Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Meh Factor

Heroes is on tonight. And I'm ....meh? Can't be bothered. I haven't seen it in a couple of weeks, and to be quite honest the novelty wore off after about 3 eps.

'LOST' think I managed to last til about half way through season 2.

'The West Wing' End of season 4 I think.

In fact my only real appointment viewing at the moment is Studio 60. I'm begining to think that is because I know it's going to end. A few more eps then bang. Finito. That appeals to me.

Okay, most American programmes are not set up like that. Studio 60 obviously wasn't though I think I read somewhere that Sorkin only ever intended 2 seasons max.
Long runs are manna from heaven to the networks, especially the commercial networks. But are they really doing the audience any favours when they go down that route?

This is a purely personal opinion and it would be good to hear others. But I like short run series. Another of my favourites is Firefly. Another casualty of the ratings. But hey, what a great one season show. And it made mega bucks on DVD and got a movie made. [I think the series was better]

Our version of The Office. Two series and out leaving nothing but a rose smelling fart joke in the anals of British sitcom. Oooohhh er missus.

I don't think this has got anything to do with my short attention span. There is just so goddam much to do that I really don't want to get invested in something that is padded out for 8 or 9 series when a couple or three would do the job better. And yes I know there were those who were heartbroken when Sex in The City ended or Deep Space 9 or whatever but I'm just not wired that way.

Again syndication in the US demands 72 eps or whatever. I know Micky Grade has made it known he is looking for long running series for ITV. But will I be watching? Maybe to half way through season two and then cursing him roundly.

By the way I very belatedly caught The Soprano's finale last night. There are only two words to describe it.

Absolute .

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Teamsters Rule!

So the news from across the pond is that the Teamsters are throwing their weight behind the WGA in the proposed strike action. Kinda.

I think this is excellent news. Studios are far more terrified of the Teamsters than they are of the WGA.

But really I just like writing Teamsters! Americans always have such great names for things. Teamsters Local 389. I mean doesn't it just evoke smoke filled rooms, sharp suits, dodgy deals and the faint whiff of mafia?

What do we have? The South Croydon branch of the Transport and General Worker's Union. Just doesn't have the same ring does it? And possibly why prior to the Guy Ritchie inspired boom in Sarf Lundin gangster flicks you'd likely be met with a '' Brits don't do Gangsters, we have red telephone boxes and Bobbies with pointy hats'' if you tried to pitch one.

Probably why I can only think of three gangster flicks prior to the ''boom'' Get Carter, The Long Good Friday and The Krays.

Oh crap is that the time? I need to work!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Lies and Damned Lies

Yes I'm avoiding!

But still........

Heads must roll at ITV. According to Broadcast they were beaten into 4th place behind a Welsh Channel in a poll on best Drama channels. Don't believe me?

Channel 4

Beaten by a Welsh language channel? Yes there is apparently such a thing. I now realise that was the multi vowelled thing on my Sky box that I thought was an electrical blip.

It also shows you what a heap of crap you can make out of statistics if you want to. If you look further down you will see Shed Productions listed in the top independent production companies for Bad Girls and Waterloo Road.

Jeez, c'mon Broadcast. I'm a devoted reader. But when you start publishing 'polls' which consist of the opinions of your contributors then you are on a sticky wicket. Especially as you must have a large Welsh contingent.

Lazy Sunday Afternoon

It shouldn't be. I've got a ton of work to do but it's raining. For some perverse reason I always use that as an excuse not to write, whenever possible. Maybe I'm a massochist who enjoys suffering at the keyboard when the sun is shining.

Anyway, as yet another diversion I've just been looking at the BARB figures for w/e 14th Oct. I always look at these figures with a mixture of incredulity, acceptance and depression.

In that week BBC 1 had only five non soap dramas in the top thirty watched programmes. FIVE! And you had to get to 12 and 13 to find the first two. Casualty and Holby.

And that's the good news believe it or not.

ITV only had 3. Admittedly Doc Martin split the soaps with a highly creditable 8 million, but way down the list were The Bill and Rebus.

C4 had none. No non soap drama in the top thirty. Nada. Zilch. Bupkiss.

C5 had loads. But is was all North American.

BBC2 had The Tudors way up there, but at 2 and a half mill it is hardly setting the world on fire. Shame, because dodgy fx's aside I quite like it. Sam Neil is always watchable and I have fun thinking back to my 'A' level history trying to work out that the Cromwell guy isn't Oliver Cromwell and Thomas Moore isn't Thomas A'Becket. Though at least one of them is definitely for the chop if my memory serves me right.

Fanny Hill is now doing well on the BBC4 I believe, which just goes to show that sex sells. Gonna get me that Andrew Davies to write a porn flick. Can't lose. I kid, he is extraordinarly good at adapting literary material. Didn't he also do Moll Flanders [okay and just about every other period piece on TV] but it had the genius marketing tag of 18th Century Fox! Fanny Hill pretty much says what it does on the tin.

Maybe The Tudors needs some similar marketing tag to kick start an audience. My own humble submission would be The Tudors - How to Get Ahead in Marriage.
Or for the younger set - Henry had six and two gave head!

[Note to BBC publicity dept. I am available every second Tuesday. Wait til you hear my ideas for Strictly Come Dancing]

I digress. The Winter schedules are upon us. And while nothing is as yet is firing it's way on to my screen, I am ever optimistic that the Beeb can do better than Casualty and Holby at 12 and 13. I've got to be.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Trend Chasing

We've all had it. The meeting with the prodco who say ''The networks are looking for Cops, or Docs, or Legal or - I believe the new buzz word is ''Shouty''.

It's understandable why prodcos hang on to the networks' every word on what they are looking for. But should a writer, especially a newer one pay too much attention and chase the trend? I don't think they should, for a couple of reasons.

Number one, get on the end of a very long queue of already established writers who have a fistfull of relevent specs. The TV business being what it is, the networks are always far more likely to go with an established writer. It's got a lot more to do with arse covering than the merits of the individual projects.

Number two, if you are a newer writer, you want to stand out from the crowd, not join the herd. You'll do that by showing originality.

Number Two and a half, now I think about it - true story. I was in a pitch meeting with a big prodco a few months back. I had about 4 projects to pitch, two of them procedural. Before I could even open my mouth the producer said '' We're not interested in procedurals, the networks don't want them''

You've probably guessed the rest. A couple of months later I got a call from the same producer. 'You got any procedurals, the networks are looking for them?'

I don't actually think the networks know what they want until they see it. Sure, they can say they want loud, in your face, contempory drama til they're blue in the face. But does anyone know what that is? Not until you see it.

When I write a spec my only concern is 'Would I want to see this'' Narcisstic perhaps, but a writer has to be. If you try to please everyone you end up pleasing no one. In my view the best TV has always been that which bucked the trend not chased it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Creative crisis?

Don't really have much to add to this excellent piece, apart from good luck with the Controller BBC1 application. lol

I kid. PBJ is way too rich to bother with the paltry £250k on offer.

Funnily enough though I've just been speaking to a mate who recently had a spec out to about 17 prodcos. Guess which one out of seventeen didn't even aknowledge receipt, much less get back with a yes or no?

Not disagreeing with anything PBJ is saying. But just....saying, you know? Take the pole out of the rich man's camel ....or something like that.


I'm watching the WGA malarky across the pond with interest. Mainly because the issues at stake affect TV writers everywhere. The top ones being DVD sales and Internet streaming.

I say TV more than features because, as discussed with a mate the other day, many feature writers in the WGA make a good living writing stuff that never makes it to the screen so those issuses are largely moot other than for the 30 or 40 regularly employed screenwriters getting films made.

I can't remember when the last PACT agreement was ratified, but I know it was several years ago, and certainly before the advent of Broadband for the masses. So, whatever is finally negotiated over there could and perhaps should be the benchmark our own sweet WGGB should be aiming for.

Of course without the benefit of a closed shop, whether the WGGB can negotiate anything worthwhile is open for debate. Having said that, the BBC's minimum 5.4% or whatever [it's a long time since I've seen a contract] on DVD sales seems pretty good in comparison to the WGA 2% of 80% or whatever it is. See how up on detail I am?

In a week where TV-Links was raided and closed, this shows how seriously the big boys are taking the issue. That means there must be money involved. And I'm not just talking about potential lost sales of DVD's. For example, Channel 4 have a system where you 'buy' a progamme for 50p or a quid, get to down load and keep it for a week, then it wipes? So I guess you don't actually buy it, you rent it. Sites like TV-Links are potentially depriving them of that revenue if you can watch for free anytime on your browser.

I don't know how much, or if at all, the writer sees of that fee, but I'd be interested to know.

I think it is obvious that the potential audience for a show are not nowadays all willing to sit down at the same time every week to watch it. Many like to watch it when and where they choose, and even better on sites like TV -Links where there are no adbreaks.

I think this is being realised and the networks know this is the way much of their output will be watched in the future. Witness the vast sums the BBC are spending on researching internet platforms. The major problem the networks have is policing the internet. It is human nature that if you can get something for free then why pay for it? It is up to the networks to come up with a solution for this, so I don't intend to give it any more thought. Largely because I am an ignorant technophobe.

But though this particular battle for a share of the cake is currently being fought several time zones away, this writer global village of ours will reverberate with the result.

Monday, October 22, 2007


Two bits I couldn't resist sharing. No names no packdrill.

A mate of a mate has a series just commissioned by the BBC. Jane Tranter's ''alleged''comment. ''It's okay but it's not a Spooks.''

An ITV exec's complaint about the 8 million viewers of Doc Martin? ''It's the wrong 8 million''

Both of those ''alleged'' comments shed a lot of light on the mentality of network execs. The first shows how prodcos can jump to entirely the wrong conclusions when a network exec utters an ill thought out or unclear statement. Guess how many are now telling each other that the BBC are looking for a Spooks knockoff? I don't think the BBC are. I think they are looking for something that attracts the buzz of Spooks. An entirely different proposition. But what a crap thing to say? Especially as it got back to the writer. Nice team building exercise.

The second comment to me, shows a lack of understanding of the dynamics of building an audience. Yes the current average age of the Doc Martin viewer is probably bus pass or over, but, any show which gets those numbers has to have something going for it. And eventually those numbers attain their own momentum, word spreads round and younger people start watching it.

But it is a bizarre business. Today I heard of someone who I came across on a show a couple of years ago in a fairly junior capacity. I was less than inspired by either the dramatical knowledge on display or the drive and enthusiasm. That person is now employed by a Government funded agency and seems to have magically acquired the title of Executive Producer in charge of a multi million pound budget.

One thing you have to get used to in this business is the near miraculous ability of many to fail upwards. I can only think it is because actual talent isn't a prerequisite for a lot of these positions.

Off-hand I can think of at least 3 or 4 highly placed individuals at both networks and prodcos who I and a good number of other writers wouldn't dream of sending work to. They don't know who they are, but we do! They are some of the dogmatic ''I'm right and you're wrong'' brigade. The ones who believe, with little justification, that they know better than the writer. Believe me, when you meet an exec who does know better than the writer, and there are some, you will know it. And you'd better listen to them or you'll be pissing blood for a week after the encounter.

The thing to remember is that these people have their own issues and agendas to deal with. Very few of which are to do with your script. Climbing the greasy pole without the aid of any discernable talent is having thought about it, actually a talent in itself. I remember Paul Abbott in an acceptance speech for one of his numerous awards saying there were some in the industry that having worked with them he won't touch with a barge pole in the future.

Probably talking about much the same people here. At least in attitude.


I got a call from a mate the other day. He's been trying to break into pro writing for a couple of years with not a lot of success. No agent and not a sniff of a commission. The constant rejection, or even worse, being completely ignored, was getting to him to the point he wanted to quit.

You know what? That happens to pros too. A lot. But a pro won't quit. Because they know that comes with the territory. When a new writer breaks, they have a flash of heat that will probably last a couple of years. They are the new kid on the block and everyone is interested in taking a meeting, handing out a commission and generaly having some face time.

A couple of years after that, unless they go stratospheric, they are part of a large group of middle ranking writers all after the same jobs, all sending specs out and all competing for face time.

Last week I got a response to an idea I sent to a prodco in February! I had actually forgotten I'd sent it. And that is the best way to handle it. Don't hang around waiting for phonecalls or responses. Move on. Get the next thing out. Don't think for one moment that what you have out there could be life changing [which it could] because the chances are stacked against it.

But keep writing. Keep getting your work out there. Because eventually, if you are talented, something will stick. It might be the third or fourth spec you've sent to a prodco and they seemed to have no interest in the previous submissions. But...... they will remember the name, the style, and the fact that you keep producing the goods. You don't just call yourself a writer - you are one. There are many who are in love with the idea of being a writer more than sitting down and cranking out the pages.

And don't think on it as rejection. You know those little quarter sized pieces of furniture that apprentices would turn out before being let loose on the full scale models? Think of your specs like that. You are proving what you can do. And eventually you will get the nod to move on to the big stuff. It's not about rejection, It's about saying look at me, I'm here, and I'm getting better and better.

I think I've posted before that I got an agent with my first script. I'd been writing for about 4 months.

Worst thing that could have happened to me. It was the wrong agent for me and I was so green I couldn't see it. I was also one of those writers who decided they only wanted to write movies.

My second agents, who I moved to after about 6 months were based in Los Angeles. Worst thing that could happen to me. Again I was so green that I had no clue how the industry worked. Heck they even had to tell me what a slug line was. I think I was calling them Locations. They told me I'd be a millionaire in a year. That should have sounded warning bells right there.

Result? I think it was a couple of years later before I got my first commission. Which was for UK TV after I'd gotten off my high horse and decided it was a medium that I might be interested in.

Best thing that could happen.

Suddenly I had to learn, and learn quickly what being a pro writer is about. That means doing the best job possible given production restraints and deadlines. It also gives you some credibility with some prodcos because they know you can produce the goods. I say some because nowadays even the likes of Hollyoaks are asking for trial scripts [unpaid] from pro writers looking for a gig.

But the most imporant thing I did was never give up. I'm not saying every writer has the talent to become a pro. But I think a lot do if they apply themselves. Try to get in at the ground level on a show like Doctors. Pretty much the only show willing to take a punt on a new writer. You'll learn a lot, and if you get in and produce good work you will move on.

Don't take anything personally. A mate of mine recently had a spec rejected because the producer felt '' the networks will want Ross Kemp in the lead'' Huh???????

The weird and wonderful vagueries of why someone doesn't go for your spec are too many to worry about. They go for it or they don't. If they don't move on. Yes it can be tough because a little piece of your soul should go into everything you write. But your soul isn't finite. It regenerates with every project.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

So here's the BBC skinny

From 'Broadcast''
BBC cuts: how the new budgets shape up
£1.5bn saved by ditching investment proposals such as local radio stations
£155m saving on BBC news over 5 years, with the ability to invest a further £75m
3% efficiency target across corporation
10% less output over 6 years
£100m a year off the BBC commissioning budget
£10m reduction in combined budget for BBC3 and Switch
£7bn investment in content over 6 years
£30m to be spent on multiplatform and on-demand over next 3 years
£4m to be spent on retraining and re-skilling
£300m to be spent on MyNow (local services)now over 6 years
£2m extra investment in films

This just serves to confuse me even further.

1.5 Billion saved on not doing something that was proposed? Isn't that called ''not doing something we might have done but won't'?' How does that affect current levels of staffing at news and factual in such a way that it becomes a slaughter house all of a sudden?

I'm much more concerned about the 100 million a year off the commissioning budget. That is a disaster.

What the hell is MyNow and does anyone outside the BBC give a damn but it costs 300 million?

The good news is an extra 2 million investment in films. That could mean extra sprinkles on the doughnuts, people!

The more I look at this the more it seems like a crock of shit.


'Major shows such as Watchdog, EastEnders and Gardeners' World are normally renewed on an annual basis. But they, along with the likes of Horizon, Holby City, Songs of Praise and Natural World have all been safeguarded for the next three years.''

Whew, what a relief!

Not kicking again

It's just that this whole BBC cuts malarky gets to me like a bad rash. The headline story is that there will be 1800 job losses, mostly in news and factual and the BBC is facing a £2 Billion shortfall.

Looking a little closer there will actually be something like 2800 job losses from news and factual, with 1000 being retrained to go into 'new media' and the £2 Billion shortfall is actually over 6 years.

A couple of things spring to mind. If 2800 jobs can go from news and factual without significantly damaging the quality of output then something was well rotten in the State of Denmark beforehand. Overstaffing and empire building perhaps? Given the percentage of BBC Governors whose Kith and Kin appear to be hanging around news and factual that may not be far from the truth.

But something really irks me when a public service broadcaster reknowned for it's news gathering service and documentaries slashes away at that service for the sake of budget, but leaves utter dross like Homes Under The Hammer, Beat The Bailliff, and just about every programme on BBC3 untouched. Not to mention all those digital radio stations who get about 5 listeners a day.

Here's a tip to save the news service millions of pounds a year. Stop the Empty Building interview. How many times do we see a reporter at ten at night standing outside the EMPTY Department of Transport or Home Office or Labour headquarters? There is no one there! Except the reporter and a very expensive outside broadcast team. For a thirty second spot where the reporter could impart all he has to say face to face with the news reader in the studio? Does the audience somehow feel the story isn't true unless the reporter is standing outside the blacked out building? I think not.

So, on the basis that the BBC hasn't actually had a cut in budget, it just didn't get as much as it had hoped for, why the sudden swinging cuts? Are they saying that they staffed up to levels they hoped they would be able to afford at a later date? Surely not?

Personally I think this smacks of Mark Thompson latching on to the opportunity to do some long overdue housekeeping. The spin that the BBC is in financial crisis just doesn't wash with me. It sounds more like the opening gambit to put to the Unions.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Alcs and Alkies

Okay that's enough BBC bashing. I don't like kicking a man when he's down.

On the back cover of the current ALCS magazine are a couple of interesting quotes from an interview with Alan Plater. Why it's on the back cover I don't know.

''Writers are essentially the court jesters. This is of course the best job in the court, which is why so many people (including pretenders) want to do it.''

I think these are very carefully chosen words. The court jester was one of the most precarious positions in the court. While it was going well the jester was a powerful figure with the ear of the king. Keep performing and life was rosy.

BUT ..... fall out of favour and it could be a one way ticket to obscurity, or teaching.

''Corporations have no interest in writing, only in the market, which by definition has no real integrity''

Amen. The counter argument goes that the market will find it's level and if an audience wants thoughtful intelligent progamming then the market will eventually provide it. But that doesn't work. The market is controlled by corporations who have a vested interest in mass appeal. Even if that means creating that 'appeal'' by mass marketing. How does MacDonalds manage to sell so much crap?

''But if all we want to be is rich then we shouldn't be writing in the first place. Radio and theatre, for me, remain the oases of sanity''

Heck I've got no beef about getting rich. And I think if writers were properly rewarded for what they do then getting rich and writing quality material don't have to be mutually exclusive. But I can see where he's coming from. Radio and Theatre are probably the place where the writers voice is given the most respect. It is also relatively poorly paid compared to TV and film. I guess that's the trade off.

And Alkies? It's all over the news this morning that booze is the curse of the middle classes.

It always was. You just don't see them staggering outside a nightclub at 3 in the morning. At least I don't when I'm there.

But for a writer especially, spending long hours alone in front of a computer, wrestling with various emotions, there is a temptation to have a glass of wine or 3. When that urge hits me, I stop writing. Because I know I won't be writing in the same voice or tone after a few drinks.

That's just me. Some prefer to have a few to loosen up before they even start writing. Either way, my tip for healthy drinking? Always use a clean glass.

Monday, October 15, 2007

This is funny

Especially if you know some of the personalities involved. Kudos whoever you are.

You know, I'm getting a bit fed up of all the holier than thou falling on swords that's going round at the moment.

It started with Greg Dyke and a few others over the WMD sexed up document. The effing Blue Peter cat naming scandal. The GMTV holiday phone in scam. The late night 'weirdo's phone in trying to win money' scam. The Comedy Awards phone in scam, the Yentob plagiarism accusations and Queensgate or Crowngate or whatever you want to call it.

Enough already! It's becoming the medias own sexed up WMD. Rap a few knuckles and move on. Nobody cares! Yes there seems to have been an endemic culture of using phone in's to boost revenue, and not always above board. We get it.

But no more of the sack cloth and ashes and finger pointing. Please? Fire who needs to be fired quietly and quickly and move on.

A couple of interesting points arose during my perusual of the 2006 BBC accounts. Yes I am that anal!

The BBC make almost as much from selling magazines as they do from selling programmes abroad. That's got to tell you something right there.

The average pay increase for BBC staff was 4.9%. Nice work if you can get it.

From a 3 Billion income, 2 Billion went on transmitted programming. By my calculations that leaves 1 Billion which didn't go on transmitted programming. I wonder what it went on? I would look but I'm not THAT anal!

But it seems to me that if Mark Thompson is looking for drastic cuts, eating into that 1 Billion would be a good place to start.

BBC - a family business?

Perusing the BBC financial statements for 2006, as is my want I was struck by how family orientated the business is. That's so nice to see.

For example Baroness Deech, a Governor? Well..... her daughter is a journalist with BBC News.

Merfyn Jones, a Governor? Well..... his son is employed as a researcher with BBC News.

Ranjit Sondhi, a Governor?Well.... his wife is employed as Head of Political Community Affairs, whatever that is.

Richard Tait, a Governor? Well.....his wife is a commissioning editor with Radio 4.

Mena Richards, controller of BBC Wales? She is very family orientated, doing the double with payments to her sister's company Torpedo totalling £325, 000 for programmes and £56,000 to her husband for artistic rights.

Now I don't want to come across like Private Eye here. There ain't no law against members of a family working for the same company. I just find it interesting how the media blood obviously courses through the veins in some. Could be something in the water?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

That's not funny

So the British Comedy Awards won't be screened this year due to an ongoing 'phone in' scandal report due on last year's show?


So a whole bunch of talented, dedicated people miss out on their day in the sun because the untalented suits screwed up yet again? The ones whose main dedication is to preserving their jobs at all costs? Because that can be the only purpose in cancelling the show.

So there was some kind of phone in scandal last year? So what? Don't have a phone in. Problem solved.

Do they really think the vast majority of the audience gives a toss? They tune in to see Jonothan Ross rip the piss out of people and view some great comedy clips. Well.....maybe not great clips this year given the output. I doubt if any of the current crop will go down as vintage.
But that's not the point.
This is the show that gave us Julian Clary talking about getting fisted by Norman Lamont and a clearly drunk or drugged Michael Barrymore destroying the set!

But because a few rubes phoned in after the winner of some ''peoples choice'' category was already chosen the show gets yanked.

This has got nothing to do with integrity or ethics and everything to do with timing. The report is due soon, and ITV would like to bury it along with the show. This year! Next year is a whole 'nuther ball game.

But as far as they are concerned, screw the audience and screw the talent. Plus ca change......

Wouldn't it be great to have someone with some balls in there making these decisions. Just once.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Thursday Night Lights?

Crap! When did Thursday nights become so good? I have to be up at 4.30 tomorrow for a flight but I'm glued. Scrubs and my Name is Earl on E4. Studio 60 on More Four. Californication and 30 Rock on 5.

I'm like a whore working two beds! I'm writing this in the fricking ad break. Throw in internet watching of Reaper, Chuck, Pushing Daises, Entourage Corner Gas and Aliens In America and there just ain't enough hours in the day,TiVo or not.

God help me if I find a UK programme I actually want to watch as well.


Is what I believe the latest BBC debacle is being named. You know the one, when Her Maj grumpy face was made out to be storming out of a photo shoot instead of storming into one?

I couldn't care less is my first thought because frankly I can't. Not about the subject matter. But heads have roled and rightly so. Because while of course documentary makers legitimately use dramatic techniques to enhance the experience, you've got to draw the line at manipulating timing of events to portray a completely different picture than what actually happened.

Did the right heads roll? Dunno. But I think the documentary maker should be tarred and feathered. You expect a degree of subjectivity in any documentary, but the least you should expect is that the facts are correctly presented.

Except from what I understand the documentary maker was innocent.

It was RDF, the producers, who sexed up the original tape in order to try to boost foreign sales. Well that kinda backfired as it promoted a commission bar from BBC and ITV and a 30% drop in their share price. Damn good thing too. Maybe it will wipe the smile off some of those cocky marketers faces.

I spoke to an irate dev exec. A programme she had loved and nurtured, and also loved the title, was bemoaning the fact that the marketing department had changed the title so that it would fit in the SKY menu box!!

Another had a name changed by marketing to make it a very unsubtle double entendre, when there was nothing at all sexy about the programme.

There is definitely a place for the marketers, but sometimes the tail not only wags the dog, it curls round it's neck and chokes it to death.

Hopefully this is a salutory reminder to them that in both fact and fiction, truth is the most important aspect.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


It never rains but it pours. I've a deadline Wednesday. On Friday my computer packed up, dead, zilch. Lost half the script. Spent the rest of Friday buying a new computer, getting it set up and generally playing with it. Had Saturday off thinking I still had plenty of time.


Sunday I got hit with a bug which meant losing half my body weight from both ends. For two days I did nothing but crawl to the toilet and sleep. Occasionaly at the same time.

The moral of the story is you have no such thing as free time until AFTER the script is done!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Kid Stays In The Picture

For those of you who haven't read Robert Evan's ''autobiography'' ( I use itallics because I suspect given the subject there is a lot of hyperbole involved!) I really do recommend it. I first read it a couple of years ago and have recently started again. It is THAT good.

A passage I was reading early this morning struck a chord. Bear in mind Evans was referring to Paramount in the seventies, when Paramount was rapidly going down the toilet. He had a stand up/knock down fight with the distribution arm, because he reckoned the problem was that distribution was telling production what to make when in his opinion production should be making what they thought was great, then tell distribution to go out and sell it. He won.

The result was Chinatown, The Godfather, Rosemary's Baby, Love Story, Goodbye Columbus, Marathon Man and a host of others. True or not it's a great story. But the situation has become much worse since then.

With the cost of movies spiralling the studios are only willing to greenlight what they think are sure fire winners. They've been vetted by marketing and distribution long before the cameras start rolling. No exec is willing to put their head above the parapet and take a risk.

In this industry the corporate culture and creative culture have to rub along in an uneasy alliance for the best work to reach the screen. In the last 20 years I feel corporate culture has annexed the Sudetenland. Marched in. Declared Marshall law. Okay my own hyperbole there, but you know what I mean.

10 years ago do you think a writer had any idea what ''4 quadrant'' meant? This ''marketers'' speak is now on the lips of every newbie trying for a shot with a studio. It's a cultural change but the prize is so great it is very difficult not to fall in with the buzz words and statistics and demongraphics that the marketers throw around. That's fine if you can do that and feel it doesn't actually harm the story you want to tell.

But when that story then has to become the one the marketers believe they can sell then you have a dilemma.

And it's not quite the same dilemma as a director or producer asking for artistic or production based changes. This is about a pre-emtive strike solely based on what the marketing department ''think'' they can sell. Emotional beats changed to suit a predicted audience whim long before sneaks and previews. Give a girl a chance will you, before you give her a pre-prom makeover so she'll make it big with the jocks? Assuming she's not a swamp monster maybe the jocks will like her just as she is?

Yes, film making is a business, and for studios, anticipating the market is essential, but it's not like making kettles. It's about emotion and zeitgeist. And I defy anyone to anticipate what that will be 2 or 3 years down the line when a greenlit film is actually finally released.

A film should be made on gut instinct more than statistics, but bravery has gone out the window thanks to the quick and high price of executive failure. The sack!

This defensive production culture has also permeated through Uk TV to some extent. Witness the bland load of bollocks littering the schedules. Though truth be told, and I may be way off base, I am detecting a sea change. I think it is a sea change born out of desperation as ratings stagnate or dwindle, but I am beginning to hear what I think are encouraging noises. Michael Grade's assertion that content is king sounds very much like Robert Evans' plea to Paramount. It apparently worked for him? And saved Paramount if not the movie industry.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Sod's Law

I had a couple of hours to kill yesterday and must have read just about every TV review in every paper. Almost without exception they heaped praise on Murphy's Law.

Imagine my surprise when I read it garnered just 4.1 million viewers and was soundly spanked by gentle comedy/drama Doc Martin with 8.1 million viewers.

Or is it surprising? Murphy's Law might be the critic's darling. But the critics aren't the average ''over 50'' TV viewer, who when given the straight choice between a dark gritty drama and a gentle romp with nice scenery, well, I think I know which they'd choose.

It's those ageing demongraphics again. Murphy's Law might be a good show, but it will continue to be soundly spanked when pitted against Doc Martin. I think it would add a million or two at least if it were in a different time slot.

I don't think that the BBC will panic about those figures. The critical acclaim will see it through. But it's a sobering thought that if not for the critical acclaim, on those figures and on another channel, that show might be in trouble.

Monday, October 01, 2007

What were they like?

I've missed so many shows recently for one reason or another. Mostly apathy. But some I wanted to see and missed. I'll list them below and if anyone has seen them I'd be grateful if they could post their thoughts in a sentence or two.

It's A Free World

Coming Down The Mountain


I'm not joking by the way. I'd like a vox pop on what seems to be a current fad, at least with commissioners, and I missed them.

This is a random musings post so please bear with me if you got this far!

Aaron Sorkin. I loved The West Wing. First four seasons especially. Though I will never forgive that series finale. Toby gets pardoned and never appears in the ep? I really like Studio Sixty. I watched episodes of each back to back the other night. They are both smart and sassy but I realised why I love one and like the other. I can believe a liberal President.

ITV productions are beefing up their drama production arm with three recent appointments. Micky Grade walks the walk . But can these appointments walk and talk? I don't know them personally but I think it bodes well.

Apparently Jane Tranter in a recent interview said we should move to the American system of creating lots of pilots and seeing what sticks. There are some serious flaws in that system as documented elsewhere, notably SERIOCITY's blog. But overall I'm fer it. But for the BBC to go that route is going to take a sea change of tsunami proportions. Though perhaps they should think back and recognise that for better or worse, shows like The Bill and Last Of The Summer Wine came about that way 20 something years ago.

I'd also argue that creating lots of pilots is one thing but moving to the writer's room system is something else entirely and one that I personally would jump at in an instant, mainly because it takes swathes of non-writing management out of the equation and gives precedence to a room full of creativity. Bliss. Okay it still has to get past the suits. But it's coming from a good place.