Friday, 25 April 2008

BBC Comedy College

Michael Jacob has announced that all interviewees have now been contacted. It's in the comments section here. Didn't get mine unless it got jammed in the wire when competing with all the job offers that failed to get through.

Oh well. Just got to keep at it and lots of other chances coming up. The first performance of my short play Paddling is on Wednesday so butterflies bigtime at the moment.

Did any of you get an invite to the interviews?

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Purrrfectly lovely

Not a writing thing strictly but this got passed round the office today and I couldn't resist. The man clearly owns a cat. As should all good writers by the way. Who else can you have a sensible conversation with at 3 in the morning?

He has more here and apparently there is another in production. Out soon.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Aspirations and Inspirations

Ever been asked what kind of writer you want to be? It's something I've been asked on courses and sometimes ask myself. My standard response is that I want to have a body of work that I can look back on and be proud rather than stuff that just hit a deadline.

So the next question is what would I be proud of? Well the easiest way of replying is what do I wish I could have written. Well easy in theory, but I hate to leave anything out. The film list on the right is probably a good clue at how I can get carried away. And I'm forcing myself not to add to it.

Favourite 5? Do me a favour. Favourite 10? Oh rats, each time I squeeze one in, another I can't do without drops off the end. Favourite 100? Could I just add a few more please?

Deep breathe. Be strong. I'm going to list the first ones that spring into my head.

Edge of Darkness by Troy Kennedy-Martin. If any is on top of my list I think it has to be that one. Each character is memorable and multi-layered. Lots of subplots feeding into the main one. Tragedy, thriller, comedy and horror. And that reality-fantasy mix that I love so much. I've watched it so many times and don't get tired of it. If I could write like that...

Unless its Shooting the Past by Stephen Poliakoff. Missed the recent repeat and haven't got it on DVD yet so it's more the fact it sits in my memory so well. I know it is a much slower, gentler pace than is expected these days but the pace fits the story and I didn't find it hard to sit quietly and just experience it. It makes me calm just remembering it. Got to buy that DVD.

Right, that's two TV ones so on to films. But, can't I just add... Nope. Films.

I did a quick scan of my DVD case because my mind went blank. Not as a comment on film writers but because I got sensory overload.

So we have Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall. Yes I know it started as a novel and a play but I know the film version. Again the reality-fantasy mix. Great characters and a gentle pace. Wonderful dialogue. The start, moving past a range of households along with a "housewife's choice" radio broadcast sets the scene beautifully and gave me plenty of flashbacks.

Then one that a few of you might not know but please ignore panic at subtitles. It's worth it.
Le Diner de Cons by Francis Veber. At this point I am sobbing in a corner because I've just found out there's a US remake planned with Sasha Baron Cohen. No pleeeeease. This is a subtle farce with beautiful characters, great dialogue and..... Sorry. Overcome by sobbing again. All I can say is see the original first.

I'll stop it here. Maybe another post later on stage plays.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Wasted from Writing

I am shattered. I was off travelling last week. Took my memory stick along so I could work on my every1sacritic submission. Then I got a call from Dave. STOP. Wonderful Robin had shouted the deadline was shifted until August so why not try Comedy College as well.

So I spent the time working on the BBC Comedy College submission after all. Didn't think I'd manage it because my old sitcom script was 4yrs old. Time flies... Reading it again was humiliating and I wanted to get the petrol and burn it.

Too much woodwork in the hotel room so I buried it in a far recess of the computer instead. Somewhere near the Microsoft Works folder that came free with the laptop.

So I took the basic idea and characters then did the old ripping apart and putting together again. I blocked out the first episode and sorted the full series storyline. Just had the first 10 pages to write. One weekend, no problem.

Then disaster struck. A sprog event, a visit from a relative and another from an old school friend I'd not seen since my wedding. So 2 days went down to 6 hours, if I slept.

Well I didn't sleep much. I tried but poor Dave had to endure me turning on the light every half hour to jot down more notes. He'll cut the plug off one day.

I got it done and sent out to a few people with a "pretty please help" and got feedback enough for a terrible trio. Thank to Robin again as one of them.

I did some more rewriting and just sent it off. If this is the pace the rest of you work then I might have to turn to coffee to keep going. Yeugh. Maybe I'll do extra strong chocolate instead.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Getting Sentimental

(Spoiler if you've not seen the last episode of Torchwood yet)

Speaking of which I had a little cry on Friday night at Torchwood. Family is used to it. I sobbed my heart out at the end of Blake's 7 and it's been downhill since then.

I had a feeling Owen wouldn't make it (or would continue not making it) but Tosh was a shock. Owen had started to show a soft side and Tosh had begun to toughen up and then they're gone. I'd wanted to see what they were going to develop into.

If character development means your end is near then Ianto may be at risk. And I've really liked the Everyman role he's taken. A bit of down to earth dry sarcasm. Nice.

However I don't sob at just anything. It has to be quality. If it's deliberately sentimental and slushy it has no effect at all. Most "women's films" leave me cold. I really, really, really hate that label. What kind of women are they targeted at? It's melodrama with a big C, which is usually what kills one of the main characters off with warning, and headlines and flashing lights so you know its coming. "I have a bad headache." Right, brain tumour.

That doesn't mean I hate films that have a mainly female cast. Calendar girls tackled many of the topics in melodrama but it wasn't over-sentimentalised. I watched that one surrounded by the WI who had turned out on mass. A bit… surreal.

And you have Descent, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, 8 Women and Volver. I could imagine meeting (and have met) women like those in real life. Except they don't tend to break into song every few minutes.

I'm struggling to think of a big budget Hollywood film that would fit here. Hmmm. Wonder why that is? Anyone able to suggest one?

That old Writer's Block dropped by again.

Well I got a lot more completed than I expected this week. I've sent off a batch of shorts for competitions and done some feedback. I also got an entry into Coming Up, which I didn't think I'd have time to do. An idea grabbed me so I ran with it.

It seems there are a load of deadlines all looming at once and I don't have a big enough portfolio yet to just chuck something out. This leaves me with a dilemma.

Do I go for the BBC Comedy College and maybe not even have my work looked at because my CV isn't loaded with successes (yet?). Or go for Every1sacritic and maybe get my CV in better shape for BBC next year. They share a deadline. So I asked a couple of people who knew my stuff and they told me what I really knew already. Wait a year for BBC and go for the other.

But it isn't easy, what if this was THE break and I didn't even go for it. But if you stretch yourself too thinly and chuck out something you've had to knock together in a hurry then you won't get anywhere at all. I'm stuck between a granite clump and a rigid flat fish.

Anyway I've gone for Every1sacritic. I considered trying to get my current sitcom episode down to 15mins but decided in the end to start afresh. So there I sat. Blank sheet of paper in front of me. Pen in hand. And nothing happening. Zilch. Nada.

I usually get round this by doing a stream of consciousness. Just chucking any old garbage on the page. Let it form into something rational (or not) and then bin the beginning and pick through the rest for something interesting. So I shut my eyes. Raised the pen and let rip. Ten minutes later I looked down. Some sod had nicked my brilliant ideas and replaced it with a blank piece of paper!

I haven't had writer's block for ages. Must be lack of sleep from bureaucrats playing with clocks again. So I tried a more structured approach.
1) Think of a place.
2) Think of two people that are opposites.
3) Trap them in close proximity.
4) Now find a catalyst to push them over the edge. In this case I chose another character. So I've got a three-hander. The old top of pile, bottom of pile and the go-between … well … between.
5) Then turn up the heat and sit back to see what the characters will do. I made the temperature drop instead, literally.

They are turning out quite fun at the moment but I won't be sure if the idea has perambulating appendages just yet. I might still bin it and come up with something else.
But I'll keep the characters regardless. I'll tuck them away in a nice padded cell for a later date. I get really attached to my characters and can't bear to bin any of them.