(This is a personal note to myself – please ignore.)
I’m a writer. There’s no doubt about that, as you would see if you bothered to explore my website. It’s mostly about writing and most of it has been written – by me of course. Problem is ‘writer’ is too wide a term to be meaningful to anyone who doesn’t identify as a ‘writer’. I mean, what am I? I write blog posts like this, and . . . well . . . here’s a list of the other things I write:
Plays for the theatre
But if I was forced to define more finely what it is that makes me a writer then I would say: “Call me a novelist”. I would say this even though I have not published a new novel for three years because there is something divine about writing a novel, something that takes a direct line to the absolute essence of my being – it is an experience, or a conglomeration of experiences, that means everything, forever.
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.
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.
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.
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?
While working on my next novel ‘Bums’ which will be published in the Spring of 2015, I have been distracting myself by putting together a volume of other bits and pieces, called for the Time Being.
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.
This is a script developed with TAPS with a view to getting it produced by ITV for the It’s My Shout scheme. In the end it didn’t make the final cut but got as far as a reading and development at the BBC studios in Cardiff.