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Ripper Street Revived!

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Ripper Street, one of my favourite dramas, was unjustly axed last year – but it’s been announced that the BBC has struck a deal with Amazon to bring it back for Series 3, with stars Matthew Macfadyen (Spooks; The Three Musketeers), Jerome Flynn (Game of Thrones; Soldier Soldier), Adam Rothenberg (Elementary; Alacatraz), and MyAnna Buring (Doctor Who; The Kill List).

Its axing, blamed on supposedly-low ratings but more likely that the show is costly to make, was met with outcry, particularly as Series 2 concluded on a game-changer. The scripts, it seems, have already been written, and Flynn has said that the upcoming run of eight episodes starts filming in May.

Amazon has saved the show with a co-production deal through its Prime Instant Video service (formerly LoveFilm). The online company is expected to air the episodes a few months before they arrive on the BBC.

I honestly think Ripper Street is one of the strongest dramas on TV; I highly advise everyone to seek out an episode from last year’s run, called Am I Not Monstrous?. Merrick’s monologue in last few scenes is just beautiful.

Created by Richard Warlow, you can read the script for Series 1, Episode 1, at the BBC Writer’s Room.

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2014 in Television

 

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Luther: Series 1 on Writer’s Room

ADVENT DAY THREE: Christmas. It’s not long away. And to celebrate advent, new content will be added to this blog every day in the countdown to the big day. You’ll see reviews, opinion pieces, links to some of my other work, videos – maybe even a short story! Remember to check back every day (in between the mad rush of packing presents, getting the freezer stocked up and watching Home Alone on repeat).

The BBC Writer’s Room is a great source of inspiration, especially when it comes to their extensive script library. It covers a vast amount of programmes – from Doctor Who to Miranda, Death in Paradise to Spooks – and different mediums too, with radio scripts like Welcome To Our Village, Please Invade Carefully and films like Shifty.

Luther Script Extract

A recent addition is the complete scripts for the first series of Luther, written by Neil Cross. Now, I’ll be honest: I haven’t seen Luther. My brother loves it though, and I plan on catching up.

I really love Neil Cross’ style; I printed off his Spooks script, and it’s truly brilliant. It’s actually one of my favourite episodes… which is incredible considering the standard of its peers. You can read that one here.

Or if you’re a Luther fan, or need to be inspired, you can check out those six scripts by searching ‘Luther’ here. I love the frantic pace, and think it’s really important that the piece’s tone shines through in the descriptions, not just the dialogue.

It’s not one for kids, that’s for sure…

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2012 in Blog Advent - 2012

 

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Four problems with my script.

I have been toying with four main problems with my current scripting venture, an action-thriller with brushstrokes of politics. Think Spooks meets Exile.

1.       Inferiority.

I’ve written my script in two main chunks so far. On the whole, I’m happy with how the first chunk sits; it has to do the so-called ‘hard work;’ introducing characters, themes, motifs – all that.

Sherlock's Mind Palace

But the second part just doesn’t feel right. It does all it has to (maintain characters, while showing development, advance the plot, set up the ‘final act’ of episode one) and yet…

I think I know what the trouble is.

When I watch blindingly good drama, like Sherlock or Doctor Who, my script just pales in comparison. I think it’s quite a good script, just not… Steven Moffat good. I know he’s had many years in the industry – I know he had to learn too – but that’s not how an audience will see it.

I guess I’ve got to remember that I’m not writing Sherlock. I’m not writing Doctor Who. (However much I want to.) My story is wholly different to those. For one, my main character is just a normal guy. He’s not a Time Lord, and he’s no Consulting Detective, either.

I just have to remember that.

2.       Timing

Most people live by the ‘minute-a-page’ rule. But I’m not so sure. Few scripts for an hour-long episode are about 60 pages. It just doesn’t happen like that.

Particularly for me. If a scene is fast and action-packed, I want this to bleed into the script. I like to split paragraphs up, so each main ‘story beat’ is on a separate line. Personally, I think this works better for the production team and the actor.

Sure, in quieter moments, I let this slide. But I still write how I feel is right. And ‘chunking’ is never right.

Because of this, I figure that 40-odd pages of my script is about 30-35 minutes on screen. Yet there’s that nagging feeling that I’m wrong.

And it’s worse than that. I need to work out if I have time to do all I plan to in my synopsis.

Oh, I do workshop. But this isn’t the same either. ‘Action’ has to be read out. It is, in turn, slower and quicker than it might be on screen.

So I just have to guess. I can’t let this stop me. I need to write the whole episode, then figure it out. Things can always be cut. After all, it’s only the first draft.

3.       The Cliffhanger.

2x 1hour episodes. That’s what I aim for. That’s what I’ve planned for.

But I have two cliffhangers battling for the same space.

One is quieter – perhaps more affecting. The other is full of running and darkness and guns. It’s typical action-thriller.

But which is better? And which fits better into the plot?

I mean, both slot nicely into their respective places, but for the ‘running through a forest’ one to take place, I have to have enough time in the first episode without sacrificing any of the emotion or plot development.

It’s all down to timing again…

But I think I have a solution. I’m just not sure it’ll sit nicely until I actually try it out. The first episode can end on the quieter moment – laced with a bit of dramatic irony – then the second can have a shocking pre-titles sequence! Excellent!

Maybe.

4.       Scene transitions.

When I get down to it, it all depends on timing. That’s the root of my problems.

I need the pace to be just right – because if you tune in to see a thriller, that’s exactly what you want. I need fast moments then a come-down; those quieter bits that advance so much in plot and character, and give the audience precious room to breathe.

But all this takes time. I need it to be realistic. It doesn’t feel right to have one guy saying he’s going to the police – then suddenly, he’s chatting to a DI. I need something to separate those two scenes.

Some shows – like Sherlock and Not Going Out – have a cityscape on a time lapse.

Die Hard With A Vengeance does it with style. New York; a busy city bustling with noise and character, and – a huge explosion.

That doesn’t fit in though. Sure, it works on other shows, but mine’s not like that. Tonally, it doesn’t rub shoulders with everything else that’s going on.

This is particularly a problem when all the action follows the main character – all the others are doing ‘boring’ stuff like surveillance or driving. But the main guy is running for his life. Why would the audience want to be sidetracked with a man typing on a computer?

Unless… it builds tension. It alludes to something.

Instead, I’ve got the main antagonists stewing over their next course of action.

Yes, that all takes time, but frankly, I’ve got it.

I have two hours to stretch my legs. And that’s what I’ll do, thank you very much.

When Steven Moffat spoke about getting rid of the two-parters in the next series of Doctor Who, he said that no story is too long for 45 minutes.

I’m sure two hours will do me just fine.

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2012 in Unpublished work

 

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Summer Daze

Everyone is supposed to think summer is marvellous. Yet all those I talk to dislike it. I completely concur, by the way.

Aside from anything else, it’s far from productive. The sun seems to pop up, birds sing, flowers bloom, and I look away in disgust. No, that’s not quite true. I like the jovial nature of summer; it’s the inescapable heat that drives me to distraction. I’ve not been a typical lazy student (I do so hate stereotypes), but I probably should have done a bit more than I have. At least it’s given me more time to indulge in my other loves. For instance…

I’m absolutely loving, loving, loving Brandon Flowers’ Flamingo album. Well done to him on that masterpiece. And here’s to the next The Killers album.

My comic and graphic novels collection has grown once more (though this will never be exclusive to summer), picking up massive omnibuses as often as I can. I’m currently working my way through the brilliant Brubaker/Lark run on Daredevil, in case anyone’s wondering. My find of the summer is probably the complete Man Without Fear miniseries by Frank Millar and my favourite artist, John Romita Jr. Near mint, cheap and off eBay. Never thought I’d say that. I’ve had a couple of comic-related surprises creep up on me too. X-Force: Sex and Violence had the perfect coupling of brilliant writing by Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost, and beautiful art by Gabriele Dell’Otto. One Month to Live is based on a lovely, deep concept; Hawkeye and Mockingbird is lively and clever; while Daredevil: Black and White has been the best read all season. All this and I still haven’t had time to read Shadowland and its many tie-ins.

For you non-comic fans out there, this has been the summer of ideas. I’ve had a lot. That’s not bragging; a lot have been awful. But I’ve hand-picked a few I’m actually quite happy with. Many are still in development, but at least they’ve been picked from the ether. My tutor, Marc, has convinced me to write ideas down, so there are a couple of scribbles in a notebook somewhere. I’m not used to it, really. Writers actually writing?! It’s all a bit alien to me.

Quirky, comical, serious, factual. Ideas just everywhere, and some development on something that began festering about two years ago. Hoping to complete that by next summer.

I’ve begun writing down comic storylines, in case Marvel suddenly beg me to write for all of their characters. I’m prepared. I’m making some progress on an ongoing Daredevil storyline that I’m pretty pleased with; which is also true with a Deadpool plan that’s been brewing. You won’t know any details until Marvel really do beg me for work. So don’t hold your breath.

Where do ideas come from? Well, anywhere. A recent idea for a trilogy of stories (based on OAPs, like all the best ones) emerged while watching Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Best not to ask at this stage.

I haven’t just been sitting in an idea-stew though. I’ve written… things! A couple of features, many-a-review, and scripts (comics and otherwise) ’til they’re coming out of my ears. Now and again, I find myself watching my beloved Coach Trip, thinking, “AREN’T I SUPPOSED TO BE PITCHING STUFF RIGHT NOW?!”

Television hasn’t been very inspiring over the summer. Summer telly is infamous. I find myself in a state of despair every time I see the likes of Big Brother (it’s not George Orwell’s fault, you know) and The X-Factor (of course it’s all staged, you goon!). A couple of gems have stood out, however; Agatha Christie’s Marple: The Pale Horse was excellent, as always; Sherlock was genius and inspirational; The Deep was mostly superb; and Doctor Who (which just nuzzled the edge of summer) was, of course, the best. But best not to look at the rest of the schedules.

Ah well. At least Spooks is back.

Summer: it’s been a mixed bag. But I think I’ll remember the good stuff.

(PS. I, also, have some exciting news, but that’s going to have to wait until I get everything sorted out. So come back soon, won’t you?)

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2010 in Unpublished work

 

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