Monthly Archives: December 2010

Persona – 9 days to go!

Persona, the new smartphone drama I’ve been working on, launches in nine days.

Just think, when you wake up on January 1st with your world spinning, kebab smeared over your chin, your head a hundred pounds heavier and your wallet a hundred pounds lighter* you can climb over that boy/girl/farm animal (who seemed much more attractive at 3 am in a dark club/toilet/stable), pull your iPhone out of the pile of blood-flecked vomit and squint through your hangover (and shattered screen, if you’ve got an iPhone 4 – they aren’t very drunk proof) to watch two-ish minutes of awesomeness.

Wouldn’t that just get the year off to a good start?

Until you find out you’re/she’s/Daisy’s pregnant, diseased and remarkably clingy; but that’s okay because he/she/Daisy loves you and even though his/her/Daisy’s doctor/vet said he/she/Daisy shouldn’t really form close attachments so soon after his/her/Daisy’s breakdown, he/she/Daisy knows he won’t complain in your case, because you’re so wonderful and anyway his severed head’s in his/her/Daisy’s fridge/feed trough – which serves him right for looking him/her/Daisy in the face.

Let’s face it, 2011 isn’t looking that good for you right now – best just to revel in the two-ish minutes it’ll take to watch Persona and hope he/she/Daisy picks a fight with his/her/Daisy’s own reflection and slits his/her/Daisy’s own ridiculously ugly throat.

Ah, New Year – it’s the same every year. The one day of the year you’re COMMANDED to have fun. You MUST enjoy yourself. If you stop smiling for even a millisecond, fifty, pissed-up fucking strangers pounce on you and demand you “Cheer up for fuck’s sake, it’s New Year’s Eve!”

Fuck off, fuck off all of you! I know what fucking day it is, I’m not fucking stupid. Why else do you think I’m standing in this hell hole dressed like a gay Mexican?And can you please just back the fuck off? Just one fucking millimetre so I can get enough space in this sweating, heaving mass of B.O. to raise the drink I’ve had fruitlessly crushed against my chest for four hours to my momentarily unsmiling mouth? I’ve fucking paid the same as you to be in here, you know? Fucking shit loads to stand here listening to the world’s worst DJ playing the world’s worst music to the world’s worst fucks.

I don’t want my fun arranged months in advance. I don’t want to have fun on a specific night because you tell me I’m supposed to. I want my fun to be … well, fun. New Year’s Eve I’ll either be locked in my bedroom, hiding under the duvet … or patrolling the streets with a sniper rifle.

BANG! Cheer up for fuck’s sake, it’s New Year’s Eve!

New Year’s Day, on the other hand, I’ll be watching Persona.

On Mandy’s iPhone, obviously.

Assuming she hasn’t shattered the screen by placing it on the table too vigorously between now and then.

Ooh, look, a logo for Persona:

I love when the artwork starts turning up – it’s the first sign of realness. Not quite as good as the teaser trailer, of course. That’s when you know it’s all hurtling towards you with frightening inevitability.

Oh look, there’s a teaser trailer:

Wow, that really doesn’t tell you anything, does it?

Do you feel teased? Do you?

So there you are, Persona starts on New Year’s Day. Salivate, salivate now. And whilst doing so, why not become friends with App Media on Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/app.media

Or follow their meandering rants on Twitter:

http://twitter.com/App_Media

And remember, we’re still looking for writers

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* Five hundred pounds if you live in London.

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Categories: Persona, Progress, Publicity, Rants, Sad Bastard | 6 Comments

Writing for Persona

This is quite a long post – there’s a writing opportunity at the end, you might want to skip to it.

If there was one thing which kept me happy whilst we were coming up with the format for Persona, it was this single thought: thank fuck I won’t have to actually write it.

I can vividly remember the fear in the eyes of our writers when I first explained exactly how it was going to work – even though they weren’t all in the room or even visible at the time. Which suggests I might well be imagining that bit. Up until that point, we thought it was going to be a simple case of taking a twelve minute short film script and breaking it up into minute and a half pieces.

Ha! How I laugh now at such naive foolishness.

What we figured was this:

If each appisode features one of the four storylines, then there’s a danger people will pick a favourite character and only end up watching every fourth appisode. This means they won’t get sucked into stories which may not have an instant appeal, will miss anything exciting which develops later on and, in all probability, will stop watching once their particular favourite has run its course.

That will never do.

Each appisode has to feature at least two storylines. The simplest thing to do would be to split each appisode in two and run stories A and B on day one, C and D on day two, A and B on day three … and so on.

Except, you then have a similar problem – someone who only likes story A will only watch alternate days and if story B isn’t to their liking and they never see any part of C or D … once A runs its course they might just give up. What we needed was some kind of formula which meant different storylines run together on different days.

For reasons I can’t really recall, someone (me?) decided it would be best to have thirty seconds of one story and one minute of a second in every appisode – expecting, of course, the appisodes to run longer than one-minute thirty and to edge closer towards our two minute goal.

With that in mind, I devised the following, fiendish formula. Or Matrix, as he called it – again, for reasons which escape me:

 WRITER A = RED

 WRITER B = BLUE

 WRITER C = GREEN

 WRITER D = PURPLE

 

CAPITAL LETTER = one minute segment.

small letter = thirty second segment.

Wed 1st: a b c d

Thurs 2nd: A b

Fri 3rd: B c

Sat 4th: C d

Sun 5th: D a

Mon 6th: A b

Tues 7th: B c

Wed 8th: C d

Thurs 9th: D a

Fri 10th: A b … and so on.

The first and last day of each month, along with special occasions (Christmas, New Year, Valentines Day … whatever) will feature all four storylines so regular viewers will get exposed to all current storylines whether they want to or not.

Make sense?

Good.

What do you think of all the pretty colours?

In addition to the full Matrix, each writer also gets something like this:

a A a A a A a A a A a A a a A a a

Wed 1st:     a b c d

Thurs 2nd:    A b

Sun 5th:     D a

Mon 6th:    A b

Thurs 9th:   D a

Fri 10th:    A b … and so on.

The first line shows the order of their thirty second/one minute scenes. The rest shows which days the appisodes fall on because, as someone pointed out the first time I mentioned the Matrix, the stories have to run more or less in real time or it becomes really confusing. Story A can’t all happen in one night if Story B happens over the course of a year. Appisode one happens on the 1st, Appisode two on the 2nd … and so on.

Although you can cheat a cliffhanger across consecutive days, you can’t really do it three days later. In this example, Writer A can have a scene on the 5th finish on a cliffhanger and be resolved on the 6th; but not a cliffhanger on the 6th which comes back to the same scene on the 9th – people rarely stand still for that long.

At this point, your head should be spinning and the fear should be setting in. There are a lot of rules here. It’s an incredibly tricky technical challenge without the pressure of actually having to be entertaining. If you factor in actually writing good material, limited locations, characters and props … it’s edging towards bastard hard territory.

And then there’s this thought: the total running time of each story is only twelve minutes (ish); but each story happen in real time for a month. True, we’re not seeing all of it, just dipping in and out; but given each story takes the characters a month to live – it has to be closer to a feature film in scope and complexity. These aren’t short stories as such, they’re more like feature films we dip in and out of for thirty seconds or a minute at a time.

Let’s shovel a little more shit onto the poor, drowning writers. Each story gets broken up into approximately 17 pieces (10 thirty seconds, 7 full minutes) and each piece needs to move the story on, advance character or add a new twist … completely on its own. It can’t be an extension of the preceding two scenes – it has to be a complete beat in and of itself.

In a normal script, scenes run together to form sequences which complete a single beat. You can’t do this here, there isn’t time and it’s hard to link scenes together when they’re separated by a couple of days.

So the stories have to:

  • Be extremely limited in terms of characters and locations (the fewer the better the cheaper)
  • Take an entire month to unfold
  • Be split into seventeen beats – seventeen separate things need to happen/change/twist/develop
  • Be told in alternating minute and thirty second segments
  • Pay attention to the matrix – if your character’s a banker and your next logical scene takes place at work but it’s a Sunday … you need to either find a damn good reason for her to be at work, or have yourself a tea break and a rethink.
  • Involve www.i-heart-u.co.uk in some way, shape or form

Like I say, the only saving grace for me was I wouldn’t have to fucking do it. If I thought I was going to have to do it, I’d have made it much, much easier.

As it happens, I did have to when one of the writers dropped out because of other commitments.

Bugger.

The thing is … it’s actually kind of fun, in a twisted way. It doesn’t take much time to write and the technical challenges are as interesting as the dramatic ones: how can I make this dramatic? And cheap? And short?

Does all this interest you? Or fill you with fear and the desire to run away?

If it’s the latter, congratulations – you’ve passed stage one of the sanity test.

If it’s the former … come this way …

We’re looking for extra writers to bump up the core team. Hell, we’re looking for extra writers full stop. This is intended to be a long term project and if it’s successful we’re going to need a lot of scripts.

If you think you could write to this brief, we’d love to hear from you. The plan is to get well ahead of the game, rather than have just four writers scrabbling to keep on top of things. Anyone who’s interested can write for us as many times as they like and we’d love to keep coming back to the same talented writers. On the other hand, if you want to have a go once, just to see if you can do it – that’s cool too. There’s plenty of scope for both returning and one off characters.

If you have one idea or a thousand, we’d love to hear them and from you. Drop us a line at info@app-media.com* and we’ll send you some more details.

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* Put ‘I’M FUCKING CRAZY ENOUGH TO WANT TO WRITE FOR YOU’ in the subject line – no one there will understand why and it will probably get snagged by the spam filter; but it will amuse me immensely.

Ha ha! If you did skip the post looking for this opportunity – you have no idea what it’s all about. This too amuses me greatly.

Categories: Opportunity, Persona | 5 Comments

Persona

“No, I don’t want to do it. I’m not interested.”

That seems clear enough, doesn’t it?

“No” as in … no.

“I don’t want to do it.” surely expresses a lack of acceptance on my behalf? Or at the very least a desire not to be involved.

“I’m not interested.” that must mean the project doesn’t interest me enough to want to work on it?

Even if it’s not that clear, the half an hour spent outlining exactly what my objections and reservations were, why drama doesn’t interest me as much as genre* and how I just don’t have the time anyway must have got my point across?

Surely?

Although apparently not, since Persona starts shooting today and I’ve not only co-ordinated the writers, been forced to meet and interact with dozens of actors, developed the format for the show, script edited seventeen drafts of three stories by three different writers and written a ‘New Writers’ Brief’ for anyone interested in joining the core team … but also written a fourth story myself.

How the fuck did that happen?

And how come it hasn’t actually impacted negatively on the mountain of stuff I was already working on? I think I must have finally given up sleeping altogether.

So what is Persona?

Well, I’m glad you asked that. Even if you didn’t, I’m going to tell you anyway. Unless you stop reading, then you’ll never know.

Persona is a daily, two minute, continuing drama series delivered directly to your shiny (or scratched and toilet dropped) smartphone. Purchase the app for a teeny, tiny, miniscule price and you get the content delivered direct to your phone forever more.

Four interlocking stories a month, split up into bite-sized daily appisodes which combine and rebound to build a complex, coherent world. The starting point for Persona is an Internet Dating site: www.i-heart-u.co.uk which allows us to shoot off into a myriad of different lives, situations and dilemmas. Not all of it’s about dating, the website is just something at least one person in each story is using – for reasons good, bad or nefarious.

That’s the theory anyway – it starts shooting today, be interesting to see how it all pans out.

For the curious among you, there’s more info on www.app-media.com.

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*Sci-fi = Drama plus space/giant robots/time travel. Horror = Drama plus zombies/vampires/monsters. Action = Drama plus shit blowing up. Comedy = Drama plus jokes. Drama = Drama plus … nothing. Drama is Genre minus stuff. The fun stuff.

Categories: Persona, Progress | 11 Comments

By way of a comparison …

A few days back I wrote about two idiot producers I worked with and how they were a bit on the annoying/twatty side.

And that bothers me.

Not because they might work out who they are, I’m pretty certain their egos filter out any unpleasantness long before it hits their brains, but because I don’t really like being so negative. Yes, I know the Internet is largely a place for people to opine on how everyone else except them is shit and how the world would be much better if only they were given a chance; but I think there’s enough of that out there, don’t you?

Most of this blog, for example.

So in an attempt to redress the balance, I thought I’d follow up with two tales of producery loveliness:

Loveliness the first:

I’d been doing this project with a writer/performer who is, quite possibly, the most egotistical, talentless twat I’ve ever met in my life. And this is coming from me, so that’s saying something.

I know, I know, it’s all gone negative again; but it’s necessary to highlight the loveliness.

So this writer/performer and I are not getting on. I’ve been hired to write her story and she is … look, just imagine the worst possible person you could be locked in a room with – that’s her. I can’t work with her, even though I’m contractually obliged to. I try to get fired, but she doesn’t seem to get the hint. The project lurches from fresh hell to foetid hell until, in the end, I ring up the producer and tell him flat out I can’t work with her any more.

“Don’t blame you, I wouldn’t.”

Huh? There’s not going to be a fight, some contract waving and legal letters?

“Tell you what, I’ll just tell her she’s the best person to write the project and lie to her about you until she’s forgotten who you are.”

Really?

“Yeah, it shouldn’t take long – let’s face it, if she can find a pensioner to mug she’ll be dead of an overdose by Monday anyway. Don’t worry, I’ll sort everything, you enjoy your weekend.”

And that was pretty much that. Hooray! Freedom! What a lovely man.

Loveliness the second:

A few years back I was lead writer on an Internet thing which never actually happened. Okay, so that’s not true – it did happen, sort of. It was filmed and then nothing happened with it. I was getting notes from the producer, interpreting them and distributing them to the writers. He didn’t like the way one story was developing and asked for some changes – big, bold changes.

“Change it. Change it all. None of it works, don’t force it to work – find a different way.”

Dutifully, I suggested a totally new story direction to the producer, he forwarded it to the writer who set off to make it happen.

All well and good.

Except, unbeknownst to me, a director had been hired. A director who had very specific ideas about how to fix the original script … so when the revised, completely different script was delivered, the director was a bit pissed off and wrote a series of notes to the writer about how he’d ruined his vision.

The writer then contacted me, wondering why I’d given him a set of notes which were contrary to the director’s vision and why I’d made him look like a twat. He also contacted the director and told him I’d ordered the changes, which led to the director thinking I was a twat too.

To be fair, I am a twat; but on this occasion it wasn’t my fault. The producer confessed he hadn’t actually read my suggested story changes and had sent them on without thinking. Nor had he told the director he’d requested the changes in the first place.

You’d think this wouldn’t be a problem, since it was obviously a mistake on the producer’s behalf. All it takes is a couple of phone calls and the blame is transferred …

The problem there is, my experience shows producers rarely like to admit they’ve made a mistake. The slightest whiff of egg approaching face and they start pointing fingers so fast their hands break the sound barrier. I don’t recall any producer ever saying ‘Yeah, that was my fault’ so either I contact the writer and director and blame the producer (which contravenes the first rule I learnt on my first day at school – no snitching) or I just assume the all-too-comfortable mantle of ‘twat’ and work to resolve the problem.

And then the producer offers, offers, to take the blame.

“I’ll just ring up and tell them it’s my fault.”

But … then they’ll both be pissed off with you!

“Yeah, well, it is my fault – I’ll just tell them.”

Oh my God, he must be suicidally depressed or … oh no, he’s just a nice, professional chap who’s more interested in producing the best product he can than appearing infallible to he can lord his power over drunk, desperate actresses.

What a nice guy.

Unless he lied to me and told them it was all my fault.

Nah, I choose to believe the positive. I have worked with some nice people, people I would work with again in a heartbeat, and although the incompetent, unpleasant ones make for a better story; I’d rather, just for once, acknowledge the nice, competent professionals out there.

Sorry.

Normal service will be resumed soon.

Categories: Random Witterings | 3 Comments

Snö!

It’s snowing! It’s snowing outside! It’s even snowing on my blog! Hooray!

Okay, so for some of you it might not sound that exciting; but I never get to see snow. Not ever. Every time it snows I’m stuck in the Caribbean forced to lounge around under palm trees and drink things with pineapple or coconut in.

But not this year, baby. Oh no. I’m here this year.

It’s snowing!

I love snow me. I love snowball fights (as long as I’m on the winning team, otherwise I sulk) I love sledging (even though it’s almost impossible to actually buy a sledge – they aren’t in stock all year and then as soon as it snows, they sell out), hell, I even love driving in the snow.

Some people find snow-driving scary; but I love it. To be honest, I love driving in general. To me a car has always represented freedom and adventure and midnight stupidity. I passed my driving test in the Spring, leapt into my gleaming gold Capri and immediately proceeded to crash into pretty much anything and everything I could find.

I was a fantastically bad driver, still am in many ways; but at least now I’m an experienced bad driver. I’ve spun off the road under every set of conditions imaginable. I’ve hit moving objects, stationary objects, stationary objects which moved immediately after impact and moving objects which rarely moved again.

Take, for example, exhibit a:

My beautiful pride and joy, my first ever car. Yes, it’s a bit on the gold side – but marvel at the shininess of that freshly polished bonnet.

Incidentally, in that photo (including me on the right) are three of the only four people who’ve ever paid to see Just for the Record in a cinema. Pity them.

I loved that car. I polished it every … well, once. Then I crashed it a lot. Witness exhibit b:

… which was shortly after I’d ploughed it into a twenty year-old cherry tree at just over ninety miles per hour. I know it was twenty years-old because, whilst I was lying on the floor in a pool of my own blood, the owner ran across his garden (which was where the Capri had come to rest)shouting “That bloody cherry tree’s been there for twenty years!”

Honestly, mate, if I’d know the tree was there at all I wouldn’t have hit it.

Well, to be fair, I probably would have. You see, most Capris had one fatal flaw: corners. They just didn’t respond well to instructions from the steering wheel. Great in a straight line, not so good if you need to avoid pensioners, small animals or cherry trees.

My Capri had three flaws (excluding the colour):

  1. the aforementioned steering
  2. the engine – replaced by a previous owner with a far larger one which had been … tinkered with. It was VERY fast. Silly fast. I once outran a Porsche – which shouldn’t be possible in a shonky Capri. (Turns out, years later, the previous owner got arrested for robbing a bank, which leads me to suspect this car had been set up as a getaway car). A big, fast engine isn’t a flaw on its own; but is when you add in the last flaw:
  3. Me.

Take another look at that first photo. Note the happy, clean-cut teenagers posing sweetly for the camera. Now look at the same guys after a year of been driven around by me:

Granted, everyone still looks happy; but there’s obviously been some dreadful traumas in the recent past – how else would you account for the clothes? Or the hair? For the love of God, man, look at the hair! Check out my head-band, Red Dwarf T-shirt tucked into ice-wash jeans combo – clear evidence of recent head injury if ever you needed it.

Apparently we also sold all my parents’ furniture to pay for our musical instruments. I was wondering where the TV was, but it’s the tiny thing over in the right-hand corner – remember when TVs were smaller than a billboard? Do you?

Six months, three cars (and many, many accidents) after passing my test it was Winter and it snowed heavily. Hooray! A new set of nasty conditions in which to be a twat. By now, I was a slightly more canny driver and, although perhaps not a safer driver, I did do a little bit of preparation.

The night of the first snowfall, I found a nearby field (back when such things existed) and practised skidding, sliding and generally losing control of the car in the snow until I had a fairly good grasp of how to do it … and, more importantly, how to regain control.

The next day at school, after collecting my chums, I roared into the school car park, span the car through 540 degrees and slid backwards into a parking space between two perfectly parked cars – much to the horror of everyone in my car … and the two teachers in the cars either side who were having a crafty fag.

Fag meaning cigarette and not homosexual. They may well have been gay teachers, but that’s neither here nor there. What is both here and there (or there and then) was their righteous fury at having set fire to their groins as their cigarettes dropped from their jaws slack with shock.

That was the first time I was banned from taking my car to school. The second was for driving from the passenger seat – something else I practised in a field.

All this is a long-winded way of saying that while I may still not be a good driver, crucially, I’m not scared of driving either. If I lose control of a car, I can, generally speaking, regain control reasonably quickly in circumstances other, safer, drivers may not have experienced.

Hence, driving in the snow holds no fear for the foolish (me) and while the rest of the country was cowering in their homes (or on the M25) under a thick blanket of snow, I decided it was the perfect time for a road trip.

Ah, road trips – the instigator of high adventure. Whether it’s a determination to find the Rollright Stones at three in the morning (I wasn’t to fucking know the big ones on Doctor Who were fibreglass. I was seven at the time, for fuck’s sake!), one of several failed attempts to find the Northern Lights (I wasn’t to fucking know how long it takes to drive to Scotland. I have no sense of direction, for fuck’s sake!) or deciding at 10.00 pm it would be a good idea to drive to Dudley Castle and run around in the background of Most Haunted: Live shouting ‘Whoooo!’ (I wasn’t to fucking know the show finished at midnight. I’m incapable of rational thought, for fuck’s sake! At least I got us from Crawley to Dudley in under two hours – that’s not bad going. Even if we did have to let the car cool down for two hours before it would restart) a road trip is always fun, always eventful and underpins much of my teenage/twenty-something memories.

Sadly, my need to see Bognor Regis at four in the morning so we can practise handstands has waned considerably in my thirties and since meeting my wife (and actually getting laid more frequently than once a millennium) road trips have fallen by the way side; so it was with considerable excitement that Mandy and I set off yesterday, in the worst driving conditions for twenty years, to go to IKEA.

Okay, so IKEA isn’t quite as exciting as driving to Sherwood Forest at midnight with a toy bow and arrow set to pretend to be Robin Hood, but I’m nearly forty for fuck’s sake. This is a middle aged adventure.

Or it would have been if we hadn’t got stuck in a snow-induced traffic jam for three hours before giving up and going home. Seriously, Eastbourne to the top of the M23: one hour. Top of the M23 to 0.4 of a mile past the top of the M23: THREE FUCKING HOURS!

THREE!

Not the eight some of the poor souls stuck on the M25 had to endure, but three is bad enough thank you very much.

In the end we just turned round and went to the cinema in Crawley. In deference to my misspent twenties, we did actually sneak in; but since we’d already bought the tickets it was, at best, a pathetic form of rebellion.

We went to see Due Date, if you’re interested (or waiting, desperately, to find out what any of this has to do with scriptwriting*) and it was very good. There’s a podcast about the writing of it here, which is also very good.

If you find yourself stuck in a car with an incredibly entertaining, interesting and sexy wife, with snow piling up around you whilst you try to relive your lost youth in a pathetically misjudged and middle-aged attempt to buy cheap yet quirky flat-pack storage solutions from a Swedish furniture giant … go and see Due Date, I’d highly recommend it.

Right, I’m off to buy a sledge.

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* Very little. Sorry.

Categories: Random Witterings, Sad Bastard | Leave a comment

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