Writing

  • 07 Jul

    Improv in NYC and Horror on a Summer Afternoon

    Hello world.

    Quick update. Just returned from performing improv at the Del Close Marathon in New York. Fortunate enough to do two shows with one of my teams at Improv Comedy Copenhagen. A real honour, a real bucket list ticker and a real treat. Roll on next year!

    In other news, my latest column/piece/blog/thingy for The Copenhagen Post is live. It’s all about the terrifying experience I had hosting a cake auction at my son’s nursery summer party. Enjoy!

    As you were.

    xA

     

  • 18 Aug

    Sir Leslie Quint: revisiting an old friend

    A little over ten years ago, myself and writer/director Richard Sclater made a one-off show for Paramount Comedy Channel called Sir Leslie Quint: A Life in Film. Only this year, I finally got my hands on the episodes.

    The show was a tribute to our love for the bizarre, eccentric and sometimes deeply offensive British film directors such as Ken Russell, Michael Winner and John Boorman. All pushed the boundaries of cinema and all lived lives as large as the characters they put on screen.

    Named after my favourite character in one of my favourite films (I’ll leave you to work that out), Quint also represented those types of Englishmen who seem forever lost in time, forever out of touch and forever remaining positive in the face of monstrous adversity -usually of their own making.

    Our show also set out to lampoon the cultural trends of cinema and society through the decades of the 20th Century, as seen through the bemused eyes of one of its survivors.

    We wrote it by Richard interviewing me in character and improvised my responses to various questions about my life, work, films and controversies. This was then hammered out into a script.

    We had great fun filming this series, shot on location in London, such as Mayfair, Soho and Hampstead Heath. some of the shots we got in the Red light district we had to do on the sly, often met with disapproving glares from large men in doorways to sex clubs – who knew these gentlemen didn’t want their face captured on camera. But, thanks to bold and cunning moves by Jedd Thomas and Will Sinclair, we got more than we could have hoped.

    We wanted Quint to have lived and breathed key moments in history, much like Forrest Gump or Woody Allen’s Zelig, but on a much smaller budget. I’d also like to mention the superb work by Paramount’s in-house design team led by Chris Wainwright, who worked above and beyond to interweave Quint into documented archive imagery and also to create those absolutely brilliant movie posters, most of which I would happily hang on my wall.

    It’s the little details, I feel, that make this show come alive, encouraging pausing to study the frame for easter eggs and almost-hidden gags.

    Even after all this time, I feel that Quint still stands up. We were very proud of what we achieved with virtually no money, back before people could just shoot on a smart phone and edit on their laptop, and we’re still proud of it now. It’s dark, twisted and more than a little mischievous, but also warm, nostalgic and Quint himself is a strangely likeable monster.

    It’s perhaps ironic that watching this series again makes me nostalgic for a different time in TV land. We were given complete creative freedom on this little documentary. I suspect that would not be the case these days. Paramount actually went on to commission us to write a pilot episode for a full series. Sadly,  due to a change in management, this never saw the light of day. But I can assure you it’s a cracker.

    A year or so later, Paramount rebranded as Comedy Central, or ‘The Friends Channel’, with little interest in making original shows. So it goes. But I like to think that Leslie will one day return. You can’t keep someone like him down for long…

    You can watch the full series of Sir Leslie Quint: A Life in Film right here on YouTube.

     

     

  • 01 Mar

    Bye-Bye Benny, no groping on the way out.

    That’s it. Pope Benedict is out of there. He’s gone. Split. Further proof the job-for-life mentality is outdated and redundant, even for those elected by God. Still, I don’t blame him. That gig’s a poison chalice.

    For starters there’s the ambiguous job description. He’s not just the Pope; he is also Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the state of Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of God and Primate of Italy. Primate? I know job titles tend to be pretty vague, but it must be demeaning to have your role compared to a chimp.

    But that’s only the start of it. The Pope is boss of all Roman Catholics. Think of the logistics. You can’t micromanage a headcount of one and a half billion. The cost of stationary and desk space alone doesn’t bear thinking about. And let’s not forget this is a high-profile, international set up so maintaining positive pr must be a nightmare. All you need to happen is a rogue bishop doing something he shouldn’t with a bonobo in the Congo and it’s all over the papers quicker than you can say ‘ridiculous cliché’.

    Then there’s the company car. Sitting inside a bulletproof glass case isn’t exactly going to put you in the best of moods on the way to work. Sure, it’ll keep you safe but it also serves as a daily reminder that someone may want to kill you. No, sounds like old Benny was wise to get out when he did. Still, if he’d hung on till the end he’d probably have got a decent retirement package, like a set of cufflinks or the holy grail, which he could flog online for a small fortune. Wonder if he’s allowed to keep the hat?

    In other news, a private investor has revealed he would like to send an older couple to Mars. He feels that his contribution to the space race is to add a little experience to proceedings. After all, youth is wasted on the young, right? Why should the kids have all the fun? Well if this chap gets his way we’ll soon be seeing a pair of astronauts of mature years blasted off on a once-in-a-lifetime mission to the red planet.

    Apparently the plan to choose an older couple is because their health and fertility would be less affected by the radiation they would be exposed to during such a long space mission. Makes sense. Their radiators are always turned on full blast even in the height of summer. On the downside it could prove more expensive having them pilot the shuttle. After all, have you ever tried to get the elderly insured on a car? Your premium goes through the roof.

    It doesn’t sound like a good idea. It’s a lot colder there than Earth so they’ll have to equip this adventurous pair of pensioners with extra tartan blankets. Presumably their shuttle will travel at about thirty miles an hour, even when there are no other space shuttles around, and with the indicator still flashing from when they turned left just after the moon.

    These are, of course, cynical generalisations. Still, it’s got to be factored in, as is the potential that these senior space cadets might get all the way to Mars, wander around for a bit, then complain it wasn’t worth the effort. After all, it’s so expensive nowadays, the shuttle was so loud and ultimately the whole trip was a bit of a disappointment because they don’t build planets like they used to.

    Finally, following those allegations made against a certain enormous, sweaty politician who shall remain nameless, there’s a lot of talk in the press about correct conduct in the workplace. What is appropriate office behaviour, what is not. A wink here, a grope there. Apparently there is a sliding scale of what is acceptable. For instance, it is permissible to touch a colleague’s arm to get their attention. It is less permissible to drop your trousers and rub yourself up against someone’s leg. Who knew?

    Seriously, there tends to be a rule of thumb in this situation. If in doubt, don’t. Now, I’m not being a prude here. You can’t move where I currently work for irritating, flirty banter. Not a day goes by without several members of the finance department stealing away into the stationary cupboard to re-enact the last days of Rome, but they are consenting adults so it’s fine.

    On the whole, if you need to be told that you shouldn’t behave in a certain way then you need to have a long, hard look at yourself. Seriously, does anyone really need to be told that it’s inappropriate to pat a co-worker on the bottom? Clearly they do.

    Here’s a thought. You do not need to be fondling anyone at work. At all. Really the only profession where it is acceptable to touch someone as much as you like is professional boxing – and even they have that rule about hugging for too long. No, the rules for society were laid down some time ago and it’s for the best we all just follow them, otherwise it’s a strict disciplinary, which should really involve the offending party being locked in that stationary cupboard, where they’ll get the most terrifying dose of their own medicine ever imaginable…

  • 07 Feb

    A Wizard in the Workplace

    Hello you,

    Right, first entry in a while; indeed first post of 2013 and it’s already got off to an excellent start.

    I’ll start off with a brief celebratory nod to the recent passing of the equal marriage bill. Now anyone can get married. Good. Another victory for emancipating progress and objective equality, another defeat for damaging prejudice and subjective paranoia.

    It really is a non-debate. If you love someone with all your heart, you should be allowed to express this love, publicly, formally and legally through the institution of marriage, whoever you are. It’s only fair, right?

    Ironic that people who bang on about how marriage is on the decline are usually the same folk who don’t want equal marriage. So they moan that fewer people want to join the club then turn away those who want in. They can’t have it both ways. Does this bill represent an erosion of traditional family values? Of course not. Historically marriage was not about the family anyway, it was about property. In fact, marriage has been constantly redefined over time so there’s no correct answer to what it actually means or why we do it.

    Bottom line, this decision represents the time we currently live in – one that aspires to compassion, freedom, respect and tolerance – all of which, by the way, lie at the heart of all religious traditions. Anyway, here’s hoping religious wedding ceremonies will now be forced by law to resemble scenes from Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Might make them slightly less tedious.

    In other news, another collaboration with the amazing Guerrier Brothers is on the way. Here’s a BTS photo (courtesy of the fabulous Lisa Bowerman) of the shoot, in which I was fortunate to act opposite veteran actor David Warner. The film is still being edited, so watch this space for more news as and when it breaks…

     

     

     

  • 04 Nov

    EDIT: The Plotters finally embeddable

    Hello world,

    Right, on the eve of the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot it seem fitting I am finally able to embed my latest short film, The Plotters, onto my site.

    As you may or may not know we made the final thirteen films in the Virgin Media Shorts competition, and are eligible for the grand final, on Thursday November 8th. Hopefully the verisimilitude of the date for the final falling so near to Bonfire Night may work in our favour, but then I’ve always been a silly, sentimental sort. Anyway, enjoy.

  • 29 Jul

    Remember, Remember…

    Hello world.

    Finally got round to uploading this. Based on an idea conceived by myself and award-winning wrter comedian Hannah George, The Plotters is the latest comedy short I’ve made in collaboration with a fabulously talented bunch of writers, performers and crew members.

    I co-wrote the script with Simon Guerrier, and the end result was directed by his brother Tom. I had the priviledge of working with the Guerrier Brothers on Revealing Diary, and was thrilled to get a chance to collaborate with them once more. Full credits can be seen here.

    Anyway, we’ve entered it into a short film competition, so click below to watch and see what you think. We’re really proud of the finished result, filmed over one humid Saturday in olde London town on a VERY small budget but an awful lot of beards.

    The Plotters – Virgin Media Shorts.

  • 02 Jan

    Hooray for Hollywood

    Hello world,

    2012 is here. This year will prove very interesting, not least if the Mayans are right. Still if they were that good at pinpointing the apocalypse, surely they would have foreseen their own demise…?

    Sadly astral charts and ancient predictions are less likely to bring about the downfall of modern civilization than the current economic meltdown which shows no sign of abating, but I know precious little about the ins and outs of it all so I shall say no more.

    What I will say, is that last year ended for me on a career high when a sitcom script I co created and co-wrote with dear friend James Devonshire is being sold to a major Hollywood studio. As several people have asked me to explain further on Facebook or Twitter I thought here would be a better place to do so.

    The idea was simple enough – a recession comedy about a man who has everything, loses everything and has to return to where he grew up and start again. Not particularly original I’ll admit but what me and James wanted to do is recreate that fast-paced, zingy dialogue that those Yanks have been doing so well for decades, but which is somewhat lacking from British comedies. Think Howard Hawks over Roy Clarke and you’re on the right lines.

    It seems the script had proved a bit too much a storng flavour for the British producers we’d so far shown it to, but on reflection it makes sense it would appeal more to the US market. Sure enough we gave it to a producer now working over in California (who also happens to be a gloriously wonderful, kind, thoughtful woman – a rare thing in this game) who read it, liked it and felt her boss would like it too.

    We’d never heard of her boss, but a quick google search revealed him to be the former President of a major US TV studio. This is when it all got very exciting. further probing revealed that during his tenure, he had a hand in developing and sustaining, among others, Cheers, Frasier, Seinfeld, Friends, ER and The West Wing. This is when it all got VERY exciting. Talk about a proven track record.

    This man did like our work and talks began with a view to develop a US version of our script which, despite the aforementioned dialogue style, was very much a British beast, picking apart and subverting the traditional view of rural English village life. More The Wicker Man than The Vicar of Dibley but without the surreal grotesque overtones of the former that inspired the brilliant League of Gentlemen. In short, village life can be pretty grisly and that’s what we wanted to capture.

    Fortunately for us, America has hundreds of equally grisly rural backwaters and so our script struck a chord over the Pond and as we move into the new year, with any luck we’ll see a pilot being filmed. At the moment I am keeping everything crossed and touching an enormous amount of wood. I ask you please to do the same.

    Hopefully this blog entry won’t have jinxed development, but I always believe that if I had the power to negatively affect the outcome of a future event by merely vocalising my desire for everything to go well then this must make me some sort of demi-urge. Rest assured, I know from my tussle with a minor stomach bug over the festive period I am not a god. Merely a frail, overly-delicate mortal, flesh and blood and full of wind.

    So that’s it. Forgive the vagaries – I felt it best not to mention names (apart from James of course) and I’ll keep this site updates with more news as and when it breaks. If, on the other hand, the Mayans turn out to be right about 2012 then I suggest we all stock up on the ham in the tin and start building that bunker in the garden.

  • 16 Aug

    Films and stuff

    Hello world,

    Been a bit quiet lately, but highlights have been interviewing US actor Patrick Warburton for Comedy Central. He is the voice of wheelchair-bound Joe Swanson in Family Guy but more excitingly for me he was Elaine’s boyfriend Puddy in Seinfeld and The Tick. Anyway he was lovely, witty and all round nice guy. Expect to see that interview online soon.

    Also I just finished filming a scene for an independent movie written by Alex Billington and directed by Stephen M Katz, who was director of photography for The Blues Brothers and Gods And Monsters to name a few. Needless to say he knew was he was doing and the scene was very fun to do. Expect that appearing here soon.

    Lastly, a short film called Ali & The Lamp, which I co-wrote with writer/director Michael Yanny is nearing completion and is scheduled to premiere in September. I also pop up in it as a policeman (again), so we’ll see how that turns out….