22 December, 2006

Opening Weekend

Bhagam Bhag
Comedy about a theatre group.

With Akshay Kumar, Govinda, Paresh Rawal, Lara Dutta

Writer: Neeraj Vora
Director: Priyadarshan

Official site


Flags of our Fathers
Soldier and veteran drama.

With Ryan Phillippe, Jesse Bradford, Adam Beach, John Benjamin Hickey, John Slattery , Barry Pepper, Jamie Bell, Paul Walker, Robert Patrick

Writers: William Broyles Jr. and Paul Haggis (based on book by James Bradley and Ron Powers)
Director: Clint Eastwood

William Broyles Jr interview
James Bradley interview

Official site


Superhero kids adventure based on adult comic book parody

With Tim Allen, Courteney Cox, Chevy Chase

Writers: Adam Rifkin and David Berenbaum (from Jason Lethcoe's graphic novel)
Director: Peter Hewitt

Jason Lethcoe interview

Official site


It's a Boy Girl Thing
A teen boy and girl who hate each other do a body swap.

With Samaire Armstrong, Kevin Zegers, Emily Hampshire

Writer: Geoff Deane
Director: Nick Hurran

Official site


Night at the Museum

With Ben Stiller, Carla Gugino, Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, Bill Cobbs, Jake Cherry, Ricky Gervais, Robin Williams

Writers: Robert Ben Garant & Thomas Lennon (based on Milan Trenc's book)
Director: Shawn Levy

Robert Ben Garant & Thomas Lennon interview

Official site


Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

An expert perfume maker goes to extremes to find the ulimate scent

With Ben Whishaw, Francesc Albiol, Gonzalo Cunill, Roger Salvany, Andrés Herrera, Simon Chandler, David Calder

Writers: Andrew Birkin & Bernd Eichinger & Tom Tykwer (from Patrick Süskind's novel)
Director: Tom Tykwer

Tom Tykwer interview 1
Tom Tykwer interview 2

Official site


21 December, 2006

Word of Mouth

Deja Vu

Because most directors claim the 'a film by' credit even when they didn't write it, I've tended to go the other way and credit the writer with everything, good or bad, but it’s increasingly obvious that just because a writer is on the credits, it doesn’t mean they were the only writer or that they weren’t re-written to make it better or re-written to make it worse. This film is a case in point.

Deju Vu has an interesting concept in that an ATF agent realises that a woman's murder is linked to a bigger scale disaster and realises that if he can save the woman he can prevent the disaster which means going back in time.

However this high-concept thriller with lots of money behind it proves, ultimately, to be a damp squib. Normally I would blame the screenwriters but co-writer Terry Rossio says "we had a director who couldn't understand the movie, and so rewrote it into incoherence."

'Incoherence' sums it up nicely. There was a genre shift from action thriller to Open University lecture as they tried to explain how the time travel works. I don't bloody care how the time travel works, it's not as if I'm going to be trying it myself in my lab at home afterwards in between splitting atoms and finding the cure for cancer.

Establish just enough to be plausible then move the frack on with the story. If I wanted a science lesson I would have bothered to go to the ones at school.

A rookie mistake by the screenwriters you would think but Rossio says that he and co-writer Bill Marsilli argued against the explanation but were over-ruled by Tony Scott and Jerry Bruckheimer - who you would think would know better. A big gang of young people walked out during my screening when they're the demo most likely to buy another ticket if they enjoyed it. Will Tony and Jerry now realise explosions and car chases aren't everything and even kids want a good story? Will they frack.

Bill Marsilli's Wordplay post about trying not to be disappointed

Terry Rossio's Wordplay reply

Box Office #5



I've been a bit wary of fantasy films since Lord of the Rings and so couldn't believe the running time of this was only 100 minutes. It's fantasy and based on a book so therefore should be hours long, surely. So while that encouraged me to see it, they've obviously cut way too much. I haven't read the book but I very much doubt the story and plotting here alone would have enabled it to become such a beloved best-seller.

It's obviously missing depth as they concentrated on selective action beats. But that just meant a lurch from one to another a bit implausibly. How does the evil one manage to find out the top secret location where the goodies are based? By following them there. If only he had thought of that deviously complex scheme years ago.

That said, it's not terrible just a bit dull without the emotional beats that deeper characterisation brings. So while it's a bit bleh for adults, undemanding teens may like it.

Box Office #4


Black Christmas

Everybody sing:
"Black Christmas, I plucked out your eye,
and the very same day, I left you to die"
(with apologies to George Michael)

I'm really glad I saw Black Christmas - it's really crap but rather than have a little nap or walk out, I worked out why it was crap and got an idea for my own slasher project.

Technically, by my own severe rules, I should have walked out in the beginning at the mental health hospital scene when the security guard falls for the oldest trick in the book. It's possible this security guard really was stupendously stupid, fair enough, but he would also have needed to have never seen several hundred films and TV shows where this trick has been played out.

The dialogue is good, as you would expect from Glen Morgan but we don't really get to know the characters properly before they are bumped off. It hits the ground running and, in crisis, enough characterisation can come out but it didn't really happen here.

It wasn't just the security guard though, all the characters live in the real world but have no common-sense and have never seen a movie. If you know the baddie, who has killed several people, is in a certain place then normal human reaction is not to go there.

Of course, what makes a hero a hero is going to where the bad guy is and confronting him but it has to be for a reason other than to be bumped off. It's hard to identify with and care about someone so stupid and that's our job - to get the audience to identify with the characters and care. It's much scarier having someone frantically trying to escape and doing their best to get away and then they get offed.

It could be argued that someone walking off to certain death for no reason is in the tradition of slasher movies, but I would argue that that is only a tradition in bad slasher movies. I don't think lame story-telling can be excused by calling it “tongue-in-cheek”.

Morgan introduces the back-story of the baddie to this re-make and while a bit of a flashback would have done, this goes on for ages. It's under 90 minutes as it is and he obviously felt he needed it for time reasons but it wasn't needed for story reasons and that's the main thing. I would have preferred if he had cut down that back-story and added more depth to the characters to make us care about them being killed.

There are, I assume, slasher fans who don't care about logic and good characterisation but who just want to see 'good deaths'. In my opinion there is only one 'good death' here but I think the ultimate goal is to make every death matter and how explicit and original they are should be a bonus.

Box Office #8

19 December, 2006

2007 Bluecat Screenplay Competition

Grand Prize: $10,000

Finalists: $1500 each

Entry Fee: $45
Every entry receives written screenplay analysis

Deadline: 1 March 2007

Euroscript Screen Story Competition 2007

"Win six months script development worth £1,000.

An opportunity for screenwriters to develop their scripts in a rigorous script development programme.

We are looking for writers with powerful story ideas and original voices to enter the Euroscript Screen Story Competition 2007."

Deadline: 31 March 2007.
Entry fee: £35

The Westminster Prize

"The Westminster Prize is open to people of any age who live, work or study in the borough of Westminster. The play only has to be 10 minutes long."

Deadline: 5 February 2007

Christmas Shorts

"It's all just a bit of fun so it's up to you how serious you take this, but all you have to do is write a ten page short film script with a Christmas theme."

Deadline: 31 December 2006

Tony Doyle Bursary for New Writing

"We are inviting submissions from writers with an Irish background.

The aim of the bursary is to encourage television drama about Ireland by writers new to the medium. This may include writers experienced in other forms of fiction as well as new writers.

The winner will receive a cash prize of £2,000. The winner along with 3 finalists will be invited to a residential seminar run by the BBC Northern Ireland Drama Department."

Deadline: 31 January 2007

Danny Stack is a past winner.

Theatre Trail Writers Competition 2007

"Plays should be 30 - 40 minutes long, suitable for day-time performance with minimal cast and props."

Deadline: 31st December 2006

Theatre workshop notes

"The aim is to write a ten-minute play with a maximum of two characters.

The workshop was participation based with hints and tips along the way."

Creative Procrastination

"Sometimes I find some really useful stuff while paddling about on the internet, like a screenwriting article that either gives me an idea for a new story or helps unstick an old one. But sometimes I get distracted and spend longer on the internet than I mean too, leaving less time for writing. And sometimes rather than warming up to writing I am just plain avoiding it. I don't kid myself about that and I know why it is - usually I am somehow stuck on something or stressed out and unable to concentrate."

15 December, 2006

Opening Weekend

Black Christmas
Slasher remake. Sorority sisters find themselves being harassed by a stranger with menacing phone-calls.

With Katie Cassidy, Michelle Trachtenberg, Kristen Cloke, Crystal Lowe, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Oliver Hudson, Lacey Chabert, Andrea Martin

Writer: Glen Morgan based on Roy Moore's 1974 screenplay)
Director: Glen Morgan

Official site


Dead Man's Cards
Drama about two bouncers confronting gun culture in Liverpool.

With Paul Barber, Robin John Barlow, Kimberley Barrett, Mike Bell, Tom Bell

Writers: James Marquand, James McMartin
Director: James Marquand

James Marquand & James McMartin video interview
James Marquand interview

Official site


Deja Vu
Thriller about a man who travels back in time to prevent a woman being murdured.

With Denzel Washington, Paula Patton, Val Kilmer, Jim Caviezel, Adam Goldberg

Writers: Bill Marsilii & Terry Rossio
Director: Tony Scott

Bill Marsilii Interview

Official site


Fantasy adventure featuring dragons.

With Edward Speleers, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Guillory, Robert Carlyle, John Malkovich, Garrett Hedlund, Alun Armstrong

Writers: Peter Buchman and Lawrence Konner & Mark Rosenthal and Jesse Wigutow (from the novel by Christopher Paolini)
Director: Stefen Fangmeier

Official site


Esma's Secret (Grbavica)
A woman and her daughter struggle to make their way through the aftermath of the Balkan war. Winner of the Golden Bear award at the Berlin Film Festival.

With Mirjana Karanovic, Luna Mijovic, Leon Lucev, Kenan Catic, Jasna Ornela Berry, Dejan Acimovic

Writer: Jasmila Zbanic
Director: Jasmila Zbanic

Jasmila Zbanic interview 1
Jasmila Zbanic interview 2

Official site


Frostbite (Frostbiten)
Horror. Vampires large it in Lapland.

Writers: Daniel Ojanlatva and Pidde Andersson
Director: Anders Banke

Official site


Grounded (Unaccompanied Minors)
Comedy. Five kids spend Christmas Eve in an airport,

With Lewis Black, Wilmer Valderrama, Tyler James Williams, Dyllan Christopher, Brett Kelly, Gina Mantegna, Quinn Shephard, Paget Brewster

Writers: Jacob Meszaros & Mya Stark
Director: Paul Feig

Production notes: how the writers got the idea

Official site


It's Winter (Zemastan)
Neo-realistic drama about life on the outskirts of Tehran.

With Hashem Abdi, Mitra Hajjar, Ali Nicksaulat, Said Orkani

Writer: Rafi Pitts
Director: Rafi Pitts

Rafi Pitts video interview


The West Wittering Affair
British romantic sex comedy about friends who stay together in a country house.

With Danny Scheinman, Sarah Sutcliffe, David Annen, Rick Bacon, Rebecca Cardinale, Sarah Coomes, Malcolm Ridley, Jonson Willis, Miltos Yerolemou

Writers: Danny Scheinman, Sarah Sutcliffe
Director: David Scheinmann

David Scheinmann interview 1
David Scheinmann audio interview

Official site

14 December, 2006

Word of Mouth

The Covenant

This warlocks coming-of-age supernatural horror isn’t brilliant but it’s OK for its genre and undemanding demo, I suppose. The main problem (amongst many) is that it sets up a fake mystery about who the bad guy is. If you’re paying attention it’s pretty obvious, actually even if you’re not paying attention it should be pretty obvious.

Instead of the mystery, they should have been clear from the start what was going on and focus on the baddie as well as the goodie. You could still have had the mystery but it’s a mystery to the goodie not to the audience. You also have the added bonus of dramatic irony, something like “you’re my best friend in the world”, when the audience knows the best friend wants to kill him. (That isn’t a spoiler. Or is it...)

I like the theme about power and its responsible use but having personal physical consequences of mis-use and over-use is a bit of a cop-out and keeps it strictly in a fantasy realm with no parallel with society. We see the consequences of people mis-using power everyday, they usually just end up richer and more powerful. It might affect them psychologically and it’s those consequences that we can relate to and are interested in.

What I also liked was a reference to Harry Potter, early on. I used to think that mentioning other fictional characters would break the fourth wall but it may have the opposite effect in that it says Harry Potter is fake but this is real life.

Writing this review, I’ve realised just how much I’ve learnt from Joss Whedon and the Buffy writing team.

Box Office #9


Happy Feet

I’ve seen all the animated animals films this year and was getting bored. However, this film shows it’s not the genre but how you do it what counts. The other films had too much in common either because they went for the most obvious ideas or they directly ripped off previous films. One thing you can say about Happy Feet is that it is original.

It features Mumbles, a penguin who is a dancer when everyone else is a singer and is ostracised as a result. I happen to be very good at both but I could still empathise with his pleas to be allowed to be who he is. Because, lets face it, this isn’t really about singing and dancing but the importance of individuality and not having to conform to fundamentalist religious doctrine. I’m not sure the kids are going to get all that but the other theme about humans destroying the environment is a little easier to get.

As well as having a funny story that says something and gets you emotionally involved, it also has the best animation and direction I have ever seen. Some sequences literally took my breath away. I think there’s some kind of debate between the photo-realist school and the clearly caricature school of animation styles but, bearing in the mind the message of this film, animators can choose whatever style they want.

Box Office #1


The Holiday

I was looking forward to this romantic comedy by Nancy Meyers and ignored the negative buzz because I really rate her screenwriting. However during the first twenty minutes of setting up my goodwill drained away.

I think, the problem is that the two main characters are alone when they instigate and do a house swap. So they talk to themselves and read out internet messaging out loud. For the story we do need to see them being lonely and realising other character development stuff before they meet ‘the one’ but this was done in an annoying way rather than an amusing one.

Amanda newly in the UK, for instance, drives into town and she’s all panicky about driving on the left and has a couple of near-collisions. She drinks a bottle of wine while she comfort food shops which is wacky fun but I can’t have been the only one thinking that if she can’t drive sober how is she going to drive drunk?

But as soon as we are introduced to their prospective paramours the Meyers magic begins. Interesting stories, nice characterisation and witty dialogue.
What was also very interesting was the sub-plot involving Iris, on holiday in America, and her relationship with the veteran screenwriter who lives next door.

It’s not brilliant, as Something’s Got to Give was brilliant but it’s entertaining and fun which is good enough.

Box Office #2

13 December, 2006

Confessions of a Genius Script Reader

(Thanks to Lucy for the Link)

9 Recent Attempts to Save the Romantic Comedy

11 December, 2006

Filmmakers on film

"JJ Abrams, screenwriter-director of Lost and Mission: Impossible III, talks about George Cukor's The Philadelphia Story (1940)"

Films face Britishness test for tax breaks

"Hollywood film-makers are threatening to snub Britain after the Government’s decision to withdraw tax breaks for films that are not “culturally British”."

Jed Mercurio Interview

"To judge by the rather dire diagnosis the doctor-turned-screenwriter Jed Mercurio ("Bodies")is delivering, British TV drama should be put on a life-support machine"

Are you game for a laugh?

Andrew Newman, head of comedy and entertainment at Channel 4, says "Without the investment of public service broadcasters such as Channel 4 and the BBC, new talent would be a rarity at the annual British Comedy Awards."

Whose line is it anyway?

"Playwright Nina Raine on the difficulties of directing your own work."

How Dickens did me in

"Simon Gray thought writing a play about Charles Dickens would be a breeze. Only now, after wrestling with it for years, can he bring himself to recall the full agony of its creation ... "

Are you havin' a laff?

"With TV comedy's biggest night of the year, the British Comedy Awards, happening this Wednesday, Digital Spy takes a look at the nominations, and what each of the channels are looking for in terms of new comedy in the future."

1st Draft: Feature Film

Writers arrive with an idea and leave with an industry ready first draft.

One weekend a month over six months of supervision by an industry professional and peer critique. From December 09/10.

Suitable participants should have a premise for a feature film. As participants will be developing a long-form script some screenwriting experience is desirable.

Places are limited. Mentorship is available on successful completion of the program.

IST DRAFT: FEATURE FILM will be taught by JOSEPHINE ROSE. Josephine Rose is the director of ScriptScout, a script development, training and industry scouting company. She has worked in the film industry for a number of years, both in-house and freelance, working as a script editor and consultant for companies including Miramax, Columbia Tri-Star and The Film Council. She has worked on a range of projects, from low budget independent features up to mainstream, large-scale productions.
At the same time, she has been working on her own screenplays and has three currently in development with producers. She is Head of Screenwriting at the New York Film Academy, and she tutors for Panico at the London Film Academy. She is also chair for the New Producers Alliance's 9 Point Script Development scheme.

SAT 13th & SUN 14th JAN
SAT 3rd & SUN 4th FEB
SAT 10th & SUN 11th MAR
SAT 14th & SUN 15th APR
SAT 5th & SUN 6th MAY

NPA Members: £ 700.00 Non Members Price: £900.00

Talent Circle members receive a 10% discount: TC2006

Venue: NPA Film Centre, 1.07 The Tea Building, 56 Shoreditch High Street, London E1 6JJ

Telephone - 020 7613 0440

08 December, 2006

Opening Weekend

Drama. A man tries to help his daughter-in-law cope with the death of his son.

With Amitabh Bachchan,Hema Malini, Salman Khan, Rani Mukherjee

Writers: Ravi Chopra, Achala Nagar
Director Ravi Chopra

Ravi Chopra interview


The Covenant

Horror about young warlocks in danger

With Steven Strait, Toby Hemingway, Chace Crawford, Sebastian Stan

Writer: JS Cardone
Director: Renny Harlin

Official site


Happy Feet
Animated animals movie about dancing penguins.

With voicework by Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Brittany Murphy.

Writers: Warren Coleman, John Collee, George Miller, Judy Morris
Director: George Miller

George Miller interview 1

George Miller interview 2

Official site


The Holiday
Crimbo rom-com

With Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Jack Black, Eli Wallach, Rufus Sewell, Edward Burns

Writer: Nancy Meyers
Director: Nancy Meyers

Nancy Meyers interview

Official site


The Nativity Story
Adapataton of the popular story.

With Keisha Castle-Hughes, Oscar Isaac, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Ciarán Hinds, Alexander Siddig

Writer: Mike Rich
Director: Catherine Hardwicke

Mike Rich interview 1

Mike Rich interview 2
Mike Rich interview 3
Official site

Word of Mouth

Big Nothing

This is an enjoyable crime comedy about a man who gets led into helping with blackmail but it all gets complicated. The difficulty with black comedy is how to kill people but still have the audience on your side. After all death is serious and not particularly funny. Early on, there was one character who I liked but who, in my opinion, had to be killed for story reasons but didn’t know how it could be done. Luckily the screenwriters knew and I was impressed as we still had sympathy with the heroes.

Similarly I liked the twists and surprises as the film carried on. I shouldn't really say anymore about the plot but it's a recommended film. I was also impressed by the fact that it was set in America but filmed in the Isle Of Man. At first I was trying to catch them out looking for cars driving on the wrong side and red phone boxes and post boxes but then I just got lost in the story. A good story and a good script will always triumph over a lack of money in my opinion.

Box Office #12


Deck the Halls

Deck the Halls? I wanted to deck the screenwriters. What makes it worse is that in the film, It's a Wonderful Life is playing at the cinema and Miracle on 34th Street is playing on television as if the mere mentioning of those true Christmas classics would make us like this Xmas excrement any better.

Writers tend to have strengths in one particular area more than another and in this the dialogue is quite good with some funny lines but the plotting is lame, unconvincing and finally just way too sentimental. This film is an argument for cinemas to follow aeroplanes and provide sickbags. And me hating Christmas has nothing to do with it. I'm convinced that if crimbophiles see this film they would turn into crimbophobes.

Box Office #5


Flushed Away

I'm not sure what the kids thought of this but I wasn't all that impressed. The usual Aardman trademark detail and background gags were good - although I think the rat/mice character designs made them look too human. There's some nice lines and some funny stunts but overall I just wasn't all that bothered.

I think it's down to the lead character. He undergoes a change during the film but he starts off as too much of a fool to be likeable. More emphasis on his subconscious desire would have helped him get sympathy during his development.

A few flicks ago in a review I suggested I had animated animals fatigue. Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of Dreamworks Animaton, has clearly read my blog because he too suggests that the animations this year have been too samey and that’s the reason for their relative failure.

He also said that because of the disappointment of Flushed Away and Wallace and Gromit, they are unlikely to work with Aardman again. I'm not that surprised as those films seemed very parochial and not universal enough, appealing mainly to upscale anglophile adults (unlike Chicken Run for instance).

Trying to work out the credits, they had the top UK screenwriters involved (Clement and Le Frenais) , and then a couple of American A-list sitcom vets ( Lloyd and Keenan) punching it up with gags and then William Davies of Alien Autopsy and Johnny English was also involved at some stage with an additional four or five writers trying to punch that final draft up.

Ideally the story should be the joke. To use an extreme example Groundhog Day is funny because of the story and didn't need a team of writers trying to crowbar gags in. When the story is as underdeveloped and lame as Flushed Away then you do need a lot of gags but as the gags don't arise from story they also tend to be lame. Like the jokes about the French and the Americans. Racial gags just seem a bit desperate and last resort to me as they are so easy and lazy and old. I could not be more bored by thick yank tourist gags and cowardly frog gags.

Box Office #2



I try to avoid reading reviews until after I see a film, for the greater learning experience, but you sometimes can’t avoid the buzz. And the buzz around Hollywoodland was bad.

I didn’t see their problem, as I loved the period detail of 1950s Hollywood and the ironic debates about the nascent television industry. It was a lovely structure in that it started with George Reeve’s apparent suicide and then we followed a gumshoe as he investigated the death along with the parallel story of Reeve's life before the death.

A murder mystery is a good way to explore the society and the characters and also of adding conflict and intrigue to what might be a run-of-the-mill dull biography. I felt however that too much was made of it - considering we knew it was all made-up toss. The private detective imagines possible alternative scenarios to the suicide which were confusing at first and then just plain annoying. It turns out, reading the interview with the screenwriter, that it was the studio's dumb idea to make it more about the PI then Reeves which he didn't agree with but he was over-ruled and re-written.

Box Office #12


Pan's Labyrinth

This is an amazing cinematic and storytelling experience that is not to be missed. Ofelia straddles the grim reality of fascist Spain and the grim fantasy of her other life. With the former she is without hope but with the latter there is the hopeful possibility of a better life. I really want to talk about the ending and how it made me feel but I shan't. I suppose the main thing is that the film did make me feel something and did get an emotional reaction.

This is ultimately a positive parable but you may need to see it more than once to get beyond the characters and their fates to a more intellectual interpretation.

Box Office #8


Stranger than Fiction

This high concept comedy-drama about a man who finds he is a fictional character is excellent and a must-see. It is an unlikely premise but because the characters take it seriously and react like normal people would react if it really happened we are taken in by it.

I like that it's a gimmicky story about a fictional character coming to life but the underlying theme is a positive one about real people and how we live our lives.

Box Office #7


Tenacious D In The Pick Of Destiny

There’s a Tenacious D song and video called Tribute where they tell the story of the game they played with the devil to see who could write the best song. I enjoyed this expansion of the story to the big screen and the bigger budget.

However, although they do their best, padding out that story while always interesting wasn’t always funny enough. You can’t help making comparisons with Borat, another road movie. While the big comic set-pieces were very funny there wasn’t really enough of them.

What I learnt was how funny playing with the audience’s expectations can be. This is especially true with the Tenacious D origin story when JB meets KG. They could have just done the familiar cliché scene and add funny gags to make it funny but instead they did the opposite to what we expected and the surprise made it very funny. In addition the lines arising from that were funnier than gags because they were organic to the scene.

I reviewed a Torchwood episode (number 3) where two healthy young people were threatened by a slow old sick man with a knife and didn’t run away (or walk away) but stayed close to him, cowering in fear, so someone could get stabbed to death for dumbass lazy plotting reasons. Please bear that in mind when you watch this film, I won’t say why but it will make a very funny scene even funnier.

Box Office #4

07 December, 2006

Horror Film Screenplay Search

"Olive Pictures are pleased to announce the launch of their Horror Film Screenplay Search. An ongoing campaign has begun to discover the best horror screenwriting talent in the country so if you like to be scared as much as we do then we want to hear from you.

If you have a horror story that has to be told then Olive Pictures is the place for you."

06 December, 2006

TAPS script editing course • Day 1 notes

Know your enemy...

Day 2 Notes

05 December, 2006

ITV2 commissions more drama and comedy

ITV will increase the investment in its multichannel ITV2 from £40m a year to nearly £60m.

ITV digital channels programme director Steven Andrew said the extra money in 2007 would see commissioning in drama, comedy and factual entertainment genres, according to Broadcast.

"The message is you ain't seen nothing yet. We have big ambitions for ITV2," he said.

He continued that ITV2 is in a strong position to launch high profile new series, because it is beginning to beat Channel 4 and Five in the targeted 16 to 34-year-old demographic on strong nights.

ITV2 controller Zai Bennett said the upcoming winter season would be the first to showcase the channel's "fresh approach" to programming. "We want our shows to be celebratory in tone, not cynical or downbeat," he said.

Local productions to be launched include sketch series Comedy Cuts (ITV Productions).

WGA defends delaying talks

"The saber rattling has started in earnest between Hollywood writers and employers.

In a message sent to members over the weekend, WGA West president Patric Verrone amped up the hostility with a spirited defense of the guild's decision to spurn an offer to launch negotiations in January in favor of waiting until September. Guild's current contract expires on Halloween."

04 December, 2006

Babes With Blades' International Playwriting Competition

A playwriting competition devoted to increasing the number of quality scripts featuring fighting roles for women.


This year’s theme is “Duelo de Mujeres” (The Duel of Women), named after a painting by José Ribera.

They are soliciting scripts for production that are inspired by this painting. In order for a script to qualify for the competition, the fight depicted in the painting MUST APPEAR within the script. The winning script will be produced in Spring 2008 as part of Babes With Blades’ 2007-8 Season. The winning playwright will receive a $1000 cash prize.


JOINING SWORD AND PEN was launched in 2005. The inaugural theme was inspired by a print of Emile Bayard's “An Affair of Honor.” The competition netted the Babes over 40 entries, from locales ranging from their native Chicago to South Africa and New Zealand. The two winning one-acts, Chicagoan Byron Hatfield’s "Mrs. Dire’s House of Crumpets and Solutions" and New Zealander Tony Wolf’s "Satisfaction," were staged at the Viaduct Theater, April 7 – May 14, 2006, under the title "An Affair of Honor."

Deadline: Sunday 1 April 2007

Paul Schlesinger: 'Come on, then, make me laugh'

"From radio to TV is the classic route for the greatest comedy shows. But now it's under threat. The man who has the job of putting jokes on to the BBC airwaves tells what he's doing about it"

(Note: the competition he mentioned is now closed.)

Innocence lost on BBC1 viewers

"It was meant to be the young and vibrant drama series to catch the all-important youth audience and be the hit of the autumn, but this weekend the BBC has confirmed that it is pulling its eight-part drama series The Innocence Project from the schedules."

Winners of 9th Annual British Independent Film Awards Announced

03 December, 2006

How Not To Get Ripped Off In Theatre

Own it and Stella Network invite you to find out more about the issues of property rights in theatre on Wednesday December 13 at the London College of Fashion from 6.30-8.30pm .

Copyright and intellectual property issues involve writers, performers, musicians and artists and this free event will offer a guide to those who are interested. Guest speakers will include Greg Ripley-Duggan, Executive Producer at Shakespeare's Globe and Sean Egan, IP lawyer, specialising in film and theatre, from Bates Wells & Braithwaite.

Make Your Mark in Film (Re-post)

A new script competition has been launched for emerging young UK writers. The Make Your Mark in Film With CobraVision is connected to Enterprise Insight’s Make Your Mark programme and Cobra Beer’s short film competition CobraVision.

The winner, working with a script of the theme of “having an idea and making it happen” will win £3,000 and the finished film will be shown in the UK in 2007.

Their script will be divided into ten five-minute segment which will be produced by ten regional production teams (to be selected in the competition’s second stage.)

Scripts can be any genre but with a cast of no more than four central characters and minimal special effects.

The competition was launched at the Edinburgh Film Festival by Nik Powell, Director of the National Film and Television School, who said "This competition is a tremendous opportunity for established or budding young scriptwriters to make their mark in the film industry. In its later stages this unique project will also give aspiring directors, producers and crew a chance to showcase their talents.

"The Make Your Mark campaign aims to encourage young people to be more enterprising – to turn their own ideas into reality. To do this, it is important that we tap into their own areas of interest. This competition aims to inspire them to make their ideas happen through film."

Deadline: 15 December 2006

Gumball 3000 Films Looking for Scripts

" Have you dreamt of writing the next Usual Suspects or Ocean's Eleven?

Gumball 3000 Films is looking to make that dream a reality. After having successfully produced and released four documentary feature films of our past Gumball 3000 Rallies - the latest 3000 Miles featuring Bam Margera and Tony Hawk on an epic 3000 mile adventure across the globe from London to Los Angeles, we're now looking to produce a fiction film based on the Gumball 3000 Rally. Think Pulp Fiction crossed with the Thomas Crown Affair rather than Cannonball Run, but fast cars should definitely play an integral role.

Two executive producers already attached include Oscar winning actor Adrien Brody and Gumball 3000 founder Maximillion Cooper. Through our previous films we have also established lasting relationships with independent financiers, all we need now is a script...and that's where you come in!

We will select 100 writers based on your CV and one page of your work. This can be anything from a short story or synopsis to an excerpt from a treatment or script. You've simply got show us you've got the skills and passion to be the perfect writer for this project.

These 100 writers will then be asked to write a treatment of their idea for a Gumball feature, the best 3 treatments will be optioned and the writers commissioned to write a first draft of their screenplay. The writer of the best screenplay will then go into development with our production team.

Please email your application, with the attached CV and 1 page example of your work (word or pdf files only please) to: scriptwriter@gumball3000.com

The deadline for submission is 10 December 2006.

Good luck!

Julie Brangstrup and Patrick Fischer
Gumball 3000 Films "

British Comedy Awards Nominations

The ceremony will be broadcast on ITV1 on Wednesday 13 December, 9:00pm (repeated ITV2, Thursday 14 December, 10:00pm)

BBC reality sketch show looking for writers

The Comedy Unit is looking for a new set of writers for the next series of BBC Alba’s Gaelic reality sketch show Comadaidh Òir (Comedy Gold). They are looking for a wide range of writers who would like the chance to participate in this reality show.

The show sees five aspiring writers fighting it out in six locations to see who will be crowned King or Queen of Comadaidh Óir. Writers have just three days to prepare their comedy sketches, drawing on inspiration from the location and it’s a punishing schedule as they take in six locations in just three weeks.

Video podcasts of the show are available at the main site.

If you are interested contact Katie Robertson at 44 (0)141 305 6649 or katierobertson@comedyunit.co.uk.


What is BANG?

A new writing competition for writers based in the North of England.

You could win a BBC bursary of up to £1000, a writing mentor, and the chance to have your work produced for the stage.

What are they looking for?

A short drama of up to fifteen minutes for the stage. It will be either a complete piece or an extract of a longer piece. They’d like to see compelling and original stories about the British Asian Experience with great characters, strong dialogue, imagination, an arresting beginning and a satisfying ending.

(Click the link for more details)

02 December, 2006

Opening Weekend

Big Nothing
Comedy thriller about blackmailers.

With David Schwimmer and Simon Pegg.

Writers: Jean-Baptiste Andrea, Billy Asher
Director: Jean-Baptiste Andrea

Jean-Baptiste Andrea Interview
Jean-Baptiste Andrea Interview (French)

Official site


Deck the Halls
Crimbo Comedy about warring neighbours.

With Danny de Vito and Matthew Broderick.

Writers: Matt Corman & Chris Ord and Don Rhymer
Director: John Whitesell

Official site


Flushed Away
CGI animated animals Aardman comedy about upscale pet rat flushed down to the sewers.

With Hugh Jackman,Kate Winslet, Ian McKellen, Jean Reno, Bill Nighy, Andy Serkis.

Writers: Dick Clement & Ian La Frenais, Chris Lloyd & Joe Keenan, Will Davies
Director: David Bowers, Sam Fell.

Official site


London To Brighton
British drama about at-risk young people trying to escape abusers.

With Lorraine Stanley, Johnny Harris, Georgia Groome .

Writer: Paul Andrew Williams
Director: Paul Andrew Williams

Paul Andrew Williams Interview 1

Paul Andrew Williams Interview 2
Production feature

Official site


Stranger Than Fiction
High concept comedy drama about a man who realises he is a character in a book and under threat.

With Will Farrel, Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Queen Latifah

Writer: Zach Helm
Director: Marc Forster

Zach Helm interview 1
Zach Helm interview 2
Zach Helm interview 3 (red carpet audio)

Official site


Sexually explicit polysexual political comedy-drama.

With Sook-Yin Lee, Paul Dawson, Lindsay Beamish, PJ DeBoy, Raphael Barker, Peter Stickles

Writer: John Cameron Mitchell
Director: John Cameron Mitchell

John Cameron Mitchell interview 1 (audio)
John Cameron Mitchell interview 2
John Cameron Mitchell interview 3 (video)

Official site

Discover Devon

Discover Devon - unique, glorious, wild and wonderful, rich in history and the country's favourite playground...

Discovering all that is Devon, where the people are natural, hospitable and warmly welcoming - Devon is the natural destination for families and friends, so come for a day, come for a week, come forever... Click the above link to find out more.

Following my comments in the previous Torchwood post, I was visited by some people - who didn't threaten me or harm me in any way whatsoever - who merely made some suggestions regarding my blog and the things I say about Devon. I am always happy to listen to the views of the public and this blog entry was not made under any duress at all. And to scotch any rumours right away, if anyone sees my injuries, I fell down the stairs and fell on a kitchen knife, a couple of times.

27 November, 2006

Torchwood in Good Episode Shock!

The country is recovering from the incredible news that an episode of Torchwood was not only good for Torchwood but a good episode of TV drama in general.

While the main influences of the episode, Greeks Bearing Gifts, seemed obvious (Buffy epi Earshot and Unbreakable), Toby Whithouse managed to craft something fairly original and entertaining as he focused on Toshiko's new friendship.

Reading the messageboards, the homosexual content of previous episodes seemed to generate as much anger as the awful writing. On that issue, I say it is RTD’s series and his sexuality is part of his writer’s voice (like all of us) and he can do what the frack he wants. No-one complains about Kay Mellor and her ‘obsession’ with heterosexuality.

However, in Whithouse’s episode, the homosexuality felt natural and normal not forced and exploitative as before. Previously, in a story context, you just didn’t believe it would or could happen with the characters while it was made to work in this episode because it was coming from emotion and a certain amount of psychological truth.

I do have a theory about actor/writers like Whithouse but I’d better wait until I’ve seen his fellow thesps Jaquetta May and Noel Clarke’s Torchwood episodes before I share it.

If you’re one of the millons who have abandoned the series (it's lost a third to half of its audience) then try and catch the BBC3 repeats or terrestrial premiere of this last one and see if you can see the difference.

26 November, 2006

British Independent Film Awards Announce Nominations

Drama Association of Wales - One Act Playwriting Competition

"The Drama Association of Wales launch their One Act Playwriting Competition 2007. The competition aims to encourage the writing of plays for amateur theatre in English and Welsh."

BBC Talent Competition: New TV Animators

BBC Talent have launched a new competition for budding animators which is for broadcast and not web-based as usual.

To enter you need to submit your short animation DVD, which must be no longer than 2 minutes in length, along with a completed entry form.

Deadline: 31 December 2006

Unsolicited Material Welcome

"The first of what will hopefully be an ongoing list of producers and production companies who encourage new writers and are open to unsolicited material in the UK."

24 November, 2006

Opening Weekend

Dhoom 2
Action thriller. Best friends take on international thief.
With Hrithik Roshan, Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan.

Writer: Vijay Krishna Acharya
Director: Sanjay Gadhvi

Official site


British contemporary fairytale, about a statue of a woman that comes to life.
With Michael Angelis, Lee Boardman, Craig Charles, Katrine De Candole

Writer: Nicola Scott
Director: Nicola Scott

Official site


Real-life crime story about famous fifties TV star.
With Ben Affleck and Adrien Brody.

Writer: Paul Bernbaum
Director: Allen Coulter

Paul Bernbaum interview 1
Paul Bernbaum interview 2
Paul Bernbaum interview 3

Official site


Pan's Labyrinth

Fairy tale horror set in The Spanish civil war

Writer: Guillermo del Toro
Director: Guillermo del Toro

Guillermo del Toro Interview 1
Guillermo del Toro Interview 2
Guillermo del Toro Interview 3
Guillermo del Toro Interview 4
Guillermo del Toro Interview 5

Official site


Tenacious D In The Pick Of Destiny

Comedy featuring spoof metal band.
With Jack Black and Kyle Gass

Writer: Jack Black, Kyle Gass, Liam Lynch
Director: Liam Lynch

Jack Black and Kyle Gass Interview 1
Jack Black and Kyle Gass Interview 2
Jack Black and Kyle Gass Interview 3

Official site


The Rocket Post
British period drama based on a true story about a German trying to establish postal delivery by rocket in Scotland between the wars.
With Ulrich Thomsen

Writer: James MacInnes, William Morrissey
Director: Stephen Whittaker


Something New
Drama about interracial romance.
With Sanaa Lathan and Simon Baker.

Writer: Kriss Turner
Director: Sanaa Hamri

Official site

Sanaa Hamri interview


Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause

Crimbo comedy about the reluctant Father Christmas.
With Tim Allen and Martin Short

Writer: Ed Decter, John J Strauss
Director: Michael Lembeck

Official site

23 November, 2006

What the Papers Say

The Innocence Project
BBC1, Thursdays, 8:00pm

Kathryn Flett,
The Observer:

"There ought to be a law against this.

A recipe for drama: take one random murder conviction it is impossible to care very much about because we never got to know the victim or the perpetrator; blend with a bunch of smug young law students rooting out dull miscarriages of justice; whisk up some sexual chemistry between 'cool cute guy' and 'prissy uptight girl' (around which orbit 'nerd', 'feisty northern bird', 'babe' and 'bloke') and lace with exchanges such as ...

Cool Guy: 'I thought parole wasn't conditional on admitting guilt?'
Feisty Bird: 'Oh he's Category B. Parole's only available to category C inmates!'
CG: 'How do you get reclassified?'
FB: 'By demonstrating a readiness, by addressing the enormity of his offence and expressing contrition!'

... while cleverly attempting to disguise the teeth-grinding tedium of it all by having 'Feisty' deliver her lines in a tight top, tighter jeans and accessorised by a raised eyebrow, as if to say: 'I may look like I'm auditioning for The X Factor but in my spare time I read great big boring books!'

After several hours overheating, courtesy of the BBC1 Drama pressure cooker, these wilting ingredients will somehow combine to form a new primetime TV series, entitled The Innocence Project, which is as blandly forgettable as at least half a dozen or so other legal procedurals. Tired of my weary 'recipe' metaphor yet? Yeah, well I only used it to make you feel as annoyed and bored as I felt about 15 minutes into The Innocence Project.

I appreciate that 8pm is a tricky slot for drama, characterised mostly by what has to be left out rather than by what can be let in, but surely the 'no-swearing, no-bottoms' clause needn't automatically equate to the punkily nihilistic 'no plot, no plausibility, no point, no hope, no future ...', even if it necessarily feels a bit like a waiting-room for something at 9pm (in this case The State Within).

8pm: home of the soap and docusoap; the place for panto-villainry, stuff with speed cameras, bad holidays, animals, gardens, property, Trevor McDonald, and of course the 'News Where You Are (You Sad Little Regional Souls, You)'. It's a slot I mostly ignore in the real world (I'll eat dinner and read the paper instead, occasionally keeping half an eye on a C4 miserydoc) but on balance I'd probably rather BBC1 brought back Davina than gave us Hollyoaks with A-levels.

Would law students even watch The Innocence Project? Nah, too busy being called to the bar. But if they're smart they'd be better off catching up with This Life, currently re-running on BBC2 and looking in surprisingly good shape after 10 years."

Gareth McLean,
The Guardian:

“Get past the inappropriately jaunty titles and the incredibly annoying music and there's the prospect of a good drama here. A team of aesthetically pleasing law students rectify miscarriages of justice under the tutelage of handsome Lloyd Owen. A tad self-conscious and laboured - its homages to the walking-and-talking of The West Wing are a little irksome - but it's nevertheless slick and watchable. Whether audiences will stray from their diet of the whodunnit to this whodidntdoit, we shall see.”

Strictly Confidential
ITV1, Thursdays, 9:00pm

Ian Johns,
The Times:

“Ah, what an emotional tangled web Kay Mellor loves to weave. In her new series Strictly Confidential (ITV1), the author of Band of Gold, Fat Friends and the recent vet melodrama The Chase (no, I can’t remember much about that one, either), gave us the emotional hang-ups of a sex therapist, Linda, and her clients. Linda was desperate to have a baby but her husband was infertile (cue first ad break after this revelation), so she approached her married brother-in-law colleague to be a sperm donor. From all the knowing looks, you knew she still fancied him from their student days. What’s more, Linda was an adviser to a lesbian CID officer and seemed over-eager to head to a crime scene whenever she was summoned.

Mellor loved to mix up the babies, bodies and bonking. The result was an odd bumptious broodiness. The clients’ problems didn’t prompt a serious examination of sexual desire and anxiety but became an excuse to intermingle the farce of a mother smothering with affection her virgin-bride daughter and the steadily darker story of a sex-addicted sales manager.

Frank sex talk and breathy bare clinches shot in the borrowed bronzed glow of Basic Instinct ensured its post-watershed slot. Instead of Sharon Stone with an ice pick, we had the manager ending up as the possible second victim of a serial killer who’s into auto-erotic asphyxiation. And if you don’t know what that is, you’ve obviously managed to avoid every other sex documentary on Channel 4.

Having graduated from Coronation Street to become Ray Winstone’s sidekick in Vincent, Suranne Jones took the lead as Linda but wasn’t given much to do except look feisty and concerned where required. But then the actors might have been wondering what kind of drama they were in.

It kicked off as another of Mellor’s “earthy” ensemble pieces in which everyone has quips such as: “He’s like a public toilet, vacant and full of s***”, then went all Lynda La Plante and suggested it might turn into Priapic Subject. One moment someone was remarking that “I’ve been treating him for retarded ejaculation. He’s been coming for months”, the next Linda was throwing up near a trussed-up corpse. So far this series needs a shrink rather than a sex therapist to sort out its multiple personalities.”

Lucy Mangan,
The Guardian:

“Strictly Confidential (ITV1) was a production of the Lancashire mafia. This means it was written by Kay Mellor (writer of Fat Friends, Band of Gold and Playing the Field), half the cast are former Coronation Street stars and anyone who doesn't learn her lines properly gets a clip round the ear wi' a battered clog and a whippet's head left in her bed.

Suranne Jones (formerly Karen McDonald of blessed Street memory, wife of Steve and terror of the north-west) is Linda, a psychosexual therapist married to Richard. He runs corporate activity weekends but it turns out this is the least of their problems. Among the biggest is overcoming some of the clunkiest exchanges ever written. For example, Claudie, one of their weekend participants, asks Linda if her husband is the father of her children (eh?). No, mutters Linda, said children were just part of a script they use for corporate-activity purposes. A look of intense pain comes over Linda's face. "I want kids," she announces to Claudie, a perfect stranger hardly looking for in-depth info on the state of a new acquaintance's reproductive system but unfortunately finding herself at the epicentre of an exposition earthquake. "It just hasn't happened yet."

Linda works with Greg, Richard's brother, at the sex-therapy clinic ("It was Greg you first had the hots for, wasn't it?" says her friend, a line measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale). He has two children and a pregnant wife. Not only that, but they all have an annoying habit of arranging themselves into a backlit family tableau whenever Auntie Linda comes to visit, thus causing her intense pain again, especially when Richard reveals himself to be infertile. Ever the optimist, he reckons that at least this will mean they can keep the house tidy and go on more holidays. Linda remains firmly of the opinion that she would rather have a baby than a fortnight in Fuengirola and thinks they should ask Greg to contribute the necessary instead.

In Mellorian dramas, the women are always the prime movers. Perhaps, as Alan Bennett once surmised, it is the result of growing up in homes where men weren't allowed to speak. "I just don't have their voices in my head," he explained. It seems a pleasingly logical progression that the bulk of the men in this latest offering have been reduced to the status of mere sperm donors.

While Richard is mulling this over, Linda is called to the aid of Angie, a policewoman played by Eva Pope (formerly barmaid Tanya Pooley at the Rovers Return), who is investigating a suspected death by auto-erotic asphyxiation. Angie is a lesbian and we think she fancies Linda. I would have thought there were rules against roping in anyone you've got the hots for to help you with a murder investigation instead of, say, some kind of trained forensic team, but maybe they have a more robust approach to evidential matters in these parts.

In the meantime, we meet some of Linda and Greg's patients. Tiffany (Candice from you-know- where) has vaginismus, which means that her nether regions are virtually indistinguishable from a bulldog clip, and her new husband is starting to tense up quite considerably, too. This is solved by Tiffany forcing her mother to return her door key. No, me neither. Something to do with growing up, I think.

Claudie is a sex addict. At first it looks like a happy ending for her when she meets a rich man suffering from retarded ejaculation, which ensures they can go at it all night long. But then he buys her a stallion, which she decides, while symbolically neat, is in practice useless, and so dumps him for thoughtless gift-giving. I think the moral is that slags have feelings too. Soon she is swinging from a light-fitting with a hanky in her mouth and Sapphocop is beginning to suspect skulduggery.

Richard agrees that Greg can donate sperm to Linda. Greg professes himself keen to do so. The three inform his wife of the idea. I confess I am not quite sure of the polite way to go about asking a woman if she minds her husband ejaculating into a cup for the purposes of sister-in-law impregnation, but I think they could have used something more in the way of delicate preamble. If she refuses, I predict unsanctioned sperm donation using traditional methodology. Greg, I urge you to call Steve McDonald before you embark on such an undertaking. Few emerge unscathed.”

The State Within
BBC1, Thursdays, 9:00pm

Ian Johns,
The Times:

"Life with too much diplomatic baggage

My attitude to television thrillers is like that of a constantly betrayed lover. I’d like to trust again — to fall in love, even — but I’ve been let down so often that it’s hard to drop the defences down. At the same time, my expectations are so low that if the small talk is passable and I’m not immediately asked to strain my credulity, I think it might be worth having another go. My faith was restored by Paul Abbott’s State of Play three years ago so I was willing to cast a sympathetic eye over Lizzie Mickery and Dan Percival’s thriller The State Within (BBC One).

Jason Isaacs starred as Mark Brydon, the British Ambassador to Washington, who arrived back from Britain only to have his car showered by the debris of a commercial flight apparently blown up by a British Muslim. The tension between him and a hawkish US Secretary of State (Sharon Gless) intensified when the Governor of Virginia ordered a trigger-happy National Guard to round up British Muslims. A sacked ambassador (Alex Jennings) was also stalking Brydon about the War on Terror and human rights. And did a Falklands war hero (Lennie James) on Death Row in Florida, the cover-up of a British soldier’s death in Virginia and information being secretly fed to Brydon’s aide (Ben Daniels) have anything to do with the explosion? They better have — I hate the smell of herring, red or otherwise.

Since Oliver Stone’s film JKF (1991) convinced a generation that there were more gunmen than citizens lurking in Dallas when Kennedy was shot, every conspiracy has had to be a labyrinthine behemoth that, as they say, goes all the way to the top. September 11 generated more of them. Mickery and Percival had so many protagonists to introduce that the script became a conveyor belt of “I enjoyed your report on the Middle East” establishing shorthand.

The plot turned into a stream of interpersonal relationships. In the final 15 minutes we even learnt that Brydon had a romantic history with the daughter of a company chief blown-up in the aircraft and that his aide was having a gay affair with the US national security adviser. Phew, I think we all need a lie-down.

While State of Play deftly established rounded characters, The State Within gave us pawns at the mercy of the plot. Abbott’s cast also had a crumpled, lived-in quality. This had American-style good lookers and a 24 slickness without, thankfully, a split-screen addiction. At times it was like watching Spooks with a sugar rush, all swooshing pans and shaky-cam immediacy rapidly edited to a techno beat with lots of suits striding purposefully down corridors accompanied by urgent strings.

Yet the whole thing was bolstered by a terrific cast. Isaacs exuded a brooding integrity worthy of Bob Peck in Edge of Darkness. Gless was clearly having fun as a cross between Madeline Albright and Donald Rumsfield. And I’m sure there’s skulduggery to come from Neal Pearson as one of Brydon’s ambitious colleagues. He was a slight presence last night but you don’t cast Pearson in such a seemingly minor role, so look out.

There were effective scenes, too, particularly in an improvised morgue for the plane victims. And I’ve not before seen expressed so directly on television the dilemma of trying to balance the interests of British Muslims and our “special relationship” with the US. So I’ll be watching next week. And it’s nice to be allowed the pleasurable experience of seven days’ speculation about what comes next rather than have the second episode immediately afterwards on BBC Four. With five episodes to go, there’s also plenty of opportunity for the scene without which any self-respecting conspiracy thriller can be properly judged: the underground car-park meeting with a shadowy informer."

Kathryn Flett,
The Observer:

"The first episode of the BBC/BBC America six-parter The State Within was so pacy and taut and cool, even before the fabulous Sharon Gless popped up as an icy, Glenn Close-ish Secretary of State, that you could forgive its occasional lapse into genre pastiche.

For example, when the plane crashed on to Washington's Beltway, it was impossible not to sit back comparing and contrasting the quality of the CGI with that in the opening scenes of the first episode of Lost (Lost won). And when it inevitably came time for key members of the cast to stride purposefully around the White House's West Wing, the ghosts of CJ, Leo, President Jed and Sam Seaborn were never far behind.

Spoookeeee! That said, The State Within is so good and smart I fear it can only get a great deal worse over the next five weeks. Though as long as Lennie James and Jason Isaacs stay alive, there's hope."

Sam Wollaston,
The Guardian:

"At the start of The State Within (BBC1), an airliner is blown up by terrorists and comes crashing down on to the freeway outside Washington, narrowly missing the suave and dapper British ambassador who's returning from the airport. (TV British ambassadors are always suave and dapper; I wonder if they are in real life.) It turns out it was a British Muslim who did it, and that's not going down so well over there. The governor of Virginia immediately starts rounding up any Brit who doesn't go bright pink the moment the sun comes out.

So on top of the Islamic threat, there's a very tense British-US situation. You'd think that would be enough excitement for the opener of this conspiracy thriller series, but oh no, that's just the start of it. There's also a British ex-soldier, a Falklands hero, waiting to be dispensed with considerably less humanely than one of Hugh's chickens: he's on death row. And there's the glamorous lady from the embassy who's trying to save him. Then there are the steamy inter-party romances sizzling away behind the scenes. And what about the maverick diplomat, our man in Tyrgyztan - where does he fit in to it all? Is it just a coincidence that the guy who blew the plane up attended an Islamist training camp in Tyrgyztan? I suspect not.

It's as if they sat down to brainstorm a few ideas, and then at the end of it just decided: "Hey, what the hell, let's just put them all in." There are so many threads to be tied together, it's like a woollen scarf that's been put through the shredder. But it's classily done, and fun. I'm looking forward to finding out how it all pieces together."

22 November, 2006

Word of Mouth

The Page Turner (La Tourneuse De Pages)

This is an excellent psychological thriller. I had the benefit of seeing it without knowing anything about it or reading any reviews. I recommend seeing it without checking the reviews first as most of them have been quite spoilery. (I promise to give you your money back if you don’t like it*)

It begins with the child Mélanie who is about to take a piano exam before moving on to the adult Mélanie who is about to take a new job as a page turner for a pianist.

What struck me most about it was how much was said without dialogue. There’s one big audience laugh late in the picture but it came from just a look which itself related to something that happened 10-15 minutes previously.

I like its simplicity in structure and complexity in characterisation. There is tension and suspense as you suddenly work out what’s going on with Mélanie and wonder what she’s going to do next. Although several years separate the child Mélanie from the adult Mélanie, you can see they are the same person through the characterisation, in particularly the obsession.

What also helped in the enjoyment was the authentic world of musicians created and the wonderful music played.

Box Office #21 (25 screens)

(*Terms and conditions apply: I will give you fake money and not real money. Currently the Bank of England is against that sort of thing, for some reason, so if you try to spend it you will be arrested and go to jail for a very long time.)

Anthony Minghella Interview

Following a string of far-flung blockbusters, Oscar-winning director Anthony Minghella was certain his next project, Breaking and Entering, should be British.

My week: Paul Abbott, writer

The writer of Channel 4 hit Shameless gives us a glimpse of his daily routine

21 November, 2006


Wins for Little Britain, Life on Mars, Sugar Rush and Ray Winstone for Vincent.

20 November, 2006

King’s Cross Award for New Writing 2007

The details on the link above are due to be updated but haven't been yet.

The prize this year is £2500 in cash and a staged rehearsed reading to an invited audience of theatre professionals (literary agents, directors, producers and the like).

Rules in brief:

Up to two full-length stage plays may be entered per writer
(no e-mail entries, no radio-plays or TV scripts, unpublished and
unperformed scripts only)

• The Entry fee is £5 per play

• Plays must be typed or word-processed and clearly laid out with pages numbered

• Title page must include writer’s name and full contact details. PLEASE DO NOT INCLUDE ANY INFORMATION WHICH COULD IDENTIFY THE WRITER ON ANY OTHER PAGE OF SCRIPT.

• Include two SAEs: one for acknowledgement of entry and one for return of script (with correct postage)

• Plays must be received by 2nd April 2007

Please post entries, marked ‘KING’S CROSS AWARD 2007’ to

The Courtyard, 55 East Road, LONDON N1 6AH


Rules in full:

1. The Award committee reserve the right to interpret the following rules and conditions as they see fit. Decisions in all matters pertaining to the rules, execution, and written and active administration of the Award are final, and no correspondence or further discussion will be entered into.

2. All applicants and the author of the winning script are expected to adhere to the rules and conditions of entry and acceptance of the Award as described below.

3. Entry is open to authors of all ages and levels of experience resident in the UK and Republic of Ireland . Entry is limited to two scripts per applicant.

4. Entries will consist of:

(a) an original full-length script.

(b) a SAE for acknowledgement of receipt of entry (optional)
(c) a SAE for return of script (optional)

(d) the entry fee of £ 5 per play (payable to The Courtyard)

5. Plays must:

(a) be clearly typed and laid out with pages numbered
(b) show the author's full name and contact details on the title page
(c) NOT be sent by e-mail

6. The closing date for entries is 2nd April 2007. Submissions received beyond this date will not be considered for the Award.

7. Each entry will be considered and a shortlist compiled by the internal reading panel. Scripts on the shortlist will then be read by an external panel. The winning script will be decided upon by both judging panels.

8. The Award committee will notify the winning author by the end of September 2007.

9. In accepting the Award the work of the wining writer will be legally contracted to the Courtyard Theatre.

10. The organisers of the Award will not accept responsibility for loss or damage of scripts in transit or during the judging period. Applicants are strongly advised not to send the only copy of their work.

International Playwriting Competition

You are asked to write a radio play of about sixty minutes on any subject of your choice.

Open to anyone not normally resident in the UK.

Deadline: 30 April 2007

17 November, 2006

Opening Weekend

Antibodies (Antikörper)
German cop versus serial killer thriller

Writer: Christian Alvart
Director: Christian Alvart

Christian Alvart interview (French)
Christian Alvart interview (German)


Casino Royale
Bond re-invented back to the original

Writers: Neal Purvis & Robert Wade, Paul Haggis,
Director: Martin Campbell

Neal Purvis & Robert Wade interview

Official site


French period drama about a collapsing marriage

Writers: Patrice Chéreau, Anne-Louise Trividic
Director: Patrice Chéreau


Heroes And Villains
British romance

Writer: David Raymond
Director: Selwyn Roberts


Joy Division
Cold War thriller.

Writer: Reg Traviss
Director: Ed Stoppard

Official site


German drama about a possessed woman.

Writer: Bernd Lange
Director: Hans Christian Schmid

Bernd Lange and Hans Christian Schmid interview

Official site


Superhero comedy.

Writers: Hal Haberman, Jeremy Passmore
Directors: Hal Haberman, Jeremy Passmore

Official site


We Shall Overcome (Drømmen)
Danish student versus headmaster true story.

Writers: Niels Arden Oplev, Steen Bille
Director: Niels Arden Oplev