Tuesday, April 28, 2009

How films are(n't) made

Been meaning to watch this for ages: Kevin Smith talking about his experiences working on an abortive relaunch of Superman with legendarily not-quite-right producer Jon Peters.

(From Boing Boing)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Filling Young Minds

"So what's amazing about this thing I'm going to show you," I said to the room full of students, hanging devotedly on my every word, "is that Genndy Tartakovsky manages to tell a full story, with a proper three-act structure, which is to say with a setup, confrontation and resolution, without using any dialogue at all."

I was quite proud of remembering this bit, because it's animation (I was talking to the Year One Digital Animation students), and they're supposed to be doing a thing on storyboarding, so I could show how to do both at the same time: how you can tell a story without any dialogue whatsoever, just using a series of moving images to tell a proper story.

"Remember," I said sternly, as I pressed the button on the YouTube player, "No dialogue at all".

Oh, if only I'd thought to actually have a quick watch beforehand, because then I might have realised that the whole 'no dialogue at all thing' was in fact only in my head, and I might not have had to listen to the sound of a roomful of students sniggering at me.

'Yes," I said. "Well', as I tried to turn the thing off, only for the long speech to continue. Eventually the lecture ended as every lecture should, with the lecturer flicking V's at the screen and calling Obi-Wan Kenobi a cock.

The next day I took what was supposed to be the other half of the class, but was in fact only four people, as most of them had snuck into the previous lesson so they could skive about on a Friday afternoon, which is fair enough.

I had learned from the previous day's MILD HICCUP, so didn't show a YouTube video of the Genndy Tartakovsky version of Clone Wars.

"Right," I said, "I'm going to illustrate three-act structure, by looking at the plot of Star Wars, the first one, which might not be the deepest film ever made, but does fit really nicely into the classic three-act thing. I'm assuming everyone is familiar with Star Wars?"

Fifty per cent of the class had not seen Star Wars. It took some time to persuade me they were not making this up. They had actually never seen Star Wars. Jake explained that in his case, it was because he had seen the new ones, and they were shit, so he'd never really felt like going back and checking out the old ones. And again, this is perfectly reasonable.

George Lucas, you are a cock.

The other high point:

ME: What's the name of that film with Macauly Culkin in, where he's a kid, and he's left home on his own? Alone? Can anyone remember?
STUDENT: (with heavy irony) 'Home Alone'?

Long pause.

ME: Yes.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Blue Kitten goes for a swim

Patroclus and I decide to take Blue Kitten for her very first swim, at a nearby hotel pool. I emerge from the changing rooms to find P and BK already splashing happily in the separate kids' mini-pool bit.

I remember something my mum told me, which is that in order to get babies used to the water, you have to very quickly dunk them under the surface, which isn't as bad as it seems, because babies know to naturally hold their breath, and the whole thing is over in half a second, and then they're used to water and don't mind being splashed a bit.

ME: (sternly) Right, I'm going to dunk her.
P: (mildly) Actually, she seems quite hap-

I take BK and bob her up and down in the water a couple of times, and on the count of three, dunk her very quickly below the surface of the water, then bring her back up to the surface again.

BK looks terribly upset for a moment, then a look of blissful calm spreads across her face.

ME: You see! She's absolutely fine.

At which point we both realise a certain amount of stuff has appeared in the water that wasn't there before.

P: Eurgh.
ME: I don't think that swim nappy's quite as close-fitting as it ought to be.

P takes BK back into the changing room, while I guiltily inform the lady on the reception desk bit that the water might need a bit of a clean.

While I do lengths in the main pool, a young lad later emerges from the cleaning cupboard with a big syringe device, which which he dutifully sucks out all the stuff, then tips in some bleach-type liquid and puts a warning sign up.

As I get near to him, I pull another guilty face.

ME: I'm afraid that was technically my fault.

He gives me a rather odd look.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Another conversation with a (this time non-BBC) producer

The problem is, you see, after spending my formative years in Lancashire, then moving down to Cornwall, my accent's sort of levelled out at BBC Received Pronounciation. So sometimes people make assumptions (that I didn't go to a comprehensive, for example).

PRODUCER: Yeah, the problem doing shoots in (Northern European country) is that they're a bit, you know, egalitarian.

ME: ?

PRODUCER: Well in this country, you see, if you hear someone speaking with a regional accent, you know they're not going to be the producer or the director, so it's okay to tell them to get a car for you, or a cup of tea or whatever. But over there, they all speak the same way. So you might be chatting with someone about the light, and they're just a driver! Or you could tell someone to get you a sandwich, and they're the director!

ME: Night. Mare.

PRODUCER: And, by the way, the director gets paid the same as the guy who patrols the carpark in the evenings!


PRODUCER: Although, actually, here, the only other person on set who's likely to have gone to public school is the location manager, because they're all ex-army. But at least they understand the chain of command. So what were we going to talk about?

ME: Do you know, my mind's gone completely blank.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Recent conversation with BBC producer

PROD: Congratulations on getting married, by the way.
ME: Aw, thanks.
PROD: Of course, this means we can't promote you as young and hip any more.

Short pause.

ME: Wait, what?
PROD: We can't promote you as young and hip any more.
ME: There was a point where you were promoting me as young and hip?
PROD: We thought we could get away with it.You're not up in London very much.
ME: Dammit, I could have done an iPhone advert or something. Or been on a panel show.
PROD: Sorry, should have said, young and hip for a writer.

Another pause.

ME: Hey, just before the wedding, the registrar asked me my age? And I thought I was thirty six, about to turn thirty seven, but then it turned out I'm actually thirty five, about to turn thirty six! Is that any good?

Monday, April 06, 2009

"Amazing People: The Man With The Wobbly Hand"

Yay when a mate wins a film award! Eddie Green (who was also behind that Tommy The Tungsten Robot short) shot and edited this piece in a single weekend for the Margate 2 Days Laughter festival (4th April) on a non-existent budget, and went on to win Best Film, Best Actor, Best Editor and Best Director at the 2009 2 Days Laughter Festival. It's great! I particularly liked the bit with the builders.

Amazing People: The Man With The Wobbly Hand from Eddie Green on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Three hours late, the train from London was last night.

UPDATE: rather gentler photo here.

THREE HOURS LATE. I, and all the other travellers on the 12.06 from Paddington, are rather more familiar than is really necessary with a small field outside Taunton where the train just sat for, did I mention, THREE HOURS. AND I hadn't brought my laptop with me, so I had a bagfull of DVDs (first series of 30 Rock, Pineapple Express, Citizen Kane) and no means to watch them. So I spent approximately ten minutes doing actual writing work, about 'A' stories, and 'B' stories and so on, and two hours fifty minutes designing a dungeon for Thursday D&D night. Thus my priorities.

The last post caused some confusion, apparently, so just to clarify: Patroclus and I got married last Saturday, it was nice. Still waiting for some non-face-pulling photos to come in, but I'll put this one up, as it makes me laugh. I'm pretty sure I was actually laughing at the time, despite my face being contorted in PRIMAL RAGE, like someone had knocked over my DM screen or something.