelly

               Dom Carver

               Femme Au Foyer (Zazie)

               Pei

               Christy Bunner

    May God have mercy on us all, and to all of those blogless participants also.

    Guerilla screenwriters take note - version 0.9.7 of open-source scriptwriting app Celtx has just been released, and is looking very, very good. New in this release, well, tonnes of things. Take a look for yourself.

    My Joking Apart DVD arrived this week, and my Moffat crush shows no signs of abating. For what is essentially a one man band operation, Replay have produced a terrific package - the episodes look great, and the included documentary and commentaries are very entertaining. I hope this is enough of a success that season two will be released; the signs could be good - I’m getting a lot of hits from people searching for this.

    Best news of the week: Jane Espenson will be writing for season three of Battlestar Galactica.

    Category: Uncategorised

    Wednesday, May 31, 2006

    14: My mind on higher things

    After waking up this morning it took me over half an hour to remember what day of the week it was. I couldn't even remember if I'd come to work yesterday.

    I'm a little bit obsessed at the moment.

    Category: Meatspace

    Saturday, May 27, 2006

    "I. AM. TALKING"

    After the painful to watch and over-ambitious mis-fires of the last two weeks, it was a relief to find Doctor Who get back to good, old fashioned story-telling tonight.

    In stark contrast to Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel, The Idiot’s Lantern revelled in punchy dialogue, enviably tight plotting and memorable characterisation. An ostensible romp, this showed hidden depths, and successfully punted Tom MacRae’s lumpen, po-faced, unsophisticated Cyberman “epic” from my memory.

    All in, it was great fifties fun - who couldn’t fall for Tennant’s quiff, the Union Flag, “Watch With Mother” face-sucking aliens, men in black and a showdown at the Ally Pally?

    Congratulations to Mark Gatiss for penning such an infectiously enjoyable episode. Next week’s is the start of another two-parter, and looks like right old-school Who. Written by Matt Jones, it provides further ammo for my “TV drama is controlled by Children’s Ward alumni” conspiracy theory.

    Category: Movies and TV

    Monday, May 22, 2006

    The angel on my shoulder

    Shuffling along in line for the cash machine, trying not to peer at everyone else's balance, I get to the front and notice the last man at the helm has wandered off mid-transaction, leaving his card in the machine, and me with the option of a free £200.

    What to do, what to do? My long history of shop-lifting and theft from employers fought against all the moral lessons I've ever been taught, and eventually my natural impulses were overcome. I removed the card and followed a stranger down the street until I could do him a good turn.

    And was he grateful? Was he?

    Well, yes, as it happens. He said "Oh, thank you. How kind." And I replied "It's my pleasure."

    Then I came back to work, unable to account for my behaviour.

    Category: Meatspace

    14: T-Minus 12

    Only twelve days to go, no time to re-read and memorise McKee, Field, Vogler, Aristotle et al.

    So instead, here's a useful link for all the novitiates taking part in the fourteen day extravaganza, kindly provided by the folks at Celtx:

    A Crash Course in Screenwriting.

    Category: Writing

    Sunday, May 21, 2006

    Bastards

    My boiler threw an eppy on Tuesday and since then I’ve had no hot water or heating. Now, I don’t mind being a little bit skanky and unwashed, but my work mates have started keeping their distance over the last couple of days, so I finally called a local service engineer to come and take a look.

    He left defeated, a broken man. I’ve since heard he’s thrown his wrenches into the furnace and gone to run a bar in Majorca.

    I called the manufacturer. They promised to send someone today to take a look. I haven’t left the house all day. I couldn’t play football. I couldn’t go to my parents for dinner, although, bless them, they did bring me my grub on a big plate so I wouldn’t have to fend for myself.

    No-one came. Poor Lee’s a-cold.

    Still, my confinement had benefits. Today I have:

            • put a new hard drive into my long dead iMac, resurrecting her as an iTunes jukebox and bedroom DVD player.
            • read the scripts for Bad Boys and An American Werewolf in London
            • done around 400 sit-ups
            • watched a couple of episodes of Rome that I missed last year
            • made excellent headway on my fourteen day screenplay pre-planning
            • had fish-finger sandwiches for tea

    They were delicious.

    So, not a waste of time.

    Category: Meatspace

    Tuesday, May 16, 2006

    For the kids

    Hot on the heels of BBC director general Mark Thompson’s outlining of the BBC’s future, ITV chief Simon Shaps used his speech to the RTS on Thursday night to make some remarkable concessions to the network’s critics, and to lay out his plan to appease them (links go to mediaguardian - you need to register to see them).

    First off, ‘umble Shaps openly admits to some of ITV’s faults:

    I am going to hold my hands up and say we actually agree with some of the criticisms levelled at ITV over the last few years. ITV came late - or largely missed - the revolution in lifestyle programming. We watched in awe and envy as some vastly ambitious specialist factual series hit the screens and gathered large audiences. The BBC has recently hit a rich seam of adventurous, mould-breaking drama. And then there's comedy or rather and then there isn't any comedy - that is outside of comedy drama where ITV has excelled for a number of years.


    Now stop reeling from that admission, pick your jaw off the floor and chew on this:

    Back in October I sat down with Nick Elliott, who has probably commissioned more successful drama than anybody on this planet, and discussed the next couple of years.

    At that time there was in force at ITV a "no classics policy." That struck me as strange. The greatest stories in the English language which are reinvented every ten or twenty years for a new generation of viewers were no longer wanted. It must have been a good lunch - actually it always is with Nick - because by the end of it we had commissioned three Jane Austen films.

    But in a way, that's the simple bit. More tricky is to convince a generation of writers who think ITV is not a place for them to work, that they're wrong. We are making good progress here although the fruits of this will not be seen on screen for a little while yet. We have in the last few months, commissioned new work by Sally Wainwright, Kay Mellor, John Fay, Andrew Davies and from Paul Abbott's company Tightrope. In the autumn we have a new Cracker penned by Jimmy McGovern and we have issued an open invitation to writers to bring us their best work, the more original the better, and to producers to start thinking about ITV as a place that wants more than cop shows and period detectives. Nick, together with Laura Mackie and Sally Haynes, are clear that the £300 million pounds a year we spend on original UK drama has to feel more contemporary, less predictable. We should not be afraid of ideas or complexity and we should not be afraid of experimenting with the shape and format, and the subject matter, of television drama...

    ..We have already taken the decision that we won't be recommissioning Celebrity Fit Club. It'll Be Alright on the Night will disappear with Denis Norden as he retires from television and we've called time on Footballers Wives and Rosemary and Thyme.

    So we are undertaking a painful, but utterly necessary, process - a kind of Clause IV moment for ITV - which is to drop programmes which, by the criteria of most of our competitors are still performing incredibly well. Why? Because we know that that volume without value is no longer enough. Value in terms of viewer engagement, value in terms of audience profile, value in terms of word of mouth and the perception of the channel. This is what we want to achieve for ITV1 and I believe we now have the best team in the industry in place to do it.


    This sounds excellent. But what’s the cost? After the speech, when talking about ITV’s public service commitments, Shaps made a peculiar comment:

    Over time, it isn't clear to me at what time, in what slot, in what volume, children's programmes will be offered by ITV.



    This is outrageous. Both ITV1 and BBC1 appear to be planning on drastically scaling back their childrens’ output. Shaps should be especially ashamed. How can ITV1 really be serious about attracting new writers without the historical training ground of childrens’ programmes which, as a whole, are often more daring, more experimental and more varied in genre than prime time output? This is especially remarkable because if not for the hinterland of childrens’ telly, particularly on ITV, Shap’s feted commissions from Wainwright, Mellor and Abbott may never have happened. That’s right, it’s thanks to the early afternoon kiddie slot that such little known writers as Stephen Moffat, Paul Abbott, Russell T Davies, Sally Wainwright, Kay Mellor and Anthony Horowitz actually had their break in this business, and the chance to develop their craft.

    Bugger The West Wing. RIP Byker Grove.

    Category: Movies and TV

    14

    Class swot Danny Stack once wrote a screenplay in 96 hours, just to prove how easy it was. I was actually quite intimidated by the whole display, but have managed to internalise and transfer the trauma in such a way that I have become a foul and malicious bully.

    But never mind that. Those of us who are too lazy to complete a screenplay in four days are invited to try their luck and stamina in the fourteen day screenwriting contest instead, organised by Matt Courtney.

    Set to run from the 3rd to 17th June, this is a chance to show your speed-writing chops and forge unbreakable, epic friendships. Or, if you prefer to spectate, come watch a whole bunch of writers rapidly spiral into hollow-eyed, clammy-skinned terror. Damaged, we will be; dribbling, voiceless, grunting, masturbating husks.

    You can sign up for the event at http://www.14dayscreenplay.com/. I already spend approximately 60% of my time grunting and masturbating, and am becoming disenchanted with both. This is the chance I’ve been looking for to expand my range of nervous tics.

    Plus, what better excuse to buy a sleek, black, MacBook?

    Category: Writing

    Tuesday, May 02, 2006

    Q&A with Tony Jordan

    Danny does it again. Good work, sir.

    Category: Movies and TV

    Moffat maniac's DVD devotion

    Stephen Moffat is of course best known for his work on Press Gang, Coupling and Doctor Who. But in the mid 90’s he was also the writer of a short-lived “feel-bad” sit-com called Joking Apart. Robert Bathurst, now far better known for starring in Cold Feet, played Mark Taylor, a comedy writer whose wife leaves him in the first episode. The show was about him miserably failing to get over his separation and move on with his life. It was very dark, quite manic, absolutely hilarious, and now pretty much forgotten. Despite critical plaudits and a Bronze Rose of Montreux, it lasted two seasons and hasn’t been seen since.

    Now you can read here about one fan’s unflagging dedication to get Joking Apart released on DVD, and read you should. Craig Robins decided to buy the DVD rights from the BBC, and master and release the show himself. Absolute madness, and yet the first season will be released, featuring commentary by Moffat and the cast, on May 29th.

    Even if you’ve no interest in Joking Apart itself, the article is fascinating – Robins’ odyssey from fan to DVD producer by way of glacial subtitling freeware, £1000 BBFC fees and loathed publicity stills makes quite a story. Programming by fans, for fans. Hell of an achievement.

    Category: Movies and TV

    Monday, May 01, 2006

    Ebdon vs. Dott - Frame 27

    Seventy-four minutes. That was one fuck-off long-ass frame of snooker.

    Gripping stuff - better than many movies.

    Hustle to shuffle off living room coil?

    From this week’s Broadcast:

    Eastenders’ lead writer set to quit 

    EastEnders'
    lead writer and chief story consultant Tony Jordan is quitting the soap in January having set up his own production company. Jordan, who created BBC1 hit drama Hustle and co-created Life on Mars, made by Kudos Film and Television, will honour his current contracts but once they have ended will write only for his new indie, Red Planet.   

    He plans to make the new company, backed by senior executives at Kudos, a writer-led production company, bringing in top writing talent to work with him. He is already in talks with broadcasters. The indie is likely to be near his home in Bedfordshire.

    Kudos joint managing directors Stephen Garrett and Jane Featherstone, as well as head of drama Simon Crawford Collins and general manager Dan Issacs have all become minority shareholders and will provide support to the new production company.

    Jordan, who has worked on EastEnders since 1985 - writing 250 episodes and creating the Slater family - is currently working on the latest series of Hustle. He said: “I am contracted to the end of the year and I think it will be my last year at EastEnders. I will honour the contract and see the rest of the year out.”


    Category: Movies and TV

    Wednesday, April 26, 2006

    More scripts to read

    I've added a link in the sidebar to a collection of scripts for The Inside, Tim Minear's aborted FBI serial-crimes drama. Although I wasn't too keen on the episodes that aired on Fox last summer, ITV4 have recently completed showing the entire run of produced episodes, and as the show went on and its characters continued to develop, I will admit I began to warm to it.

    I've also turned up, in my time-wasting jaunts across the internet, an early - and therefore all Stephen Gallagher's own work - draft of the pilot for Eleventh Hour, which I'll look foward to reading later.

    Category: Writing

    Tuesday, April 25, 2006

    In further praise of Apple

    Wide open Powerbook plus one and a half meter drop equals?

    Not the feared shattering into a billion fragments, merely a slight ding on the battery housing.


    Robust machines, these. Still, probably should replace the hard drive, as a shock like that can’t be good for it. Wasn’t for me.

    I have no damn luck with hard drives. Oughtn’t complain, really. Pity my Applecare ran out three weeks ago, though.

    Dramatic news

    The BBC must have figured this was a good day to bury bad news. By having its director general give a keynote speech on the future of the broadcaster, it must have thought it could squeeze in Grandstand’s cancellation under the flurry of headlines Mark Thompson was sure to generate.

    No such luck. The axing of the long-running all day sports bonanza was front and centre all day long, despite being lesser than many of the changes proposed by Mr Thompson.

    Now, nevermind that a soundtrack three generations have grown up with will soon be no more, what concerns me is this, from Thompson’s speech:

    So what should we do?

  • in drama, we need to build fewer titles with longer runs, more impact, more emotion - and make more brave calls like Bleak House and Dr Who;

  • we need to think of mobile and other ways of using new media from the very start of the creative process - like the Dr Who Tardisodes;

  • we must cherish and where necessary invest in the titles that bind us emotionally to the broadest audiences - EastEnders, Casualty, Holby · we need more drama landmarks and signature pieces on Radio 4;

  • across TV and radio, the nurturing and support of outstanding writers is a key to success


  • Also, ITV seem to be getting the message that no-one is watching the absolute toss it chooses to fill its 9pm slot with, even if it did require a very public mauling from Jimmy McGovern to help get the point across. Apparently:

    The channel wants more stylish pieces that look better and are faster and will compete better.



    and have approached the likes of Kudos, among others, to pitch for them.

    Looks like we could be seeing both the end of the six-pack, and the flabby feature length event. Normally, this would be great news, but it comes just after the return of Sharpe, which, I have to admit, I was quite in the mood for.

    Category: Movies and TV

    Saturday, April 22, 2006

    Doctor Who: Tooth and Claw

    Quite unquestionably, one of the lupiest things I’ve seen on the BBC.

    Next week: K9!

    A survey. Hurrah!

    Visit Todd’s blog, South Dakota Dark and participate in his “best of today’s TV” survey. Let’s see if we can’t get some UK nominees on the list.

    When you’ve done that, swing over to the bfi and take a look at their (now six years old) “best brit telly evah!!!11!” survey and be amazed by how much of it you’ve never seen.

    An interesting offshoot: the bfi list was voted on by members of the TV industry, but when the poll was released, the British public were asked to send in their favourite programs. The result was rather intriguing:

    Your favourite programme: poll results

    When the bfi TV 100 was released, we asked you to vote for your favourite British Television programme, whether it was listed in the TV100 or not.

    The surprise winner of your poll was Blake's Seven (BBC1, 1978-1981), not listed in our tv 100. Read more about this unjustly neglected science fiction series from the seventies.

    Doctor Who (always the bridesmaid...) came in at number two, followed by Only Fools and Horses, hotly argued over in our discussion forums. As Time Goes By (BBC1, 1992- ), in fourth place, was another no-show from the 100, as were, tailing your list, The Goodies, Prisoner, Sherlock Holmes, Press Gang, Are You Being Served and Red Dwarf.

    Many thanks to all those who voted.

    Programme Votes cast %
    Blake's Seven11324.9
    Doctor Who7316.1
    Only Fools and Horses275.9
    As Time Goes By265.7
    The Goodies255.5
    Prisoner204.4
    Granada's Sherlock Holmes143.1
    Press Gang132.9
    Red Dwarf112.4
    Are You Being Served51.1
    Others12728.0



    I call shennanigans. Clearly a plot by SFX to get Blake and Avon listed. Press Gang should have been higher. It should have been on the grown-up table, damn it!

    Category: Computing and Web

    Wednesday, April 19, 2006

    A UK perspective on "The Carmela Problem"

    Inspired by a post at Dead Things on Sticks. Read it.

    Done? Hello, this is the voice of Britain.

    UK audiences are quite used to seeing actors turn up in all sorts of places, and stop paying it any mind after a while. Certainly, I see the same faces all over the place - some actors, such as Martin Clunes, Tamsin Outhwaite, Ray Winstone, Julie Walters, and David Jason are pretty much ubiquitous. David Jason is currently portraying detective Jack Frost, a role he developed while still regularly playing Derek Trotter. While he will probably always be best known as the Peckham entrepreneur, it’s worth bearing in mind that he also inhabited Pop Larkin during Only Fools and Horses’ run, and was still playing Granville when that started. It’s not difficult to keep them all separate in my head. Ronnie Barker starred alongside Jason in Open All Hours whilst at the same time playing a thoroughly different character to that show’s Arkwright in Porridge, proving, I think, that it's characters people take to their hearts more often than actors.

    In fact, separating actor from character is something we've become very practised at in the UK, not because the available pool of talent is so small we have to reconcile ourselves to familiarity, but because we love to demystify celebrity. Personally, I blame panto - one day you’re Gandalf the White, the next, Widow Twankey, chucking sweets at screaming kids. As long as one performance is sufficiently different from the other, it doesn't matter if they come days apart. Of course, it takes a very skilled actor to create this differentiation, but that's the point isn't it, and the contradiction; the best actors, and the most recognised, are those who excel at making themselves anonymous. Their anonymity is the key to their employment, and the barrier to their marketability.

    When Denis talks of the difficulty of building a show’s identity in people's minds, when all the cast can be seen regularly in other roles, he gives me the impression that he’s associating identity with long-term survival, and a static, exclusive cast with marketability. This is alien to me. Right or wrong, TV in the UK is designed to be disposable; questions of longevity, or “what would the hundredth episode be,” are never raised in a culture that doesn't expect to produce more than, say, thirty episodes of even the best shows. Still we produce one memorable drama or comedy after another, and whether or not they find root in the public consciousness has little to do with the exclusivity of their casts. Therefore, identity has to be predicated on something other than faces. Add to this my belief that we do particularly well in not typecasting people, at least not the talented actors, then it should follow that new portrayals are rarely perceived through the lens of those that came before.

    Thinking of it, it seems our most tenacious shows are those that find ways to outlive their casts and develop their own personalities. Doctor Who has had ten leads now, and who knows how many companions. The door doesn't finish closing on one set of Spooks before the next lot come in. Taggart hasn't had a character called Taggart in it since 1993. And yet tune into any of these, or Eastenders or Coronation Street for that matter, and you pretty much know what you're going to get. Compare lists of regulars in Casualty, The Bill, and Monarch of the Glen over three year intervals, and you'll see few repetitions. But the shows survive, and remain identifiable.

    The very fact that we don't regard actors as key to a show's national adoption, and that they have the freedom to stretch their wings is a good thing. Although it can sometimes result in unwelcome overexposure (Ross Kemp, Neil Morrisey, Amanda Holden, I am most definitely not looking at you), the ability of actors to move around, be in three shows a year, not stick at anything for long, is what has allowed some of our best loved and culturally resonant shows to develop their defining characteristics.

    Category: Movies and TV

    Wednesday, April 05, 2006

    The sky, it has fallen

    Hacks are one thing, but Apple releasing software that allows users to run XP on Intel Macs?

    And then making it part of the next OS release?

    Ballsy.

    Category: Computing and Web

    Tuesday, April 04, 2006

    Happy birthday, D Kelly

    David Kelly turns 50 today, and I hope you’ll all join me in wishing him the very best of health.

    On this singular day in history, 1956, Mr Kelly, one of America’s most successful television producers, was born. Put him in a room today with Dan Simmons, Hugo Weaving, Maya Angelou, Graham Norton, Robert Downey Jr, Heath Ledger, David Blaine and Jamie Lynn Spears and you can bet they’d have a hell of a party.

    And you can open the door to that party for me, while you’re at it.

    It’s my thirtieth birthday.

    How is that possible? What the hell happened to my twenties? Where went the time spent travelling the world, taking part in extreme sports, having sex with interesting women and getting high on a variety of drugs? I am now an old fuck. “The days have come down in the west, behind the hills, into shadow.”

    Apologies to all the other old fucks out there.

    Another quote from Dead Long Enough:

    Picture this: a box of matches. And each one of those matches represents a full-on Saturday night. Approximately 52 per box. Scritch-woosh!

    How many boxes have you got left? Really? How many real, proper, right-through-the-night, ready-for-romance Saturday bashes do you expect to have this month? This year. Look at the boxes arranged on your bedroom shelf. Not long ago, not more than a couple of years ago, you had so many that you never even thought about counting them. And now, and now: a slim pile. How will you feel when you start on the last one, and know it is all for real? And don’t even think about trying to store them up for later, because it is a damp old world we live in, and if you wait too long you might easily find that when you take your long hoarded box of Saturday nights, all dressed up and thinking at last at last at last, now I am the person I always planned to be, here comes the pay-off, now I can get out there and... you find that all you can do is scrape your saved up time pathetically away with barely a feeble flare.

    You use it, you lose it. You don’t use it, you lose it. Who said anything about fair?


    Can it be too late to learn to never, ever hesitate to set shit on fire?

    Category: Meatspace