Monday, December 31, 2007

Things writers do when they're supposed to be doing a Shaun the Sheep episode.

Lego don't really do packs of just guns. Fortunately, I found somewhere to get them online.

lego battle

I'm probably going to have to give up this sort of thing fairly soon.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Instructions? Pah! PAH! I say

One excellent present I had this year was a grow-your-own-mushrooms kit, (not those kind of mushrooms) from my mum, consisting of a styrofoam tub and two bags of dark, composty-looking stuff.

Carefully, I follow the instructions.

1) Remove cardboard packaging.

Carefully I remove the cardboard packaging, tear it into strips and put the strips in the compost bin. 2008 is the year where Patroclus and I become custodians of the earth, living in harmony with its ways so that when the inevitable peak oil collapse comes, we can make a living from tilling the soil and harvesting the bounties of nature. The current plan is for the divine Miss P to open a cake stall at the Farmer's Market on Tuesday (which will be re-named Bartertown), while I stand around with a crossbow, glowering.

Anyway, I put the cardboard strips in the compost bin, which is fine, because cardboard is okay to put in a compost bin, as long as you don't put too much in, which I haven't.

2) Replace the cardboard packaging, which will now act as a lid.


Thursday, December 27, 2007

Are you called Ian? Did you write for Smack the Pony?

And maybe some stuff for Working Title? And did you leave your palm pilot thing in a bar somewhere over the festive period?

If so, I know who has it. So, erm, say something in the comments (no liars or timewasters please).

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


This only really makes sense if you've played Portal. But if you have, 'tis brilliant.

Excellent article about The Wire from the The New Yorker.

Finally got round to installing the full version of Comic Life, and had the first page up and running within about ten minutes. I don't think Scott McCloud has anything to worry about just yet...

father christmas versus the ice demon

Friday, December 21, 2007

The new BBC Oliver Twist

Cor, that was great! Only seen the first episode so far, and I should declare an interest, as the producer (Sarah Brown) is the exec with whom I've been developing my Teen Drama thing, but I was very impressed: Sarah Phelps' script was pleasingly shorn of yer usual (admitedly authentic) Dickensian whimsey/sentimentality, whilst subtler things like the lighting and soundtrack, two elements that the BBC either do really well (some episodes of Doctor Who) or get horrribly wrong (most other episodes of Doctor Who) were spot on.

And it's lovely seeing Julian Rhind-Tutt being evil. I always knew he had it in him.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

He doesn’t miss a trick or ever lose a beat

Despite one of my first writing breaks being on 'Bob The Builder', I've been a bit off writing for children's animation of late, mainly because animation has a slightly different contract setup to other forms of scriptwriting, which usually involves what's known as a 'buyout'. This means once you're brought into to write an episode for an established series, you get paid once for your script, and that's it. No residuals, no rights over any characters you may have created, no extra cash when your episode gets turned into a book, or used as a part of a christmas annual. All of which may sound a bit petty and money-grabbing, but, well, that's what writers are, usually.

Added to which, there often comes a point in a writer's career when he or she has deftly turned sufficient producer-based sexual encounters to their advantage to the point where they're starting to get their own projects off the ground. At which point they get all hoity, and working on already-established shows feels rather too much like playing in another kid's toybox. This is an unrealistic attitude, which has to be adjusted considerably when winter really sets in, and the writer's many illegitimate offspring are beginning to clamour for school fees and bail money, but sometimes it's good to be ambitious.

But then you get asked to pitch story concepts for Shaun the Sheep. And all that goes out the window and you think 'wheeeeeeeeeeeeee', because Shaun the Sheep is brilliant.

Any-old-way, one of the concepts I sent Aardman back in October has been approved, and I now have to turn in the first draft by January 10th. I'm going to try and cover the process from now on in the blog (without giving away any plot details, obviously), mainly because the whole process of outlines and script drafts and rewrites can be completely bewildering to starting writers (hello people from the Falmouth Professional Writing/Digital Animation Course), and it might be nice to try and demystify it a bit.

Thus far then (and this gives you some idea of how slowly these things move):

Mid-August: asked for ideas. I send in five paragraph-long concepts (this is pretty much how Bob used to work). No money at this stage by the way.

Mid-October: Aardman get back to me - they like one of the ideas (and they received seven hundred in total, so I was quite jammy there), but need me to work it up into a full one-page outline, to give them some idea how it would actually work. There isn't the budget for vast new sets or enormous props, although they could make the new human character that would appear in my script.

The outline then needs to go off to the BBC to make sure it doesn't include anything deeply unsuitable, or depict things that can't be depicted on kids telly. For example, a Bob episode I wrote where various animals run across slow-setting cement had to be changed to various animals threatening to run across slow-setting cement, presumably in case children watching decided to run into building sites and hurl themselves into the foundations. Which I will grudgingly admit is probably fair enough.

End-October: I send off the one-page outline.

18th December: finally hear back from Aardman - the outline has been okayed, a suggested deadline for first script of 10th Jan is set, and I am invited to a Writer's Day at Ardman shortly after. I am also to be sent some development notes (which hopefully include stuff about layout/formatting: Shaun episodes don't have any dialogue in them, so I'm interested to see how you actually set about writing the buggers. Contracts are also sent off to agent, and at some point, amounts of money are going to be mentioned. Aardman carefully lay the groundwork for this by mentioning at every opportunity that the budget for the second series is less than for the first. I'm not suggesting this is made up, by the way, standard procedure for any broadcaster after commissioning a second series is to say 'well done, now make another, and here's less money than before'. The reasons for this will remain forever a mystery.

UPDATE: well okay, BBC children's department have had their budgets cut by ten per cent, but this happens all the time anyway.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


I seem to have accidentally ended up agreeing to judge a Falmouth-based live comedy sketch competition. If anyone would like to enter, competition details are here. Entries seem open to anyone, although it's all being performed in Falmouth, so if you actually want to see your precious words being read out by other people, you'll really need to be based down here where the real people are.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Not quite sure about the tone of this one

Even before my screenplay for Hero Trip first burst upon the film-making world like a flaming papery meteor, I had always known that the world of telly was simply too small to contain my ambitions, my dreams, my vision.

It's hard to quantify just how much bigger and more important film is than television, unless you work out exactly how many times the average dur-box (as those of us unfortunate to have been shackled to the industry for long enough must call it) fits into the average cinema screen, in which case film is approximately three hundred and umpty two times better than television**, a fact easily backed up by scientists saying things like 'Well it just is'. And most television is just, what, people striding about solving crimes? Pah. See also 'Cuh.

Some may think it unfortunate that such a throbbingly vital piece of word-art (is there a screen truly big enough to contain such majesty?) was sent out to The Americanian States just in time for the Writers Guild of Americania to go all strikey, but not I. In fact I can now reveal that the WGA asked me specifically to release the beast as such a crucial time - knowing that to have such a work left stranded and voidy by the Networks' refusal to simply 'stop being silly' would leave them with little choice but to conclude the strike as amicably and quickly as possible. Rumours that the networks caved the second HT landed on their desks, and that fake negotiations are continuing only to let that stupid Caveman sitcom just blimmin' die already are, I can also reveal, totally true.

In the meantime however, the film rewrite offers are coming in, only confirming my suspicions that the television big enough to contain me has simply never been built. I will remain fond of that part of my past, of course I will, and I must be careful not to openly snub my less fortunate colleague who remain shackled to the shit-cube, but at the end of the day, I think we all know I was destined for greater things.

I phone a film producer, just like that, wondering briefly if I should have a separate phone for my new film producer chums, something that would twinkle prettily on the red carpet and stand its own when I'm hanging out with Olly Kurosawa and Nev Bergman and that other one. Film Producer mentions the amount of money he has available in his budget for a rewrite. It is less than half the amount I received the previous week for a script polish on a televison pilot about a team of people who stride about solving crimes.

I've always been passionate about television.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Matt's updated the Toy-Fu site, which now has the entire epic saga. And my GOD it's epic. Hurrah for Matt.

BT are now arguing over which of their departments is responsible for mending the cock-up created by their earlier bunch of engineers, with the end result of me and Patch living in an eerie internet-less world (apart from the end of the day when we have to check in with internet cafes ooh got to go.

UPDATE: OMG we totally have the internet back. A very serious man came round in a van and some fiddly tools, and sorted it out for the price of only two cups of tea.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Bloody bloody hell.

After two glorious days having broadband, British Telecom, in an attempt to install a second line, cut through the first. So back to no internet, or phone. Two people assured Patroclus it would be sorted out by 5pm Monday. It wasn't, obviously, so we are sitting in a coffee shop trying to catch up on everything all at once.

Every single element of this move, from telecom, to gas, to electricity, to banks, to letting agencies, has in some way Fucked Up. I'm becoming increasingly concerned that the next thing to play up will be gravity itself.

On the plus side, the cat is greatly enjoying having access to a garden, although typically, she likes to pop back inside to use the litter tray. I'm going to have to go through the diagrams with her again.

Anyway, if anyone's emailed me recently and had no reply, this is why.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

It's actually very nice.

Patroclus and I have finally moved into the new house (rented) in Falmouth. The house is in a small cul de sac opposite my old school. When I went to the school, the cul de sac was an open patch of land. The houses (all self-builds) are now all nicely weathered with lichen on the roofs. Consequently I feel a bit old.

The owners of the house, a nice policeman and his family, have moved to Australia. Before they left, the nice policeman gave a bit of advice on the slightly 'characterful' electrics of the house.

NICE POLICEMAN: ... oh, and the light over the shower goes off sometimes, but you can just reach up and fiddle with it and it'll come on again, it'll be fine.

I make a mental note NEVER TO DO THAT EVER. Fortunately, the house backs onto Falmouth's fire station.

On moving in, one of the first things I did, like a fool, was to switch on the front room lights. They immediately fused, although fortunately I knew where the fuse box was, hurrah.

Later, half the lights in the kitchen (there's about twelve of them set into the ceiling) go out. And the lights in the utility room/demi-garage spark a bit, then go out as well.

I call a nice electrician. He sorts out the various lights, and while he's there, confirms that the reason the second set of sockets in Patroclus's study don't work is because they're not actually wired up to anything. In fact, it would have been a bit odd if they had worked.

He leaves his card.

Thirty minutes later, I turn on the lights in the front room. The house plunges into darkness once more.

On the plus side, there's two smoke alarms. I will be buying new batteries for both of them tomorrow. And checking them on an hourly basis. I think perhaps I will take some flapjacks round to the firepeople as well, just to keep in with them.

Friday, November 30, 2007

From a recent comedy forum thread entitled: "Re: Re-title books for our moron children"

My favourites:

John Wyndham's "Pot Plants Go Apeshit"

Tom Wolfe's "Oh, No! I've Run Over A Poor!"

Philip Roth's "Grandad's Sexy Adventure (several volumes)"

Herman Melville's "I'm a Gonna Git That Whale"


Charles Darwin's "Up Yours Bible"

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Anonymous has asked (on the Will Producers Turn To UK Writers post:

I'm wondering why your assumedly British project 'Hero Trip' has had to be put on hold? What's the US strike connection?

Well Hero Trip is technically a British project, and more so after the UK Film Council got involved in the funding, but it's set in the States, is deliberately American in flavour (I decided that if a big cigar chewing US producer read it and even suspected it had been written by a British writer, I would have failed) and is sufficiently big budget that it would need US involvement were it ever to get off the ground.

The script has been passed along to all the big UK producers, and has got a positive response from most of them (offers of meetings, rewrite work and so on), which has been gratifying and lovely, but it's just too big a project for a British company to take on all on their own, which is as I suspected. It was worth taking the longer route though, partly because the Film Council are keen on getting as much British involvement as possible, because that's their remit, but also because if it were to be placed with a british producer I would have more involvement with the project. If Hero Trip goes to an American studio, I can probably wave goodbye to it at a fairly early stage

However, one of the British producers was kind enough to pass the script along to their big parent company in the States, jump-starting Phase Two of the operation. This company make films that cost quite large sums of money, and don't necessarily have the vapours when reading scripts that have descriptions like 'EXT. EDGE OF SPACE - EARLY MORNING', which is handy.

Unfortunately, the script was passed along on the Friday afternoon, the WGA strike starting on the Monday. As I stated in the original post, I'm not a member of the WGA, so technically there should be no barrier to the script going further. However, I am in complete agreement with the issues the WGA are striking over, so witholding my script is one way of giving them my support, paltry and limited though it may be. In fact they'll probably never know about it, but I will, and that's the important thing.

There's also the issue that eventually, were I to start working in the States, I'd need to join the WGA, something I couldn't do with a clear conscience had I tried to profit from the the strike by sneaking my own work in under the wire. Basically, I would Like To Work Again.

It's in my own interests in another way as well: if the WGA get a better deal, and Hero Trip were then to go through, I could then benefit from whatever online deal they've negotiated. Note that I'm talking with a couple of people about working on two specifically UK-based film projects at the moment though - that's not a problem, as US writers wouldn't be involved anyway.

Also, I know of at least one US writer who's chosen to postpone a British-based writing project for the duration of the strike, so it's working both ways.

Did that make sense? Either way, Marc Andreessen has written an extremely interesting article about the film and television industry shifting over to multiple companies specialising in creator-owned content along the lines of the computer industry, which is well worth a read.

Rebuilding Hollywood in Silicon Valley's image

Monday, November 26, 2007

Throwing Eggs: a Guide for Youths

There comes a time in the life of every Youth (in boy Youths usually around the ages of thirteen or fourteen), when they become seized by the desire to purchase a carton of eggs of an evening, hang around in groups of two at the entrance to Lambs Lane in Falmouth, and randomly hurl said yolky missiles at innocent passersby on the other side of the road.

Accompanying your ovum-based bombardment with random random shouts of 'Twat' are expected, although if your partner is possessed by a fit of extremely high-pitched and rather girlish giggles, this may lessen the impact of your attacks a little.

And if, when the targets of your double-yokers (a highly-regarded screenwriter, his GF and his Bezzie Mate) turn round to see what on earth is going on, having heard an egg hit the ground a few feet behind them, take care not to panic and attempt to leg it round the corner at a speed unsuitable to a sharp turn, leading to both of you falling over on the pavement onto your remaining eggs and badly skinning your hands.

This will lead to hysterics on the part of the screenwriter, who is then allowed to make the observation: 'Hahahahhaha you Twats'. You are then both allowed to get to your feet, attempt to ignore the fact you have the rest of your eggs dripping down your front and run home. Calling 'Twat' over your shoulder again as you run, however, is bad form, and will be rebounded onto you instantly, pinch punch no returns.

You Twats.

Broadband due next Wednesday, apparently.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Amazing Song Gets Equally Amazing Video

'Revival' by Soulsavers

In other news: I hate British Telecom.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Moving House

Currently between homes and broadbands. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A blog that's not about Lego, or the writers' strike, or indie music or anything like that at all.

I know. I'm as shocked as you are.

Baghdad Burning

Bell drops a clanger

Hmm, the usually-quite-good Emily Bell appears to have gone slightly awry with this article on 'Why Striking Writers Are Wrong To Think They Should Get Paid More.' M'colleague James Moran explains why in detail here.

However, one of the regular problems with the coverage of this strike seems to be some journalists thinking 'well I don't get paid again for an article when it appears online, why should they?', or as Bell puts it:

"...if I'm paid for a piece in print then how about a bit more for it popping up on an interweb site?"

Well yes. Maybe journalists should get paid again for their work reappearing on the 'interweb'. But just because journalists don't, that doesn't mean that creative writers shouldn't.

But more worrying is this statement:

"...the Writers' Guild of America... insists that screenwriters should be paid more money to cover reformatting rights across digital platforms other than broadcast TV."

Er, no they don't. It's nothing to do with 'reformatting', it's about networks trying to wriggle out of agreements to pay writers residuals (royalties) by claiming that online originals or repeats aren't eligible because they're 'promotional', then charging advertisers considerable sums to hawk their wares on the front of these 'promotional' episodes.

Arguably, the strike isn't even about 'more money', it's about writers simply trying not to let the networks get away with not paying what they already owe, using the excuse that 'it's too early to say how well the internet is going to pan out' whilst simultaneously pushing the internet as a billion-dollar revenue stream to investors (see video in previous post). If, for argument's sake, twenty per cent of the ratings of any one show are going to migrate to the internet, then writers need to fight to make sure that proportion of their residuals aren't going to be taken away from networks on the basis of a lie. And that lie, again, just to make it clear, is the network's claims that internet-available episodes of televison don't have to pay residuals due to their counting as 'promotional', and then turning round and selling advertising space on these already-'promotional' episodes to advertisers.

To quote from Josh Friedman's blog:

AMPTP: Wow, Ms. Prostitute. That was some great sex we just had.
PROSTITUTE: Thanks, AMPTP John. That'll be three hundred dollars.
AMPTP: You're kidding. I'm not paying you.
AMPTP: I paid you three hundred dollars for sex last week. I consider this promotional.

... which I think explains the situation rather well.

Journalists aren't obliged to agree with the writers' arguments on the basis of some quill-based solidarity. But it would be nice if they checked the facts a bit more thoroughly.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

More strike stuff

For anyone who's trying to work out what the US writers' strike is all about, John August (writer of Go, Charlie's Angels, Big Fish and currently the Shazam movie), has detailed the points in the post: why writers get residuals.

Other useful (or just funny) strike-related blogs:

Nikki Finke
United Hollywood
Josh Friedman

One interesting thing about this strike as opposed to 1988's is that lines of communication are now directly open between the writers and the public via the very medium that's sparked the whole thing off in the first place: the internet.

Whereas the traditional media, especially in LA, is owned by the same people trying to stiff the writers, the internet has opened all sorts of channels for the writers to get their arguments across, from blogs like August's, to YouTube videos like this 'un:

A lot of US writers are wondering why they should waste time trying to explain to the public why the strike is happening, when the public don't have a direct say in the result. Which is true, but if there's one thing big companies don't like, it's a sense that the public are turning against them. And shows that have worked hard to communicate with fans via forums and blogs (shows like Battlestar Galactica, The American Office, and Lost) are reaping rewards in unswerving fan support, something that could come in incredibly useful further down the line.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Sorry again

(the previous post was getting a bit unwieldy, so I thought I'd split it into two)

Hello and thanks to everyone who turned to my 'TV to Screen' talk today and for asking interesting questions and not minding me wibbling on all over the shop. And swearing a bit. And pulling what can only be described as a 'mong face' at one point, I apologise again for that. And for just using the phrase 'mong face'. And those bands I recommended at the very end bit, for the benefit of everyone else, were 'The National', 'Vampire Weekend' and I think 'Annuals'. Put their names into Hype Machine (linky down to the right), you will not be disappointed.

And hello to Faye and Joe, who used me as interviewing practice, you were both very gentle, I barely felt a thing. Will, I shall doubtless catch up with you the week after next.

"Will producers turn to U.K. writers?"

Variety seems to be suggesting that UK writers are being considered to fill the gaps caused by the WGA writers' strike.

One British agent has been quoted as saying "Maybe English writers haven't quite got hold of how important this is in Los Angeles. I don't know if anyone here has quite woken up to what it all means."

Really? Because I've got two projects that have been put on hold (Hero Trip is one of them) because of the strike despite me not being a member of the WGA (or indeed any union), and I'm more than happy for this to be the case, as indeed are all the writers I know.

Mostly out of solidarity to our colonial cousins, one of whom is picketing Fox as I write (hi Adam), and because the whole internet thing does need sorting out, but also because one day, when it's all blown over, we'd quite like to, you know, set foot in LA without being murderised and dumped in the Tar Pits. It's one of those rare occasions as a writer where principle and self-interest meet. And then smoosh their faces together and do saucy things with their tongues.

And if Joss Whedon did the murderizin', I would of course consider it a great and marvellous honour.

UPDATE: "It could be an extraordinary opportunity for British writers to get a shot at big studio projects that they otherwise would never get a shot at," confided one U.K.-based studio exec."

Who the fuck talks like that? Sorry, who 'confides' like that? I tried to comment on the article, to make it clear I don't know a single writer who'd even consider writing for the US while the strike is on, but it's not letting me. Even Variety's web technology IS IN THE PAY OF THE EVIL PRODUCER OVERLORDS it would appear. Unlike me for a while.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Ooh, they're showing the 'Helvetica' movie.

I'll be talking at the Cornwall Film Festival on Friday if anyone's around.

My bit's on the Friday, 'From TV to Film', 1.30 to 3.00 at Tremough Cinema (the Penryn campus), where apparently I will be talking about "recent developments in team writing, and how he made the transition from TV to Screen. His first screenplay, Hero Trip, has been developed with funding from the UK Film Council. James talks about how he made it happen".

How did I make it happen? Hopefully I'll remember before Friday.

Lots of other fun and useful stuff, including some animation workshops. Falmouth School of Art now has a three year digital animation course, which is quite exciting. The idea of a Cornwall-based animation studio (something I've fantasized about for years, particularly if it could be built over the ashes of the electronics factory that took two years of my life) is becoming a not-entirely-unworkeable idea.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Some blog links

I thought I'd put a link up to the brilliant Lucy Pepper's blog ages, but I hadn't apparently. So I have amended that.

Some gaming blogs:


and the excellently-titled:

Rock, Paper, Shotgun

A couple of good film industry gossip type blogs that are well worth keeping an eye on if your idea of an 'OMG celebrity' is Arrested Development producer Brian Grazer (and mine is), and you want to catch up on all the WAG WGA* strike stuff on an hour by hour basis (and I do, it's like Battlestar Galactica, and the producers are Cylons, which means they're all dressed like seventies porn stars and are very hard to kill, I'm meeting one later today so I can check this for myself).

deadline hollywood

And a reminder that Comfort Music is still throwing up some lovely little musical gems every now and then. Particularly recommend the Viva Voce if you've never tried it before sir or madam.

* D'oh

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Good work that trombonist

Well, all of them really, I suppose they were just following orders.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Has series 2 of Heroes picked up yet? I gave up after the second episode.

Over at the increasingly-brilliant Television Without Pity site, DC Comics editor Scott Nybakken talks about the increasing cross-pollenization between writing for comics and television, and the increasing trend for graphic novels to become thinly-disguised movie pitches, a la 30 Days Of Night.

Don't think I could handly a We3 movie though, what with the graphic novel making me blub uncontrollably.


Saturday, October 27, 2007

Mild Portal Spoilers within.

The top three in the computer games shop just down the road:

1: An art deco-themed playable critique of Ayn Rand-style Objectivism.

2: An incredibly odd puzzle game that requires you to bend 3D space with a special gun, whilst a computer-generated voice takes the piss and (spoiler) eventually rewards you by singing an inexplicably moving song.

3: A Japanese roleplaying adventure set entirely within a dreamworld generated by Frédéric Chopin in the last few hours before he died of tuberculosis.

I was going to end this post with a snarky comparison that on prime time tonight, BBC are showing 'Robin Hood', which has apparently got a second series, and a repeat of The Vicar Of Dibley. Then I remembered that 1) I applied to write an episode of RH and got turned down, so any pleasure I'm taking in it turning out to be a big load of old plop can only enlittle my soul, and 2) I really like that episode of Dibley where Alice gets married and wants representations of all the Doctor Whos on her wedding dress, so I won't.

I will say though, that coming up with ideas for computer games is starting to look like the most fun it's possible to have.



Eternal Sonata

Thursday, October 25, 2007

It wasn't even a D20.

I'm on the train back up to London, queueing at the buffet car. Taking out my wallet, I hear a vague rattling sound, but ignore it.

Seconds later:

YOUTH: Someone's dropped a dice!

ME: Oh, that's me.

He hands it back, and as thanks, I decide not to point out that it's a 'die' singular, not a 'dice', that's just stupid.

YOUTH: (suspicious) That's a weird thing to have in your pocket.

Now I happen to believe the contents of an English gentleman's pockets are his own business, and I don't much like the tone of his voice, but fair's fair, he did hand back my die.

ME: We've set up a high stakes gambling section in the first class bit.


ME: Yes, it's all getting rather tense, so I've popped out for tea.


Quite long pause. I realise this has backfired rather.

ME: Um, sorry, no, that was a joke. I'm just into roleplaying game stuff but most of my stuff's in Cornwall. I thought I'd bring some dice up with me this time.


ME: I suppose it could have been more embarrassing. It could have been a goblin.

He stares at me. I have quite literally blown his mind.

I take my coffee and head back to my seat. The youth's eyes bore into my back the whole way.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Signs of the times

I seem to have found a place, with a conservatory (!) and a landlord who doesn't mind cats, hurrah, although obviously it could all go horribly wrong yet.

My mum very kindly offered to drive me to the letting agents' office, for which I had detailed phone instructions. Female Parental Unit, however, said she knew the way already.

Thirty minutes later, having driven down a long leafy road that turned into a leafy path, skeletal twiggy fingers scraping down the windscreen whilst ravens circled overhead, with their special eye-gouging beaks on:

MUM: (puzzled) Well this isn't where Google Maps said it was.

ME: ...

Monday, October 22, 2007

Just in case...

If anyone knows of a 2 or 3 bedroom rented property going in Falmouth that I can look at between now and Weds evening, and will take a cat, could they please let me know?

Otherwise, as you were.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Part of the reason the blog's been a tad moribund of late is because I've been reworking my same three projects for the last six months, which isn't very exciting to write about and leads to me using phrases like 'a tad moribund of late', fuck's sake, kill me now.

However I am starting to get some very early 'so sketchy as to be almost not there at all' offers of film rewrites off the back of Hero Trip, while people decide whether or not to, you know, actually buy it, which is potentially quite exciting, but not quite as exciting as it sounds. In fact, film rewrites are a bit like having a proper job, which obviously gives me the heebie-jeebies.

Comedy writers are often in demand to 'punch up', or 'polish' comedy screenplays that aren't quite working. Some producers have a touching faith that if enough comedy writers pass their script through their grubby little laptops, comedy will thus accrue, like lichen on a spanish castle wall. In fact, I have it on good authority that some producers have been known to slide a particularly weak screenplay across a desk to a bigger producer with more money and say 'yeah, we're going to get a couple of Green Wing writers on this bitch, funny it right up, make it all surreal and shit'. Which is sweet.

Bear in mind I'm talking about the UK film industry at this point, I don't think Tom Stoppard (who has done polishes for the Star Wars prequels, The Bourne Ultimatum, and, I dunno, bloody Transformers probably)* has much to worry about me entering the field.

Also, there are different degrees of rewrites: from a quick punchup, to a more thorough polish, to a comprehensive rewrite. The lines between these different level of 'mucking about with someone else's script'ness are fuzzy, and demarked only by tens of thousands of pounds. Actually talking about the exact level of rewritiness and money involved is considered bad form, and is what agents are for. They have 'Bad Form' stamped through them like a stick of rock, and their loyal thuggery will reward you well.

Some screenplays totter from desk to desk, reeling like an bullet-riddled extra in a Napoleonic epic, determined to make the most of their one big chance and heading inexorably for a fall off the nearest Spanish castle wall (I'm currently in a spanish castle, although I don't want to go on about it). The problem is, some jokes aren't going to save them. Probably, three expensive doctors and an oxygen tent wouldn't save them. The only honourable thing to do in such a situation is to turn it down, then murder everyone involved with the the project quietly, with pillows. Unless you're a writer, in which case you bung some jokes in and try and keep your name off it. If you're the fourth writer along, this probably won't be a problem anyway. In fact they may even apologise profusely and hand you some extra cash to make up for not having your name on it, in which case you can giggle quietly all the way to the bank.

This is because a worryingly large proportion of british screenplays come about thusly:

1. I am a man with too much money.
2. I have an idea for a film!
3. My brother in law once wrote an amusing article for the Chiswick Rotary Club christmas newsletter, therefore I will let him write the script.
4. Away we go.

In fact, the problem with most scripts isn't a lack of well-crafted one-liners. Well, it's not the main problem, the main problem is with structure. If the third act lacks something, it's probably because there's a huge gaping flaw in the first act. And if supposedly funny scenes aren't, it's probably because the script is just plain wonky to begin with, and plastering over the gaps with nob gags will only get you so far. You're out of the realms of the punch-up, past the polish and into a proper rewrite - you need to wrestle the script to the ground, beat it with a wrench, pull out all the wires (is it a robot now? what's going on?) and stick it all back together again in a whole new way. Which isn't necessarily what you've been paid to do.

And comedy's a strange thing anyway. The biggest script I've given to polish thus far (and by 'biggest' I mean 'only') turned out to be... unpolisheable. Not because it was a turd. It definitely wasn't - it was tightly-plotted, with great characters and some funny lines. But I'd seen the writer's previous films (although the name wasn't familar, I guessed his previous work about three pages in, instantly confirmed by and every one had been great - and had come into life through that weird synergy between actor and material that you simply can't from just reading off the page. What the script needed was great directors, and great actors. Maybe a more experienced writer than myself could have looked at it and said 'aha, let's put in some amusing business with a waiter and a ball of string just here and the whole thing will be a sure-fire, cast-iron, no investor in the world will turn this down, solid gold hit. But I think Tom Stoppard probably cost too much.

Actually, I never did ask how much the job would have paid.

Arse. Maybe I'll call them back.

* Actually Transformers is a gold-mine for proper geeky rewrite spotters such as myself, undulating (obscure Gossip Girl joke there) wildly between tone and mood every three and half minutes. I blimmin' loved it, don't get me wrong, but yee-haw does it undulate. Ten points for anyone who spotted the Lou Reed joke.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


Hotmail doesn't appear to be working on my mac at all at the moment, which is annoying, but on the plus side, I am writing this from a four poster bed* in a hotel in Spain that is actually a castle/walled fortress, and earlier tonight I had a meal where someone brought the plate with a big silver cover with a handle on it, that they whipped away so I could eat, while a string quartet played outside.

So it's swings and roundabouts really.

* well, techically it's an eight poster bed, as Patch and I had to push together two single four posters I DON'T KNOW HOW I'M EXPECTED TO LIVE LIKE THIS IT'S LIKE THE THIRD WORLD.

UPDATE: aha, the problem appeared to be with Safari, Apple's built-in browser, which I've been getting annoyed with for ages now, as it appears to be some kind of memory sink. Have switched to Opera now (tried Firefox, but it didn't want to cooperate), which seems to work rather well.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Best computer game review ever.

'Not that, but something like that'

I hadn't posted this video before, as it's been around the internet a bit already. Then my literary agent (I'm doing another big rewrite on my children's book) sent me a link, and I still didn't put it up, and then last night I got to tell David Mitchell about it at a thing (he was very pleased, as the show had gone out over a year ago, and it was nice to think of small bits of it taking on a life of their own and whizzing around the internet) so I'm posting it now.

That's the 'Robert Webb working with' David Mitchell, not the other one who gets prizes for books by the way. I wouldn't talk to the other one about YouTube videos. He's in Japan, it would cost loads, and I don't know him. Also, he was a bit rude to my friend PP once.

I was a 'huzzah for writers' party thrown by Hartswood Productions, run by The Family Vertue, a name you will know well if you have watched the credits for a number of comedy shows in the last, ooh, forty years? It really is forty years as well (sorry B), just looked it up, crikey. And to show just how crazy, out of the loop and generally unusual the concept of a 'huzzah for writers' (they didn't call it that, but that's what it was) thing was, I should say in all honesty that when the brightly coloured invite turned up depicting a glass of wine, a time and a place, my first thought was 'It's a trap!'.

It wasn't a trap though, and it's a further sign of Hartswood's general good-heartedness and determination to actually look out for future twinkling stars of the writosphere (eurgh sorry) that amongst the 'about to do films with S. Spielberg and P. Jackson' writers and quite well known Scottish sketch show from the Eighties writers, and David Mitchell style 'performers and' writers were plenty of people who'd just started out and still had day jobs and had been given their first ever paying gig by Hartswood, which is lovely, and should be mentioned.

In case your sick of the name-dropping and unstoppable glamour of my life, I should add that a) tough titties beyatch, that's just how I roll, and b) the script I'd written for Hartswood was a project that can now be placed in the folder marked 'Didn't quite work out'.

I'm going to talk about that now.

UPDATE: no I'm not.

I haven't been oppressed by The Man or anything, there just might be life in the project yet. GOD my life is exciting.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Why I write alone, or in a group, but not with one other person.

INT. BEDROOM - NIGHT (don't get excited, it's not that kind of blog)

PATROCLUS: Eurgh, the cat keeps putting her nose in my mouth eye.

ME: You should go to the doctor. You'd be all 'Doctor Doctor... dunno, some Doctor Doctor joke. Doctor Doctor I have conjunctivitis, no wait, that would be his line.

PATROCLUS: If the cat put her butt in my mouth eye, that would be Conjunctionitis.

ME: Would it?

PATROCLUS: Yes, because it's a conjunction.

ME: What's a conjunction?

PATROCLUS: The word 'but' is an example of a conjunction. It can join two sentences together.

*some brainstorming results*


ME: So, if the cat were to put, not her nose, but her other end, in your mouth eye, you would then be within your rights to say 'Doctor Doctor (the surname of the Doctor in this scenario being presumably 'Doctor'), the cat keeps putting her 'butt' (which sounds like the word 'but', although it is spelled differently) in my mouth eye, and thus I have grown concerned I have 'Conjunctionitis', which is similar to the illness 'conjunctivitis', but more of a play on grammar pedantry'.


ME: Go to sleep.

Some few minutes later.

PATROCLUS: My 'ands' ('hands') have no 'pause' ('paws')

ME: You have to stop drinking coffee late at night.

Friday, October 05, 2007

DVD Extra Bits: The Curate's Egg edition

My deleted mouse scene! Okay, it worked better in my head, but it's nice to see it out there.

And some Top Of The Pops silliness, which seems to be out of sync, but never mind.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Green Wing Stuff

The big new DVD thing comes out on October 15th - 5.30 signing at Virgin Megastore Picadilly Circus, actors in attendance: Oli Chris, Stephen Mangan, Karl Theobald and Mark Heap. Julian and Tamsin are TBC.


I'll be in Spain that week sadly (well, not sadly, but you know what I mean), but other writers will be there, all glaring and scuffling over the nest-of-vipers-revealing writers' interview for the Sitcom Guide website. Thanks to Mark for all his hard work putting it all together.

Monday, October 01, 2007

All The Rage and Solo writing versus team writing

The new (and quite the best-looking so far, although maybe I'm just biased because it's got superheroes and daleks and stuff in it) All The Rage is out. I very nearly wrote a proper bit for this, it being about fantasy and adventure and stuff, but work has overwhelmed me at the moment (more below) so I kindly allowed the use of a couple of toy-fu pages for only one million pounds.

Also, Leila has a book out! (on October 7th, which is coincidentally PatrocIus' birthday) I had literally no idea, but it is a proper book, available in Waterstone's and Borders and other places and everything.

*is impressed*

And now, The Difference Between Solo-Writing and Team Writing, as Illustrated by Two Consecutive and Similarly-Themed but Very Different in Approach style Work Days.

Tuesday - Teen Drama Project, BBC

In the foyer, I realise I'm standing next to a comedy writer/performer I've seen around before, but never met. I introduce myself and we have a very sober discussion about the internal politics of one of the larger comedy-writer-representing agencies.

In the meeting room provided, glass walls decorated with quotes from classic literature, the BBC Producer, script editor, assistant producer, script editor and I discuss how downloading torrents or streaming video have changed audiences' viewing habits, and how best we can adapt to these changes to bring the proposed teen drama series to an audience once it has been made.

Halfway through an assistant brings us cups of tea. We thank him politely.

In the afternoon, we discuss character backgrounds, story arcs, what characters' emotional journeys will be over the course of the series and the storylines that will bring out these character moments to best effect.

Wednesday - Various, Team Writing, ex-Green Wing writers

In the corridor of the new Brick Lane office I realise the small green boxes placed at various points on the floor are not air fresheners, as I originally thought, but traps for rats.


I sit down on a wheely office chair. Due to a slope in the floor, I slide very slowly backwards, eventually stopping with a bump against a wall decorated with pictures of characters from Prison Break torn out of Heat magazine. Apparently my new haircut reminds the other writers of a character from Prison Break called 'T-Bag'. Later research reveals 'T-Bag' to be a white supremacist muderer/rapist.

Producer asks if I'm forty yet (I'm thirty four).

Ori Fay takes out the 'Cock a Doodle' pad* (a small book with line drawings of men in Seventies style porn posings, but with the genital area left blank) and draws the genitals of all the men present as she imagines them. I am drawn with a vagina, although frankly, I'm more offended that she has chosen a bald man to represent me. I am allowed to draw some hair (on the head) before the picture is stuck up on the noticeboard under a polaroid of me looking confused.

I am told to go out and buy sweets for the group, with dark hints being made that my sweets-buying duties have been performed to a less than satisfactory standard in the past. When asked what kind of sweets I should get, the reply is 'nice ones'.

I decide to embrace the vitality and multiculturalness of the Brick Lane environs by buying some food from one of the street vendors. I eat my burger, surrounded by people who appear never to have seen Nathan Barley. That evening I have a brief and surprisingly emotional bout of food poisoning.

* I don't even want to think where these are available

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Perhaps he was just too pissed to remember.

UPDATE: the Telegraph has made a handy cut out and keep guide. Defended by James Delingpole too, which is when you know you're really in the shit.

3. Ralph Perry-Robinson, 40, renowned, not just for the strange sunglasses, but also for slashing the cork from a champagne bottle with a sword and running around a quad dressed as a monk. Now a furniture designer.

Okay, Ralph is cool.

Original Post:

Apparently, somewhere in the newsosphere David Cameron has said he's only known Boris Johnson a couple of years.

Whether he said that or not, it's time to bring out this photo of the Bullingdon Club again:

bullingdon club

Boris 'The Strangler' Johnson, bottom row, third from left, David 'I Can See Your Tiny Council House From Here' Cameron top row, second from left. Tailcoats models' own.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Random blog update stuff

I get interviewed on Annie Rhiannon's new screenwriting blog

Graham Linehan complains about sperm-eating on BBC 2

Another Little Disappointment brings you the tragic pets video

James Moran talks money

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Flight of the Conchords

Yes, yes, I'm BBC 4's bitch now (did you see the Jonathan Ross thing on Steve Ditko? Just lovely), but please please watch Flight of the Conchords on Tuesday night (starts Tue 25 Sep, 21:30 - 22:00) if you can.

And yes, annoying if you can't get BBC 4, but it'll be on terrestrial soon, and if you can't get BBC 4 but are techno-savvy enough to read this blog, I'm sure you can find other ways of watching it HINT HINT.

I could put up a YouTube of the Flights, as nobody calls them*, but instead I'm going to put up something my close personal internet chum Godzilla Bankrolls found: another musical comedy duo called The Smothers Brothers, who made me lol as I have never lolled before.

* I coudn't, apparently, as HBO have pulled them all, booooo.

UPDATE: Well I don't care, I LIKE IT.

ALSO: PP points out that free delicious sample of Flight of the Conchords are available on iTunes

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Stephen Fry's blog

Why did no-one tell me about his blog? 'Stephen Fry's blog,' they could have said. 'Let me show you it.'

From my cursory look, it would seem a bit like gizmodo, but just a teensy bit geekier (this is a compliment).

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Superbad and Knocked Up

I can't work out if I want to see either of these, despite being a huge fan of Michael Cera and Seth Rogan (the latter from his Freaks and Geeks days). Are they worth seeing? I shall let YOU decide.

UPDATE: also with Michael Cera - this looks great,

And I've been following the writer Diablo Cody's blog for ages (she used to be a stripper, you know), so I win.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


The timescale on this:

August '05: I have an idea for a screenplay about a superhero and his arch nemesis who have to go on a road trip together across america to save the world, and having read that Sylvester Stallone (my role model in all things) wrote Rocky in three days, I decide to bash it out write it over a long weekend.

My agent at the time, the lovely Ginny, sends it out to various places, all of whom like it, but aren't sure about the ending. Because it just sort of stops. Like this: stops.

April '07: my new agent, the just-as-lovely Matt, sets me up a meeting with the British Film Council. I tell them about the script that just stops. Natalie at the film council, who is beautiful and wise, and (more importantly) knows her superhero comics, reads the script and decides that it fits the criteria of Things The Film Council Can Help With. It is like a vet who has been brought a kitten which is cute, but hasn't been fed properly and is thus a bit wonky.

I am assigned a script editor, Camilla, who knows about acts, and beats, and all the other stuff we were banned from talking about in the Green WIng office (and quite right too). The decision is to focus on the dramatic structure of the script, because if you get that right, the comedy will theoretically flow naturally thereafter. Also, there ain't no-one going to tell me how to write no comedy, no ways, uh huh (apart from anyone who wrote any episodes of Arrested Development, they seem to know their stuff).

April '07- July '07: technically, the film council are funding me to write two further drafts of the script. In fact, Camilla and I go through about ten smaller rewrites before the second draft is ready to go before Natalie.

August '07: Camilla and I take the second draft to Natalie, who has some Notes.

Now, writers are supposed to complain about Notes, but Green Wing Boot Camp taught me a lot about working with other people and how to not stand defensively over your script like a dragon standing defensively over a superhero script (metaphor breakdown there). In fact, the trick with Notes is this:

1. If someone suggests something that would make your script better, put it in.
2. If someone suggests something that would make your script not better, do not put it in.

Natalie (and Camilla) give good Note, so I take heed. Some of the junior members of the film council also step forward and shyly, looking straight at the floor, say 'you know that bit with the supervillain groupies? We sort of miss that bit, can it go back in?'

September '07: The Third Draft (incorporating Notes, and That Bit With The Groupies) is delivered. I notice absently that while the first draft was a cute, indie sort of thing* that was mostly people in silly costumes arguing about what to put on the radio, the third has laser satellites, a giant robot fight and scene descriptions like 'EXT. THE EDGE OF SPACE - DAY' (although it does have people in silly costumes arguing about what to put on the radio as well). It's like a proper film and everything, although that does mean the bit in my wikipedia page about it being low-budget isn't really true any more, and it's not really cool to edit your own wikipedia page, so if anyone feels like taking out that bit, I'd be terribly grateful.

Yesterday: I am taken out for steak and chips by the film council. I also have a glass of very nice Rioja. Draft Three is pronounced Good, and the next phase, getting it out to the right producer and/or studio, can begin.

And that, children, is how a script is made.

PS - I forgot - earlier this week, I read that Sylvester Stallone wrote Rocky in seven days, not three. We can laugh about this when we next meet.

* Although that's clearly contradicted by this post.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Bearded Ladies tonight

quick reminder from Ori:

"Just to say our radio show 'MEANWHILE WITH THE BEARDED LADIES' starts tonight (11/09/07) on Radio 4 at 6.30. It features Fay, Susie, Charlotte and me along with Mark Addy, Cav Clerken, James Lance, Alex Lowe and a special appearance by Ronnie Corbett.

Its on for the next four weeks - that's every Tuesday. Or you can 'listen again' on the BBC web site"

Also, I don't know why colourlovers is cool, it just is. Mmm, palettes...

I like this one:

BLIMEY THIS IS INTERESTING: the colours of Islam. Wow.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Go Stephen Merchant

Always nice to see a bit of loyalty. Particularly when it's done very very slowly. I particularly liked the 'paused to scratch his cheek' bit.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


You'd think that if putting a couple of drops of Olbas Oil on a pillow helps relieve blocked sinuses a bit, and putting some on a tissue and sniffing it helps relieve them a lot, then actually sploshing drops of Olbas Oil right up inside your nose would help amazing amounts, wouldn't you?

Yes, I went there. Vision has now mostly returned to my left eye, hurrah.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

'Spling! Pang! Flimb!'

Because I loved the Modernism exhibition at the V&A recently, and my knowledge of classical music is slim to non-existent, I bought the specially-compiled Modernism in Music CD.

And because I know a couple of readers of this blog actually know something about classical music, I now wonder if they could answer for me the question 'is there any classic music which follows the strictures and tenets of modernism, but doesn't actually sound like three bags of hammers exploding in a windchime factory/that bit in Roger Rabbit where Daffy and Donald have a big piano fight?'

So far, this is six quid I won't be getting back.

Wait, some lad's come in with an oboe.

No, he's gone again.

UPDATE: none of it is anywhere near as utterly great as Hey, I really like Little Miss Cypher from the first second Pepe Deluxe album as made freely downloadable here and sent to me as part of a compilation yesterday by Patchy McGirlfriend, god bless her.

Now that's what I call "expanding sonic palettes, breaking tonal conventions and experimenting readily with a new found freedom of expression", in your face Bartok.

Friday, August 31, 2007


Don't know why this made me laugh so much - perhaps it's hysterical relief at the (for now) final draft of Hero Trip going off to the film council, but I came across this on a Secret Comedy Forum I hang around, and I had to ask the guy behind it if I could quote and link. Clone Army, he say 'yes'.

Clone Army says:

"My brother and I have a long-running game whereby we try and surreptitiously poke the face of our opponent without actually moving. This can be achieved by any means other than direct contact but the favourite is waiting for someone to turn their head then holding ones finger close the cheek until they turn back. This game has been going on for 2 years now and we are currently even. It is also hopelessly stupid and has confusing and largely intuited rules."

Video demonstration:

It might just be the mood I'm in. Yesterday I also bought a lego cargo lifter specifically to make a diorama in which a viking loads a crate of other vikings into my lego longship. I laughed for an hour, then realised I'd left my camera behind in London, and went into a massive sulk.

It's probably best I stay away from people for a bit (apart from Alex, who I'm meeting for a drink later, who understands the importance of small plastic bricks).

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Comics Britannia (starting September on BBC4)


A three-part documentary series covering Britain's contribution to the world of sequential art, narrated by Armando Iannucci.

Boingboing has already mentioned this, but I've actually seen it (thanks to BBC4's innovative and far-sighted marketing strategy of chucking free DVDs at me, woo hoo), so am just that bit cooler.

The series starts with 'The Fun Factory': pre and immediately post-war children's comics such as the Beano and Dandy, moves with 'Boys and Girls' to the search for an older readership (with an excellent dissection of girl's comics such as the Jaqueline Wilson-titled 'Jackie') and ends at 'Anarchy In The UK' with the blood spurtin', laser-shootin', The Man-defyin' titles of 2000AD, Warlord and Deadline.

Early fears the series would include a parade of celebutards calling out the catchphrases a la 'I heart 2004' can thankfully be laid to rest - the talking heads involved range from industry luminaries Leo Baxendale and Alan Moore to informed commentators Stewart Lee and, er, Frank Skinner. Who isn't as annoying as you'd expect, and someone has to talk about Roy of the Rovers.

The only slight criticism I would have is that getting various people to read out bits very very slowly and then chuckling to themselves is a bit annoying actually, as the captions are on screen, and we wouldn't be interested in a documentary about comics IF WE COULDN'T READ FOR OURSELVES, but otherwise it's a really excellent piece of work, clearly put together by people who actually give a toss about their subject.

Anyway, it's jolly good, and well worth a look - one sure benchmark of quality is that gf Patroclus, not, shall we say, legendary for her knowledge of the interior layout of Forbidden Planet, took her favourite quote 'Oh no, not another quarry' as her new business motto.

The two Desperate Dan writers recalling wistfully the days when their hero 'could kill and eat a lot of endangered species' was a further highlight.

BBC Comics Britannia site

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Peter Serafinowicz Show

That does look really quite good. Also a bit sinister, which makes it gooderer. A worrying lack of Alan Alda impersonations in that trailer though.

UPDATE: Starts on BBC 2 this autumn in October. GW's very own Ori had a (small) hand in the writing apparently.

ALSO: ooh, ooh, I can do my story that the only sketch that Peter Serafinowicz did on Smack the Pony was one that I wrote, which was pretty much from life, which means I have been portrayed on screen by Darth Maul.

Think on't.

ANOTHERT UPDATE: an insider informs me that the Alan Alda impression will indeed be making an appearance, hurrah!

Friday, August 24, 2007

It's a bloody good logo actually, I just can't work out how to save it as a jpeg.

A quick meeting yesterday with an Important Person about my Teen Drama thing: they want a second episode script, and maybe a quick rejig of the first according to the thoughts of the Important Person. There is also discussion of how many episodes it will theoretically be: probably between six and ten. I've been planning it out for eight: it's easy to shorten to six, but if things start going mental a la Green Wing and eight starts to turn into 8A and 8B and then 8B turns into another two episodes when then squish into a single hour and forty five minute Christmas special (some of the details may be wrong on this, I didn't have two weeks of aversion therapy* for nothing), you can pretend you planned it all along.

On my side: the producer, the assistant producer, the script editor, a head of development, another head of development. You don't usually have that many people with you, even for a development meeting with an Important Person, so I asked assistant producer why this was.

Assistant Producer: Because they're feeling very very protective of your script.


God bless Team Meat-Shield.

Buzzwords that are In:

'Itchy', apparently.

Buzzwords that are Out:

Whimsy (I chose to reassure them on this point by saying 'ain't no motherfucking whimsy in this town' for reasons that still escape me. At least I left 'bitch' off the end.

The Hardy Perennials:


At the start of the meeting I took out my sexy new notebook, what is all stripey and has a logo I made up myself for the Teen Drama Series and then sellotaped to the front, but under the plastic bit so it looks like it was always there.


Producer, the assistant producer, the script editor, a head of development, another head of development: 'Wow that is brilliant'/'You have thought this through on every level'/'Let's get that logo down to the girls at Marketing'/'The depths and passion you are bringing to this project never cease to amaze me James'.


Producer, the assistant producer, the script editor, a head of development, another head of development: 'Awwwwwwwww.

Anyway, in conclusion: Wheeeeee, meetings are fun.

* I didn't like it.

UPDATE: which means that last year's posts about buzzwords (follow the labels at the bottom), and taking into account that was a Comedy Meeting and this was a Drama Meeting, are pretty much bang on. Go me.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

I've been thinking of setting up my own anarcho-syndicalist commune for some time actually.

Craig Mazin writes about the (potentially) upcoming writers' strike in the US. Worth a read if just to see how the utter lack of any kind of business model for downloading material off the internet* is causing utter and amusing chaos across the television and film industry.

While I'm Craig Mazining, he also writes about the new writers' collective set up with Fox, in which a group of screenwriters have agreed to nine original scripts over four years and be paid slightly less than the usual kajillion dollars upfront in exchange for more creative control, including not letting the scripts be rewritten without the writers' permission. At which point I made a sort of 'oooooooh' noise.

It's all (if you're a writer, or interested in film-making) interesting stuff. It's perhaps worth noting that the films these writers have already been involved with (the Pirates of the Caribbeans, the first Shrek, most of the Scary Movies and a metric shitload of Adam Sandler creations) have generated more money than actually exists in the world, which gives them a certain amount of clout. Handily, most of the writers involved have blogs, so it's been possible to watch the story brew for a while now.

In fact, and I only thought of this, what with writers being naturally drawn to blogging, and the internet making it increasingly easy to self-organise, was the very technology that created the issue in the first place (by making a whole new secondary market of downloadable material) the same beast that could bring about a solution (facilitating writers coming together in a way that previously been neither practical, or, bearing in mind most writers smell a bit and have weird facial twitches, desireable)?

If so, this all goes to support my theory that the internet is the Best Thing In The World, and that if it is all heading towards reaching some kind of Singularity whereby it achieves collective consciousness and starts organising our society for us from the bottom up, we should probably just let it.

In case that was all a bit dry, here's a music video with a little dancing robot.

*er, apart from iTunes, obviously. You idiot, Henry.

Where I done went last week.

where I went

S'nice, innit?

Anyway, the young promising writers did very well. It's quite unnerving to see that there's already a generation gap re pitching: whereas I would have shuffled in and mumbled 'dunno, something about monsters?', they're quite happy to illustrate their pitches with slide shows, music, videoing their mates acting out little scenes, and in one case, making a cardboard dog.

One interesting thing is how, when developing their ideas, they all started with a big dramatic image, then struggled slightly to find the narrative to back it up - not all that surprising when you've grown up able to flick between a hundred different channels, YouTube, mobile phone clips and computer games. You quickly become utterly adept at picking and choosing visual styles, referencing different genres and knowing what soundtracks to back up your idea - with the downside that the realisation that you have to come up with a narrative that will sustain (say) eight hour-long episodes is a bit of a shock.

They all did it though, and at the end of the week presented their pitches to an Important Channel Controller, who looked increasingly taken aback, and then impressed as flipcharts/video montages/cardboard dogs were shoved in front of him.

It got even better though, when Important Channel Controller asked them what sort of things they thought their age group (nineteen to mid-twenties) wanted to see on television. Did they feel their own lives were sufficiently represented in television drama? Should shows become even more specific to their age group/social demographic/postcode? (he didn't say the last bit, but that seems to be where it's all going)

YPW's: We don't want to watch stuff that is marketed to us. We want to see the same shows our parents and younger siblings want to see, i.e. West Wing, Life On Mars, Arrested Development. We don't care where it's set, who the characters are or what the soundtrack is. We just want to watch Things That Are Good.

I was so proud I could shite.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Although later I did stamp on some wasps for them.

I am currently out in a farmhouse in kent with a group of young writers who have been head-hunted by the BBC as being 'young' and 'promising' and sent out to do a week-long residential development course. From the first half of the email the BBC sent me, I thought I was being asked along as being 'young' and 'promising' as well, but in fact they wanted a 'working' and 'more experienced' writer to act in a 'mentoring capacity'.

Last year I was invited on exactly the same course on the 'young' and 'promising' ticket. Clearly in the space of twelve months I have become a grey-bearded and grizzly authority figure.

The groups on this course divide thusly: writers and BBC people. The writers' ages range from nineteen to twenty-four, which means that the oldest one is ten years younger than me.

Still, as a tribe, we shall stand shoulder to shoulder as writers, creative forces ranged against the uncaring and creatively stifling forces of the BBC, against whom I intent to arm my fellow writers with the tricks and ruses picked up on the battlefield of pitching rooms and meetings with uninterested Department Heads. In fact, I see myself in a modest sort of way as a leader: a bit like a young King Arthur. A few years after pulling the sword out of the stone, but before bezzie mate Lance started hanging out with Gwynnie just a little bit too much.

On the first afternoon, I wander out to the large tree under which the young promising writers are huddled, smoking in a young, promising way.

'All right?' I say, in a (to be honest) slightly Athurian timbre. Not too much, I don't want to over-awe them.

They all shrug. At the bottom of the garden appears a figure we haven't seen yet - a BBC executive, in her (at most) early forties.

'Who's that then?' I ask.

'One of Your Lot', a young, promising writer says.

I leave, quietly.

Later, I start hanging out with the BBC executives instead and we discuss property prices. I am much happier.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The one where I almost get closure.

How I got into the whole scriptwriting thing, right, Channel Four set up a sitcom-writing competition in 1999. I entered it, won the younger age group section, and as a prize got to pick a US sitcom. They'd fly me over, I'd see a real sitcom being filmed and get to hang out in the writers room.

I chose 'Friends'. Fine, said Channel Four, we'll fly you out in a couple of months. I arrange a week off from the electronics factory at which I work, and may, or may not, have a) told everyone I was going to be mates with Matthew Perry now, and b) had had a dream where I went on a skiing holiday with the cast (not the crew note) of the show and we all got along famously and mostly hung out in the apres ski bar. Rachel let me share her mug.

A few days before I go, the tickets arrive with a small note. Channel Four regretted they were unable to arrange getting me backstage with the Friends writers, or seeing an episode being filmed, but they had arranged for me to hang out with the cast of crew of 'Suddenly Susan' instead.

I wondered, as I sat in the factory flicking small bits of resin off data recording heads designed for the Turkish Underground (the transport system, not the political revolutionaries*) what had happened behind the scenes. Had the Friends producers been worried about a spy in their midst, a Limey fifth columnist who would have taken all their best stuff, made off with their women (Rachel again) taught them how to swear properly and mocked their pronunciation of the word 'aluminium''? Clearly they held their nerve until the last minute, then some kind of residual fear of the forces of King George had kicked in, and they'd bumped me to 'Suddenly Susan'.

I decide to go anyway, and getting to LA, immediately discover that the hotel I've been put up in is a few hundred miles from Burbank, where Suddenly Susan is filmed. I do not have enough money to to both a) travel to the filming/script meetings every day, and b) eat.

At which point I decide to give it up as a bad job, ring the Suddenly Susan people to politely tell them it's not really working out, then spend the week wandering around the Los Angeles Natural History Museum and the Los Angeles Museum of Modern Art instead. At the Los Angeles Natural History Museum I meet a specialist in woodlice (only they're called 'pillbugs' over there, awwwww), and at the Los Angeles Museum of Modern Art I wander around an exhibition by Richard Serra which slightly blows my mind.

I also walk past a number of Mexican gangs, and am mildly accosted by crackheads (because only Mexican gangs and crackheads walk around Los Angeles, it turns out). Basically, I have a brilliant time.

Back at the factory however, I start to wonder all over again how it was that it all got changed at the last minute. Suddenly (Susan) it occurs to me that maybe it wasn't the writers or producers at all, maybe the whole thing had been bopped on the head by a different interested party altogether...

Had Matthew Perry heard about, and been threatened by my impression of David Bowie that went down very well in the resin-cooling department?

Had Courtney Cox been upset at not being cast in the light operetta I had been working on recently, not uncoincidentally set in a cornish electronics factory - standout musical number for the female lead entitled 'He'll Never Look At Me, I'm Just A Spot Welder'?

Was Lisa Kudrow upset she had never been offered my story about the superglue and the walkman to be worked up into an amusing song and thus kibboshed the whole thing?

I decide the only way to find out is to work my way up the comedy ladder until I stand astride the comedy world like a colosuss, finally able to summon the great and good into my presence and interrogate them under the spotlight gaze of my authority. Quitting the electronics factory, I move to Canterbury, get a job in the world's greatest bookshop and start writing sketches for Smack the Pony.


The other Green Wing writers and I are out boozing up with the Quiet American Producer, although he's not quite so quiet now, I think we just spooked him a bit last time. I decide that It Is Time, and bring up the matter of the competition.

AMERICAN PRODUCER: ... this would be what, the second, third series? Yeah, I was Executive Producer then, sure.

ME: Do you remember, do you have any recollection at all of anyone asking if some lanky british bloke could come and hang around the filming and writers' meetings? And if there were any specific reasons why this had to be cancelled?

American Producer think quite hard for some time. Finally:

AMERICAN PRODUCER: I don't remember anything about that at all.

It was the David Bowie impression. I fucking knew it.

* I have to do that joke every time.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

"Looks like you'll never be a concert flautist"

From Adam Buxton's blog.

Fiight of the Conchords coming to BBC4 in the Autumn, according to highly placed Blue Cat sources (aka Veronica Wyndham).

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Happiest Moment Of My Life

Because I'd eaten four or five dried apricots with no obvious consequences after twenty four hours, I threw caution to the (ahem) winds, and ate pretty much the rest of the packet the day before getting the train back to london.

I was not to know that these were the rare breed of dried apricots that took just a little longer to kick in than normal. Hence the slight air of discomfort as I got on the train at Penmere turning into 'ooh blimey that wasn't a good idea' around about Bodmin Parkway, followed by a high-pitched whining sound that could have been coming from any part of me, to be honest. Or the other passengers, thinking about it.

In my self-pitying state, I thought about how cold and lonely life can often be in the big city (London, not Bodmin Parkway), and how rare it is to simply bump into someone you know.

'Ah', I thought 'How pleasurable it is to randomly encounter an old friend, how lifted become the spirits, how gladdened the step.' And if you spend every day knee deep in show business like I do, how much even better it is if you bump into someone you know who's famous, so you can look around at other people with that look that says 'Ha ha! I know this famous person! I must be aces!'.

As the train pulled into Paddington station I clutched myself miserably, trying to avoid the accusing, tear-stained glances of my fellow passengers, and thought of how the one thing that would cheer me up would be if were to bump into someone I knew, who was also quite well-known in their own right. If they were the sort of person who liked nothing better than to discuss the workings of their own and everyone else's digestive system, that would be a bonus, but to expect three such lightning strikes of fortune would surely be foolhardy in the extreme.

And then, as I handed my ticket to the man and waited for the little flappy barrier doors to open, I realised that not ten yards from me, wearing shorts, and staring vacantly into space, was Mark Heap.

Reader, I nearly cried.


Sunday, July 29, 2007

New Telly Stuff Then

Bear in mind that because I am a Powerful Industry Insider, a) I get previews of entire series in advance, I certainly don't get them off the internet and stuff, and b) my opinions are quite simply Worth More. I'm sorry, but there it is.

HEROES: bit rubbish at the start, gets brilliant from episode three, final episode very slightly not as good as it might have been, but doesn't detract from the series as a whole.

DEXTER: ignore all the critics who just don't get it, man. Dexter is primarily a comedy show, which then turns round and sucker-punches you at the last moment. For anyone who hasn't caught it yet, Dexter is a blood-spatter analyst for the Miami PD, specializing in catching serial killer, who in his spare time is... a serial killer himself, devoted to tracking all all those other killers who have fallen through the net. Way funnier than it should be, and the excellent characterisation keeps you seeing things from Dexter's point of view, even when you know how inappropriate it is. I can't recommend it enough.


FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS: Heard the original series on the radio, and didn't think it worked at all, which was a shame, as I'm a big fan of the Conchord's goofy novelty folk act. HBO have transferred the series' setting to New York, where it works brilliantly. Occasional moments of surreality (Labyrinth-era David Bowie UPDATE: NOT THAT ONE YOU IDIOT, THE EYEPATCH ONE DURRR advising one character to get an eyepatch to improve his image, then sympathising very sweetly at the resulting lack of depth perception is favourite so far) contrast well with the Conchord's flat, deadpan New Zealand reactions. What the Mighty Boosh would be like if they calmed down a bit.

In Other News: I have recently met my second American Television Producer, making it two in total. The first one was the Shouty One, this one is the Quieter One.


Meeting has begun, we have all been introduced.

British Television Producer: So, are you a multi-multi-multi-multi-multi-multi-millionaire then?

We all lean in expectantly.

The Quiet American Television Producer: Um, well, it's hard to say really.

We all lean back, satisfied.

ME: He is.
The Other Green Wing Writers: Yup/Definitely/Woo Hoo!/Mug him.

The Quiet American Television Producer discreetly looks at his watch.

Frantically we all signal for more free booze before it's too late.

Friday, July 27, 2007

I need to get a new, updated driving licence.

In order to do that, I have to get a passport photo, and In order to do that, I have to go into town, to the supermarket, who have a passport photo machine. But I'm going to have a hair cut, so I may as well do that first. But then I've spent all my cash, so in order to get my photos done, I have to go to the bank, withdraw some money, and buy a grapefruit, which gives me the right amount of change to put in the machine.

I get my passport photo done.

Then I get home and realize I need some stamps, so I have to go out again. When I get back, I realize I need an envelope and I CAN'T BE ARSED, so I decide to play Warcraft instead.

In Warcraft, my new Paladin, called Zing, needs a new hammer. But in order to do that, I have to travel across two continents by griffin and boat, and I haven't got any cash. In order to do that, I have to go and kill some gnolls. But that will take ages, unless I get a new hammer.

I go to bed and put my head under the duvet for a while. This seems to work fine.

UPDATE from blue cat's In Contrast Department: some wonderfully warm-spirited comics drawn by a Japanese POW in a WW2 Soviet camp (from Drawn). It's incredibly moving. I am slightly ashamed to have the link plonked on the end of a post about me wittering on about fucking Warcraft, but there we are.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Monsters from Dungeons and Dragons That Would Also Suit As Names For As-Yet Untitled Awkward Social Situations.

aboleth \A-boleth\:

1. "a revolting fishlike amphibian found primarily in subterranean lakes and rivers. An aboleth has a pink belly. Four pulsating blueblack orifices line the bottom of its body and secrete gray slime that smells like rancid grease. It uses its tail for propulsion in the water and drags itself along with its tentacles on land. An aboleth weighs about 6,500 pounds."

2. the shrug given by a French garage mechanic who, on having been giving strict instructions three days earlier to order the left-hand wing mirror (or 'retroviseur') for a Ford Transit, walks over to the van as it drives into his garage and peers mournfully at the clearly undamaged right-hand wing mirror, thus making it clear to everyone present that he has in fact ordered the incorrect-hand wing mirror (or 'retroviseur') for a Ford Transit, thus necessitating a ten-hour drive from the South of France to the northern port of St Marlo without really being able to, you know, see properly and stuff.

After expressing a magnificent aboleth, Bernard walked slowly over to a large cardboard box and pulled out what was patently fucking obviously going to be a THE WRONG FUCKING van wing-mirror, before abolething once more and disappearing back into his festering rot-hole of a garage-pit.

svirfneblin \SVIRF-neblin:

1. A sub-race of gnome. Also known as 'deep gnome'.

2. To sit in the passenger seat of a Ford Transit, cursing the French quietly, but with great intensity.

After svirfneblinning for no little time, a random truck mirror and duct tape were procured from a different garage entirely, so that James and Patch could navigate back across France with only the occasional shout of 'You're fine to overtake- JESUS FUCK STOP! Okay no, you're fine- ARGH FUCKSTICKS WHERE DID HE COME FROM' and so on, followed by further periods of svirfneblinning.

Anyway, we're back now.

Friday, July 20, 2007

In which x xxx x xxxxxx xxxxxxx

In the south of france, poolside, I take a call from BBC Drama, which, as an opening sentence can only really bettered this week by vignettebricks' "The past few days have been tumultuous in the Legoverse". Anyway, back to the conversation, which must, for reasons of professional discretion, be a bit censored, although it's about my teen drama thing.

BBC DRAMA: xxx xx xxxxx xxx xxx?
ME: South of France.
BBC DRAMA: xxxxxxx xxx, xxxx xx xxxxxxx xx x xxxxxxx!
ME: Probably, yes, sorry.
BBC DRAMA: xx, xx xxx xxx xx xx xxxxxxx xxxxxx.
ME: Ooh brilliant!
BBC DRAMA: xxx, xxx xx xxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxxxx xx'x xxxxx xx xx xx x xxx xxxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxxxxx xxxx xxxx
ME: Fair enough.
BBC DRAMA: xxx xxx xxxx xxxx xxx.
ME: Okay.
BBC DRAMA: xxxx xxxx!
ME: Aw, thanks.
BBC DRAMA: xxxx xxx xxxxxxxxxx xxxxx, xxxxxx x xxx xx xx xxx.
ME: Of course.

So, as you can see, a very interesting conversation indeed.

UPDATE: yes, well I feel I have overplayed this somewhat and inadvertently come off as smug and annoying, so to put it in perspective, what's really happened is the chances of Teen Drama Series actually making it on screen at some point have moved from (in a sliding scale of about ten) a One to a Two. Big meetings coming up about potentially Which Channel It Would Really Suit, and What Time It Would Go On.

Answers of All Of Them and All The Time are apparently not acceptable.

However, to keep the bandwagon rolling, I can exclusively reveal that I and all the other Green Wing writers are being taken out by one of the producers of Xxxxxxx on monday night. Seriously. Xxxxxxx!


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

"... made the Bordeaux to Toulouse run in less than twelve parsecs."

Am currently in the South of France with Patch. We are larking about in a Transit van, Patch on main driving duties, me on backup, much like Han Solo and Chewbacca in the Millennium Falcom. Although I don't remember Han Solo having to stop driving every now and then because his too-short summery dress is riding up. Or Chewbacca complaining because he left his Kate Atkinson paperback* on the sun in the dashboard and the binding glue melted so all the pages are starting to fall out.

Songs you don't really want to have on while driving your (not technically insured in foreign climes) van on narrow winding roads only to have another van come too fast round a corner and smash off your wing mirror: that high-pitched one by Mika.

Internet access was cut off after being at the house for one day BLOODY FRENCH. Still, I got a lot of ore mined in Warcraft, and that's what this week's really all about (it isn't, we're sorting out Patch's mum's house so it can be sold).

Patch and her father are putting in for repairs at a nearby asteroid field village. I'm keeping an eye out for Mynocks.

* the new one, it's very good.

Friday, July 13, 2007


Arch-parodist Caroline Phillips, of 'My Tornado Hell' fame is is back!

Anyone who thought her article did an astonishing job of taking a horrible situation (having a tornado smash up your house) and wringing any chance of sympathy from it by describing it in terms an interior design magazine/crawly-arse gossip column would blush at, was suffering from 'trauma envy', apparently.

Maybe we should all leave this before she gets a book deal out of it. Still, I'm glad Happy the cat came back.

UPDATE: right, I wasn't going to get into this again but "there’s something new and positive — a whirlwind of creativity that will linger: three babies have been born to my neighbours since then."

That's not "a whirlwind of creativity", that's just "fucking", isn't it? Always good to have a new term for it though.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Rufus Wainwright at the Eden Project

rufus in lederhosen

Which he referred to as 'Teletubby Valley', a not-entirely-inaccurate description. He did lose a few points by asking the crowd to 'bring a black friend with you next time', which is a bit annoying, frankly, as I'm getting rather tired of people pointing out that Cornwall isn't that ethnically diverse, as if we didn't know. Like everyone's going to start looking around, saying 'well we did have some black people around, I put them down earlier, but no, they seem to have just wandered off, maybe they're forming a steel drum band, that's the sort of thing they do, isn't it?'.

In fact we do all have a black friend, but it's the same bloke, he's called Zion*, and he couldn't come tonight because he's home with Crohn's Disease ARE YOU HAPPY NOW RUFUS?

rufus and crowd

Also, it's quite hard being lectured on being too white by a man wearing lederhosen. Anyway, sorry. Other than that, the concert was great, as were Hot Chip who supported. Although they weren't that interesting to look at, frankly, so here's a picture of some big lighty-up domes biomes, sorry.


In other news, I went into the bathroom this morning to find a really quite extravagant slug trail all over my towel (photo not provided). The culprit was lurking up in the corner of the ceiling, giggling at me. Until I flushed him down the loo, the giggling sluggy bastard. You don't mess with a man's towels.

* Yes it's his real name.