Friday, September 12, 2008

String theory

Like most people, because the second act is a bit dull, I only skim Stephen Hawking's ' A Brief History Of Time. But second act apart, it's a great education on how puny your mind is.

However, his central theme of the search for a unifying theory of EVERYTHING makes him one of the world's most important contributors to written, and /or filmed entertainment. And that's not just because he appeared in The Simpsons.

For entertainment to be successful, EVERYTHING has to come together. The writer does what he/she can and throws it out there. Blood, sweat and tears should have gone into it, but that guarantees nothing. You then need a talented producer, a talented director , a talented cast and good scheduling and publicity. And if that's not enough, you need a whole hell of a lot more.

You need the audience to like it. They don't have to love it. There are very few shows or movies I love, but there are a good number I like. These are the ones when that 'chemistry' comes together and actually makes me care about what's going on.

That's the string theory of entertainment.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Fingers Crossed

My mate's first novel went to publishers over the weekend. His top flight agent reckons by the middle of this week he'll know if it's champagne or diet coke. I'm guessing the former. My mate is an excellent writer and this agent knows his onions. He recently got an 800k advance on a three book deal for a first time writer.

As some might have read in an earlier post, my mate is a dyed in the wool TV writer and I've found his comments on the switch to novels both enlightening and encouraging. So much so that if he weren't such a good mate I'd poke his eyes out with a sharp stick.

The creative satisfaction is greater.
The people are nicer to deal with.
The writer is looked on as undoubtedly the most important element in the process.


Having said that, he still wants to write for the screen. I guess it's the screenwriter's bug. More deadly than a NHS hospital. The need to see your words transformed from the page to the moving picture, with living breathing characters.

I'm praying his book takes off in a big way for two reasons. Firstly he's a good mate who has suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous execs, took a stand and suffered financial hardship as a result. Stand up guys are few and far between in this biz.
Secondly, as a best selling author, he won't have to toe the line like most jobbing writers, and as execs will be falling over themselves to commission something we might see his last spec get made, which having read it, I would watch in a heartbeat.

So, no names, no pack-drill, but a collective crossing of fingers would be much appreciated.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

It's not me - honest

Okay so I posted about The Secret Millionaire and lo and behold it beats BBC drama 'Mutual Friends' in the 9pm ratings this week.

I don't think that's down to my 10 regular readers perhaps changing their viewing habits because of my review. It's down to the audience watching something that connects with them. It's a piece of hokum. But it's hokum that people actually care about.

I decide which Programme I'm going to watch the same way I decide which movie I'm going to see. A combination of the talent involved and the trailers. Mostly the former. But I can be put off by the trailers and PR crap. I didn't watch Bonekickers because I just didn't connect with the trail highlighting 'A group of maverick archaeologists......' I could tell it wasn't for me from that alone.

Use oxymorons only when they don't sound like they were concocted by someone in sixth form media studies.

Never seen an ep of Mutual Friends. But it lost a million viewers and got butt fucked by a reality show on a minority channel in the prime time slot.

That should tell us something? But what? David Hare's 'My Zinc Bed' on BBC2 didn't exactly set the ratings alight either, despite starring Uma Thurman. Well I guess it tells us nothing. My view is that TV has been dumbed down to the extent that Soap, Reality and Gameshows have become the audiences expectation. Hence part of the reason for the dwindling audiences. Gripping drama has become the exception.

As a teenager I remember watching The Singing Detective, Edge Of Darkness, GBH, Boys from The Blackstuff, Auf Weidershein Pet and on and on. I didn't need or want yoof TV. Network attempts to provide yoof TV generally pissed me off as patronizing twaddle.

Nowadays, unfortunately Network attempts to provide adult drama hit that same spot.

Monday, September 01, 2008

A Plug

I always read Robin's blog over at Writing for Performance. [If I were more computer literate I'd have a link here, but he's on my blog roll thingy.

Always interesting articles pulled from the press, reviews, interviews, music. Very nice. Another one I read regularly is Dead Things On Sticks, Dennis McGrath's Canadian blog.

Don't get me wrong, I read and enjoy a heck of a lot more blogs, but it is interesting to see how sometimes a degree of synchronisity occurs.

Dennis has recently posted about the fear factor in blogging and how he feels people don't comment on his, sometimes shoot from the hip, blog, because they perhaps fear repercussions within the industry.

Lucy Gannon recently gave a scathing interview attacking the BBC and their commissioning policies. Robin has pulled a recent interview from the press where she plugs her latest project, The Children - a three parter for ITV.

When I read her initial attack I admired her bollocks. I knew about the 3 parter for ITV, but for a long term pro, that doesn't make a twinkle in the eye of daddy swallow in Africa, never mind a summer, career wise. So for a pro writer to openly come out and dis the Beeb, that was high cotton.

In Robin's Blog I notice the tag line that Lucy has recently become a writer on Coronation Street. Corrie writers have probably just about the longest shelf life of any soap. Tough to get on the show, but stable once you're in. Aha! The coming over the parapet to take a pop at the BBC makes sense. Or so you'd think.

But you know what, I respect her bollocks even more now. TV land doesn't like boat rockers. So yes she can give a rollicking to the BEEB knowing she's okay financially for the next few years. But someone of her experience also knows that some people have long memories. So it was a brave stand, because nothing lasts forever. She knew her position, she had a 3 parter and a spot on the premier soap for ITV and as such her criticisms could be spun by the BEEB as being a disgruntled writer whom they didn't want to hire. She knew that, and she still said it.

It's a bit like when Jimmy McGovern said everything on ITV at 9pm is shit. Okay he had his 'The Street' series coming out on BBC at the time, but he also had his one off 'Cracker' coming out on ITV at 9pm. Something ITV were keen to point out in their defence.

Not much was made of it at the time. But the more that established and talented writers come out and say something is rotten in the state of TV then the more the dunderheads might listen.