Thursday, 30 April 2009

2009 Sir Peter Ustinov Television Scriptwriting Award

Okay everyone - first and fastest, I wanted to let people know that the 2009 Sir Peter Ustinov Television Scriptwriting Award is now open!

This is the award I won last year so needless to say I highly recommend entering it if you're eligible. The basic rules are:
The Applicant must be a non-U.S. citizen residing outside of the U.S.
The Applicant must not have reached his/her 30th birthday as of December 31st of the current year.
The Applicant must deliver an original completed DRAMA script for television, written in English.
The script must be a minimum of a half hour and a maximum of one hour in length.
The deadline is July 15th 2009.
For more information and an application form, go to here

And don't forget, for that vital script feedback before you send off your entry - contact me at the usual address!

Thanks and good luck!

Monday, 27 April 2009


And just like that, I’m back from my self-imposed two-week hiatus. I needed the time away to be honest. Things were getting very hectic, professionally and personally, and I was mentally and physically not in the best place. I’ve never wanted this blog to turn into a moan fest or the world is shite extravaganza, so I thought the best course of action was to leave it alone, get my head down and sort out what I had to sort out.

So Passover was nice, even though me and the wife were both unwell for the first part. But at least the new fridge freezer arrived when promised! My hernia still hurts (seriously how do footballers keep on playing with hernias!?) but I don’t know where that road leads to as surgery can be a bit dicey for one such as myself. On the plus side, a hemorrhage I had in my right eye (don’t ask, I’ve had two in my left 3 years ago and fortunately they sound worse than they are) cleared up ok, and my physio has continued to help me with my back. So like I say, a lot of stress, shuffling from one medical person to the next, and just trying to stay afloat.

Work wise, my Coming Up application went off on time, and I’m quite pleased with it, even though I think it will be a stretch to progress further simply because it feels ‘bigger’ then any of the ones I watched on Channel 4. Then the decks were cleared, apart from my reading commitments of course, to apply to the BBC Writers' Academy. Like Lucy, I have also been experiencing the fear. Tinkering, polishing, redrafting, neurotically hunting for typos (as if that’s how John Yorke and Ceri Meyrick choose the next generation of BBC writers), I’ve done it all. But finally, I can confirm that I clicked send about an hour or so ago.

It’s weird to want something this much. I mean obviously I want things all the time. In my personal life, to be healthy, rich and other stuff. In my professional life, to win this comp or that award, to have this script optioned or even just a phone call returned! But career wise, whilst that’s all great, nothing seems to compare to the BBC Writers Academy. Along with the Comedy College, I don’t think the Beeb get enough credit for what they are doing. People are quick enough to give them stick, and I’m sure I’ve questioned plenty of commissioning choices etc. But what other organisation in our industry is literally offering you a career. And it is exactly that. Previous graduates prove it to be the case. So Lucy made me laugh when she suggested that when you really, really want something, you endanger wrecking it, so one tactic is to remain calm, aloof or, my own default position, ironic detachment. None of which works of course, and it made me laugh further when I realised I had been doing exactly that when we spoke online a few weeks ago.

But to hell with all that. I’ve seen enough Masterchef passion tests to know that the men who cry often get through. Particularly big and butch men. Of which I am neither, but if I do get to the interview stage, I tell you now, I am ruling nothing out. I’ve even started to make deals, like please, please, if it’s a choice between Arsenal going to Rome and me going to Elstree, let them win it next year! (Sorry T.)

But you know what, it’s also important to remember other stuff. I like watching those shows with Willie whatshisname on Channel 4 who is obsessed with chocolate. They’re interesting and cool and I wish I had my own chocolate factory. But sometimes they make me sad. All the shows involve him being away from his family, working 18 hour days, mortgaging everything in sight to raise funds, leaving his wife to look after stuff and not seeing his kids. To be fair they all seem on board with his choices, (most of the time!) and thankfully it all seems to work out in the end. And I mean blimey, I’m not judging. I don’t even know the bloke and at the end of the day it’s still a TV show. But there are times I watch it thinking for goodness sake man, it’s just chocolate. You can’t take it with you. Go and spend time with your kids!

So whilst I want to get into the BBC Writers' Academy more than I’ve probably wanted anything ever, certainly professionally, if I don’t, I’ll be okay. It won’t be the end of the world. In my very first post I wrote that we write cos we love it. But I love other things too. And more. I love my family and my wife and I’d really love to not be in pain for just one frickin day. My Rabbi says that we work as a punishment, for want of a better word. That the ideal state for man is for everything to be provided for us. But we have to labour cos we messed up in The Garden. But ultimately, the Big Man will be the one who decides what we achieve, what we earn etc. I know most of the people reading this will not believe a single word and think I am talking crap! That’s ok. But I’ve found it really useful in remaining calm when things don’t go how I want them to. If I can look back and say I’ve done the very best I can, like I did with the Kaos Film Comp, and with Rise (whatever happened to those guys) and with the Jewish Film Fund application and with Coming Up and yes, with the WA application, then that’s my part done. It might be my turn, like it was with the iEmmys (whoo whoo) or it might not.

Sorry to be a bit heavy. It’s been that kind of couple of weeks. Normal irreverent service will be resumed soon.

So in the words of Jed Bartlett… what’s next?

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

It was the night before Passover and all was quiet

Or not. It is the night before the Jewish festival of Passover, which kicks off tomorrow evening, but it's been anything but quiet. Passover commemorates when God took the Jewish people out of slavery in Egypt (basically see Prince of Egypt, with a few creative liberties thrown in.) And like most Jewish festivals, this one involves a lot of food. So it was an inauspicious moment for the fridge freezer to break last night. This meant running stuff round to my parents and ordering another fridge freezer that had to arrive Wednesday. Kudos to Comet then for being the only ones we could find who would guarantee next day delivery. They just better turn up now.

On to today and I wake up with a horrible head cold. But I couldn't stay in bed because I had an ultra sound to get to - which then revealed I have the makings of a hernia that will probably require surgery before it becomes a bigger problem. Well that's bloody fantastic. Really looking forward to going under the knife, but for now just gotta wait until I speak to my doctor.

Didn't think the day would get worse than that, and I suppose it didn't. But not being in the best of moods as it is, it didn't help to then find out I've been knocked out of the Kaos Feature Comp at the 2nd Round (which I naturally thought was an outrage) and would not be receiving any money from the Jewish Film Fund to make a short (another outrage.) But, through not too gritted teeth, good luck to those left in the comp and whoever gets the funding - your movie better be better than mine or I'll be after you.

So with all that going on, posting has been a little slow. I was going to write some TV reviews, but have not got round to it. I'm enjoying Channel Five's new show The Mentalist though, and just caught up on the daytime drama Missing, stripped across the BBC a few weeks ago. So I may return to talk about them at some point. And as I'm the only one on the planet who has never watched The Wire, the DVR machine has been working overtime to store them up (did BBC2 really have to show them every night!?) so I will let you know if I think it's worth the fuss when I can. I'm sure you can hardly contain yourselves.

But for now I think I am going to take some time off. Hopefully recover from the cold, sort out some other stuff, and enjoy Passover. However writers are never 'off' though really, are they? So it almost goes without saying that my Coming Up entry is done and will be in the post tomorrow, with focus now switching to the cluster**** to the Writers' Academy.

But the blog might be a bit quiet for the next couple of weeks or so. However I'm still available if any scripts need reading - just email at the usual address.

For now, keep reading scripts, keep writing them well, have a Happy Passover, and Happy Easter too!

(And I don't wanna hear about any typos in this post - cos my head is all messed up!)

Friday, 3 April 2009

Coming Up: And Kill Them

By kind permission of writer Seamus Hilley, I'm delighted to be able to post the And Kill Them treatment.



AND KILL THEM is set in the living quarters of an Army training regiment, where rooms are spartan, first names are never used and nineteen is middle-aged. Hundreds of young men have passed through this room but one thing has remained constant: a poster of KELLY, naked, a Poundstretcher vision of glamour. Many have dreamed that she might just step out of the poster and become flesh and blood but nobody has ever seen her before. Then EVANS came along.

He’s scared to admit it but Evans can see her sometimes. Half glimpsed, from the corner of his eye, he watches her walk among them. And she really does. In return, Kelly can see something special in him. If he does well and finishes his training, she knows an IED in Iraq will kill him. She’d tell him if she could but, luckily, Evans is a fuck-up and seems unlikely to stay in the Army for long. When the recruits are at attention outside the room all he has to do is remember his number in the sequence and shout it out. But the words won’t come. It’s as if he can’t throw off who he used to be and become like the others.

This has serious consequences for him. Not just from his training NCO whom we hear, but never see. Authority may be vested in the shouting voices which lurk outside their room but direct retribution will come from those who must suffer for Evan’s failures alongside him; the three recruits who share his room. The Army relies on peer pressure to cull the weaklings from the herd. One of them, CAMPBELL, is determined to drive Evans out. He’s a classic bully, able to sniff out any weakness and prey on it. In the long run he’s doing Evan’s a favour, but CLARKE and KING, the other roommates, are less keen. They are repelled by Campbell’s persecution of Evans and try to stick up for him.

Evans blossoms when these two show him a little friendship. All of them are looking to the Army to supply something lacking in their lives, direction, education or simply the sense of belonging. Kelly is dismayed as she watches him begin to fit in and lose himself in the comforting embrace of service life.

When Evans screws up his number sequence once more Campbell is prevented from hurting him. He goes to bed that night with a sense of the job undone. In his dreams Kelly encourages him to sabotage Evans’ locker for inspection the following day. He does this, the Corporal throws everyone’s kit out the window, and finally Clarke and King begin to turn against Evans. Kelly sees the shadow of death is lifting from round his shoulders.

But like all bullies Campbell goes too far. He and another recruit dangle Evans upside down from a third storey window. This encourages Evans to remember his number but his naked terror brings out the protector in Clarke and King. They realise that Campbell was only a heartbeat away from murder and give him a hiding. They will help and protect Evans for the rest of his training.

Evans no longer sees Kelly. But she watches with mixed emotions as Evans rejoices in the comforts of the first real family he has known and sets out happily on the long road toward Iraq.


Two more examples of previously successful treatments can be found on the Touchaper Television website.

Thanks again to Seamus. It's really useful to look at these treatments and watch the films. As I mentioned yesterday, the more you do this, the more you get a sense of what the scheme is looking for. Although the stories and tones vary, there are aspects, even just technical details, that come up time and again. It certainly proved very useful as I rewrite my script, and I'm sure it will make my application stronger.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Coming Up: Paradise Adventure

The next one is on just after 2am tonight!

Coming Up: Paradise Adventure (2006)
Surreal black comedy about a man who learns he has everything to live for, just when he's paid a company to kill him.

Written by Dan Hine, Chris Sussman
Directed by Dan Hine

The more you watch these films, the more you really can see what the scheme is looking for. I think my script, for example, has too many locations and possibly characters. So it's been a good exercise in low budget thinking and writing to really analyze each scene and character, ask yourself what you need and want out of it, and then see if you can combine things without damaging the story and losing integrity.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Coming Up: Stir it Up

Well they may not be prime time, but to be fair to Channel 4 they are showing a few of the films. The next one is 1:30am tonight.

Coming Up: Stir it Up (2006)
Stir it Up: Romantic drama about love, loss and liberation, as a shy teenager falls for her mother's toy boy.

Written by Elizabeth Heery
Directed by Colin Hutton

I'm becoming increasingly worried, when checking out IMDB, about what these successful writers go on to do. Not a lot, it would appear. But I am enjoying watching these series of films.