Saturday, 21 March 2009

Peering through the mist

I don't know what's wrong with me at the moment - maybe I'm in a bit of a trough on the oul' biorhythm cycle.

I keep finding it very hard to concentrate, like there's a fog in my brain where it used to all be very sharp and clear. And today I feel really lethargic - almost jet-lagged. I didn't have any "work" so I thought I'd manage to get a bit of writing done, but I've just been slumped in front of the laptop (literally), struggling to keep awake.

I added about four pages to Foot Soldiers, but it's pretty much just placeholder stuff that didn't really move the story along. Despite having a decent framework for it, it's now getting a bit out of hand; I'm on page 57 and still quite a way short of what I'd earmarked in my outline as the midway point. I'll just plough on with it for now, taking the "don't get it right, get it written" approach. I'm quite good at hacking and slashing later on.

More positively, my co-writer on Care and Control came round for a bit of a catch-up this afternoon. She's currently having a course of radiotherapy and chemotherapy, so the script has been on hold for a while. However, she's feeling well and wants to get stuck into it again, so I'm going to try and edit down our first episode over the next couple of weeks (currently 69 pages), while she comes up with a few more A-story possibilities.

I also revisited Last of the Reality Police last week, before sending it to an agent. It just shows how a bit of time and distance can help you to get a handle on something. I felt a bit burnt out on the script last year after working on it so intensely, but I managed to find a few new angles when coming back to it after a few months. The third act mostly takes place in a 'dreamscape', so I found ways of making the characters' experiences more relevant and personal, and then went back and layered in the set-ups.

I've been seeing a few things at the BFI over the past couple of weeks - mostly from the femme fatale thread of the Birds Eye View festival - as well as some noteworthy stuff at the theatre, so I'll try and cobble together a few thoughts on those - if my terrible psychic deterioration permits...

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

RTS Programme Awards: winners

Courtesy of Broadcast:

Scripted Comedy: Outnumbered (Hat Trick Productions for BBC One)
"…a genuinely fresh and innovative comedy – achieving authentic and funny family dialogue and interaction, with note-perfect writing and performances."

Lead Balloon (Open Mike for BBC Two)
Peep Show (Objective Production for Channel 4)

Writer - Comedy: Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong - Peep Show (Objective Production for Channel 4)
"The jury felt that the writers had remained true to their original, memorable concept, and ensured that this outstanding series was consistently funny."

Sharon Horgan and Dennis Kelly - Pulling (Silver River for BBC Three)
Graham Linehan - The I.T. Crowd (talkbackTHAMES Production for Channel 4)

Children's Drama: MI High (Kudos Film & TV for CBBC)
"Funny, clever, surprising and challenging…"

Sarah Jane Adventures (BBC Productions for BBC One)
Summerhill (Tiger Aspect for CBBC)

Drama Series: The Fixer (Kudos Film and TV for ITV1)
"This stylish drama felt exciting and honestly gripping…With great dialogue and brilliant characterization."

City of Vice (Hardy and Sons/Touchpaper TV Production for Channel 4)
Con Passionate (Teledu Apollo for S4C)

Drama Serial: The Devil's Whore (Company Pictures/Power for Channel 4)
"Bloody and brutal but equally inspiring and atmospheric…This was an exciting, muscular drama on an impressive scale. A joy to watch."

Criminal Justice (BBC Productions for BBC One)
Place of Execution (Coastal Productions for ITV1)

Single Drama: The Curse of Steptoe (BBC Productions for BBC Four)
"…a disturbing study of self-hatred and self-delusion. [It] had total confidence in its tone, great production values and a good sense of time and place, all achieved on a limited budget. With a great script and two fantastic central performances."

Margaret Thatcher: The Long Walk To Finchley (Great Meadow Productions for BBC Four)
The Shooting of Thomas Hurndall (talkbackTHAMES Production for Channel 4)

Writer - Drama: Peter Flannery - The Devil's Whore (Company Pictures/Power for Channel 4)
"An ambitious and passionate narrative of a vital and under-represented period of history, which thrillingly meshed imagination with painstaking research."

Simon Block - The Shooting of Thomas Hurndall (talkbackTHAMES Production for Channel 4)
Peter Moffat - Criminal Justice (BBC Productions for BBC One)

International Award: Mad Men (AMC for BBC Four)
"This ambitious and delightful period drama found its voice and style right from the very first episode. With a delightfully slow pace and superb performances, the jury was impressed with its profound attention to detail."

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (MTV Networks USA for More4)
Summer Heights High (Princess Productions for BBC Three)

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

It's a Wrap: free online filmmaking mag

The New Producers Alliance (NPA) has published the latest issue of It's a Wrap, its magazine for independent filmmakers.

Issue Three has an article on writing treatments by Fenella Greenfield and advice for screenwriters looking for an agent by Katharine Way.

All three issues are available for download here.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Broadcast: TV Drama Forum

The Broadcast site has brief features on what drama commissioners are currently looking for:

TV Drama Forum: BBC and ITV drama commissioners are on the lookout for more contemporary series about ordinary lives.

BBC drama commissioning controller Ben Stephenson said that as well as reinventing genres, such as Life on Mars or Spooks, that BBC1 9pm series and serials should also reflect people's everyday lives more closely.

"I'd like a greater range of stories about ordinary people's lives, with a little more heart," he said, citing The Street and Cutting It.

ITV drama controller Laura Mackie conceded that recent attempts to add more contemporary character-based pieces to ITV1's drama schedules had yielded mixed results.

"We've come unstuck because we haven't made sure there's enough story," she said. We really want them, but we need to look at the reason why our crime shows work: because they have a real narrative pulse. We've all got hung up on high concepts rather than stories."

Mackie added that dramas would be given more development time than in the past, so that ITV could get it right first time.

"We've been guilty of rushing things on to the screen," she said. "The Fixer for example, will come back stronger in its second series as Peter Fincham and I know what worked in the first series. We can't make mistakes - but that doesn't mean we don't take risks."

Ben Stephenson: BBC
Laura Mackie: ITV
Liza Marshall: C4
Peter Kosminsky: Where is the BBC's sense of mischief?

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Look out for that glacier!

After a bit of an enforced post-Whitstable hiatus, I've managed to put a bit of heat under Foot Soldiers again - just a page or two every couple of days, but I'm nurdling through some tricky stuff ahead of the next big set piece, which will hit the page pretty rapidly.

Although I'm a bit off my roadmap in terms of page count, I've been feeling on pretty good form with the stuff I've been doing. I've been sensing it clearly in cinematic terms - finding the right images, sounds, scene entry and exit points, etc.

My writing partner on Care and Control (social work drama series), who is currently undergoing some fairly heavy-duty medical treatment, is also now feeling up to having another pass at the script, so we're meeting on Monday to get that going again.

Finally, a fairly noteworthy agency has asked to read The Last of the Reality Police, my major MA script. That's obviously just like Chris Moyles taking his first step up Mount Kilimanjaro, but all you can ask for is for people to read your stuff, isn't it?

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Entertaining Mr Sloane, Trafalgar Studio

One of the problems of studying a lot of drama - both formally and informally - is that you end up knowing what happens in most of the classics before you ever see a production.

However, it gave me a bit of vicarious pleasure the other night to hear various horrified gasps and even a couple of involuntary "no"s during Entertaining Mr Sloane at the Trafalgar Studios (formerly the Whitehall Theatre).

The set-up is fairly simple; when the sexually frustrated Kath takes pity on homeless outsider Sloane and invites him into her house, a duel for his attention breaks out between Kath and her voracious (but closeted) gay brother Ed. Meanwhile, the siblings' father Kemp recognises Sloane's true nature from an incident in the past...

I'm guessing quite a few people turned up to see a jolly comedy, based on the presence of Mathew Horne, as Sloane. What they got instead was a dark and vicious production of a play that is much less baroquely plotted than Joe Orton's later work, but which still depicts the destructive power of sexual desire in even the most mundane surroundings.

There are only a couple of minor stumbling blocks. Horne affects an unreliable and distracting Midlands accent, presumably as a nod to Orton's Leicester origins, while Imelda Staunton, for all her talent, is stretching it slightly to pass as a fertile 40-year-old.

When I first discovered Joe Orton at university, drawn in by Prick Up Your Ears, I was captivated by his stylised and ambivalent dialogue. While it can sometimes sound a bit stilted when performed, the cast here ping it around effectively - especially Simon Paisley Day as the rigid and barking Ed.

The compromise that ends the play manages to be both inevitable and shocking, and makes you wish you'd been around to feel what an impact Orton must have had in the few short years between his emergence and his untimely death.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

RTS nominations

The Royal Television Society has announced the nominations for this year's awards. The full list is available via Broadcast, but here are the writers:

Writer - Comedy
  • Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong - Peep Show (Objective Production for Channel 4)
  • Sharon Horgan and Dennis Kelly - Pulling (Silver River for BBC Three)
  • Graham Linehan - The I.T. Crowd (talkbackTHAMES Production for Channel 4)
Writer - Drama
  • Simon Block - The Shooting of Thomas Hurndall (talkbackTHAMES Production for Channel 4)
  • Peter Flannery - The Devil's Whore (Company Pictures for Channel 4)
  • Peter Moffat - Criminal Justice (BBC Productions for BBC One)