Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Good work that trombonist

Well, all of them really, I suppose they were just following orders.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Has series 2 of Heroes picked up yet? I gave up after the second episode.

Over at the increasingly-brilliant Television Without Pity site, DC Comics editor Scott Nybakken talks about the increasing cross-pollenization between writing for comics and television, and the increasing trend for graphic novels to become thinly-disguised movie pitches, a la 30 Days Of Night.

Don't think I could handly a We3 movie though, what with the graphic novel making me blub uncontrollably.


Saturday, October 27, 2007

Mild Portal Spoilers within.

The top three in the computer games shop just down the road:

1: An art deco-themed playable critique of Ayn Rand-style Objectivism.

2: An incredibly odd puzzle game that requires you to bend 3D space with a special gun, whilst a computer-generated voice takes the piss and (spoiler) eventually rewards you by singing an inexplicably moving song.

3: A Japanese roleplaying adventure set entirely within a dreamworld generated by Frédéric Chopin in the last few hours before he died of tuberculosis.

I was going to end this post with a snarky comparison that on prime time tonight, BBC are showing 'Robin Hood', which has apparently got a second series, and a repeat of The Vicar Of Dibley. Then I remembered that 1) I applied to write an episode of RH and got turned down, so any pleasure I'm taking in it turning out to be a big load of old plop can only enlittle my soul, and 2) I really like that episode of Dibley where Alice gets married and wants representations of all the Doctor Whos on her wedding dress, so I won't.

I will say though, that coming up with ideas for computer games is starting to look like the most fun it's possible to have.



Eternal Sonata

Thursday, October 25, 2007

It wasn't even a D20.

I'm on the train back up to London, queueing at the buffet car. Taking out my wallet, I hear a vague rattling sound, but ignore it.

Seconds later:

YOUTH: Someone's dropped a dice!

ME: Oh, that's me.

He hands it back, and as thanks, I decide not to point out that it's a 'die' singular, not a 'dice', that's just stupid.

YOUTH: (suspicious) That's a weird thing to have in your pocket.

Now I happen to believe the contents of an English gentleman's pockets are his own business, and I don't much like the tone of his voice, but fair's fair, he did hand back my die.

ME: We've set up a high stakes gambling section in the first class bit.


ME: Yes, it's all getting rather tense, so I've popped out for tea.


Quite long pause. I realise this has backfired rather.

ME: Um, sorry, no, that was a joke. I'm just into roleplaying game stuff but most of my stuff's in Cornwall. I thought I'd bring some dice up with me this time.


ME: I suppose it could have been more embarrassing. It could have been a goblin.

He stares at me. I have quite literally blown his mind.

I take my coffee and head back to my seat. The youth's eyes bore into my back the whole way.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Signs of the times

I seem to have found a place, with a conservatory (!) and a landlord who doesn't mind cats, hurrah, although obviously it could all go horribly wrong yet.

My mum very kindly offered to drive me to the letting agents' office, for which I had detailed phone instructions. Female Parental Unit, however, said she knew the way already.

Thirty minutes later, having driven down a long leafy road that turned into a leafy path, skeletal twiggy fingers scraping down the windscreen whilst ravens circled overhead, with their special eye-gouging beaks on:

MUM: (puzzled) Well this isn't where Google Maps said it was.

ME: ...

Monday, October 22, 2007

Just in case...

If anyone knows of a 2 or 3 bedroom rented property going in Falmouth that I can look at between now and Weds evening, and will take a cat, could they please let me know?

Otherwise, as you were.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Part of the reason the blog's been a tad moribund of late is because I've been reworking my same three projects for the last six months, which isn't very exciting to write about and leads to me using phrases like 'a tad moribund of late', fuck's sake, kill me now.

However I am starting to get some very early 'so sketchy as to be almost not there at all' offers of film rewrites off the back of Hero Trip, while people decide whether or not to, you know, actually buy it, which is potentially quite exciting, but not quite as exciting as it sounds. In fact, film rewrites are a bit like having a proper job, which obviously gives me the heebie-jeebies.

Comedy writers are often in demand to 'punch up', or 'polish' comedy screenplays that aren't quite working. Some producers have a touching faith that if enough comedy writers pass their script through their grubby little laptops, comedy will thus accrue, like lichen on a spanish castle wall. In fact, I have it on good authority that some producers have been known to slide a particularly weak screenplay across a desk to a bigger producer with more money and say 'yeah, we're going to get a couple of Green Wing writers on this bitch, funny it right up, make it all surreal and shit'. Which is sweet.

Bear in mind I'm talking about the UK film industry at this point, I don't think Tom Stoppard (who has done polishes for the Star Wars prequels, The Bourne Ultimatum, and, I dunno, bloody Transformers probably)* has much to worry about me entering the field.

Also, there are different degrees of rewrites: from a quick punchup, to a more thorough polish, to a comprehensive rewrite. The lines between these different level of 'mucking about with someone else's script'ness are fuzzy, and demarked only by tens of thousands of pounds. Actually talking about the exact level of rewritiness and money involved is considered bad form, and is what agents are for. They have 'Bad Form' stamped through them like a stick of rock, and their loyal thuggery will reward you well.

Some screenplays totter from desk to desk, reeling like an bullet-riddled extra in a Napoleonic epic, determined to make the most of their one big chance and heading inexorably for a fall off the nearest Spanish castle wall (I'm currently in a spanish castle, although I don't want to go on about it). The problem is, some jokes aren't going to save them. Probably, three expensive doctors and an oxygen tent wouldn't save them. The only honourable thing to do in such a situation is to turn it down, then murder everyone involved with the the project quietly, with pillows. Unless you're a writer, in which case you bung some jokes in and try and keep your name off it. If you're the fourth writer along, this probably won't be a problem anyway. In fact they may even apologise profusely and hand you some extra cash to make up for not having your name on it, in which case you can giggle quietly all the way to the bank.

This is because a worryingly large proportion of british screenplays come about thusly:

1. I am a man with too much money.
2. I have an idea for a film!
3. My brother in law once wrote an amusing article for the Chiswick Rotary Club christmas newsletter, therefore I will let him write the script.
4. Away we go.

In fact, the problem with most scripts isn't a lack of well-crafted one-liners. Well, it's not the main problem, the main problem is with structure. If the third act lacks something, it's probably because there's a huge gaping flaw in the first act. And if supposedly funny scenes aren't, it's probably because the script is just plain wonky to begin with, and plastering over the gaps with nob gags will only get you so far. You're out of the realms of the punch-up, past the polish and into a proper rewrite - you need to wrestle the script to the ground, beat it with a wrench, pull out all the wires (is it a robot now? what's going on?) and stick it all back together again in a whole new way. Which isn't necessarily what you've been paid to do.

And comedy's a strange thing anyway. The biggest script I've given to polish thus far (and by 'biggest' I mean 'only') turned out to be... unpolisheable. Not because it was a turd. It definitely wasn't - it was tightly-plotted, with great characters and some funny lines. But I'd seen the writer's previous films (although the name wasn't familar, I guessed his previous work about three pages in, instantly confirmed by and every one had been great - and had come into life through that weird synergy between actor and material that you simply can't from just reading off the page. What the script needed was great directors, and great actors. Maybe a more experienced writer than myself could have looked at it and said 'aha, let's put in some amusing business with a waiter and a ball of string just here and the whole thing will be a sure-fire, cast-iron, no investor in the world will turn this down, solid gold hit. But I think Tom Stoppard probably cost too much.

Actually, I never did ask how much the job would have paid.

Arse. Maybe I'll call them back.

* Actually Transformers is a gold-mine for proper geeky rewrite spotters such as myself, undulating (obscure Gossip Girl joke there) wildly between tone and mood every three and half minutes. I blimmin' loved it, don't get me wrong, but yee-haw does it undulate. Ten points for anyone who spotted the Lou Reed joke.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


Hotmail doesn't appear to be working on my mac at all at the moment, which is annoying, but on the plus side, I am writing this from a four poster bed* in a hotel in Spain that is actually a castle/walled fortress, and earlier tonight I had a meal where someone brought the plate with a big silver cover with a handle on it, that they whipped away so I could eat, while a string quartet played outside.

So it's swings and roundabouts really.

* well, techically it's an eight poster bed, as Patch and I had to push together two single four posters I DON'T KNOW HOW I'M EXPECTED TO LIVE LIKE THIS IT'S LIKE THE THIRD WORLD.

UPDATE: aha, the problem appeared to be with Safari, Apple's built-in browser, which I've been getting annoyed with for ages now, as it appears to be some kind of memory sink. Have switched to Opera now (tried Firefox, but it didn't want to cooperate), which seems to work rather well.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Best computer game review ever.

'Not that, but something like that'

I hadn't posted this video before, as it's been around the internet a bit already. Then my literary agent (I'm doing another big rewrite on my children's book) sent me a link, and I still didn't put it up, and then last night I got to tell David Mitchell about it at a thing (he was very pleased, as the show had gone out over a year ago, and it was nice to think of small bits of it taking on a life of their own and whizzing around the internet) so I'm posting it now.

That's the 'Robert Webb working with' David Mitchell, not the other one who gets prizes for books by the way. I wouldn't talk to the other one about YouTube videos. He's in Japan, it would cost loads, and I don't know him. Also, he was a bit rude to my friend PP once.

I was a 'huzzah for writers' party thrown by Hartswood Productions, run by The Family Vertue, a name you will know well if you have watched the credits for a number of comedy shows in the last, ooh, forty years? It really is forty years as well (sorry B), just looked it up, crikey. And to show just how crazy, out of the loop and generally unusual the concept of a 'huzzah for writers' (they didn't call it that, but that's what it was) thing was, I should say in all honesty that when the brightly coloured invite turned up depicting a glass of wine, a time and a place, my first thought was 'It's a trap!'.

It wasn't a trap though, and it's a further sign of Hartswood's general good-heartedness and determination to actually look out for future twinkling stars of the writosphere (eurgh sorry) that amongst the 'about to do films with S. Spielberg and P. Jackson' writers and quite well known Scottish sketch show from the Eighties writers, and David Mitchell style 'performers and' writers were plenty of people who'd just started out and still had day jobs and had been given their first ever paying gig by Hartswood, which is lovely, and should be mentioned.

In case your sick of the name-dropping and unstoppable glamour of my life, I should add that a) tough titties beyatch, that's just how I roll, and b) the script I'd written for Hartswood was a project that can now be placed in the folder marked 'Didn't quite work out'.

I'm going to talk about that now.

UPDATE: no I'm not.

I haven't been oppressed by The Man or anything, there just might be life in the project yet. GOD my life is exciting.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Why I write alone, or in a group, but not with one other person.

INT. BEDROOM - NIGHT (don't get excited, it's not that kind of blog)

PATROCLUS: Eurgh, the cat keeps putting her nose in my mouth eye.

ME: You should go to the doctor. You'd be all 'Doctor Doctor... dunno, some Doctor Doctor joke. Doctor Doctor I have conjunctivitis, no wait, that would be his line.

PATROCLUS: If the cat put her butt in my mouth eye, that would be Conjunctionitis.

ME: Would it?

PATROCLUS: Yes, because it's a conjunction.

ME: What's a conjunction?

PATROCLUS: The word 'but' is an example of a conjunction. It can join two sentences together.

*some brainstorming results*


ME: So, if the cat were to put, not her nose, but her other end, in your mouth eye, you would then be within your rights to say 'Doctor Doctor (the surname of the Doctor in this scenario being presumably 'Doctor'), the cat keeps putting her 'butt' (which sounds like the word 'but', although it is spelled differently) in my mouth eye, and thus I have grown concerned I have 'Conjunctionitis', which is similar to the illness 'conjunctivitis', but more of a play on grammar pedantry'.


ME: Go to sleep.

Some few minutes later.

PATROCLUS: My 'ands' ('hands') have no 'pause' ('paws')

ME: You have to stop drinking coffee late at night.

Friday, October 05, 2007

DVD Extra Bits: The Curate's Egg edition

My deleted mouse scene! Okay, it worked better in my head, but it's nice to see it out there.

And some Top Of The Pops silliness, which seems to be out of sync, but never mind.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Green Wing Stuff

The big new DVD thing comes out on October 15th - 5.30 signing at Virgin Megastore Picadilly Circus, actors in attendance: Oli Chris, Stephen Mangan, Karl Theobald and Mark Heap. Julian and Tamsin are TBC.


I'll be in Spain that week sadly (well, not sadly, but you know what I mean), but other writers will be there, all glaring and scuffling over the nest-of-vipers-revealing writers' interview for the Sitcom Guide website. Thanks to Mark for all his hard work putting it all together.

Monday, October 01, 2007

All The Rage and Solo writing versus team writing

The new (and quite the best-looking so far, although maybe I'm just biased because it's got superheroes and daleks and stuff in it) All The Rage is out. I very nearly wrote a proper bit for this, it being about fantasy and adventure and stuff, but work has overwhelmed me at the moment (more below) so I kindly allowed the use of a couple of toy-fu pages for only one million pounds.

Also, Leila has a book out! (on October 7th, which is coincidentally PatrocIus' birthday) I had literally no idea, but it is a proper book, available in Waterstone's and Borders and other places and everything.

*is impressed*

And now, The Difference Between Solo-Writing and Team Writing, as Illustrated by Two Consecutive and Similarly-Themed but Very Different in Approach style Work Days.

Tuesday - Teen Drama Project, BBC

In the foyer, I realise I'm standing next to a comedy writer/performer I've seen around before, but never met. I introduce myself and we have a very sober discussion about the internal politics of one of the larger comedy-writer-representing agencies.

In the meeting room provided, glass walls decorated with quotes from classic literature, the BBC Producer, script editor, assistant producer, script editor and I discuss how downloading torrents or streaming video have changed audiences' viewing habits, and how best we can adapt to these changes to bring the proposed teen drama series to an audience once it has been made.

Halfway through an assistant brings us cups of tea. We thank him politely.

In the afternoon, we discuss character backgrounds, story arcs, what characters' emotional journeys will be over the course of the series and the storylines that will bring out these character moments to best effect.

Wednesday - Various, Team Writing, ex-Green Wing writers

In the corridor of the new Brick Lane office I realise the small green boxes placed at various points on the floor are not air fresheners, as I originally thought, but traps for rats.


I sit down on a wheely office chair. Due to a slope in the floor, I slide very slowly backwards, eventually stopping with a bump against a wall decorated with pictures of characters from Prison Break torn out of Heat magazine. Apparently my new haircut reminds the other writers of a character from Prison Break called 'T-Bag'. Later research reveals 'T-Bag' to be a white supremacist muderer/rapist.

Producer asks if I'm forty yet (I'm thirty four).

Ori Fay takes out the 'Cock a Doodle' pad* (a small book with line drawings of men in Seventies style porn posings, but with the genital area left blank) and draws the genitals of all the men present as she imagines them. I am drawn with a vagina, although frankly, I'm more offended that she has chosen a bald man to represent me. I am allowed to draw some hair (on the head) before the picture is stuck up on the noticeboard under a polaroid of me looking confused.

I am told to go out and buy sweets for the group, with dark hints being made that my sweets-buying duties have been performed to a less than satisfactory standard in the past. When asked what kind of sweets I should get, the reply is 'nice ones'.

I decide to embrace the vitality and multiculturalness of the Brick Lane environs by buying some food from one of the street vendors. I eat my burger, surrounded by people who appear never to have seen Nathan Barley. That evening I have a brief and surprisingly emotional bout of food poisoning.

* I don't even want to think where these are available