Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Pet hates

We all have them. Here's one of mine.

Lovely to see you again, Karen

You too, John.

hate it hate it hate it. Why the names? And I can guarantee exchanges like that will be peppered through the script.

NO ONE SPEAKS LIKE THAT. Not in normal conversation. Yep it's an easy way of introducing your characters' names to the audience. But it's lazy and dull and grating. It's also an indicator that the script as a whole will be over written.

Overwriting usually takes place when the writer forgets they are creating a template for a visual medium. A look or an action or a carefully chosen phrase can easily replace half a page of over- expositional dialogue.

As far as character's names are concerned, trust the audience that they won't get confused if they don't know from the opening dialogue who is speaking to who or whom. Good writing will make it clear, and a lot more subtly than 'Could you pass the salt, Sir Lancelot?'

Monday, July 21, 2008

Executives Academy

I have spotted a niche in the market. The Holby Academy For Commissioning Executives is now open for business.

It's aim is to help create the future masters of the commissioning universe with an exciting and wide ranging curriculum, including -

How to recognize shit from shinola

How to pity writers more than scold them

How not to dumb down a great idea

There are more than six actors out there

Quality is better than ..... well just about anything

Redundancy isn't the end of the world.

The course will consist of an evening in the pub where invited special guests such as those that brought you Rock Rivals and Harley Street will attend then shut the fuck up and listen.

To take advantage of this fabulous opportunity at the low low cost of 5 grand a head [including open bar - there will be writers present hence the cost.] please make cheques payable to English Dave [Liberia] Inc - together with a photo, c.v and a statement of how you see the future of television in relation to your pension.

If anyone has any other ideas for the curriculum please feel free to add them. It is a very fluid course.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


In revenge for standing on it my computer has thrown a wobbly. I'm hoping some of you boffins can supply the remedy. As you know, I'm useless.

Here's the problem. When I try to run internet explorer it comes up with a problem with an add-on.- namely google toolbar. I just about managed to find all the add ons and disabled the google toolbar.

Internet explorer now opens but won't let me publish anything on blogger. There is an error on the page and the 'publish' button doesn't appear.

I don't know if this is related or not, but I can't access my email. I have a yahoo account and when I try to open it I get a brief message saying my browser won't allow me to go to the url.

This happens whether the google add on is disabled or not.
It's obviously got me stumped. Any suggestions?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Oh Crap!

This morning I stood on my laptop. Yep how dumb can you get. Now my screen looks like a bullet hole in a windscreen with spiders webs shafting out.

I don't know about you but I get very attatched to my laptop. Using another one is like sleeping with someone elses wife. The same things are pretty much there but somehow different.
Johnny Computer is my link to the outside world. It's how I make my living. It's my best buddy through those long solitary hours searching for the perfect scene.

I know prices have come down dramatically and you can get a super duper dual core processor for less than 300 quid, and if I raided my piggy bank I could probably get one. But I'm not sure I want to. While Johnny is still breathing I think I'll stick with him. The bullet hole is near the top right corner and the spider webs aren't too bad if you squint. No, I think I'll wait til he's terminal, then [whispers] I might get a shiny new mac! I hear they're very good.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Balls Of Summer

Apologies to Don Henley for the title.

I thought with the advent of multi channel tv the networks would stop using the Summer months to shove on any old crap, be it repeats or second rate shows that even they were too embarrassed to slot into the autumn and winter schedules. Apparently I was wrong.

Perusing the Radio Times I can find absolutely no drama I want to make an appointment to sit down and watch. Nada. Zilch. If anyone has a recommend I'd be happy to hear it.

The staples like Casualty, The Bill and Holby just don't do it for me. There seems to be an 'homogenisation' of Tv right now where whatever you watch seems to have been constructed on the same template. Heck half the programmes even seem to have the same actors. Not surprising really, I know for a fact that a previous controller of drama on a network had a list of about 10 actors and no matter what the project always insisted they were used. Nothing wrong with that per se, it's all marketing, but personally I thought at least half of those on the list were pretty damn diabolical in the acting stakes.

It occurs to me that maybe this homoginisation is the result of an over reliance by the powers that be on the idea that writing is a science and not an art. It can be constructed, taught and controlled, like making widgits. Bear in mind that that there isn't one solitary writer amongst the powers that be. So you can understand how that fallacy gains weight.

I recall a couple of years ago some well meaning bod at a network sent some missive to all writers they knew. It was about how to construct a character and was penned by some guru who hadn't had a thing produced in their lives. But this was the Holy Grail of the moment to the commissioners and editors. I read the first sentence and it was along the lines of ''If the character was a tree, which tree would he be?''

Utter bollocks. The delete button was hit. If I were in a meeting and some eejit asked me that I'd be tempted to lamp them. Scary to think that was doing the rounds as perceived wisdom.
But writing is scary. Certainly to a lot of execs. They don't understand it so they feel the need to create some kind of formula to give them comfort. Hell, I don't understand writing but I know there is no formula. Rather there is no formula for good writing.

Anyway, so much for the summer schedule. I was going to give Bonekickers a try, but having read the reviews, [including Good Dog's 'Cock Knockers' lol] perhaps I'll have to watch 'The World at War' on the History Channel yet again.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Failing Upwards

Time I had a rant.

Brought on by the BBC deciding their top execs deserved up to £100k bonuses. Massive budget cuts in programming but the execs deserve bonuses?
Mmmmmmmm. let's investigate.

Am I wrong here? Aren't bonuses supposed to be paid for some kind of achievement? But a quick perusal of the figures don't point to much in the way of achievement.

Total average weekly viewing hours per person for BBC1 and 2 for Feb to May 2008 - 29.65
For the same period 2007 - 30.37
Doesn't seem to be an achievement in my book. Seems to be going backwards if anything.
Let's have a look at BBC flagship shows EastEnders and Holby City.
Week ending 25th May 2008 [to avoid Euro 2008 distortions] EastEnders 9.2 million viewers. Holby City 5.1 million.
Week ending 27th May 2007 - EastEnders 9.91 million Holby City 5.16 million.
Sooooooooooooo? In a year where they appear to have lost both viewing time per person per week and close on a million viewers from top rated shows, they get a bonus? Not to mention the decimation of news and current affairs, documentaries and the world renowned BBC Wildlife Unit.
What do they get when they really cock up? A knighthood?
A show I was on had close on half a million quid shaved off it's budget. No rhyme or reason for it other than that was the proportion of budget cuts it had to bear. The powers that be [marketing] then decided to spend at least that amount and more on an advertising push for the show.
That budget cut caused massive problems for the quality of the show. Core actors couldn't be held on contract and became restless. Extras were kept to the barest minimum and restrictions placed on the stories we could tell because of the non availability of cast. But what the heck, so long as you can fool enough of the people enough of the time with a fancy ad campaign.
Get these people out and get people in there who know what the hell they are doing other than the ability to line their pockets .

Top Of The World, Ma

Yep that's the initial reaction to FADE OUT. The Beast is slain. The Mountain climbed. The Maiden wooed. The Dog neutered, whatever.

That lasts for about an hour with me. Then the standard doubts, fears and paranoia beloved of the writer begin to seep in. Not much, the rosey glow keeps most at bay, but enough to wake me in the middle of the night with a few 'should'aves'
But in my experience the best thing to do is just leave the beast to sleep for a couple of days. I've sent the first blush to a good mate to read as I'd like his impressions before I dive in to any re-write.
Unfortunately the fucker actually has a life, and writing commitments, which means he won't get to it til next week. But that's perfect. It can marinate away as little idea bubbles pop up in the sauce.

It also makes accepting criticism easier. No parents like being told their newely arrived mewling baby looks like Winston Churchill as the nurse hands it over. Give 'em some time and they'd probably agree with you.

But the spec is done, long live the spec. Now I just have to figure out where the next actual paid work is coming from. Ah the joys of pro writing!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Very Bendy Writing

So I'm about 10 pages away from finishing the script. It's an hour long part one of two that can then be spun into a series.

And I realise that the end of this part, which involves the death of the main suspect, kinda inadvertently leads a little too much to the identity of the actual killer in the audience's mind. That gives me a couple of choices. I either muddy the waters a little more in the build up to the death, or horror of horrors, I change the identity of the killer to another character entirely. One even less likely.

I've decided on the horror of horrors route. Because the more I thought about it the more I thought not only can I make it work, but I can make it work better than the original idea. It's going to set me back a few days but as an old time HW writer told an exec when pressed for the script, 'You can have it Wednesday or you can have it good '

Embrace the bendy writing. Nothing should be set in stone. Not even the plot. It took me almost the whole script to realise I was selling it short. It happens.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Well lookit!

Finally blogger has come up with a way for even idiots like me to link to other blogs I read and do loads of other stuff we technophobes were terrified of. You can check out some of my regular reads on the left. I guess most of us read pretty much the same ones. The list is by no means exhaustive and I'll add more when I'm no longer bored of doing it.

But hey I'm loving this. For me it's like when DOS got replaced by Windows. I kid you not! I'm going for a play with the whole shebang. Who knows what might happen to the layout!

[but if everything goes black or disappears you'll know it's my bad]

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Back In The Zone

Monday's events resolved themselves in a satisfactory manner. At least as far as I was concerned, and let's face it, that's all that really matters. lol

The script is back on track and after a full 6 hours today [I find more than that is counter productive, your mileage may vary] the end is in sight.

Without trying to sound too arsey, I'm more of a touch writer. Yes I have a rough outline before I get into script but I rely on inspiration while in the scene to create those moments that lift the script from the ordinary to the .... less ordinary?
That's why I prefer to be in the mental comfort zone when I'm writing. I need all the focus I can get and that means focus to let my mind absorb the scene, the story and the characters. As David Mamet puts it - 'What do they want?' What happens if they don't get it?' 'Why now?'
The three questions that constitute the movement from one scene to another in a true story progression and the ones all writers are most prone to gloss over. A filler scene is always just a filler scene no matter how much you might like it.

Tennis is finished. I might manage another half hour writing. Though the current scene involves naked gorgeous women so I might leave it until tomorrow. Always give yourself something to look forward to!

A shandy and lime later and I feel like musing further. I read a great quote the other day. I'm paraphrasing but it was along the lines of '' A guy returns home to find his uncle shtooping his mum and a ghost running round the place. Write it good, it's Hamlet. Write it bad it's Gilligan's Island''
That creased me, because it's so true. There's a lot of pressure put on the writer to come up with a 'commercial' concept. Commercial nowadays basically means the marketers can flog it on the side of a bus. Not like the old days of yore when commercial meant a trailer at least. Take Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Broken Hip. Very commercial. A 'marketer's wet dream' commercial. Took a tonne of money. Possibly killed off the franchise. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice then sell me the trilogy box set special edition. But the fourth time? well that better be good!
See, I kinda look at movies and Tv like the dear old NHS. They do some shit, but so long as we feel deep down they are trying to give us what we want rather than what they want we'll forgive them. There has to be an element of heart in it.
When it is just about the hope of cash registers jingling that's when things go bad. Movie audiences down 11% this year? How many really good films so far? Tv audiences dropping faster than house prices? 'Nuff said.

No more shandys for me. I've got my naked women to wake up to!