Thursday, December 21, 2006

Well, Merry Friggin Christmas Then

A post bourne out of the fact that I'm sitting in a motel about 40 miles South of Glasgow and I've just shelled out for an hour of internet time because my phone buzzed me that I had 7 e-mails.

One of those must be important, right?

Nope. Every single one was a round robin Christmas greeting from a producer or editor. So I have 57 minutes to kill.

Bah, humbug. Maybe I should invest in one of those Dangleberry's?

I though I was dead smart not flying up to Scotland but driving, as Heathrow is socked in and every domestic flight has been cancelled. Then I discoverd my first 200 miles of driving were in a pea soup fog surrounded by Mr McGoo's relatives on their way to a family gathering.

I managed 400 miles before the old bones began to creak and I sought comfort in several large Vodkas. So here I be. I believe it is called Abingdon. I really didn't fancy the dreaded Death Race 3000 known as the A9 to Inverness tonight, so a good night's kip is in order.

The A9 for those who don't know is a notorious killer of Boy Racers and tourists because it keeps switiching from dual carriageway to two lane and people ....well......forget.

This is my first Christmas without my son, who is spending it with his mother. Probably why I'm so crabby.

So to put things back in perspective I would like to wish a sincere Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to everyone on the scribosphere. Your wit, good sense, boundless enthusiasm and selfless help have given me many hours of enjoyment over the last year.

Long may it continue.

Peace to all.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Stornoway Sunday

That time known in the writing world as deadsville is upon us. Yes it's Christmas [or every Sunday if you live on Stornoway]

No point trying to phone any Biz contacts. They are either recovering from, preparing for or in the process of lunches, dinners, cocktails, office parties, wrap parties, and probably a few Anne Summers parties. And that's just the guys.

Well okay......some are actually busy as they frantically try to put the lid on various ongoing projects before the pain in the arse 2/3 week shutdown .

There's enough of the kid in me to still like Christmas. Despite the double whammy of the expense plus no movement on projects. Not that anything is galloping down the final furlong anyway.

I used to get annoyed when I was told 'Oh she's in Cannes, he's in Toronto, she's at Sundance, he's off for two weeks to nurse his sick mother'

Now? Meh. As my aged parents used to say. And probably still do. ''If it's for you it won't go by you.''

I think that must be the Presbyterian version of fatalism. Unless you live on Stornoway in which case it is called Heresy. Cue the smell of burning peat, roasting flesh, cries of angry villagers and Christopher Lee in there somewhere.

Can you tell I'm going up North for Christmas?

I kid. I am going up North. Because come Hogmany that is the place to be. I'll be 'first footin' ' with the best of them.

Anyways, I have hopefully just finished my last piece of 'stuff I have to do' for the year. I can look forward to a few guilt free weeks of no deadlines, no panicked phone calls, no sweating late at night wondering how the hell I'm going to make this piece of shit scene work.

And 'They' are feeling the same way. It's time to chill. This is our Stornoway Sunday. Those aspiring writers with full time jobs can think about maybe stringing two or three days together of full time writing. Those full time writers can think about stringing two or three days together of uninterrupted spec time.

'Tis indeed the season to be jolly.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

A Sale Of Two Titties

So I got some interesting feedback on a spec project today from someone I've never heard of at a company I have heard of. The gist of it was they liked the basic idea but could I make it more post watershed and sex it up. Get some T&A in there.

Now, AT A PINCH, JUST MAYBE, I might force myself to include nubile naked lovelies bonking their brains out. In fact you'd have a hard job stopping me.

But in this particular case I'm not inclined to do so. Firstly, they ain't paying me. That's not necessarily a big objection. If I wholeheartedly agree with the note. In this case I don't. I think it limits the potential audience and makes it less attractive to networks on what is already a reasonably big budget proposition.

Secondly, I don't like having different versions of the same project out there. And that's what I'd end up with. Especially when you are dealing with smaller companies.

The big boys can afford to take a punt on something. Option and develop to some extent and then take it to the networks. But some of the minnows well, they can't afford to take a punt on an outside chance, so a lunch here, a call there, and they get a sniff of whether the networks are maybe interested or not. I'm not saying they all do that, and of course they shouldn't, but in the real world it happens. And if they pitch the show they want rather than the one you want and they say no, you are dead in the water.

So do I want to take that chance in this case? Like I said, I don't know the guy. Never heard of him personally. Therefore he's still out to make a name for himself. Therefore I suspect he's not adverse to bending a few rules.

Paranoia? Maybe. Doing him a complete disservice? Probably. But my writer/business instincts tell me that isn't the way to go on this project.
So thank you, but I'll pass!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Pirates of The Studios

So Pirates of the Caribbean 2 has just sold over 10 million DVD's. Wow. One of the fastest sellers ever.

Some Disney exec's Christmas trees will be loaded with designer baubles this year. Assuming the wholesale price is around $10 [just a guess] that's a cool $100,000000 in revenue and around $66 million gross profit.

And this is where HW really makes it's money. Take the world wide figures for year 2004 for the six major studios. [IN $ BILLIONS]

Theatrical Release - 7.4 / [2.2]

DVD/VIDEO - 20.9 / 13.95

Wowser. They actually made a loss of 2.2 Billion on theatrical releases. Not surprising when you factor in the cost of making a movie, the P&A costs and the frantic book cooking studios indulge in to make sure no one on the soft back end [net profits] ever sees a dime.

But look at that DVD baby go. Almost 14 Billion dollars profit. Nearly DOUBLE the entire theatrical revenue.

And guess what? Even that isn't the most profitable sector for the studios. The most profitable sector for studios is............TV.

Here's the figures for 2004.


TV Sell Through - 17.7 Billion / 15.9 Billion

A gross profit of 90%. Un-fucking- heard off apart from prostitution.

But here's the kicker. If the writers Elliot and Rossio are on the WGA standard 1.5% of 20% of DVD sales, from that $100, 000000 , they'll be lucky to see a hundred grand apiece. [They will see more because their super smart agents will have negotiated built in bonus fees]

But still. Studio makes 66 Million. Writers make 200K. Mmmmmmmmm? Sound reasonable?

I've heard all the arguments that studios take the risk and that is why as a comparison to total film budget the writer's fee is almost miniscule. And to some extent that's a fair point. But here we're talking post risk. And the place where the writer could really be rewarded.

1.5% of 20% is piss ant money. Just my take on it.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A World of Shed Shed Productions want to take over World Productions. Not the sound of something I like for a number of reasons.

As Dave Bishop points out, World are one of the few majors who actively encourage new writers. Okay they've had a few ratings hiccups recently with shows like Goldplated and Perfect Day, but they are also responsible for gems like This Life. The Cops, Cardiac Arrest, Sharman and Buried. Tony Garnet is very writer friendly and this is reflected by the producers who work there. Almost all of whom I've dealt with in one way shape or form over the years.

Shed.......well I don't know that much about them. I know they produce Footballers Wives, and Bad Girls and Waterloo Road. People obviously have their own opinions on those.

But the reason I don't know much about them is that I have never met them. The reason I've never met them is that my agents refuse to send them any original material or put writers forward for any of their shows. That doesn't sound too good does it?

They became cautious about doing it when some of their writers had nightmares working on Shed shows. To say Shed are 'hands on' is apparently an understatement. Think 'in house,page one re-write on your script . '

They flat out refused to have anything more to do with them when it came to light that Shed paid a writer HALF the PACT rate for an episode of Waterloo Road. Bear in mind that Ann McManus, one of the head honchos at SHED sits on the board of PACT? Perhaps the reason they didn't get their arses kicked from here to China.

Apparently the excuse was that the writer was desperate for a credit and volunteered to work for that money.

So WHAT???????? . That stinks no matter which way you try to cut it. Minimums are there for a reason. To stop writers lowballing each other and being exploited by companies who want scripts on the cheap because they know they'll re-write a lot of it themselves in house.

It devalues writing and writers. The writer who took that deal should be just as ashamed as Shed should be. And by the way, the chances are that particular begged for writing credit is pretty meaningless because most people in the business know exactly what went on and who was involved.

First meeting with another prodco - 'Oh you're the schmuck who took half fee just so you could get a credit'

Because make no mistake, a lot of prodco's are up in arms about this as well. Why should Shed get a commercial edge by ignoring PACT regulations when they all play by the book?

I understand that World are not yet commenting on the proposed take over. Hopefully the eventual comment will be a rousing Fuck Off!

Oh and before I forget. Shame on the BBC for passively endorsing that shoddy deal.


I've just heard from the horse's mouth that the report in Broadcast about Shed in talks with World is completely unfounded. Spitting feathers, no chance and never in a million years were mentioned.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Plagiarist...... a writer of plays.

Damn you Paramount Comedy. Damn you and your weekend of double Scrubs and Two and a Half Men.

I've wasted at least 8 hours on you.

Well....not really. I mean I did probably watch about 8 hours of it, but as a writer I believe nothing is wasted. Except sleep maybe, if it doesn't result in a fertile dream or an alert mind the following morning. I'm like a sponge. Lot's of stuff gets soaked up . Most of it seemingly useless. And a few droplets leak back out. Again, mostly useless.

But the more that gets soaked up the more chance one of those leaking droplets will be the gold nugget in the sand. The career starting script [or career continuing script, it's a hard game]

Here's how my weekend panned out. See what I did there?

Woke around Watched a re run of a God awful Jerry Springer type show because it fits something I'm developing. Fell asleep again. Woke about 7.a.m. Watched News 24 till Sponge Bob Square Pants came on. 9.30 to 10.30 thought about a recent idea because I need to nail both tone and format. 10.30 - 12.30 - Paramount comedy. 12.30 to 4pm took my son to lunch and shopping. I bounce ideas off him and disect various shows and films because he is a 14 year old fricking genius and we really enjoy that kind of thing. 4pm-6pm, sat and thought and made a few notes. 6 to 8pm Paramount Comedy. 8-9pm checked out a few of my favourite blogs. Rest of the evening TV. Match of the Day obviously.

Woke around 6.30.a.m. Watched News 24, Sponge Bob and Andrew Marr's programme. 10-12- Paramount Comedy. 12-4 pm. Lunch with my son followed by a long walk with him discussing TV and movies, the state of the world and whatever else came to mind. Including me embarrasing him by asking a passing stranger for the name of the TV hypnotist Paul something [McKenna, as it turns out] whom both of us had inexplicably forgotten his surname and it was driving us crazy. Thank you passing stranger whoever you were. 4.30 to -6.30 pm, bowling with friends. And now blogging.

Not exactly the kind of weekend to have you quiverring with excitement perhaps? But to me it was golden.

Because almost everything I did helped me with current projects. Though that was far from my intention when I did them.

Watching Paramount - Scrubs is fantastic for showing you how to hide the fact that the stories in each episode are almost entirely themed towards JD's monologue V.O at the end. Nothing is telegraphed so when JD ties it all up at the end you go 'Ahhh yes, of course' 2.5 men is great for making Charlie, who is a skirt chasing booze hound, a hugely empathetic and entertaining character. Both shows are spectacularly well written. You can't help but learn. And something I'm working on has to have that kind of vibe to it.

News 24, or any news is always a potential source of ideas. And keeps you grounded with what is going on in the world rather than just inside your head.

Sponge Bob Square Pants is just cool. Great storytelling on very different levels.

Spending time with my son is always the greatest pleasure because I love him dearly. But he is also as sharp as a tack in knowing what is 'lame' and doesn't hesitate to tell me. Even the long walk we took was useful because it was in quite possibly the 'whitest' part of London, and I'm working on something that involves subconcious racism.

And reading blogs? There are some extraordinarly smart pro writers and looking to break in writers out there. I'm computer illiterate so I don't have any of them listed on my blog, but I have at least 20 in my 'favourites'.

So when I let these influences soak in, am I copying? Cribbing? Stealing? Nope. I'm hoping that the water, hops and yeast that went in comes out as a beautiful glass of beer.

It's not plagiarism, it's trying to focus your experiences into something worthwhile.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Innocence Project

So the BBC are taking the unusual step of pulling this show mid season? Was it really that bad? I have to admit I haven't seen it, for reasons I'll go into later.

On the face of it, it would seem to tick all the boxes. Young people thumbing their noses at the establishment. Miscarriages of justice overturned. Exec produced by the mighty Paul Abbot and made by his prodco 'Tightrope' What's not to like?

Now as I've said, not having seen it I don't know if it was good or bad so I can't comment on quality as an issue. But this show struggled to find and audience from day one. As far as I'm aware the figures have hovered around 3 million from the pilot onwards. So it seems to be a case of if you can't attract a big enough audience from the outset, unless word of mouth prevails pretty damn quickly, you're not going to attract an audience down the line. It seems not enough viewers were attracted in the first place.

Why is that? Okay, here's why I didn't tune in. Some of the reasons might seem a bit subjective, but they are my genuine reasons.

A] The show is based on 'The Innocence Project' running in several US universities where law students attempt to save innocent people from Death Row. That's right. DEATH ROW. As far as drama is concerned we are talking huge jeopardy and ticking clocks. As far as the UK is concerned it's nice when an innocent man gets released. But it ain't exactly heartstopping drama.

B] I couldn't figure out how I was supposed to care about the guy in prison. I don't know him. So unless we have a lot of him in prison and lots of interviews with our heroes then it's unlikely I'd get to know much about about him. So does the show concentrate on the investigative side? Don't know, Did't watch it. Didn't care enough about the goal.

C] I didn't like any of the trailers. A bunch of smug overacting newbies trying to make everything sound so terribly important.

D] I pitched almost exactly the same idea about 5 years ago except it was a human rights lawer trying to free Brits under sentence of death in various countries around the world. I was told it would be too expensive. See what you get for being cheap?

Okay so the last reason was schadenfreude, but the other three are really why I think it didn't attract substantial enough viewers. Because contrary to what seems to be the belief of some execs, the audience are not dumb.

A lot of them may not consciously think of reasons. But they can see a trailer and almost instantly decide yes or no. Probably because subconciously they've gone through similar thought processes [ though probably not the same reasons] as I did. They just don't have to think about the reasons. Why should they? That's our job.

Let's hope someone at the BBC is going through similar thought processes rather than pulling The Innocence Project only to replace it with more of the same.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Angry Indignation Dollar

Apropos of my last blog I've just come across this great post in Jim Henshaw's

Listen to the Bill Hick's rant. It's a hoot. Then read the post. Cutting and incisive.

And it kind of ties in with my 'Least Attentive Viewer' post. Because to marketing men [because they know no better] making a programme accessable to the least attentive viewer means a bigger audience so bigger bucks.

From the quality of programming at the networks, especially ITV of late I suspect the bigwigs are more about marketing than programming. Not realising that you can't polish a turd.

Perhaps Michael Grade will make a difference. He's a TV man through and through. I don't think, like the previous head of ITV, he'll be bleating about a loss in advertising revenue [which is linked to ratings by a formula]. Ratings are going down because you are making crap, dummy! Where's your next job mate? Manager of Charlton Athletic? Captain of the Titanic?

I'm sure Michael Grade will do a hell of a better job but if he is going to turn ITV around he needs to give a clear signal to network centre, prodcos and writers what kind of programming he is actually looking for.

I posted before about what they recently said they were looking for. Ground breaking talked about drama. Apart from the obvious 'isn't everyone', does anyone know what the hell that is? I mean really? Big budget? Low budget? Genres? Target audience? I could write about a man with a talking testicle. Or that thing with Martin Clunes about a testicle with a talking man. Same difference. But at least my talking testicle might get a laugh in between the mournful dirges, pointless stories, boring premises, and overwrought melodrama that the networks seem to be filling our screens with. And make no mistake. It is their fault. They give the signals to the prodcos and the prodcos respond and commission accordingly.

People having difficulties conceiving children? So what? A gang of postmen at a sorting office have a few problems? So what? A female bus driver has love life difficulties? So what? And on and on and on.

They talk about getting the 16-35 age group back to TV. Here's a few clues for you network bods and marketing men -

Keep soap in soap operas. If that age group wants to see soap they'll make an appointment at that time. Outside of that appointment they are not interested.

If you want that age group to commit to something, then give them something they want to commit to. Don't just throw shit at the wall and hope some of it sticks.

Make them want to watch with high concept ideas well trailed [high concept is not a dirty word by the way] and then deliver on the promise.

It ain't rocket science.

TV For The Least Attentive

I was watching an episode of Frazier recently, a programme I hugely enjoy. And one line at the end almost spoiled the whole programme for me.

The show was the one where Lillith's con-man brother [I forget his name so I'll call him Bob] arrives in Seattle in a wheelchair claiming he has been paralysed in an accident, has found God and is now a preacher.

Frazier spends most of the show as the only guy not taken in by him. Then after receiving a call from Bob's doctor[whom he has been trying to contact to disprove Bob's story] he has to come to the conclusion that Bob is telling the truth. Riddled with guilt he whips Bob's congregation into a giving frenzy and promises to match their donations.

In the final scene in Frazier's apartment Bob says his goodbyes and wheels himself out the door. Seconds later Frazier opens the door to see....the vacated wheelchair. He'd been conned.

Funny stuff. Almost ruined by one line. Just before he leaves, Bob says to Frazier ''And thanks for making your donation in cash, it's much easier to give to the poor'' or something similar.

And that spoiled it. Up 'til then the viewer had suspicions that it was a con. On that line the suspicion was confirmed. Before the climax. Bad, Bad, Bad.

Bear in mind the previous scene was all about the donations and Frazier coughing up. So

A ] Was there really any point in reminding the viewer of this a scene later?

B] Was there any need to structure the line so that it virtually gave the game away?

To me the answer is ''only if you believe the viewer has the intelligence and memory of a goldfish''

And that happens a lot on UK TV too. Audiences are spoon fed motivations and emotions and plot reminders. I suspect mostly at the behest of execs and editors more than writers. And to me that is both patronising and shows a lack of understanding of what will play rather than what is written.

A few years ago when on a show I objected to some exposition/explanation that my notes asked me to put in. I didn't think it was necessary or desirable. It went as far as the exec producer. Here's what he told me '' People are only watching the show with one eye while they are doing the ironing or putting the kids to bed, it helps to have reminders for them''
I didn't agree with it then and I still don't. Listen mate, if your show isn't engaging enough to hold someone's attention then you ain't making a very good show. In fact constantly repeating and spelling out plot points and motivations is more likely to turn more people into grazers rather than viewers.

Making TV geared mostly for the least attentive is like making pop records geared mostly towards 12 year old girls. Damaging for the industry in the long term.

And by the way, in that same episode of Frazier, he got Bob's doctor's number from directory enquiries and tried several times to phone him without success but left messages. Then he gets a call from the doctor confirming Bob's condition. Fair enough. So.....the call didn't come from the doctor but one of Bob's fellow con artists? The doctor was in on the con?

You know what? I don't care. It's not important. It played! Thank God they didn't feel the need to explain it to us. Though I suspect it probably was until some one with sense cut it out.

Friday, December 01, 2006

A Change Is As Good As A Rest

I'm been particularly fecund, ideas wise over the last few days. I mean ideas that have real promise not the six a week brain-farts or ones that might slip a sleeping producer by if you cross your fingers and write the crap out of a spec.

I mean honest to goodness cracking ideas.

I put it down to the fact that I've had some weird lurgie over the last three days. Aches and pains just about everywhere at different times. A constant headache, [which I never get] dizziness and a feeling that I'm walking with someone elses legs. It's like being drunk and hungover at the same time. Disconcerting as I haven't had a drink in a week. Maybe that's the problem?

Anyway, the result is that for the last three days I've been pretty much lying down and watching TV or going for long walks, both of which seem to alleviate the headache and pains. [the lying down more than the watching TV] What seems to make them worse is sitting at my computer. Which is what I tend to do for at least 8 hours a day. Mostly not writing.

So the conclusion I've come to is that by not putting pressure on myself to write my mind is free to wander where it will. I try to do that anyway as a rule, but usually while sitting at my computer.

Now, if I were even more paranoid I could begin to think the bastard laptop is posessed and is somehow draining energy and ideas from me for some satanic purpose. But I think I'll go with the 'putting myself under pressure' theory. For now.

The good news is that I'm not really a 'doctor' guy. I might make an appointment if my arm was hanging off or I suddenly went blind. Other than that I tend to believe my body will eventually take care of itself. So hopefully a few more days of feeling like crap but coming up with more good ideas. Woo Hoooooooooo!

Ow. Feeling pain again. Must go. Bloody computer.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Luck Please

I've got a meeting tomorrow with a major reponsible for some of the worst crap on TV. In my head right now I've a lot of things I want to say to them.

But I'm a pretty quiet guy by and large. I say what I say and don't get antagonistic as a rule. But you know what? I'm fed up of the crap. So if any of you guys could send me a simple 'Fuck em' for me to wake up to tomorrow before I go it would be much appreciated.

Just a little something to bolster the spirit before I beard the lion in it's den.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Write what you know

So maybe the Kipling quote in the previous post gave away the fact that I'm spending the day navel gazing.

But that's what I have to do to come up with an idea I actually want to write. And I did. It comes from the 'If you get handed lemons, make lemonade' school of writing. See the subconcious connection with Kipling's 'IF'? I didn't realise it myself when I wrote the previous post. But in truth I've sucked on a few lemons recently.

And we all get handed lemons, all the time. In life and in work. But I've been able to take one of those lemons and hopefully turn it into melons. Jeez, get one of those inspirational speakers on the line, I can sell that one!

The point being the lemon I was handed was pretty insignificant in the great scheme of things. Pretty damned dull as far as anyone else is concerned. But if you get out of the insular 'me' and transpose that lemon and the motives and consequences to the wider world you create a 'Universal Question'. You are writing what you know. Be it in Space, The Roman Empire , or a SpongeBob Square Pants cartoon.

Pit Stop

I've just delivered what should be the last draft of something and now have that yawning chasm and no safety net known as 'no paid work' stretching before me. Maybe I'll pick something up before Christmas. Maybe I won't. The Law According to Sod tends to point to the latter. Things generally slow down from now to Christmas as dev execs wangle Christmas lunches from Agents.

But who knows? And after a good number of years of this I should be used to it. It really does tend to be feast or famine unless you're a core writer on a long runner. And that's something I don't really want to do. To be honest, it would bore the crap out of me. I did three eps on the trot for an hour long recurring drama and that was quite enough. Imagine having years of that ahead of you. I like change and I like a challenge. It might not make me rich but hopefully my soul will remain intact.

This year has possibly been my worst financially since I started writing professionally. And I still managed to pay the bills. For me, that's good enough. In fact I'd go further and say if it's only about the money then you are not doing it right.

Because writers are crazy. Sure, they can hide behind logical sounding sentences and structured scenes and stories. And that can definitely give the appearance of some form of sanity. But don't let that fool you. That quiet looking guy in the corner with his laptop is feverishly dreaming and scheming and plotting and fighting with 10 characters in his head. Slaving to the exclusion of all else over something that may never see the light of day and that quite possibly he'll never see a cent for. During those hours he is that story. Outside those hours he's still pretty much that story. It leeches into him.

He'll know that rejection and compromise await whichever way it goes. But he keeps going. Because he's crazy. And because to paraphrase Kipling-

''If you can bear to hear the truth you've spokenTwisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch,If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;If all men count with you, but none too much,If you can fill the unforgiving minuteWith sixty seconds' worth of distance run,Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,And--which is more--you'll be a writer , my son!''

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Sky's The Limit

So Rupert Murdoch has bought a share of NTL, apparently to scupper their proposed take over of ITV.

Do I care? I think I do. But not much. Okay I'm not sure how one cable/satellite provider is allowed to take what is in effect a controlling interest in another. That can't be good for competition.

Secondly, if the motives were to scupper the takeover then those motives seem fairly suspect. It's no secret that ITV are on their uppers. Ratings and advertising are down and new legislation preventing junk food advertising is going to cost them another 40 mill a year. So are they trying to wreck ITV? That has to be a bad thing.

But at the same time I can't help thinking that the money men are running around doing their deals and forgetting ITV wouldn't be in the position it is in if it made better programmes. Now while that does have a lot to do with money, it has far more to do with talent. And I don't mean writing talent.

Someone commissioned the series of stinkers that made ITV a viewing no go area apart from Reality and Soaps. And believe me I mean someONE. Because that is the way ITV is set up. ALL network commissions have to go through Network Centre. Be it Granada, Thames/Talkback or the smallest indy. They can't move without the head of Network Centre approving.

Okay the BBC have Jane Tranter, but they also have commissioning through other routes like the regions and Indy commissions. All handled seperately.

A network having ONE person dictate what gets shown is not a good idea in my opinion. It's not about money, it's about talent. Would you risk a Billion pound enterprise on the talent of one person? That's how ITV operate.

Entertainment was, is and always will be about talent. Yes, people can make a great deal of money out of the fact that others have talent. Hell, making money is a talent in itself. But making money out of entertainment means having the right talent in the right place at the right time. Right now that means the ones who can spot 'Cool TV'.

The Holy Grail for TV execs is to bring back the 16-35 age group. The ones who are tuning off in droves. And the advertisers' wet dream.

You know what I want to see? Good stories, likeable characters and people saying clever things.

That might be deemed shallow, but clever is hard. And that's the difference.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Good Idea or Pants

Tony Jordan has just had two connected projects commissioned by ITV. One is 'Moving Wallpaper' a comedy drama about behind the scenes on a soap. The other is Echo Beach.- The soap itself.

Now when I first read that I thought 'Cool Idea!' And having thought about it I still think 'Cool Idea'

But will it work? That is the question.

See, as I understand it one show will go out on ITV1 and the other immediately after on ITV2. So what you are going to have in effect are two entirely different audiences. One for the comedy show the other for the soap. Granted some of the comedy viewers may tune over to see the soap and how it came together after the behind the scenes shenanigans, but that will mainly be to snigger.

The soap viewers may probably not watch the comedy of the behind the scenes as this could spoil their enjoyment of the soap. Especially if they know some of the comedy viewers are watching along and sniggering. Soap is all about believability.

I suppose it depends on the tone of each of the shows. But with a title like Moving Wallpaper, I don't expect the comedy to be all that complimentary to soaps.

So when I think Cool Idea do I really mean 'Interesting Idea' - because if I really thought it was a Cool Idea I don't think I'd have so many doubts about whether it can actually work.

It's about the imponderable X factor again. They may have it. They may not. But imagine if Eastenders had a comedy called ' Walford Wankers' showing immediately before it based on the goings on behind the scenes of Eastenders. I don't think that would help Eastenders ratings. Not unless they changed the tone of Eastenders.

[I'm available for both, either, Barmitzvahs, Christenings and Funerals Tony]
And let's take a look at the writers' situation. Out of the two, which would you rather watch, the comedy drama or the soap? Let's say 99% would say the comedy drama. Because probably 99% of us would prefer to write it.

So most of the writers on Echo Beach are going to think they won second prize. Unless they are the same writers of course, which I would doubt. Soap is one beast and comedy drama is another, and not many do both well. It's going to take the managerial powers of Zeus to prevent a full scale blood bath in story conference.

I hope this works. I can't help feeling it could be a disaster waiting to happen.

The Five Million Barrier

It seems to me that most UK Dramas fail to break past the 5 million band of ratings. The State Within is now posting just over 3 million, Robin Hood, Spooks and Vincent are all now around 5 and a half. The Beebs latest, The Innocence Project didn't even make it past 3 million.

Is there any rhyme or reason to this when Heartbeat regulary gets 8 million plus? I'm not knocking Heartbeat. Clearly it is a show that must have a wide appeal. Possibly it is ideal digestive biscuit and a cup of tea Sunday night viewing. It hits it's mark.

Doctor Who regulary averaged 7 million plus. Again ideal sit down with family early Saturday evening viewing. It hit it's mark. It also had a huge built in fan base of several generations which wouldn't do it any harm.

Robin Hood started off strongly but has shed a couple of million viewers. Everyone will have an opinion on why that is. And everyone will be right. I think it's a decent enough show, but the barometer for me is 'are my son's mates talking about it at school'. And the answer is no. Maybe it's just not cool enough despite the Robin Hoodie advertising. And maybe to hit the mark in the early Saturday evening slot a show has to be cool.

Or maybe there's just too much soap creeping in to drama. The Bill [slumped to less than 5 million recently] is really a soap with police stories, Casualty and Holby the same but medical stories. They have a loyal but static audience and in my opinion are well past their sell by dates. Shouting, tears and melodrama do not themselves good drama make.

I recently wrote a spec slick action thriller. It got a good response apart from two of the biggest players who gave feedback to the effect that they really enjoyed the script but felt there should have been more character development. So - either they didn't really enjoy the script or they thought I should chuck more character development in there for the hell of it?

It is what it is. That's the way I deliberately wrote it and that's the way it's staying. I've got a meeting with one of those players this week. And if the subject is brought up again that's exactly what I'm going to say.

I don't want to do 'mid-life crisis with testicular cancer' or 'woman realising her marriage is a sham' stretched out to six hours . There is a place for those kinds of dramas, of course, but I don't watch them. I want to do 'appointment TV'. Bold, in your face, escapism. And I'm pretty sure a lot of the viewing public feel the same way. That's the mark we have to hit if we're to break the 5 million barrier.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Box Set

It's occured to me recently that I rarely make a point of sitting down and watching a programme when it's scheduled. My favourite programmes that is. I simply can't be bothered waiting a week to see the next episode. I might have died by then. Or gone to the pub or...who knows what.

I think my viewing habits have actually been changed by DVD's. I'd think twice about filling my shelf space up with a dozen videos of a series. But a dinky little DVD? No problem.

And then I can fest out at my leisure. I can binge on Firefly, or House, or Entourage. A banquet instead of a snack.

There are exceptions of course. I like to sit down with my son 0n a Thurday night and watch 'Quite Funny Thursday' on E4. Though it has to be said George Sewel's VO trailers for forthcoming shows can sometimes be the funniest part. Frickin' hilarious.

I don't like messing around recording programmes. I want them there when I want them. Bang! And as a reclusive writer I don't have to be up with the latest shows for water cooler talk.

Take Entourage season 2, currently showing on ITV. I missed a couple of episodes. Saw it was on last night [11.30, get a grip ITV!] I might have made an effort to watch it but what the hell, the DVD is out in February anyway. I can look forward to a rainy day with a box of Pringles and 8 eps of induldgement. And no frigging Ad breaks.

Possibly bad news for ITV who rely on ratings for revenue. But the BBC are lapping up the box set revolution. They turned over 111 million quid last year in DVD sales alone. The Blue Planet? Cost 8 mill to make. They reckon they'll have DVD and TV sell through deals worth 40 million on it. Little Britain and The Office each sold more than a million DVD's. Bearing in mind writers get a minimum of 5.4% of the gross on DVD sales and you can see why Messrs Walliams and Gervais have permenant grins. And good luck to them. DVD's don't sell unless people want to buy 'em.

The biggest world wide earning shows for the BEEB are Hustle, Spooks and Doctor Who. They helped BBC World Wide to an 80 million net profit. That's the best part of a fiver off the licence fee.

Heck if they made even more decent programmes maybe we'd end up getting it for free? I kid, but quality makes money.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Turning Crap into Fertilizer

That's been a little problem I've had to think about over the last few days. I've been writing a mid-block episode for a series. The arc of a block in this show tends to go - aftermath of previous block - new stories - thickening - climax. So what tends to happen is the real slam bam story eps tend to be at the beginning and end.

The middle ones aren't what you could call dull, but they tend to be there to jog the stories along , but as is the nature of things you do tend to get the odd greenie. You get the first draft down and realise that the way the story is structured and told just ain't really cutting it. Possibly because you don't have enough story despite scraping a 30 scene sxs together.

This is where you really earn your corn. On a tight TV deadline there's not a whole hell of a lot you can do about story when it's already been planned out X Eps ahead and others are busy writing those Eps. So what I do is have a look at the effect of story. Is there another character I can bring in who has an interesting/dramatic take on that storyline that is flagging? Another viewpoint? A source of antagonism?

Usually if you think about it hard enough there is. And with a bit of luck they don't impact on the future course of the story very much. Writers down the line will erect a statue to you.

Now some unkind people might call that 'padding' but I think it's the opposite. You can get rid of entire scenes that were lying there like rotten corpses by the judicious use of additional characters with something to say in the matter in other scenes. If anything it tightens up the script as well as giving another edge to the story.

This is where a good script editor is also invaluable. Or failing that at least one that agrees with you. If you call and say this isn't working because of X but I want to do Y to fix it, you want to hear 'Go for it'.

If your instinct tells you something stinks it is generally because it does. But crap can become fertilizer.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The End of Civilization

Sad news amigos. I've just been on the phone to my agents. It was ostensibly to set up a meeting with an exec producer at a network. But what came out in the conversation depressed the hell out of me.

They had another writer meet the same exec producer a couple of weeks ago. The writer pitched his pitch which included references to such seminal classics as The Avengers and Budgie.

And the exec producer said she'd never heard of them.

My fucking God.

Budgie well maybe that's an age thing. But The Avengers? You are making programmes now and you have never heard of The Avengers? Even the abysmal Sean Connery movie?

No wonder TV is so crap when you have a generation of idiots in control raised on Casualty, Holby and The Bill and think that is great drama.

Is that too harsh?

I don't think so. John Yorke is head of drama at the BBC. Dammit, I didn't mean to mention the BBC. He's a soap man, out and out. Passionate about it. And that's a good thing. Passion is always good. He's so passionate he's set up a writer's academy. The only problem is the writers in the academy are being solely trained to write Holby, East Enders, Casualty and Doctors.

Hell, I make a living writing these kind of shows but do I consider them to be memorable, ground-breaking drama? Do I buggery.

How about a writer's academy that teaches writers about writing? Not perpetuating the moving wallpaper that passes for drama and caters to an ever shrinking audience.

Oh The Pain

So I'm in the middle of story lining six eps of my new spec project. And it hurts. It hurts because I want it to be really good. I want every scene in every episode to resonate thematically. Not that I'm doing much more than a page per Ep, but the story possibilities on each page have to have some linkage with the theme and still be a story with rising dramatic conflict and a slam bang ending.

Pretty damn hard. But that's what we get paid for.

Only it isn't, though it should be.

You see, should this spec project be optioned, I'll make a nut and a bun out of it. A few grand, tops. It's only if the series gets commissioned that I'll see any real money.

But all the really gut-churning, mind- exploding work has already been done in the Bible and story lines. The part you get the least amount of money for. Writing actual scripts is a doddle compared to this.

The major reason for this is pretty obviously that no one is going to shell out big bucks on an iffy spec project that may never see the light of day. An excellent reason and exactly the same one why prodco's option your spec feature.

But as we all know, that's cold comfort when you're slogging away in the trenches pouring heart and soul into something that is likely to be dismissed with a 'Not for us at this time'

And you know what? I wouldn't have it any other way.

This is the one time when you do it for you. No producer, director, studio exec or script editor throwing in their two cents. You and a blank sheet of paper. I think you only write in your true 'voice' when you have a 'fuck you' attitude. I don't necessarily mean write angry, I mean when you write and you don't care what anyone else thinks about it. Because much as you might try to think otherwise, as soon as you start getting notes, you can't shake the impression you are working for someone else and have to try to give them what they want.

I'm not saying that's bad. Scripts and projects often [even usually?] end up 10 times better thanks to intelligent input. However, input is much easier than creating. Those times when you as a writer have no agenda, no one to please, just passion, imagination and the solitude of your computer?

Heaven. And Hell. But mostly Heaven.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

When will I be famous?

This has probably been blogged all over the place. But for everyone who bitches about how writers don't get the rewards they deserve.......

Including me.....


The viewers seem to be unanimous in saying this newest reality offering from C4 is crap.

I'm not a big fan of reality shows at the best of times but this seems to be the most ill conceived effort since that one about sleep deprivation - which was little better than a snuff movie.

Unanimous - 9 people in a bunker arguing about who should be given a million quid and the decision has to be unanimous?

Firstly I don't give a stuff which one of them gets it. Except to think why the hell should they? For doing what exactly? Not one of them seemed the least bit deserving to be handed a million quid on a plate.

Secondly, in the few minutes I was able to suffer it, it appeared to me there was absolutely no audience participation whatsoever. The contestants argue amongst themselves with no outside interaction. No audience voting for their favourites, influencing the outcome based on what they see?

What? And C4 scratch their heads and wonder why the ratings are disappearing faster than the contestants' self-respect?

I say give them each a baseball bat and let them fight it out. It's by far the next logical step in these depressing shows.

No Mr Bond, I expect you to die.

So the early reviews for Bond 21, Casino Royale are coming in and YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY.

Praises are being heaped. I love Bond so I am incredibly relieved. It's always dangerous when a franchise is being 'reinvigorated' as was here. The gadgets and buxom beauties kept to a minimum in favour of character delineation and a more gritty realism. Not to mention a new Bond and a stripping back to the character actually envisaged by Fleming.

Apparently our boy Dan gives a fantastic performance and the script [perenials Wade and Purvis with the addition of Paul Haggis] is top drawer.

The kind of down and dirty Bond portrayed in The Living Daylights seemed to split audiences and critics. But this one seems to have got everything just right.

Deep joy. All is right with the world.

Now if I could just get these frickin' story lines done......

Quick note on ITV. I'm guessing a few writers out there have been to meetings with Indie prodco's recently and the subject of 'Does anyone know what ITV are looking for? came up.

I know it has for me on several occassions. Well now at least I know what they are not looking for. My agents were at a seminar last week with ITV drama [ you'd think they'd do the same with producers but there you g0] And they are not looking for.........

Police or legal - unless it's another 'Cracker'
FemJeps - females in jepordy apparently.
Psychological Thrillers - stalkers

And they are looking for ''Bold, talked about contemporary drama with something to say about the world we live in''

Aren't we all?

Oh and classic adaptations.

So now you know.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Why Does It Work

.....Is a question I always ask myself when I see a good movie or TV show. Usually I decide it's a combination of things, writing, acting, pacing, story. You name it.

But the one thing that nearly always crops up for me in something I like is 'a Universal Question'

Some part of the 'motor' of the story held my interest and enjoyment because I connected to it on a personal level.

I don't mean I have personally lived or experienced that story. I mean it kicks off something in my psyche. An emotional reaction to what is being portrayed on an almost but not quite sub-conscious level.

It might be The Matrix. - What would I do if my world was turned upside down and I went from being anonymous geek to being told I was the saviour of the world? Is that how Jesus felt? Is that why the Bible became so popular? Was Jesus one of the first archetypal heroes? Okay I digress, but what I'm saying is that if the story doesn't have a resonance on a 'what what I do if' level then I don't generally find it engaging. And I think that's why most people liked that movie. Yeah there were great FX and it was a cool story but without Neo's 'what if' would I have liked it so much? I don't think I would. I certainly didn't like 2 and 3. But there were other reasons for that too.

I think in good writing the 'what would I do if' part is done thematically rather than a specific part of the plot, especially in movies. I say especially because I think that due to time constraints it has to be a bit more on the nose in TV. The 'what would you do if' tends to be the premise!

But the magic trick as far as I'm concerned is the skill required in story and character to get the audience to that pot of gold 'what would I do if..' level. Because without that you are talking about a very short attention span. At least for me.

The best sit-coms do it well. They don't just take a 'funny' situation and run with it. They create dilemmas that get the audience involved. The worst sit-coms take something which they think is funny and concentrate on feeding the characters 'funny' lines rather than funny lines feeding off dilemmas.

You may say that shows like 'Everybody Loves Raymond' are middle of the road pap. I like it. Because it's got heart. ANYONE who has been married can look at a lot of those episodes and go ' Yeah right on!' They zone straight in on a lot of stuff that goes on between married couples.

The Universal Question' in that show is generally 'How the hell do I squirm out of this' Something dear to every married man's heart.

I kid. The real Universal Question in that show, to me, is ' I screwed up again, how do I fix it'

Friday, November 03, 2006

No Deeds To Do

No promises to keep
I'm dappled and drowsy and ready for sleep.

Yep today is one of those days when the scripts have been delivered, the deadlines met and I can kick off and relax.

Yes I know, I should be getting on with something else. And I did promise my agents six story lines for the new project. And by mid-afternoon I'll probably be bored shitless and get on with that anyway.

But I've a nice rosy glow right now. Not caused by alcohol. I think the script I delivered was pretty good. I could well be proven wrong of course. It's subjective, after all, but after a while you get a sense of what is actually pretty good and what was phoned in.

But the main thing is that right now there is nothing that I HAVE to write. So anything I do write will come straight from the gut. It's from me, for me.

I don't want to give the impression that I dislike writing episodic TV. I love ice cream but I prefer Phish Food to Walls vanilla. I'm also a terminal procrastenator and as such have a semi-permenant feeling of guilt about deadlines. Today I am deadline free. It's like that feeling you get when you finally put that shelf up that you've been promising for weeks.

But the subconcious never really stops. As I typed this I thought of a great line I can use in something and had to break off to write it down. I've always contended that being a writer is a state of mind rather than a profession. Whether you are writing or not you are always a writer.

I recall a story about James Thurber. He and his wife were giving a dinner party. His wife noticed him staring off into space. She slammed the table and shouted 'Stop writing, Thurber!'

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Kentucky Fried Brain

So I knocked out 11 scenes and a third draft polish today, on a hang over. That's it. I'm officially down to my last neuron. Spent. Bedraggled and bewildered. What better time to blog!

How about a tale from the trenches? I was talking to a writer friend the other day. This guy's no mug. He's a Bafta winner. I mentioned a current show and asked him what he thought about it. He thought for a second and then said that whatever he said about it might be tinged with a shade of bias. He potentially had issues with the creator of that show.

Pray tell.

This Bafta winning writer had been hired on another of that creator's shows. Not the one we were discussing. He sent in his first draft, I repeat FIRST DRAFT of his first episode, to the producer and the producer promptly fired him!

The creator of the show phoned him up. He couldn't understand it. Who fires anyone on first draft?

My writer friend accepted the condolances but it was still at the back of his mind, hey he's the creator of the show, surely he must have had some input to that decision.

A couple of days later I'm chatting to my agent and mention this. My agent tells me that the show's creator [the one my friend was fired from] has walked away from it and wants nothing more to do with it.

Apparently he found out the producers were re-writing his scripts.

AhhhTV land, gotta love it.

So there you go. The power of the writer? Creator pretty much counts for spit. Writer/producer is the only way to have any power. I guess that's why the Abbots and the Jordans have gone down that route.

Hell if actors can do it why not writers?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Like looking in a Mirror

Here's a hilarious post A Writer's Life

The terrible thing is it is both hilarious and frighteningly accurate. At least for me. And be honest, most of you too.

If I got paid on the same scale for creatively avoiding writing as creatively writing I'd be rich beyond the dreams of avarice.

I've got around 30 scenes to write for a deadline next Friday. So far, I've written......nothing.

Thursday, my son was on half term. We went to the movies. At night, had a fight with soon to be ex-wife, got drunk and made angry and ill judged internet postings.

Friday, spent a long time deciding whether to go to a wrap party. I had a late meeting which made getting a flight difficult. But as it's the show the deadline is for I figured if none of them are working why the hell should I? And I had to prepare for my meeting, didn't I?

Saturday, Sponge Bob Square Pants, Football Focus and deciding what to do with an unexpected residuals cheque put paid to the morning. A long and delicious Chinese Lunch at Confuscious in Wimbledon with my son covered most of the afternoon.

And now....I'm blogging. I know what I could be doing. I know what I should be doing. But I ain't gonna. Nope.

My next blog may be on Wednesday when I am berating myself for once again leaving things to the last minute.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Soak Time Update

Having had to read a ton of stuff for a commission meeting. Attended said commission meeting and now thinking about first draft of new commission the subconcious has popped up a new title on the 'Left Behind' project [ My thanks to Dave Bishop for bringing that to my attention] a huge new ongoing story line and a massive obstacle related to the premise.

I suppose what I'm saying is that in order to be become a pro writer you have to block off time when you don't give a shit.

No agenda. No thinking you have to please someone else. Some innate trait in your personality pops up what is going to work. Trust it.

If you have talent, that will get you in . But remember that if you are hired on a long running show you have to conform to the wishes of the least intelligent or talented in the chain of command. Unless you have the nuts to bypass them.

I tried that. I had a script editor on a show I nicknamed 'Mr. Goodluck' He had been a lawyer and I presume was sacked. He fetched up at an iconic British TV drama. Possibly because his father was a famous film director. [True] I got him on his first episode. I called him Mr. Goodluck because every time he phoned me to give me notes he got from the team he said ' I don't know what they mean or how you're going to do this but good luck'

Unfortunately the show was in a state of flux re Exec producers and all points down. When I bypassed the non-sensical script editor to go directly to the new producer I got canned.

Would I do it again?


A writer has to have some fun in life.

Pilot Light

I've just received some feed back from a head of drama. And it is what feed back should be in a perfect world [for writers]

The first line tells me he enjoyed it but he ain't gonna do it.

The second paragraph explains why, mainly to do with the fact they currently produce two shows in that genre and have no real appetite for another.

The rest of the feedback tells me IF they were going to do it, these are the changes they think it needs. Detailed, logical, creative changes.
Ah if only 'twere always so.

Anyway the main point is that I seem to have made a basic writing mistake. I had a cardboard antagonist who was there to set up danger rather than having a fully fledged character.

Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

But I know why it happened. I was too busy making 'please like me' protagonists. Nearly every major story moment and character piece went to the protagonists. Now, that's not necessarily a bad thing, because ultimately it is the protag the audience tunes in to see on a weekly basis. But if as a result you fail to develop your antagonist then.......

Who am I kidding. Did I not post a few blogs ago that my belief is antagonist + goal = Story?

Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

It didn't help that the pilot has two different antags. An episode antag and a series antag - the arch nemesis if you will. Spending too much time on the protags left both antags light.

Having said all the above, if I fix those problems will that increase the chances of a sale?

Probably not. Those are script points. The type of notes you get on a draft after it has been sold. Execs buy projects more on the concept and protags. Script points can be fixed, a bad concept will always remain just that.

I'm not saying you can write any old bollocks if you have a good concept. Giving the impression that you have the ability to pull it off is equally important. That means the writing has to be of a high standard. You are asking people to put a lot of faith in you, so though no one expects a spec script to be perfect in all aspects of story, character and tone, it still better be pretty damn good.

So I've sent back a nice e-mail, thanking him for his time, trouble and valuable comments. Because taking time and trouble is far from the norm. When it happens, the least I can do is show my appreciation.

It's already with 10 or so other producers anyway. If they all come back saying the same thing then I've learned it needed another pass before it went out and been reminded of a valuable lesson. But is that what has stopped them from buying it? In this case no. It is wrong concept wrong time. Dead in the water from day1.

If it was right concept, right time despite some story issues? It would be a quick -'would you be willing to change that motive and change this character to this?' type meeting. Hopefully followed by a cheque.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A forced chill pill

Shiny new project is still gnawing at me to get my finger out and start writing. But luckily I can't. I've a ton of stuff to read for a new commission tomorrow, and that and a 3 rd draft of of a previous commission which is due should keep me out of mischief for a while.

I say luckily because I've learned through experience that my work improves if I've had some 'soak time' That's time away from the project not specifically thinking about it but relying on my subconcious to bubble away and pop out ideas at random moments. Character improvements, story moments, background colour, nothing very substantial but maybe together giving that extra 5% that can mean the difference between yes and no.

It's not a luxury you get very often when writing to a deadline but that's not really a problem. I don't think I'm giving away too many secrets when I say that on serial drama good writing is good enough.

But I think to get something of your own away it takes better than good. Someone apart from you has to LOVE it. And if the right person loves it, it's fortune and glory time my friends!

I read that SHAMELESS is having a dedicated set built with a view to producing 16 eps a year. Let's pretend that Paul Abbot is a struggling scribe and Shameless was his first series. Lets assume that the average writing fee is 18k, that'll be at least 36k with a repeat buyout. Paul Abbot would not have to write ONE episode of that series, not one, but thanks to the format fee, as creator he'll earn around 60k. That doesn't even touch on foreign sales and DVD. Without writing a single script in that particular series. Because he got the first series away.

Really makes you want to sit down and write don't it?

So long as you keep money as a motivator and not the entire motive. Because you can't fake sincerity as a writer. People who 'know', know when they read it. And it's usually people who 'know' who get projects made.

In all truthfulness the only times I ever think of the money is when I get a particularly rancid storyline I've got to do something with. Then the only way I can get started is to repeat 'Think of the money' several times.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The New One

Okay I've decided to not post about Project X unless something significant happens with it, which it probably won't for reasons aformentioned in previous blogs.

So let's move on to bright, shining new project titled 'Left Behind'. Okay its not the title I originally thought of, that had to change because the original protag has gone and the antag has become the protag's a long story. But I do know that the title 'Left Behind' leaves the door open for TV critics to make snide comments like 'What a cheek' and 'He made an arse of that' But what the hell. I should be so lucky that it ever makes the screen.

It's a working title. It helps me focus on what it is about. So screw 'em. I've just sent a mini-bible to my agents [my mini bible = premise, concept and main characters but no storylines] and I'll see what reaction I get from them in a week or so.

I SOOOOOOOOOOO want to write this. But I'm a bit leery about launching into a spec script because it's fairly big budget and I want to find out if anyone has the chops for it first.

Friday, October 20, 2006

I Premised you a Miracle

So I woke up this morning with a fan-fucking- brilliant premise for a Sci/Fi extravaganza. Just one of those things that sometimes pop into your head overnight and actually stays with you when you wake up. Probably happened due to the fact that I watched the entire series back to back of Joss Wheedon's totally and utterly brilliant 'Firefly' a few days ago.

Anyway, I wake up salivating. Really. Even had a stonking good title. I couldn't wait to turn on Johnny Computer and get it down. Which I did.

Man, that's a great premise. I say to myself. Oh yeah, lead characters coming at me like drunken Kamakazes. Fricking things going to write itself! Then the trouble started.

I realised I only had one real story. Okay, maybe it's a movie then? not really. The premise is high concept but the story.....isn't. It's a hybrid. It kinda falls half way between movie and TV. And I don't have an ending. Kinda puts the kybosh on a movie.

Then I realised why I had only one real story. Because I had only one real antagonist. The best known and best Sci/Fi series like Star Trek [in all it's forms] and the aforementioned Firefly etc. have one major thing in common [apart from the whole space thing] There may be one major series length antagonist, be they Klingons or The Alliance. But they also had every opportunity for a new antagonist in every episode. It's how the premise was set up. Star Trek boldly going etc and Firefly boldly stealing etc...And Antagonist + Goal = story.

Protags are a dime a dozen. I always think that Antagonist and Goal is where you really make your story bones.

And that's why I've hit a hurdle. I've got a premise, or to be honest - set up. Got a rough idea of protag[s]. But I need to do some very serious thinking on antags and goals or this sucker is belly up.

So what I'm going to do is.....nothing. Well not nothing. There's a box set of Family Guy invitingly near at hand.

Because I've already spent a couple of hours noodling this thing and so far nada. My aged brain is telling me enough is enough. Let that rowdy subconscious nutcase take some of the load. The little shit caused all this in the first place.

But mainly because I need time. Time to realise this project is what it is and will eventually reveal itself to me.. Right now I'm trying to straightjacket it into what I want it to be. Damn you Joss Wheedon!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Two And A Half Wars

As anyone reading this blog can quickly see, I don't do comedy. But this doesn't stop me from discussing it. Oh no. Especially with my genius son. [who luckily for him actually wants to write comedy or else I might have to cull him from the herd before he becomes competition]

Anyhoo, we were discussing the differences between Two and a Half Men [one of our favourite sitcoms] and The War At Home [one of our meh...s'okay sitcoms]

So mini-me comes up with - It's because I like the characters better in Two and a Half Men. Charlie and Alan are flawed but they know they are, it's played for laughs and we like them for it. The Dad in War at Home is a total knob but doesn't know he is. And they don't play that for laughs. So he's just a knob who says some funny things.

Little bastard. He nailed it.

It's like in drama where you can have a protag [and even an antag] who does some very bad things, but if you understand why and how he comes to do them then you can empathise if not sympathise.

Look at Sin City. People doing very, very bad things. But you still knew and rooted for the 'good guys' no matter what they did. Saw the guy's legs off and leave him to be eaten by dogs? Yeah, why not. And it works because the character 'shitwork' had been done and done well.

Someone once told me that Drama was just Comedy without the laughs. Or vice versa I can't remember now. He was very drunk. Or I was. But I think that makes a lot of sense. Because if you don't like or empathise with the characters, drama or comedy, you've got an uphill battle.

Monday, October 16, 2006

You Get A Feeling

Much as I suspected I got a call from the interested producer on Project X. She couldn't swing it past her boss. No big surprise. Phone language is another form of body language and I knew from Friday's call that 'I want to do this' is nowhere near 'If my boss says no I'll claw his face off.' You can tell when it is more in hope than expectation. Much like me attempting to chat someone up in a pub.

I've no complaints. Thanks to the producer singing my praises the boss said he'll commission me on one of their other shows . Which I know she did because she is a sweetie - and a great judge of talent!

What was more worrying was that the reason for the pass was that BBC and ITV are apparently currently developing projects with related themes to Project X. That is bad news for it's prospects anywhere else. It doesn't make it impossible but its another obstacle to overcome.

Unfortunately that is the writer's lot. Unless you have a mole in the Networks you have no way of knowing what they have recently started developing and you can go quite a way down the road before you find out. I'll chuck it out to a few more people but if the same reaction comes back then it is pretty much dead in the water.

But its all swings and roundabouts. My two previous spec projects were investigative. Every one said you can't shift them. The Networks aren't looking for them right now.

Guess what the producer just asked me? Yup. Do you have any ideas for an investigative serial ? The BBC are looking apparently.

Hey Ho! All aboard the merry-go-round.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Project X update

Well. Project X has only gone out to a couple of people so far. I got a call the other day from a producer at a major prodco to say she loves it and wants to do it but has to run it by her boss first.

I'm not holding my breath. Because there is a major obstacle in the way. About 8 years ago this same prodco produced something with a vaguely similar premise. It wasn't well received.

Now I can argue that the concept and tone are entirely different, that the TV audience has moved on from those times, that the previous project was in the wrong time slot --- you name it. It probably won't do any good. Failure casts a long shadow.

But the good news is that someone likes it. And you never know.

What it has done though is unlock a memory that I had completely forgotten about.

9 years ago I had a meeting with the producer who got that original series commissioned, just a couple of days after she had met the writer. I recall her saying something very telling to me that set alarm bells ringing.

She said, in very unworried terms, that the writer, after pitching the idea admitted he didn't have much in the way of story to go along with the idea because that wasn't really his forte.


I don't know how many episodes of that series the writer was involved in, but could that be the reason for it bombing, right there? Maybe?

If the creator doesn't have a strong story sense of where the series is heading then how the heck can anyone else?

I was in my writer short pants back then, so though I knew something was amiss here I didn't say anything. I was too busy weaseling for a gig on the show. Which in the event was never even offered. Maybe not such a bad thing as it turns out.

Anyway, next week I'll tell my agents to put Project X out to a few more, telling them to read it quickly because major prodco is interested. Nothing like a bit of healthy competition. Gotta work it baaaaby!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Nothing that can't be fixed

When I get feedback on a project I rarely pay much attention. Unless they say 'We'll buy it'

Of course if most of the feedback points to the same fault then it's time for a reality check.

But this is about one piece of feedback I have just received from the head of development of a major prodco - I paraphrase -

''I really enjoyed this. It was well writen and fast paced. I did find the story too linear and the characters a little underdeveloped but I thnk that would be an easy fix.''

Now that sounds not too bad really. Except when you think about it there is a huge assumption that they are right and I am wrong. These people want to meet me. And no doubt I will. It just seems to me that the power of the writer is getting diminished to the standards of Hollywood.

The script editors and producers who haven't written a thing in their lives and are responsible for much of the shite we have to endure on TV make assumptions that they know best? I might go along with that if it weren't for the aforementioned shite.

Twenty years ago in that misty time known as Potter and Bleasdale and Kennedy-Martin the writer was king. Now it seems the writer is more and more subject to the whims of the 'I want to keep my job' exec.

They seem to want to create a 'one size fits all' TV culture. And I think it is becoming an embedded culture of co-dependence between the play it safe Exec and the writer in need of a paycheque.

Factor in the 'How to Create Characters' memmo written by some American Guru, currently doing the rounds of script eds and producers and seemingly assuming God like status, and the battle is even more uphill.

These people CAN'T WRITE. So they tick off the checklist. Do we know if he loves his mother? Does he give to the homeless?


To me one of the major reasons for the decline of good drama is the introduction of soap writing into them. There's a time and a place for it. Not in every frickin' episode of every frickin' drama.

I don't want to sell the ranch character wise in Ep 1. I want to do just enough to empathise and intrigue the audience. There's a slow burn that has to be achieved and that doesn't mean spelling it out for the dumb audience.

Because the audience are not dumb. Okay some may not be able to articulate exactly in dramaturgical terms why they did or didn't like a show. But if they don't like it they won't watch it. And they are not watching in droves.

Okay I'll admit it. I've done my best to hype it up to myself but I was disappointed with The Outsiders and Robin Hood. The Outsiders I think screwed up completely on tone. This is probably nothing to do with the writer. More to do with editor, producer and director.

Robin Hood I found stilted and slow. I hear it gets better. Maybe I just thought it was a little strange that Robin Hood had a created by credit?

It's time the writer had a hell of a lot more input and real say in what actually appears on screen and has to pay less attention to the 'I can fix this' from non and wanabee creatives. There are good Execs out there for sure. Mostly in the Indies. But their hands are tied. Whatever they develvop then has to get past the networks.

If any other business had lost as many customers as network TV the board would have been sacked long ago. It's time they stopped blaming everything from the internet to Global warming for appalling ratings and started making programmes people actually make an effort to watch.

I'm not funny

During a recent beery night out with fellow scribes, much was discussed. Some of it hilarious. Yet when the subject of writing comedy came up there was a general sucking of teeth and a 'no, not for me'

I don't write comedy. I might just about tackle a comedy/drama given a fair wind and a lot of alcohol. But a flat out comedy? Nope.

It's not the way my mind works. When I write a dramatic scene I can see that drama unfold on screen. If I try to write a funny scene all that happens is I see it on the page and wonder if anyone else will find it funny because it sure doesn't look like it to me. It's the difference between hearing a well told joke and reading it. The first might have you in stitches, the other....meh?

Basically I don't have the confidence for it. And I think that is what you need to be a good comedy writer. Because the inescapable truth is that the chances are that a dramatic scene would be pretty much universally understood. A comedic scene is far more subjective.

I love 'Meet The Parents' To me it is almost the perfect comedy. A simple premise. The stakes are constantly and logically raised. Character is bang on and situations are believable. It's also very funny.

I don't think I would even begin to try writing something like that. Again. It's not the way my mind works.

When I write a scene my first though is that I have characters do and say things that advance plot, story and character. That, I think is also a prerequisite of writing a comedy scene. But there are a few additional extras. Most importantly, it has to be funny. So, you are advancing plot, character, story and being 'funny'. For 90 minutes! Man, that is a tough gig. And I suspect the main reason why there are so few good comedy movies.

Maybe one day I'll surprise myself, wake up one morning and decide to write a shit hot comedy. Until then my hat is off to good comedy writers everywhere .

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Take A Chill Pill

I left off Project X for a week or so while I got a commission done. Truth be told I was hoping to get the X script done before the commission, but there you go. The best laid plans etc.

I suppose today I should really be getting back to it. Buy I ain't gonna. Here's why.

The reason I didn't get X finished before the commission is that bad thoughts were circulating in my head about the structure and tone. Or, conversely, good thoughts were circulating in my head about altering structure and tone. In any event the pages were drying up as a result.

I think you have to trust your instinct on this. Your writing sub-conscious is telling you that something is rotten in the state of Denmark. You can't put your finger on it and there is no use trying to force it. So what do you do?

Well, I'm going to read a script for a friend that I've been promising for weeks. Post a blog. Check out a few others. Phone a mate and bitch about execs we have known and how that guy who can't write a shopping list keeps getting hired. Have a walk. Pick my son up from School. Make dinner. Tonight I'm out for some beers with fellow scribes.

Work. Work. Work! Or at least my sub-conscious is. And for a writer I reckon that is one of the most valuable ways to spend your time. Sure, you can't let days and days go by before you sit down in front of the blinking cursor [or fucking swearer if you're in a particularly bad mood] because that's called avoidance. And if you're on a tight deadline you won't have that luxury.

But this is for me. I want to enjoy writing it, and if I have nagging doubts then the pages are going to reflect that. So I'll take a chill pill today, let the fog of the last commission lift and trust my sub-conscious to deliver the goods on time tomorrow. Or shortly thereafter.

I'm also a bit lazy. But just a bit.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Apropos of nothing

Here is a great post that I shamelessly plagiarise.

It's the difference between trying to please and pleasing yourself. Which is why you were hired in the first place.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Keep Your Mouth Shut Part 2

See this is the whole problem with blogs. I've got this bizzare story to tell that happened recently and.....I just can't. The possibility of a major shitstorm for me and the particular show involved if it ever got out into the wider world where walls have ears is just too great.

Having said that, if I get canned from the show then all bets are off!

But it involves show politics of either Machiavelleian twistedness, or stupidty on a level last seen when a hedgehog tried to fuck a loo brush.

To give some kind of angle to what happened all I can say is I much prefer the guy coming at me head on with a hatchet than the knife in the back.

In this case I think I was the innocent pinking shears picked up by a homicidal maniac and used to attack the first victim in a slasher flick.

Execs can play games with each other that writers can't get near to comprehending. They have to. A writer relies on writing talent. An exec can have a number of quite different agendas.

I'm keeping my mouth shut.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

It's All Gone Pete Tong

So in between the reams of reading for a commissioning meeting tomorrow I'm knocking out pages for my new spec.

Well.....for knocking out read dribbling. Because that nice step outline I did for myself just ain't cutting it.

It works in a way. I know where I'm heading to. I just don't think it takes the best route.

That's not a biggee for me. Much like looking at storylines or SxS's sent to you prior to a commissioning meeting, you can do your best to come up with sensible, constructive comments, but it is only when you start writing the beast that the real character glitches, story faults and dramatic flaws actually strike you.

Because suddenly it is 'real time'. Screen time. That plot point in your outline might be two sentences. Then as you're writing it you realise it takes 5 pages of exposition to get across. It then hits you that if you seeded an earlier scene better, or changed the amount of 'information' available to your character you can do away with that plot point entirely and perhaps change the ongoing story for the better.

When I do this, I pretty much end up in the same place, but the scenery on the way is better.

Flexability is the key for me. I wouldn't like to start a script without an outline. But if the script didn't diverge from that outline in several places I'd be worried.

The more I get into the script the more my affinity for those characters and that story develops. You can now see that a 'convenient ' plot point in your outline doesn't work in the larger context of character motivation, or that you've gone down a page consuming dramatic dead end because rather than what is important to your story you've gone for writer masturbation.

It's a fine balance. To me, outlining gives me the confidence to write. So it's good. Once I'm writing, all bets are off!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Outsiders

I mean the new ITV show starring Nigel Harman which is airing shortly.

I really, really want to like this show. It should have everything I've been bleating on about to the point of annoyance in previous posts. High concept action packed drama.

A gang of freelance spies getting involved in International high jinks.

What's not to like?

Okay I have a couple of reservations. No disrespect to Nigel Harman but I can't help thinking Ross Kemp. Another EastEnder lured to ITV for inappropriate vehicles.

And Mersey TV aren't exactly known for high concept, action packed dramas.

But that aside, and the leaked memo expressing disappointment from the controller of ITV and my agent telling me the advance screening was met with general indifference, I really, really want to like this show.

I want, need and crave to the point of addiction something that makes we want to sit down and watch. Especially on ITV because I've long since ceased to cast an eye over their listings when skimming the Radio Times.

If the pilot gets decent ratings they hope to spin a series. Please God make it watchable. Don't make it the usual 'five pages' of navel gazing angst just when you need someone to burst in with a gun.

Please God, don't make it someone bursting in with a gun just when you need five pages of navel gazing angst.

In other words, please God, make it good.

You see, the problem is, that if this pilot goes belly up, the way the industry works is that from then on, every time you go in to pitch your high concept action packed drama the powers that be will suck their teeth and say ' Hmmmm, The Outsiders?'

Personally I'm ignoring the negative word. I really, really want to like this show. Have I said that already?

Monday, September 25, 2006

My Brain Hurts

I started writing about 10 am. It's now just after 3.30pm. I've had about 4 x 20 minute breaks during the course and now I'm knocking off. Maybe I'll get back to it later this evening. Maybe I won't.

Is that a good days work?

Protestant work ethic wise probably not. A little over four hours work in a day? Curse you to hell you slacker.

But there is a huge difference between writing and typing. Typing is when you sit at the computer and force out x number of pages at x words per minute. Writing is when you you focus all your attention on getting great pages down.

I'd rather write 5 great pages in a day than type 20. Great to me anyway. I mean pages I'm going to look at tomorow and not have an overwhelming urge to immediately re-write them, thus taking valuable time and energy away from the next great five pages.

Actually I wrote seven, but who's counting?

The point is, that to me, those were valuable pages. They helped me define character and story. Yes I thought I had a good handle on both before I started. But these pages helped me go deeper. Enhancing both without disrupting pace and tone.

And that takes work. And is tiring. Just as much digging coal or being Tony Blair's spin doctor. I mean it.

Whether that took me 4 hours or 12 hours is irrelevant. As a writer you know when to stop. You know when you've hit that wall and and everything else is downhill. You're just digging holes for yourself that have to be fixed tomorrow.

Write smart.

Spend more time thinking than typing. Thinking is hard. Typing is easy.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Change of Plans

I had expected to be away today for a commisioning meeting but it's been postponed until next week.

And I'm pretty glad about that. I've hit my stride with the spec for Project X and the pages are begining to flow. By the time the commission comes around I should have a decent first draft done. As I usually leave a first draft to stew for a few days this means I won't be pissed off at the commission for taking me away from what I really want to do.

That tends to be the split that most pro writers have to deal with. What you have to do and what you want to do. That is, if you really want to make a living at this game.
I doubt that anyone ever feels as excited about a commission they have taken on as something of their own that they are just itching to write. Don't get me wrong, I love a commission and if the phone hasn't rung for several weeks I start crapping myself.

It's the same for the pre-pro. You can love your day job but writing is your passion.

That's not to say you don't approach a commission with the same attention and concentration as you would your own original material. Quite the opposite. It is probably more difficult to get someone elses format right than it is your own. In fact, I'd say it is the release from that constraint that makes writing your own material such a pleasure. You can go where you want with characters you've created. You're not going to get notes back with ''Jim wouldn't talk like that' or 'Forty episodes ago Kevin slept with her daughter so the dynamic here doesn't work'

Anyway, I've 'felt' myself in to Project X. It took a while but I think it's there now. So as I'm on a bit of a roll with it I better keep going.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Sounds Like Sense

As said by the head of CBS

“What we've come to learn is, it is all about the writer,” says Nina Tassler, President, CBS Entertainment. “We're aggressively developing projects year round. We tell writers, 'Bring us your passion projects; bring us the project that excites you.' So, if they bring us something that's serialized, if they bring something that is closed-ended, if they bring something that is unorthodox and unusual, it doesn't matter. If we at the network respond to the quality of the storytelling, and it's a great opportunity for us, we're going to move forward on it. We don't preclude development of any one form over another. The point is: it's about the writer's vision. How does he or she best feel the story is serviced.”

And now the reality as far as the UK is concerned.

There are around 7 people who control everything you see on your TV screens. They also have a massive influence on what is even being developed, never mind made.

And that is the problem. In the US they develop like crazy. The networks maybe make thirty or forty pilots a year, to see what sticks. Because sometimes you just don't know what you really have until cast and crew and director get something on film and you can see the chemistry and potential.

Here, yeah, a bit of development, but very little makes it past script stage. As a rule 'if it's made it's shown' If it sucks, man are we in shit because we have nothing but repeats to replace it and if we stick on a repeat in primetime against the other networks we're going to get creamed'

So the gang of seven give the nod to job keeping projects . The ones that'll get a pretty respectable audience. Not great but not job losing.

Who can blame them really. No one wants to be known as The Guy Who Sank ITV, for example. Though I think the former head of Network Centre definitely launched a few torpedoes.

But the result is bland insipid programming. Yes there are exceptions and yes I've often heard it said that there is plenty of crap on US TV.


At least not after the ratings come through.

Okay, I know the reality is that there simply isn't enough money here to throw stuff at the wall and keep what sticks. So what's the answer? Apart from sack the lot and get people in there who understand the audience they so hope to attract. The ABC1's rather than your Granny and Grandad.

I don't mean bring in the sandal tapping Guardian reader or the Hot Shot Ad man. But something in between. Someone who understands that entertaining drama consists of good stories well told.
That schedules shouldn't be swamped by 'issue' based drama.
That Sarah Lancashire and Caroline Quentin don't have to be in everything.
That putting 'Heart' in the title doesn't necessarily give it any.
That if you want to attract a big audience you have to take a risk.
That having your head up your arse and calling 5 million viewers a success simply isn't good enough.

That making someone who can actually write an arbitter of what might be considered a good story well told?

Yeah fat chance!

The Cut Price Writer

Following on from my musings on the writers lack of power. Here's an interesting little tidbit that came to me the other day. Apparently a 'well known' PACT member recently paid a writer £4500 for an hour of Prime Time drama on a Network series.

Just over HALF the WG minimum. And what's worse- the writer actually accepted it.

Assuming this is true, and it came from a very good source, why did this PACT member do this? Because they can.

Why did the writer accept it? I'm assuming because he was desperate for a credit , any credit at whatever price.

Do some prodco's play on this? Definitely.

Is it likely to raise the bar on writing standards? I doubt it. The series was shite by the way.

Would you do it?

I'm guessing if you're an unrepped uncredited writer, you'd bite their hand off. But without a word of a lie, if this story proves to stand up 100% then no way on God's green earth will I EVER again touch that prodco with a bargepole. And no way will any other established writer.

It's not just that they have apparently totally disregarded the PACT/WGA Minimum Basic Agreement, they have totally devalued the talent, skill, time and craft required to write an hour of drama.

If you want writing to be a case of who can low-ball the most then you're going to end up with more crap on TV than is there already. It's hard enough earning a living and still doing a good job, imagine what kind of shite is going to get written when writers have to work three or four shows just to make ends meet?

This particular prodco doesn't have a good rep with writers as it is. That's why I'm not surprised to hear this. But they manage to get quite a lot on TV. I'm guessing because they low-ball the networks on budgets. But I bet their producers fee doesn't take a hit. Just us poor Schmoes.

The only power I have as a writer is to say 'piss off' to them. And that's just what I'm going to do.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Project X first pitch

Okay so I had my pitch meeting. It went better than I thought it would bearing in mind my first two pitches never even made it out the bag as her first words were 'I don't do cop shows' Yoiiiiks!

Fortunately Project X seemed to hit the spot. I left the Bible with her. It will now either die an immediate death, struggle up the chain until some one takes pity and finally smothers it with a pillow or cling on like a whelk on a rock in a North Atlantic gale.

The odds are heavily on options one and two. But since when did odds bother a writer? If you thought about them too long you wouldn't even switch on your computer. I don't do the lottery. I figure I need all my luck for the writing process. But consider this, every pro writer out there once started with nothing but an idea and a hell of a lot of hope.

Hope is what keeps the writer going. Hope he sells something. Hope he'll be commissioned. Hope his ideas don't suck. Hope he'll create something he's actually really happy with. Hope a director, actor or producer isn't going to screw it up. Hope that as a writer you may actually be appreciated.

Because make no mistake, there are plenty in the Biz who look on writers as a neccessary evil. We're the Castor oil to their indigestion. I've worked on a number of different series, and rarely do you ever lose the feeling that you are very much an expendable item. Hell they could make a call tomorrow and replace you with any number of eager fresh faces. Writers in general don't have a lot of power. It's just a fact.

Unless you come up with a sure fire winner idea and have several producers competing for it. Then you can screw 'em!

I've never been in that position. As a result I've had to settle for option agreements that I wasn't entirely happy with, like the writing fee, no guarantee on number of episodes I'd write, reversion payments etc.

One day I really would like to be able to screw 'em. That might not happen, but there is always hope.

Thursday, September 14, 2006


Big Bill Martell has an excellent post here titled Smoke and Mirrors

Yep this is an industry where the BS factors looms large in every field. From the writer or producer exaggerating their credits, contacts or heat to the actor telling you he was one of the leads in Terminator 2. As he believes the movie centered on the first cop who was killed, in his own mind he is right.

I've been caught out a couple of times by the BS factor. Once in L.A was particularly nasty.

To cut a long story short, I was in LA and my agents had blown up, so I'm not working and unrepped. Just another Joe Schmo to the busy producer or agent.
Finally I catch a break. The receptionist at A BIG AGENCY tells me they have a new agent just started, let's call him MS, and looking for talent. Send in a script.

I did. A couple of weeks later I give him a call. By this time I'm working for tips in a Reseda carwash you understand. MS says he loved the script. He wanted to hip-pocket me. Get it out to his contacts and if any interest came he would sign me.

Well that's manna from heaven to me who is doing 12 hours six days a week as the only English speaking guy in the carwash.

So the script goes to CastleRock and Paramount and .......I forget who else. I call MS at BIG AGENCY on a weekly basis for updates. It seems to be going up the chain everywhere. Things are looking good.

He calls ME at the carwash, man if those guys spoke English they would be so impressed, and tells me a company had read my script and had me in mind for a rewrite on a project. Big Bucks. Yahoooooooo!

A week later I call back. Someone at BIG AGENCY answers the phone. I ask for MS and am told 'He doesn't work here any more'
Bit of a shocker, but I politely enquire where he can be found and the phone is slammed down on me. I'm standing there with a little more than mild apprehension.

Again, long story short but I track down the prodco who MS said was thinking of hiring me for the re-write. When I phone I explain about MS and the rewrite project and that I was sorry to bother them but I couldn't get a hold of MS.

The lovely lady [called Elaine] hesitated for a second, then suggested I come in for a meeting. Wahooooooo!

But not really. She sat me down and explained that there was no re-writing project and there was something I should know about MS.

Elaine had been to a party the week before. She had met another agent from BIG AGENCY there and mentioned she knew another agent there who kept promising to send her scripts but never did. His name was MS.

Agent took her aside and asked if she was sure his name was MS. She confirmed it. They had been talking on the phone for almost a year.

Agent told her MS was not an agent. He was the receptionist! I guess they fired his ass after that.
That dipshit wasted the best part of six months of my life.

Couple of UK examples. No name no pack drill for obvious reasons.

A couple of years ago an American guy turned up here claiming to be a writer on E.R. He got a few meetings pitched a few ideas, and low and behold one was bought. This went fine until the first script was delivered. It wasn't exactly what you might consider E.R standard. In fact it was crap.

By this time other writers had been hired for other episodes and the juggernaut was on it's way.
One of those writers was an avid E.R fan and knew the name of every writer on the show. He knew our guy wasn't one of them. He tipped off the producer, who by this time was tearing his hair out trying to get American guy's scripts to work. Yankee Doodle wasn't so Dandy after that.

I believe the show is now several series in. He is not a writer for obvious reasons. His career here as a writer is shot. But he'll still get a fat juicy format fee.

Another tale about a BAFTA winning writer. This is as told me by the producer of the show which got a Bafta. Although this writer got the credit for the script - it was actually a page one re-write by a script Doctor. Hardly one word of the original writer's script remained in the final draft.
The original writer turned up for the Bafta award. As he was entitled. It was his name on the credits. He expressed a degree of feeling guilty, but shit - It's a BAFTA man. That's going on my CV.

BS happens all the time. But on balance I think it backfires more than it works.