Archives for August 2011

The Field of Blood

Fiona BBC writersroom | 11:31 UK time, Thursday, 25 August 2011

Essential viewing this Bank Holiday Monday is BBC One drama, The Field of Blood - a dark and compelling crime thriller adapted from the best-selling novel by Denise Mina.

Written and directed by David Kane, the crime drama is set in 1982 and centres on would-be journalist Paddy Meehan (Jayd Johnson), a young copygirl working in a Glasgow newspaper office. Stuck in an almost exclusively male-dominated world of limited opportunities and cynicism, Paddy dreams of becoming an investigative journalist, believing that in miscarriages of justice, reporters are sometimes the only hope. She seizes an opportunity to kick-start her career and becomes embroiled in a dark murder case. For the ambitious Paddy, it's the opportunity of a lifetime, but it comes at a great personal cost.

Writer/director David Kane talks about his motivation and inspiration for revisiting the Glasgow of his younger days on the BBC press site.

Watch a preview clip from Episode 1 below:

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You can also watch interviews with the cast and follow a day in the life of author Denise Mina on The Field of Blood programme page.

The Field of Blood is on BBC One at 22.15 on Monday 29th August.

Winner's update: BBC writersroom Laughing Stock

Elliott Kerrigan | 13:38 UK time, Wednesday, 24 August 2011

I'd like to begin my blog with a word of caution: when I sent this blog to the BBC it was full of hilarious gags, dazzling word play and, to put it simply, comedy genius. If what you are about to read is as interesting as dry toast, that's because it has been brutally edited, without my permission.

When Will There Be Good News?
A little bit about me: my family call me 'Captain Disaster' and my scripts have been met with rejection after rejection. One script even came back with 'Still not interested' scrawled on the front page. A few months ago me and my mam were in Oxfam. She held up a book called 'When Will There be Good News?' and asked me, across the shop, if the book was about my life. It isn't. So you can imagine how thrilled I was to get an email from the BBC, telling me that I'd made it to the Sitcom Masterclass at BBC Centre. I got to tell my mam some good news. "The BBC in Newcastle?" my mam asked. "No," I said. "The BBC in London." She leapt out of the chair, forgetting all about her arthritis and dodgy knee, and began dancing like a savage.

Murder Manor
An incredible time at Bore Place, or 'Murder Manor' as I called it (the exterior is all 'Darling Buds of May' but the interior has a whiff of 'Murder by Death' about it.) One thing I'll never forget: the read through. I went into that room nervous. And when I get nervous my forehead turns red and gets really hot. Well in that room you could've cooked a Lean Cuisine on my forehead. What I thought would happen is this: my script would be read out and the room would be quieter than a mute at a funeral. But no. The opposite happened. People were laughing. It only got ridiculous when I realized that I was laughing louder than anyone else.

Slapped In The Face By Another Writer
I wasn't slapped in the face by another writer but I wanted a subtitle to keep you glued to your seat. The actual subtitle is: Things That I Learnt. The great Grahame Linehan came to Bore Place for a Q and A session. One of his tips really stayed with me (and I even got to include it in my rewrite). Mr. Linehan explained that when he's writing a script he tries to think of 2 or 3 great moments. 2 or 3 great moments that the audience will be talking about the next day. I think that's a great tip. It's a simple idea (the best ideas are) and it's a great goal to work towards.

Rewrite Time
At the end of our time at Bore Place we were given a month to do rewrites. I loved this time. I got to work on a script that people were actually going to read, a novelty for me. I had decided to make some big changes. I wanted to incorporate everything that I had learned at the Masterclass and Murder Manor. I started writing and noticed something. I was now writing scenes and thinking, 'Wait 'til they see this. This is going to be funny.' I was writing scenes that had to be seen, whereas before I would write as much funny dialogue as I could think of - but that's all it was: a lot of funny dialogue but not much to look at. So I think I've made a breakthrough, a step in the right direction if you will. But if you never see my name on TV it was clearly a big mistake.


Edinburgh Bound

The day before Edinburgh. Very excited. The news about the sitcom showcase in Edinburgh was the 2nd biggest surprise of the Laughing Stock experience (the first was me being asked to set up the DVD player at Murder Manor. Trust me, I was the least technical person in a ten-mile radius). So here's what's going to happen: 3 comedy scripts (picked from the scripts that went to Murder Manor) are going to be read at the festival. A bonus: we're getting the great and good of TV and radio, including: Isy Suttie from Peep Show and Tom Rosenthal from Friday Night Dinner.

The Edinburgh Showcase
Monday morning. Time to rehearse. All goes well. The performers are incredible, getting a handle on the characters in record-quick time. I have to say here and now how much I loved the actors for giving it their all and jumping into the spirit of the thing. We had a short break and then we were in the packed venue, ready to begin. Butterflies in the stomach were quickly replaced with a big smile as the audience start to laugh and continue laughing.

Elliott Kerrigan's Laughing Stock sitcom is read at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

I'm on the train heading back now and my lasting impressions are these: the audience member who came up to me after the show and praised the number of gags (not in my script, he was praising the gag count in another script but I wasn't going to correct him); the member of the technical team who came up to me to say how much he loved one of my characters (I was in such a daze that I only managed to mumble 'Thank you, thank you.' Oh to be eloquent when it really matters.) I'd like to end by thanking everyone who made today possible. And I thank you for taking the time to read this. Best wishes.

Made a right laughing stock of ourselves in Edinburgh ...

Paul Ashton | 12:52 UK time, Wednesday, 24 August 2011

I directed and presented a showcase of three of the winning sitcom scripts on Monday at the BBC Comedy venue in Edinburgh. Excellent audience turnout, a brilliant cast of performers from the fringe brought in at short notice, and a showcase where people laughed all the way through.


Paul Ashton presenting showcase


The writers who were able to be there - David Byrne and Elliott Kerrigan (sadly Shazad Mohammed couldn't) - probably lost a proportion of their bodyweight through anxious perspiration but what they got in return was seeing their words stand up in front of an audience - who laughed right back at them.

Rapt audience


We had very little rehearsal time and a broken down plane en route nearly scuppered us, but it was an excellent showcase of a great competition that has unearthed some gems which have in turn already started to engage an audience. Special thanks to our BBC producer Mollie who rallied an exceptional cast at short notice: Isy Suttie, Paul Chaal, Paul McCaffrey, Humphrey Ker, Shazia Mirza, Tom Rosenthal, Romesh Ranganathan, Spencer Jones, Nish Kumar, Anil Desai, Margaret Fraser and Jeff Mirza.

Homegrown by Shazad Mohammed, with Romesh Ranganathan, Paul Chaal, Nish Kumar and Jeff Mirza


BBC writersroom Laughing Stock competition

Mathilda Gregory | 12:17 UK time, Thursday, 11 August 2011

I'm not a trained mathematician, but when I saw a picture, on this very blog, of the writers' room offices, piled floor to ceiling with jiffy bags and special delivery envelopes, like a disastrous Tetris fail, I figured the chances of my BBC writersroom Laughing Stock entry making an impact were teeny-weeny. Disconsolate, I started looking around for other career options: Perhaps there was still time to train as mathematician. After all, people will always need numbers.

Scripts piling up in the BBC writersroom office.

So, when I discovered I was amongst the winning 9 writers invited to a comedy writing residential, I was overjoyed and more than a little surprised. The only people even more surprised were the poor souls to whom I'd explained my sitcom premise in the preceding weeks. "It's like The Road - but with jokes. Jokes about cannibalism," I'd offered, hopefully, while they shook their heads and expressed concern for my wellbeing.

The residential was a surreal affair, inevitable when marooned in the countryside with unlimited cheese and 8 strangers; all writers, so, basically, misfits who had opted to retreat from this complicated thing called reality in favour of an invented world. And, as we were comedy writers, we were also all morose, depressive and misanthropic. (Also prone to lying for comic effect.) A few of us took our being whisked away to a remote country house together to mean that we were expected to fight to the death, with the last writer standing emerging with a BBC commission in their bloodied fist. But, as we found out during a session on How the BBC isn't like an Agatha Christie Novel, commissioning hasn't been decided this way since the late 70s.

In peaceful sunshine, the week trickled by and we lay in the walled garden, eating the cheese and talking about the writing we ought to have been actually doing. Punctuation came from various BBC execs and other notaries who each taught us about a specialist area, from the nursery slopes of online sketches to hallowed shiny-floors of pre-watershed BBC 1. We even met Graham Lineham, fresh from his Today show debacle, who freely gave us a raft of comedy writing tips. We tried to pay him in cheese, which had, at this point, become our currency. (As creative types, the basic flaw in basing a fiscal system on something we had an unlimited supply of, was lost on us.)

Many things will stay with me from the experience: a better understanding of how TV commissioning works, the endorsement of making it to such a prestigious stage; the people I met; the discovery that if I really put my mind to it I can eat a truly horrifying amount of cheese; and the realisation that writing might be the thing I want to do with the rest of my life.

Or, possibly, wandering around chatting to other writers whilst eating cheese might be the thing I want to do with the rest of my life. Still, people will always need numbers.

BBC writersroom and BBC Comedy Commissioning will present a live performance showcase of some of the winning Laughing Stock scripts at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival on 22nd August. Apply now for a free ticket to the showcase.

#Hackgate

Fiona BBC writersroom | 11:19 UK time, Monday, 8 August 2011

Very excited to announce that we've selected 3 outstanding scripts for our #Hackgate Rapid Response. With only a week to turnaround the scripts, we received 179 submissions in total (though rather disappointingly only 10-15% of these were from female writers).

You've entertained us in the office for the past week with your explorations of the dark and seedy - the writing strongly reflected desperate times calling for desperate measures, with tales of journalists and family members alike outdoing and double crossing each other.

One observation which kept cropping up in the scripts (and gave us a chuckle) - was the striking resemblance of the former chief executive of a a major news organisation to a certain flame-haired former lead singer of a British blue-eyed soul band :-)

We were chuffed to have writer Tim Price on board to help judge the scripts. We first fell in love with Tim when he was one of The 50 writers in our partnership with the Royal Court Theatre. From the Welsh valleys, Tim has written for Welsh language TV and Secret Diary of a Call Girl before being was chosen for the BBC Writers Academy in 2009 and writing for Eastenders, Casualty, Holby and Doctors. His debut full length play For Once just ran to rave reviews at Hampstead Theatre. And he hosts a new writing night in a Mongolian Yurt in Cardiff. What a guy.

Below are the winning scripts, along with some feedback from Tim on why they were chosen:


I've Been Expecting You
by Othniel Smith

"I've Been Expecting You has great characterisation and is consistently written. This is a script where we all felt safe in Othniel's hands whilst reading it."

Phone Hacking is a Juvenile Business by Ross Churchill

"Phone Hacking is a Juvenile Business is a script with bags of energy. I loved the heightened, stylised form and felt Ross was able to say more about the scandal than others who chose naturalism."


This is Jack, Leave a Message, Alright?
By Jimmy Osborne

"This is Jack, Leave a Message, Alright? is a brave, beautiful piece and shows the writer's confident use of form. I could imagine it being an afternoon play."

We also want to give honourable mentions to Tom Crowley for "Have you Seen Lucinda Jameson" and Richard Budden for Suspicion, both of which came very high on our shortlist.

A big thank you to all who entered.

WRITERS ACADEMY RESULTS

Ceri Meyrick | 14:05 UK time, Friday, 5 August 2011

The writers for the 2012 Writers Academy course have been chosen.

They are:

Christian O'Reilly
Katie Douglas
Emer Kenny
Kenneth Emson
Kirstie Swain
Steph Lloyd Jones
Ben Tagoe
Rosalind O'Shaughnessy

This year we had the strongest shortlist yet, and many of the writers we didn't choose we are hoping to develop using our shadow schemes.

Congratulations to our final eight!

Ceri

New script: The Hour

Fiona BBC writersroom | 11:30 UK time, Thursday, 4 August 2011

We've just added the script for Episode 1 of new BBC Two drama, The Hour to our script archive.

The cast of BBC Two drama, The Hour.

Written and created by Bafta award-winning Abi Morgan (White Girl, Sex Traffic, Brick Lane, Murder) the six-part series takes viewers behind the scenes of the launch of a topical news programme in London 1956. It explores a decade on the threshold of change - from the ruthless sexual politics behind the polite social façade of the Fifties to the revelations that redefined the world for a new generation.

Download the script for The Hour - Episode 1 by Abi Morgan.

Watch a clip from the episode below. The full episode is also still available to view on BBC iPlayer.

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