Monday, September 29, 2008

The Big Picture

Oh do I feel like a doofus. What a gulla-bull...

I've been working on this script for months. And months (it's not been the best year grindstone wise). I've been forging away and checking back to my little breakdown of what happens when, looking up at my notice board to get the big picture.

'Big picture' my jacksie.

I was writing away just now and I thought, OK, I've got to the mid point. I reckon I can blast on to the end of act two tonight (since I'm in pretty good spirits). Then I thought, 62 pages - wow. That's a long way in for a mid point on a fifty minute drama.

So I had a look at some other people's scripts for similar length slots.

What do you know, they're all around sixty-two pages. That's nice but there's a lot of stuff I'll cut, this is a rough draft after all. Although, there's a lot of notes I've made about things I want to expand on or add in during the redraft, this is a rough draft after all.

Then it hit me like a train, in a moment of complete clarity, an epiphany you might say: my scene breakdown is for two episodes, not one.

Of course I doubted myself. I said 'You're just saying that so you can tell yourself it's finished.'

'No I'm not,' I replied defensively.

'Yes, you are,' I insisted, 'I'm you, and I know how fed up of this first draft you are.'

'Still no actually,' I answered cockily, 'look at the structure, it's three acts. You're breakdown is six acts.'

'Shit,' I said, 'it's finished and I've got episode two planned already.' Then I gave myself a high five.

I badly needed an epiphany on this one and there it is. I'm happy. The draft is finished. Now I can legitimately go back and tidy it and stick bits in, draw stuff out and generally beat it into shape (which I was fighting the urge to do already), and I've got episode two ready to draft if I like what shape it turns out to be.

That's a nice big bucket of awesome.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Le Morte d'Arthur

iPlayered Merlin last night, out of curiosity.

There's a lot to like, some nice performances from the glut of young actors that have been jammed into it. It's a great cast altogether. The music seemed a bit sub-John Williams to me but was effective none the less. The locations and sets were nice but seemed very clean for the dark ages, much like the characters themselves - all young, clean and beautiful, not so much of the Dark Ages-chic.

The relationship between Arthur and Merlin was especially engaging, the two actors well conveyed a
n instant and amusing rivalry which was a high point of the episode for me. The other highlight was the lovely sequence where Eve Myles made everyone fall asleep with her song before trying to stick it to Arthur.

It's always hard to judge a first episode, there is such a lot to establish in fifty minutes when setting up a returning drama, and this was more successful than many (stand up Bonekickers!); so it's probably best to watch another episode or two before getting medieval on Merlin's arse.

The issue I have on a personal level is this; if you're going to make a series about a kingdom where magic is banned and a powerful young wizard has to hide his powers while finding his destiny entwined with a despised rival why bother forcing Arthurian legends into the story for no good reason? Better surely to call it the Kingdom
of Zog and have a clear conscience. If anyone tells you you're ripping off King Arthur just ask them if they've seen Star Wars, or read Lord of the Rings, or... well, you get the idea I'm sure.

Of course, this could all just be because I still hope to see Bernard Cornwell's Warlord Chronicles given the full BBC drama department treatment. Guess we can rule that out for another decade. Mind you, it'll give me time to work up a treatment...

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Went to the Birmingham Rep to check out Simon Stephens Pornography last night. It's a play made up of a series of monologues which look at the events of July 2005 between London being selected for the Olympic games 2012 and the bombings of July 7th.

Although first produced over a year ago the play has never been performed in the UK before. Seems no one wanted to touch it as it was perceived as being so controversial. The play also gives the director a little more of a clean slate than they might be used to as the dialogue is intended to be mixed around and intercut however the company wish.

This production has been raved about in the press and the cast were nominated for a best Ensemble award in The Stage Edinburgh Festival awards; of a fantastic cast Frances Ashman and Sheila Reid stood out in particular. The staging of the production was imaginative and arresting whilst utilising the simplest of sets and minimal effects.

A very thought provoking piece, it's only a shame that it has taken so long to be staged in the country it has most resonance with. It is to be hoped a London run will be imminent, although there are sadly no plans to perform this production there at present.


Birmingham Rep
Guardian interview with Simon Stephens

Telegraph interview with Simon St

Monday, September 15, 2008

These are their stories...

Watched Casualty for the first time in about fifteen years yesterday. Holby City has crept into my weekly schedule so it's only natural that the mother show would get a look in. Wow, it's changed a bit.

I listened to an extraordinary Mark Catley Radio Four play last year, called Flutterby, and was interested to see what sort of influence he was having on the BBC's favourite hospital drama now he's lead writer. Flutterby was about a council estate that was riddled with crime and drugs, the weekends Casualty opening salvo featured antisocial behaviour
and a riot on a council estate, in addition to the customary gruesome accidents. Looks like social realism is high on Catley's agenda, as well as drama and explosive set pieces.

It was exciting, well paced and gritty. Not just a little gritty, very gritty. Nasty even. Like the twisted twin of Casualty murdered the original in it's bed and took it's place. By the second episode it felt like all bets were off on who might live or die, or just what might happen next. Sterling stuff.

It wasn't all good, the rivalry between Doctor Trueman and the cheeky paramedic Jeff was a little overdone; and the hospital did seem pretty quiet for a casualty ward down the road from a riot. Filmmakers following medical staff has been done more effectively before but despite this I'll certainly be taking a look at next weeks, so surely it's done it's job.

Read an interview with Mark Catley here.

Catch the weekends Casualty dosage here on iPlayer for the next six days or so.


I have become addicted to Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Every night I have to record it on the Hallmark channel. I've watched about fifteen episodes in two weeks - this from someone who was only recently complaining about not having time to watch television.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit was the first spin off from the (incredibly) successful and long running US show Law & Order but where the parent show follows any crime from the investigation through to the courtroom SVU's unique selling point is that the department deal exclusively with crimes of a sexual nature. Rape, kidnap and paedophilia are their daily grind.

To stop me gibberring mindlessly about it being great I'll present the case for in the form of bullet points, consider these the reasons why you should be watching it - if you don't already.

  • The story telling is fast. SVU will tell a complex tale leaving you stunned, exhausted or both in 41 minutes. This is lean programme making.
  • The cast. Mariska Hargitay and Chris Meloni manage to get under the skins of their characters, you'll understand why what they do is so important to them and the lengths they'll go to for the victims they encounter.
  • SVU is not into happy endings or neat conclusions. These stories are bleak and disturbing and the conclusion will often leave you more contemplative than satisfied. As one of the characters says; 'Even when we win, we don't.'
  • There's no gloss. If you're a bit queasy from all those high-in-style CSI variants you've been watching then SVU is for you. The opening credits look like something from 1982 and they don't make much use of swishy camera work. It's all about the story.
Catch SVU on Channel 5 on Tuesdays (around 2300hrs), or every week night on Hallmark at 2200hrs.

Keep an eye out for the new L&O spin off,
Law & Order: UK being made by Kudos at the moment. Chris Chibnall and James Moran are among the writers working on it and it's assembling a pretty impressive cast. If it has half of the pace and credibility of the franchise it will blow the freaking socks off of most other British crime series.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Like Turning On a Tap...

I have had an excellent few days. Nearly done on the first draft of my current project, working on a treatment for a Brand New Thing (which could become a Red Planet Entry - even though I'd decided not to enter this year), another treatment taking shape in my mindtank and enough momentum to finally finish Hitman and a short I started ages ago (just after watching The Arnopp's inspiring Look At Me). I just want to clear the decks and work on the new stuff. In fact that's all I've wanted for about six months.

I'm feeling damn good about writing today. Which is nice. I've just spent an hour storylining but now I have to shower and clean the house as we have a friend visiting tonight.

It's funny, in my last post I said
"Every day that I don't work is a tiny kick in the teeth to me"
and that was a very accurate description of how I often feel. The contrast with my mood now is incredible. I haven't cured cancer or written a masterpiece, all I did was do a couple of hours work every day and I feel like a million bucks. God bless writing, the cheapest drug in the world.

Happy times and places!