18 May, 2010

Meme: TV and Film

What single film or TV programme at some point in your life made you a) understand the filmmaking process and b) influence your own style of writing?

OK, this maybe answers David Bishop's blog-tag slightly better:

Television series

My biggest influences were Hill Street Blues and St Elsewhere which were emotional and had witty believable dialogue. They had strong characters who were different from the usual and they tackled big issues that other shows shied away from. More importantly they made me think and proved that intelligent populism need not be an oxymoron.

Homicide/The Wire and Chicago Hope/ER stood on the shoulders of those shows and advanced the art. (St Elsewhere seems so very slow now...)

Television serials

My biggest influences were Edge Of Darkness by Troy Kennedy-Martin and The Singing Detective by Dennis Potter.

The Kennedy-Martin because the author had something important to say but wrapped it in an accessible thriller genre. And, it has to be said, there is one raw emotional scene in particular that has proved impossible to dislodge from my memory. Not that I’ve been trying to but if I did try then I expect it would be, you know, difficult.

The Dennis Potter showed that it was possible to be imaginative and original in television drama. There was no need to play it safe. That’s the advice from the industry bods: don’t restrict yourself, don’t worry about budget or if it’s something not seen before. For our specs anyway…


Although I’ve gone off the Coen Brothers recently, Raising Arizona is the first film that came to mind. It was a quirky, funny, intelligent, surprising, independent, looked gorgeous and had a heart. A film version of me, basically.

But it wasn’t Raising Arizona. It was something else. In monochrome by a legend. Not sure which legend. In the good old days (1980s) every single channel (all four of them) showed classic movies. I would watch the cartoons and then watch the oldies they showed after the children’s block.

My first understanding of the production process happened due to seasons where you would get loads of films by the same director but some were good and some were crap, which confused me. Why aren’t they all good? Then I noticed that following writers rather than directors made more sense.

So any lessons learned were probably from an amalgram of Alexander Mackendrick, Robert Riskin, Billy Wilder, Preston Sturges, Howard Hawks, Frank Launder & Sydney Gilliat, Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger and Ernst Lubitsch.

But it's been so long since I've seen them and I've probably forgotten all those lessons. I suppose I'm just going to have to watch them again. It's OK, don't feel sorry for me.


Sean Hood said...

The biggest influence on me from television was Twin Peaks. At that time, I was working on the show as a Set Dresser. We worked 16 hour days preparing the sets, and the combination of watching the show, and existentially living inside the sets pickled my brain.

Robin Kelly said...

I loved the first series of Twin Peaks, not so much the second but it's about time I revisited it.