Posts Tagged With: Kids’ TV

#̶P̶h̶o̶n̶e̶P̶h̶i̶l̶l̶ #PhoneDanny – Conversation #̶1̶8̶ #1: Danny Stack (Full Circle)

I have questions, damn it! Questions which need answers.* And who should you turn to when you have questions?

No, not him. Why, Danny Stack of course.

Danny Stack is a UK scriptwriter who mainly focuses on children’s scripts. He’s written for things like Octonauts and Thunderbirds as well as co-creating the UK Scriptwriters podcast and co-directing the feature film Who Killed Nelson Nutmeg?

He’s also the reason #PhonePhill exists at all, seeing as it was his impromptu phone call which got me wondering who else I might like to talk to. Hell, he’s the reason this blog exists in the first place.

Danny is a grafter, finding new and innovative ways to promote himself and to help all of us. Always moving forward, always breaking new ground and exploring new avenues, both on his own and with his partner in crime Tim Clague.

A while back Danny positioned himself as a children’s scriptwriter as opposed to an all-rounder, and found he’s been steadily employed ever since.

Last year I wrote a kids’ feature film which got partially shot before falling apart (which seems to happen to me a lot) and has left me with a completed script (which is mine, I own the rights) and about half an hour of footage (which belongs to the director). There’s something in the idea I really like and the footage shot seems to lend itself more towards a kids’ TV series than a film … so that’s what I wanted to chat to Danny about.

What should I do with it?

As ever, Danny was friendly and helpful and insightful and used a term to describe the kind of writers we both are which was hilarious, apt and completely and utterly unrepeatable in public.

Danny’s advice and extremely useful and had me thinking about the project in new ways – this is exactly what I wanted from him. Not help, not a leg up or for him to do the work for me, just a brief chat about the kinds of things I could do and the kinds of places/people who might be interested.

For me there are two universal lessons to be learned here:

  1. Make friends with other writers. Seek them out, be nice to them, help them when you can. Sideways networking is important – expect nothing from them and only keep in touch if you genuinely like them – but build that support network. It’s invaluable.
  2. Pick a genre and stick to it. I think most writers naturally want to write a little bit of everything. We all enjoy a wide range of entertainment and like to think we can be good at all of it … but typecasting helps. Be the goto person for that thing and reap the benefits of being known as ‘good at …’ We can always write our way out of the pigeonhole if we get bored.

If you want to know what Danny (and Tim) is (are)  up to, then you can see details here: nelsonnutmegpictures.com/projects

If you haven’t listened to the UK Scriptwriters’ podcast then you can do so here.

And if you want more advice and insight than any one man should be able to deliver in a lifetime whilst holding down a career, then you can check out his website/blog.

If, on the other hand, you just fancy a chat with me, then drop me an email at the address in the sidebar and we’ll arrange a time to call/skype/bang on the pipes in adjoining cells.


* Are there any other kind?

I’ve told the tale many times, but basically back in 2006 I was wondering why I kept hearing his name when I hadn’t seen anything he’d written, discovered he had a blog, what a blog was and thought I’d give it a go.

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Categories: #PhonePhill, Career Path, Someone Else's Way | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

#PhonePhill – Conversation #14: Calum Chalmers (The Revenge)

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Hello, what have you been up to? I’ve been chatting to Calum Chalmers (again) who’s still a lovely writer-director type chappy. Calum was the first (sort of) ever #PhonePhill in April last year, proving this talk-to-a-stranger-malarkey* might just actually work. Last time, we spoke about this sort of thing.

This time we spoke about many, many things over the course of about two and a half hours.

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Blimey. Was it really that long? Or did the clocks go forward midway through? Doesn’t seem likely, so yeah … must have been.

In that long, meandering two and a half hours we covered more many, many things. Including, but not limited to:

  1. Dealing with notes, both giving and receiving.
  2. Weird behaviour from apparent professionals.
  3. Bland trailers.
  4. Remakes and reboots.
  5. Small island/small industry.
  6. Social media implosions.
  7. Other stuff.

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On which topics I generally feel:

  1. I’d rather be taking notes than giving them.
  2. Just be fucking nice to each other. Why is that so difficult?
  3. Trailers don’t excite me any more. They might as well just be a poster informing me of the film’s existence. Are trailers badly made? Or is it because most trailers I watch are for franchises which I’m probably going to go and see anyway and my enjoyment will depend entirely on the execution? This is the only trailer this year I’ve been excited about:
  4. I don’t care any more if anyone remakes anything. When they remade Bedazzled my friends hid Empire magazine from me for six months, afraid of what I might do if I found out. Now they’re remaking Ghostbusters … fine, whatever.
  5. See point 2. Calum and I have never met … but we know a lot of the same people. We swapped stories. Years ago I read a script he’s recently optioned. It’s all very incestuous … so be nice.
  6. See point 5. We all get bitter or blue sometimes … keep it to yourself. Ranting about it on your network of choice is unlikely to get you any work. Quite the opposite in fact.
  7. Yes.

One other thing we discussed was pigeon-holing. Should writers do it to themselves? The advice for American writers is a resounding yes. Be the go-to guy for something … you can always break out and back in again later on.

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But does that hold true in the UK?

I think it does. Writing is a hard craft to master and different genres require different skill sets. Not specialising has hurt my career because when I get to the point where someone says:

“I like this, but don’t want to make it … have you got anything similar?”

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The answer is always: no. I’ve got something of equal quality but a completely different genre or medium … which is of no interest.

Unfortunately I’ve had movies produced in a variety of genres. I like switching it up every now and then. Right now I’ve got a political black comedy casting and a teen-vampire-sex-comedy in development. Okay, so technically they’re both comedies … but they are poles apart. Ready to go I have a seriously dark moral drama film, the first film in a kid’s Christmas franchise and a sword and sorcery action-adventure movie. I write what  interests me at the time and … well, I shouldn’t. I should specialise in something.

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I think, perhaps, maybe … kids’ TV is the place to specialise in the UK because … well, it covers everything, doesn’t it? It seems to get treated as one genre despite covering drama and soap and comedy and sci-fi and horror and … stuff. At least, that’s how it seems to be from the outside. Maybe writers for kid’s horror finds people are resistant to them writing comedy?

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I have no idea. I’d like to find out, maybe there’s someone working in kids’ TV in the UK who fancies a #PhonePhill? If so, I’d love to hear from you.

Once again I finished this conversation thinking I like Calum, he seems like a nice guy. Hopefully we’ll work together one day.

If you fancy a natter, email me and we’ll have a chat. It doesn’t have to be for two and half hours, it can be for fifteen minutes. You don’t have to be in the industry, you can anything or anyone … so long as you have a phone and the willingness to use it.

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* This is the first time I’ve ever typed the word ‘malarkey’ it’s not spelt the way I thought it was. Unless it is and my spell check is wrong.

Some handy note-links for you:

How to Deal With Notes (a silly list)

Notes From The Other Side – Part 1 (why I was giving notes), Part 2 (how reality got it wrong), Part 3 (a rant about things not to do when receiving notes).

Categories: #PhonePhill, Career Path, Industry Musings, My Way, Someone Else's Way | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

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