Monday, December 31, 2007

Things writers do when they're supposed to be doing a Shaun the Sheep episode.

Lego don't really do packs of just guns. Fortunately, I found somewhere to get them online.

lego battle

I'm probably going to have to give up this sort of thing fairly soon.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Instructions? Pah! PAH! I say

One excellent present I had this year was a grow-your-own-mushrooms kit, (not those kind of mushrooms) from my mum, consisting of a styrofoam tub and two bags of dark, composty-looking stuff.

Carefully, I follow the instructions.

1) Remove cardboard packaging.

Carefully I remove the cardboard packaging, tear it into strips and put the strips in the compost bin. 2008 is the year where Patroclus and I become custodians of the earth, living in harmony with its ways so that when the inevitable peak oil collapse comes, we can make a living from tilling the soil and harvesting the bounties of nature. The current plan is for the divine Miss P to open a cake stall at the Farmer's Market on Tuesday (which will be re-named Bartertown), while I stand around with a crossbow, glowering.

Anyway, I put the cardboard strips in the compost bin, which is fine, because cardboard is okay to put in a compost bin, as long as you don't put too much in, which I haven't.

2) Replace the cardboard packaging, which will now act as a lid.


Thursday, December 27, 2007

Are you called Ian? Did you write for Smack the Pony?

And maybe some stuff for Working Title? And did you leave your palm pilot thing in a bar somewhere over the festive period?

If so, I know who has it. So, erm, say something in the comments (no liars or timewasters please).

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


This only really makes sense if you've played Portal. But if you have, 'tis brilliant.

Excellent article about The Wire from the The New Yorker.

Finally got round to installing the full version of Comic Life, and had the first page up and running within about ten minutes. I don't think Scott McCloud has anything to worry about just yet...

father christmas versus the ice demon

Friday, December 21, 2007

The new BBC Oliver Twist

Cor, that was great! Only seen the first episode so far, and I should declare an interest, as the producer (Sarah Brown) is the exec with whom I've been developing my Teen Drama thing, but I was very impressed: Sarah Phelps' script was pleasingly shorn of yer usual (admitedly authentic) Dickensian whimsey/sentimentality, whilst subtler things like the lighting and soundtrack, two elements that the BBC either do really well (some episodes of Doctor Who) or get horrribly wrong (most other episodes of Doctor Who) were spot on.

And it's lovely seeing Julian Rhind-Tutt being evil. I always knew he had it in him.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

He doesn’t miss a trick or ever lose a beat

Despite one of my first writing breaks being on 'Bob The Builder', I've been a bit off writing for children's animation of late, mainly because animation has a slightly different contract setup to other forms of scriptwriting, which usually involves what's known as a 'buyout'. This means once you're brought into to write an episode for an established series, you get paid once for your script, and that's it. No residuals, no rights over any characters you may have created, no extra cash when your episode gets turned into a book, or used as a part of a christmas annual. All of which may sound a bit petty and money-grabbing, but, well, that's what writers are, usually.

Added to which, there often comes a point in a writer's career when he or she has deftly turned sufficient producer-based sexual encounters to their advantage to the point where they're starting to get their own projects off the ground. At which point they get all hoity, and working on already-established shows feels rather too much like playing in another kid's toybox. This is an unrealistic attitude, which has to be adjusted considerably when winter really sets in, and the writer's many illegitimate offspring are beginning to clamour for school fees and bail money, but sometimes it's good to be ambitious.

But then you get asked to pitch story concepts for Shaun the Sheep. And all that goes out the window and you think 'wheeeeeeeeeeeeee', because Shaun the Sheep is brilliant.

Any-old-way, one of the concepts I sent Aardman back in October has been approved, and I now have to turn in the first draft by January 10th. I'm going to try and cover the process from now on in the blog (without giving away any plot details, obviously), mainly because the whole process of outlines and script drafts and rewrites can be completely bewildering to starting writers (hello people from the Falmouth Professional Writing/Digital Animation Course), and it might be nice to try and demystify it a bit.

Thus far then (and this gives you some idea of how slowly these things move):

Mid-August: asked for ideas. I send in five paragraph-long concepts (this is pretty much how Bob used to work). No money at this stage by the way.

Mid-October: Aardman get back to me - they like one of the ideas (and they received seven hundred in total, so I was quite jammy there), but need me to work it up into a full one-page outline, to give them some idea how it would actually work. There isn't the budget for vast new sets or enormous props, although they could make the new human character that would appear in my script.

The outline then needs to go off to the BBC to make sure it doesn't include anything deeply unsuitable, or depict things that can't be depicted on kids telly. For example, a Bob episode I wrote where various animals run across slow-setting cement had to be changed to various animals threatening to run across slow-setting cement, presumably in case children watching decided to run into building sites and hurl themselves into the foundations. Which I will grudgingly admit is probably fair enough.

End-October: I send off the one-page outline.

18th December: finally hear back from Aardman - the outline has been okayed, a suggested deadline for first script of 10th Jan is set, and I am invited to a Writer's Day at Ardman shortly after. I am also to be sent some development notes (which hopefully include stuff about layout/formatting: Shaun episodes don't have any dialogue in them, so I'm interested to see how you actually set about writing the buggers. Contracts are also sent off to agent, and at some point, amounts of money are going to be mentioned. Aardman carefully lay the groundwork for this by mentioning at every opportunity that the budget for the second series is less than for the first. I'm not suggesting this is made up, by the way, standard procedure for any broadcaster after commissioning a second series is to say 'well done, now make another, and here's less money than before'. The reasons for this will remain forever a mystery.

UPDATE: well okay, BBC children's department have had their budgets cut by ten per cent, but this happens all the time anyway.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


I seem to have accidentally ended up agreeing to judge a Falmouth-based live comedy sketch competition. If anyone would like to enter, competition details are here. Entries seem open to anyone, although it's all being performed in Falmouth, so if you actually want to see your precious words being read out by other people, you'll really need to be based down here where the real people are.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Not quite sure about the tone of this one

Even before my screenplay for Hero Trip first burst upon the film-making world like a flaming papery meteor, I had always known that the world of telly was simply too small to contain my ambitions, my dreams, my vision.

It's hard to quantify just how much bigger and more important film is than television, unless you work out exactly how many times the average dur-box (as those of us unfortunate to have been shackled to the industry for long enough must call it) fits into the average cinema screen, in which case film is approximately three hundred and umpty two times better than television**, a fact easily backed up by scientists saying things like 'Well it just is'. And most television is just, what, people striding about solving crimes? Pah. See also 'Cuh.

Some may think it unfortunate that such a throbbingly vital piece of word-art (is there a screen truly big enough to contain such majesty?) was sent out to The Americanian States just in time for the Writers Guild of Americania to go all strikey, but not I. In fact I can now reveal that the WGA asked me specifically to release the beast as such a crucial time - knowing that to have such a work left stranded and voidy by the Networks' refusal to simply 'stop being silly' would leave them with little choice but to conclude the strike as amicably and quickly as possible. Rumours that the networks caved the second HT landed on their desks, and that fake negotiations are continuing only to let that stupid Caveman sitcom just blimmin' die already are, I can also reveal, totally true.

In the meantime however, the film rewrite offers are coming in, only confirming my suspicions that the television big enough to contain me has simply never been built. I will remain fond of that part of my past, of course I will, and I must be careful not to openly snub my less fortunate colleague who remain shackled to the shit-cube, but at the end of the day, I think we all know I was destined for greater things.

I phone a film producer, just like that, wondering briefly if I should have a separate phone for my new film producer chums, something that would twinkle prettily on the red carpet and stand its own when I'm hanging out with Olly Kurosawa and Nev Bergman and that other one. Film Producer mentions the amount of money he has available in his budget for a rewrite. It is less than half the amount I received the previous week for a script polish on a televison pilot about a team of people who stride about solving crimes.

I've always been passionate about television.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Matt's updated the Toy-Fu site, which now has the entire epic saga. And my GOD it's epic. Hurrah for Matt.

BT are now arguing over which of their departments is responsible for mending the cock-up created by their earlier bunch of engineers, with the end result of me and Patch living in an eerie internet-less world (apart from the end of the day when we have to check in with internet cafes ooh got to go.

UPDATE: OMG we totally have the internet back. A very serious man came round in a van and some fiddly tools, and sorted it out for the price of only two cups of tea.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Bloody bloody hell.

After two glorious days having broadband, British Telecom, in an attempt to install a second line, cut through the first. So back to no internet, or phone. Two people assured Patroclus it would be sorted out by 5pm Monday. It wasn't, obviously, so we are sitting in a coffee shop trying to catch up on everything all at once.

Every single element of this move, from telecom, to gas, to electricity, to banks, to letting agencies, has in some way Fucked Up. I'm becoming increasingly concerned that the next thing to play up will be gravity itself.

On the plus side, the cat is greatly enjoying having access to a garden, although typically, she likes to pop back inside to use the litter tray. I'm going to have to go through the diagrams with her again.

Anyway, if anyone's emailed me recently and had no reply, this is why.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

It's actually very nice.

Patroclus and I have finally moved into the new house (rented) in Falmouth. The house is in a small cul de sac opposite my old school. When I went to the school, the cul de sac was an open patch of land. The houses (all self-builds) are now all nicely weathered with lichen on the roofs. Consequently I feel a bit old.

The owners of the house, a nice policeman and his family, have moved to Australia. Before they left, the nice policeman gave a bit of advice on the slightly 'characterful' electrics of the house.

NICE POLICEMAN: ... oh, and the light over the shower goes off sometimes, but you can just reach up and fiddle with it and it'll come on again, it'll be fine.

I make a mental note NEVER TO DO THAT EVER. Fortunately, the house backs onto Falmouth's fire station.

On moving in, one of the first things I did, like a fool, was to switch on the front room lights. They immediately fused, although fortunately I knew where the fuse box was, hurrah.

Later, half the lights in the kitchen (there's about twelve of them set into the ceiling) go out. And the lights in the utility room/demi-garage spark a bit, then go out as well.

I call a nice electrician. He sorts out the various lights, and while he's there, confirms that the reason the second set of sockets in Patroclus's study don't work is because they're not actually wired up to anything. In fact, it would have been a bit odd if they had worked.

He leaves his card.

Thirty minutes later, I turn on the lights in the front room. The house plunges into darkness once more.

On the plus side, there's two smoke alarms. I will be buying new batteries for both of them tomorrow. And checking them on an hourly basis. I think perhaps I will take some flapjacks round to the firepeople as well, just to keep in with them.