Thursday, September 28, 2006

Tallins, Taigas

Originally uploaded by jamesandthebluecat.
I should have said, we didn't spend the night in Tallin, as we were able to persuade the ferry people that our tickets had gone astray, so they just printed us new ones. And the Wanderer returned yesterday morning, just as we were seriously starting to think we ought to inform the authorities. I had gone out to the shops to get a paper, singing 'Diamonds are a girl's best friend' to myself (why do people think I'm gay, why?) and suddenly realised our missing party member was sauntering casually towards me, looking slightly stubbly but completely un-murderered. He'd stayed in Tallin for the night, then made his way back on the ferry the next morning.

marsha klein said...

Would you recommend Tallin (bastards in capes, cursing locals etc notwithstanding)? We couldn't go to Estonia when we were in Helsinki recently because the children don't have photo ID, but we're hoping to go back soon (without kids).

Hmm, it was good for a day's visit, but it's much poorer than Helsinki, hence the constant procession of people trying to flog you complete rubbish. In fact, me and Patch met up with the lovely Taiga in the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art where she works (and gave us free stuff, woo hoo!), and when we told her where we'd been she looked at us with horror and told us of the relative not-safety of Tallin. I think it's fine as long as you don't stray too far from the centre though.

(Taiga also told me that the Underground Mall of the Dead is also a bit of a dodgy place to hang out, although I suspect on a Sunday morning, I was probably the most dangerous thing down there. After the McDonalds Express, obviously)

Anyway, back to Tallin - if you're not being accosted by various caped and/or cursing accosters, or idiots wandering off with your tickets back, it's a beautiful old medieval city, and if you climb up the spiral staircase of the main church, you get a fantastic (albeit slightly wobbly if like me you're scared of heights) view, depicted.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Green Wing DVD signing at (Oxford Street London) Virgin Megastore 2nd October, 6pm.

According to Rob "Julian, Steve, and Pippa are supposed to be coming to the signing, and maybe some of the others, but not Mark".

I should be back from Helsinki then as well, so I might pop along, but one of our party of four disappeared on our day trip to Tallin in Estonia and hasn't yet returned, so I may end up hanging around helping Estonian police with their enquiries. Apparently, the person concerned is apparently a bit of a wanderer, and I wasn't emotionally attached anyway*, so I've got the film rights signed away nice and early.

Still, I'm sure he'll turn up safe and sound etc. whatever.

(If you suspect a lack of sympathy caused by the fact that said person buggered off with our return tickets to Helsinki, you'd be quite right. Although obviously I hope he hasn't been mur-diddly-urdered or anything. Because I imagine that means paperwork)

Also on our trip to Tallin we were serenaded by bastards in capes whilst we were trying to drink gunpowder tea, and later thrice-cursed by locals after refusing to buy ex-soviet passports. All in all, quite an eventful day.

* It wasn't Patch by the way, she's sitting next to me as I type this, shouting at her laptop because people are still sending her work emails WHEN SHE'S SUPPOSED TO BE ON HOLIDAY. If you are one of these people, I will be smashing you up when I get back, so look out.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

A country where I quite want to be.

Originally uploaded by jamesandthebluecat.
Helsinki, city where the roads look like pavements, the pavements look like roads, and hungry trams patrol the borderlands, desperate to smear the unwary into a thin but nutritious paste. I quickly decided the only way to survive was to run towards a flashing green man the moment I saw it, which could well prove my downfall if there's ever an alien invasion, but I'm willing to take the chance.

Not much open on Sundays, although there is a large shopping centre directly underneath Helsinki's main rail station. The huge blast doors and solidity of its construction make me wonder if it wasn't designed to house various newsagents and fast food outlets so much as a refuge against nuclear war with the Soviet Pact. Or America. Not that much was open early on a Sunday morning, and by the time I had travelled down two escalators, the Dawn of the Dead-ness of the place had started to spook me.

At which point, and I kid you not, a hunched figure rounded the end of the corridor of closed shops ahead of me, moaning heavily and dragging one foot.

Fortunately her husband rounded the corner about two seconds later, and the two Korean tourists continued on their way without noticing me staring at them in horror. I hope her foot gets better soon. Or possibly they were deliberately winding me up, I don't speak Korean.

Helsinki zoo was open on a Sunday however. It's on an island a couple of miles away from the city itself, and neither Patroclus nor I were put off by the boat returning from the zoo seeming much fewer in numbers than the amount of people getting onto it, if that makes sense.

Anyway, it was a good zoo. Favourite animals were an actual wolverine, some snow-goats and a spiky lizard. Not sure about the axolotls* though, and towards the end I was quite tired and consequently became confused by a cut-out silhouette of a gazelle.

* A small voice from behind me calling out 'Ooh look, their ears go in and out!'. Further tactful investigation has confirmed patch did know these were gills, she was just winding me up, and I am almost entirely convinced this is true.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Originally uploaded by jamesandthebluecat.
Green Wing Scriptbook! Available I think 22nd October, but it may change.

It's mainly a collection of series one scripts (dur), but there are other odds and sods as well, and photos of some actors, but who cares about them? Sadly the plans for a centrepiece pop-up Doctor Statham had to be abandoned, for financial and legal reasons, but it's worth a look anyway.

Of course some of use in the writing team are already published authors*, so I'm sure the other chaps will at some point feel the need to turn to me for advice on how to cope with the adulation, literary readings, autographs and such. Still, I think the shift in lifestyle will come as a shock to many of them, but really, what can you do?

While I was amazoning, I had a quick look at the reviews for the series 2 DVD (silly boy) and saw this...

"I'm amazed at some of the reviews for Green Wing series 2, its as if members of the show's production team have written them!" which I can honestly say Not Guilty, but to honest, probably only because we're not paid enough. Also there's an apostrophe in "it's"**.

* I notice that second-hand copies of this masterwork are still available for eight of your earth pence, which as pre-school animation writers' contracts are traditionally drawn up by chortling demons in top hats, is still more than I got paid for providing the original script.

** Ha!

UPDATE: any spelling mistakes in this post are natural flaws that show the simple unrefined beauty of this product and as such, should be seen as vital and and a bit quirky and that, and not undermining my own points in any way.

Sorry for the lack of response to comment, have been without connection for ages, and am currently sitting in cafe in Chiswick try to type this before my battery runs-

Monday, September 18, 2006

Aaaaaaand there goes my new ipod.

That one lasted just three months, and ironically enough was apparently slain by the new iTunes upgrade, which tried to weave its magic spell on the beast, then quietly reported a bit of a problem and went away, embarrassed. The ipod is now utterly dead, impervious even to the restart pressy button trick which usually gets some response.

Fortunately I was prepared for this very moment (although I didn't expect it to come quite so soon) and purchased every warranty I could to go with it, so Argos are sending it away, just as I was about to go on holiday for a week*. I don't expect I'll get any of the files back off it though, the little blanc shit.

Don't buy ipods.

* which annoyed me, but then I thought that as I'm going away with other people, spending eight hours a day plugged into The Postal Service and choral (not acappella, I don't even know why I said that) covers of Foo Fighter tracks might be a bit anti-social anyway.

That, and my bed collapsing (I wasn't doing anything) and one-bedroom flats in Falmouth turning out to cost a millions pounds a month, and even then only available over the winter, as owners can presumably charge summer visitors two million pounds a month, and various writery problems that have made it clear with brutal clarity just how far down the food chain we are, and last week all went a bit sour really. However I'm off on the afore-mentioned holiday (first proper one for four years, lying in bed for weeks wondering where all the work is doesn't count, I've checked), so I'm expecting things to get better. And, you know, seeing people I haven't seen for too long and have missed terribly, blah blah feelings etc.

And this always cheers me up:

Sunday, September 17, 2006

My eyes! The citrus stingeth so!

Originally uploaded by jamesandthebluecat.
Some discussion as to what Tactical Kits (the sort of thing Jack Baur demands before going off to shoot Evil Terrorists) would look like if they had them in the seventeenth century.

Patroclus pointed out that they would be called 'Tactickal Kittes' (also a good name for a seventeenth century secret agent), and her further discussion with Mrs Patroclus Snr determined that such a thing would have to include the following:

A box of matches.
A handkerchief.
A pomander (some confusion as to what a pomander actually is, although defines it as primarily as "a mixture of aromatic substances, often in the form of a ball, formerly carried on the person as a supposed guard against infection but now placed in closets, dressers, etc..") I thought this was what it was, but I decided to check, in case it turned out to be a small country, or a sense of impending ennui or something, but it wasn't, so that's good.

I would add to this list:

A brace of sawn-off matchlocks.
A stinky brooch (for planting on suspects and then tracking their progress by looking out for people shouting 'Pooooh! There goes Sir Stinke, up to no good, I'll be bound, egad' and that sort of thing).
A bulletproof periwig.

Also, the Tactikcal Kitte would look like a viol case (apparently a 'viola' case is an anachonism - this could clearly bring the whole Flintpunk project crashing down around our powdered ears, well spotted PP!).

And, my pomader would be a dried orange studded with cloves, only if you press the cloves in the correct sequence, it TURNS INTO A GRENADE.

Also, on an unrelated topic apart from general silliness, Mitchell and Webb's bit about the under-researched medical drama which had lines likes 'Give me the kind of medicine that makes you better if you have the specific illness it was designed for, but it bit worse if you have another kind of illness entirely' and 'oh no, he is poorly from the wrong kind of electric' was just lovely. I also very much enjoyed the closing banana dance.

ALSO: Apologies to anyone directed here from the Wall Street Journal - clearly there has been a terrible mistake. Although because the site is subscription-only, I have no way of knowing what it said. But anyway, sorry.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

I Am Scriptwriter, Hear Me Burble

I had to do my first verbal pitch for a feature film the other week. If you've even seen 'The Player', it's that bit where the Hapless Writers try and convince the Studio Executive to invest millions of dollars in their movie, which is usually as yet unwritten, by making it sound like the best thing in the world. The quickest way to do this is the 'X crossed with Y' format ('It's like Magnolia crossed with 2001! But funny! And with heart!).

Now I hadn't actually realised I was supposed to be pitching in that meeting, so I was a bit taken aback when after some perfectly nice rambly chat about science fiction of the nineteen seventies, we cut to this (to me) complete non sequitur:

EXEC: So, Big Financial Man will be coming in in just a minute, so if you're okay to do the pitch now...
ME: Hmm?
EXEC: Did I not say his schedule had changed and we were having the Pitch Meeting today?
ME: No, I thought this was the Pre-Pitch Meeting.
EXEC: Ah, it was, but now it's the Pitch Meeting.
ME: (whining) Where did the 'Pre' go? I liked the 'Pre'!
EXEC: By the way, if during the pitch, Big Financial Man starts picking his nose, or wanders off for a wee, or just, you know, gets up and wanders off, he's not being rude, that's just how he is.
ME: Okay, but if during the pitch he does any of those things and I PUNCH HIM IN THE FACE, I'm not being rude either, it's just how I am.

I didn't really say that last bit, but I was within my rights I reckon. 'Just how he is', honestly. It's like that stupid Levellers song with the chorus 'Only one way of life and that's my own' which all the stupid hippies in my sixth form used to sing along to in a smug self-righteous way, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the same sentiment could equally well be used to excuse the actions of anyone from Hitler to the people behind Big Brother, who I don't place on any kind of moral parity by the way, Hitler being clearly mentally ill and lead astray by those around him.*

But I digress. The pitch actually went very well, and then segued into a discussion about Benjamin Disraeli, who hadn't been part of the pitch in any way, so I'm not sure how he found his way onboard, to be honest. Weirdly enough, I felt better having to pitch it out of the blue, as it's very easy to overthink these things, and end up sounding horribly stiff, and thrown by the simplest question. Like 'Why should I go and see this film?' for example, which I tend to answer with 'I wouldn't, cinemas are all icky and full of talking children and mobile phones, ew, wait for the DVD' which misses the point rather.

Anyway, in the end it went to The Other Guy - it wasn't an original idea, the film company had bought the rights to an Obscure Thing and were looking for writers to develop it, so I had written a treatment and it had got down to the two of us - but as I got the call on my way to BBC Drama where I'm developing a thing set not a million miles away from Cornwall (okay then, it's set in Cornwall), I didn't mind too much.

Still, my first proper film pitch. And he only picked his nose a bit, and I didn't punch anyone, so frankly a good day all round.

* Warning, I am not an actual historian.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

And chips.

Best Mate has a week off, and it's not like I have a proper job anyway, so I thought I'd drive us out to Durgan, walk down the beach, up the hill and around the coast to have lunch at the Ferryboat Inn, which is verrr pleasant. I couldn't quite remember how to get there though, so when I woke up at four o'clock this morning, I checked the directions from the pub website. Then I went back to sleep, and when I woke up properly, I had to check again to make sure I hadn't imagined them, so starkly beautiful are they in their simplicity.

Still we got there anyway, the afternoon only very slightly marred by the fact that we were talking about Colin Farrell, so I stepped out of the car shouting 'HA HA, FOOK YEZ, YEZ TERRIBLE BOLLIX!' only to realize I was right next to a very nice couple who had presumably just taken their spaniel for a pleasant walk, which I was possibly spoiling slightly. I managed to smile and say 'hi' in an urbane sort of way, but that might have made things worse, as though I was teetering between two wildly different personas. Perhaps I should have kept up the mad shouting Colin Farrell persona until I was out of earshot, although BM probably wouldn't have thanked me.

Sorry very nice couple. The Thai Fish Cakes were splendid though.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Yay comedy blogs

Adam Buxton writes in his blog about his part in Neil Gaiman's Stardust, which although not a comedy film per se, does seem to include lots and lots of top british comedy people. Some of whom get to meet Clare Danes, the lucky lucky bastards.

Being in an actual room with one of these actors I enquired to the extensiveness of getting-to-meet-Clare-Danesness of his part.

ACTOR: I got to lie on top of her.
ME: ...
ACTOR: And then I bounced up and down, harder and harder, but then a policeman arrived, and now I can't talk to her anymore.
ME: Which bit of that's true?
ACTOR: I can't remember.

Adam's post also included the pisstake of 'Snatch' done with toys, so go hither and giggle, it's great. 'Snatch' is in that weird category of sequels (I know it's not really a sequel, but it's close enough to count), which is only one percent less good that the original, but somehow utterly devoid of the first film's ramshackle charm. See also Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle. Or rather don't, obviously. The first one was aces though.

But do get the A&J podcasts off of iTunes, or possibly the XFM page or something, not sure, but look 'em up. The most recent one (18?) is particularly fine, and includes lots of Colin Farrell-based swearing, haha yer bollox.

In other news, I've been watching 24 series 4 - only got as far as halfway through series one, and this seems exactly the same: Kiefer is great, almost everyone else is absolutely rubbish. But crikey, it does keep rattling along.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

And then they start kissing, because they've been in prison too long.

Extras was a weird beast - sometimes made me laugh a lot, but mostly I didn't really understand what was going on at all. I'm not a massive fan of shows that 'deconstruct your preconceived notions about what celebrities are like in real life', as usually I don't really care what they're like in real life. If I did, I'd read magazines about celebrities, and watch chat shows, and then kill myself. And people like Ben Stiller play up to this concept so knowingly, the whole thing gets very murky very fast.

The stuff that worked for me was the relationship between the fictional characters (and Stephen Merchant was great, so I was pleased to hear he'll be in it a lot more in the second series).

Anyway, on a slighly different topic, with that episode of Extras that had Patrick Stewart in it that was repeated recently, when it first went out, didn't some reviewer chuckle along to the 'low budget identikit fantasy movie' that opened the episode? And wasn't it in fact, er... The Tempest? Or did I completely imagine that?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Nice biscuits though.

I only got on a plane (eek) and flew to the south of france (oooh) to see the lovely patroclus (aaaah) then. That's all. Only that.

Good conversation with the chap next to me, who like everyone else on the plane was a semi-retired English businessman in his later forties. I'd already been in London for a week without a razor, so I was the sole representative of the tribe of scruffy bearded scriptwriters in their thirties.

MAN: So where are you going?
ME: After Perpignan?
MAN: Yes.
ME: To a small village about an hour away.
MAN: Do you know what it's called?
ME: Nope.
MAN: Can you speak French?
ME: Nope.
MAN: Did you get any Euros?
ME: Nope.
MAN: Is someone coming to meet you?
ME: I really really really really hope so.

Fortunately she did come and meet me, although I was bit distracted, as there was also a welcoming committee of french chicks with guns! Even the french army is sexy! The french army chicks were holding their guns close to their uniformed french bodies, and casting saucy looks down the line of English passengers. Sort of saucy, but also sort of like they particularly wanted an excuse to shoot somebody, so I looked straight ahead the whole time and decided not to make jokes about, I don't know, surrendering and running away but maybe putting up a bit of resistance, and other french things.

And then patroclus (who is sexier than three french chicks with guns, but rest assured that's all I will say on the matter) and I went to a quite posh seaside hotel (steady).

Lots of the hotel rooms had a little tiled mural on the corridor wall, so as you walked down towards your room you got a series of images that went:

1. A nice underwater scene.
2. Some animals.
3. Examples of local food, cheese and that mainly.
4. A tiled mural of death.

I took a photo of that one, as many people believe this blog is a TISSUE OF LIES, so here it is. Death, with his great big scythe (of death), looking a bit tired, underneath a big moon.

Good work the French!

Originally uploaded by jamesandthebluecat.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Back to the blog-ads thing:

Although first - don't feel sorry for me about the rejected script thing, it happens all the time (although I appreciate the sentiment, obviously). As long as you have loads of projects on the go at any one time, it's surprisingly easy to just go 'tch' at having a script turned down, then go on to the next thing, especially when it's something you wrote a fair amount of time ago. And it's quite sketchy in nature, so I can always strip it for parts...

Thanks for anonymous for this Guardian article and Patch for this one in the New Statesman. Patch also writes about whether 'advertorial' style blog posts could turn out to be something of a mixed blessing for the companies concerned here. And I should point out that I'm easily tall and pretty enough for the both of us, so no worries there.

Some great comments in the original ads-in-blogs-post, so thanks for that, and keep them coming.

Something I'd completely forgotten about, talking about selling out your principles and waking up one day wondering where your soul used to be, is that I was approached sometime after the first series of Green Wing by an advertising company who wanted to do some kind of big lager-drinking summer promotion that would appear in one of those men's magazines with a title like Balls or Plinth or Dur or Look Tits. The proposal was to come up with some huge blokey pull-out guide to summer, and for some reason they thought I was the person to do this (I know). Part of the deal was they wanted an interview, and a photo.

I had a meeting with my agent, and we decided that the whole idea was naff and unpleasant and ghastly, and consequently we should as for something in the region of ten grand. I asked that in the photo I should be holding a magic sword, with at least two scantily-clad women lying at my feet gazing adoringly up at me, but I don't know if that made it into Agent Ginny's final proposal. Sometimes she forgot stuff, it was weird.

Anyway, we waited to hear, and nothing happened, and in the end it turned out that they thought I was one of the cast (who, I don't know) and they didn't even know writers were involved in the show anyway, what with it being completely improvised and that, and then it turned out the lager company went with another idea anyway. Honestly, it's not good for your ego, this business.

But at least I found the amount for which I was willing to totally discard the olive linen shirt of principle and don the gaudily tie-dyed t-shirt of venality, so that was good.