Friday, November 28, 2008

I caught up with an old friend from school today. We hadn't really hung out for about twenty years, and our friendship was based, as far as I was concerned, on me shouting 'let's play judo!' and pushing him over every lunch break, while he sighed patiently. He is now a policeman, a fact he chose to break to me over the phone thusly:

FRIEND: You do know I'm a copper, at the moment?

It was the 'at the moment' I particularly liked, as though later that afternoon he may well have started robbing banks, or stabbing passersby on a whim.

Later, conversation turned to Facebook.

FRIEND: (in disbelief) You go on Facebook? But you have a baby, and work from home! How do you have time?

Sometimes I forget what it's like for people who have proper jobs.

Things You Probably Couldn't Get Away With In The Police:

1. Doing, at most, three hours of Policing a day, and claiming the rest of the day counts as work, because you were 'thinking about crime'.

2. Claiming to have solved new cases, when you actually just dug up some old cases from a couple of years ago, and changed the titles and some of the names.

3. Often not going outside for days on end.

4. Getting bored with writing up crime reports, so ending them with 'and then a load of zombies arrived'.

5. I had something very clever for 5, but I've since forgotten it.

Anyway, abandoning this post, because it wasn't really going anywhere, there seems to be some kind of mini blog meeting evolving for Monday night (1st December), around 6-6.30 at The Mortimer on Berners Street, just off the Tottenham Court Rd end of Oxford Street. Currently confirmed as attendees: Boz, Jayne, James Moran. Anyone who's around is quite welcome, be they blogger, commenter, or lurker. I will probably have some geeky object on the table if I remember, but we will easily be the most glamorous and exciting group of people in place anyway, so will be easy to find.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Monday morning department of interesting links.

Lots of stuff up at the BBC Writers Room site for Survivors: an interview with series (re)creator Adrian Hodges and another with series writer Gaby Chiappe.

Elsewhere on the BBC site, a fascinating (well, if you're into SF and telly) archive of Doctor Who development notes from 1963, including a report into whether the BBC should be getting into SF at all (conclusions: the Americans have all the suitable material, and SF isn't actually as popular as Westerns anyway), and some audience reports on Who's pilot episode 'An Unearthly Child'. This focus group stuff goes further back than anyone had ever suspected. I'm too scared to look at it just now, in case the word 'aspirational' is in there.

UPDATE: pilot script now up for download.

Monday, November 17, 2008


The first two episodes of my Teen Drama Project, which I can now exclusively reveal is called 'Rock', and is about the small north cornwall town where every year posh kids get into punch-ups with the locals (that was pretty much the pitch right there, although rest assured there will also feature such delights as The Owlman Of Mawnan Smith, a Hugh Grant lookalike, and some Lovecraftian ferrymen), have finally been given an enthusiastic thumbs up by the BBC Heads of Fiction, Development and Serials, and are winging their way to what may well be the last desk they will ever lie upon: that of the Controller of BBC 3, whose wisdom, I am assured, is akin to that of Solomon on one of his more thoughtful days. If he likes them, he will be commissioning a series. If not, then... I don't know really.

So this is either the end of a process I've been wittering about for blimmin' ages (start at the bottom to read the complete collection), or the the start of something beautiful. Oi just don't know.


Disappointed he didnt manage to get Thatcherism in there somwhere though.

I really liked Rafael's article on Strictly Come Dancing, summing up just exactly what it is I find so distasteful about the whole 'never mind the quality, feel the backstory' attitude a lot of these shows seem to have, making them cheap drama in more ways than the obvious.

Quoth Rafael:

"The Sergeant Doctrine appeals to the public's urge to stick two fingers up to authority for the sake of it (by rewarding stubborn ineptitude). It is the difference between democracy and populism. Sergeant is not really an underdog but a skilful renegade, appealing directly for voters to spite the judges. 'The public will save me,' he asserts. His survival depends on opposition to the principles of the programme - the worse he dances, the better he does. Like all populist rebels, his role is ultimately destructive."

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Yes, well, that'll teach me to try and set up an Out Of Office email reply thing, you know, like grownups with proper jobs use, because I'm away in Scotland until Monday 17th. It seems to have caused some kind of feedback loop that could easily have consumed the entire interweb until I shut it down (I had to use welding goggles and thick gloves, it was great). Anway, apologies to anyone I may inadvertantly have spammed.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Conversations with:

While I try to line up the script editor interview, here are the earlier Q&A sessions from this here blog:

Agent: Matt Connell
Children's Writer: Alex Williams
Composer: Garry Judd

Other people I'll be trying to get some goddam answers from at some point: Producer, Lighting Person, Director, Professional Killer.

ALSO: ooh, 'Survivors' trailer! Ninety minute opening episode goes out, I believe, 23rd November.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Aaaaaaaaand relax

Something I would never have expected when I started out in The Job That Mostly Involves Sighing: having a drama script rejected (or judged harshly, or basically receive anything other than total adulation) is way more painful than having my comedy writing shat on from a great height.

I suspect this is because comedy provokes, or at least aims to provoke, a visceral, physical reaction. You either laugh at it (or maybe smile thinly, whatever), or you don't. And if the writer has written something he really, truly, considers funny, then he has to accept that not everyone has the same sense of humour. So if someone reads one of my sitcom scripts and just plain doesn't like it, then... no harm done. No two people quite have the same sense of humour. You can't really take it personally.

Last year, I had a comedy script works its way up through the various levels of the BBC Comedy department, culminating in a meeting with the then-Head of Comedy Jon Plowman, which was, you know, fun, in its own way. He eventually turned the script down, on the grounds that 'ultimately, it didn't make him laugh', and as reasons to turn down comedy scripts go, that one would seem to be fair enough. Obviously, a small and bitter part of me was muttering 'wait, My Hero did make you laugh?', but it was an honest and straightforward kind of rejection, way preferable to the standard commissioning behavior of keeping you waiting for six months while they wonder if they want something more primary coloured.

Drama, however... well it's a strange thing. When producers, or commissioners, are reading a script, they're unlikely to react to the drama with the same intensity they would to a comedy script. They have to intellectualize it, try and picture the finished product, view it from the point of view of the 'average viewer', as if such a creature existed. And in order to help the producer or commissioner process the script intellectually, they need a toolkit. Hence the utter fracking tyranny of Robert McKee's 'Story'.

Not that books about scripts, and structure, and story, are automatically bad. I'm actually quite partial to 'Story', which does as good a job of explaining story 'beats' as any handbook I've come across, and I highly recommend Christopher Vogler's 'The Writer's Journey' if you have any interest in films as modern myth, Joseph Campbell, and all that Jungian-style archetypal larking about.

No, the problem comes when people who aren't writers pick up these books, and make the fairly basic error of assuming that any script that follows all the rules of 'Story', second act curtains, story beats and all, must be solid. It ticks all the boxes, follows the same rules as highly-produced Hollywood blockbusters, therefore must be watertight, Grade-A narrative product.

When I wrote a while ago about Stephen Moffat not using outlines, I left something out. Or rather, didn't update it appropriately. You see, a couple of days later, I was chatting with a couple of story editors employed by a large broadcasting company.

'Did you know', I said in the breathless tones Russell Brand must have had after discovering a secret directory of the home numbers of Britain's most respected comedic actors, 'Stephen Moffat doesn't use outlines!'. At which point the temperature dropped noticeably, and one of the script editors audibly harrumphed.

'Yes, well', said the other script editor 'Frankly you can tell'.

Only later did it occur to me that this was the equivalent of the work experience guy interrupting a record company meeting with exciting news about this whole 'downloading' thing, or perhaps one of the smaller mammals enthusiastically pointing out the increasingly bright light in the sky to his dinosaur mates.

I'm not entirely sure where I'm going with this, other than I'm sort of killing time at the moment while I wait for any of up to four different projects to either get the chop or move on to an interesting and exciting new stage, involving me being given amounts of money to make up stuff. And if the main one comes off, my new rule is that I'm going to attempt to work exclusively with people who, when given a choice between the average piece of weak-ass Saturday night television that ticks every box in the 'Story' checklist, but still manages to clunk along with leaden dialogue, two-dimensional characters and utterly predictable stories, or something like Blink, are capable of picking the latter.

ALSO: in other news, Brooker responds to Pegg re rahhhhhh zombies versus uuuurrrgghhh zombies.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


I see a Mister S. Pegg is weighing in on Jayne's side of the debate over at the Guardian blog: Simon Pegg argues for a return to traditional zombie values

"...the fast zombie is bereft of poetic subtlety. As monsters from the id, zombies win out over vampires and werewolves when it comes to the title of Most Potent Metaphorical Monster. Where their pointy-toothed cousins are all about sex and bestial savagery, the zombie trumps all by personifying our deepest fear: death. Zombies are our destiny writ large. Slow and steady in their approach, weak, clumsy, often absurd, the zombie relentlessly closes in, unstoppable, intractable."

I still think it's (dead) horses for courses myself, but I look forward to Gordon Brown picking a side.

Anyone playing Fable II? Rather enjoying it myself (my character's a foxy gunslinging chick who seems to live almost entirely on celery), and there's an interesting interview with game creator Peter Molyneux over at Gamasutra,which includes a bit about the use of script editors to refine the storyline (about page three, I think).

"We had a real problem, because we wanted to tell this story that you would remember. Normally, when we did Fable I, for example, the story actually didn't come together till the last three months, because you didn't have the regions. And you had to have the regions to have the voice stuff in.

And this was our problem. If we were to tell a truly great story we need to get script writers and directors, and gosh knows, and actors involved way before our world was even started.

So we did something which I think you are going to see more of, in this industry, called staging. What we did: We wrote the story. We got a script writer in. He wrote the script to the story."

Full Peter Molyneux interview