Sunday, 29 November 2009

Here's a cake metaphor

It seems that there has to be a shift in how how to be god is made. Before now we all just piled the filming of an episode into one big chunk of one day. Now it seems far more sensible to do it in bits throughout the week. Spreading the weight makes it more manageable, or something. And it is easier. The only problem it really causes is me saying 'make sure you wear the same clothes tomorrow', and people seem more willing to do that than you'd expect. The filming of one episode went off the rails because we tried to shove it all into one day. It's like having one little cake instead of having one big one and then feeling sick. We are not, after all, professionals, we have to fit this around doing 'other things'. It's not easy being an English Literature student. Oh, wait, actually it is.

So episode four (also known as episode '3') will be easy. Simple. Effortless. No problem at all. Apart from the three new characters we haven't cast yet. They'll turn up though. It's not like we've already been looking for weeks and have found nobody. It'll be fine.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

A thought on writing stuff

I'm beginning to realise that there's very little point in planning anything. Yes, a plot needs to be worked out, but the actual writing of something is always better if I take it off the top of my head. Things occur to me in the act of writing something and pushes it forward. Dialogue is always going to be horrible if it's meticulously planned and words can't come together a week in advance.If something doesn't surprise me then it's not going to surprise the person watching or reading it. And I have to write several weekly creative writing pieces, so it helps if I don't really think about it too much. Yes, planning is bad. Although I'm not sure this is a work ethic that will translate into the wider world.

Also, I'm lazy.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

The Thick Of It, a headache and a punch

It's strange how The Thick Of It, a show full of unpleasant people who are always very stressed and swearing, can be funny. It's a political drama which presents itself as the opposite to the elegance of The West Wing. Nobody can get through a day without being attacked by Malcolm Tucker, one of the scariest characters to ever appear on TV. That the politicians seem to be mostly incompetent makes the whole thing strangely realistic. And by the end of an episode it's hard not to feel stressed yourself. It's shot in a choppy, rough style that breaks all the rules of composition. It made me feel a bit dizzy the first time I saw it, and now, either it's toned down, or I've got used it. Used to all the violent swearing and arguing. Oh dear.

If it is an accurate portrayal of the job, then I feel sorry for them all. They went into it expecting fluid and eloquent conversations as they walked through corridors. Instead they get a headache and a punch.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Throwing the start away

how to be god would be ready to show now. I have three episodes finished, except I'm scrapping the first one. Episode two is becoming episode one and episode three is becoming episode two and I'm very confused. It's the right decision though. The cancelled episode one is boring. It's basically a five minute explanation of the plot and the characters, and then the plot starts in the next episode. Better to jump straight into it. Better to start strongly. It's now just the practice episode, the one where we didn't know what we were doing (we still don't) and everything was a bit uncomfortable.

What this means is that we now have to make episode four (or episode three, as it's called now) before we have the three episodes to start with. I'll put the cancelled episode under 'Deleted Scenes' on the DVD. Yes, that'll happen.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Doctor Who's water of doom

After the disappointing 'Planet of the Dead', Doctor Who has managed to come back to the realm of Good Television. 'The Waters of Mars' wasn't scary, Doctor Who hardly ever is, but it had a darkness to it that's sometimes missing. The Doctor meets a group of people who are 'definitely going to die', and for once he believes that he shouldn't help them. As the ending approached there was a strong sense of doom, even if they were just running away from water. I've always imagined that the Doctor's character was pretty rigid, but by the end he seemed to have undergone a massive change. They were even playing ominous music over his dialogue.

It's all building up to a Christmas special that's already looking better than usual (Cybermen bore me, sorry). And then on to Steven Moffat's reign. It may be unrealistic to expect every episode to be as good as 'The Girl in the Fireplace', but its good to have dreams.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

The Wire, it's quite good

I've just finished the third season of The Wire. And from a quick look at the extras I can already tell what David Simon is going to be talking about. Chapters. They're not episodes. They're chapters. You never remember the first few chapters of a book because 'not much happens'. Like the first episodes of any season of The Wire. No matter how much I want to be cynical about it though, it does work. Every season I've watched so far has built up into something brilliant. It's not until you look back at the early episodes that you realise what they were starting.

It's risky. If I didn't know it was The Wire - the 'greatest television of all time' (I'm quoting somebody else there) - then I might not have watched past the second or third episode. David Simon built a show that only really works on DVD, where you can 'read' the 'chapters' when you like. He hasn't even given in to a 'previously' recap. It's the sort of TV that I can't wait to watch again, because I suspect it might be even better the second time.

So who is this HBO? And why do they allow people to make brilliant television? It shouldn't be allowed. Why didn't they cancel The Wire after two seasons? Nobody was watching it. Should have cancelled it. That's the law in television land. Are they the only competent broadcasters in the US? Shut them down immediately.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Riddley Walker almost makes sense

It takes a lot of nerve, and even more concentration, to write like this:
On my naming day when I come 12 I gone front spear and kilt a wyld boar he parbly ben the las wyld pig on the Bundel Downs any how there hadnt ben none for a long time befor him nor I aint looking to see none agen.
That's the first sentence from Riddley Walker. It's one of those books where the author has chosen to write in a broken down, fractured version of English. In this case Russell Hoban is writing about a version of Kent, centuries after a nuclear holocaust. I got used to the style and started to read it fluently, but the first hundred pages were like banging my head against a brick wall. An incomprehensible and dense brick wall. It does fit into the muddy and tangled future that the book presents, but I wonder whether it would have been better without. At times the language was taking me out of the story, and I really didn't have much clue what was going on. Was that meant to be happening? It surely can't be a good thing. Will Self, who was inspired to write the similar Book of Dave, says that 'the sensation of groping in the dark that you'll have while deciphering this text is exactly what it is all about'. It takes a lot of imagination and commitment to construct a world like this, so why make sure that most people won't understand it? It's brave, distinctive and intelligent. But also slightly silly.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

The Road on paper

Posts have been pretty rare recently. Sorry about that. I've had nothing to write apart from 'yes, I'm still editing'. I haven't even seen any new films. I am a disappointment and a failure. But to remedy this I've thought of an interesting and possibly exciting new topic to write about - books. You know, those paper things. I am, after all, a student of literature. I should at least sound like I know what I'm talking about.

So, Cormac McCarthy's The Road. That's good. The only novel I've ever read in one sitting. Partly because it isn't very long, but also because he really knows how to tell a story. Stripping a narrative down to its bare minimum  is how to keep me entertained. Having only two characters wandering around a post-apocalyptic environment, always on the edge of dying, keeps it focused. You're not taken away from it for a second. They only say and do what they absolutely need to, and McCarthy only writes this. The closeness means you never fully understand the world around them, but that adds to the bleak, sparse mystery of it all.

It's a conversation like this that is all the subject needs:
Why do you think we're going to die?
We dont have anything to eat.
We'll find something.
How long do you think people can go without food?
I dont know.
But how long do you think?
Maybe a few days.
And then what? You fall over dead?
Well you dont. It takes a long time. We have water. That's the most important thing. You don't last very long without water.

It's this sort of writing that influences me. Just the bare bones is the most effective. There's no need to overload it. I'm becoming more and more obsessed with minimalism. It's half laziness, but also the thought that it might just be better. If a book bores me, it's because there are too many words saying too little. Throw most of them away.

And yes, there's a film coming. The director has already complained about the trailer, which makes the whole thing look a bit too exciting. He assures us (and by 'us' I mean anyone that's read the book) that it'll be as bleak and harrowing as it should be. Lovely.

Monday, 2 November 2009

A question about manners

Episode Three has been filmed, Episode Two has been half-edited, Episode One is going to edited again. This is all exciting news, I know. We want to release the first three episodes all at once, but there are disagreements about how to do it. In order to 'force' people to watch the second episode, it could be packaged in with the first in one YouTube video. It would be called 'Episode 1 and 2'. I have pointed out that this is not how things are done in the civilised world and I that can't 'force' people to watch anything. It does have benefits though. The second episode is roughly four times better than the first, and I wouldn't want people to give up straight away. They might not be able to find the second episode. They might not be mildly interested at all. It might all be slightly cheeky.

I'd appreciate some thoughts on this. Should the first two episodes be put into one video or kept separate? You haven't seen them, but with any web series how likely are you to click to the second episode? Would a double-bill make you watch the second, even if you weren't entirely interested?