Thursday, April 05, 2007

What's the big idea?

Not a bad day on the golf course. And as expected an idea popped into my head. Okay granted it had no relevence whatsoever to the brief I was supposed to be thinking about, but what the heck, I'll take it.

Because for me, good ideas are the hardest part of writing. I mean good ideas as opposed to the brain farts I get quite regularly that get me all excited for a few hours until the fatal flaw in the concept finally hits me. Because good ideas are about as rare as a bacon roll in Baghdad. And any writer who tells you they are constantly coming up with great ideas is either a liar or deluded.

Now comes the other hard part, translating that basic idea into a workable and fresh story, and even more importantly, one that I passionately want to write. I might get a couple of days or weeks in and then decide that passion isn't there. In which case I'll stop and move on to something else. It's a one night stand rather than marriage material. No passion going in means no passion on the page. And at the risk of setting off a semantic argument, to me, that passion translates into that elusive ''voice''.

And that voice can be the difference between that script moving up the chain and getting you attention and sales, or being an also ran. Think about the last time you saw something that was truly original, a one off mind blowing script concept. Pretty hard. Being John Malkovitch maybe?

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was essentially just a who dunnit. But the voice was clearly Shane Black and there were some neat touches. But wildly original? Not really. And if it was wildly original would have had difficulty in getting made. The mainstream film game, and TV to a large extent requires ''the same'' but ''different''. They don't want to scare an audience off with something they just don't get. There is way too much money involved.

Look at the latest big ITV commission. 50 eps of The Royal Today. Which is a spin off of The Royal, which is a spin off of Heartbeat. Not a whole heck of originality there. Holby Blue will be hitting the screens shortly which is a spin off from Holby which is a spin off from Casualty. Torchwood and Sara Jane are spin offs from Doctor Who. City Lights is a spin off from Northern Lights. The Green Green Grass is a spin off from ....... Christ, anytime now I expect to see The Adventures of Friar Tuck being bandied about as a possible series. Or how about Last of the Summer Wine - The Early Years? [Dammit I shouldn't have said that - get ready for Compo and Clegg with 50's quiffs and brothel creepers, perfect Sunday night viewing] And don't get me started on movie sequels and prequels.For a lot of execs familiarity breeds content.

So a good idea doesn't necessarily have to be something we have never seen anything like before, though kudos if you manage it. A buddy cop movie is always a buddy cop movie. But with originality in the actual writing and characterisation and a good dose of passion your script has a much greater chance of success.


Lee said...

Proving there is no idea so far out that someone won't give it a bash: Last of the Summer Wine - The Early Years; a.k.a. First of the Summer Wine, was broadcast on BBC1 in '88-89.

English Dave said...

My title is catchier. lol But seriously I had a meeting recently where the head of development was complaining that a title had been changed so it would fit better on the sky tv guide.A serious drama was changed to ''My Parents are at it''

I think it was preceded by ''When Chefs Attack''