Friday, July 31, 2009


EDIT: Ori has pointed me towards a live-action recreation, which I've added below.

I have been looking this lovely animation for ages, and all I had to go on was 'singing wolf', 'bear with bit of tree' 'hunter' and 'just really good'. Anyway, turns out it's Russian, which is why none of that helped. But it is lovely.

And the live action version:

BANGING AND SHOUTING IS AWESOME! As my daughter would agree.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

I'm seeing where the coconut shells came from now.

Well, my first draft of episode one of BBC4 18TH CENTURY LITERARY ADAPTATION has gone off to the Beeb to see what they make of it. The ideal result would be a tiny amount of rewrites, minor spelling checks etc, followed by hugs all round and a commission for an entire series, but let's see what happens. In the meantime, I'm having to adapt to the idea of writing a period-set drama, pretty much the most expensive kind of television you can make, with a BBC4 budget, which is to say: nuppence.

In theory this means scenes beginning with 'INT' ('interior') = good. Scenes beginning with 'EXT' ('exterior') = very very bad. I can probably justify a couple of central locations, as long as they're used every week, with perhaps one extra 'precinct' each week, as the story demands.

'Desperate Romantics', which I've been watching with interest, counting INTs and EXTs, probably used up the entire budget of BBC4 18TH CENTURY LITERARY ADAPTATION in about the first ten minutes. Not mention people just sort of wandering around in the background all of which have to be retrieved from the right period via the BBC time machine, told to muck about a bit and ignore the cameras, then given intensive therapy sessions before being returned to their own timestreams, all this being cheaper and more practical than using extras. Personally, I reckon they could shave a few extra quid by turning the orchestral score down a notch, but there we are.

Anyway, 'Desperate Romantics' is an hour long (a quarter of which are Tom Hollander's pained silences, which are AWESOME, best in the biz etc), whereas mine will be 6x30mins, so to be fair, the comparison doesn't quite stand.

So that's half hour episodes, limited locations, oh, and a small cast, because apparently actors need paying these days as well. So you really have to work hard to justify any lines in the script not spoken by any of the central characters, something I am attempting to do by having many of them be 'OS' (off-screen) and in a variety of accents, so I can do them myself to save cash. This is not entirely a joke.

More to follow. Hopefully.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Matt Smith's INCREDIBLY VIOLENT deleted scene from IN BRUGES

A flashback scene, to be specific. And just to be very clear, this is in no way suitable for a) children or those of a nervous disposition, or 2) being viewed at work.

On the other hand, I'd quite like it if this were an inkling into how the new Doctor is going to operate...

If you haven't seen 'IN BRUGES' by the way, I highly recommend it, it's a cracking film.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Because it's set on a university 'Campus'. That was the best title* we could come up with.

EDIT: sorry, Rob reminds me this is the best working title we could come up with.

The only tiny downside of living in Cornwall is that it's a bit harder to get involved with all the fun stuff we used to get up to with Green Wing, like rehearsals, and on-set rewrites and all that sort of malarky. Fortunately, Ori's been keeping me up to date with all the goings on with Campus, what is the new thing from Green Wing's producer Victoria Pile, and most of the same writers (me, afore-mentioned Ori, her lover Fay, her other lover Richard Preddy, her other other lover and new boy Gary Parker, her other other other lover, and new boy Christian Sandino Taylor, and Rob Harley.

Here's Rob, looking serious and working extremely hard:

Serious Rob is Serious

And here is actor Sara Pascoe (who I hope doesn't mind me putting her photo up, as I've never actually met her) as 'Accoms Girl':

Sarah Pascoe as "Accoms Girl"

From the official bumf on Campus from C4 (it's one of the half-hour pilots for their Comedy Showcase Thing, but if it goes well, who knows?):

"Campus, an original sitcom set in a fictitious red-brick university, explores the lives and souls of a handful of people that work there - some as academics, some simply involved in the general running of the place. With a semi-improvised feel, it features an ensemble cast, and is made by the award-winning creative team behind Green Wing and Smack the Pony. Victoria Pile and Caroline Leddy are working on it."

FIlming's just finished, editing should be completed by September, then all the comedy showcases are (hopefully) going out in October. I'll update here if I get any useful info.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"Mister CLARKSON uses #TopGear as his Bully-Pulpit. "I cannot be a MOLLY, for I ride Mister HUMMER's weighty Coach" &c."

If there's anyone out there who hasn't found Dr. Samuel Johnson's Twitter account yet, I advise they go promptly to it.

Also liked:

"I have no Time for the pompous Declarations of Rap-Musick, while Mrs THRALE is still in Mourning for the late Mister ODB"

See also: The Twitter Account of Sir Joshua Reynolds

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sounds worryingly like having a 'job' to me.

All this stuff flying about at the moment about how the good old days of drama commissioning does make me feel I rather missed out on the Golden Age, where apparently, one just wandered up to the office of a pissed bloke called Ken, said something like 'Crime-fighting cheesemakers, anyone done that?' and wandered out with a commission for two series of eight fifty-minute episodes, and a Threshers gift voucher for a hundred quid.

These days, of course, you have to jump through nine flaming hoops just to get your outline read by someone with the key to the petty cash, then even if she says yes, there are some dirty great longueurs between stages, while you wait for the script editor to run your work past a focus group of pissed thirteen-year-olds (if it's BBC3) and a lawyer who needs to make sure you haven't accidentally accused any national treasures of murdering prostitutes, even if you know Bill Oddie wasn't where he said he was that night.*

The truth is though, I quite like these gaps, where your script hovers in some Schrödinger's inbox, untarnished by reality, budgetary constraints, or Oddie's solicitor. Especially if you're working on a few projects at one; you can do a bit on one, lob it back, start something else, lob that one back, then wait for the first one to come with notes on, as though you were playing tennis with quite a slow octopus.

Which is why this blog post of Stephen Gallagher's, about writing for US television (sourced via Piers) SCARED THE BEEJEEZUS OUT OF ME.

"So it's taken roughly seven weeks to get from first conversation to the start of shooting."


*I am not actually accusing Bill Oddie of murdering prostitutes.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


Because my mum works as a clerk to the governors at a few nearby primary schools, I occasionally get asked to talk to a class of primary school kids about my job, and what it's like to write scripts for a living. Obviously I could just shout 'BRILLIANT' at them, but I usually need to fill an hour or so, which means having to go into more detail than that.

Anyway, it's an honour to be asked to do this kind of thing, and I keenly remember authors coming to my own primary school when I was a little 'un, which directly led to me realising that making up stories/lying was something I could actively make a living out of rather than just being a thing I was told off for. So of course when I read about various famous authors boycotting school visits in outrage at being forced to register as non-sex offenders, I was FURIOUS.

I mean, sixty four quid? And don't they know I'm properly middle class now? I have a barely-maintainable mortgage! Middle class people are never paedophiles! Certainly no children's author or illustrator has ever used their position to abuse children. Oh, apart from this one.

Except, when I looked into the guidelines more deeply, because you can download a copy from this site I discovered two things.

1. I will not have to pay £64, because I do the talks as a volunteer. In fact, I did not realise there was even a possibility of being paid for talking to schools, and next time I'm asked, I will get Agent Matt to handle all the negotiations, which will include a substantial rider, beginning with 'champagne (crate of)' and getting more ludicrous from there on in.


2. Oh no, hang on, I won't have to pay £64 or go on the register at all, because the only people who have to register are those people who work with children or vulnerable adults 'frequently or intensively', whether they be prestigious authors, taxi drivers or stripey-jumper wearing janitors with bladed gloves- actually probably those last ones do need a second glance at the cv.

And quoting from the same FAQ:

‘Frequently’ is defined as once a month or more.

‘Intensively’ is defined as where an activity takes place on three or more days in any 30 day period; or overnight (between 2am and 6am)

So if I went to all (I think) five of the local primary schools between now and November to talk to the kids about writing, I would not have to register (okay, two of those talks would be a bit quiet, since they're on holiday, but apparently you can get paid for these talks now, so whatever). If I wanted to do regular workshops, or a two-day workshop, or overnight sleepovers or whatever, I would have to undergo a background check to make sure I'm not a wrong 'un, and try as I might, I don't obviously see a problem with that.

There may well be other questions to be asked about who's making money from this, and more importantly, as someone brought up on a forum thread that was debating this as a topic:

"What about reformed young offenders/drug addicts etc giving talks in school? These checks flag up everything, including rumour, not just convicted sex offenses. What about 6th form students helping out with the younger children as part of their courses? Those in charge are going to be liable to prison if they allow anyone not checked work with kids under the terms of the scheme"

Which is a good point, and deserves a look. But I can't help thinking that at least some of the authors in this boycott are just pissed off at being lumped in with taxi drivers.

EDIT: I should probably say, I've changed my mind about the whole thing five times (and back again) in the half hour or so since writing this, but there we are. This shall stand as a snapshot of my feelings at the time of writing.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Medieval Wifi

DAMMIT, the only sketch I've written lately I was even half-pleased with was a historical anachronism joke on exactly the same subject as the first sketch in last night's final Mitchell and Webb series.

Arses. Still, it does go to show how similar ideas can come about very easily, and why it doesn't do to get too proprietorial about sketches. For the record, this was a sketch I wrote for Armstrong and Miller, which didn't get used in the end, like, erm, all the other sketches they commissioned from me. Ah well.


Two knights, swords drawn, standing by some battlements.

Got wifi on yours?

KNIGHT 2 frowns waves his sword around vaguely. After a bit it pings and lights up briefly at the end.

Hey, look at that!

Started getting podcasts on mine. Film reviews and stuff.

I gave up, could never pick up a signal.

Tell you where’s good, up by the trebuchet.

Right, right, don’t tend to be up there as a rule.

Also, down in the oubliette, but you know...

KNIGHT 2 shivers. Silence for a bit.

Used to listen to a lot more music, but the headphones are rubbish.

Also, mugger magnet.

Oh yeah, my mate Sir Lawrence, went out, white earbuds gleaming in the darkness, got Saracened. Fifteen of the buggers.


Did all right though, slaughtered every last one. It’s a sword as well, innit?

Do you know, sometimes I forget that.

KNIGHT 2 waves his sword around again. Nothing.

Tch, lost it again.

Sometimes I think it’s like witchcraft.

KNIGHT 2 looks worried.

(hastily) It’s not though.



A KNIGHT in full armour on horseback, riding across a meadow. Suddenly he stops, and raises his visor. Looking around, he sees two different gates leading out of the field in different direction. He looks from one to other, confused.


He looks down to the small satnav device stuck on top of the saddle, and presses a button.

Five hundred meters from the site of the foul murder of Lord Gladwell at the hands of the ingrate Scottish peasantry... turn left.

Oh left!

He spurs the horse towards the left gate and disappears out of sight.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Blimey, it's all kicking off.

Tony Garnett argues BBC executives need to open up the production process

"When a senior executive says, without shame or the merest blush, that they do not believe in authors, they believe in strategy, what she means is that they follow the advice of the marketing executives who have pored over focus group results. The programme makers are then instructed to construct a series which will attract young men, because that is the strategy; or that a show will not be renewed because the large and appreciative audience is too old, and that is against current strategy. The game now is not about the writers having the freedom to make their sense of the world; it is about creating products and brands which the research has indicated will sell."

Ben Stephenson responds by inviting any critics up to his London office for a fight cup of BBC coffee

Then a load of writers take issue with TG, including Steven Moffat:

"I feel creatively stifled by the BBC every single day - but I'm a writer and 'creatively stifled' counts as anything short of an instant series commission, a guaranteed second series, a cuddle, a guaranteed third series, and a whispered invitation back to 'my place' (where I'll explain that really I've got a five-series arc in mind, and a spin-off.)"

SM's response (as well as comments by Tony Jordan, Heidi Thomas and Billy Ivory) here

I was going to write an incisive and interesting (whilst humorous) counterpoint article to all of the above, and then I realised I had an 18th century literary adaptation to write. So I'd better get on with that.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Today I didn't even have to use my A.K., which was good, because it's jolly noisy.

In ascending order of excitingness:

1. Got a call from the BBC to tell me my treatment for a proposed adaptation of an 18th century text has gone down well, and they are commissioning a script for the first episode, to make sure I can actually do all the stuff I said I could do (see EDIT). Quite a lot of credit for the commission must go to Maddy, my script editor, who hovered anxiously at my metaphorical elbow throughout the drafting process, saying things like 'do you think we should actually have some story in this bit?' and 'why not try linking some things in this episode to some things that happen in other episodes, so it seems more like, you know, a connected series of things?'. I am in awe of Maddy.

2. The train back from London to Truro today (it was a bit of a flying visit) was so busy, the ticket collector neglected to check my ticket, leaving it physically pristine, to the extent that if I travel again to London within thirty days, I can get back FREE!

3. The ticket collector on the train from Truro to Penryn shamefacedly admitted he had left his machine on the other train, so he couldn't charge me for that bit. Free journey number two!

4. The chip shop, which I had thought was closed on Monday nights, WAS IN FACT OPEN!

I now feel very much like I assume Mr. Ice T felt when he penned the song 'It Was A Good Day'

Peace Out.

EDIT: in case it's not entirely clear - what the BBC were looking at was supposed to be an rough outline for a possible series, but ended up as a full treatment: a thirteen page document listing the tone, setting and characters that would make up the show, with a fairly detailed breakdown of each episode, so anyone reading it can see the rough dramatic arc, where the funny bits would be, and so on. So now the BBC have chosen to call my bluff (which is what a treatment always is, to be honest), meaning I have to start writing an actual script. Just the first episode for now, but the rest to follow if they like the first one.

If it seems like I'm being a bit coy about the actual book itself, that's because it's early days yet, and I don't want to tempt fate.

EDIT 2: Yes I did mean 'ascending order of excitingness' I REALLY WANTED CHIPS.

Friday, July 10, 2009


Right, sorry, if anyone's wondering why I've been wittering on about royalties so much this week, it's because I have a £5K tax bill at the end of this month, and it is weighing heavily upon me. Total earnings this year: £4K point something. Eek.

Lot of excitement about that District 9 trailer around at the moment, which is appropriate, because it looks awesome. Thought I'd put up a couple of this earlier short films by the director Neil Blomkamp, which are less alieny, and more robotty. I want to make a robot series SO MUCH.

EDIT: also, ooh, I forgot this - Pete Miser's 'Scent Of A Robot' video, which reminds me I really should be getting on with the hip hop space opera (with giant robots) I've been meaning to write since 1998.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

“When we went through the rebrand, it was designed to be amphibious for the linear and nonlinear space"

Which turns out to mean, in English, the 'Dave' channel has just bought the rights to show a lot of C4 stuff, including Smack the Pony and Green Wing. Chuck in Bob the Builder and they may as well call it 'Channel Blue Cat' oh no I've gone a bit megalomaniacal.

UKTV to air Channel 4 shows.

Monday, July 06, 2009


Sooooo, as the Guardian has pointed out, Green Wing is one of a number of British shows now available in the States on My favourite Twitter comment on it thus far: 'It's like The (U.S.) Office, only with 15 Dwights'.

The increasing availablity of television through the internet raises a number of question, the only one of which I really care about right now is, of course, 'how do I get paid?' It's already slightly complicated, as any residuals for the first series of GW come directly to me, rather than through my agent (I started the job slightly before getting the agent), and the second series (not yet available on hulu) comes through my previous agency.

Unlike a terrestrial transmission, when I get paid a certain percentage of my original writing fee depending on how much material I have in each episode, and what time of night the repeat goes out (the later the hour, the smaller the amount of money), it's not clear how residuals work with online showings. Or indeed, if I'll be getting any money at all. It's also important to remember that I don't have any format rights over GW - so if an American version were ever made, I'd only be paid if parts of the script I had written were to be used.

My old agents are onto it, but in the meantime, I thought I'd send an email to Digital Rights Group, who as far as I can tell are the people who sold the rights to hulu. So someone's making some money from it. And it struck me that if more and more television is going to be distributed (I was going to say 'broadcast', but that sounds a bit dated now), I probably ought to find out more about the process, and where exactly writers fit into it. And by 'fit into it', I mean 'find out about getting paid'. So I sent DRG this email:

"Hello, I'm one of the writers on Green Wing, which is now being televised on Hulu for American audiences. I'm interested in finding out how my residuals (royalties) would work, and wondering who the  best person to talk to would be. Would anyone be able to help me in this matter?"

And this was the reply:

"Dear James,

Thank you for your enquiry.

Any residual royalties owing to you will be paid shortly to you.


Which was sent in May. Note they haven't stated they do owe me any residuals, only that anything owed to me will be paid 'soon'. And that was sent in May.