Wednesday, January 28, 2009

De Montford calling

As long suffering readers may recall, last year I gazed into the gaping maws of death while driving home from an event at De Montford University. The event was fantastic, my escape from the hereafter rejuvenating, and my finances crippled by roadside assistance bills.

I later managed to bag a ’96 Almera for £150, to make up for losing the Pug. Less poke, but far more manoeuvrable. And it passed its MOT this month with a clean sheet!

All that’s by-the-by, however, as the De Montford event is back, saddled with the sub-heading Fantastic Writing - science fiction, fantasy and magic: Writing the future, the past and other worlds.

In their own words:

De Montfort University will be hosting the third annual writers day for aspiring TV scriptwriters on Saturday 7th March 2009 at the Leicester City campus.

The one day event will give guests the opportunity to hear from industry professionals in the form of keynote speeches and question and answer panels. Previous speakers have included Jed Mercurio (Bodies, Cardiac Arrest, Frankenstein), Laurence Marks (Birds of a Feather), Tony Marchant (Mark of Cain, Recovery) and Kate Rowland (BBC Writersroom).

The theme for this year’s event will be Fantastic Writing - Science Fiction, Fantasy & Magic: Writing the future, the past and other worlds

Confirmed guests include James Moran (Doctor Who, Torchwood and Spooks), Phil Ford (Sarah Jane Adventures, Dr Who and Torchwood), Stephen Volk (Afterlife) and Graham Joyce - winner of the World Fantasy Award, the British Fantasy Award, the Angus Award and the O Henry short story prize. Graham has also written screenplays for Hollywood studios and is currently commissioned to work on the story line for the computer game DOOM 4.

Stephen Volk created and was lead writer of the award-winning ITV drama series Afterlife starring Lesley Sharp and Andrew Lincoln, called 'terrific television' (The Guardian) and 'Unmissable' (Mail on Sunday). A BAFTA-winning screenwriter, his TV and movie credits include Ken Russell's Gothic, Octane, Shockers and the notorious, almost legendary, BBC 'Halloween hoax' Ghostwatch.

Event organiser and course leader for the unique MA, Christopher Walker says “This is a rare opportunity for scriptwriters of all levels, from complete beginners through to those who have already had some success in the industry, to hear from industry professionals - there are two keynote speakers and two question and answer panels. Events like this are usually restricted to London so it's a way of giving opportunities to writers from the East Midlands to meet with industry professionals, network and get inspired to boost their writing careers.”


Graham Joyce wrote the most enjoyable novel of 2008: Memoirs of a Master Forger, which I liked so much I was inspired to send a fan-boyish email thanking him for writing it. If you've not read it, please do, it's fantastic.

I met TV’s so-called James Moran at the Screenwriters’ Festival, and found the experience underwhelming. Expecting a crazed encounter with an octo-handed, time-shifting slathering nut, I was disappointed to find him an altogether pleasant chap, who gave freely and generously of his time, talking for hours and hours and forgetting to go to the toilet.

If you think there can possibly be any benefit in watching this man on a panel, then the day costs £65, which includes parking (not too hard to find, and near the event) and lunch (plentiful but cramped). Smokers please note, a big yellow line has been painted around the venue, inside which you must not smoke.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Being Human - tougher than you think

So, after a long, long wait since last February’s pilot, that was the first episode of Being Human. Did you like it? I did. It was creepy and funny; well-written, and unflinching. It was darker than I expected, actually; definitely veering more toward drama than comedy. Nice to see a show debut so strongly, with such a clear sense of its own aims, identity and - crucially - ability.

For those Not In The Know, the basic pitch of Being Human is: a werewolf, a vampire, and a ghost share a house in Bristol. All they want is to be normal.

Bloody complications ensue.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Happy New Year!

Have you missed me? I hope not, you should all have much better things to do than worry about where I’ve staggered off to.

I’ve been reading you all in my absence, and it’s good to see you keeping so busy. A spectacular number of bloggers got through to the second round of The Red Planet prize, and those who’ve got the chops to go further should be hearing all about it soon; so good luck, mes amis.

I myself have not been sitting on my hands, but using them to karate chop away at 2009 like a sex-starved Ross Geller, only the sex in this metaphor is...well...damn it, sex.

At least I’m managing to keep one nib inky, as it were. Britain needs better writers, as is clearly evidenced by the likes of Demons and Merlin, to name but two (both shows crafted by the same fair sets of hands, by the way). I was just trying to watch Demons, but no, I’m sorry, I can’t. My IQ is greater than 40, after all.

I despair sometimes, I really do.

At least there is still the occasional ray of intelligence bursting forth. Sally Wainwright’s Unforgiven has been absolutely stellar these last two weeks, so the fact that it’s only a three parter makes me a little glum. Wainwright’s script is so lean, it whistles as it moves. No word is wasted, no scene drawn out; it’s an out and out marvel. Suranne Jones I only know from Vincent and half an episode of Harley Street, neither of which really gave any clue of her abilities, but as Ruth Slater released after 15 years inside after killing two policemen, aged 17, she commands the screen. Monday night’s finale promises revelations and repercussions. and I’ll not be missing it, come Monday night.

Incidentally, the BBC have asked Wainwright to pep up Robin Hood, following what’s sure to be the departure of almost all the cast after the end of the upcoming third season. If they lik her ideas and commission a fourth season, I’ll finally start watching.