A couple of probably failed TV scripts from some dark corner of my hard drive
I’m not sure what type of writing I prefer but if I can probably narrow it down to two – they are writing novels and writing film or TV scripts.
I think it’s because each of those forms allow you to write proper ‘stories’ with plots and characters. For example it’s exciting to throw a random plot twist at the characters and see how they react; then follow them to the end to see how everything gets resolved.
There’s time to get to know the characters a bit, time to chill with these new and interesting people. It’s also a bit like that with painting, especially painting portraits, where you don’t know where that first mark on the canvas is going to lead, who is going to emerge from that mess of form and colour.
I suppose that it’s a bit like that for all art-forms – the creation of something out of nothing but an idea. But then, isn’t it a bit like that for science and engineering too? Isn’t it a bit like that for every facet of human existence, from making a cup of tea to designing a spaceship?
There’s nothing special about writers and artists.
Anyway, my work-in-progress includes adapting two of my books into television scripts.
It’s going great so far, in fact both books seem to lend themselves to the visual style of a television script. The books are Bums and Boys from the Backfields and each story is being developed into a six part TV drama. Both books are set in the industrial/post-industrial town of Elchurch on the South Wales coast but they are very different books in other respects.
Here’s a sneak peek
NOTE: This blog post is meant primarily as a personal record of something I did and the context in which I did it. It’s no more than that.
In the late sixties, when I was a teenager I used to sit in cafés and watch people. I don’t mean in a creepy way, I was just a casual observer. At seventeen I spent some time based in Paddington and worked as a Lugger – a Roadie’s assistant, carrying speakers and amps in through the back entrances,up the steep stairs, and along the narrow passages of nightclubs all over the UK. I grafted for several bands including Jon Hiseman’s Coliseum and Jimmy James and the Vagabonds. I shared a flat with other roadies who between them worked for some of the biggest names of that period.
What do I mean? I mean this is a short story with no style and no substance.
Why not? Style is taste, substance is an illusion.
Fair enough, but I don’t understand.
You don’t need to.
I mean I don’t understand the point of it.
Your short story. This.
Nor me. In fact I’d go so far as to say that there is no point to it.
But what’s the point of that? Why should I read it?
I don’t know. Do you need a reason?
Well, yes, otherwise I’d be wasting my time, my breath, my life.
Look at me shrugging. Read what you like, or not. Who cares?
Well, you should, it’s your short story. Don’t you want people to read it?
Yes of course, but I still don’t care if they do or not.
If you say so.
So what’s it about?
Nothing. It’s got no substance.
What’s the point . . . oh, never mind.
Good, you’re learning.
No I’m not.
Yes you are. You’ve learned that there’s no point.
No point to what?
No point trying to find a point in something that has no point.
OK. If you say so.
I was being sarcastic.
Because you’re winding me up.
Because of your stupid story that has no style and no substance.
And no point.
So what’s the problem then?
You’re doing my head in.
With all this story nonsense.
Well you don’t have to read it.
Fuck off then . . . .
So, it looks like Tafftown is becoming a reality – when I say reality, of course I mean it’s not real, but it’s a drama of the sort that’s commonly known as a soap-opera – a term originally coined to mean a programme that depended on advertising revenues from soap (or washing powder) companies, or as Wikipedia says (although I’ve never heard the term ‘soapie’, it sounds Australian?):
“A soap opera, soapie, or soap is a serial drama on television or radio which features related story lines about the lives of many characters. The stories usually focus on emotional relationships to the point of melodrama. The term soap opera originated from such dramas being typically sponsored by soap manufacturers in the past.”
So that’s what Tafftown is, and it’s based on an idea of mine, influenced by several factors, including the fact that I have lived in an area similar to the one depicted in Tafftown for the last ten years and for a period in my twenties. I’ve been thinking about such a television series for a long time, and it finally came to a head a few days ago when after a meeting with my co-writer Dafydd Wyn Roberts and consultations with the other as yet unnamed people involved, we decided to announce it to the world.
So there it is it’s a reality.
The first episodes will be short – ten minutes or so – and will be broadcast online only.
Scripts and characters are in development and several parts have already been cast.
see ya soon
I am the richest man in the world. They say I am a recluse, I am afraid of doorknobs, I shower in purified water a dozen times a day, and I eat nothing but the flesh of sterilised fruit. It’s true; I am the richest man in the world, the rest doesn’t matter, it’s of no consequence, it’s irrelevant. All that matters is that these words reach you; that we touch.
I have no one you see – no mother, no father, no wife, no sons, no daughters, no family, no friends. Oh! I have slaves, paid slaves, unpaid sycophants, admirers, devotees even. I suspect that every second of every day my name is on the lips of someone; my name is typed into a search engine; my name is tweeted at the speed of light. Continue reading
Twenty-seven people were killed or injured when the bomb exploded. I happened to be travelling past on the bus, but I was only shaken up a little.
I went to help of course; I am a doctor after all. I attended to three of the victims. Mair died on the spot and Alice lost a leg, but it was Keith who got my sympathy. I suppose it was because I identified with him more than I did with the others. He was a man, we were about the same age and more significantly, it had been twenty-seven years for me too.
Keith whispered: “Twenty-seven years married, I thought I’d seen it all,” he laughed.
I laughed with him, there’s not much else you can do in a situation like that. He wasn’t seriously hurt in a physical way, but I could see the damage just as clearly as if he was. I knew the signs.
“I thought it couldn’t get any worse, after I lost my job,” he said quietly. “But of course it could, and of course it did.”
“Don’t worry, it won’t be long now.”
“I’m OK,” he said. “There’s no need to bother with me. Better go and see to the others, they need you more.”
I looked around. Through the dust, everything was surprisingly still and quiet.
“Is Mair dead?” he asked.
He already knew. Her blood and pieces of her face were dripping off his arm.
I nodded. Continue reading
IT was almost ground into the pavement outside the gift shop – a single playing card – the Jack of Hearts.
I took a snap on my phone thinking I might post it to the Facebook group – Found Objects Forum. I often think about posting stuff to the group but rarely do – probably because its founder – Marc Robert Roberts of Zeuk and Chapter fame, does such a great job with his own photos and commentary I feel my efforts are paltry by comparison. it’s worth checking out if you like that sort of thing. (Click here to have a peek)
Anyway, I haven’t posted it to the group and probably never will.
It did get me thinking though – about another Jack of Hearts I was involved in a while ago. This was a television series from 1999 starring Keith Allen as a hard-boiled probation officer. I worked on the production for two weeks during filming at the Coal Exchange in Cardiff’s Tiger Bay. I use the term ‘work’ in the sense that I got paid (not much – OK £70) for hanging around on set for up to 12 hours a day and occasionally walking about or pretending to chat in the background of a scene. I only did it because I was skint.
The star of the show was Keith Allen, who, coincidentally I knew for a while when he was a teenager. He was one of my brother’s best friends and even then his riotous behaviour foreshadowed his future reputation as a bit of a wild man.
So, the TV series, Jack of Hearts, was a flop, though it didn’t too much damage to the future of BBC Wales, who are now at the top of their game with the worldwide success of other shows made by them including Doctor Who and Sherlock, along with the Roath Lock studios and the building of their brand new headquarters smack bang in the centre of the capital city.
I don’t know why Jack of Hearts failed to get much of an audience, it was a tight production with decent actors, a good director, and a hard-working professional crew. The concept seemed reasonable enough and though the script had some development issues it was as good as it could be.
It’s the same with creative work of any kind – you just never know how something is going to turn out or how it will be received. Obviously the work has to have some merit and has to be approved by a sufficient number of informed people to validate it. Or does it? That’s another question, but my point is that no matter how much time, skill, and energy you put into a project you can never be sure of its success Just look at the credits for Jack of Hearts on the Internet Movie Database – IMDB. It’s a page lacking in any detailed information and you’ll notice that the star Keith Allen’s name seems to be missing in the visible main cast list, but just look at how many talented people were involved in making the series – and they had all the resources of the BBC behind them.
Still a flop!
So, what’s the secret then? Persistence? Hard work? Talent? Connections? Or do you have to be some sort of gregarious likeable person? You probably need most of the above attributes but you need one other crucial ingredient – what’s called luck! I mean, the mere fact that you exist is in the multi-trillions to one region, as close as you can get to an impossibility as it’s possible to get. The fact that a particular unique mix of nature and nurture came together and created the indescribable complexity of you is a miracle in itself.
So, if life is a gift worth having then you’re already lucky beyond measurement.
Funny what thoughts a grubby playing card can stimulate.
I was walking through Riverside earlier when I saw bunch of seagulls swoop into an alley.
I think it was a pile of breadcrumbs against the wall that attracted them
A minute later I saw a bunch of humans bobbing and drifting on the river Taff
Seagulls in an alley! Humans on the water! What’s the world coming to?
“What is human emotion? Love, anger, fear – violence?”
What does it mean to be human?
Over the decades I’ve read hundreds of Science Fiction stories and so far there’s nothing new about Humans – Channel 4, Sunday June 14th, 9pm. That doesn’t mean it’s not good, I’m not sure about that yet – though if my arm was twisted then I’d say it was watchable but not great – not yet.
Anyway, I don’t do television reviews and this piece of writing is supposed to be about me shooting from the hip and writing whatever comes into my mind about what happened today. (Truthfully – there’s no way I could ever write ‘whatever’ came into my mind, because it would take forever – so this piece will inevitably have a theme, a focus, and will only represent a very tiny glimpse of what came into my mind – look, this could go on until hell is a snowball . . . .)
So, today, was/is a Sunday in June. What happened?
Here’s a list:
Gluten Free vegan cakes – I ate a lot of gluten-free vegan cakes today, which is unusual since I rarely eat cake of any kind but when I do, they’re always vegan and sometimes gluten-free.
Watched television – including the aforementioned ‘Humans’ and ‘The Road to Coronation Street’ – a repeat of a drama on some Freeview channel called, I think, the Drama Channel. Quite touching in a strange way, perhaps because it reminded me of my Grandmother who lived for a time in the small parlour of the small house I grew up in and who was a Coronation Street addict. She used to shuffle into the living room, reeking of the germolene she used to slather on an open wound on her leg, three times a week or whatever it was then.
She was lovely, my Gran, but always quiet and mysterious. I think she was illegitimate and became an orphan early on after her mother fell down the stairs. There was a German Captain Voss in her mix of ancestors but I’m not sure exactly where he fitted in and the uncle who did know is dead. Gran married a bricklayer by the name of John Brennan whose father came from Ireland so they say. He died when I was very young of TB – she carried on for a while in our parlour, her and the stench of germolene.
Chilli plants – We visited the Riverside Market, where I got the Gluten-Free vegan cakes from and where Chris Fowler, who works in the library service with my wife, was selling chilli plants. We got one – a special white one – because of the library connection I guess.
We acquired the gluten-free cake from two sources. From Fran, who makes vegetarian and vegan pasties, pies and cakes, especially welshcakes, and who used to supply the shop Pulse Wholefoods that we used to run, and from Andy on the Naturally Kind stall, who sells all vegan cakes and raw cashew cream cheese-type cakes.
While I was talking to Fran one of the Super Furry Animals and the ex First Minister of Wales came to the stall and made purchases. Later, another of the Super Furry Animals drifted past, and Chris Fowler, the chilli man, stopped to talk to him (Chris’s brother Pete Fowler is the guy who does the artwork for the Super Furry Animals’ album covers).
There’s a lot more I/we should/could have done and in fact did plan to do – like go to the allotment, sort the curtains out in the back bedroom, finish tidying the middle/dining room, take a drive to the seaside or down the M4 to visit mothers; plus I’m supposed to be working on putting together the book of short stories for the Welsh Short Story Network, but it was/is a Sunday and I have a deep conditioning to chill on such a day.
Anyway – this is turning out to be a bit of a ramble and probably pointless at that, so I’ll go back to ‘Humans’. I had an idea when watching it that I would write a review so I made notes.
Here they are:
There’s nothing new in Humans so far, nothing I didn’t read decades ago in one Science Fiction story or another. (I used to consume them as regularly as I check Facebook nowadays)
Who are the real humans? What does it mean to be human?
What makes us human? Being human is a very special, unique thing.
You are ‘chosen’ if you’re human, unlike, say, a rat, or a pig, fit only for for killing or eating or both.
Purpose of life.
Value of a human life – all that jazz.
Importance of memory -> identity
gradually unfolds that some of the Synths are conscious (machine life)
“these freaks are the singularity”
ROBOT STARING AT THE MOON
if you didn’t get it they spelt it out at the end
“What is human emotion?”
How do you teach a computer to forget?
In the end, at the end of the first episode, we have now got used to the world the writer and the production team have constructed – from now on it’s just an ordinary drama with all the usual human tropes
Read the whole play below, or download is a Word doc It Doesn-t Matter
IT DOESN’T MATTER
A ONE ACT PLAY
ADAM: A MAN
BEN: A MAN
CARRIE: A WOMAN
THE THREE CHARACTERS ARE OF WORKING AGE AND ARE IN THE SAME AGE RANGE.
SCENE: TYPICAL OPEN PLAN LOUNGE/KITCHEN 2015
ADAM IS HOVERING NEAR THE KITCHEN AREA. BEN IS AT THE KITCHEN COUNTER.
ADAM: What are you doing?
BEN: What do you mean what am I doing?
ADAM: I mean what are you doing?
BEN: Talking to you – obviously.
ADAM: Before that what were you doing?
BEN: What do you mean what was I doing?
ADAM: I mean what were you doing before I asked you what are you doing?
BEN: Ah then. Nothing. I wasn’t doing anything.
ADAM: Yes you were. I saw you doing something. Continue reading
It’s going to end up as a 200 page paperback book and will be published in late October or early November 2014.
For the Time Being is a bringing together of short stories, plays, poems, snippets and other fragments of my writing. Some of it is brand new, other pieces have been lurking in drawers for decades. Some of the work has been exhaustively edited while some is still red raw. Some of the work has already been published on this blog in one form or another, some of it emerged as I was putting the book together.
I don’t know if the book has any commercial viability – probably not, but I don’t really care – it’s primary purpose is as a distraction for me and something for me to read in my dotage – the pure essence of self-publishing if you like.
There will be more information about the book on Opening Chapter’s website when it’s available.
TAPS – Television Arts Performance Showcase were an organisation whose aim was to discover and develop scriptwriters for television. They did pretty good for a long time then, I believe, the recession put paid to them in 2009.
I was involved in a number of their schemes and wrote a short drama with them in 2006. The drama “Bumps in the Night” never quite made it to production. Anyway I thought I’d put the script up here in the faint hope that someone will be interested in it, or at least to give an example of a tv drama script, the length of an episode of a soap opera on ITV.
Click below to download / open the script
The nostalgic mood continues. Here are the first two episodes of a soap-opera / drama thing I started writing specifically for publication on the Internet in its early days – 1996. The idea was that it would be published online in short sharp episodes using only text in a visual style, though there were always plans to add pictures and possibly videos when the technology got fast enough to make that viable. Maybe it’s time to do that now?
I know it needs editing, think of it as a draft.
Figanwr was a pen name I used occasionally then. Continue reading
Another one from the archives. This piece was first published on John Baker’s Blog
What phases are involved in the creation of a text?
I have created texts of all kinds and have published poetry, short stories and a novel. I have also written and produced stage plays and short films and completed television and film scripts. Despite this extensive experience, the creation of a text is still something of a black art to me. For example I remember getting up early one wet Sunday morning back in 1999 and scribbling away like a maniac until mid-afternoon. What emerged was a one act play called “Tossers”. I spent the rest of the day typing it into the computer. I’ve still got the original hand-written manuscript and there is no difference between that and the finished play. I put the play in a drawer until 2004 when I submitted it to a theatre company. Tossers was staged in Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff as part of their On The Edge series. I had nothing to do with the production apart from turning up on the night to watch it. As far as I could tell, not a word was changed and the staging was exactly as I had imagined it when it was created.
I’ve no idea where the play came from; the only phase involved in its creation was the physical act of getting it out of my head and onto the paper. But, Tossers aside, in the best traditions of academic analysis I present the following acronym to define the phases involved in the creation of a text:
WRITER = Watch, Record, Inspiration, Toil, Edit, Release
For any text to have validity it must be based on truth, and truth is derived from what we experience through our senses and our emotional and intellectual response to that experience. Sitting in front of the television or reading a classic novel is not good enough. No matter how engaging the programme is or how brilliant the book is, it’s a second-hand experience filtered through someone else’s set of myths and prejudices. A writer must watch; must observe real life in all its gory glory.
Watching on its own may increase your understanding of the human condition but in order to create a text you must record your observations. Manifestations must be recorded; this could be in the form of notes on paper or of mental notes to yourself.
Sometimes inspiration seems to come out of nothing; your mind processes your observations and tries to make sense of them, it needs to make a story out of the characters and events it encounters. This processing takes place consciously and subconsciously in varying proportions and eventually inspiration comes, but it doesn’t come from nowhere, inspiration is earned.
So you have watched, recorded and found your inspiration. Now those raw materials have to be organised into strings of words that convey the meaning of the story to others. This takes work; you have to toil to get those sentences out in a meaningful way.
The words are on the paper or the screen but they are still a bit raw and clumsy, and there are gaps that need bridging or repetitions that need culling. The text has to be edited, it has to be groomed and pimped until it is in a form that is enjoyable for others to read.
There is a Zen koan that asks: “If a tree falls in a forest and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?” There is no logical answer to that question of course, but if a text is put in a drawer or left in an obscure folder of a hard drive and no one reads it, it does not exist as a text. The final phase in the creation of a text is its release into the public domain; it has to be published in some way. Tossers sat in a drawer for five years before it became a text. It did not complete its journey until it was released.
Come to think of it, even Tossers had to go through all of the above phases; it’s just that it happened to go through most of them in a burst of creativity on a wet Sunday in 1999.
Tossers is a surreal black comedy and plays out in about twenty minutes; please contact me if you want to read it.