Monthly Archives: July 2011


I was chatting to a producer the other day who’s trying to navigate one of my scripts through the murky backwaters of the UK, low-budget, indie scene towards the fabled shores of production. He’s a relatively inexperienced (although shrewd, relentless and talented) guy who knows I’ve done a lot of work on various low-budget productions with a wide cross-section of companies and wanted to pick my brains about various offers and proposals he’d had for this script.

Everyone says they like it. Everyone wants to be involved. No one has offered any money.

This is kind of normal.

Most scripts are shit. Especially at the low-budget end of the industry, because genuinely good scripts tend to get snapped up by the bigger companies. A script with even an ember of not-shitness glowing in its centre tends to stand out and attract attention. Even if these people don’t like the script, they recognise it’s slightly better than the tidal of wave of shit they’re swimming in and therefore might be worth being involved with … but probably not paying for.

So they never say they’re not interested. They enthuse about it … because enthusiasm is free and, hey, you never know … blowing on that ember might produce a roaring blaze of mediocrity.

So this producer is saying “These people are offering this” or “Those people really like it and think this might be the way forward” and he wants to know if that sounds like a good deal?

And my answer is … be careful.

Really. Be very careful what you agree to. Even in passing.

You may or may not know this (you probably do, because you’re wonderful) but a large percentage of actors, producers, financiers and … fuck it, almost everyone working in the micro-to-low budget end of the UK film industry is, was or thinks they are a gangster.

A large percentage.

Larger than that.

Not all of them, mind. Not by a long shot. Or probably a short shot; but a lot of them.

I don’t know what the fuck goes wrong in a gangster’s head*; but at some point in their lives they wake up in the morning and decide they want to be in films. Usually acting, sometimes in some producer capacity occasionally as a director. Frequently all three.

So they buy themselves a career.

Or at least the ones who are or were gangsters do. The ones who think they’re gangsters tell you they’ve got the money … but turn out not to. Usually, you discover this mid-way through the shoot. Which is always handy.

So when someone offers you money to make a film, there’s a good chance they want to play the lead … but will only tell you when you’ve already spent some of the money. If they tell you they can get you a certain actor – they probably can, but he might arrive with a black eye. Gagged and bound in a sack.

If they’re just a production company, there’s a good chance their modest percentage will increase dramatically throughout. Even if they don’t take a larger financial cut, the thing with gangsters is … well, they don’t always take very well to collaboration. You might find they start hiring their friends or expecting things to be done in a particular way … and they’re frequently hard to dissuade.

This isn’t everyone, don’t get me wrong. Some of them have given up hitting people and are lovely. Some of them are genuinely good actors. Some of them know the film industry inside out and their expertise is invaluable.

But it’s kind of hard to tell who’s who at the beginning of the process. So … proceed with caution.

Luckily, as the writer, you don’t really get involved in all the rubber hose and ribcage shenanigans. Unless you’re selling them your spec … which I wouldn’t necessarily advise for or against.

Producers and directors … you’re the front line, be careful.


* I have a theory about this, but since it’s based largely on having watched Goodfellas once it probably doesn’t hold a lot of water. I think people become gangsters because they have an inferiority complex. They want people to love them (or at least like them) and think getting ‘respect’ is the way to do it.

So they wander around beating people up and stealing things. If you beat enough people up, the rest of the local population tend to be nice to you. If you steal enough things, you have lots of money and people are always nice to people with money. You can’t buy friends, but you can rent them.

So they go through life feeling respected … until it slowly dawns on them no one actually likes them. It’s all fear and avarice. Fear will one day turn to hate and the people they beat up might gang together and fight back. Avaricious people are only nice as long as you’ve got the money to pay for it.

But if hitting people doesn’t get you love, then what will? What about being famous? Everyone loves actors, if I’m an actor then everyone will love me! Let’s face it, acting’s just lying and hitting people while things blow up behind you, right? I can do that!

So they become actors.

Either that or they do it because they think they’ll be able to fuck loads of actresses.

One or the other.

Categories: Industry Musings, Random Witterings | 2 Comments

Industrial Scripts – Talent Connector

Just been sent this press release, sounds interesting and might be worth checking out:

Industrial Scripts launches 1st UK script promotion programme, backed by Curtis Brown Group

The ongoing programme assesses film & TV scripts and champions the best unrepped talent to come through the company’s coverage system, using Industrial Scripts’ experience and network. It is the first of its kind in the UK and Industrial Scripts neither charges writers fees to market projects, nor takes a fee if projects sell or attract the representation of an agent.

Industrial Scripts is the London-based script consultancy founded by some of the UK’s leading script editors, hosting the broadest range of script development services in Europe.

The company, active in script development, training and the education sector since January 2010, also recently launched a successful script doctoring/re-write service through two ex-UK Film Council Executives: THE KING’S SPEECH Creative Editor Aaron Anderson and THE IRON LADY Story Editor Jon Croker. Its script editors all have high-end industry experience, consulting for companies including the UK Film Council, Paramount Pictures, BBC Films, Ealing Studios, Scott Free, Working Title and Warner Bros.

Talent Connector is continuously open for submissions, all year round, and will culminate each December with the announcement of the Industrial Scripts Gold List – when the best 10 scripts to pass through the coverage system will be revealed, and prizes awarded.

Evan Leighton-Davis of Industrial Scripts said: “5 years ago the first line on the script filter was the agencies. Now, however, many agents can’t even accept unsolicited material due to the volume of submissions, leaving new writers scratching their heads as to where to turn. We’re confident we’ve created an everyone-wins filtration system with Talent Connector: writers receive industry-standard script feedback from vastly experienced development professionals, and the opportunity to have their work championed at no extra cost; while execs, agents and producers can access already-vetted scripts without exposing themselves to an unmanageable surfeit of material. Similar programmes have been highly successful in America and we are confident we’ll unearth great talent in the UK too”.

Nick Marston, MD of The Curtis Brown Group said: “As an agency time-management is becoming increasingly important in the crowded digital landscape we all now inhabit. As the volume of scripts and writers grows year-on-year it’s important to think of innovative ways of assessing and tracking new talent, and we are delighted to be backing the respected script consultants within Industrial Scripts and their Talent Connector programme, which we think will become the main access and entry point for new talent in the industry”.

The first set of qualifying film & TV projects was released to agents, execs and producers on 20th July 2011, and further releases will occur once a month thereafter.

Bona fide agents, executives, producers and directors across the industry can subscribe to Industrial Scripts’ once-a-month newsletter containing details of qualifying film & TV projects by emailing with their CV attached, and “Talent Connector Opt-In” in the subject line.

A comprehensive FAQ about Talent Connector can be found here:

All information about Industrial Scripts and its script consultants can be found here:

Categories: Opportunity, Someone Else's Way | 1 Comment

Circalit short script/film competition

Get your Short Film Script Produced by an Award Winning Director
Circalit Announces Free Short Film Competition.

Award winning London director, Gabriel Bisset-Smith, will produce the winning script of a new screenwriting competition at Circalit. Bisset-Smith is best known as a writer on Channel 4’s ‘Skins’ and as the director/writer of the short film Thrush, which won the Tenderpixel Audience Award at Rushes Soho Shorts, the Vimeo Best Narrative Award and the Grand Jury Prize at the Disposable Film Festival. The competition is free to enter, and Bisset-Smith will choose one script to turn into a film in the unique style of ‘Thrush’. The public can also read and vote for their favourite entries at

Bisset-Smith commented, ” As a writer it’s often incredibly difficult to get anyone to take your script seriously, so I’m glad I can offer this opportunity for a talented writer to take that leap from writing to production. The quality of scripts on Circalit is generally very high so I’m excited to read through the entries and I look forward to getting started on producing one.”

The deadline for entries is 10th September 2011. Scripts should be no more than 5 pages in length. For more information please visit

About Gabriel Bisset-Smith
Gabriel Bisset-Smith is a an award winning writer/director/actor from London.  He’s had plays produced at the Hampstead Theatre, York Theatre Royal, Theatre 503, Old Vic and BBC Radio Four. He’s been on attachment at the Soho Theatre, Royal Court and developed new work at New York’’s Public Theatre. He’s been a regular story contributor on Channel Four’s ‘Skins’ and directed music videos for Golden Silvers. His short film ‘Thrush’ won the Tenderpixel Audience Award at Rushes Soho Shorts, the Vimeo Best Narrative Award and the Grand Jury Prize at the Disposable Film Festival . He trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama
and, as an actor, has worked for the RSC, The Royal Court, Young Vic, York Theatre Royal, Lyric Hammersmith, Old Vic New Voices and The Bill. He’s also been nominated for an Off West End most promising playwright award and is one half of the comedy double act GUILT&SHAME. Gabriel currently has a feature film in development with Shine Pictures.

About Circalit
Circalit is a platform which connects writers with industry professionals. Circalit enables writers to showcase their writing to industry professionals in a copyright secure environment. Writers can receive professional and peer feedback on their projects, manage their fanbase, build a network of industry contacts, and enter free writing competitions. Film producers, publishers, literary agents and other industry professionals use Circalit to receive updates on the hottest new unproduced and unpublished scripts and access market data on those projects. Circalit’s aim is to unearth new literary talent.

Categories: Someone Else's Way | 1 Comment

Snippety snip

There’s a point during the scriptwriting process when the film has been rewritten until the story is intriguing, exciting, makes sense and grips you; the dialogue is polished, witty and distinctive; the characters are motivated and interesting … in short, there comes a point in the script’s life when it’s as good as it’s ever going to get.

Sadly this rarely seems to be the point at which filming starts.

Instead, this is the point at which the real world gets involved.

If you’re lucky, the real world won’t involve the producer casting Bob as the lead. Because Bob loves the script but he would like to make a few little tweaks. Like:

Instead of Churchill being a fat guy who works in government … what if he was a spaceman who invents a new type of toilet?!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Um … yes … you do know Churchill was a real person, right?

Doesn’t matter, this is a film, not reality. We can make Churchill whoever Bob wants him to be because Bob has a great box office profile. He’s been in 5 of the top 100 movies of all time. Not as the lead and rarely even as an actor; but he’s been involved in the films in some way and is therefore essential to getting pre-sales for this project.

Let’s be honest, no one gives a fuck if Bob’s in the film or not and it’s certainly not worth rewriting the entire fucking thing for him because, well, you see, Bob is fucking mental. I can also guarantee he’s one of those actors who will demand a private jet the day before the shoot starts and will deliberately fuck up the wide shots so you have to use his close ups in every fucking scene.

There are a lot of Bobs in the acting world.

But even if you successfully avoid the Bob trap, there’s still a myriad of tiny, seemingly inconsequential changes which can add up to a massive pile of shit.

Cameos, for example.

Bob wants to play the corpse. He loves the script, but we need to give him a line.

You want to give the corpse a line?

Yup, just one. Just so he thinks it’s a proper part.

A proper part as a talking corpse? Hoping to win an Oscar, is he?

And this is where you need to understand the concept of snippety-snip. Snippety-snip dialogue is a line inserted to appease someone without altering the rest of the scene. Usually placed at the beginning or end of a scene, it can be whatever the hell you like since its entire purpose is to get people to shut up long enough to film the fucking thing.

Stella wants to play the Viking Queen, but only if she can fire a really big gun.

Fine. Once the scene is completely over, the Viking Queen can pick up and fire a really big gun. Whatever.

If you’re really clever (which I’m not) you can insert whole blocks of snippety-snip dialogue into the middle of a scene and make sure the line immediately before matches up perfectly with the line immediately afterwards. One snip in the edit and sanity is restored.

Snippety-snip can apply to dialogue, scenes, sequences, even complete characters:

Bob will only do the part if Stella can play his wife.

Jesus didn’t have a wife. Oh fuck it, fine. I’ll write in a snippety-snip wife.

Sometimes the producer and the director hate each other and have pegged the script as their battleground. Each one wants their ideas in the script at the expense of the other person’s and none of the ideas make any fucking sense.


If the director insists on a certain line/scene and the producer is gearing up for a film-ending argument (or vice versa) … just explain the snippety-snip process to the reasonable party and write the scene. Just because you shoot something doesn’t mean it has to go in the finished film – it can easily be removed in the edit.


It’s like giving an idiot a brick to paint so they don’t scribble a cock on your freshly painted wall. The brick is never intended to be part of the wall, it’s just there to amuse the moronic.

If you’re really good at snippety-snip, you’ll never ever have to mention to anyone which bits are snippety-snippable. Hopefully, in the edit, they’ll automatically cut the bits that don’t go anywhere/belong/make any fucking sense whatsoever. I find best practice is to make the snippety-snip bits cheap and a bit shit … but not too shit, or you’ll get fired yourself.

There are only two small problems with snippety-snip:

  1. The person who knows that bit is meant to be cut out might get fired before the film is finished. This may leave in charge the person who thought copying verbatim a twenty minute sequence from Pulp Fiction would go unnoticed. If that happens, there’s a very strong possibility the resulting film will be a big pile of shit full of stuff which was never meant to be there.
  2. If someone outside the production gets hold of the final shooting script – they’ll think it’s your fault that at least 20% of it makes no fucking sense.

Either way, you’re playing a game which could result in you looking like a bad writer. Of course, if like me you’re already sub-mediocre then it doesn’t really matter.

Snippety-snip: in the right hands, it’s a great tool to ensure the project actually reaches production and does so without you getting fired; in the wrong hands, it’s a negative publicity for the rest of your career.

Categories: My Way, Random Witterings | 9 Comments


I was chatting to a fellow scriptwriter the other day about a character in a script, a young woman whose function is pretty much just to be ogled, hunted and killed. He flagged this as an example of misogyny.

My point of view is … he’s right. It’s incredibly misogynistic and the men responsible for ogling, hunting and killing her deserve to be punished. Which they are. By women.

In my mind, the fact we show the villains to be unpleasant in both thought and deed towards women and then punished by women justifies (or at least alleviates) the initial misogyny. If the heroes were men and the only female characters in the film were killed to motivate them … it would be a different kettle of unpleasantness (I’m well aware of the ‘girlfriend in a fridge’ syndrome and do keep an eye out for it.*); but as it stands I don’t see the film as being misogynistic (at least, not for that reason) – it’s one scene. In other words, we, the film-makers, aren’t misogynistic, the bad guys are.

He disagrees.

He thinks that kind of misogyny is unwarranted and taints the whole film. He believes it speaks volumes about the film-makers themselves.

To be fair, there is a degree of unnecessariness to the whole thing. To be even fairer, there’s a weight of expectation regarding nudity and violence placed on the film by its title which a paying audience will demand. The storyline precludes violence for most of the first half of act two and the budget meant it was unlikely the main actresses would get their kit off. Adding in the violence/nudity via an ancillary character helps dilute that expectation – it was a producers’ note, one which was debated hotly before being accepted as probably right.

There were (at least) two other examples of misogyny this writer didn’t like in the script. For one of those, I totally agree with him; but it was a production issue which seemed inescapable because of looming problems. The other involved the closing monologue of the film being taken out of the heroine’s mouth and given to a minor male character – the reasons for which were purely practical and to do with not being able to speak through the prosthetics and the amount of time it would take to remove them. Personally, I think it shouldn’t be seen as a man speaking for her, but as her being so powerful she has her own personal narrator.

But anyway, ignoring that and just looking at the first, eminently debatable point: the question is, who’s right?

Is a misogynistic scene acceptable if the bad guys are later punished by women? Given all the bad guys in the film are male and all the good guys (save for two token blokes) are female?

Or is misogyny in a film totally unacceptable under any circumstances?

And where is that line drawn? Is racism acceptable in a film if the racists are punished by the people they victimise? In other words, if the racists are shown to be wrong in thought and deed?

What about homophobia?

Should this kind of behaviour be avoided at all costs? Or can you balance it out with other characters? Is the racism/homophobia angle an unfair comparison given the female character was included partly just to satisfy fifteen-year-old boys’ lust for boobs – in a way a black or gay character probably wouldn’t be? Well, actually, a gay character probably could be.

Actually, is that the same issue? Or does the fact the gay heroes and the gay victim appeal to the same audience make it completely different?

I honestly don’t know and can see both sides of the argument (although I do lean towards it not being an issue given balance later on).

As ever, I’d love to be educated on my wrong thinking and welcome your thoughts on the matter.


* Killing a spouse/lover to motivate the main character is fair enough. It’s a very strong, emotive motivation. The reason it’s so one-sided is because most comics are written by geeky boys for geeky boys – none of whom want to read/buy comics with a female protagonist.

Unless she’s nearly naked. Which just upsets people in different ways.

Superheroes tend to be adolescent fantasies based around a geeky guy/kid being given (not working hard to achieve) magic powers so he can vanquish the bullies. The fantasy being: I too would stand up for myself if only someone waved a magic rock which meant I didn’t have to go to the gym and work really, really hard.

I’m not saying no women harbour similar fantasies. Nor am I saying no men read female superhero books or vice versa. It’s just a general trend which explains why so many superheroes have mutilated/murdered girlfriends. Yes there could and should be stronger female characters in all modern superhero comics; but since most heroes have roots in the 1930s to 1960s … it’s all kind of a legacy/continuity nightmare.

Made up word!

Categories: Industry Musings | 14 Comments

Dear Final Draft,

Fuck you. Just fuck you. Do you know how many times I’ve had to change my printer settings this week?

Do you?


No, of course you fucking don’t because you’re not sitting in this tiny pissing room with me watching me change the fucking settings every time I need to swap between a British A4 script and an American Letter one.


That’s how fucking many.

I would tell you exactly, but I’ve run out of fucking fingers and counting was never my strong point.

Why can’t I have a menu button which specifies the page size?


Why not?

Why would that be so fucking difficult?

Why do I have to explain to the British producer of this American co-production, over and over a-fucking-gain that he has to change his printer settings before opening the script or the page numbers will be all over the fucking shop and his notes will make no fucking sense whatsoever? Yes, I send him a PDF version in the correct page size, no he doesn’t fucking read that one because he’s a fucking idiot. Don’t interrupt. How ridiculously fucking annoying is it that I have to open four separate windows before I can alter a setting which should be one click on the fucking toolbar?



Answer me, you useless fucking cunts!

Other than that, I think it’s a really good program, one I enjoy using and has made my working life immeasurably better.

Thanks, love and kisses,


Categories: Rants, Someone Else's Way | 8 Comments

Film-makers’ glossary

Film-making is a bewildering universe full of obscure slang and confusing jargon. In an effort to help the novice writer understand the world they’re desperate to gain entry to, I thought I’d compile a brief list of some of the terms you may come across and what they mean from a writer’s point of view. This is by no means an exhaustive list, so please feel free to add to it.

WRITER: person with lots of friends, all imaginary.

PRODUCER: person with lots of friends, all rich.

DIRECTOR: person with lots of friends, all fake.

ACTOR: person with lots of friends, all really, really fucking annoying.

PITCHING (writer): off the cuff lies told to a producer whilst trying to guess what story he will give you money to write.

PITCHING (producer): listening (im)politely to a writer who clearly has no idea what story you want to hear.

SCRIPTWRITING: process involving Twitter, Facebook, tea, Twitter, chocolate, Facebook, pornography, Twitter and frustration.

DEVELOPMENT: process of removing fun, sense and spectacle from a script.

PRE-PRODUCTION: the last filter to remove all joy from a project.

BUDGETING: crossing out all the action descriptions because people standing still is cheap.

MALE CASTING: complicated process revolving around finding the biggest cock. (Not as in “who has the …”; but rather “who is the …” )

FEMALE CASTING: complicated process revolving around who’s got the biggest tits and the most flexible attitude towards nudity/sleeping with the producer.

THE SHOOT: process whereby actors make up their own words, directors point the camera at the wrong things and producers discover spending most of the budget on a spiffy new briefcase hasn’t really helped.

ACTING: process where several people with massive egos make up sentences which bear little relation to the plot whilst trying to ruin every take except their own close up so they can get the most screen time.

WRAP PARTY: your last chance to pretend you like the hateful people you were forced to live with for four weeks in the vain hope they’ll hire you again.

POST-PRODUCTION: vain attempt to hide all the framing, acting, dialogue and boom-mic mistakes with lens-flares.

EDITING: last ditch attempt to make the random pile of words and images interesting whilst complaining there’s not enough wide shots.

MARKETING: lies told to trick people into watching a film they don’t want to see and will regret doing so for the rest of their life.

A FILM FROM THE PRODUCER OF … : against all odds, this film is quite good and I want to take the credit.

A FILM BY THE DIRECTOR OF … : this film is fucking awful, let’s blame the director.

A FILM BY THE WRITER OF … : you’re dreaming, wake up. Wake the fuck up! This never happens!

AWARD CEREMONIES: token gifts for film-makers who fail the least.

THE AUDIENCE: bunch of thieving bastards who would rather download than pay for a film which they’ll find boring, stilted and nonsensical with too many close ups, no wide shots, actors who stand still rather than move about, looks cheap and is covered with lens flares. Still, at least the actors get their kit off occasionally, so it’s not all bad.

Categories: Bored, Random Witterings | 5 Comments

People don’t talk like that

Let’s take a hypothetical situation. This is purely hypothetical, mind; it bears absolutely no relation to anything which may or may not have happened on the 3rd of May 2006 … to pick a random, hypothetical, date out of the random, hypothetical hat*.

Let’s say, hypothetically, you were writing a script and were trying to ensure the characters each had a different voice. Hypothetically, let’s imagine your next door neighbour comes from a town at the opposite end of the country to you and has a unique and interesting series of expressions and manner of speaking. You ask her how she would say certain phrases and write them down. You listen to her speaking to both you and her friends and copy them verbatim because she’s funny and interesting.

When you hand the hypothetical script in, the hypothetical producer, who since moving to London has spent the last few years pretending he’s a local and has forgotten he comes from the same fucking town as my next door neighbour, complains that specific character is unbelievable because ‘people don’t talk like that’.

I have learnt, several times, it’s just not worth arguing. You can explain where you got the dialogue from, you can record her speaking and play it back, you can even introduce said hypothetical producer to your neighbour and he will still think people don’t talk like that … because he’s somehow become a parochial twat+.

Hypothetically speaking.

He’ll probably even tell you to write everything in normal English and then let the actors put on those ‘silly Northern accents’ if they really want to afterwards.

Next draft, he’ll complain all the characters have the same voice; but that’s by the by.#

Recently, I wrote a script with an innocent, stupid yet likeable character. I figured when she swears she’d substitute the word ‘flipping’ for the word ‘fucking’.

I opted for ‘flipping’ because a friend of mine says that and I find it endearingly sweet. I try to cram as many swear words as possible into every conversation with him, because I feel the desperate need to corrupt him. I want him to get so inured to swearing he accidentally lets slip a fuck or shit or a cunt. To be honest, I’d settle for ‘oh bum’ so I could giggle incessantly while he blushed in shame.

The feedback from the script told me, in no uncertain terms, no one ever says ‘flipping’. It’s absolutely ridiculous and completely unbelievable. People don’t talk like that. Change it. Change it now. Faster! Change it to ‘freaking’ – a word I hate because it reminds me of the badly dubbed, teatime version of ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ and I don’t believe people actually say it in real life.

Which means, of course, I haven’t heard anyone say it and therefore don’t believe it happens.

It’s not worth arguing. Not really. People perceive the world from their own point of view and are rarely prepared to accept other people’s experiences as genuine. And, at the end of the day, the producer or director is the client and whilst you should advise them they’re wrong, they can have it whatever way they want.

But be careful, there’s a danger inherent in this post. Sometimes, if someone says ‘people don’t talk like that’ when referring to your script, it’s because you have no ear for dialogue and the script is a pile of shit. Hate to end on a downer there, but … it’s possible.

If the criticism is levelled at one or two characters then it’s probably just a voice the criticiser hasn’t experienced before. If it’s levelled at the entire script, it’s probably you that’s at fault.


Unless the entire script is set in a time period/location where they all really did speak like that … in which case, it’s probably not.

Damn it, I hate writing posts like these because I end up talking myself out of my original point of view.

Fuck it, do what you like.


*My random, hypothetical hat is a top-hat. I hypothetically use a top-hat because: a) it’s harder to see the hypothetical bottom and cheat; c) I sometimes like to pretend I’m a turn of the century magician whose rabbit has escaped; and b) I think it looks rather swanky.

+I find this to be fucking ridiculous. London is one of the most cosmopolitan cities on Earth … and yet most of the people living there seem to think anything outside the M25 is a myth or perhaps, in the case of those who weren’t born in London (which is pretty much fucking everyone), a badly remembered dream. You were born in Nottingham, for fuck’s sake, you pretentious mockney cunt.

#Or possibly by and by. Or maybe even bye the bye. All of them suddenly look wrong. That’s called jamais vu, if you’re interested. You probably already knew that though. I only learnt it recently and keep trying to mention it in conversation so I don’t forget what it means.

Categories: Industry Musings, Random Witterings | 6 Comments

Is comedy subjective?

Well, is it? Hmm? Is it?

The answer is simple: Of course it fucking is, don’t be ridiculous.

Except when it isn’t.



Oh. I thought this was going so well.

Comedy is subjective because different people laugh at different things. I don’t find ‘My Family’ particularly funny. That doesn’t mean it isn’t, nor does it mean there’s something wrong with my sense of humour – it just means it’s not for me.

Some people don’t find ‘Monty Python’ funny or ‘The Hitch-Hikers’ Guide to the Galaxy’ or ‘Blackadder’ or ‘Fawlty Towers’. They are, of course, wrong because they disagree with me and that will never do.

What’s that? I’m not the centre of the universe nor the arbiter of what is and isn’t funny? Really? Have you got written evidence of that?

You have?

Oh okay, they’re not wrong either.

Different people find different things funny because they’re different. It’s really not that complicated.

I once read a forum where somebody mocked the notion of comedy being subjective by comparing it to emptying a bin. Either a bin’s empty or not, in the same way a TV show is either funny or not. You don’t hear binmen justifying not emptying a bin by saying ’empty is a subjective term.’

This is, of course, a twat’s argument.

Funny isn’t universal, it’s very, very personal. So personal, in fact, that when someone doesn’t find a TV show funny they start issuing death threats and demanding the people involved be erased from existence. The effort and aggression people put into not liking the people who wrote/created comedy they don’t like is staggering … and a bit odd.

On the other hand, I’d say comedy isn’t subjective when it fails to amuse the people it was specifically created for. If you like a particular stand up comedian and, in the middle of a funny set, he tells a joke which repeatedly fails to elicit a laugh from every audience he plays to … then it’s not funny. Move on.

If you create a sitcom aimed at the same audience who love ‘My Family’ and they hate it … it’s not funny. You’ve failed. Kill yourself. Now. Do it now.

Except, maybe you haven’t failed? Maybe it’ll find a different audience who’ll love it?

Or maybe it won’t.

Maybe I’ve no idea what I’m talking about and should shut the fuck up? On balance, that seems increasingly likely.

The point is, just because you don’t find something funny, doesn’t mean it isn’t. Unless the person was specifically trying to make you laugh, in which case it probably isn’t. Or you haven’t got a sense of humour. Or the person misunderstood what kind of thing you find funny. Or something else. Or possibly you’ll find it funny next time you hear it because you either didn’t get it or were too busy worrying about your sick puppy.

Oh fuck it, I’ve no idea. Is comedy subjective? You tell me.

Categories: Random Witterings, Someone Else's Way, Writing and life | 4 Comments


… is a new word I learnt recently.

It means ‘to have perfectly proportioned buttocks’.

To be honest, I’m furious I’ve lived for thirty-nine years without even suspecting the word existed. I mean, it’s so bloody useful. I’ve NEEDED this word on multiple occasions throughout my life and have had to settle for ‘Gosh, your buttocks are perfectly proportioned, officer.’ which is far too wordy. In the writer’s search for brevity and precision, callipygous is a vital word to have in your armoury.

The annoying thing is I found it whilst reading ‘Catch 22’, a book I first read when I was 17 or so. In other words, I’ve known about callipygous for over twenty years and have repeatedly failed to use it.

Which surprises me, because I usually look up words I don’t understand. It’s possible I forgot the word after a moderately serious car crash I had at seventeen (I hit a tree at a little over ninety miles an hour) which wiped out most of my memories for the preceding and following year*, but surely I’d remember a word that wonderful?

I used to think everyone looked up words they didn’t understand. Scriptwriting has taught me most people don’t. In fact, over the years, I’ve been able to collate and predict how different people usually react.

Upon chancing upon a word they don’t understand in a script …

WRITERS: Look it up, rejoicing because they’ve learnt a new word … whilst crumbling inside with paranoid fear, assuming everyone else already knows what it means and is therefore cleverer/a better writer than them.

ACTORS: ignore the word and just say something different. They’d probably cite something about acting and organic processes or something, because they feel their character (a professor of etymology at Oxford University who’s published several books on obscure words in the English language and likes to humiliate people by using words he thinks they wouldn’t understand) wouldn’t use long words.

PRODUCERS: never admit they don’t know what a word means, that would mean losing face and that will never do. Instead they will argue until death (yours) that the Americans won’t understand the word and therefore won’t like the entire film. Presumably producers think Americans are incapable of using a dictionary or divining the meaning of a sentence from the context. Or, more likely, use Americans as an excuse to cover up their own ignorance.

DIRECTORS: look the word up and pretend they knew what it meant all along. They’ll even insist you use words like ‘Calligraphy’ and ‘Callous’ because they were on the same page in the dictionary and they think that will impress you. Directors want you to know they could have written a better script than you … if only they had the time.

PROPS: will probably get the wrong end of the stick and assume it’s some kind of ancient Egyptian ornament. They’ll spend a morning ringing round antique shops looking for a ‘callipygous’ before deciding no one has one in stock and buying a novelty Snoopy telephone instead.

MAKE-UP: will look it up, panic, and commission a life cast of an actor’s arse which can have the buttocks sculpted so they’re actually perfect instead of slightly lopsided.

LINE PRODUCERS: ring you up and ask you what it means, ensuring the tone of the voice they use lets you know what a pretentious twat you are for using long words when ‘nice arse’ would have done the same trick without upsetting everyone.

In fact, pretty much everyone else will just assume you’re a pretentious twat and shun you at parties in case you feel the urge to talk to them.

To be honest, it’s safer not to use words which don’t regularly appear on CBeebies. Especially in the micro-budget world in the UK where there’s a good chance the film is funded by a gangster who assumes anyone with an education is a ponce and therefore eminently murderable.

Callipygous – great word. Best not to use it in reel life.

And if you’re wondering, yes I have. And so does my wife.


*This didn’t happen. The crash did, the memory loss didn’t. It’s just something I tell people I don’t recall being at school with, in order to excuse the fact I obviously didn’t find them interesting enough to remember.

‘Phill? Phill Barron? OMG! Remember me? We used to sit next to each other in French? For four years?’

‘Um … no, sorry. You see, I had this car crash …’

Categories: Random Witterings, Sad Bastard, Things I've Learnt Recently | 2 Comments

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