25 September, 2008

5 Questions That Will Change Your Life


"If I could offer you free of charge 5 questions guaranteed to improve the quality of your life, make you happier, less likely to get into arguments, more likely to reach your goals and be more popular with other people, would you be interested in hearing them?

Of course you would, who wouldn’t? After all, they’re free and it doesn’t get much cheaper than that.

Well actually there is a slight catch. Yes they’re free and yes they’ll do all I claim and more, but only if you commit to embedding them so deeply into your neurology by constant and conscious repetition that they become second nature.

Then and only then, will they allow you to make the kind of quantum shift in your life that has your friends thinking your body has been invaded by a very clever, charismatic and slightly easier to get along with space alien."

Article in full

(via Huffington Post)

Also from PickTheBrain :

The Ultimate Productivity Habit
7 Ways to Grow the Action Habit
How To Motivate Yourself - Self Motivation
How to Build Self-Discipline

24 September, 2008

Word of Mouth: "Die Welle" ("The Wave")

"A high school teacher's unusual experiment to demonstrate to his students what life is like under a dictatorship spins out of control."

Firstly, I'd like to comment about the annoying American subtitles - especially as more people will probably see this in my local movie theatre than in the whole of the United States. At one point "comedy club" was translated as "Saturday Night Live". Eh? Seriously, eh? It's even more annoying as the film is brilliant and a US remake is inevitable.

The Wave is actually based on a real-life incident in the late '60s in America but the point is that it can happen anywhere at anytime to anyone. While there is a theme and a point of view, it's actually quite subtle and non-preachy - you just get lost in the story as the tension builds to the great ending.

It's psychologically true and you understand the motivations of every character. There are no heroes and villains although people do brave things and bad things. I particularly admired the speed, skill and economy of establishing the characters.

The Wave is recommended.

23 September, 2008

Online scriptwriting course

"All a scriptwriter, author, writer or producer needs to be able to write his own movie can be taught via e-mail in a few months and at a convenient cost. This is the main idea at the base of our courses. Eight simple lessons and eight exercises to verify progress and learn from mistakes. With a teacher always available who answers all your questions privately, clearing your doubts, analyzing structure issues together, formatting, dialogue writing, and rewriting.

At the end of the course, besides having enjoyed the 14 weeks, you will be familiar with the technical aspects of scriptwriting and possess the basic notions of the theory of screenwriting. And most of all, you will be capable to write your own movie, at your talent and passion’s level.

The first lesson (a 29 page pdf on format) is free and does not bind you to subscription."



The main reason to enroll to the course is because these lessons represent an efficient synthesis between autodidactic studies and traditional courses. The former, in fact, are free from any guiding element and external verification and are often insufficient. The latter, instead, are often uselessly expensive and don’t necessarily offer the correct tools to learn the subject.

The reasons to enroll to the course are many:

  • because the course forces you to a commitment: initially only two-three pages of homework to become familiar with the subject, while at the end of the course you will be asked to write a short film.
  • because the course can be followed directly from home (or from your office). You will therefore be able to read the lessons at your leisure time and communicate privately with your teacher at any moment. This way, you never risk losing a lesson!
  • because this online course is not an automatic distributor. When you do your exercises, you won’t have to correct them yourself, nor jot down a cross or two on some answer and have the test thrown into Hal 9000. If you have doubts, you don’t have to find the answer in some “faq” page. Somebody here reads what you write."
Full details

22 September, 2008

The Guardian : How to Write

The Guardian:

"Read Catherine Tate's introduction on comedy from our seven-part series on How to write.

From Saturday September 20, each day's paper will have a free booklet with tips and suggestions on writing, from novels to comedy"


So far everything has been online here so you might not have to buy a paper.

Charlie Kaufman, screenwriter, interview

Tom has alerted me to an extensive Charlie Kaufman interview at Wired.

It's part of an experiment by the magazine to show the complete process from the assignment of a feature to the journo's tapes to the edited final print version.

21 September, 2008


Frightened Rabbit - "Head Rolls Off"

Stricken City - "Tak o Tak"

20 September, 2008

"Fringe" writers interview


"How will you keep that balance of making sure that people can still jump into the show and then, of course, revealing that mythology?

A. Kurtzman Jeff, how are you going to do that?

J. Pinkner I think if you take a show like ER for example, obviously you could watch every fifth ER and still, by four or five minutes into the episode, you know everything you need to enjoy that episode. Sort of using that as a model, our intent is that the people who have watched the show very loyally and very carefully will understand things at a deeper level than the people who are just watching intermittently.

But the people who are watching intermittently will understand everything they need to understand for the enjoyment of that episode. There will be self-contained elements of every story, every episode will have a distinct beginning, middle, and end, though there will be things involved. There will be nuances that the loyal viewers will understand on a deeper level. "

Article in full

19 September, 2008

"Doctor Who" writers interview

Writers' Guild:

What is about a man in a police box hurtling through space and time that’s proved a hit with generations of viewers? David Lemon spoke to three Doctor Who writers to find out

Were you all big fans of the original series? Was it the old cliché of hiding behind the sofa as a kid?

Robert Shearman: It's hard to exaggerate how big a Doctor Who fan I was. Between the ages of 12 and 15 it was the biggest thing in my life. The funny thing was, I never much enjoyed sci-fi but Doctor Who never felt like sci-fi. It never stayed still long enough to develop much of a coherent house style. It was as likely one week to be horror, or another to be a comedy, or another to be a straight historical adventure, as it was to be something set on a spaceship. I think that's what appealed, really. That it was never the same show twice. It took a firm hold of my imagination and, although I outgrew it a little once I found girls, it never completely went away.

James Moran: I've been watching Doctor Who my whole life and have always been a science fiction fan: Star Trek, Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, Quantum Leap, The Prisoner – most of the usual suspects. I grew up watching Tom Baker and then Peter Davison and, while I did get scared a lot, I never hid behind the sofa (it was impossible, because our sofa was against the wall.) I don't know how all these people claim to have hidden behind their sofas as kids, unless they all lived in massive, Friends-style apartments with the sofa in the middle of the room. I suspect many of them didn't actually watch the show and are retconning their own childhood to jump on the bandwagon. And that sentence probably tells you way, way too much about me.

Paul Cornell: I tried to the write for the original series but I was much too young and had no experience. It went off air for 15 years and in that 15 years I actually became a TV writer so that if it did come back, I could write for it. I kind of deliberately got into TV and started getting TV credits so I might do that, at the same time as writing books and audio plays. I got to know Russell T. Davies and, basically, loads of writers who were also Doctor Who fans grew up together through fandom. We always wanted one of us to bring the show back if we could and Russell got big enough to swing it.

Article in full

18 September, 2008

Russell T. Davies' Writer's Tale

The Times:

"Last year, Russell T. Davies, who revived Doctor Who, began to work on a book about the final series with the journalist Benjamin Cook. Their e-mail exchange provides a unique insight into the show - and reveals some of its most closely-guarded secrets"

"How I write

From: Russell T.Davies To: Benjamin Cook Sunday February 18, 2007 12:41:59 GMT

There's little physical evidence of the script process to show you. No notes. Nothing. I think, and think, and think...and by the time I come to write, a lot has been decided. Also, a lot hasn't been decided, but I trust myself, and scare myself, that it'll happen in the actual writing. It all exists in my head, but in this soup. It's like the ideas are fluctuating in this great big quantum state of Maybe. The choices look easy when recounted later, but that's hindsight. When nothing is real and nothing is fixed, it can go anywhere. The Maybe is a hell of a place to live. As well as being the best place in the world.

I filter through all those thoughts, but that's rarely sitting at my desk, if ever. It's all done walking about, going to town, having tea and watching telly. The rest of your life becomes just the surface, chattering away on top of the Maybe...and the doubts. That's where this job is knackering and debilitating. Everything - and I mean every story ever written anywhere - is underscored by the constant murmur of: this is rubbish, I am rubbish, and this is due in on Tuesday! The hardest part of writing is the writing. "

Article in full

Russell T Davies, BBC Breakfast News:

"That's why we have gone into the book in so much detail there's a lot of books that talk about television writing and they are all so formal - when they talk about three act structure and character development - but that's not what writing is. It's sitting there with an head full of ideas at 2 o' clock in the morning and trying to hammer them down on paper and that's what we tried to capture."

"The only lesson about writing is to write. I think there is an awful lot of people who sit there...who talk about it and suddenly they are in an old folk's home dying of old age and they haven't actually done it. Just sit down and do it, do it today., don't wait. It's always bad at first. The first thing you write is going to be rubbish and you will get better and better - it's all experience - and you never reach the end of that road and you just keep on learning as you go on all of your life."

Doctor Who: The Writer's Tale (Doctor Who) (Hardcover) is released on 25 September 2008 - Half price at Amazon

BBC writersroom event: Russell T Davies in conversation

Diablo Cody responds


I have a response to those who are still boring enough to lob insults in my direction. (Those of you who are friends, fans, enablers, or dislike my writing for legitimate, rational, nonpersonal reasons can tune out now if you like. This isn't for you.)

Anyone else? Bend thine ear:

I am not Charlie Kaufman or Sofia Coppola (much as I supplicate at their Cannes-weary feet.) I'm not Paul Thomas Anderson. I'm not even Paul W.S. Anderson. I am middle-class trash from the Midwest. I'm a competent nonfiction writer, an admittedly green screenwriter, and a product of Hollywood, USA. I am "Diablo Cody" and if you're not a fan, go rent Prospero's Books again and leave me the fuck alone.

I may have won 19 awards that you don't feel I earned, but it's neither original nor relevant to slag on Juno. Really. And you're not some bold, singular voice of dissent, You are exactly like everyone else in your zeitgeisty-demo-lifestyle pod. You are even like me. (I, too, loved Arrested Development! Aren't we a pretty pair of cultural mavericks? Hey, let's go bitch about how Black Kids are overrated!)

I'm sorry that while you were shooting your failed opus at Tisch, I was jamming toxic silicon toys up my ass for money. I get why you're bitter. I took exactly one film class in college and-- with the curious exception of the Douglas Sirk unit—it bored the shit out of me. I also once got busted for loudly crinkling a bag of Jujubes during a classroom screening of Vivre Sa Vie. I don't deserve to be here. We've established that. But I'm here. Five million 12-year-olds think I'm Buck Henry. Accept it.

(Incidentally, if you were me for one day you'd crumble like fucking Stilton. I am better at this than you. You're not strong enough, Film_Fan78. Trust me.)

Article in full

17 September, 2008

Moviescope free copies

Free digital editions

"Missed an issue? New to movieScope Magazine? Want to check out what we are all about before subscribing to the Print Edition? Here’s your chance!

For a LIMITED TIME we now offer you FREE access to our CURRENT ISSUE! We will very soon also offer FREE access to THREE of our most recent BACK ISSUES.

The Digital Edition provides an exact replica of the Print Edition, which allows you to print, zoom and search for text, add personal “sticky” notes, bookmark relevant pages, and much more.

So what you waiting for?"

Sign up here

16 September, 2008

3 Ways To Be Memorable By Breaking People’s Patterns


"Life is full of little situations that you encounter regularly. Some people don’t see these for the opportunities that they are: a chance to stand out, be different, and be memorable.

They’re a way to quickly built rapport with someone so they can think back later and say “Brian…hmm, yeah he was the guy who does [BLANK]” or “Barbara, oh yeah she is the gal who said [BLANK]“. You stood out enough to be remembered.

By breaking out of your comfort zone and doing something a little different than everyone else you can connect with new people on a regular basis."

Article in full


25 Ways to distinguish yourself

15 September, 2008

Video Interview: Neil Simon

Go Into The Story:

One of the most astounding stories I remember reading was about The Odd Couple. The basic concept was something his brother Danny came up with, recounted here in an obituary about Danny who died in 2005:
After struggling over the first 14 pages of The Odd Couple, he [Danny] gave it to Neil, saying, "You know how to write plays. I don't. You write it instead." He had conceived the idea - about two, very different divorced male friends trying to live together - while getting his own divorce in 1961 and sharing a flat with a Hollywood agent who was sloppy and a poor dresser. One night, a pot roast they prepared was spoiled, and their ensuing wisecracks inspired the basic humorous conflict of the play. Danny told Neil, who loved the concept and frequently inquired about his progress, before writing it himself.
The remarkable thing to me, when I read this story, is that Neil took that concept and started writing: no brainstorming, no 3x5 index cards, no outlines. He just wrote the story. And so I've always use Neil Simon as one extreme of how to approach writing -- sans preparation.

With that as a hook, I encourage you to spend a full half-hour with a true master of storytelling -- Neil Simon.

Article in full

14 September, 2008


Wichita Recordings are giving away a 15-track digital sampler in exchange for your email address.

Tracks are by Those Dancing Days, Lovvers, Sky Larkin, Los Campesinos!, The Bronx, Les Savy Fav, Conor Oberst, Peter Moren, Greg Weeks, Euros Childs, Meg Baird, The Dodos, Peter Bjorn & John, Simian Mobile Disco, Her Space Holiday.

Those Dancing Days - "Run Run"

Les Savy Fav - "What Would Wolves Do"

13 September, 2008

Anatomy of a film project devolving to chaos

The Philadelphia Inquirer

"Which of us has not wondered, on exiting a movie theater on a summer evening after viewing a real stinker: "How on earth did that ever get made?"

I have been involved in the movie business now, at least peripherally, for more than 20 years, and while I still can't claim to fully understand it, I think I am now in a better position than most to answer that question.

Fear is the first and biggest answer. It costs millions to make even a small film, and most ultimately lose money. So producers and studio executives begin hedging their bets artistically the moment an idea for a film is conceived.

In fact, with many movies, the hedging begins before the idea, in the case of "vehicles," films conceived for the sole purpose of putting a momentarily hot box-office star on screen. Miley Cyrus comes to mind, or Seth Rogen or Lindsay Lohan. Needless to say, the more expensive the movie, the more hedging.

One of the first big ways of hedging your bet is to never do anything original. Original means risky. This is why sequels are so popular. If they could get away with it, studios would release the same film each year with a different marketing campaign. This pretty much explains the Rambo series and Pirates of the Caribbean."

Article in full

12 September, 2008

Interview: Armstrong and Miller


"As to what they want from Toff's potential collaborators, Miller says that to pass muster, people will have to understand one simple rule. "Our stuff has a particular voice - it's the things that the two of us find funny. Your task is how you let people in on the joke."

Article in full

Toff Media are based at Hat Trick

11 September, 2008

Deadlines Calendar

The BBC Writersroom opportunities page has been updated and those updates have been added to the Deadlines Calendar.

Once you join Google, you can set up the calendar so it will notify you of any new additions and also send you email reminders as each deadline approaches.

10 September, 2008

TV Creator Interviews

The AV Club:

Alan Ball (Six Feet Under, True Blood)

Josh Schwarz (The OC, Chuck, Gossip Girl)

JJ Abrams (Lost, Six Degrees, Fringe)

09 September, 2008

TV Time-Waster: The Best Pilots Ever


"Oooh, this should be a good way to blow off some work this afternoon. TV Guide has come up with its list of the 10 Best TV Pilots in the issue on newsstands now. Their list, my knee-jerk cavils and additions, and your invitation to play along."

Article in full

07 September, 2008

Upcoming new US shows in the UK

TV.com Forums

(New shows are in bold)

30 Rock (2) - October TBC, Five US

Battlestar Galactica (4B) - January TBC, Sky 1

Bones (4) - September 25, 9pm, Sky 1

Breaking Bad (1) - September 28, 10pm, FX

Burn Notice (1) - October 5, 9pm, FX

Cold Case (6) - October TBC, Sky 1

Damages (2) - April 2009, BBC One

Desperate Housewives (4B) - September 3, 10pm, Channel 4

Desperate Housewives (5) - October 22, 10pm, Channel 4

Eli Stone (1) - October 6, 9pm, Sci Fi Channel

Entourage (5) - September 11, 10:30pm, ITV2

Fringe (1) - October TBC, Sky 1

Futurama (5) - October TBC, Sky 1

Greek (1) - September 6, BBC Two

Grey's Anatomy (4) - September 11, 10pm, Living

Heroes (3) - September 24, 9pm, BBC Two

Jericho (2) - October TBC, 8pm, ITV4

King of the Hill (12) - October 25, 8:30pm, FX

Kyle XY (1B) - January 2009, BBC Two

Law & Order: CI (6) - September 1, 9pm, Hallmark

Life (1) - October TBC, ITV3

Lipstick Jungle (1) - September 22, 10pm, Living

Little Britain USA (1) - Autumn TBC, 9pm, BBC One

Lost (5) - January / February, Sky 1

Medium (4) - September 3, 10:45pm, BBC One

Prison Break (4) - September 2, Sky 1

ReGenesis (1) - October 22, 10pm, FX

Samantha Who? (1) - September 11, 10pm, E4

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2) - September TBC, Virgin 1

The L Word (5) - September TBC, Living 2

The Riches (2) - September 3, 9pm, Virgin 1

Ugly Betty (2B) - September 5, 9pm, Channel 4


Continuing the trend from last year, some shows are airing in the UK quickly after the US showing to deter downloading, which does work. It was pointless downloading a double episode of Prison Break when it was on Sky the day after broadcast. (Turns out it was pointless watching the moribund rubbish in the first place.)

The highlights are Life, Breaking Bad and Burn Notice. If you haven't got Sky the latter two are likely to get a Freeview transfer, depending on how well they do.

You have to watch episode 2 of Burn Notice to get a true sense of the series, as it was made long after the pilot. It was re-tooled and improved.

Digital Spy: US TV Show Status: 2008-09 season
The Futon Critic

06 September, 2008

What the Papers Say: "Lost in Austen"

Sam Wollaston, The Guardian

Don't you hate that - when you go to the bathroom in your own house, and you find it not just occupied, but occupied by your favourite character from classic fiction? It happened to me only the other day: I went for a shower and the Cat in the Hat was in there, up to his tricks with my lemon-and-tea-tree shower gel.

Amanda Price, the main character in Lost in Austen (ITV1) has different - some might say more highbrow - literary tastes. So it's Elizabeth Bennet she finds standing in her bath, all bonneted-up and speaking early-19th-century English. But for Amanda, this is excellent news. She is fed up with her dead-end office job, her slobby boyfriend and the general lack of manners in 21st-century London; Lizzie Bennet in the bath is just what she needs.

It gets better still, because she leaves Miss Bennet in her 21st-century bathroom, under her drying 21st-century underwear, and steps through a panel, Narnia-style, into the early pages of Pride and Prejudice and the well-furnished rooms of Longbourn, the Bennets' residence. What's up the road from Longbourn then? Netherfield, of course, plus everything that goes with Netherfield - in particular Mr Darcy's bulging breeches. (Cue lots of girly twittering.) Oh joy!

Not only is Amanda in her favourite novel, but it appears she has the power to steer it in whichever direction she so pleases. So she has a cheeky drunken lunge at Mr Bingley at a party. Will she have a pop at Mr Darcy, too? We'll have to wait until next time to find out.

Much of the humour centres on the differences between then and now. Lippy, landing strips and mobile phones vs psalters, birch twigs and powdered salt to clean your teeth, and faggots for tea. He he he. Meanwhile, in the modern world, Lizzie has fun with the electric light-switch in Amanda's bathroom. Actually, I'd like to have seen more of Miss Bennet in her future. How will the bonnet go down among the hoodies of 21st-century Hammersmith? Will she get drunk on cider and cop off with Amanda's boyfriend in front of Match of the Day? (She might as well, given that Amanda seems to have the hots for everyone at Netherfield.) Will she get her own landing strip? Maybe we'll find out in the next three episodes, but my fear is that we're more interested in Amanda in the past.

It's a bit silly but quite fun, in a jolly, frothy kind of way. Life On Mars basically, but going back a bit further - so lacy frocks and the aforementioned bulging breeches instead of flares and brown leather jackets, tinkling pianos instead of Bowie, and the crunch of carriage wheel on gravel instead of the screech of a cornering Mark 1 Cortina. Life On Mars for girls, in other words, because it is a truth universally acknowledged that women like Jane Austen better than what fellas do.


Thomas Sutcliffe, The Independent

It is a truth universally acknowledged that ITV commissioning editors are absolutely desperate to get a big ratings hit, so they must have been as giddy as a Regency spinster approaching 30 when they first saw Lost in Austen galloping over the horizon. Hybridise the dependable bonnet-and-bustle attractions of Pride and Prejudice with the left-field fantasy of Life on Mars, the thinking must have gone, and surely the result will be happy ever after. Well, they made it to the altar, but that – as any attentive reader of Jane Austen knows – is no guarantee of happiness. The reluctant time traveller in Lost in Austen is Amanda Price, an Austen devotee who uses the novels much as some women use Valium, to smooth out the disappointments of daily life. Sadly, Amanda's lacks romance. When her boyfriend eventually proposed, he accompanied it with a beery belch and used a lager ring-pull tab as the engagement ring. Her divorced mother – now in a steady relationship with Mr Pinot and Mr Grigio – suggested that she might as well settle for what she can get. "You have standards, pet," she conceded warningly. "I just hope they'll help you on with your coat when you're 70."

But Amanda wants more – and got it in trumps when there was a clatter in her bathroom and she discovered Elizabeth Bennet standing there, toying in an enchanted way with the light switch. Elizabeth explained that Amanda's tongue-and-groove panelling concealed a portal connecting her rented Hammersmith flat with one of the most famous households in English fiction. And after she popped through to take a look and the door slammed shut behind her, she found out that if you really sink into a good book, you quickly begin disturbing its consoling predictability. Amanda was thrilled to encounter Mr Bennet – a nice study in exasperation from Hugh Bonneville – and as excited as everyone else about the arrival of Mr Bingley. But then Bingley started getting cow-eyed whenever she appeared and she realised that she had to redirect his affections. Slightly mysteriously, given this ambition, she then launched herself at Bingley at the Assembly Room ball and gave him a thoroughly 21st-century snog.

Not quite enough happens in the way of culture clash. There are little dabs of historical instruction, as when Amanda asked to clean her teeth and was shown a bundle of birch twigs and a block of chalk. And there is some fun to be had with the mismatch between modern clothes and idiom and local manners. But oddly (given that the plot involves a kind of temporal exchange programme) we learn nothing of how Lizzie is getting on in west London, and the drama lacks the edge of terrified uncertainty that gave Life on Mars its extra emotional depth. At worst, Amanda simply seems exasperated that she can no longer get a mobile-phone signal, which may not be quite enough to persuade us that she really thinks this is happening at all.


Tim Teeman, The Times

Carpers will say you can have too much Jane Austen, but Guy Andrews’s Lost in Austen is a funny, clever breeze. Amanda (Jemima Rooper) is a Pride and Prejudice fanatic, a dreamer with a loser boyfriend. One day Elizabeth Bennet (Gemma Arterton) appears in her bathroom — through a door in her wall lies the world of the novel. Amanda ends up with the Bennets, and Elizabeth in present-day Hammersmith. It is a culture-clashing, time-clashing Walnut Whip of frothy nonsense with the intriguing proposition that Amanda may be able to change the outcome of her fictional touchstone. But what’s Elizabeth getting up to in Hammersmith?


James Walton, Daily Telegraph

This is not a sentence that you often hear – but it’s been a good week for drama on ITV1. After The Children’s highly promising start on Monday, last night brought us the first episode of Lost in Austen. Of course, as many people have already spotted from its shameless blending of Pride and Prejudice with Life on Mars, the series does come with a distinct whiff of commercial calculation. Yet, so far at least, this only goes to show that commercial calculation can sometimes work rather well. The result can’t be called profound. Nonetheless, it does triumphantly achieve its main aim of being enormously good-natured fun.

Jemima Rooper plays Amanda Price, a Jane Austen addict, who began last night living a typical (harsher critics might say stereotypical) twentysomething life in Hammersmith, complete with rubbish boyfriend burping away on the sofa. But then her literary heroine, Elizabeth Bennet (Gemma Arterton) suddenly stumbled through a door in the space-time-fiction continuum to pitch up in the bathroom. When Amanda went through the other way, without Lizzie, the door inevitably locked behind her, leaving her stranded in the Bennet family home.

Admittedly, some viewers may have felt this was a bit implausible. There is, however, one obvious counter-argument: who cares? On reflection, Life on Mars possibly wasted too much effort trying to make the time-travel both believable and significant. Here, once Amanda’s adventures were under way, it never seemed remotely important how she got there.

The first family member she met was Mr Bennet, who allowed Hugh Bonneville to demonstrate once again that no other actor – except perhaps Jim Broadbent – can do benevolent perplexity quite so well. From their conversation, Amanda realised that she’d arrived just at the start of the novel, with Mr Bingley newly installed at Netherfield: a fact instantly confirmed by the sound of female hysterics off-stage. (“My wife,” explained Mr Bennet resignedly.)

After that, the culture clashes were soon cheerfully piling up. At the Bingleys’ ball, where Mr Darcy (Elliot Cowan) put in a suitably brooding performance, Amanda made the mistake of necking too much Regency punch, popping outside for a fag and snogging Mr Bingley (Tom Mison) himself – who responded with an astonished but grateful “Gosh!” Now, duly mortified, she’s trying hard to make everything turn out as it does in the novel.

Through all of this, Lost in Austen manages the neat Life on Mars trick of showing the qualities and drawbacks of both eras. Amanda may think she prefers the old courtesies – at least when she’s not been on the punch. The programme itself gently reminds us how limited the Bennet girls’ lives are. It also throws in plenty of nice little touches. Mr Bennet, for example, was able to look more perplexed than ever when Amanda said Hammersmith is in London, rather than a small village several miles outside it.

04 September, 2008


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There are a few writers on there, however the vast majority have other jobs in the industry like producing, researching or hairdressing. It's too early to tell just how successful this will be or whether writers are better off sticking to mandy and knowledge.

This ad featuring Holly Willoughby is good though.

03 September, 2008

Preview: "Lost in Austen"

By Guy Andrews

"Lost In Austen officially became an idea when Damien Timmer shouted it down the phone to me one summer afternoon. He was sweltering in the depths of some enormous shop in London, failing to keep control of his children; I was doing pretty much the same at an agricultural show, which seemed to consist entirely of bouncy castles. The noise at both ends of the conversation was brain-shrivelling. I was as polite and indulgent to Damien as I could manage under the circumstances, and privately thought that the idea - what I could grasp of it - was utter drivel. Who, for God’s sake, wants yet more gloves, bonnets and heaving embonpoints clogging up their television? Poor Jane Austen. Leave the luckless woman in peace. Cease fanning and drop no curtseys.

Then I got home and began to doodle. My notes (tidied up with hindsight) were:

1. There is a young woman, who has no legitimate reason to be dissatisfied with her lot, but who cannot help feeling nonplussed by the state of her own life.

2. She secretly insulates herself against the indignities she encounters every day by reading Jane Austen.

3. She reads with such intensity that she opens a connection to Austen’s world.

4. She enters that world in the place of Elizabeth Bennet, then finds that she cannot return. She is trapped.

5. She is brave. She dedicates herself to keeping the plot of her beloved book on track - even in the absence of the central character - but everything she does seems to send the story lurching ever more desperately off-piste.

6. What ultimately can she do to save the novel, and herself?

The truth, of course, is that when we set about mangling the Nation’s Favourite Book in the service of this project, the serious work had already been done for us, two hundred years ago.

Is there a better constructed, more balanced, sublimely satisfying story than Pride and Prejudice? As a sequence of dramatic progressions, reverses, false summits and romantic epiphanies, the book cannot be beat. More important for our purposes, the narrative is so robust that it is effectively indestructible.

It would be possible to take infinitely more atrocious liberties with the text than those ventured in Lost In Austen (Darcy the gay Nazi! In space! The musical!). The emotional resolution of Elizabeth’s journey - no matter how compromised - would somehow still have the power to move.

It should be noted that our intention was never to twist Austen’s characters for the sake of twisting. A starting point for us was to identify points of disparity between the perceived text (ie: what we’re all used to seeing in film and television adaptation) and what Austen actually wrote.

For instance: we are used to seeing Mrs Bennet as something of a maladroit ninny.
This has become the dramatic convention for the performance of her character; but it isn’t quite the way Austen made her. On the page, Mrs Bennet is younger than we imagine
- a vivid beauty as a girl - who finds herself socially over- promoted by marriage to Mr Bennet, and made desperate by his fecklessness. The combination of these misfortunes renders her an object of ridicule.

Similarly, Mr Bennet is consistently portrayed on screen as unremittingly twinkly-eyed and charming. Austen’s Bennet enjoys these traits, but there is no mistaking that as a father he is a failure, too selfish to inconvenience himself with the effort necessary to protect his family.

Close reading of the characters’ lives inevitably led to conjecture, some of it intriguing: we understand the broad strokes of Caroline Bingley’s mission to deflect and crush Elizabeth; but what’s driving her, emotionally? Some of it satisfyingly silly: we understand why Austen is generally indisposed to give the servants names. But what about poor Christian-nameless Mr Bennet? What’s he hiding from his author?

I suspect every screenwriter has their own version of the experience that I think of as Hosting The Party.

You assemble your characters in the room, you pour their wine, then take a discreet step back. If your guests shuffle awkwardly and stare accusingly at their drinks, you know the evening’s a disaster.

But if a dozen conversations spring up at once - so that you’re obliged to dart from one to the other, grubby pencil in hand, trying to catch it all - you know the mix is probably right. The people have their own lives and their own things to say for their own reasons, and frankly they’re damned if they need you any more.

I have never scampered about a party like I did on Lost In Austen. Certainly I have never had such intelligent, imaginative and insightful criticism and advice from colleagues when I reported back what I’d heard. And a better, righter cast I’ve never seen.

People may hate it. Belle-lettrists may orchestrate public disembowelments of all concerned. But - even though I didn’t recognize it when it was being waved in my face - Lost In Austen is a good idea and an interesting one, and they’re pretty thin on the ground. I’m very grateful to have been involved."

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Starts Wednesday 3 September, ITV1, 9:00pm, for 4 episodes

Preview: "God on Trial"

Frank Cottrell Boyce article
Frank Cottrell Boyce interview
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Wednesday 3 September, BBC2, 9:00pm

02 September, 2008

What the Papers Say: "The Children"

Sam Wollaston, The Guardian

Some people are meant for kissing, others aren't. I think I'd put Kevin Whately in the latter group. He never kisses, or is kissed, as Lewis, I don't think. And there's a reason for that. But here he is in The Children (ITV), at it with Geraldine Somerville. Tongues and everything. Eurgghh. There should be an upper age-limit for tongues and everything on telly - I'm not sure what age exactly, but a few years less than Kevin's. Actually, it's the leaning in bit, lips parting in readiness, that is even more worrying than the snog itself. It gets worse, because here they are, a bit later, actually, you know, doing it. She's on top, he's lying on his back, gasping with his mouth open so we can see his upper teeth and the roof of his mouth. Mercifully it's only for a second or two, but that's still too long - the image lingers, the damage is done. Horrid. Turn off the lights if you're going to behave like that.

The third most disturbing thing in The Children - after Kevin's inappropriate arrival at second and fourth bases (in that order) with Geraldine - is the death of a little girl, which happens right at the very start of this haunting three-parter by Lucy Gannon. From the child's death we work backwards, filling in the pieces of the months leading up to the tragedy. The picture that emerges is not a happy one. After one couple's messy break-up, we're left with a thoroughly modern extended family of exes, currents, possible futures, new stepparents, new brothers and sisters, new homes. It's a mess (what happened to the traditional family unit, where's my copy of the Daily Mail?). And in among all this debris, two children, aged seven and 14, try to survive. One of them, the little girl, doesn't.

It's cleverly done and manages to thrill, move and disturb all at the same time. Uncomfortable viewing for parents, I should imagine. Do you know what's going on in your kids' bedrooms? And in their minds? Do you really communicate with them properly? Is it time for a little chat, before it's too late ... ?

Snogging aside, Whately puts in a decent performance as the emotionally scarred and unaware dad. But he, and all the other grown-ups, are acted off the screen by the two young stars, Sinead Michael and Freddie Boath, who play the kids. Both are amazingly natural and convincing; I'm sure child actors never used to be so good.


Andrew Billen, The Times

Even were there not a dead child at the top of the programme, the first episode of ITV's new drama, The Children, would have justified the catchline by which the network has been promoting it: “When adults play, the children suffer.” It was as if the Mail's Melanie Phillips had written the screenplay rather than Lucy Gannon, best known for Soldier Soldier and episodes of Corrie. But this morality tale carried the ache of truth nevertheless. The Children may be the best drama serial ITV has come up with in months, but there'll be droves of divorced parents for whom, suddenly, New Tricks on BBC One is essential viewing.

It is about that pass-the-parcel of loyalties that is played when men abandon their families. Cameron, played by Kevin Whately, his niceness blurring all the time into his selfishness, has left Anne, played by the incomparably visceral Lesley Sharp. Cameron is living with Sue, who in turn was left by Paul, who has had a baby with Natasha. Two children are left out of the game: Cameron and Anne's troubled teenager, Jack, and Sue and Paul's little girl, Emily, whose sinister end punctuated the programme in flash-forwards.

Let's forgive ITV its need to reduce this serious piece to the genre of whodunnit, and see Emily's death as a metaphor for the adults' deepest buried wishes. Whatever they think, these middle- aged adults are led not by their parental love but by their libidos. Cameron is big on afternoon sex sessions, which Sue, played by a wonderfully tense Geraldine Somerville, seems to see as her due after her husband's desertion for “Pneumatic Tits”. Anne too, at 38, is not out of the game. Indeed she is out most nights downing cocktails with her underlings at work and conspiring to bed her boss. The one person who deserves to see some action, Jack, has to content himself with internet porn, for which he is castigated.

When not behaving adolescently, the grown-ups behave childishly. “You are a very peeved peevish person, a VPP,” Sue tells Cameron, a headmaster, in her best baby talk. Over-sexed with one another, when they honour their children with quality time, the parents are over-playful with them. The child actors steal the show: Sinead Michael as the callously vulnerable little Emily, and Freddie Boath's wonderful performance as Jack, the 14-year-old who everyone forgets is still just that. Take away the murder mystery, and ITV would have here a very adult drama.


James Walton, Daily Telegraph

Any parents contemplating divorce at the moment might want to avoid The Children (ITV1). Lucy Gannon’s script is too deft to go for anything as crude as preaching. Even so, it seems firmly based on the premise that marital breakdown always affects children – and that the effect is always bad. About halfway through, Sue (Geraldine Somerville) offered to take in Jack, the troubled 14-year-old son of her new partner Cameron (Kevin Whatley). “Come on, Cam,” she told him sweetly, “it’s what we’ve always said: the kids mustn’t suffer.” By that stage, though, we already knew this was wildly self-deluding.

More importantly, we also knew that her own daughter would soon be dead. Last night’s opening episode began with – and often returned to – eight-year-old Emily (Sinead Michael) on a swing in the back garden. In best thriller tradition, she then turned round to greet her off-screen murderer…

From there, The Children flashed back to three months earlier when Cameron and Sue were setting up home – with Sue already cast in the role of determined optimist. “To new starts and new families,” she said, raising one of those oversized wine-glasses that invariably signify middle-class well-being.

Sad to say, such feelings weren’t shared by young Jack (Freddie Boath), who tried hard to scowl when he’d surely rather have been crying. Not that you could entirely blame him. His mum Anne (Lesley Sharp), with whom he was still living, had opted to deal with her divorce by drinking heavily, crying a lot and calling Cameron “a bastard” over the phone whenever possible. She also went for some classic attempts to tar Jack with the same brush. (“That’s right, you walk out just like your useless father.”) No wonder that before long Jack preferred to spend his time swigging cider in the middle of the night on local waste ground – which is why Sue and Cameron decided to take him in.

Meanwhile, although they were too distracted by Jack to notice it, Emily had her problems as well. Despite his obvious fecklessness, she continued to idolise her dad Paul (Ian Puleston-Davies), a radio DJ with a plausible line in paternal patter. At first, Emily seemed merely fascinated by the baby Paul now had with his blonde girlfriend – but gradually her feelings were revealed to be more complicated and perhaps sinister than that.

To its credit, last night’s episode managed to combine this assiduous plotting with plenty of everyday touches that captured the sheer awkwardness of living in other people’s families while having to pretend that you’re not. In another persuasive twist, the programme also suggests that adult selfishness is largely inadvertent. On the whole, the grown-ups are trying to do their best. It’s just that they haven’t noticed – or for understandable reasons of self-preservation are unable to admit – that their needs and those of the children are incompatible. And of course, everything probably would be fine if only children were more reasonable (ie not children).

Fortunately too, the series has assembled a cast that can do all of this full justice. Kevin Whately is as good as ever at conveying male bewilderment – while Geraldine Somerville somehow conveys the uncertainties that lie behind Sue’s public optimism. In Lesley Sharp’s hands, even Anne isn’t simply a cartoon baddie, but a woman whose self-pity is definitely rooted in the facts of her life. Finally, and almost needless to say these days, the children are miraculously good as well. (At which point I’d love to provide a brilliant theory as to why child acting has improved so vastly in the past few years – except that I haven’t got one.)

The result isn’t completely flawless. Maybe unsurprisingly in the circumstances, some of yesterday’s plot developments were a bit rushed. Anne, for example, seemed to give up her custody of Jack without a murmur – which didn’t feel very like her. Despite apparently hurting the baby when they were left alone together, Emily was soon allowed to look after it again, thereby enabling her to run off with it in a way that may or may not turn out to be related to her murder.

Still, at least these mild blemishes were linked to another of The Children’s strengths: that it never forgets it’s supposed to be a thriller. So far, the whodunit element has remained bubbling away nicely in the background. Yet, now that everything’s so neatly in place for it to take centre-stage, my hunch is that it will prove just as gripping as last night’s set-up did.

01 September, 2008

Preview: "The Children"

"Writer Lucy Gannon was inspired to write The Children by seeing the devastating effect divorce had on her daughter’s teenage friends.

“It started me thinking about the pressures we put on children, what we choose to do to our children in order to fulfil our own lives,” says Lucy who has won acclaim for her hard hitting dramas.

“The children of divorced parents need to have their place in the world secured and guarded, and that’s what we are often not doing.

“If you look at most of our modern dramas at the moment they are all about the rights of adults to have sex, the rights of adults to be completely fulfilled in every single way they want to be, whether it is leaving your husband to go off with another man or making money or whatever it is it is always about the adult having complete gratification.

“What I am saying is some times you have to hold back on the gratification. I have no apologies for saying that. If you have a child then I am sorry but your rights to sexual gratification and to complete fulfilment may in some instances be curtailed by the very fact you have a child. Just get on with it, accept it, and move on.”

Lucy says the drama is not pointing an accusatory finger at divorced couples. She was divorced when she met her second husband, who was also divorced.

“My second husband was divorced and came to me with four children, so I know the angst and grief that caused him. I am not passing comment on divorce in this drama. What I am commenting on is the way we expect children to absorb and cope with what adults are going through.

“I am certainly not passing judgment on people’s lives, and I don’t feel I am in a position to lecture to anybody.

“The aim of the drama is to make people think. What I am in a position to do is to shine a light on something and say ‘have you thought about this’.

Lucy has tackled numerous challenging subjects including child abuse, domestic abuse and teenage pregnancies in her dramas such as Trip Trap, Dad, Pure Wickedness and The Gift.

“These are not issues; they are circumstances that we get ourselves into. I really do think that life is one long ricochet from one disaster to another. Some of them you come out of smiling and relieved, and some of them have a huge effect on you for the rest of your life,” says Lucy.

“As an adult you can weather those storms and gain by them. I think an awful lot of the time that is what we think happens to children. But children are not as resilient as we want them to be.

“We want them to be strong and come through smiling, and gain by it. But some times it destroys them, and some times it will affect them forever.

“I know there are people who are going to feel challenged by this drama, but I can’t say therefore I won’t write it and won’t say what I think. That would be cowardly. I was very desperate not to have any of my characters as villains. None of them are. They are all people doing their best in very difficult circumstances. They are just making tiny wrong choices for selfish reasons.”

Lucy moved from Derby to Wales to be closer to her daughter Louise and her husband, and their three daughters, Nancy 6, Frankie 5 and one-year-old Lucy.

“I have told my daughter and son in law that whatever happens in their marriage – I am sure they won’t break up - but if they ever did, or if one of them dies, the other one is not to bring another partner into the home until the children are at least 16. And if they do, and I am dead, I shall come back and haunt them.” says Lucy.

Lucy joined the Coronation Street writing team last year. "

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Begins Monday 1 September, ITV1, 9:00pm for three episodes