Monday, June 29, 2009

Getting my producer credits

Okay, only 'Associate' Producer, but it still counts. Danny Stack's 'Origin' film project seems to be coming on rather well...



Here's the official website, which, by the way, is the most professional-looking website for a short film I've ever seen, including downloadable press pack, Facebook and Twitter links and a mighty fine gallery.

And if you're wondering where you've seen actor Katy Carmichael before, she played 'Twist' in Spaced.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

We shall call it 'The Snot-B-Gone'

Into Mothercare on Monday, to buy a parasol to fix onto the front of the Blue Kitten's pushchair. However, just as I approached the counter and came to say the word 'parasol', I realised I had never actually said the word aloud before, and became gripped by the fear the store assistant would react thusly:

ASSISTANT: Ooooooh, a parasol! Ai didn't realize ai was working in an boutique for Edwardian ladies! Hark, as I sell the parasol, bracin' meself for the inevitable twirlin' and promenadin' that will inevitably take place! Ooooooh, a parasol! And so on.

So it came out out like:

ME: Excuse me, can you tell me if you sell a *mumbles* parasol, which I can attach to the front of a pushchair?

ASSISTANT gives me an odd look.

ASSISTANT: I'm not sure we really do that sort of thing.
ME: Really?
ASSISTANT: Do you mean maybe a small plastic one?
ME: Well, normal size, for, you know, a parasol.
ASSISTANT: (relieved) Oh! I thought you said 'roundabout'!
ME: ...

Later, this item arrived in the post. I can confirm that in operation, this devise is both DISGUSTING and AWESOME.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

They were distracted by the Pic-n-Mix for about thirty seconds.

I am constantly taken aback by Patroclus' lack of knowledge about SF/Fantasy/Action films of various hue, and regard it as my solemn duty to educate her in the ways of films that involve time travel, zombies, robots, aliens, and sometimes all four at once. She doesn't seem to mind me doing this, and occasionally even tunes in for the last word or two, which is thoughtful.

However, even with my EXPERT TUITION, some allowances for our varying levels of interest in the history of genre movies must perhaps be made, explaining why Patroclus refers to one Guillermo del Toro film as 'Red Bloke' (with its sequel as 'Red Bloke 2'), while 'Reign of Fire' is known in these parts as 'The One With The Dragons And The Tomatoes' - tomatoes being apparently the ideal post-apocalyptic crop in a post dragon-ravaged world. Tragically, Christian Bale's fortress hideout appears to contain no corresponding pots of basil on its post-apocalyptic windowsills, which is perhaps why he got so cross in The Dark Knight when someone moved the light.

Anyway, I have now made a mental note to not even try and talk about this sort of stuff when I'm a bit tired, after the following debacle:

ME: Have you seen 'Underworld'?
PATROCLUS: What's it about?
ME: Sort of... vampires versus wereweres.

Pause.

PATROCLUS: 'Wereweres'?
ME: I mean woolweres. Werewools. (beat) Woolworths.
PATROCLUS: 'Vampires versus Woolworths'?

Pause.

ME: Yes.
PATROCLUS: Well that explains a lot.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Also something about killer puppets, but that was going too far.

I've just completed a treatment for an episode in the prospective Series 5 of HOTEL BABYLON. Series 4 goes out on BBC1 this Friday, 9pm, but S5 hasn't actually been commissioned yet - the BBC wanted the treatments for the first few episodes in before they make their decisions, so if HB5 doesn't get commissioned, it will be MY FAULT.

In other news, PRIMEVAL has been cancelled by ITV, for being just too expensive to run, despite perfectly good viewing figures - more details on totalscifionline.com

Anyway, it's been interesting writing for an already-existing show rather than coming up with something of my own. Easier in some ways, more difficult in others.

EASIER

The producers should know what works with the show, which really means which characters work best with which kind of story (and crucially, which actors work best with which kind of story).

The structure of the show should be fairly well-defined by now: HB has A, B, C and D stories all running at pretty much the same time, so the treatment contains four separate storylines, with details of which characters are involved in each storyline, and their 'emotional throughlines' (not a phrase I'm that fond of, but no-one's ever come up with anything better). The stories do go in and out of each other, but trying to dovetail them too closely is a mug's game, and a lot of stuff gets chopped around in the edit, so to an extent you just have to make sure the stories have room to weave around each other, but leave the actual cutting in and out to the editor.

If talk of 'A' and 'B' storylines is confusing you, think of the average Star Trek: Next Generation story: the 'A' story is Picard dealing with the enormous thing in space threatening to blow the Enterprise into bits (it could be another spaceship, but is just as likely to be an enormous cloud thing, or an enormous christmas tree, or an enormous egg), the 'B' story is Riker down on the nearest planet accidentally calling the Emperor of the Tharg people 'a smelly smelly bum-face' and having to escape from his jail cell before his failure to deliver an important message causes the planet to explode, and the 'C' story is Data learning something important about human nature by forgetting to feed his cat. Or summat. I hope that clears that up.

(this is a bastardised explanation of A, B and C storylines originally, and much better, made by either Jane Espenson or John August, or some other proper writer, I forget who)


MORE DIFFICULT

If the show has already run a series or so, you'll start to run into the 'we like this story, but we did something similar last year' problem. Which is never nice to hear, but on the other hand, handy to know you're on the right lines. And nothing can compare to working on Bob The Builder series 5, where Bob had pretty much built all there was to build, to the extent there was serious discussion about series 6 consisting of Bob and team driving around performing an array of controlled demolitions.

The tone of the show is already set, so your storylines have to fit that tone, but at the same time not repeat anything that's come before. HB is quite a campy, melodramatic type of show, but it works best if the stories are grounded in things that could really happen - and an hour is quite a long time, so plots that are too farcical can get annoying fast. Again, you have to trust the producers' experience that they know what will run out of steam, and what won't.

My problem with fitting tone is that I often undershoot, then wildly overshoot, then only get it right on about the third attempt. This time round, I rather went the other way.

ELEMENTS OF MY FIRST DRAFT TREATMENT THAT WON'T BE MAKING IT INTO THE FINAL SCRIPT, IF A SERIES IS TO BE COMMISSIONED: the geeky, indie-music-loving professional killer (regular blog readers might spot a pattern here), the dwarf convention, the Fifties-style glamourous-housewife-style television presenter who is revealed to possess what can only be described as 'a winky' (this would have been quite tastefully done though), the Spanish crime lord masquerading as a celebrity chef, the helicopter gun battle.

Actually I'm surprised they even kept me around to do a second draft treatment, to be honest.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Golden Silvers - 'Arrows of Eros'

More pop videos, because I've been writing treatments all week (well, some of the week), and can't really find anything interesting to say about it.

This song starts off in a sort of satisfactory way, but then it changes key (if that's the technical term, I don't want to blind anyone with jargon), around the 1:45 mark and becomes something deeper and richer and altogether lovely.

Also I like that the main singer bloke looks like a cross between Peter Serafinowicz and a baby sparrow owl.





Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Dan Black - 'Symphonies'

Argh, where have I heard that drum loop from? Anyway, great song, and wonderfully detailed video.



EDIT: ah, wait, is it Rhianna's 'Umbrella"?

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Impossibly cool game trailers.

I barely even care what they're for (or that the second one seems to be bigger than my blog) Wait, my techno-spouse appears to have sorted it.






Tuesday, June 02, 2009

It was that, or 'The Capped Crusader'

'The thing is,' an extremely wise, very experienced and enormously attractive producer said to me a while ago,'there's just no demand for a sitcom about people who dress up as fantasy characters and run around woods with rubber swords'. This was in reference to my Fellowship Of The Wrong thing, which I turned into a one-page outline, and got the same response wherever I went.

Of course, no-one was demanding a sitcom about a load of people in a paper company office, or a hotel owner with unrealistic social pretensions and a harridan wife, or an Orange County family-run property business, but they all did pretty well. The last one's Arrested Development, by the way. I wasn't sure if it was obvious.

So was the producer being criminally unimaginative? No. I just hadn't written the outline very well. Because if it sounds like the main draw is the rubber swords thing, she won't be able to pitch it to the broadcasters with any degree of confidence, which means they won't have confidence in it either, and I won't be able to pay the mortgage.

Of course, none of the situations described above are inherently interesting in and of themselves. I'm prepared to admit my Fellowship of the Wrong one isn't inherently interesting either. What puts the com in the sit are the characters. So, is the next step to write detailed character biographies, showing how they relate to each other, what their motivations are and (crucially) how they're funny?

No. Because producers and broadcasters don't read those bits. At least, if they're longer than a couple of sentences in a first draft one or two-page outline they won't. The same way directors quite often skip the fluffy stuff - those tedious lines of action between the dialogue. Not all directors do this, but some definitely do. So how do you get round this? By either:

1) Finding a way to suggest in just a few concise paragraphs a couple of characters with a strong, built-in conflict, and a setting in which they can have almost endless varieties of shenanigans.

or:

2) Forgetting the whole outline thing and just writing the damn script, so they can see for themselves how it all comes together.

Both are, of course, really really really hard.

On a sort of vaguely-related note, I recently sent off a number of half-page outlines to a broadcaster. The first four or so were fairly serious, but then I decided to stick one more on the end as a joke.

BATEMAN AND ROBIN

"Sacked gung-ho female police firearms expert JO BATEMAN teams up with smooth gay private investigator ROBIN INKPEN to deal with high-society crimes (blackmail, divorce cases, theft) that require the utmost discretion."

That was the outline in its entirety. And when I got the reply, which one do you think they liked most?

Yes indeed.


EDIT: okay, honesty forces me to admit that eventually, the broadcaster picked a couple of characters from one of the earlier outlines, suggested a different setting for them and commissioned the treatment that I'm writing right now, but still. They did say that. Maybe I should just put a deliberately stupid mini-outline on the end of all my submissions, to get their attention? Although I believe that's how that 'Rosemary and Thyme' thing got commissioned, so clearly that tactic can end up biting you on the bum.

Monday, June 01, 2009

BBC Writers Room Roadshow in Plymouth Tomorrow

Bit short notice but you never know:

"Kate Rowland, Creative Director of New Writing at the BBC will be doing a free roadshow at Theatre Royal, Plymouth on Tuesday 2 June 2009. This is a great chance for anyone interested in writing or interested in finding out how to submit work to the BBC to find out more and ask questions to Kate in person."

More info here



EDIT: confirmation that they are spaces left.