Saturday, 26 September 2009

New Blog

I've finally gotten round to registering for some proper web space and got a nifty free domain name with it, so, is now my very own internet realm.

I am in the process of setting up a new blog called "Chaotic Tortoise", partly because I'm fed up of telling people the name of my blog and then having to say "no, it's nothing to do with the film". Admittedly, I'll probably have different problems and furrowed brows when declaring the name "Chaotic Tortoise" but regardless, they'll be DIFFERENT problems. It keeps things fresh and interesting.

I'm also doing this partly due to the relatively tentative steps I've made to making up my mind about what I want to do with my life and so the indecisive "find use for degree", although still perfectly valid and not totally abandoned, is less of a pressing issue at the moment, thus a brief reinvention feels welcome.

Additional Notes:
I am now going to be using Wordpress for my blogging needs as it feels very customizable and should be a decent learning experience. In case anyone else is thinking of starting a blog, Blogger is a fine and reliable service and I would still highly recommend them to anybody.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Pros and Cons of Living with Less People

Recently, our cozy little flat has undergone a reshuffle. Best friend, Best friend's girlfriend (who is also a friend) and four Chinchillas have moved out, leaving in their wake a lot of space. My girlfriend and myself have stayed behind in the belief that we can use this space. There are definite upsides and downsides to this scenario.

Pro: There is a lot more space.

Con: I miss my friends. Even though I could go for days without knowing if they were coming back or not, I knew that they were coming back at some point. Now I'm just left thinking "where the devil are they? They've been gone for ages this time!" and expecting to hear the key in the lock any moment. I'm probably never going to live with people like my departed friends again. Nobody can live with someone for any length of time in a harmonious manner, but we came pretty close for the most part, which is pretty impressive considering I've lived with my best friend for six years now.

Pro: I have a choice of three rooms to leave my stuff in.

Con: I have a choice of three rooms to try and find my stuff in.

Pro: It's quite quiet a lot of the time.

Con: It's quite quiet a lot of the time. This is excepting the as-yet unfinished unfurnished room in which just typing this is causing an echo. Equally, whereas before I could just write off funny noises as "probably chinchilla related", now I'm much more tuned in to what sounds like the undead trying to clumsily squeeze through our letterbox.

Pro: I'm on my own a lot more.

Con: ...You can probably see a pattern forming here. I'm on my own a lot more.

I know I remember my time in Manor House with fondness, but I also know that after two years we were pretty much ready to move out and another year together might have resulted in us being unable to be the relatively close friends we all are today. I also know that it's been different for the last two years living here as two couples, all four of us running on slightly differing schedules and with different priorities, but that's all it has been for me: Different. Not better, not worse, just different. I've been incredibly lucky with my friends and even luckier that I'm able to keep such people after living with them. I understand people normally move out whilst not actually talking to each other any more.

Additional Notes:
I've discovered that one of the cupboards in the hallway buzzes. There is some form of electrical thingy in there, so I've decided I'm not going to tune in to that frequency of noise anymore and just pretend I haven't noticed anything, hoping for the best in the process. I'm sure it'll be fine. It's not like a little electricity hurt anyone after all. Electricity is there to help you, not hurt you.

On a personal note, I'm delighted to see that after the one hundred and one problems that my friends have had sorting out their new place, they're finally starting to settle and showing all the hallmark signs of being incredibly happy with the place (I have seen it. It is fantastic.) and I will miss them a lot. They have been incredibly good, trustworthy, honest people and it's been a pleasure to live with them.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Notes on the CBBC Masterclass

I was reading a follow up report to some of the short listed writers for the CBBC masterclass that were selected from a competition that I entered with a script that I realised slightly too late was probably a bit too similar to "Star Wars" mixed in with slight derivative "Final Fantasy VII". The writer in question, a Michelle Lipton, writes that they were shown a clip from a show written by Russel T Davies called “Children’s Ward”.

“The clips were from a 1996 episode written by Russell T. Davies that went on to win a BAFTA Children’s Award for Best Drama. Steven said that although the episode was over a decade old, he thought it could still be broadcast today without it appearing dated.The storyline dealt with the subject of internet grooming in chatrooms – a boy was being lured to a meeting in a park (in order to buy a rare comic) by a man pretending to be another schoolboy .Steven asked us all to guess how the episode ended – and I don’t think anyone got it right. Although the boy escapes – just – so does the man, and the bleak final shot has him in the park, walking another child he has lured, back to his car. That’s a hard-hitting ending for TV drama in general, let alone a children’s drama.”

The concept of not talking down to children is one that I'm familiar with and it's true that children are capable of all manner of big ideas, dark concepts and all manner of things that would terrify any ordinary grown adult. I'm not trying to criticise the subject matter either; A child would see the above and not find it as sinister or as an adult would, as children are always told not to walk off with strangers and it's only really the adults that can formulate ideas about what happens after the kidnapping. The problem that I have with that being children’s drama is that it's...well, a bit dull.

Obviously, it can be seen as a brave thing to do, if only because although the character we care about escapes, the villain doesn't receive any sort of retribution. But the concept and the set up just seems too much like one of those videos they show you at school warning you not to play around industrial farming equipment, swim around in quarries or jump in front of tractors. Anything like this that I would have seen as a child would have caused me to switch off instantly. I'd be surprised if there is anyone that remembers "Children's Ward" as their favourite show as a child, or if they even remember it without having to think for a few minutes. No matter how well it may be written, and Russell T Davies is pretty good, the whole setup and premise of the show would just leave me stone cold and although I may not be a standard archetype for the rest of humanity, I'm sure I'm not alone in that.

Additional Notes:

I haven't read much more of Michelle Lipton's blog, but if you are also a new writer, it looks to be pretty good.

I don't know if you know what I mean by those videos that warn you about the dangers of playing in a grain hoppers, or the dangers of playing "pin the tail on the live agitated bull", and maybe I only saw these sorts of things because I grew up in a very rural area where these sorts of things could potentially happen, but some of them stuck with me, if only because of the slight absurdity. I remember one video that was called something along the lines of "EVERYBODY ON THIS FARM WILL DIE IF THEY'RE NOT CAREFUL AND THEY'RE NOT" or something equally terrifying, and the plot consisted of the eldest sister of a large family that lived on a farm being warned by a ghost that various siblings were on the brink of death as a result of games of "Hide and Seek: Idiot Edition". The ghost had clearly died from all of these methods in the past and the older sister being switched on and sensible very diligently runs around the farm rescuing her kin from their impending doom. The bizarre bit happens right at the end. The ghost has clearly taken a bit of a shine to the girl and would like some company in the afterlife, so doesn't warn her about the tractor, which unexpectedly squashes her just before the end credits. I'm not sure if this was meant to be as hilarious as we all found it or if it was meant to be more of a "and just to show you that we're serious, we're killing one of the characters" moment. Also, at least one person came away from the screening thinking "hey, playing on farms looks fun! I never thought of that!".

(If anyone has any idea what I'm talking about, please let me know what the video was actually called because it's driving me mad.)

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Robin Hood but Not Robin Hood

A few years ago, I decided that I wanted to have a go at writing a version of Robin Hood for television. The angle I was going to take with it was that Robin Hood was not a noble folk hero acting as the original working-class-hero, but that he was just a very consistant thief who stole everything that wasn't nailed down. The story was going to start with him being blackmailed into acting as the noble character that has survived through legend by a rather manipulative Friar Tuck who saw Robin as a way to lift the spirits of the downtrodden masses. There were other elements such as the fact that Robin owed Little John, the local loan shark and general medieval-mobster, an inordinate amount of money, the Sheriff was just a local nobleman trying to do his job and make all the numbers add up, and in general there were a few half decent ideas floating around there that could have produced something that wasn't too bad.

Then the BBC made a version of Robin Hood. I'm not a fan.

I thought that it looked pretty good at first. Promotional posters looked like it was taking a slightly more interesting approach to the character than normal, and I was optimistic about this. Ok, so I probably had to shelve my little project for a while, but perhaps the show would have been ok and much better than I could have done.
I think I survived the whole of the first episode, but I didn't come back to it again. I'm not even too sure what it was about it that repulsed me so much. Maybe it was the plastic-looking axes, the annoying text affects when the scene changed, maybe it was retooling Maid Marrion to be a cross between Lara Croft and Batman (or maybe I'm remembering that wrong) or maybe it was just that there was something everso slightly off about the whole thing. As a quick disclaimer, I acknowledge that there is every possibility that the show found its feet and that the first episode was a glitch and that it's grown into a fully fledged multiple award winning juggernaught of a show, although I doubt it.

I'm not really saying that I could have done better. I don't know whether I could or not. I haven't done anything like that yet all the way through so I can't criticise just yet, but I was annoyed that my ideas were now somewhat invalid by what I can't help feeling is a missed oppurtunity.

A brain wave recently hit me that I could keep my project after all, if I just twisted it slightly, resulting in starting work on a script that is at present titled "Guild of Thieves". I'm using the same scenario, but changing the setting to be set in a city as opposed to Sherwood forest, altering the characters slightly and putting new ones in and essentially changing all but the bare premise. It's turning into a much more interesting beast that I'm ten times more excited about each time I sit down to write something for it, and it also makes me look a little bit more creative than I actually am. Depending on how much further I get with it, I might share some less vague details about it, but for now, think Robin Hood, but Not Robin Hood.

Additional Notes:

Apparently, BBC Robin Hood has been filmed in Hungary. Although that's possibly why it just didn't feel quite right, I do however find it unlikely that my subconscious would have been that eagle eyed to spot subtle differences between the English and Hunarian countryside.

I'm also told that there'll be a new Robin Hood film coming out soon starring, wait for it, Russel Crowe, as Robin Hood. Now, I don't mind Mr. Crowe. I think he's pretty good at what he does and I don't think Gladiator would have been quite as iconic without him, but I just can't quite see him as the prince of thieves...maybe I'm just missing the point and have got too used to my idea of scrawny, scruffy and morally questionable Hood.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Quick Comment: Did I Write That?

When you write things, you sometimes catch yourself writing them and thinking "when I read that in a month's time, I'm going to be confused."

The following has made it's way into a brief scene summary in my script: "The Sheriff discusses his motives for being near the docks at this time of night."

Creative Crunch

An oft mused upon subject of mine that occasionally leaks its way out of my brain is that sort of meta-creation whereby something comes into being as a result of being bored, or not knowing what to do. This blog entry is an example of such a creature.

What happens is thus: A writer, artist or otherwise creative type gets their own particular brand of writers block and is unable to think of what to do. As a result, they write something, or create something, based on not knowing what to do. There are quite a few things that pop into existence this way. On one end of the spectrum, there are uninspired blog posts that whine about not knowing what to do, and on the other end you get TV shows like Spaced, which appears to be solely about being stuck in some sort of creative vacuum without knowing what to do.

I’m not really making a point here about anything in particular, I’m just commenting on my own complete lack of enthusiasm. It’s been particularly bad lately, but there are two things that I feel could possibly pull me out of this. The first is fantastic advice as seen on 43 folders amongst other places to essentially get on with it and stop complaining, and the other is some sort of structure. It has been established by some friends of mine that Tuesdays are now a day for making things and being creative, a sentiment that I hope to uphold religiously, possibly obsessively if things go well.

My current personal project to take me out of the creative crunch is to complete a script for a semi-adaptation of Robin Hood, but that isn’t Robin Hood, because the BBC already did that. Sort of. Depending on how that goes, I might update on my progress.

Additional Notes:

My particular brand of writers block has nothing to do with inspiration, but more to do with a lack of effort required to actually make me do something with the inspiration, normally resulting in me firing up (or shooting up...I’m never sure which is the appropriate way of saying it) Warcraft instead and vaporising the evening in one fell swoop.

In personal news: I’ve finished my law course completely. My final essay was handed in with much drama and confusion when there was no plausible way of submitting it, but I just interpreted that as some kind of final test. I didn’t fall through the trap door into the maw of the leopard, therefore I think I passed.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

This Might Destroy You

Some may ask "so, David, where have you been and what have you been doing lately?"

Admittedly it's not exactly an FAQ, but inbetween panicking an essay out (it's not a piece of writing, it is a piece of panic) I have been having my soul slowly drained by this site. The TV tropes wiki.

Now, I was introduced to this a good few months ago and didn't see what the fuss was about. Then randomly I looked up a phrase I'd heard about "fridge logic" which then inevitably lead to one long "wiki walk" that is yet to end.

Try it for yourself and see where you end up.

Additional Notes:
My personal favourites: Jumping the Shark and the Batman Gambit. So many funny semi-serious names and so little time....

On the plus side, the whole thing is oddly inspirational. If I can coin a popular trope through my writing, I will actually feel acomplished...