Monday, January 25, 2010

Also: 'Guhhhhh'

I'm making a lightning visit to London next this week, and will be attending five different meetings on Thursday (I believe my agent may have mistaken my calender for some kind of Tetris-style game, where you have to squish as many coloured blocks together as possible) and then one big one (for Campus) on Friday.

The Thursday meetings are a bit of a concern, frankly, as I haven't been out of Cornwall for a few months, and when you're working from home and co-looking after a small child, your conversational gambits tend to get pared down to the very essentials. Currently, I have been getting by with the the following:

1. Ohhhh, someone has done a pooble.
2. Yes please I would like a cup of tea.
3. I think it's your turn to do its stinking nap-nap.
4. I'm terribly sorry, that meal had a lot of onions in it.
5. Pasty?

6. Yay, it's that Timbaland video where he pulls faces at vampires.

Which is all fine, until you try and step outside those strict parameters, like when your friends come round, and all you can say is 'buhhhhh' and 'wine good'. So I'm having to psyche myself up for the meetings a bit, especially as the last one is about that sitcom Patroclus and I wrote, so it would be a shame if it went:

PRODUCER: We've read the script, we like it, and were seriously thinking of giving you some money for it. What are your thoughts?
ME: (wisely): Ohhh, someone has done a pooble.

Seriously though, I love that Timbaland video. I'm starting to think no human could really gurn like that, he must be animatronic. Did you know you can download most YouTube videos by replacing the 'y' in the URL with a '3'? Most useful.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I am quite liking the 'make your own David Cameron poster' thing.

From over here

I know it works better if you go with some element of, you know, actual political satire, but sometimes you have to say what you see.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Final Draft

Writers react to finishing a piece of work in a variety of ways. Harold Pinter, for example, was known for carefully laying down a just-completed manuscript, staring wistfully out of the window for a moment, then shouting out of the open door to Lady Antonia Fraser, 'COME QUICK, I DONE A BIG WORDY!'

Having just completed the fourth, and possibly final draft of episode two of 18th Century comedy/drama biopic thing (we're working on a catchier title), I like to say farewell via my own personal method of a prolonged rehearsal of the awards speech, including what I'll be wearing (my never-actually-worn black linen suit, which will mean losing a stone at the very least) and those members of my posse to whom I will grant a 'shout out' (currently Dappy from N-Dubz is out, Jenny Uglow very much in).

Anyway, in case it sounds like I've gone all Gervais, there's actually quite a practical reason for this. So few projects ever actually make it to the screen (and Ep 2 of 18thC Thing is the last one before the BBC decide whether to commission a series or not), you may as well go completely mental when you do actually finish something. If you don't go completely over the top re. mentally casting the final talent available (and if I'm too busy, various members of the Green Wing cast would probably do), who's going to be on the soundtrack etc, when it almost inevitably fails to be commissioned, there's often a small sad moment when you realise you didn't even get to have a nice daydream about the whole thing, in which case you may as well have a proper job, involving heavy lifting, or working after three in the afternoon or something. DEATH, essentially.

*goes back to fondly thinking about string quartet covers of Radiohead*

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Lego Universe Trailer

For the upcoming Massively Multiplayer Online Game. No idea what the game will be like, but this is one of the most weirdly epic game trailers I have ever seen. And the 'swoosh' noise and bullet-time effects as the little sets construct themselves are just perfect.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Note and rewrites

I'm currently on the third draft of the second episode of my BBC Drama eighteenth century comedy/drama thing. If the second episode script goes down as well as the first episode script, a series will be commissioned. So I'd like to hand over something as polished as possible.

Which means it has to be funny (my take on the original subject matter, a journal about life in high, or nearly-high society London in 1762/63 was to treat it like a sitcom: half hour episodes with lots of cutaways, and a slightly fractured narrative, which is a poncy way of saying 'like Arrested Development, only with wigs), but also the drama has to thicken a little. I have to start to set up to more serious plotlines, and also gently remind the reader that although eighteenth century London might seem like modern times only less iPoddy, it is many ways an entirely alien culture.

Which entails rewrites, and notes. I worked out a system for this, which is that I write the first draft of each episode as big, and silly and unhindered by the source text, and hopefully funny as possible, and then the script editor and producer sigh, and say things like 'yes, but did that actually happen?' and 'look, this isn't Carry On Dangerous Liasons: The Silly Years', and 'no you can't suggest those two had an affair, we'll get sued by their descendants' and I say 'OH MY GOD I DIDN'T ASK TO BE BORN!' and run off and hide for a week.

This actually works surprisingly well (although those lost weeks really add up), as it regularly forces me to go back to the source text to prove, usually successfully, that real life is far stupider, and funnier than fiction. And as my script editor said "Well, we're only going to make it less funny, aren't we?" So as a system, I'm okay with it.

The downside of this, of course, is that the gentle insistence of the average BBC script editor has a cumulative effect much envied by lesser forces such as the wind, or the tide. After having justified the same slightly iffy scene in three different passes, you start to think 'well, maybe they have a point'. And usually they do.

It is weird though, moving from comedy to drama. In comedy, really the only point a scene has to have is to make the viewer (or, to be more honest, the producer) laugh. That's usually it. That's enough. But in drama, there's narrative tension, inciting incidents, raising the stakes (I'm moaned about this so often my script editor apologises every time she uses the phrase, so now I feel guilty), and these things called 'story beats' I really must get round to looking up. They all have to be accounted for, and it's EXHAUSTING.

However... plots are absolutely my weakest point. When it comes down to it, I'm simply not that interested in them. I love crime fiction, but hardly every have the slightest idea what's going on in the average Raymond Chandler, for example. Although quite often neither did Chandler himself, to be honest, so I don't feel too bad about it. So for me personally, script editors are an absolute godsend. They don't tell you how to write dialogue, or what your characters are supposed to think or feel - they're like mechanics, making sure it's all ticking along nicely under the hood, so you can get on with the fun stuff.

So what it comes down to is, once you've written something, you then have to justify it three or four times, take it apart, put it back together again and see if it works, by which time often a lot of the fun has vanished and you're having to treat it like an actual job or something, but always oscillating wildly between the two poles of:

1) they don't know anything, my first draft was AMAZING and any changes to it serve only to take a wild and beautiful dream and crush it beneath a STEEL BOOT, and:

2) oh crikey blimey, I would happily have released that AWFUL first draft on the world if they hadn't pointed out its terrible flaws, I would have had to kill myself in shame, I don't know the first thing about writing scripts, what if someone FINDS OUT!

All of which is a very long-winded way of saying that although, as usual, I am enormously tempted to do the bare minimum on this next draft and hand it in with 'WILL THIS DO' on the front, I am instead going to take a deep breath and do it properly, in a way that will make it gooderer and more fun to watch. I can do that. I helped a man jump start his car this morning, and thought it didn't entirely work, or in fact work at all, I found out his name was Roger, and it wasn't my fault it didn't work, and we shook hands, in the snow. And if I can do that, I can do anything.

I appreciate this post didn't really have a point.

Friday, January 08, 2010

There's a lot more Green Screening going on than you'd think...

Stargate Studios Virtual Backlot Demo from Stargate Studios on Vimeo.

Blimey. What I find interesting about this is how television and film acting must be becoming increasingly abstract - like performing in some kind of theatrical experiment in minimalism.

ALSO: what's interesting about this from a writery point of view is that one mistake you can make when you start out is to write certain scenes because you imagine they'll be easy to shoot, and avoid others because they might be too expensive. Whereas in fact it's often the simple things (lots of extras, night-time shoots) that cost a lot, and the apparently difficult (exploding cars, shooting in big stately homes) that can be a lot easier than you think.