Monday, December 31, 2007

Enter 2008... (Stage Right)

Ok, I know I promised a review of Voyage of the Damned, it IS on the way - honest. In the meantime I've compiled my New Years resolutions/challenges.

I didn't have a blog last year so I can't use it to gauge this years achievements. Unfortunately I'd say a lot of the things on this list would have been on it last year too. On the other hand I passed my driving test, changed my career and moved to the Midlands so it wasn't a total loss.

Here is what we want from 2008

  • Write daily, establish a routine.
  • Complete a clutch of scripts in time for SFW '08 in Cheltenham.
  • Make some contacts/promote myself more.
  • (Finally) send a follow up script to Writers Room.
  • Enter Red Planet '08.
  • Send a steady stream of spec scripts to 2000AD.
  • Most importantly - get something published or produced somewhere.
  • At least one bog update per week - and on a broader range of subjects.
  • Maybe a little fiction on the blog now and again?
  • Low Carb diet and plenty of regular exercise.
  • Possibly create a new website.
  • Buy a house.
  • Have a proper holiday (like abroad and everything!).
  • Organise time so Emma and I have more 'quality' time together.
  • Watch plenty of good telly, films and theatre.
  • Read constantly.
  • Build a Linux machine.
  • Get more enjoyment from small pleasures.
It's not that much really, eh? In the scheme of things. Just laying the bedrock for a productive writing career. My greatest problem is not completing projects and if I can't beat that Devil in 2008 then I might as well quit. Yes, you can hold me to that.

That's it then, good luck for the new year everyone. May it bring us all success and happiness. If you're partying tonight drink responsibly and have a good time.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 24, 2007

...and a Very Merry Christmas to all of you at home!


Happy Christmas to everyone who passes through these pages. I hope you have a lovely time over the holidays.


Tune in later this week for New Year Resolutions and a Voyage of the Damned review.


Joyous Yuletide!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Improve the profile of your Website with Rhydian Roberts


If I'd realised the effect mentioning 'The X Factor' would have on The Island of Dreams hit rate I wouldn't have spent seven months talking about writing, classic television and comics. Live and learn. I was going to talk about today's 'Fairytale in New York' farrago but I'm scared I can't do it justice!


Hello to all the Rhydian fans passing through here. I thought he should have won too - although he wasn't my favourite; despite my being Welsh. The media seems to believe that thinking Rhydian should have won only occurs in the Welsh, and vice versa presumably.


More words later this week; and on more familiar topics. In the meantime two reminders;


Bang2Write's logline competition closes tommorrow.


Don't miss the Screen Wipe Christmas Special tomorrow night.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Our time is running out...

It’s the end. Now, I know I’ve been wrong about this before but this time it’s definitely on. Armageddon is coming so get thee to Tesco and stock up on tinned foods and sporting goods. All the portents are there. The world is going stark raving crackers.

Let’s review the evidence; the Tories are leading opinion polls by the greatest margin for fifteen years; the new coach of the English football team doesn’t speak a word of it, unleaded is now £1.05 a litre round the corner and The Eagles have got back together. Most damning of all? Leon Jackson has won The X Factor 2007. I fully expect cats and dogs to start living together and Sunny Delight to rain down from the heavens within the next fortnight.

Of course, the thing I’m most distressed about is being forced to reveal my secret shame. Yes, I do watch The X Factor. I’ve illicitly watched it for years without feeling the need to speak about it in public but this time the great British idiotbox slaves have really gone too far. Ok, so Shayne Ward looked like someone queueing at Halfords but at least he had a good voice, and charisma. Nobody could argue that Leona (keep Bleedin’) Lewis doesn’t have some mighty lungs and every chance of a credible career ahead of her. Whoever won the first series was probably at least tolerable as well. But Leon bloody Jackson? A scrutty zig-zag of flesh with a total inability to carry a note and all the dancing skills of someone undergoing electroconvulsive therapy? I ask you.

Week after week I’ve watched amazed as competitors with some slender fibre of talent or who at least look like they might be enjoying themselves get voted off while Leon sodding Jackson jerks around the stage as if forced onto it with a cattle-prod. I’d more or less accepted that my personal favourites, the energetic, if unsettling, Same Difference, were unlikely to win last night. That’s ok. They’ve not given a poor performance throughout the series and seem the most professional act The X Factor has ever seen. They made it to their well deserved place in the final and that’s what matters. But are we seriously to believe that Leon fricking Jackson has more talent, charisma and potential than the mighty Rhydian? The Aryan voice meister could dismember that Scottish shoelace with a tiny toot of his tenor. The results show ended with it’s contestants and presenter seeming every part as stunned as I was. Leon, when pressed for a comment, could only mumble ‘Thanks’. Don’t thank me Leon, thank the viewers who thought you had more star quality than your fellow contestants. Apparently Ladbrokes describe it as ‘the biggest shock in the history of reality TV betting.’ They know about these things.

I suppose it’s some consolation that in five years or so when Same Difference are looking back on at least a couple of hit singles and Rhydian Roberts is in his latest smash hit West End musical the winner of The X Factor 2007 will almost certainly be back in his West Lothian mining town where he belongs. Not that I’ve anything against him, he’s won and good luck to him. He seems like a nice lad and I’m sure his mother is very proud. It’s just that I’d understood it was a talent competition and so far as I saw he was outclassed not just by the other two finalists but by the vast majority of this years competitors.

Apparently the voting public felt differently, but if polls are to be believed they also trust the Conservatives and want to bring back the death penalty. Mark my words, the breakdown of society is just a heartbeat away.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Reviews, Spoilers and Something's Coming...

After all that maudlin nonsense here's one of my semi-regular updates on what's been on my telly recently.

I'm not sure Tim Kring apologising for Heroes series 2 was really called for. It may come back to haunt him as the press seem to reference it every time the show is mentioned. Even the Radio Times made reference to the second series being boring in it's write up for the series one finale - that's not the best strategy is it? The general confusion caused by the WGA strike seems to have given some people the impression Heroes is a dead duck now; which couldn't be further from the truth.

The reality is that series two is no slower than the first series was. There are a couple of slightly dull characters but in no time at all they hook up with the best American telly bad guy since Bob from Twin Peaks and suddenly everything is good again. In case Tim Kring happens to read this I'll provide Series Two feedback in bullet point form;

Bad

  • Not enough Sylar
  • Hiro was in feudal Japan too long
  • Peter Petrelli has fallen out of character and become dull (and those Oirish accents were awful! Are there no Irish actors in America? What about Colm Meaney?)
  • Claire & her Dad going back to square one with their distrust issues.

Good

  • Sylar
  • My Two Dad's starring Parkman and Mohinder
  • Parkman's Dad (and his ability) was terrifying
  • Nathan takes action
  • Kensei/Adam is an ace addition to the show
  • Did I mention Sylar?

So no more admitting fault Tim, that's not how George Lucas built his Empire is it? Roll on Volume Three...

Thursday have actually become funny on the BBC in recent weeks thanks to the return of The Mighty Boosh (and aided by the disappearance of Vivienne tossing Vyle, which will probably win awards and get a second series as all big name dross does). Series Three has been every bit as bonkers and magical as previous outings. My favourite moment so far has been Howard's conversation with Vince's immunity system, or possibly Vince and Howard briefly falling in love, or possibly the return of Bob Fossil, or - never mind. It's fantastic.

If I'm going to complain it'll be to say that the drug references have been more overt than is either usual or necessary and that there may have been a few too many mentions of trendy pop bands; but who cares when the charm is still there.

Oh, and get excited because Something's Coming...



Holiday Season


Do writers take time off at Christmas? I suppose successful writers do and why shouldn't they? They've already slaved their way to being published or produced and no longer need to spend every free nanosecond writing or thinking about writing. On the other hand if you're a struggling want-to-be writer I suppose those free seconds are a missed opportunity if they aren't used for honing your craft.

Christmas is the busiest time of the year for me; day-job wise. Although I finally left the trenches of retail this year (and I don't think I shot myself in the foot) I still provide support for my comrades on the front lines and this is proving to be most challenging. Whilst many (most?) people are winding down for the Christmas holiday the retailers are trying to make enough money to carry them through the next twelve months in an increasingly difficult and hostile market.

I somehow imagined that when I started my new job in IT I would stroll through my front door each evening at six o'clock and generate page after page of spectacular and worthy wordage (like Stephen J. Cannell) while my wife gazed on adoringly. This pretty fantasy failed to feature out-of-hours mobile support, an unexpected promotion, reduced headcounts, the M-42, extended hours, the tiniest and dampest house outside of Lilliputian Atlantis or a wife who is herself working through an intense PGCE course.

Post Christmas I'm sure the routine will settle down and I will be able to structure my time properly to give me maximum opportunity not just to write but to continue those pursuits that inform my writing such as reading the papers, watching television, going to the pictures and, most oppressed of all hobbies, reading precious books. Of course, if I really want to be a writer shouldn't I be doing these things now? Shouldn't I be hunched over the kitchen table until three in the morning redrafting my latest script? Before dashing to the office for seven thirty in a caffeine fugue? Do I want to be a successful writer or not? Surely I should want it so bad that nothing stands in my way?

Uncharacteristically I've been thinking about New Year resolutions (usually they begin to occur to me around March) and I think I need to come up with some quite specific targets and ultimatums for the year ahead. Either I work consistently or I stop torturing Emma and the three people who read this blog with whingey not-writing moans. Like this one.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Verity Lambert, OBE (1935 - 2007)

It has not been my intention to write every night this week, there just seems to be a lot to talk about recently. Most of it has been good news but today brought a sad, sad development. This afternoon I was dismayed to read on Outpost Gallifrey that Verity Lambert had passed away.

There were a lot of amazing things about An Unearthly Child, the first ever episode of Doctor Who. Beyond the genius of Sydney Newman's initial concept there's the fact that it was produced by a twenty-eight year old woman; the BBC's youngest producer and the only female one (pictured with Carole Ann Ford courtesy of Steve Hill). Of course it also had an Asian director, Warris Hussein, so it was a remarkably progressive show before you even consider the TARDIS or the Daleks that were to follow.

Despite going on to a career that spanned forty-four years and saw Verity involved in many successful shows she was always happy to talk about her first offspring. It was a beautiful touch when the team behind the current series of Doctor Who name checked Verity and Sydney Newman as the fictitious parents of the Doctor's alter ego John Smith.

It's simultaneously terribly sad and yet somehow fitting that this sad news should fall on the forty fourth anniversary of the broadcast of that first episode of Doctor Who, extraordinary in so many ways.


Thank you Verity, and God bless.

BBC News article

Official Doctor Who site

The Guardian


Wikipedia

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Survivors survive

Incredible news. Survivors is to be remade according to this report on the BBC web site. The fingers typing the scripts belong to Adrian Hodges of Primeval fame.


Survivors was an excellent series which told the story of the people who lived through a plague that wiped out 99% of the worlds population. It's probably Terry Nation's third most famous creation after the mighty Blakes' 7 and some mutant dodgem thingies from another obscure BBC science-fiction programme.


I can't quite work out if this makes my secret ambition to dramatise John Wyndham's The Kraken Wakes for television more or less likely. TV's only big enough for so many apocalypses. What is certain is that another high profile genre drama is headed for our screens. Incredible news indeed.


For more information about the original series check out these links;




Wednesday, November 21, 2007

International Screenwriters Festival 2008



Tuesday 1st to Thursday 3rd July 2008, Manor by the Lake, Cheltenham.

SWF'08 will be shorter than previous years at only three days. Feedback from delegates suggested that more people could participate if the length of the festival was three days which would also save them money on hotels. The festival is going to have a different feel to it this year with more of a relaxed atmosphere. Plenty of sessions are planned but with even more time set aside for the all important networking. We are planning to have at least two networking events per day giving the delegates much more time to mingle and create the opportunities to sell themselves. A lot of delegates, who went to SWF'06, were a bit perplexed by the term "networking", but for the majority that returned in SWF'07, and there were a lot, they came packing to take full advantage of the festival and promoted themselves and their work. Our aim this year is to give delegates increased chances to introduce themselves to the kind of people they really should meet and for intimate discussions.

As we are now a three day event, we felt that we should only have one ticket type, the three day pass, which will become available to buy around February 2008. The prices of which will be published at the beginning of next year.
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And here I only mentioned it the other day. Tickets on sale in February and a whole eight months to prepare a portfolio of work to cart about with you while you quaff wine and schmooze with the boldest and best of the industry players.

And there's a session on writing for comics, not to mention the launch of Red Planet 2008 (presumably)! Awesome.

I'm so motivated by that one little email.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

This is mostly a good week...

Feeling pretty good this week. Work is still busy but it feels less like hammering carrots into my eye sockets with a swede... not sure about the vegetable motif there.

Anyway, more importantly I'm feeling pretty creative. I'm taking a positive step forward with the Writers Room project and I've come up with a couple of new ideas since I stopped trying to develop competition entries.


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Watched Chris Smith's 'Creep' at the weekend. I love the British Horror film as a concept and an ideal as much as a genre so it was a pleasure to find it a quality hour and a half of entertainment. What's not to love about a film about people trapped in the London Underground?!

Moreover it inspired me to have another go at a horror script. Years ago, when the world was young I had a pipe dream about making a horror film set in a huge park (modelled on Bute Park in my native Cardiff). This barman walking his dog would stumble across a bunch of latter day druids invoking some cyclopian horror from beyond the dawn of time. It would have been great.
I even bought 'The Guerrilla Filmakers Handbook'. Sadly I couldn't find anyone to help me make 'Hours of Darkness' (as I was going to call it) a reality. I think this time I'll just worry about the script, it's too much like hard work doing all that financing, directing, acting and so on.

I have therefore challenged myself to come up with a script that would sit nicely on a shelf with Dog Soldiers, Severance, Creep, The Descent, 28 Days Later and all the other great British Horrors of recent years. No pressure then.



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I don't really go in for techie talk but I've recently started using Opera. It's bloody marvellous. Much more reliable than Microsoft Explorer and full of cool intuitive little features. One draw back is that I can't post on this blog with Opera, for some reason it throws all the formatting out. If it weren't for that it'd be perfect.


Go get some, it's free!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Red Planet, Emily Bell and Daleks

Thanks to the courtesy of Mr Stack we all know whether or not we made it through to round two of the Red Planet Productions competition now. I didn't. If you did then bloody well done to you. If you didn't there are some tips for dealing with the rejection here and here - but basically get on with it!


For my part I'm going to take a break from competitions until Red Planet 2008. I think they've distracted me from building up a portfolio rather than helped. In fact 2007 has been a mixed bag for me as far as writing goes. I've undoubtedly worked harder on it but seem to have little to show for my efforts - hence the decision to concentrate on those projects that have been 'pending' for way too long now.


The last twelve months have seen Emma and I take actions that are all designed to improve our situation. Some have worked, some haven't and some we won't see the benefit of for another year at least. My change in career has brought unexpected complications but has certainly given me more opportunity to concentrate on writing. It's essential now that I devise and adhere to a routine that sees me write daily and follow projects through to completion.


Chief among these is the script I'm preparing for Writers Room (you may remember they invited me to send my next script when they returned Riks Records). I completed the draft some months ago but finally read it through again last night. In my mind I'd convinced myself it was rubbish (as we tend to) but found I still like it very much. It needs a lot of work but I'm confident I have a good script in the making. I think, after a few drafts, I'll offer it up for some 'Power of Three' action as I've never tried that and it seems to work for other Scribobloggers.


So it's write-write-write until next years Cheltenham Screenwriter's Festival.


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Most British writers must have been following developments concerning the WGA strike and it's effects. Most but not all. Notably not Emily Bell, the director of digital content for Guardian News and Media, who saw fit to author an article for Broadcast magazine called Striking writers are wrong to think they should be paid more.


For a breakdown of exactly what is wrong with Bell's piece take a look at James Moran's letter to her. I've followed his example and sent a brief note to the editor expressing my feeling of disappointment that Broadcast Magazine has not only felt justified in printing an article so poorly researched but one that seems to spit in the eye of our American peers.


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I'm currently enjoying the Doctor Who Series Three Box Set and have just watched Evolution of the Daleks for only the second time. I watched both episodes together which I think improved the experience markedly. I was quite forthright in my dissatisfaction with this story when it was broadcast (see here) and while I'm not about to recant I do think I took it a little personally.

Looking back on what is, to my mind, the best series of Doctor Who ever I feel the Dalek story to be a minor blip. It's greatest fault is perhaps that it is too imaginative - who could complain about that?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

It's all meme me around here...


Gold star day! I've been memed, I've arrived, I'm a proper blogginator. Thanks Jon!


Right then, crikey, better get on with finding 'five things about myself that other people may consider lame, but I'm actually proud of’...


1 - I don't do 'going out' very much. I certainly don't do 'clubbing', not my thing at all. I love a good pub lunch, or a couple of pints by a crackling fire, but it's fair to say I'm almost a hermit in terms of nightlife and I wouldn't have it any other way. Chronic misanthropy will do that to you. So stop asking me if I did anything at the weekend because I didn't, and I bloody enjoyed it.

2 - I don't pull sickies. In fact I think I've had three absences in about five years. I guess I probably should sometimes but I always think if I took one unnecessary day off... I might never come back. On the other hand I'm planning to take a 'career break' (to concentrate on writing) in a year or so. Maybe I've just saved all my sickies up for one big hit.

3 - I've never seen 'Dirty Dancing', 'American Pie' or a single episode of 'Hollyoaks'. I haven't read 'The Da Vinci Code' and I've never bought a Red Hot Chili Peppers record.

4 - I can't resist disco music. It just makes me move. There's really nothing I can do to stop myself and even if there was I enjoy it too much. Particularly seductive tracks are Baccara - 'Yes Sir, I Can Boogie' and Sarah Brightman and Hot Gossip's 'I Lost My Heart To A Starship Trooper'. Big band swing has a similar effect on me (on the other hand I have a terror of swingers which results in me frantically seeking out the words 'families welcome' whenever Emma and I are looking for a holiday).

5 - The last episode of 'Doc Martin' made me cry.

I cast this meme towards the gestalt Audio Time Team entity, Mags, Dan and Robin.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Put him on the bonfire and watch him die...

Visited the local Odeon last night (see right). Long term readers (if they existed) might remember my hateful experiences at Cardiff multiplexes.


How refreshing then to visit a cinema that seemed to still be located in the 1984 of my youth. Tiny little foyer, friendly staff, Alvin and the Chipmunks and a good time had by all.

I may visit the cinema more than once in the next calendar year.


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You might ask what had managed to coax me out of my lair to visit the kinema. Elizabeth: The Golden Age is the film that succeeded where so many summer attractions had failed. In 1998 Elizabeth blew off a lot of socks with it's well crafted tale of courtly intrigues, spymasters, love affairs and religious fanatics. Not to mention its opulent costumes and design.


Elizabeth: The Golden Age is strong on opulent costumes and courtly intrigue but falls far short of the success of the first volume of Elizabeth I's adventures. It would be unfair to say I didn't enjoy it but I did find myself disappointed.


The performances are splendid. Cate Blanchett is, once again, incredible as the Virgin Queen and is supported well by Geoffrey Rush, Clive Owen, Rhys Ifans and a host of reliable character actors. Special mention should be saved for Jordi MollĂ 's utterly barking, birdlike Phillip of Spain.

Towards the climactic battle with the Spanish armada the film begins to over embellish it's set pieces and seems to flirt with the notion of becoming Elizabeth 2: This Time it's Personal. Whilst I enjoyed Blanchett's rousing speech to the troops (and her snazzy armour) it all seemed more Middle-Earth than Tudor England, and as for Walter 'John McClane' Raleigh riding his flaming galleon into the Spanish ships before diving into an unnecessary underwater sequence? This so distracted me that I found myself lost in reverie wondering if Clive Owen will ever escape the shadow of James Bond (he would have been great though - wouldn't he).


It felt a little like an entirely different film had stormed in when no one was looking and taken over the screen. Worse still, despite thousands of pounds and months of post production there are two corking boom shots in the finished film. That's quite shoddy if you ask me.


Definitely worth seeing then, but don't expect The Golden Age to match up to it's predecessor.


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I felt series six of 24 was pretty patchy (and I'm probably being kinder than most) but I still find myself extremely excited by the series seven trailer...




What..? How..?

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It's pretty much the duty of any writer, and any right-minded television watcher, to understand exactly why the Writers Guild of America have decided to strike and just how it will effect American (and thusly the World's) television.

I recommend then that you take yourself hence and read Piers Beckley's summation of the whole affair here.

If you are a British writer I'd also recommend reading Robin Kelly's post here.

We don't want no dirty scabs round these parts.


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Off to Himley Hall in Dudley this evening for the 'Fireworks and Music Spectacular'. I'm assured it's the bees knees and it's a first for Emma and I as we've never been to a fireworks display together before - despite some of the best laid plans.


It's hats-and-scarves weather and what better than the smell of gunpowder, candyfloss and 'ooh-ing' children to enjoy a chilly November evening?

Spare a thought for Guy Fawkes if you're attending a display this weekend, all he wanted was to blow up parliament you know.


Monday, October 22, 2007

I believe the expression is 'Squee'!


Peter Davison and David Tennant as Doctors number five and ten in the forthcoming Children in Need Doctor Who special Time Crash written by Steven Mofatt.
I think I've died and gone to heaven.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Are Thursdays funny?

By coincidence more than topical programme making Jennifer Saunders new television vehicle arrived just as Jeremy Kyle, king of daytime talk shows and human bear baiter, was getting a sound drubbing from all angles. Good news for Vivienne Vyle and I’m sure that loathsome creation would be delighted to profit from the misfortune of her rival.


In reality meanwhile it makes the comedy (I am assured that it is comedy although I’ve yet to laugh) seem a vicious personal attack on Kyle, rather than on the grotesque carnival that daytime talk shows have always been.


The recreations of the talk show environment are horribly accurate, from the Jeremy Kyle style graphics and set to the foul mouthed unfortunates who appear on the show, but that still doesn’t make them funny.


Saunders and the retinue of actors that have followed her across the hall from the Absolutely Fabulous offices inhabit revolting characters that show us just how shallow and unpleasant the media world can be (you know; a bit like Larry Sanders, Drop the Dead Donkey and Nathan Barley did – so much better and so very long ago). This weeks episode included a particularly heavy handed sequence where the ‘sympathetic’ character of Psychiatrist Dr Jonathan Fowler (Jason Watkins) told a sad story (which could easily be from a real case workers experiences) before everyone demonstrated how shallow and self-obsessed they were again.


This is part of the problem. The Life and Times of Vivienne Vyle doesn’t seem to know if it is a comedy or a drama. The source of confusion being that that people who think that baring their darkest most awful problems and traumas on daytime television will solve their problems aren’t funny, they’re tragic and desperate. No amount of Patsy and Edina style ‘Darlings' or camp husbands on rollerblades will mask that.


The latest episode also surprised me by having characters re-enact a scene from Brief Encounter as part of a bizarre reconciliation ritual. An interesting idea but I couldn’t concentrate on it as I was wondering if it had struck the writers whilst they were watching Alan Bennett’s History Boys.


Presumably for her medical expertise Jennifer Saunders has written this series with the help of Dr Tanya Byron, who certainly knows something about television exploiting peoples problems having worked on such reality shows as House of Tiny Tearaways and Little Angels.


The Life and Times of Vivienne Vyle wants to be a clever and biting satire on how ruthless and exploitative television is but just ends up being exploitative itself, as well as lazy and worse of all not funny. What awful people they are in TV land, I wonder how many trophies Ms Vyle will scoop next awards season.



After knocking around in many of the best sitcoms of the last decade, and providing the voice of Darth Maul for Star Wars: The Phantom … (Oh you know – the one with the kid) Peter Serafinowicz has emerged in his own sketch show.


Sketch shows are becoming a bit of a rarity on our screens and good ones even more so. The Peter Serafinowicz Show is jam packed full of fresh ideas and energy. It's the perfect antidote to the feeling of misery and wasted time that the viewer is left with after watching Vivienne Vyle.


It’s true that not every sketch or running gag is a success but with the likes of Michael 6 (a funny sketch about daytime talk shows), the endearing Brian Butterworth adverts, and ‘O news’ the laughs far outweigh any misfires.


The greatest revelation in this show is it's stars excellent talent for mimicry. Peter Serefinowicz does impressions of people you don’t even expect to see being impersonated – and then finds a context to use these unexpected impressions, the best example being his lampoons of acting masterclass series (a poe-faced television series of ‘classes’ provided by successful actors in the 1980's – most notably Michael Caine and Simon Callow).


One question though – does Alan Alda even get invited to film premieres any more? Actually – don’t worry, I don’t even care. The enthusiasm and energy of The Peter Serafinowicz Show belies any attempt to criticise.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Opportunity Rocks

Fancy a few days in Edinburgh with Adrian Mead? I do (not like that - I'm married), so I'll be submitting an entry to the Scottish Book Trust's Screenwriting lab - especially now the deadline has been extended to next Monday.


The event has already been covered in some depth on Vicious Imagery so if you've not seen it go and take a look. It couldn't be easier to apply 'In order to apply for SCREENWRITING LAB we are asking that you submit a 1-3 minute long sample script, inspired by the theme CHOICES,' says the website. What could be easier than spitting out three pages of script? It's just got to be good enough to get you a place on the course, so no pressure.


Again, it's been covered by Robin, Stuart and many more but you might want to get a piece of 4 Talent's Pilot competition. You've got till November 23rd to dream up a twenty three minute pilot for a drama series. I've got this killer idea about a team of young sexy female kung-fu fire fighters - it's called Red Hot. Actually, that's good...


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Is it me or has Eastenders been a lot better recently? I think it's important for anyone who wants to write for television to keep their hand in with the soaps but for a long time I've found it a little challenging to take an interest in the Square. Not so last week, some interesting plotlines afoot. It's no Corrie, mind (anyone else notice tonight's Coronation Street was direct by Alan Wareing - responsible for helming classic 80's Doctor Who stories Survival and Ghost Light?).


Staying with telly Robin Hood was back at the weekend. Still bloody good fun and a little bit moodier than last year. I don't care what the joyless drones say; I think it's cracking Saturday night entertainment and I wish I could write for it! How much cooler than Robin is the Nightwatchman though, eh?


Right, can't stop - work to be done and Doc Martin at nine. It's research, OK? Ciao.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Bumping into Doctor Who...

This is the first year since Doctor Who went back into production that I have not been in Cardiff to bump into film crews on my way to work or find famous faces lurching out of the darkness unexpectedly. Now I’m in Worcester it seems unlikely I’ll bump into the Doctor Who production team again, unless they do a celebrity historical about Elgar I suppose.

The time seems perfect then for a retrospective on three years of living with Who. From bumping into Christopher Eccleston to John Simm telling my wife secrets, taking in Russell T Davies uttering the words ‘I’m not stalking you, honestly!’, David Tennant buying karaoke CD’s and Phil Collinson setting off alarms along the way.

Of course we did get Who visitors in Cardiff before the new series. In what I now like to think of as the Dark Ages before 2005. Several years before he was to play Dickens in The Unquiet Dead Simon Callow paid a visit to the video department when he was at the New Theatre (playing Dickens I think) and I remember watching him stride though the shop booming into his mobile phone. Having just bought Queer as Folk on video, oddly enough.

Imagine enjoying a post-work pint in a local bar only to look up and lock eyes with the Valeyard. That’s what happened to me when Michael Jayston was in town and it gave me a bit of a turn I don’t mind admitting.

In the days before he played cupid on Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway Christopher Biggins was happy to chat for a few minutes about recording the Big Finish story The One Doctor.

It was in 2004 that Cardiff became the focal point for all things Who though. As a life long fan I wondered if I might be lucky enough to see any of the cast or watch a bit of filming…

It started subtly enough. You know how it is; you’re topping up the 3 for £20 DVD’s at the front of the store and all of a sudden one of the greatest and most celebrated actors in the country walks past you. I had to surreptitiously follow him round the shop a bit before I could convince myself that yes, Christopher Eccleston was definitely browsing in my shop. He was to become a regular visitor, always popping in when filming in the vicinity of the city centre. Whilst obviously a man who likes his privacy, and his anonymity, he was a friendly enough customer although I only spoke to him once myself when I saw him in the soundtrack section with a Doctor Who at the BBC CD in his hand. I’m afraid it was just too much for me to resist really.

‘Are you okay there?’ I asked politely ‘are you after anything in particular?’
‘Robert Johnson, King of the Delta Blues,’ came the reply as TV’s Doctor Who dropped the BBC CD back into its pocket.

Aw, I thought, I was hoping for a Doctor Who question. I led him to the blues section and left him musing over the true meaning of the that old blues standard ‘I believe I’ll dust my broom’.

I still think it sad that he left so soon but it’s hard to imagine Christopher Eccleston dealing with the constant attention that his replacement seems to manage so effortlessly. He was a familiar face around Cardiff for the best part of a year. He’d go running along the Taff trail, shop in the city centre and generally walk around in the midst of the general public without being recognised – despite having been in the public eye for fifteen years or more. He’s a private man who likes his space and I can respect that. That space must have been compromised post transmission of his series of Doctor Who, and I wonder if his period of living in America after Who was a reaction to his increased visibility. He was certainly well chosen for the role of Heroes’ invisible man.

Billie Piper was a figure less often sighted. Being arguably a more recognisable face than her co-star she might have felt less at liberty to roam the streets of Cardiff. She has also been known to disguise herself when in public which Eccleston made no effort to do. Apart from visiting the shop after arriving in Cardiff to ask where she could buy a new phone and buy a single (can’t remember which one) we had very few run ins with her over the next two years.

The first day of location filming had a high profile having been covered on the BBC’s Wales Today show. With some friends I hung around watching Cardiff being disguised as London and hoping for a glimpse of Eccleston or Piper. As it turned out I didn’t see any filming that night though some dirty-stop-outs were lucky enough to see the Auton rampage that claimed poor old Mark Benton’s character Clive. Of course, I already knew Mark Benton was going to be in it because he’d been in the shop looking at DVD’s that week. And a friend had seen him in M&S! My favourite memory of that evening was spotting a newspaper stand carrying a headline that harked back to the Web of Fear. Seeing that, which never made it to screen in the finished episode, I already felt that Doctor Who was in safe hands.

The first filming I got to see was for The Christmas Invasion the following summer, when Christmas came to Cardiff in July for the first time. We watched Piper and Noel Clarke running from the robot Santas and watched James Hawes and Phil Collinson overseeing the giant Christmas tree collapse. A year later I would have a close up view of the Doctor making money rain from the sky with Euros Lynn behind the cameras on almost the the same spot.

Even without my glasses I recognised the towering figure of Russell T Davies when he strode off of the escalator and marched around the DVD section laughing into his mobile phone with the voice of a God. It was mere days before the broadcast of the Children In Need mini episode and needless to say I couldn’t resist the urge to approach him. I waited for him to finish his conversation then stole up behind him while he was looking through the soundtracks section.

Standing behind him I heard my weedy voice say ‘Excuse me?’ He turned to look at me. ‘Sorry to bother you,’ I whimpered, ‘but I’ll never forgive myself if I don’t shake your hand.’ The spark of recognition lit his eyes as he realized he had been spotted by a scaryfan. He took my sweaty paw and shook it politely.
‘What’s your name,’ he boomed.
‘Rob,’ I admitted.
‘Well I’m Russell,’ he smiled.
‘I know.’ Disaster had struck. I was clearly an imbecile.
‘I just like to be polite when I shake somebody’s hand,’ he justified.


Brilliant, not content with revealing myself to be a Scaryfan I’d now put him on his back foot. Then there came a moment of inspiration. I remembered my job and asked if there was anything he needed help with. What luck, there was indeed a quest which only the most courageous retail monkey could fulfil for the most successful screenwriter of his generation, and I had retail monkey written straight through me like a stick of Barry Island rock. It transpired that RTD had been watching rushes of Doctor Who set to music from The Sixth Sense. Russell was most impressed and resultantly wanted to get a copy for his very own. I had to order the CD in for him but Mr Davies had no concerns about giving me his telephone number, though it was with the proviso that I not telephone him to ask when the Rani was coming back. He couldn’t have been happier to chat and drop nuggets of insider info about Doctor Who. He was also quite frank when I asked why (at that point) there had not been a soundtrack CD released.

Oddly I was to meet Russell several times over the next few months. The last, and my favourite, being when I was walking down Queen street on my way to work and sensed someone walking close behind. I glanced over my shoulder to see who it was and unexpectedly found myself looking at Russell T.

‘Hello!’ I said, surprised.
‘Rob!’ He cried, ‘I’m not stalking you, honest.’

As he was going to my place of work anyway we got to have a little chat as we walked down the street. Even better my manager, Dan (a fellow Whoey), was on hand to see me saunter into work with RTD. A gold star day!

On all the occasions I met him I never had the courage to ask him about writing, or to mention I was an aspiring television writer myself. He doesn’t want to hear that, I thought. He must get it all the time. It was only when I learned that up and coming writer Tom McCrae had done exactly that at a book signing that I saw the error of my ways. McCrae got a two-parter out of it and all I got was my (super cool) signed series one box set. Next time, Russell, next time…

David Tennant popped into the shop at the height of Christmas looking for karaoke CD’s (for a present!). I employed my tried and tested customer service skills to approach him and ask if he needed help before ultimately revealing myself to be a Doctor Who fan. It’s true what they say he really is the nicest man in showbiz. He was happy to take a moment to talk about how much fun he was having – although they were on night shoots at that time (they would have been recording the first Cyberman two-parter) he was getting the chance to do some Christmas shopping.

After I’d left him to browse a group of young folk in floor length leather coats grabbed him for autographs and I felt responsible for ‘outing’ him somehow. This was before he’d even been glimpsed on television and it’s no surprise he’s kept a lower profile since. He has been known to visit though – and always seems ready to sign autographs for fans of any age.

In another missed industry opportunity Phil Collinson did some shopping with us one morning and just as I was plucking up courage to say hello to him his purchase set the alarm off. It hadn’t been de-tagged. It somehow didn’t seem appropriate to strike up a conversation then.

I’d moved to a different store by the time series three was filmed and although I still had a couple of run-ins with the crew (I was still based in Cardiff) I had less celebrity encounters. Colleagues told of a visit from Mark Gatiss, and I was lucky enough to meet Paul Cornell in Bristol (covered
here) but the final anecdote involves another series three guest star.

John Simm popped in with his son the week before series two of Life on Mars finished. He asked my wife for assistance and she told him how much she was enjoying the show.

‘Do you know why I’m in Cardiff though?’ he asked.
‘I can probably guess,’ said Emma.
‘Do you know who I’m playing?’ Asked TV’s Mr Saxon.


The really funny part was that there hadn’t even been a whisper about the return of the Master at that point.

Seeing as we’ve now left Cardiff and retail behind us it seems pretty unlikely I’ll be bumping into Doctor Who any more. It’s a shame, of course, but it’s also sort of nice. It feels somehow like I’m out of the loop and even less likely to be accidentally spoiled.

As a writer it gives me something to aspire to as well, maybe next time I watch Doctor Who being filmed I’ll be on the other side of the barrier.

Well, I can dream.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Quote for the day (with Alan Moore)

"On good days, everything goes right and I have the whole script executed from start to finish within four or five hours. On bad days I write the whole script in four or five hours, realise that it's useless, tear it up and start again. I repeat this process four or five times until I'm reduced to a blubbering wreck that just slumps in the armchair and whimpers about how it has no talent whatsoever and will never write again. Next day I'll get up, get the whole thing right the first time and spend the rest of the day walking round reading my favourite bits to my wife, children, or visiting tradesmen. (This is why you should never marry an artist or writer. They're bad news to have around the house, believe me.)"



Alan Moore, 1983, Warrior Magazine

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Let's get it started...

The ordeal is over. The hour is upon us. It’s the end of the road. Dunroamin. I have moved house.

It only took six weeks.

The truth is we moved in last week but I’ve been tied up with a writing project and with some actual real-life stuff too.

Plus I’m relying on a dial-up internet connection till next week. About that – why do I imagine the sound of a ZX spectrum loading every time I click a link? Dial-up is like travelling back in time, only slower. And Scrabbulous won’t work (not that I’m winning any games). Rubbish.

I was almost glad to get back to work and an internet connection that wasn’t powered by six wheezing gerbils in a treadmill. Almost.


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Emma and I had a lovely walk along the river Severn on Saturday and paid a visit to Worcester Cathedral. The Cathedral has existed in some form since the seventh century and has played a part in a great deal of British history. We were amazed to discover that King John resides there. Apparently he was so fond of Worcester, and of the Benedictine community that lived at the Cathedral at the time, that he asked to be buried there when he died. So in 1216, the year after he had signed the Magna Carta, King John moved in down the road from me.

Stanley Baldwin, Richard Edes and Arthur Tudor (Henry VIII's elder brother) are other famous residents, as well as your religious types such as Saints Wulfstan and Oswald. The crypt begun by St Wulfstan in the 1080’s is now open to the public. It’s slightly magical to enter that chamber and imagine people discussing the Norman conquest in there as we might now discuss whether or not there’s going to be an election.

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On the writing front I’m about to finally revisit Hitman, and whip it into shape for Writers Room. I’ve resolved to finish all my ‘in progress’ projects over the next few months. I’ve now had several responses to my last sitcom which have all pretty much added up to ‘we like it but we don’t want to make it – show us something else’. So I’m going to stop worrying about game-plans and time-wasting and get a body of work behind me.

Danny Stack’s recent post has made me seriously consider joining the Writers Guild and I think it’s time I put a bit more energy into networking and meeting other writers.

The recent successes of David Bishop and Jason Arnopp have shown that hard bloody graft really does pay off. I don’t think I can say that I’ve worked hard enough at this writing game so far and that needs to change.

Call it an autumnal resolution, it’s either late or early.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Still in Sedgley...

Don't want to curse anything (again) but it seems likely we will finally have a home of our own from next weekend. It hasn't been the easiest process finding a place to live in Worcester but Sedgley has proved a pleasant place to pass a month and we have had the most hospitable of hosts.

As a consequence of having all my worldly possessions in boxes and no desk to call my own it can hardly be said that I've been at my most productive in terms of writing. Somehow balancing my laptop on my knee while I sit in the spare room hasn't been as conducive to the creative faculties as I might have hoped.

Once we're safely installed in Worcester I hope normal service will resume both in terms of the work I have outstanding and keeping this blog up to date.

As long as nothing goes wrong...

Contrasting justice

Chris Langham jailed for 10 months for looking at child pornography images

Jehovah's Witness spared a jail term after admitting a series of sexual assaults on children and adults

Follow the links and consider the sentences.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A little bit of politics...

Slashdot have highlighted this news item which beggars belief.


In many ways the Chinese government banning reincarnation is a logical progression of their approach to human rights but it still managed to surprise me.


For further information about China's treatment of Tibet and rights issues in general click here.

Normal service will now be resumed...

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Not known at this address...

The relocation fiasco continues apace. The Postie delivered the contract for the new house in Worcester on Friday - great news. Just a few hours later we were informed that the whole thing was off as the current tenant's aren't inclined to move out just yet. They're in the process of buying a house and there has been a delay.

As a result despite the landlady wanting us in, us wanting to move in and the contract being in front of me right fricking now we are unable to proceed. It's been a bit of a nightmare finding a house to move into in Worcester and now this one has fallen through.

This is bone.

Regardless of this bad news my wife and I are spending the bank holiday weekend packing up all of our belongings ready for a brief stay with the in-laws. Emma has now finished her work and will at least be free to house hunt from Sedgley.

Perhaps it will turn out for the best. Parking would have a nightmare and my Mum says everything happens for a reason.

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Two weeks into the new job and it's going well. I'm in Solihull now where the office is based and though we've yet to 'go live' I feel very good about the change of career. Everyone in the office is very friendly and there are certainly worse places than Solihull to work (yes, I am looking at you Cwmbran).

I think I experienced my first ever 'Friday feeling' driving back to Cardiff the other night.

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Not as many blog entries as I might have hoped recently but internet access hasn't always been readily available and dealing with moving house and changing career has tied me up quite a lot. Writing wise I've not found a lot of time to work but am confident that my Red Planet entry will go in on time. I wish I'd been able to concentrate on it more as I believe it's a brilliant competition and a fantastic opportunity but at least I'll have a ready made excuse for not being the winner (if indeed I am not)!

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Some months ago I sent Rik's Records, my sitcom pilot, to the Scottish company The Comedy Unit (responsible for Still Game, Rab C Nesbitt & Chewin' The Fat amongst many other successful shows). I had encouraging feedback from the BBC about the script last year and sent it out again to garner further opinions as much as anything else.

Whilst I was in London I had word back from the nice folk in Scotland and was pleased to see that it pretty much chimed with what Writersroom had said. They thought the script 'started extremely well' but in the final analysis it wasn't really for them. Fair enough and still one to put on the Encouraging Feedback pile! At least no one has told me I have to stop writing RIGHT NOW, yet.

Although it's been a disappointing year on the writing front, having completed only one draft script in the year since I heard back from Writersroom, so much work has been done in changing my lifestyle and work patterns that I hope for greater success when we are settled in our new home.

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Whilst in London I was lucky enough to have the opportunity for a quick pint with a selection of writers thanks to a certain Mr Anopp. Although I only made it for the last twenty minutes or so due to my hopeless orienteering skills it was really motivating to talk to writers about writing and has encouraged me to make more use of future opportunities.

It may not surprise those who know me to hear that meeting a group of writers and presenting myself as a writer left me feeling like I might be exposed as 'not proper' at any moment. Instead I had a very good chat about Red Planet, John Wyndham and, strangely, tills and left feeling buoyed by the experience. I also got to meet the slightly terrifying Piers Beckley, whose blog is a wealth of tips and info for writers. Thanks again Jason, next time it's my round.

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I would love to witter on all night but I've got to go and wrap an awful lot of five-inch Doctor Who figures in newspaper (after sealing their little sonic screwdrivers and so on into an envelope, of course) so it's good night from me.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Room 133

Quick update as I'm wantonly hemorrhaging money via BTOpenworld's Wireless Broadband scheme (which apparently offer "great flexibility with low-cost vouchers" - unfortunately I could only find the £6 an hour ones!).


The week is going well. Yesterday was a bit hectic and got off to a bad start thanks to my nervous energy. Today the new job was starting to make some sense and I feel less like I'm about to be rumbled and led back to my old job due to some administration error.


The hotel is very pucker. Just enjoyed Mushroom Risotto for dinner - followed up by two for £2 cookies from M&S (Stem Ginger and Fruity Flapjack fact fans). Had a Mushroom & Cheese burger at The Marlborough Head last night - top pub incidentally - so stopped at the hotel this evening.


Absolutely no writey work done so far. My brain is absorbing so much new information it's busting at it's seems by the time evening comes. This is becoming a source of stress in itself.


Meeting with friends for a drink in Soho tomorrow night so that should offer an opportunity to recharge and let my hair down a little. Despite missing Emma terribly it is nice to be in London, even for dull work type reasons.

Right, must dash - I think I hear BT emptying my wallet out of the window.