30 August, 2008

Geoffrey Perkins 1953 - 2008

BBC News

The former BBC TV head of comedy has died in a road accident in London.

Geoffrey Perkins, 55, worked for many years for BBC Radio, where he created the game Mornington Crescent in I'm Sorry Haven't a Clue.

He also produced the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, one of the most successful radio shows ever made.

He became head of comedy for BBC TV with highlights of his TV career including The Catherine Tate Show, The Fast Show and Channel 4's Father Ted.

'Embraced talent'

BBC director of vision Jana Bennett said she was "shocked and deeply saddened" by the news.

"Geoffrey Perkins was an outstanding creator of countless comedy hits on the BBC and elsewhere, and a very distinguished former BBC head of comedy.

"He embraced comedy talent to create unique programmes which will be enjoyed for a very long time to come. All of our thoughts are with Geoffrey's family at this very sad time."

He left his role as a BBC radio producer to work at Thames TV for a brief period.

His many television credits include Spitting Image, Saturday Night Live and Friday Night Live, The Harry Enfield Television Programme, which he also co-wrote, and Ben Elton - The Man From Auntie.

Awards

He produced the topical drama A Very Open Prison for BBC Two and the first series of the BAFTA award-winning Father Ted for Channel 4.

A writer, producer and performer, Mr Perkins became BBC TV's head of comedy in May 1995.

He was previously a director of Hat Trick Productions, one of the UK's leading independent production companies, for eight years.

On leaving the BBC, he joined Tiger Aspect productions.

His latest production for the BBC with Tiger Aspect, Harry and Paul, with Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse, starts next week.

His credits as executive producer at the BBC included The Fast Show, Happiness, My Hero, 2 Pints of Lager, My Family, Coupling, and Big Train. He also co-produced both series of Ben Elton's The Thin Blue Line.

His writing credits include Radio Active and KYTV, co-written with Angus Deayton and winner of the Silver Rose Of Montreux, and Norbert Smith - A Life, co-written with Harry Enfield which also won the Silver Rose of Montreux and an International Emmy.

Steven Bochco, showrunner, interview

Forbes.com

"The flip side of that is you're working on a cable budget (about $2 million per episode rather than broadcast's $2.5 million or more). How do you make that work without sacrificing good content?

I think you do sacrifice something. You know, you figure out how to make adjustments. Fundamentally, you're still telling complex stories with interesting characters, and you're raising complex questions. What you may have to give up on here, and there is a certain level of production value, which if you do what we hope we're doing well is something the viewer won't actually miss.

This is a show which because of budget constraints really doesn't allow us to go outside very much. So it's an interior show. But because it's a courtroom drama, you sort of belong inside. I haven't seen to many outdoor courtrooms."

Article in full

29 August, 2008

Asian Horror Movies

Asian-Horror-Movies.com

Watch ASIAN HORROR MOVIES online for FREE

Watch films for free in high quality with English subtitles.

This is an interesting ethical dilemma as, putting sheer unlikelihood aside, I'm not so sure I'd be linking to English-Independent-Films.com.


If you like the movies, buy the DVDs! There. Ethical dilemma solved.

You need to install the
Firefox browser.

28 August, 2008

David Hare on how the BBC killed the TV play

The Times:

"The BBC's abandonment of the single television play is a spineless betrayal of the playwright, the art and the public

It was odd that one of the most interesting and significant cultural occasions of 2008 received almost no newspaper or television coverage at all. On the afternoon of Saturday, July 5, the stage of the National Film Theatre on the South Bank was handed over to David Rose, the former head of television drama at BBC Birmingham. Over the course of a memorable session, he used film clips and his own recollections to explain how 30 years ago he had managed to employ, and in some cases introduce to the medium, such people as Mike Leigh, Alan Bleasdale, Willy Russell, Neville Smith, Stephen Frears, Alan Clarke, David Rudkin and Peter Terson.

It was, to all public knowledge, the first time that Rose had given such a talk. He outlined the intriguing passage of a life that took him from being the first producer of Z-Cars to becoming the man who initiated the brilliantly successful policy of making cinema-destined feature films for the new Channel 4 in the 1980s.

Not only did the press disdain to attend an event that illustrated the work of such a distinguished producer, but television itself seemed curiously abashed. Invitations to the present Director-General of the BBC and all those who work alongside him were refused. Television is always keen to celebrate itself in facetious or pompous ways, most of all as a sort of errant puppy forever fouling itself in the corner of your living room (One Thousand Worst Bloopers, etc). But it seems much less interested in the fascinating challenges of its own history. Everyone understands that contemporary BBC executives are far too busy jargonising to each other about delivery platforms and multi-choice environments to watch the actual programmes. "

Article in full

27 August, 2008

What the Papers Say: "Mutual Friends"


Gareth McLean, The Guardian

You'd think that a drama about a group of late-thirtysomething friends that begins with a suicide would be a thing of consequence. You'd be wrong. Everything about Richard Pinto and Anil Gupta's drama - from the lazy reliance on and miscasting of BBC1 "names" Marc Warren, Alexander Armstrong and Keeley Hawes, to the infuriating soundtrack - conspires to deprive it of any kind of weight. So cartoonish and flimsy is Mutual Friends, it's as if those who make and commission drama such as this are frightened of import - or condescendingly suspect that the audience is.

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Lucy Mangan, The Guardian

When I was at primary school, we once did an almost-scientific experiment on a ready-made chicken kiev. You drop the chicken kiev in a Pyrex bowl full of water and time how long it takes for the thing to disintegrate, revealing itself not as a plump, succulent breast but the compressed shreds of gristle and meat from less mentionable poultry-places. It is with no small measure of pride that I record here how Torridon Juniors were years ahead of Jamie Oliver in this field of investigation.

It is to this experiment that my mind returns whenever I watch the latest apparently plump and succulent prime-time offerings from our major television producers. Last night the BBC served up the first episode of Mutual Friends (BBC1), a comedy-drama about six old friends reunited at the funeral of Carl, one of their number.

Carl had thrown himself under a train for reasons hinted at in a DVD left behind for his best friend, Martin, as a kind of audiovisual suicide note, but Not Yet Revealed. What has been revealed is the following: 1) Martin's wife Jen had sex with Carl twice before his death - although as Jen is played by Keeley Hawes, who becomes more ridiculously beautiful with every passing year, we may discover that this rather postponed the fateful day rather than precipitated it. 2) Martin is a miserabilist lawyer who has been ignoring his wife's growing dissatisfactions with life ("What is there to fulfil? We have holidays!"). 3) Ears the size of side plates are no barrier to success with the laydeez, as Alexander Armstrong has been cast as Patrick, the womanising entrepreneur who has to engage Martin's services when his business partner Harry stages a corporate coup. 4) Patrick's ex-fiancee, Liz, is sleeping with Harry, although she clearly still has feelings for Patrick - or at the very least an enduring auricular fixation - because she lets him steal back her £50,000 engagement ring in order to fund his legal fight.

It is, then, Thirtysomething meets Cold Feet meets Mistresses meets a little bit of The Big Chill meets innumerable other comedy dramas whose names escape me because my memory is too full of random pre-pubescent reminiscences to have retained anything new since about 1991. It looks good and slips down easily enough, thanks to good performances all round, and particularly sterling work by Marc Warren - evoking another of life's unarmed and furious losers - but a moment's thought reveals it to be another artfully moulded mound of mechanically recovered meat from the carcasses of other programmes.

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Andrew Billen, The Times


I didn't make it to the Edinburgh Television Festival this year, which was a shame, because we all need a laugh from time to time. I can't quite make out which was the funniest session, although it sounds as if it would have taken a strong man not to weep with mirth at the euphoria that swamped the hall after ITV's new head boy, Peter Fincham, persuaded his fellow practitioners that ITV1 had mastered the art of entertaining the nation and that it would take only a funeral pyre of Ofcom rules for a phoenix of populist creativity to rise triumphant from Gray's Inn Road. This is the outfit whose sole ratings blunderbuss is now the talent show and which has failed to deliver a single workable new drama all year.

Even funnier must have been Armando Iannucci's suggestion that the BBC should launch a subscription channel in order for it to make programmes of the quality and intelligence of The Sopranos, The Wire and Mad Men. And there was I thinking that we all paid a subscription, a compulsory one, to the BBC already and that according to this arrangement it did not labour under the same ratings pressures as the rest of the industry and was, therefore, free to attempt just such projects. At least Iannucci is a professional satirist. I take his modest proposal in the same spirit in which Jonathan Swift issued his.

Yet I share his frustration. Aside from period pieces, most BBC drama is undemandingly entertaining at best. There is, of course, an art to undemanding entertainment and a need for it. As readers have made clear to me when I have scoffed, the ageing, in both senses, detective show New Tricks is much loved. But increasingly it feels as if the BBC has narrowed its contemporary dramatic range down to two genres: the grisly thriller and the hedging-its-bets comedy-drama.

Mutual Friends, which began last night (on Friday in Scotland), is an example of the second. It started with a suicide but ended with a fire engine. Carl's suicide was the writers' device with which to bring together his surviving friends, Martin, played by Marc Warren, and Patrick (Alexander Armstrong). Martin was the worrying type and he had loads to worry about: not only was he about to lose his job as a solicitor but his wife, Jen (Keeley Hawes), announced that she had slept with Carl and that their marriage was in trouble (all Martin's fault).

Patrick also had his problems: a personal financial crisis had got his E-Type Jag repossessed and one of his business partners was edging him out of his own Boden-style catalogue company while edging himself into his former girlfriend's knickers. The worrying thing about Patrick, buoyed along by ego and testosterone, was his inability to worry. Yet this follicly challenged Lothario was not, it transpired, irredeemably self-centred. It was he, after all, who was responsible for the fire engine's comical appearance - called not to hose a conflagration but to fulfil Martin's disgruntled young son's ambition to ride on one.

Warren, Armstrong and Hawes are watchable actors but you couldn't help but wish their parts had been occupied by Jimmy Nesbitt, Robert Bathurst and Helen Baxendale and that, as in Cold Feet, there had been room for a genuinely funny subplot (as regularly supplied by the actors Fay Ripley and John Thomson). Nor could you fail to spot how inspiration was running out even as early as episode one. Martin, for instance, kept being overheard saying things that he shouldn't by the people he was badmouthing. Only once could you accuse the programme of inventiveness and that was in the character of Carl's widow Leigh, played with cheerful understatement by Claire Rushbrook, who had clearly lost her how-to-grieve manual and went round saying how “cross” she was with him.

My hunch is that Mutual Friends will keep its audience, not least because it is unusual in putting at its centre male rather than female friendships. But how, even as I watched its titles as ripped off from Mad Men, I wished for more subtlety, more black humour, more depth of emotion! And how furious I will be if I have to pay a further subscription to the BBC before it supplies it.

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James Walton, Daily Telegraph

Any new drama series about a group of friends approaching middle age faces one big problem. The fact there’s been so many of them already makes it very hard to be original – not least because, as we know from all the others, only a certain number of plots are available. Leading the way are the strains put on a marriage by adultery, having children, not being able to have children, or the husband missing a school play. Nearly as common, though, is the single man whose inability to grow up is expressed mainly by his continuing fondness for flash cars and flash women. And, when the chips are really down, there’s always sudden death.

Rather cunningly, Mutual Friends (BBC1) got a few of these out of the way almost immediately. Carl (Alistair Petrie) said goodbye to his family one morning, walked to the station as usual and threw himself under a train. At this stage, Jen (Keeley Hawes) hadn’t been able to tell her husband Martin (Marc Warren) that she’d recently slept with Carl – and decided that his funeral was just the right moment. In the meantime, Martin’s old pal Patrick (Alexander Armstrong) had arrived at the church in his sports car a bit late, because he’d had to have morning sex with a young blonde first.

Of course, most shows which open with the father of three small children killing himself might have felt obliged to remain quite dark for a while. Yet, as it turned out, Mutual Friends is a comedy drama with the emphasis firmly on the comedy. Carl’s widow Leigh (Claire Rushbrook) was soon dealing with her grief by speaking in a series of wisecracks. Martin and Jen’s decision to go for marriage counselling led to the usual scenes of a wimpy bloke in an armchair saying, “So how does that make you feel?” a lot. Above all, Patrick is so total a representative of male self-centredness that even in an ITV1 sitcom, he might feel slightly broad-brush.

The odd thing, however, is that the result is by no means a disaster. For a start, the script, written by Anil Gupta and Richard Pinto (Goodness Gracious Me and The Kumars at No 42), seems perfectly content with the fact that it’s not pushing back the frontiers of television – and instead gets on with doing the traditional stuff as efficiently and funnily as possible. A strong cast helps too, with Marc Warren in particular showing an unexpected lightness of touch. (Last night he even managed to do the missing-the-school-play scene without going over the top.)

In the end, none of this is quite enough to solve the mystery of why so much talent has been poured into making such a bog-standard TV drama. On the other hand, it does make you fairly grateful that it has.

*******************************

Mutual Friends, BBC1,
Tuesdays, 9:00pm

26 August, 2008

So You Want to Write a Screenplay

Ken Atchity:

"The following is an excellent piece by Barry Pearson "16 Ways You Can Create a Better Hero and a Better Screenplay"


Shakespeare created many of the most memorable heroes in the English language. We acknowledge him as an artistic genius. But the Bard was also the most financially successful writer of his time. Even in modern times, tidy fortunes are made from retreading his work.

One of the keys to his extraordinary success is to be found in this trenchant and insightful quote form Dr. Samuel Johnson, who published a definitive edition of his plays in 1765.

The stage but echoes back the public voice
The drama's laws, the drama's patrons give.
For we that live to please must please to live

That one is worth pinning on your wall. It's as true for you as it was 400 years ago when Shakespeare was penning his audience-pleasing masterpieces. Writing stories that will satisfy the desires of your audience can lead directly to your success.

Moviegoers, like the Globe theatergoers in 1600, have definite and strong desires about what they want in a hero. and they vote with their feet and their wallets.

You will write better heroes and better screenplays if you use the audience's desires as your writing "laws." What are those desires? And how can you tap into them? I'm going to suggest sixteen types of audience desires, both positive and negative, that may be helpful. I'll try to illustrate with examples of what audiences want (or do not want) and what you can do about it.

1. The audience wants the Hero to be forced to struggle, change, and become a better, happier, and more successful person.

Professional screenwriters recognize this want and take ingenious steps to exploit it. Have you ever noticed that heroes at the beginning of a movie are stuck in a rut? They're usually in a state of paralysis (literally or figuratively). They're often imprisoned in some way. In Gladiator, for example, Maximus (Russell Crowe) starts out trapped in a miasma of political intrigue, and progresses to a literal state of imprisonment and despair.

By portraying this admirable hero so far from "happy and successful," the writers intensified the audience's desire to see him struggle toward justice and freedom.

Try to imagine how your Hero, at the beginning of your movie, could be in a state of paralysis, unable to act.

Perhaps she might be like Angela Bennett (Sandra Bullock) in The Net. Angela, in retreat from a hurtful love affair shrinks from human contact. She has woven a protective cocoon around herself and forged the bars of her own prison.

Then again, your Hero might be "imprisoned" like William Broyles Jr.'s hero Chuck Nolan (Tom Hanks) in Castaway. Chuck is so obsessed by the deadline culture of his job that he has become a barely human automaton."

Article in full

25 August, 2008

Soundtrack

Pavilion - Spoils Of War


Drops today

22 August, 2008

Mike Le, screenwriter, interview

You make an excellent point mocking the National Treasure franchise in your comic Don’t Forget to Validate Your Parking, and it seems like the studios are getting more and more desperate to rehash the same old material. Is there any purpose behind that, or is it just an example of groupthink gone awry?

"It’s not really groupthink gone awry – that would be more akin to too many cooks in the kitchen (like the old saying, “A camel is a horse designed by committee”). The trend in remakes is more about fear. Hollywood execs are motivated by fear. They are often afraid to be the first to say “yes” because no one wants to be wrong. Being wrong may lead to losing one’s job. It’s easier and safer to push a project that someone already said “yes” to, so you remake something that has a built-in audience: novels, comic books, articles, plays, old movies, TV shows, video games, etc. It also makes more economic sense. Financiers are hedging their bets when they make movies from existing properties, and audiences are only going to see more of this trend with the success of DARK KNIGHT. I think the days of just being a screenwriter exclusively is coming to an end.

Our culture is saturated with multi-media and alternative ways to distribute content — that means the screenwriter of the 21st Century has to evolve to survive. You have to be able to juggle between writing for TV, films, comic books, webisodes, animation, blogging, etc. You must create product for every venue, and if executed well, every product is a potential movie idea. Hollywood is ran by corporations, corporations are made up of many different arms, and each arm is hungry to feed the other. Consumer synergy is the magic we all seek."


Article in full

Joanna Murray-Smith, playwright, interview

The West Australian: "After being scorned by Germaine Greer, playwright Joanna Murray-Smith will be hoping Nicole Kidman is a much kinder critic.

The Melbourne-based writer found herself in hot water in Britain after Greer let fly in a Sunday newspaper about Murray-Smith's latest play to hit London's West End.

Greer was riled by The Female of the Species, a comedy based on an iconic feminist called Margot Mason who is held hostage in her home by an angry fan, echoing the harrowing experience Greer endured eight years ago.

While the world-renowned Australian feminist admitted to not having seen the play or read its script, that didn't stop her branding Murray-Smith an “insane reactionary” and accusing her compatriot of holding feminism in contempt.

Murray-Smith's next film project also could be considered quite close to home for Kidman, but is unlikely to spark the same kind of outraged response. "

Article in full

21 August, 2008

Word of Mouth: "Hellboy II: The Golden Army"


Hell, no!

This is a very well made film showing an amazing visual imagination but it fails to integrate character and action and so is very disappointing.

The main conflict and the reasons for it are quite nice but the antagonist is too weak. He has an objective but isn’t nearly ruthless enough in getting it.

There is one point when the baddie could have got what he wanted by himself quite easily but instead he conjures up yet another fantastical creature for yet another big set-piece and stands back and watches. This particular creature was amazingly easy to kill but the sequence was dragged out, interminably, by Hellboy trying to hold on to a baby, inexplicably, instead of just giving it back to the mother - or some other person who isn't a target for the monster.


I nearly walked out despite the great mix of characters and often funny dialogue due to the pointlessness of much of the action. It's spectacular colourful imaginative action but lacking suspense, tension or any sense of real danger. OK, so that's like most big-budget Hollywood blockbusters but I expect more from del Toro.


While it's not particularly recommended, I can't really say don't bother seeing it either. CGI fans who don't care about logic - especially kids - will love it.

20 August, 2008

Selecting the Most Powerful Words for Your Novel or Screenplay

Surviving the Muse:

"Words have the power to create images in the reader's mind. Those images are yours — the writer's — to control, to manipulate and direct based entirely on the words you choose to employ. That power is within your grasp. All you have to do is reach out and take hold of it.


How, you ask? Make use of that fantastic tool we call a thesaurus. You've all seen them before — you know, in the bookstore, shelved side-by-side with the dictionaries and a myriad of "How To Get Published In 90 Days Or Less" handbooks — but do you own one? If you don't already own a
thesaurus, stop reading right now, head to the bookstore or Amazon.co.uk and buy yourself one. A writer without a thesaurus is like an artist without paint, a sculptor without stone. The tools to create are there but the substance is missing."

Article in full

19 August, 2008

Michael Arndt, screenwriter, lecture

Fora.tv

"The climax of the movie (is) really the thing that I'm most proud of because as a writer I'm a big believer in endings. I think the ending of your story is when the meaning of your story is really revealed.

But I also think that, just in terms of in setting up the story, a good story, for me at least, always involves a character right before the climax taking a decisive action or making an important decision and usually you are going to make that decision is difficult as possible.

So what I was trying to do here was to push Olive into this corner where she has to decide whether she is going to go on stage or not and at that moment she is weighing two value systems. One is her dad who says there is no sense in entering a contest if you don't win or if you don't think you are going to win. And then on the other shoulder is her grandpa who said, we are going to have fun tomorrow, we can tell them all go to hell, and also a real loser isn't someone who doesn't win, a real loser is someone who doesn't try. So its that - just to be didactic about it you know - you are trying to have your character make a meaningful decision and really push them into the corner."












For your consideration: Little Miss Sunshine

18 August, 2008

Guillermo del Toro, "Hellboy II", interviews




Alan Ayckbourn, playwright, interview

The Times:

“I love that moment when a show is firing on all cylinders in a room full of people who are having a great time. But the rest of it is really irritating. Come on ... why are we sitting in the dark? We all know it's only a play - so get on with it! I hate what Stephen Daldry once called 'burglar's theatre' - you know, suddenly everything goes dark and people in black called stage hands creep on and steal vases and things. If you are going to ask people to be stuck in the dark you've got to surprise them. I try to make my plays events, not plays, with lots of things happening.”

Article in full

17 August, 2008

How to Make Time to Make Stuff

Life Hacker:

"Thoughtful blogger Merlin Mann publishes a three-part series of posts on the constant battle creative people face between making things and making themselves available to others. Mann writes:
If the amount of time you devote to lite correspondence with individual people exceeds the amount of time you spend on making things, then you may be in a different line of work than you'd originally thought you were. [...] Do you generate more IMs than comic panels? Have you drafted more web comments than scenes in your screenplay? Or, for that matter, do you find you're taking more meetings than photos these days?
Reading this, one suspects Mann is talking to himself as much as anyone; I for one am thrilled when he makes time to write about the topic of attention.

16 August, 2008

Building Your Screenwriting Career - The Missing Pieces

by Gordon Meyer

"Once upon a time, there was a young man who very much wanted to be in show business, or more specifically, making movies. He attended one of the best film schools in the world, while there discovered the joys of writing and producing and everyone around him had high expectations about his career. Yet for more years than he cares to admit, that career was stalled.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that young man was me. And this article is for everyone who, like me, has visions of having their name up on the big screen as a writer. It’s all about the importance of getting a balance of what I call “macro training.”

Over the years, I’ve invested tens of thousands of dollars in classes, seminars, books and retreats all intended to teach me to be a better writer. Don’t get me wrong. Many of these classes were well worth the money when it came to teaching me about the CRAFT of screenwriting. I absolutely learned a lot. But talent and craft by themselves are not enough to make you a regularly working professional screenwriter.

I learned through painful experience that if you want to succeed as a professional artist in show business, whether it’s as a writer, actor, director or any other craft that’s employed by the networks and studios, you have to treat your career as a small business with yourself as the CEO. As countless people have said to me over the years, it’s called Show “Business” for a reason.

Eureka! This was the missing piece. When it finally registered with me the importance of treating my artistic endeavors like an entrepreneurial small business, I began to see things in an entirely different light. I call myself a writer and producer - and those are accurate titles - but the business I’m in is really manufacturing, sales and distribution. Huh?

Think about it. As a professional writer, you’re manufacturing a product - the things you write. In order to get paid for that product, you also have to have a sales, marketing and distribution mechanism in place so that the scripts you write can generate money for you.

Of course you have to have the talent and skills to consistently deliver quality scripts and do so on time. But talent and skill alone don’t hack it. If you want to be a successful, consistently and steadily working writer, you have to understand that you’re in the business of creating and selling products. Your products are your scripts.

Like any manufacturer, in addition to dedicating part of your business to developing and creating products, you also need to address the sales, marketing and distribution of those products (scripts) along with the business affairs aspect (contracts, accounting, etc.) of working with your customers (studios, production companies and/or networks). You don’t have to do it all by yourself, but you do need to make sure these aspects of your business as a professional writer are handled. Just by making that shift in the way you see yourself and your career, you’ll immediately transform from would-be writer to an entrepreneurial professional well on the road to success."

Gordon Meyer created, produced and hosted the long-running series, “Hollywood’s Master Storytellers”

15 August, 2008

Interview: Liza Marshall, head of drama, C4

Broadcast:

"I often get pitched bleak and depressing ideas," Marshall acknowledges. "I'm never looking specifically for that, but for great drama that has something to say - both pieces with scope and ambition, and small stories that have real resonance."

-------------------

"The great thing is that I don't commission to slots," she says. "We have a pot of money, and as and when ideas come to us we will commission them in any form. I want things that really stand out and feel distinctive or original and want a range of tones.

-------------------

But Marshall is wary of C4 drama being seen as a closed members' club and believes drama offers one of the best opportunities for new talent. Drama will, she says, be developed within the 4IP online public service broadcasting fund announced as part of chief executive Andy Duncan's Next on 4 strategy, building on the cross-platform opportunities already demonstrated by Hollyoaks and Skins.

Article in full

More on 4IP:

14 August, 2008

"Bonekickers": A case for the defence


Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I put it to you that Bonekickers is not guilty of the crime of being rubbish but was actually quite good.

It would be foolish to pretend that the pilot didn’t present plenty of evidence for the prosecution. The teaser was too on-the-nose and rather than attract me, it repelled me. The characterisation went from dodgy (Dolly) to non-existent (almost everyone else). But as most critics acknowledged it was watchable despite the flaws. That was perhaps the weakest episode of the series and it got better each week, with more character layers.

I was looking forward to Harley Street more than Bonekickers but Harley Street was a cross between the two safest and long-running BBC series Doctors and Casualty and I gave up on it ten minutes into episode 2. Bonekickers took risks and was like nothing else.

OK, that’s not always necessarily a good thing but Pharoah and Graham deserve some kudos for trying something other than cops and docs.

One complaint was about how preposterous the show was as a concept and the bonkers stories. Normally I’m first in the queue to complain about such things but it mostly held together for me and made sense. I don’t feel the show demanded too much suspension of disbelief, although more depth to the characterisations would have helped carry viewers through.

I acknowledge that the characters were perhaps exposed to more national and international danger than most university archaeology departments but you might as well complain about the Midsomer murder rate.

Bonekickers required more thinking about than, for instance, an Ashes to Ashes episode. It’s one thing choosing and researching the historical events you want to write about but quite another to weave a plausible action-packed story around that.

Foolishly, during the last episode I found myself googling made up bollocks I thought was true. But I actually liked them mixing up stuff I know is true and stuff I wasn't so sure about.

Bonekickers might not have been a heavyweight classic but there's nothing wrong with lightweight enjoyable entertainment - if it's well-written enough.

Therefore I urge you, the jury, to vote the show not guilty of being rubbish.

First 10 Minutes
Preview
What the Papers Say

13 August, 2008

Comedy Lab

4Talent


"Thank the Baby Jesus for Channel 4's Comedy Lab, the only real showcase for original comedy on terrestrial television." - The Observer.

Comedy Lab is a late night comedy slot on Channel 4 to provide a showcase for new writers and performers. It takes an original approach to traditional comedy and features experimental pieces that don't fit any of the established entertainment strands.

Ideally, projects will be submitted via a production company - but if you don't have the necessary contacts feel free to submit direct to Channel 4. You'll need a full script and whatever supportive material you can compile - such as artwork, show-reels, cast suggestions and sample content on VHS/DVD.

What you get

The chance to showcase your comic talents to millions of people on national television. What more could you possibly want?

No but seriously, then what?

Having shown your talent to the nation, there's no stopping you. The Comedy Lab has launched the careers of performers including Dom Joly, Peter Kay, and Jimmy Carr with series such as Trigger Happy TV, Phoenix Nights, Los Dos Bros and The Last Chancers. As Jimmy Carr himself says: "The Comedy Lab is godsend for comedians who would never otherwise have a half-hour slot on television. Dom Joly, Peter Kay and myself all owe a lot to the fact that it nurtured our talent at an early stage."

Deadline

Applications for Comedy Lab's 2009 season are now open
Deadline for applications: 31 October 2008.

Find out more at channel4.com/comedylab

Submit your ideas to:

Comedy Lab,
Channel 4,
124 Horseferry Road,
London,
SW1P 2TX

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Added to Deadlines Calendar

Paul Schrader, writer-director, interview

Tehelka:

"Reflecting on the future of screenwriting, he says, “The weakest writing in America today is in the movies, the best writing is on TV, in series like The Sopranos. That’s because scripts for TV are about human beings and human behaviour, not a journey to the centre of the earth. Movies have become less and less about good writing and more and more about spectacle, so the importance of the screenwriter has declined. The most spirited dialogues in spectacle films are lines like: “Look, it’s coming” or “Run, run, run.” When I started out in the film business about 30 years ago, there was a crisis of content. Now there is a crisis of form, with films on DTH, internet downloads, and so on. But as screen sizes become small — TV, cable, computers, mobile phones — spectacle will become less important, and the importance of the screenwriter will be re-established.”"

Article in full

12 August, 2008

Iliza Scheslinger


I wrote about the awesome God's Pottery being knocked out of Last Comic Standing by Iliza Schlesinger in an earlier round and thought I wouldn't bother watching any more episodes but I did and Schlesinger ended up the deserved winner, getting better week on week.

I say "deserved" although my favourite was actually Louis Ramey. Both the theater audience and the presenters were shocked that he came bottom of the home audience vote. But Schlesinger worked her socks off and is a proper hardcore comic. Most of the other comedians just re-hashed the same material each week but she wrote new material. In the latter stages she always took the braver choice of trying new gags out for the first time rather than using her tried and tested stuff.

After the God's Pottery knock out, Schlesinger K.O.'d another favourite of mine, Papa CJ, but he shocked me by doing more or less the same set as he did in previous weeks and he deserved to lose. We all know comedians who make a good living by doing the same 20 minute set for several years - and good luck to them - but they shouldn't really win major competitions. (Although maybe Papa CJ shouldn't be put in that category if the explanation on his website regarding the repeated material is to be believed. )


Schlesinger happens to be the first woman winner of the contest and the host Bill Bellamy asked her what she thought about doing it for all the "girls" and the "ladies" out there and she was flummoxed at the dated thinking. Eventually she said, diplomatically, gender has nothing to do with it and it's about the comedy.

We actually had a set from last year's winner as part of the finale and it was just humourless hackery from a nice bloke. The fact that Iliza is a bird shouldn't detract from the fact that she is better than any of the previous male winners. Previously when people argued that "women aren't funny", I would give them a history lesson on women' s comedy from Mae West to Sarah Silverman - with slides - now I just give them a slap.

Schlesinger was technically very good and mixed up her set with clever gags and mime and used the stage well. I felt Ramey was cleverer and - more importantly - more accessible. The problem with nostalgia and observational humour is that it has to be fairly universal. As a limey, I didn't have a clue what she was going on about sometimes but then neither did much of the audience.

I hate the hackyness of, for instance, "Do you remember Spangles?" and then pausing for a nostalgic recognition laugh from the audience. Where's the fracking gag? Thankfully, Schlesinger didn't rely on that sort of thing too much, she was on much safer territory with her sharp character observation.


Here's a nice early set:

Hollywood power women shed light on summer movies

USA Today:

"What do women want?

Freud never did find out. But at least Hollywood discovered a few clues this summer about what women want at the movies.

Two much-touted releases that focus on women's relationships and personal desires didn't merely succeed at a time when multiplexes practically sweat testosterone. The fashionista romance Sex and the City and the giddy musical Mamma Mia! went head-to-head with those big guns Indiana Jones and Batman, and not only survived but thrived with a substantial return on their reasonable budgets.

Sex collected $151.5 million and Mamma is so far at $91.8 million — nowhere near The Dark Knight's stratospheric $400 million-plus. But their achievements are noteworthy nevertheless. "

Article in full

11 August, 2008

Co-authors at war over Chekhov play

The Independent:

"A delightful row which has been simmering in London's Theatreland for the past six months has now finally gone right off.

The bitter dispute is between the award-winning playwright Diane Samuels and the actress Tracy Ann Oberman, best known for her role as Dirty Den's wife in EastEnders.

At issue is a reworking of Chekhov's Three Sisters, re-named 3 Sisters on Hope Street, which was greeted with rave reviews when it was staged earlier this year at the Hampstead Theatre.

Both women are named as co-writers on the play. Samuels, however, is furious after Oberman, in a recent interview on Radio 4's Midweek, failed to credit her. It's just the latest in a long line of appearances in which, Samuels claims, Oberman has tried to claim the play as her own."

"Tracy's done television and newspapers and I've just stood back and let it happen. I've seen Tracy on television talking about how she wrote 3 Sisters, and I've kept my mouth closed for months. I just can't let that continue any longer," Samuels tells today's Jewish Chronicle. "I'm the primary author of the piece... She didn't write a word of the first draft."

Samuels' reaction has prompted Oberman to call in her lawyers. In a written statement, she says: "3 Sisters on Hope Street is a co-written piece and any misunderstanding would be unfortunate and not intended by any parties involved on Midweek."

Article in full

What the Papers Say: " Spooks: Code 9"


Andrew Billen, The Times

We have four years left to enjoy it before it is 2012, when it is destroyed in a nuclear attack. Such is the cheerful premise of Spooks: Code 9, which is to Spooks what Torchwood is to Doctor Who (ie, not as good).

With a cast of fresh-faces and a budget of several pounds, it fancies itself as gritty and hip, combining state torture with a boozy, flirty This Life house-share for the torturers, yet it lacks the balls to link the “code-9” attack with either the Olympics or al-Qaeda. A preamble assures us that, afterwards, life outside London continues much the same. Judging by the crowded Mancunian shopping malls, through which the junior spooks dash, this is indeed the case. Note also that in “new world, new rules” Britain, the pussy bow, dismissed by so many as just this summer's fashion fad, remains the height of post-holocaust chic.

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Adrian Lobb, The Guardian


"Setting a spin-off series of Spooks in 2013, as Britain regroups after terrorists nuked London during the previous year's Olympic Games, might be an innovative (if somewhat scary) notion. But there's more to Spooks Code 9 than just a TV show about the new breed of counter-terrorist operative.

While the spying game is played out on screen, viral marketing and high-concept interactive elements are extending the story - and the brand - to the online community. BBC3, already home to multi-platform shows like Lily Allen and Friends, are rolling out the techie tricks to drama.

At libertynews.co.uk (a website purporting to belong to a future news agency), news, sport and entertainment stories from 2013 abound. We can see the extent of the radioactive exclusion zone in London, and discover which landmarks were damaged in the bomb blast.

Amy Winehouse adds her voice to the London relief effort, displaced football teams Arsenal and Chelsea have been relocated to Spain, and EastEnders characters re-emerge in post-nuke soap Camp 136. The world of Spooks Code 9 is fleshed out interactively online, and we can place ourselves in this alternate reality, conversing with its inhabitants and trying to spot the seeds of future Spooks Code 9 storylines. Members of the online community can even role-play and share their 2013 stories and photos.

When major events occur on our TV screens, whether it's a bad guy being bagged or a good guy being blasted to kingdom come (this is a Spooks spin-off, so we can't expect the whole team to survive the series), additional information will filter through via news reports on the site.

But will it work? I've seen a preview, and the show is disappointing. But with such energy fizzing throughout its online extensions, the question is no longer what these web offerings can add to the television experience. Rather, will the televisual adventures of these maverick young MI5 operatives live up to Spooks Code 9's multi-layered web of online activity?"

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Gareth McLean, The Guardian

Spooks: Code 9 is a spin-off too far
Pitch me your ideas for the most preposterous spin-offs you can think of. They can't be worse than SC9

As spin-offs go, Spooks: Code 9 is ropey indeed. I can't quite decide what's most irritating - the clunky, lazy writing, the fact that they all live in a house together, the random relocation to Leeds, an insistence on making the female spies dance suggestively in club scenes, the dreadful haircut sported by Georgia Moffet, or a combination of all of the above. But whatever it is, Spooks Code 9 is an utterly cynical venture and a damning indictment of the lack of imagination at work in commissioning new drama. (BBC3 will commission this twaddle but not the genuinely intriguing The Things I Haven't Told You. You go figure, because I'm close to giving up.)

Moreover, given its patronising awfulness, SC9 actually damages the Spooks brand. And that's what it's about - the brand. Increasingly in drama, it seems to be all about how a drama can be marketed. And boy, does that suck.

So in the spirit of brand extension and targeting demographics, pitch me your ideas for the most preposterous spin-offs you can think of. I've lately wondered why they don't do a Young Miss Marple. Presumably the keepers of the Agatha Christie flame are against such things, otherwise it would have happened already. It couldn't possibly be ropier/hammier/more irksome than the current Marples. (Sorry, Agatha Christie's Marple. As opposed to anyone else's, one presumes.)

So how about Law Student John Deed? Or a drama about the old dogs of New Tricks as young pups? Secret Diary of a Rent Boy? B&B Babylon? Actually, as Fashion Babylon is apparently on its way, perhaps we shouldn't joke about that last one.

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Official site

Press pack

Daily Telegraph article

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BBC3, Sunday nights for six episodes

10 August, 2008

Simon Gray 1936-2008


The Guardian:

"He's one of the most important British dramatists of the last 50 years - no question. He used a classical structure and wrote within tightly prescribed limits about people whose emotions were very messy, so there was this engaging tension between the classical form and the chaotic vortex of emotions." Richard Eyre

Article in full

The Guardian obituary
Daily Telegraph obituary
The Times obituary
New York Times obituary

Soundtrack

Esser - Headlock

08 August, 2008

Alfred Gough, screenwriter, interview

Slice of SciFi:

SoSF: What do you think some of the factors are that have contributed to the success of (Smallville)?

AG: There’s a lot of things. With a television series there’s a certain amount of luck, timing, the fact that the concept at the time was very fresh and we approached it in a way people hadn’t seen before.

Article in full

07 August, 2008

How they write a script -- Walter Hill

Go Into The Story:

"ON HOW HE LEARNED SCREENWRITING

"The usual story -- read a lot of scripts, saw every possible movie. Wrote a lot at night. My big problem was finishing -- I must've written twenty-five first acts -- abandon and move on, abandon and move on. This went on about three years. Funny thing, once I was able to finish a script. I was able to make a living at it right away.""

Article in full

06 August, 2008

Why film schools teach screenwriters not to pass the Bechdel test

The Hathor Legacy:

"Anyway, the test is much simpler than the name. To pass it your movie must have the following:

1) there are at least two named female characters, who

2) talk to each other about

3) something other than a man.

So simple, and yet as you go through all your favorite movies (and most of your favorite TV shows, though there’s a little more variety in TV), you find very few movies pass this test.

It’s not a coincidence. It’s not that there aren’t enough women behind the camera (there aren’t, but that’s not the reason). Here’s what we’re up against (and for those who have requested a single post that summarizes my experiences in film for linking reference, now you’ve got it).

When I started taking film classes at UCLA, I was quickly informed I had what it took to go all the way in film. I was a damn good writer, but more importantly (yeah, you didn’t think good writing was a main prerequisite in this industry, did you?) I understood the process of rewriting to cope with budget (and other) limitations. I didn’t hesitate to rip out my most beloved scenes when necessary. I also did a lot of research and taught myself how to write well-paced action/adventure films that would be remarkably cheap to film - that was pure gold.

There was just one little problem.

I had to understand that the audience only wanted white, straight, male leads. I was assured that as long as I made the white, straight men in my scripts prominent, I could still offer groundbreaking characters of other descriptions (fascinating, significant women, men of color, etc.) - as long as they didn’t distract the audience from the white men they really paid their money to see.

I was stunned. I’d just moved from a state that still held Ku Klux Klan rallies only to find an even more insidious form of bigotry in California - running an industry that shaped our entire culture. But they kept telling me lots of filmmakers wanted to see the same changes I did, and if I did what it took to get into the industry and accrue some power, then I could start pushing the envelope and maybe, just maybe, change would finally happen. So I gave their advice a shot.

Only to learn there was still something wrong with my writing, something unanticipated by my professors. My scripts had multiple women with names. Talking to each other. About something other than men. That, they explained nervously, was not okay. I asked why. Well, it would be more accurate to say I politely demanded a thorough, logical explanation that made sense for a change (I’d found the “audience won’t watch women!” argument pretty questionable, with its ever-shifting reasons and parameters).

At first I got several tentative murmurings about how it distracted from the flow or point of the story. I went through this with more than one professor, more than one industry professional. Finally, I got one blessedly telling explanation: “The audience doesn’t want to listen to a bunch of women talking about whatever it is women talk about.”

“Not even if it advances the story?” I asked. That’s rule number one in screenwriting, though you’d never know it from watching most movies: every moment in a script should reveal another chunk of the story and keep it moving.

He just looked embarrassed and said, “I mean, that’s not how I see it, that’s how they see it.”"

Article in full

05 August, 2008

10 Skills You Need to Succeed at Almost Anything

Lifehack:

"What does it take to succeed? A positive attitude? Well, sure, but that’s hardly enough. The Law of Attraction? The Secret? These ideas might act as spurs to action, but without the action itself, they don’t do much.

Success, however it’s defined, takes action, and taking good and appropriate action takes skills. Some of these skills (not enough, though) are taught in school (not well enough, either), others are taught on the job, and still others we learn from general life experience.

Below is a list of general skills that will help anyone get ahead in practically any field, from running a company to running a gardening club. Of course, there are skills specific to each field as well – but my concern here is with the skills that translate across disciplines, the ones that can be learned by anyone in any position."

Article in full

Via The Huff

02 August, 2008

I'm a Minger!


"Kelly, right, Kelly the bitch decides to have a party on the very same night as my sleep over - the very same night! And I know she's done it on purpose, and she invites everybody, doesn't she? Sophie, Tori, Heather, Sam - even Treena... except me of course... I want to die!"


Welcome to the world of 14 year old Katie Weller as she battles her way through the bitches, the flab, the misery of school discos, the desperate search for a worthy boyfriend, the impossible task of tidying a bedroom that is not a bloody Tardis, the embarrassment of a Dad who can't cook anything more normal than grilled snapper, a Mum who seems to have no idea of the importance of shopping, and the constant urge to throw up after every meal time in the hopeless quest for the size zero grail!


"Get ready to meet Kelly (bitch face) Parker, Sophie (supposedly my best friend), Sam, Tori and the rest of the posse, Wanker Williams my twisted RE teacher ("Detention for you girl!"), Oliver Bunting and his mates who think they have half a chance of popping my cherry - in your dreams! The gorgeous Roger Bostock from year 11 (it's such a shame about his ginger hair though), Mel and the chavs from Skylark Rise (all hair-extensions and cheap lip-gloss), and... look - I haven't got time to tell you everything, just come and see my wonderful show about my wonderful, yet somehow tragically flawed life, and get this, they've got this actor, Alex Jones to play them all, including me! What's that about?! He's a bloke!


A hilarious journey in a world where pain and joy mingle - and sometimes within the very same sentence! Funny yet poignant, touching on important current issues like bullying, friendship, anorexia and self-esteem - a totally unique production that is not only revelatory and moving, but ultimately seriously entertaining!

I'M A MINGER!
written and performed by Alex Jones
25 - 30 August at theatre503,
503 Battersea Park Road, London SW11 3BW

(Also look out for it on tour)

"Alex Jones writes with fury, passion and compassion about those whose voices are seldom heard" - Financial Times

"A powerful new voice in the theatre" - Daily Telegraph

Off the Page: Rehearsed Readings - London



OFF THE PAGE is a group of aspiring writers in the Acton area that focuses on writing for performance.

This includes screenwriting, playwriting, radio drama and poetry. The group will be presenting their dramatic writing at the West London Literary Festival.

Seven works will be ‘performed’ over the 2 hour session at the Community Tent (Acton Green, Turnham Green Terrace W4) each one being introduced by its author. Actors will take the roles of the main characters. OFF THE PAGE writing group encourages budding scriptwriters to develop their work for performance. ‘This is a great opportunity for us to showcase London writing and acting talent’ says OTP founder, Kate Buchanan. ‘Using actors in our rehearsed reading really brings our writing to life!’

The 2nd annual West London Literary Festival is part of the popular Ealing Summer series of festivals.




OFF THE PAGE meets on the first Monday of each month at 7 pm,
at West London Trade Union Club, Uxbridge Road, Acton.

For more information, contact Kate Buchanan at:
offthepagelondon (at) gmail (dot) com

First 10 Minutes: "The Invisibles"

Red Planet Prize Project 8 - The First Ten Pages


The Invisibles created and written by William Ivory

What the Papers Say/William Ivory Interview


01 August, 2008

Credit Crunch

It's credit crunch time. And I don't mean the bloody BBC crunching end credits so they are barely visible even through a bloody microscope when a simple bloody re-design would solve the bloody problem. I mean if the commercial channels can do it properly then why can't they?! Apart from arrogance and incompetence! Where was I? No, by credit crunch I mean a greater emphasis on saving money for you poor people.

I am empathetic towards poor people as I was once so poor I had to drive a non-German car. I had to get my windows tinted so no-one would recognise me. In the same terrible period, I had to shop at Sainsburys and not Marks and Spencer and although my dinner party guests didn't say anything I'm sure that they could taste the difference.
I can laugh about the experience now but it certainly wasn't funny at the time. It was the worst 9 days of my life.

So what tips do I have for the rest of you? Firstly sign up to the newsletter at MoneySavingExpert.com. The weekly missive often includes how to get stuff free or cheap including computers and peripherals but also broadband deals as well.

Also sign up for the newsletter at Free UK Stuff. While much of it is marketing shenanigans, free stuff is still free stuff.

You may be baulking at the cost of computer virus software and wondering if you can do without it. Well, wonder no more, you can't. Simple as. Viruses and trojans have got more clever and sophisticated. Not only in tricking you to click on a link but also in avoiding spam filters.

"What am I supposed to do then, you rich ponce?" I hear you cry. There are free options available which are just as good. Probably the best is Avast! but AVG Free is not to be sniffed at. There is also one for the Mac called ClamXav.

The big daddy of free software is OpenOffice, a Microsoft Office compatible suite. And you'll be needing the script template to go with it.

Dedicated screenwriting software like Final Draft are lovely but the free online ones work just fine. Some argue that Celtx is actually better. I certainly wouldn't advise spending dosh on software until you're forced to by the prodco or network you're working for. Doctors writers have to use this Word template and if it's good enough for them...

Although the credit crunch doesn't affect me, I really genuinely hope that it finishes soon. It would mean fewer jealous plebs trying to rob me.

Back Up Your Files Day

A reminder about Matt's suggestion last month which does seem both simple and effective:

"I have never been able to get the hang of proper backup software and procedures. I always end up getting into a complete pickle about the various full backups, interim backups and how the bloody hell I'd back everything up if my hard-drive became shot with the backup software on it. So these days I just have a complete clone of My Documents on a portable drive and use Microsoft's Synctoy to keep the files up to date."

However I would suggest backing up your entire Documents and Settings folder and not just the My Documents part of it as it which would include emails and favourites. This link has more details.

I asked Lee about the Mac equivalent:

"Things like emails, bookmarks, fonts, templates, RSS feeds, Applescripts - anything used by an application, but not created by it when you hit Save - are kept in your Home folder, in the Library. In Mac speak, that's ~/Library. Apple apps such as Mail, Safari, and iTunes may have their own folders. Non-Apple apps like NetNewsWire, Montage, Final Draft, Scrivener etc, will keep all their stuff in ~/Library/Application Support. The truly paranoid might want to back up their preference files as well. I know I do. These are in ~/Library/Prefences.

For safety's sake, back up the entire Library folder, it's probably only a few hundred megs."

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Don't delay, do it today. It's Back Up Your Files Day, hooray!


How to decide what data to back up

Back up manually or use Windows XP Backup utility

How to choose an external storage format for backup files

Mac OS X: How to back up and restore your files

First 10 Minutes: "Honest"

Red Planet Prize Project 8 - The First Ten Pages

Honest Created by Jack Williams based on the New Zealand series, Outrageous Fortune created by James Griffin and Rachel Lang. Written by Jack Williams and James Griffin.