Jumping through hoops

I’ve just heard from a BBC producer I’ve been working with that I’ve got a radio play in the next commissioning round. In the BBC’s labyrinthine commissioning process, that means it’s got through the departmental sift. The next hurdles are to get through the precommissioning offers, and then commissioning itself.

Michelle Lipton’s got an extremely useful rundown of the radio commissioning process on her blog. I’ve had it explained to me and but it’s like when accountants explain income tax – I can just grasp it at the time, but ten minutes later, it’s Zen like mysticism again. Still, that’s what producers are for…

Three months. Not good, but kind of inevitable.

.. since my last post. But I’m back now, anyway.

I’ve put up some clips on YouTube from a indie sitcom pilot I did a long time ago in a universe far far away.

It’s an innuendo happy Jane Austen/Henry Fielding-esque romp, which my co-writer, Peter Thornhill directed, and I produced, call Sedgefield Park. We raised the money in a very complicated and clever scheme from one of EM Media’s predecessors, EMMI, and used it as a calling card. So this is the first time it’s been put before an adoring public.

The three YouTube clips are Pig Whispering, Wedding Bells, and Bush Trimming, and Tearstained Letters.

Or they’re here:

The wimpish Mr Nancy confronts his old adversary Major Boner:

Meanwhile, the Squire’s two handymen, Perkins and Grummock, show off their talent for ‘pig whispering’, encouraging Mr Nancy’s recalcitrant boar Percy to romance his own prize sow, Twinkie.

While Mr Nancy’s genteel intended, Jane assess Major Boner’s charms…

And Mr Nancy spies on their courting:


This Girl Is Taking Pics…

Thea Gilmore at the Rescue Rooms, Nottingham

Thea Gilmore at the Rescue Rooms, Nottingham

More photographic glory – the wonderful Thea Gilmore, singer-songwriter is using that pic (on the left, see it?) I took of her at Nottingham’s Rescue Rooms on her next album cover. Well. Not just one of mine. One of quite a lot of people’s. She put out a call on her email list, and I bunged in one I’d taken at a gig. One day I’ll actually get paid for this stuff.

Online writing. OMFG.

Online writing. Yay. It’s free, there’s no barriers to entry, there’s no barriers to readers (save the little matter of internet access, and who hasn’t got that, right?), and its edgy cutting-edgeness of edgiosity on the edgability is so, like edgy, yeah? Kewlio.

Well, no. Not if you want to get paid. You’re either writing upmarket adverts, like Kate Modern (not that adverts need compromise your drama, just in case Neil Mossey‘s reading) etc. or you’re, apparently, a grooming teenagers for Da Man:

I am paid to post comments and send emails in the characters’ voices to the personal pages of people I don’t know, a form of legitimised grooming. This is one of the big worries about social networking sites. I wonder whether I am on shaky ground and what the boundaries are because what I am doing is starting relationships and everyone knows they are two-way. So as the lead gets a love interest, I deal with many young girls demanding acronym answers to the great questions of life and love. Another part of this writing gig, it seems, is being manipulated by 11-year-olds daily.

This is from a piece posted on 12 Point, the online successor to Scriptwriter magazine (for which I’ve written and been paid by, I’ll have you know), by a 38 British woman whose job is pretending to be fictitious characters online, salaried – SALARIED – by a big American studio.

So this is how you make a living out of the brave new online world… I’ve been a reporter, a government spindoctor and now I’m a freelance PR, and even I find this a bit, well, yucky.

Or, like me, you keep doing basically old fashioned copywriting that just happens to end up on websites. You can read more about it here. That’s a call to action, btw.

NB (1) 12-Point. I’ve linked to it but it’s a pay site, so unless you’re already a member you probably won’t be able to read the full piece. However it’s a good site for UK screenwriters, and you should sign up.

One degree

I just sent off my treatment for the Euroscript story competition. Two pages of glorious prose describing a story for which I have buckets of enthusiasm, which works, fits a proven market niche, and wouldn’t cost that much. Producers email here. I’ll hear back in June whether I’ve got anywhere with it.

In the meantime, I continue to be about one degree from people doing quite nicely thankyou.Various of the actors on the Recorded For Training Purposes day keep turning up on Stewart Lee’s comedy vehicle. That has to mean something.

Doesn’t it?

It just goes to show you can’t be too careful

David Mitchell (the one, as per his twitter description ‘who’s in Peep Show and things, not the novelist or the former Tory MP’) saw a sketch of mine on Monday night, in a pub cellar near the BBC. It, plus about a dozen others, were the fruits of the loins of a BBC comedy workshop for people who’d got stuff on Recorded For Training Purposes on BBC Radio Four.

I felt sorry for him. Not because of my Crime Festival sketch – necessarily – but because he was sitting at the front of an audience of about 40, max, thirty of whom had written stuff he was watching. The other ten were Radio Four comedy producers. Eyes were on him. Would he laugh? Would he cry? Would he slump comatose from his stool into the lap of a Radio Four producer?

My wife had already subscribed to his Tweets. She had instructions to text me if he twittered about the brilliance of any of the sketches. He didn’t. Not even mine. Actually he mostly looked bemused, although he did laugh a couple of times. Not even at mine. Nor did he slump into a lap. Not even mine.

But then neither did he slag them off, presumably because he’s far too nice and professional. Or he couldn’t be arsed. Or he was focusing on aiming his slump at a specific comedy producer.

Most likely though, he knows you just can’t be too careful.

You too can make £££s out of cranberry sauce

At the De Montfort university Screenwriting day on Saturday, Neil Mossey, of ‘Kate Modern‘ (an online drama, m’lud) pointed out that us nice liberal Guardian reading types quail at the nasty realities of funding online drama. It boils down to 1. Sponsorship, and 2. Product Placement. I quailed. He tried to quail, but everyone kept asking him about it. He was a quail fail.

I will get to cranberry sauce* in a minute.

The quailing, in the end, is probably not justified. Sponsors and Product Placers know they can’t be too crass or viewers will haemorrhage away to watch lego skateboarding hamsters; we understand that wafting some branding in front of the camera here and there is the price we pay (literally) for free content, just as DFS ads are the price we pay for Inspector Morse on ITV3. It’s just How Life Is.

The alternative is letting the BBC run the internet.

The photo thing – my Coit Tower pic on Schmapp (see below) – worked out, btw. And I put the ten minuter play in for a competition in St Ives and it’s got through to the next bit, which I’ll hear about in April.

*Cranberry sauce. When Delia Smith used cranberries on telly, demand went through the roof, so it’s not as if product placement doesn’t happen by accident anyhow. Why shouldn’t we have the benefit of it?


Following the tumult of celebrity exposure of what turned out to be one 30 second sketch on the BBC’s Recorded For Training Purposes, I’m now on one of their follow up courses for ‘promising’ comedy writers, in London next month. So at least I’m still ‘promising’ rather than ‘tolerated’. More importantly I guess, I’m on the BBC’s radar, in a very low level, could-just-be-an-errant-starling kind of way.

In other news: I’m doing the De Montfort University MA Course writing day on March 7. A couple of years ago I hosted one of the Q and A panels, but this time I’m merely a prole and have to pay. Promising, see.

Oh, and one of my photos from San Francisco, of the Coit Tower, is shortlisted to be on some tourist guide website called Schnapp.

I took it on my 40th birthday. Promising, you see.

Coit Tower, San Francisco

This is the picture...

Oh. That was it?

The Sketch went out last night on Recorded For Training Purposes. All glorious 30 seconds or so of it, shorn of punchline by the script editors, which may or may not have been for the best. (It’s the parental IT helpline one, since you ask).

Lots of textual congrats from friends and family who I’d made damn sure knew it was coming up, and quite a lot of ‘sorry, missed it, is it online’ too.

So yes, it is. Here’s the link to the iPlayer version and here’s the show’s bit of the BBC site with my credit on it. They’re only up for a week.

I’ve (hopefully) got a couple of others coming in subsequent weeks too. Hopefully.

They asked for double entendres…

… so I gave them aural pleasure. I got roped in to do a series of radio comedy shorts for Progress FM, the radio station for Nottingham Pride.

It’s a Kenneth Horne-ish take on Robin Hood – no cheap gags left ungagged, and huge amounts of fun in the making.

Here’s the results, five four(ish) minute episodes.

Thanks to Jason Wrightam, Gary Keane, Steve Brittan, and Emma Carlton who did the voices, and Paula Hewitt for sound supervision.

Robin’s Major Oak – Episode 1
Robin’s Major Oak – Episode 2
Robin’s Major Oak – Episode 3
Robin’s Major Oak – Episode 4
Robin’s Major Oak – Episode 5