Saturday, 24 January 2009

T is for Television

A lot of bloggers, and even some people in the real world, commented on The Writer's Tale a few months back; but I haven't seen anything yet about T is for Television by Mark Aldridge and Andy Murray, a brief biography and reasonably detailed career overview (so far) of Doctor Who Confidential's own Russell T Davies.

I've just finished it, and it serves as a perfect companion piece to Russell and Ben Cook's weighty compilation of E-Mail trails from last year. Somewhat perversely - but perhaps it was only to be expected - that semi-autobiography is much more searching and critical than this biography; which is not to say it pulls its punches, singling out some Doctor Who episodes, the first season of Torchwood, and a few other works, as not being up to the RTD standard. But also it's a loving tribute to the big, Welsh giant that's revolutionised Saturday night drama, etc. etc.

Russell - in one of many original interviews done for the book - comes over as passionate and contradictory as always. In one breath he is saying he hasn't ever joined the Writers' Guild because he doesn't think of writing as a job; the next, he's bemoaning the artistic temperament of some writer prima-donnas he's known who've forgotten that "it's a job" and should be done professionally. He also might frustrate the aspiring with his contention that it's easier to get into TV writing now than when he started, but he makes a persuasive case.

Obviously, any attempt to cover over forty years of life and over 20 years of career in 240 pages is going to seem a bit sketchy here and there (but that may be because I'm also concurrently reading Philip Norman's monster John Lennon biog which covers Lennon's life - shorter than RTD's, I think - over 800 pages that don't even talk about the music that much); but, there is some light shone into dusty corners of Russell's CV, like his work on Revelations and Springhill, that have not had much in the way of coverage until now.

It's also full of tidbits of advice from the mighty Rusty, as ever: don't just keep an ear out on the bus for living dialogue, check out the TV schedules too, and learn how to identify the really bad dialogue ("I feel hurt, betrayed, alone"); don't dismiss reality TV, or any genre, as somewhere where you can learn more about life, and therefore become a better writer; and, if you've sent off ten dozen scripts and not got anywhere, maybe it's worth quitting and doing something else. And many others.

Anyway, if you come by a copy, I can heartily recommend it; and I'm not even affiliated with its writers, or publisher - I should be getting a commission at least. Oh well.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

SWF 09 Launch

Lots and lots of lovely people made it to the launch party for the 2009 Screenwriters' Festival at the Channel 4 building on Horseferry Road on Tuesday.

As I stumbled along a dark road near St. James Park tube, squinting at my google-map print-out, who should loom out of the shadows like zombies but Messrs Arnopp, Barron and Clague. It was a mite scary, I can tell you, but also wonderful: it seems no longer possible for me to turn up to any kind of writing do and have to network alone. How good is that?

And as we arrived at the venue, ho - isn't that Mister Beckley, and with him, the Stackster? And Ms Lipton? Oh yes. I hadn't got in there yet, and already I was part of a veritable posse.

Inside, I met up again with Tony Keetch and Elena Fuller, non-bloggers but pitchers extraordinaire. They were both involved in the onstage pitching competition at last year's festival. Indeed most of the ten 2008 pitching finalists made it, including the fellow that later on in the evening won the raffle for a free ticket to SWF '09 (that's two years' running he hasn't had to pay, the lucky thing).

During the pre-talk convivials, I also met David Turner who's pitching this year, and bumped into (and yet again failed, alas, to have a proper conversation with) the wonderful David Lemon and Rachel (next time, I will talk to them, properly and find out Rachel's surname so I don't have to introduce them like a magic act).

Also - as far as I remember, someone correct me if I'm wrong - there was free wine.

After that, were the official talks: Mister Arnopp and David L have both summarised that stuff, so I don't have to strain to remember the details. The message boiled down to this: SWF 09 needs everyone's support to keep going in these difficult economic times, so buy a ticket as soon as you can to help their cash flow, if you want to go ,and if you care about the thing continuing. Fair enough. Sadly, because of a new production I'm involved with - which at the moment is top secret, but I shall post about it when the time comes - it is very unlikely that I'm going to be able to go to Cheltenham this year. There is only one way now open to me that I can see: become swiftly and prominently interesting and important enough to be invited onto a panel. Hey! It could happen...

Anyway, after the talks there were more opportunities for nibbles and a bit of networking and a soupcon of celeb spotting. Most exciting for me was that Michael Wearing was in the house - but I didn't get to talk to him. I'd spotted the tanned, white-haired fellow earlier on and had almost gone up to speak to him. Good thing I didn't, as at that point I thought he was Andrew Davies.

And - I may be mistaken, but I think I'm right on this - there was free wine again.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

New Year, New Meme

Happy New Year! I didn't expect to stay away from the blog for the full twelve days of Christmas, but it was a fantastic and furious time: lots of fun, lots of relatives visiting, lots of damn-the-recession fine food and wine, and my son (two and a half years old, so just this year getting what the season means) is still not sleeping properly at night because he is still so excited. I'm exhausted.

It's been mostly a holiday: I've nibbled at various pieces of script work over the last two weeks, but not chomped down hard on any one thing yet (this is a nice analogy isn't it?! Erk!). So, there hasn't been much to post about really. I've produced a whole five pages to reach 25 out of 60 on the Life Support pilot. So, I'm buckling down (or buckling under - whichever's good) to do a bit more before the big bad day job starts again on Monday (when, no doubt, my screenwriting effort will go up, but then I'm a contrary bugger, clearly).

Anyway, Piers has memed me with the 'what are you good and bad at' question: I'd say, from all the feedback so far that I'm better (I wouldn't claim to be good at anything necessarily) at characters and dialogue. I need to work harder on pitching my work, and on handling notes better in a rewrite. I won't pass the meme on, as I think everyone I know has already been passed it by someone else I know. Hello all of you people I know, by the way; you're looking well - is that top new?

P.S. A nice bit of luck - I was one of fifteen Shooters picked out of the hat for the Screenwriters' Festival launch party next Tuesday. Anyone else attending?