Sunday, May 29, 2005

a capella

Go here for some fantastic a capella covers of songs such as Radiohead's Karma Police and Weezer's "Say It Ain't So". It uses Justsendit, which isn't always ideal, but pays off if you're persistent. Sometime I'll put up the Laibach cover of "Across the Universe", which beats even the Rufus version. And the Rumal Noorkuu version of "Smells Like Teen Spirit", which every time I play it, causes anyone walking past the house to lift off the pavement and float away in giggling ecstasy. That's how good it is. But the notes Matt left me on uploading stuff to the website are in my bag somewhere, so I really need to unpack properly now.

NB: Unpacked now. Here they are.

Laibach - Across the Universe

Rumal Noorkuu - Smells Like Teen Spirit

Warning: May Cause Icy Hearts To Melt.

Garden Centre

I swear, every time I get in a car with my dad, it's like comedy gold. I'd get him to drive me everywhere if it wasn't for the fact that it would MAKE ME GO MENTAL.

Got back to Cornwall, settled in (i.e. bought a copy of White Dwarf and a pasty), and discovered that the seed potatoes I had planted just before leaving have now grown into Actual Proper Potato Plants. It's like some kind of magic, and tonight I will be eating potatoes that twenty minutes ago were in the ground. I'll probably ring someone and tell them. 'I'm eating potatoes that twenty minutes ago were in the ground!' I shall say.

Popped over to my parents today, ostensibly to pick up some post, but in fact (it turned out) to help my dad to get an enormous sack of compost from the garden centre.

As we reversed out of the spot and made to leave the parking area, another car drove towards us, driven by a bearded man. My dad waved warmly at the man, made a sort of fingers-as-guns powpowpow gesture over the remaining car space, The other drover was now staring at us with eyebrows slightly higher than his head, which only got higher as my father continued winking and going 'tuh' like an electrocuted cockney. My father then pulled up parallel to the other man's car, wound his window down, looked the other man in the eyes for the briefest of moments, then wound the window back up and drove off without a word.

About a minute later:

ME: That wasn't who you thought it was, was it?
DAD: No.

On another note, while I've been gone, the cannon on Penryn roundabout have had brightly-coloured flowers painted all over then (very neatly and certainly very attractively). Cornwall, I missed you.

Friday, May 27, 2005

The creepiest window display in the world

Originally uploaded by jamesandthebluecat.


Originally uploaded by jamesandthebluecat.
And while I was in the same bit of Kensington Gardens on my last walk to work this morning, the sun was shining onto the fountains, making a rainbow.

Laura's heron

Originally uploaded by jamesandthebluecat.
I forgot it was Laura's birthday yesterday, so I shall attempt to claw back her good esteem by dedicating this heron, who I saw in Kensington Gardens this morning, to her. Laura, treat your heron wisely (although I'm sure you wouldn't treat it any other way).

Thursday, May 26, 2005


This Penguin Remixed project sounds great - freed-up audiobook samples available to do with as thou wilt. I haven't played with Garageband for ages, so this might be fun. The last thing I did on it was a melange of Franz Ferdinand, Kylie, Laurie Anderson and Moses* Allison, which to me sounds like the greatest mash-up in the world, but may in reality sound like eight kinds of nonsense. I'll put it up at some point when the shame recedes to a bearable level.

Back in Bayswater this week, which means I can walk to work through Kensington Gardens. The walk's about fifty minutes, so I can listen to an entire album in its entirety each morning - mostly Ed Harcourt and The Arcade Fire this week, which fits my writing mood quite nicely. I just have to remember not to shout 'squirrel' every time I see one, as it's considered quite uncool. So I just whisper it under my breath instead, which works out fine.

* Oops, it's actually 'Mose' as PP pointed out. Full website here - and he's white! I was most surprised. But then I always thought the Chemical Brothers were black. Honestly, I'm rubbish at this sort of thing.

Sunday, May 22, 2005


Originally uploaded by jamesandthebluecat.
Thanks to Moira for pointing this out in the comments section in the previous post. I'd heard of Rustboy before (I think the guy behind it - Brian Taylor - may even be a friend of a friend of a friend, but I could never remember the projects title to look it up and check). Anyway, the site's got all sorts of loveliness, including concept art, test animations and this gorgeous title sequence. Title sequences, by the way, are developing into an artform all of their own, with the weird effect that a number of crappy horror film now have opening credits utterly unrelated to, and on every level superior to, the films themselves (see House on Haunted Hill*).

House of Wax has the perfect trailer - lots of jumps and scares, a genuinely creepy idea and with enough glimpses of the main characters to gently suggest there's absolutely no need to see the actual film).

I always wanted to look at Dave McKean's credit sequence for Neverwhere again to see if it's as beautiful as I remember it (all creeping ivy and ghostly faces, like a moving Sandman cover) but could never find it on its own as an mpeg, If anyone's seen it (or has the faintest idea what I'm talking about) please let me know.

People, spare rooms, laptops, cool CGI films. I really do think this might be the future.

*Or rather, don't.

Saturday, May 21, 2005


Originally uploaded by jamesandthebluecat.
Went to the NFT to see a preview of Strings (official film site over here).

Felt rather uncomfortable at the start, as where my attention had been alerted by the words "epic journey of revenge", "dark fantasy" and "chilling", other people seemed to have just seen the word "puppets" and decided to bring their kids along. Which as the rain-soaked opening contains scenes of a marionette severing his own head-string and plunging lifeless into a flooded basement, could have made it a tad unsuitable. However, either kids these days are made of sterner stuff (quite possible), or they were just horrified into a catatonic state (which if you ask me is how youths should stay until they're twenty-five, at which point they have to get a proper job in a bank*), because they stayed silent throughout.

Anyway, it's worth seeing, even if just for the bit with the Lake of a Thousand Dead, with the fantastic vignette of dead marionettes frozen together, icy strings disappearing into the cold sky. Brrrr.

Talking of icy films, the Mighty Evans and I spent a happy/drunken hour working on taglines for The Viking Heist Movie. Picture if you will a nice dramatic silhouette of a group of vikings, the legend beneath reading:

"Meet the Pillage People"

Or possibly:

"Fjord To Be Wild"

First by Evans, second by me. Either's good, I reckon. Technically, yes, I should finish (ahem - 'start') the script, but I do so like the marketing...

*PP and I had an excellent discussion about how we can barely even see people under twenty-five these days, unless they're astonishingly sparky (that gets me off the hook), and so the average walk down the average high street in Britain consists of staring at mobile phones seemingly bobbing along of their own accord. Unnerving.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Viking Heist Movie Draft 1



WE see a longship, filled with VIKINGS, amongst whom are our HERO and A VIKING.

A VIKING: By Odin's Hammer (or something) this is a long journey. Perhaps you'd like to tell us a little bit of back story while we row and/or fiddle with sails/sing songs about wenching.
HERO: Very well, I was the only survivor of a viking attack on my ship and have since developed an understandable dislike of the Viking creed, although I am now working closely with your type and will later discover that against all the odds, my father- hang on, this is Pirates of the Carribean, isn't it?
A VIKING: Does sound a bit like it.
HERO: Bollocks.

Characters, longship and fjord fade to white. I go back to the drawing board.

Alternatively, I could always bung in a spaceship.

*Suggested by PP's friend Jim, which annoyed me, as I should have thought about it first. There is a scenario in the Warhammer Fantasy RPG (1st edition) with the same name, which I read years ago, so I've got no excuse.

Thursday, May 19, 2005


So I tried to get some laundry done at my hotel (more hotel stuff I'm afraid, you're just lucky I'm not in parts foreign or you'd get stuff about check-in desks and airport security), which rather brought out the way most British people try and deal with, basically, 'the staff', which tends to be either:

A) Behave churlishly and rudely, treating everyone you encounter like some kind of moron and generally laying about you with a riding crop.

B) Cringe apologetically and adopt a faux-Bertie Woosterish tone, attempting to manoevre said staff into treating you with a sort of affectionate contempt and therefore giving you at least some sort of service even if only out of pity.

Tragically A is much more effective, although it does reveal you to possess the soul of a wasp*. Also people will secretly spit in your soup, or if you ever behaved like this in Waterstone's Canterbury, poo in your book.

Anyway, I may have developed a Blair-style third way: Sidetracking Into Philisophical Debate. Thus:

ME: Hello, gosh, sorry and so forth, but I need some laundry done, and I was told there was a laundry bag in my room, but I couldn't find one.
RECEPTIONIST MAN (who I will henceforth refer to as 'Yuri', because he looked like one): Well there should be.
ME: Ahahaha! I am a fool. I shall of course look again.
ME: Definitely no bag.
YURI: Well there should be one.
ME: Well I very much regret to inform you, once again 'gosh', that no there isn't.
YURI: There should be one.
ME: But there isn't.
YURI: But there-
ME: Much as I love your summoning-up of this image of a Platonic Ideal of a hotel, it leaves me curiously unmollified.
YURI: That would be marvellous though, wouldn't it? It would have lovely chairs.
ME: Are we going to a stand-up bit now? Because I just want some laundry done.
YURI: And the breakfast would be-
ME: Seriously, stop it.
YURI: We can make the dream come true.
ME: Yuri, what are you saying?
YURI: I am talking about a revolution, my brother. Together we can make a better pursue our twin ideal of the Platonic Ideal Hotel (3-star). But there must be sacrifices. We must cull anyone who does that weird gangsta limping-walk, like they've got a gun in their waistband, for a start.
ME: But Yuri, must we not also make sacrifices?
YURI: I like what you did there.
ME: Look, can I just have a laundry bag?
YURI: Oh go on then.
ME (O/S**, from my room) Jesus! HOW much?

Anyway, turns out there's a washer/dryer in the basement at Talkback. So it all worked out OK.

* Possibly TM Richard Preddy from GW - can't remember.
** 'Off Screen'

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Hotel Guilt

Hotels are dark and mysterious places, with their own special powers. The mirrors in hotel bathrooms for example have a terrible effect on PP, who occasionally phones me in stroppy hysterics, demanding to know if he 'really looks that fat'. I tell him no, it's just the effect of the harsh lighting and the tile angles, but we both that the hotel bathroom mirror is a terrible thing, able to offer up your darkest fears and show you a ghastly sagging version of your future self. For the record, PP is merely 'well-built', and were he an American, he could be described as 'husky'. I'm staying at his big gay bachelor pad in Canterbury this weekend, so I have to be nice about him. The big gayer.

The hotel bedroom is the particular dark zone for me (relax, no tales of sexing-up are about to transpire). I just get guilt, at four in the morning. Not even proper guilt, but a sort of low-level fretting* about things that I really can't do anything about, like when I killed a shrew with a coal scuttle in 1998.

I was living at home, and there was a strange sqeaking noise from the patio. Opening the door I found my cat Tabs (who I'd christened Moglet, but nothing had come of it, which was probably best) looking at me with a terrified shrew in her mouth. So I shouted at her, and she dropped the tiny creature and went off to commit random violence on more British wildlife.

The shrew just rolled around on the crazy paving, squeaking, and judging that it was in terrible pain, I went in to get the coal scuttle. One mighty blow later, it was still squeaking, and it took about four goes to properly dispatch it. But yes, finally, it had moved on, and I was able to tenderly scoop up its battered remains and fling them into the rockery. At which point my mum came out.

'What's all the noise about?' she asked, which wasn't an unreasonable request, as it was late at night, a time you don't usually expect to hear squeaking and clanging unless you live above an brothel catering for Arthurian-style knights who like other Arthurian-style knights, and they do it in full armour, in which case more fool you.
'I had to kill a shrew,' I said. 'The cat had it in her mouth, and it was squeaking, so I was putting it out of its misery.'**
'It was probably perfectly fine,' said my mum. 'They're very noisy, shrews.'

She went back inside, and turned off the kitchen light leaving me standing in the patio clutching a blood-stained coal scuttle, staring up at the night sky. It was a particularly clear night, and for a moment I thought I saw a new star wink into existence above me, a tiny trembling beacon of hope, and life beyond all that we think we know. But then it winked off, and then on again, and I realized it was just like, I dunno, a satellite or something. Which was a shame.

I slept fine last night though, on PP's sofa. But then I had been drinking, which always helps.

* I often check under the bed, in case the last guest left behind their 'Low-Level Fretting Device'. 'Aha!' I would say as I carried it down the reception, holding it gingerly by the electric cord. 'I rather thing I've found the source of the problem.'
**I may also have added 'You know, like we did with Aunty Nora.' I can't remember.

Saturday, May 14, 2005


Very pleased to see Steve Mangan playing Robert Hooke in the BBC1 programme about Sir Christopher Wren, although it will rather colour my next re-reading of Neal Stephenson's Baroque Trilogy, in which Hooke figures as a minor, but still important character. I'm sure Hooke was much older than that though. And not quite quite as dashing, although he was terribly good at drawing fleas*. Funny how all the GW cast look so good in period costume.

Also very much enjoyed the Bearded Ladies' 'Speeding' Comedy Lab thing (particularly Ori's 'eye-narrowing' bit at the suggestion that an anecdotal air rifle pellet may not have missed her brain), which was a relief, as I was seeing Ori and Fay at eight thirty the next morning, and I find it almost impossible to lie before ten. Don't know why, but there we go. Fortunately, writers' meetings very rarely start before eleven, so it usually all works out fine. I'm squeezing a few more meetings in while I'm up in London, which is slightly cheeky, as GW are paying for my sole exclusive attention until the end of the week after next, but to be fair I'm just chatting to execs - not actually writing anything down. And I've promised Rob I'll make up the time on the same day, so it'll all work out fine.

Ori and Fay have particularly made me laugh this week.

FAY: (after I very nearly put my arm round her) Ooh no, I don't like touching. (very brief pause) Unless it's directly sexual.

ORI: (apropos of nothing) Fay's being paid to stay in a hotel this week. I'm not.

and finally-

ME: ... because I don't think all the lines have to be, you know, funny, even though it is supposed to be a comedy, although not-funny lines can still be sort-of funny as long as they're character-ish, sort of. Wait, no, I mean-
FAY: James, shut up.
ME: (grateful) Christ, thanks.

Rob, by the way, didn't seem to mind me posting details of his house interior all over the internet from when I stayed Monday night (possibly he's just grateful I didn't take any photos), so I owe him double at present. Although I might have caught his cold (not from naughty touching or anything, I have to make that perfectly clear), so maybe I can go back to just owing him the one again. I'll have to ring Agent Ginny and get her to work out the details for me. She likes my little calls.

Just so none of this weeks GW writers feels left out (like they give a monkey's), Richard has influenced me into finally buying Flann O'Brian's 'The Third Policeman', which I intend to read this weekend, and Stuart wrote a guyball scene which, when Billy the editor cut it together made me laugh so much I genuinely cried. Which I know is annoying, and slightly smug-sounding if you weren't there, but it's a relief to see stuff coming together, and it's definitely Not Crap.

*Hooke. Don't know what Steve's flea-drawing skills are like.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

London Transport

Don’t forget to watch the Bearded Ladies doing their ‘Speeding’ thing tonight on C4 at 11.30.

Late in this morning, as tubes were delayed due to a body on the line, then I was nearly hit by a bus. Not to diminish the seriousness of someone being killed, but for a second I though ‘maybe I wasn’t almost killed by a bus, maybe it went through me like in that advert, and it turns out the first body on the line was mine, and actually I was dead’. So I ran up and down Oxford Street shouting ‘Poke me!’ and eventually someone did* and we could acertain that I was actually mostly alive, which was good.

So I’m up London, GWing away like a good ‘un. Pulled an all-nighter (always wanted to say that) over at Vic and Rob’s (producers’) house Monday night. Wrote bits of script, drank beer and sent out for a takeaway and everything. Oh, and we looked up creationist websites very late at night, just for fun. I was worried about leaving Rob with them, in case his simple brain was fuddled by their complex arguments of Just Because, All Right?, but I was very tired, and went to bed to read my New Avengers comic in which Spider-Man fights a dinosaur. Spider-Man is bemused as the reader by this, which is nice.

I actually thought the whole 'hey it's getting late, why don't you stay the night' thing was a pretext for Vic and Rob getting me drunk and sexing me up, but nothing happened. That I remember. I do remember the bed I slept in had a very princessy bit of netting over it, with coloured stars and things, which I liked. I might order one of those when I get back to Cornwall.

Saw Agent Ginny for the first time since her holiday, which was with a war correspondent on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border. Two weeks of running from men with guns. I tried to look jealous, but couldn’t really do a convincing job of it. Anyway, she’s in one piece, which is good, and is fixing me up with more film script meetings while I’m up here, which is clearly more important.

GW2 going well, just trying to piece together an ending that stands up to the ending of series 1. I think we’re getting there, but lots to do yet.

And I saw Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which I quite liked, but was distracted by the astonishing beauty of that Zoey Bechemal** (whatever) bird who plays Trillian, who at first I found slightly annoying, and then a second later realised that my annoyance came from the fact I was totally in love with her, and her amazing eyebrow control skills (I rate that very highly in a woman, which is partly why I miss Twin Peaks so much - all the birds on that had top eyebrows, did you notice?). But yes, I rather think I love her. Ori has pointed out that she's not actually a real person, but an actress playing a fictional character. To be honest, I didn't really understand her point.

*Not really, obviously.
**'Zooey Deschanel'. Now I've google-imaged her, and I've decided I only like her with black hair, but I don't think it'll be a problem.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Head for the light....

Congratulations to Pippa, who won a for best Female Comedy Performance Rose D'Or. Her turn with the Russian Empress costume and the rose-petal-scattering dwarves I think.

I'm off to London Sunday. We're having a proper mafia-style sitdown to get GW2 finished - 2/possibly 3 weeks sitting round a table and writing scripts together, like we were proper sitcom writers. Runners will be bullied, V's will be flicked at producers, and I really hope we'll be eating chinese out of paper cartons, or else I don't know why I even became a writer, frankly.

Which means significantly less blogging for a bit, and toy-fu will be taking a break as well, though it will doubtless be refreshed by its rest. And by me being bored in London and looking to buy cool new things.

If anyone needs to email me, use the hotmail address, as I can only check the mail by taking the laptop into Foyles (free wi-fi, marvellous). Or you have my mobile. Unless you haven't. In which case, you don't.

While I'm gone, here's a hip-hop song about chess


Friday, May 06, 2005

Green Wing Butterfly Emergency!

Which is like a normal emergency but, you know, more so.

I've written a scene for GW to plug a tiny gap, but it's reliant (as is so much of contemporary drama) on finding a load of those wind-up butterflies you put between the pages of a book, only for someone to open the book later on and shout 'Jeusmyheart!' and fall to the ground dead*. It's very funny. We did this at Waterstone's once, and the target got a terrible shock, but didn't actually die, which was surprising as he had a weak heart and had only just come back from hospital for that very reason. I should make it clear that we were actually trying to kill him, as he was an evil man, and his death would have raised the average goodness of human beings up by about 0.1%, which isn't a bad days work. He eventually moved to Belgium, so the effect was much the same.

Anyway, we desperately need some wind-up butterflies, by Sunday at latest (well possibly Monday), so they can be shown to the art department who will then be convinced of their brilliance and won't try and make their own version which won't be quite as good**.

I've tried online, and there's a mention of Hallmark Cards doing them, but nothing specific. Belladonna, do your museum connection have any influence here? Or if anyone else has seen any in a shop somewhere could they let me know and we can send someone round with a tenner.

UPDATE: London Butterfly House has been suggested, which is an excellent idea - closed now, but I'll ring them in the morning.

UPDATE UPDATE: We have positive confirmation (via Lauren) that Clinton's cards sell them, so that's good enough for me. So tomorrow crack squads of GW runners will comb the city for Clinton's Cards shops, buying up every wind-up butterfly they see, and throwing the Clinton's stock computer into a spin from which it will probably never recover...

Thanks to everyone for your help. I knew the power of blogging couldn't let me down.

*That's not the scene. But what I've written is almost as good, frankly.

** I mean it will be very very good, but let's try and save them the time it'll take. Sorry, Art Department didn't mean to disparage your fine work.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

The Ghost That Feeds

Nine Inch Nails/Ghostbusters mashup. More stuff over at The Bloc Party one is particularly recommended.

Watched Napoleon Dynamite last night, which totally blew me away. Just a lovely lovely film (even if you watch a lot of it with hands over eyes, thinkin 'nooo... it's all going to go horribly wrong..'). Immediately went back and watched it again with the commentary on, and was delighted to see how much of was based on the writers' (there's two of them, so the apostrophe's correct - as was that one) own experiences. And has the best SexyDancing scene I have ever seen on screen. It's that good.


Over at moebius rex they've got a 50 Cent/Jungle Book mashup which might just be the finest thing I've ever heard - about four songs down. Reduced 50 Cent to the sad little children's entertainer he actually is, whilst being simulataneously being a rather wizard bit of production. Someone has spent a lot of time and energy to make a silly man sound even sillier, and that has to be applauded.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Toy-Fu 19 - Lost Gun


Finally heard back from the film company about my screenplay... and it's a no-go. Seems it fell between two stools in terms of budget, which isn't that surprising, as it's what I've been hearing from other companies as well. Too many special effects needed for it to be low-budget, too 'charactery'* to be big budget (ie. there's no real room for a star in a major role).

Of course you always wonder if you're being shielded from the real reaction, and start envisioning hysterical laughter, copies of your script being sent out as 'how-not-to's' and so one, but in this case I had a bit of a dialogue going with one of the film company's producers, so I can take this as a fairly accurate assessment. The question is now, do I re-write it accordingly so as to get it at least in a recognizeable budget bracket? It's tricky, as that goes against all my instincts, mainly because rewrites come perilously close to 'actual work', but now I've spent some time away from it, the third act does go completely haywire, so taking another pass at it could certainly do some good... Agent Ginny is going to run it past some in-the-biz-types she knows, and see what they make of it.

Anyway, it's all go for GW at the moment, as it really needs to get finished soon (and we've been saying that since December, but now it really needs to get finished, so that's going to have to take priority. And I certainly want to make some headway on the Viking Heist Movie before any rewrites on the old one, otherwise I can see me spending my entire screenwriting career endlessly rewriting the same piece for no money, which is kind of the opposite of what you're supposed to be doing.

Fortunately there's another couple more film meetings coming up, and a New Zealand-based company are looking for writers for a spooky kid's series about evil spirits, so that sounds fun.

*Well to be fair, no-one's said that specifically.

Trouble with writers is that they'll tell you why they were rejected for stuff and frame the discourse so as to always sound like the rejected hero from an Arthurian romance, whereas in reality, we're all scruffy liars and thieves who think the world owes us a living.

Repelling the Scots

Hadrian's Wall
Originally uploaded by jamesandthebluecat.
The Mighty Evans made it back from Hadrian's Wall, having successfully beaten off a whole bunch of ravening Picts, and thus saving England for another generation (and raised £533 for the British Heart Foundation). In the photo, TME is the one on the left. Or possibly the right. There were other pics, but I was requested not to use any of her 'sweating against a wall', which was a shame. won a webby (or possibly two, I haven't quite worked it out yet), which seems like a good excuse to point people in the direction of the video for winners , new song by 7 seconds of love as guitared by the GW office's own Patrick. He lives on a houseboat, you know. And the online Guardian and bbc news got one each as well, so we can be gently proud of our nation this morning. I'm sure something'll go wrong by the afternoon though.

Gorgoeous pouting Ori will soon be gazing seductively into your living rooms, when her and Fay and the other two Bearded Ladies have their comedy lab broadcast as per this missive:

SPEEDING is going out on Channel 4 on May 11th at 11.30 pm (that's next Wednesday). So remember to set your video or stay up late. That way you will get to see Oriane playing a competetive woman with no sexual memory and Fay as a tactless woman who's worried she'll catch blindness.

More details at bearded ladies

So,while my friends have been clambering on monuments, being in bands and making comedy pilots, I have discovered a number of new white hairs in my vague goatee/beard thing. I only really shave for meetings, so I've gone all scruffy again. For a while I had a vampire goatee (it didn't show up in photos), and now I have a lopsided greying one. I'm hoping the wisdom will arrive any day now.

I have got some glass-fronted bookshelves though, which has always been a dream of mine. Unfortunately, my room isn't that big, so I've had to put them across the bottom half of my window, thus cutting off half the light, and it's starting to feel like I'm sleeping in a small, but rather crampled* library.

But mmm, glass-fronted bookshelves...

*I was going to correct my spelling here, but I quite like 'crampled', which suggests both 'cramped' and 'rumpled'. And possibly 'crampons', so we get the height thing in as well. Today I Made A Word.

Yesterday I came across 'havering', which is a Scottish word meaning 'blather' but which people tend to take as meaning 'vacillate' because of its suggestion of simultaneous 'hovering' and 'wavering'. But it doesn't. It means 'blather'.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Outlines and templates

No-one knows where I can get an actual bucket of plastic spiders, do they? Just in case I want to do an epic LOTR-style battle sequence for toy-fu at any point. I'm sure I saw such a thing once, but have had no luck on the internet. I told Matt of my pain and he looked at me sadly and said 'You have my my sympathy. Many a fine project has failed due to a lack of a bucket of plastic spiders'. Which was a thoughtful thing to say.

I've been working on outlines and templates this weekend, which has a pleasantly architectural, almost masonic feel to it. Being self-employed, I only realised yesterday that May 2nd was a Bank Holiday, which doesn't have much impact on me, apart from lots of the shops are closed. But not any of the ones my friends work in, which they're all very pleased about. I always thought it was illegal to expect people to work on a bank holiday, but a few years in retail swiftly disabused me of that notion.

Anyway, back to templates and outlines. Something that mightily confused me when Agent Ginny first started getting me meetings was that they'd go something like this:

MEETEE: So I loved your spec script.
ME: Great.
MEETEE: Loved the dialogue, loved the structure, loved the setting. Love, love, love.
ME: Well that's good to hear.
MEETEE: I showed to Sally over there, she doesn't like anything, and she loved your script. Didn't you Sally?
SALLY: Don't talk to me. I hate you.
MEETEE: So all round loving, enthusiasm and warmth. And love.
ME: Well that's great! I've some ideas for casting, and I've burnt a CD of-
MEETEE: So if you want to come up with some outlines for more scripts, we'd love to see them.
ME: ?

Which confused me for a bit. And still does. But, once you've got an in with the right guys, they don't need to see a full script before, in theory, they start giving you development cash. Which comes in useful, although in the future a new kind of writer may evolve who thrives purely on herbal tea and actors' stories. And then look out, quite frankly.

I still prefer to write a full script, and then try and get it out there, which I've had to accept is a bigger risk: there could be some problem with it that makes it impractical to film (which in kids TV includes: characters who are too young and therefore will be kept out of school for filming, characters who are too old and therefore are likely to alter over a the course of a few short weeks in terms of skin, height, voice and for all I know, number of limbs), scripts depicting violence against kids (boo - and see here ) and many many more), or the script might just turn out to be, you know, rubbish. On the plus side, having committed yourself to writing a full script without any real likelihood of pay shocks many development execs to the point of tears ''seriously, he wrote this without being paid!' 'Ooh, imagine what else he'd do...'. I think it puts them in mind of medieval monks ruining their eyesight in guttering candlelight, completing the last few lines of an illuminated bible before being led quietly back to their cell for some broth. Ooh, salty.

So you need to do a bit of both. It gives Agent Ginny a bit more to work with anyway, which keeps her off the streets and out of trouble. Pleasingly, my shortsighted devotion to writing actual scripts means development people have some solid samples of work to look at, ranging from kids animation to pilot sitcoms to full screenplays.

And I'm being unfair to development people, most of whom will quietly tell you over a glass of whisky at two in the morning that they're not paid quite as much as you think, and they spend their every day looking for a script they can get enthusiastic about, and, most days, not finding one. In fact my last meeting with a development person went like this:

DP: So we loved your script.
ME: (sulkily) Well give me a million pounds then.
DP: (laughs politely) Well it's not quite the area we're looking for. So if you fancy coming up with-
ME: God, 'whatever'.
DP: I'm sorry I can't give you a million pounds.
ME: You do know I came up from Cornwall for this?
DP: Yes I'm sorry.
ME: I mean I'd try and talk to you about what I want to write, but you won't have a clue what I'm talking about, will you? There's no passion in the your jejune little world, is there? You're not a fan. You've never queued for the new Buffy boxed set, or heard of Neil Gaiman, or-
PD: Actually I'm a huge Sandman fan.
ME: Oh. Really?
PD: We've actually been developing a project with (names not very well-known but very talented and certainly up-and-coming British comics writer)
ME: Oh. Can I send you some outlines for stuff then?
PD: Yes.
ME: Can I have some herbal tea?
PD: Yes.
ME: I like meetings.