Sunday, July 13, 2014

Penryn Arts Festival: Screenwriters/Writers Q&A

This is quite specific to Falmouth/Penryn, but as part of the Penryn Arts Festival, I'm doing a Q&A next Friday with Emma Frost and Emily Barr. Details below:

Jamaica Inn screenwriter to lead writers’ panel at Penryn Arts Festival PENRYN, 13th July 2014

Emma Frost, screenwriter of the Emmy-nominated BBC television drama The White Queen, as well as the recent BBC1 adaptation of Jamaica Inn, will be taking questions from drama fans and aspiring writers at a Q&A session at Penryn Town Hall on Friday evening.

The panel session is part of the Penryn Arts Festival, which takes place from this Friday 18th to Sunday 20th July at locations and venues around the town. Emma will be joined on the panel by fellow Falmouth and Penryn-based writers James Henry (screenwriter, Green Wing, Smack the Pony, Shaun the Sheep) and Emily Barr, author of thriller novel The Sleeper, set on the Cornwall-London sleeper train.

The Q&A is a fantastic opportunity for aspiring professional writers to ask any questions about the creative writing process; breaking into the industry; and balancing a professional writing career with living in Cornwall – as well as any questions about the three writers’ novels, dramas and comedies. The session is free to enter, but those wishing to attend are asked to reserve a place via the Eventbrite link

Monday, March 03, 2014

At Home With Writers

Half past seven. The children are in bed, and my wife @Patroclus and I have retired downstairs, where the gentle clicking of laptop keys is the only sound for half an hour or so. Finally:

ME: What are you doing?
@Patroclus: Thing about geoploitical implications for Finnish energy companies' IT systems.
ME: Ah.

Pause.

@Patroclus: What are you doing?
ME: Outline for that CBeebies thing, about a caterpillar.
@Patroclus: Ah.

Pause.

Suddenly:

ME: OH THIS IS TOO HARD!

I storm upstairs. After a while:

@Patroclus: Can I have a bath after you?
ME: GOD, WHATEVER, YES, FINE.

Half an hour later:

ME: I'm finished in the bath now, and I think.... I think, I've cracked the caterpillar outline.
@Patroclus: That's good, I've nearly done the Finnish thing now.
ME: OH WHO CARES ABOUT YOUR SORDID BUSINESS WORLD I'VE BEEN MAKING ART.

'DUGGEE' begins this September, on CBeebies.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Spec scripts and things that quietly went away.

I was slightly startled early in the new year to have a meeting with a development exec who told me she'd looked up my website and read my sitcom script sample 'Romey Loves Jools'. Startled, because a) I sort of forgot I had a website, and b) I wrote 'Romey Loves Jools' at least ten years ago, so I have no idea if it's in any way representative of my current work. I'm still very fond of it, I just have no idea if that's my 'voice' any more. Also it's only the first twelve pages, I should really put the whole thing up there. Or delete it entirely.

But it did make me think I should maybe put up something more current.The problem is of course you can't put anything too new up, because it might still be up for grabs, and execs hate being more than the third or fourth person to read a script, which is fair enough.

So I've put up one spec* sitcom script, which is dear to my heart, as it's about LARPing, but I'm going to have to accept that the look most comedy producers give me when I get all excited about a show in which 'people with social problems dress up as wizards and elves and fight each other in the woods with rubber swords' is probably not a positive one, and release it into the wild. It's called 'FELLOWSHIP OF THE WRONG'

The other script was developed with the lovely lovely people at Carnival Films, who after hitting gold with 'Downton Abbey' thought they could develop my idea about a failed superhero who ends up working in a gated community filled with (he discovers) reformed, or at least 'pretending to be reformed' supervillains, into something NBC might like.

Unfortunately, the relevant people at NBC kept wandering off, or dying, or regenerating into newer, less-interested people, and in the end we pulled the plug. But I'm still very fond of it, and it's up now and called 'HOLDING OUT FOR A HERO'

* A spec, or 'speculative' script being a non-commissioned or unsolicited screenplay. Upside: you can write about absolutely anything you want. Downside: it is entirely unpaid writing work, although you write in hopes someone will be interested enough to pay you something at some point, or (more likely, although still not *that* likely), it will interest some producer or development exec enough to lead to paid work elsewhere.

Bridge & Tunnel: How Opal Slew The Dark Lord








Friday, January 17, 2014

How Opal Slew The Dark Lord: Part Three

Here are the final three pages of the first Bridge and Tunnel comic, scripted by myself, illustrated by Sarah Gordon. Should be some news on where this is going to go next early in Feburary, so keep an eye out. In the meantime, thanks for reading, and for lovely comments on here and on Twitter.

How Opal Slew The Dark Lord: Part Two



Thursday, January 16, 2014

How Opal Slew The Dark Lord: Part One

So here's a nice thing: some time ago, @MikeGarley was pointed in my general direction, with the suggestion that I might like to be involved in his new VS Comics set up. I pitched him an idea that I'd been thinking about for ages, and he put me together with illustrator Sarah Gordon, and we came up with the first issue of Bridge and Tunnel', a six page comic (seven if you count the cover) called 'How Opal Slew The Dark Lord'.


The plan was to do three issues in total, but sadly, after the first one, it quickly become clear that financially, neither Sarah or I could make the commitment to keep it going when we also had to do other jobs that would put food on the table, and with great reluctance, we thought we were going to have to had to let it go (although I did go on to write a story for Dead Roots), which was great because: zombies).

Which meant 'Bridge and Tunnel' was kind of stillborn, because VS Comics couldn't really put out the first of three stories and then say well, sorry, that's your lot. So Sarah and I made something we were both quite proud of, and now we didn't know what to do with it.

Except now there are other ways to do these things, which mean Bridge and Tunnel is going to be continuing in a new, funded, direction, which I can hopefully talk about more next month. Which means, hurrah, we can put the first one out. The images are quite big, so I'm going to split it into three posts of a couple of pages each (I don't want to lose any of Sarah's lovely detail).

So here are the first two pages. LOOK AT THE LOVELY COLOURS.





Friday, December 13, 2013

CONTAINS MASSIVE SPOILERS FOR 'THE HOBBIT: DESOLATION OF SMAUG

Clearly the three Lord of the Rings films are a big series of dungeons and dragons adventures, no-one's going to win any prize for observational comedy for that, Moria being the bit where it all comes together (I lose interest a bit after Moria), but the Hobbit films are equally clearly a load of d&d sessions where everyone's had too much sugary drink and got wayyyyyy over-excited.

DM: Right everyone, I know it's a year since the last session, but let's try and remember where our characters were.

THORIN'S PLAYER: I am in a pub with Gandalf!

GANDALF'S PLAYER: Hang on, we're nowhere near a pub.

DM checks notes.

DM: Argh that was how you first met, should have said that last time, forgot. Now you're on a big rock. Erm, all those orcs from the last session have COME BACK!

EVERYONE: We run!

DM: You meet Beorn, an NPC!

GANDALF'S PLAYER: I know I know, all the dwarves can introduce themselves one at a time. Or two at a time.

DM: You did that last session at Bilbo's house. Let's just say you wake up and he's there.

DM IN BEORN VOICE: Rah I am Beorn, I hate dwarves! Well, hate's a bit strong. I don't like dwarves.

DWARVES: Will you help us?

DM rolls dice.

DM: Sure! Have some ponies.

DWARVES: Hurrah!

DM: YOU ARE ATTACKED BY SPIDERS!

DWARVES: NOOOO!

BILBO: I put on my magic ring!

DM: Oh god WHY DID I GIVE YOU THAT RING? Fine.

DWARVES: We kill all the spiders.

DM: Whatever. You are captured by elves.

DWARVES: WE ARE ALWAYS BEING CAPTURED.

THORIN: Do I have a moody song about being captured?

DM: No.

THORIN: I should have. *sulks*

BILBO'S PLAYER: I put on my magic ring.

DM *sighs*

TAURIEL'S PLAYER: I am here!

KILI'S PLAYER (instantly) I flirt with Tauriel.

DM: DWARVES DON'T FLIRT. You are rubbish at it.

KILI'S PLAYER: I have rolled a 20.

DM: Dammit.

BILBO'S PLAYER: Sorry, back from the loo now, have the guards gone?

DM: I've lost the lead figures, so okay.

DWARVES: We escape in barrels.

DM: Orcs stop you.

LEGOLAS'S PLAYER: And I stop them! Can I stand on two of the dwarves' heads and shoot an orc?

DM: You're an elf. Elves can do ANYTHING. Bombur, you have rolled out of the water, still in your barrel.

BOMBUR'S PLAYER: Does the barrel count as more armour?

DM: No of course it doesn't count as-

BOMBUR'S PLAYER: I PUNCH MY ARMS OUT OF THE BARREL AND KILL ALL THE ORCS!

LEGOLAS'S PLAYER: Can I surf on one orc and run over dwarves and shoot more orcs and stand on more dwarves?

DM: Yes, but that is all your move actions- wait, you have eight more move actions this turn.

LEGOLAS'S PLAYER: YESSSS I AM THE SKILLIANT!

LATER:

DWARVES: Okay, guys we have to kill this dragon. DM, are dragons particularly vulnerable to flame?

DM: *straight face* Of course.

DWARVES: EXCELLENT. What we will do is, lure the dragon to the foundry, create a giant gold statue of a dwarf. This will confuse the dragon, and he will stare at it for a while, then the statue will melt back into gold and cover the dragon and KILL IT.

DM rolls dice. DM: The dragon is covered in molten gold.

DWARVES: YAY! Is it dead?

DM rolls dice.

DM: No. It gets up and flies off.

THORIN'S PLAYER: What can I do?

DM: Did you bring any ranged weapons?

THORIN'S PLAYER: No.

DM: Then you can watch it fly off.

BILBO'S PLAYER: I put on my magic-

DM: GUYS YOU HAVE TO GO HOME I HAVE WORK IN THE MORNING.

THORIN'S PLAYER: Okay fine, when we can meet up for next session?

THORIN'S PLAYER and GANDALF'S PLAYER and BILBO'S PLAYER and LEGOLAS'S PLAYER and TAURIEL'S PLAYER all check their diaries.

EVERYONE: In one year's time.

DM: Well okay, but I'm warning you guys, I'm totally going to have read the rules properly next time.

EVERYONE: LOL

Thursday, September 26, 2013

PITCHING SITCOMS

There's a new sitcom coming out this week, the appearance of which in the schedules suddenly cast me back, in a manner I can only imagine as being similar to a Vietnam flashback, but more serious than that, to a meeting I had with one of that shows' producers/commissioners/let's not be too specific, a couple of years ago.

PRODUCER (I'm not saying it was a producer, just that when you're a writer, everyone who isn't an actor or a lighting technician seems to be a producer) had 'read my new spec script', 'loved it' and 'wanted to get me in for a chat'. Reception looked blank when I turned up, but toddled off anyway, and soon the sounds of befuddlement could be heard from behind closed doors. Receptionist emerges.

RECEPTIONIST: Hi James, they're a bit busy in a meeting at the moment, you can go in in a bit.

Note that I can't hear PRODUCER talking to anyone on the phone, and I'm fairly sure I can hear the speedy rustling of paper. When the door finally opens, I can't help noticing there was no-one else in the room, unless they leaped out of the window before I went it, which to be fair, is possible. Also, ten minutes is about how long it takes to read a half-hour script if you're in a hurry, because, say, you weren't entirely aware you had a meeting with the writer, and hadn't read the script you'd been sent.

PRODUCER: Come in then, COME IN!

I could swear that before I'm ushered into the room, the PRODUCER looks furtively around the building, as if to make sure they're not missing anyone more important (quite likely, to be fair), although also worried that someone's seen me go in with them.

PRODUCER: Soooooooooooo……. what have you been up to?
ME: Writing spec scripts?
PRODUCER: YES. Yes indeed. (pause) Didn't work for me, didn't understand a word of it, what else have you got?

Luckily I have got some ideas, most of which, I will allow, are a bit on the nerdy side. To be safe, I mentally file off the 'In Space!' off the end of them, just in case. I finish to a long silence.

PRODUCER: Hmmmmmm. We're looking for a stuff that's a bit more grounded, to be honest.
ME: Okay.

And then, IN THEIR FACE, because I also have a load of pitches that have not a trace of geeky weirdness, but are about competing dads, and failed actors, and cops and eighteenth century debutantes - okay, I'll allow my version of 'grounded' may vary from others.

PRODUCER: Hmmmmmm again.

A silence grows that could easily be described as 'desperate'.

ME: Okay, what sort of thing are you looking for?

PRODUCER shakes their head disappointedly.

PRODUCER: Oh James, no. No no no. Never that. That's not how it works.
ME: (cunning) Okay, what sort of things *aren't* you looking for?
PRODUCER: Would have worked if you'd gone in with that, but now you're just trying to be clever.

PRODUCER sighs, leans back, looks at me through steepled fingers (their own, fortunately).

PRODUCER: You see, when a good idea comes in, we KNOW it.

Now I have read books ('seen' books) about business jargon, and this seems like a good idea to pull something out of the box.

ME: Example me.

I have their attention. Previously they thought they was dealing with a 'writer'. Now they've realised I am able to talk their language and shit.

PRODUCER: We had some new writers come in last week. Their idea? "Young Irish People In London".
ME: (cautiously) Okay.
PRODUCER: We snapped that shit up pronto.
ME: Right.
PRODUCER: So you see, the kind of thing we're after-
ME: Young Cornish people in London.
PRODUCER: No.
ME: Young Welsh people in London.
PRODUCER: No.
ME: Young Scottish people in London.
PRODUCER: No.

I'm starting to get desperate now.

ME: Young Mexican people in London?

PRODUCER: Why don't you write a couple of pages of ideas, send them to me?

I do that. I don't hear back. Two months later, I send another two pages of ideas. I don't hear back on those either.