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Archives for October 2010

How Not To Live Your Life: Filming Diary Part 4

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Dan Clark Dan Clark | 10:41 UK time, Friday, 29 October 2010

How Not To Live Your Life (Dan Clark as Don)

Week four of filming How Not To Live Your Life was the musical episode. I don't want to give away too much information about this episode but Don joins the local theatre club that Eddie belongs to and they put on a musical. We had long conversations about whether to make the musical deliberately bad or actually surprisingly good. We kind of went for the latter. I say kind of because although it's poorly acted and very cheesy, they deliver the musical with gusto and passion. The art department on Series 3 created wonderful sets and at the end of the week we all decided we'd actually quite like to see the musical put on in the West End.

The musical episode also featured a guest appearance from up-and-coming character comedian Nick Mohammed, who you may have seen in The King is Dead. I've been a fan of Nick's for a while and knew pretty early on in the script writing process that I wanted him to play the director. He was brilliant. In fact, a bit too good. My ego was starting to feel neglected due to the amount of laughs he was getting. But the writer side of me was in love with him, as he was serving the script expertly.

David Schneider, he of The Day Today, Friday Night Armistice and Alan Partridge, joined us that week too. The scenes he was involved in were set during a pub quiz, which culminates into a bar brawl. David was a gent. And I was so pleased he came and did a bit as I've been a fan of his since my late teens.

How Not To Live Your Life (Dan Clark as Don and Fiona Button as Jenny)

Dan Clark as Don and Fiona Button as Jenny in How Not To Live Your Life

The bar brawl I mentioned is instigated by a female character played by Fiona Button, she's appearing in the BBC Three drama Lip Service as well as an upcoming BBC One sci-fi called Outcasts. I wanted to mention Fiona because she's so phenomenally good in the role of Jenny. A part that could've gone so badly in the hands of the wrong actress. Fiona's a brilliant actress who'll be a big name soon. She took to comedy so easily and her physicality made me laugh a lot. Her part is in one of my favourite episodes of the new series.

Dan Clark writes and stars in How Not To Live Your Life. The new series of How Not To Live Your Life starts on 8 November at 10.30pm with a double bill.

Next week you can read the final instalment of Dan Clark's filming diaries here and you can read parts one to three on the blog now.

BBC Three boss talks about new drama and your comments

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Dana Stevens | 16:04 UK time, Thursday, 28 October 2010

Here on the blog we like to give you the chance to watch our fresh new drama and comedy programmes exclusively before they're shown on the telly. Not only that, but we regularly ask you to tell us your thoughts on which ones you like and what you think works. As so many of you have taken the time to share your opinions, I thought it would be good to follow up and find out which new drama series has been commissioned and what actually happens to all your comments. So I went straight to the top, to BBC Three Controller Danny Cohen, and I began by asking him why he's so keen to put the pilots online and to ask for people's reactions...

At BBC Three, we want to have a close relationship and be in dialogue with our viewers. So we want to take opportunities with comedy and drama to find out what people think about pilots. That doesn't always mean that the audience will decide what we do and which ones will go forward, but it does mean we're interested and we care about what you think. We have to balance hearing what you think with all the other issues that go into making a decision about whether or not to make a series.

Stanley Park - one of the drama pilots shown on the blog

So does that mean that you do read the comments people leave about programmes on the blog?

I do genuinely. I read what's on the blog and I read what people say about us on Facebook and Twitter. And it's good to hear the comments good and bad; they're equally useful because of course not everyone is going to like what you do. And the other thing that I think is worth saying, is that we want to make our website the place where you can find exclusive content. So as well as asking the audience what they think, we want to offer people the opportunity to see things first on our website. And we try to do that with quite a lot of our comedy and drama pilots.

Lets talk about the drama pilots that we premiered on the blog in May; can you say which series we can expect to see on BBC Three?

So, in this particular case, we put four drama pilots online and on TV and got fantastic feedback. We really enjoyed that dialogue with the audience. But we were also waiting on one more which, when it turned up, we were really excited about but didn't feel it was quite ready to put out online or on TV. The potential of the pilot was so strong that we knew this was the one that should go to series. We would have loved to have shown it to you but we just felt that if we put it out as it is in it's current form, we wouldn't do Touch - which is what the show is called - a good service. So, we are going with Touch and when we show it next year, I really hope you agree.

Drama pilot Dappers

Can you tell us a bit more about Touch?

It's a zombie thriller about a teenager who discovers there are zombies walking around on earth and only he can save the world. It's being made by the BBC's in-house drama team and it will be out in the second half of next year. The screenwriter is Jack Thorne who is the co-writer of the This is England TV series and he's also worked on Skins and Shameless. He's an amazing bloke and he's got the most extraordinary imagination, absolutely incredible and he's still only in his twenties. He's a really amazing guy.

So there you have it. Next year, look out for new drama series Touch and keep your comments coming on the blog as lots of us here at BBC Three HQ do read them.

You can currently watch DOA on the blog, the latest new comedy available online before being shown on TV. It stars Kris Marshall (My Family, those phone ads) and Karen Taylor as ambulance workers on a night shift faced with a crazy mix of alligators, goth vomit and sex toys! But not all at the same time.

Danny Cohen is the Controller of BBC Three and has recently been appointed as the new Controller of BBC One.

BBC Three commissions a second series of Him & Her

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Dana Stevens | 10:07 UK time, Thursday, 28 October 2010

Yes that's right, Russell Tovey and Sarah Solemani will be back on your screens as comedy couple Steve and Becky in another series of Him & Her. Yay! That means more funny scenes played out in their dirty flat with tea, toast and Inspector Morse box sets.

Him & Her (Sarah Solemani as Becky and Russell Tovey as Steve)

The series, written by Stefan Golaszewski, looks at what really goes on behind closed doors in a modern relationship. And that seems to be quite a lot of sex, farts and peeing with the door open! Aside from Becky and Steve there's a hilarious cast of supporting characters; Becky's sister Laura, her bruiser boyfriend Paul, Becky's colourful friend Shelley and the brilliantly creepy neighbour Dan.

If you missed the first series (shame on you! It's the most successful sitcom launch ever on BBC Three don't ya know!) then watch some of the excellent filming diaries we've got online so you can catch up and get to know the cast and characters before series two...

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You can watch more filming diaries on the Him & Her website. You can also read an interview that I did with Russell Tovey and Sarah Solemani on the BBC Three blog. And if you're a Russell Tovey fan you'll be pleased to hear that the new series of Being Human will be on BBC Three early next year.

Filming of Him & Her series two starts in 2011.

Got a question for Lip Service actress Laura Fraser aka Cat?

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Dana Stevens | 13:45 UK time, Tuesday, 26 October 2010

We know that loads of you love our brand new drama Lip Service. And what's not to like? The drama follows the lives of a group of young lesbians living in Glasgow; there's crackling sexual tension, plenty of emotional baggage to unpack, as well as some very funny moments and some shocking ones too. (In a morgue Frankie? Really? If you don't know what I'm referring to go and watch Episode 1 on iPlayer now!)

Lip Service (Ruta Gedmintas as Frankie and Laura Fraser as Cat)

As you're as excited about this new series as we are, we thought we'd give you the chance to ask Laura Fraser, who plays confident architect Cat, any question you want about being in Lip Service.

Lip Service (Laura Fraser as Cat)

Perhaps you want to know how Laura ended up playing the part of Cat? Or whether she was worried about being filming the more raunchy scenes. Maybe you're curious about whether she has a say in what clothes her character wears? Or you want to know more about the filming process.

All you have to do is add your question here on the blog or on our Facebook page. You can also send your question direct to our Twitter account @bbc3tv.

Get your question to us by 10am on Thursday 28th October and we'll pick a selection of questions to ask Laura. We'll put Laura's answers here on the blog and on our Facebook page before next week's programme.

Don't forget you can see Laura Fraser in action as Cat in Lip Service at 10.30pm Tuesdays on BBC Three.

Add your question here.

Russell Howard Is Back!

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Dana Stevens | 15:09 UK time, Thursday, 21 October 2010

Only hours to wait now until Russell Howard is back on your screens for a brand new series of Russell Howard's Good News. You'd think he'd be busy working on his show but it seems there are other things on his mind...like the takeover of Liverpool Football Club.

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You can find this video and many more showing what really goes on behind the scenes when Russell is making the show at Russell Howard's Good News blog. They'll be updating the blog throughout the series so bookmark the link and keep on checking back there for new stuff.

You can also tweet the show with your good news @bbcgoodnews.

Don't forget the first episode of Russell Howard's Good News starts tonight at 10.30pm.

How Not To Live Your Life: Filming Diary Part 3

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Dan Clark Dan Clark | 17:23 UK time, Wednesday, 20 October 2010

The third week of filming How Not To Live Your Life saw the beginnings of what is now known as 'The Curse of Bell Street'. I had written a scene involving Don bumping into Sam outside a café. It's intrinsic to the plot that she's sitting outside. This proved to be a problem. It rained the first time we tried shooting it. We had to abandon the scene and re-schedule it for a few days time. (Re-scheduling scenes that late in the day is a very costly exercise - you've paid to use the location and extras already, and you'll have to pay to use them again when you attempt to re-shoot that scene - these are just a few of the things you're faced with.)

How Not To Live Your Life (Dan Clark)

So we arrived to re-shoot that scene a few days later. It was dry when we got there. But shortly after the 1st Assistant Director called "action" the clouds decided to cry. We ended up abandoning the scene again. In fact, this kept happening over and over again and finally, on our fourth attempt at shooting the 'Bell Street Scene', we got a lucky break in the weather. Well, that was until the sun started going down and we ended up with a single shot of one character looking like he was sat there at night, while the others were there during the day. So, with a sense of disbelief and frustration, we went back to Bell Street for a fifth time and shot one person's single shot. Hoorah! Scene complete. It's about 3 minutes of screen time. Only took 5 days to do!

How Not To Live Your Life

We knew we were going to make the show through BBC Scotland but we had to decide where exactly. I was pretty adamant that we'd have to do it in Glasgow. It's much more cosmopolitan than Edinburgh and easier to make look like a generic city. There's no getting past the gothic architecture of Edinburgh, or it's cobbled streets or posh Georgian residential houses. Whereas Glasgow has a great mix of different architecture, old and new, beautiful and downbeat. It's also a great city to be in; full of character and characters. They're incredibly friendly in Glasgow... and occasionally incredibly scary. It's got a great art scene and lots of music venues. I love it there. But... and this is a huge draw back... the weather is bloody awful! I mean it's one thing being incredibly cold during the winter but to be grey, chilly and wet during the summer months of July and August, well that's just taking the piss. I'd had visions of us all shooting Series 3 in t-shirts and hanging out on the streets of Glasgow on cool summer evenings. Standing around waiting for shots to be lined up, catching some rays. No. It rained almost every day. I'm not exaggerating. Almost. Every. Day. I don't know how they do it. The locals, that is. How do they put up with never having proper summers? It's probably why they love to drink.

But back to the upside of Glasgow. The people are great. And the crew are not only very hard working but they're a really good laugh. The Scottish have a wicked sense of humour. And that suits the show. The banter between the crew is what gets us through the hard work.

Next week you can read the fourth part of my filming diary to find out who guest stars in the musical episode. You can read the first two parts of my filming diary here on the BBC Three blog.

Dan Clark stars as Don and writes How Not to Live Your Life. Series 3 starts on BBC Three in November.

Watch brand new comedy DOA here first

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Dana Stevens | 17:24 UK time, Tuesday, 19 October 2010

That's right loyal readers, yet again we're giving you the chance to see our latest new comedy here online before it hits your TV screens this weekend.

The latest treat for you is a one-off comedy called DOA, which stands for 'Dead on Arrival', featuring Kris Marshall (you'll recognise him from those phone adverts and the BBC One comedy My Family) and Karen Taylor. They star as Tom and Julie, two paramedics working the night shift together. 

Let me set the scene for you. Tom's working his first shift in an ambulance after being suspended from his job as a junior doctor due to a malpractice inquiry. Throughout the night he discovers Julie's working practices are rather unusual and he's forced to deal with a crazy mix of alligators, sex toys, heart attacks and goth vomit. Not only that but there's a stalker to contend with and Lucy, Tom's uptight fiancee, is less than impressed with his new job. Their murky adventures on the streets of Leeds certainly had me chuckling away, have a look for yourself and see what you think...

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So did you enjoy it? Add your comment. 

DOA will be on BBC Three this Sunday at 9.30pm.

And if you've been watching and commenting on our drama and comedy pilots here on the blog, check back here later this week as the big boss of BBC Three (that's Controller Danny Cohen) will be sharing his thoughts on premiering shows online, what got commissioned and why he loves reading your comments.

How Not To Live Your Life: Filming Diary part 2

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Dan Clark Dan Clark | 10:15 UK time, Friday, 15 October 2010

Firstly here's a treat for you, your chance to be the first to see some photos from the new series. This is a bit of a clue for you....

How Not To Live Your Life Series 3 (Noel Fielding as Marcus, Sarah Hadland as Karen and Dan Clark as Don.)

Noel Fielding as Marcus, Sarah Hadland as Karen and Dan Clark as Don.

Yes that is Noel Fielding from The Mighty Boosh, keep reading to find out more about the guest stars in the new series.

The shoot for series 3 was possibly the hardest one yet. Even though series 1 was the most stressful, this one was the hardest. On the first series I co-directed it with Gary Reich. It was a kind of a mistake. Not because we did a bad job. I think we did a great job, in fact. But trying to act in every scene whilst having the kind of pressure on you as a director is incredibly draining. I think my performance suffered a tiny bit because of it.

Series 2 was much easier because we hired a director in. This took a huge amount of pressure off. Even though I'm heavily involved in the production side of things, I was allowed to concentrate a bit more on my performance. The scripts for series 2 were much better too, so we were all feeling way more confident.

So for series 3 we decided to go with a new director again. Mainly to keep the show fresh, but we also liked the idea of giving each series a slightly different flavour. We hired Sam Leifer, a new kid on the block who's a passionate and creative talent.

The main reason series 3 was possibly the hardest yet, was not only because we shot longer scripts, with huge set-pieces in each episode (there's a musical, a bar brawl, a massive fancy dress party, country house, guns, running, and 50 speaking parts) but also because of the three weeks of night shoots. And we shot seven episodes instead of the usual six. The seventh is a Christmas Special of sorts. It's not set at Christmas but the story involves Don joining Eddie's local theatre club and putting on a musical - so it's festive. And it'll go out at Christmas.

How Not To Live Your Life (Dan Clark as Don)

But the series was a lot of fun too. I got to hang out with the old gang - David (Eddie), Laura (Sam) and Leila (Treacher). I built up the part of Jason, Don's boss, meaning we had Daniel Taylor on set for a longer than last year. And anyone who's met Daniel will tell you he's the loveliest man on the planet. And bloody funny too.

We also had lots of brilliant cameos too. First up was Rupert Vansittart, playing the dad of a very posh girl Don dates. Rupert is probably best remembered for his excellent performance in Four Weddings and A Funeral, in which he corners Hugh Grant in the hotel bar and utters the phenomenal line "I was at school with his brother Bufty. Tremendous bloke. Buggered me senseless. Still, it taught me a thing or two". He was absolutely brilliant on our shoot and a pleasure to work with. As were Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Jessica Knappet, who played his daughter and her best friend.

The following week we were graced with Noel Fielding's (The Mighty Boosh) presence. Noel's an old friend of mine. We met in Edinburgh, during the festival, back in 1999. We've remained good friends since. He said to me a few months back that he'd love to do a small part in the show. I suggested we try and put him in a part that was totally against type. A part no-one would expect to see him play. "Good idea" he said. "I should play a black athlete". I told him that might be pushing it a bit far. And anyway, I hadn't written a black athlete anywhere in the show.

How Not To Live Your Life (Noel Fielding as Marcus and Dan Clark as Don)

Noel Fielding as Marcus and Dan Clark as Don

Noel ended up playing the part of Marcus Blade. A corporate type (loosely styled on Michael Douglas from the original Wall Street film of the 80's) who head hunts Don in a rather questionable fashion.

We had a lot of fun. Possibly at the expense of the shoot. We kept corpsing. Noel's ability to adlib is effortless. Often all he does is add one new word to a sentence and it'd catch me off guard and have me in hysterics. He's also got an incredibly odd face. Only really noticeable when he has his hair slicked back and in a side parting. He's often hard to look at without laughing. Seriously, I've never known someone with so much sex appeal, yet so odd-looking.

That same week we had two other brilliant cameos - Sarah Hadland (from Miranda, That Mitchell and Webb Look and Moving Wallpaper) and my old comedy colleague Adam Goodwin. Years ago, I used to be in a sketch act called Electric Eel with Adam and Cliff Kelly. It was great to get them both in the series, albeit in smallish parts.

Make sure you check back here next week for the third installment of my filming diary and if you missed it you can read part one now.

Dan Clark stars as Don and writes How Not to Live Your Life. Series 3 starts on BBC Three in November.

Meeting Young Sex Workers in Cambodia

Sex Trafficking in Cambodia: Stacey Dooley Investigates (Photo by Fiona Lloyd-Davies)

One of my most memorable trips so far.....Cambodia!

Sex trafficking and prostitution is an issue I've always, always wanted to learn about. I've always found it interesting how often beautiful, lovely girls find themselves in these awful situations. People can sometimes judge sex workers before they really know them or their circumstances...which is a bit naughty really. Surely these girls don't choose to be a prostitute first and foremost, so I decided to discover, first hand, how this all happens.

When I first arrived in Cambodia, I found it very buzzy and very happening. It seemed like quite a cool place and everyone, tourists and locals, seemed to be in good spirits! Lots of posing for photos and thumbs up with lots of glamorous, trendy couples. All good so far.

I'd arranged to meet a girl named Alang. She had been a prostitute since she was 12 years old and her story was just unbelievable. She had had so many devastating things happen to her and she was still only 18. I struggled to believe how people thought they could get away with treating Alang so badly. Alang had been sold, raped, stabbed, forced to take drugs, beaten, abused. Every story she told me seemed to be worse than the last.

Sex Trafficking in Cambodia: Stacey Dooley Investigates (Photo by Fiona Lloyd-Davies)

Stacey Dooley and Alang (Photos by Fiona Lloyd-Davies)

It all started when Alang was 12, and she was told by her aunt that she would be helping her find work. In Cambodia, education is really a luxury and many kids are thrown into work as early as possible. This means they can help support their parents, as often the parents don't even earn a living wage. Alang thought that her aunt would be organising work as a waitress, or maybe a chambermaid. In fact, her aunt was planning to sell her niece to a pimp who would force Alang to sleep with hundreds of men to pay off her aunt's debt. The sex was unprotected and Alang was in danger of contracting HIV and many other sexually transmitted diseases. The clients would often feed her drugs and be violent towards her. She showed me a huge scar on the inside of her leg where one man had stabbed her.

Child Trafficking in Cambodia: Stacey Dooley Investigates (Photo by Fiona Lloyd-Davies)

I was just completely numb and couldn't believe what I was actually hearing. This all started when Alang was only 12! Alang told me that she hated all men and didn't trust anyone. She said the only time men are kind to her is when she wears 'beautiful clothes'. What a heartbreaking thing to think.

As I spent more time with Alang, we became pals. She was actually very funny and towards the end of the trip I felt she had grown to trust me, which was lovely. She would always be trying to sort my huge hair out, brushing it and popping it in fancy ponytails while telling me to keep my head still!

We arranged for Alang to leave the area and support her in following her real passion, hair and beauty. Alang moved cities with her two children, and has been spending time in a women's centre earning her keep by cleaning. She told us she had loved spending time with her kids and felt more calm and rested than she had in years. When Alang feels ready to focus on her hair and beauty, we have promised that we will make sure the course is sorted for her so she can support herself and the kids when she is fully trained.

Sex Trafficking in Cambodia: Stacey Dooley Investigates (Photo by Fiona Lloyd-Davies)

Stacey Dooley and Alang release a bird, a buddhist tradition to release your sorrows. (Photos by Fiona Lloyd-Davies)

Obviously Alang is only one of thousands and thousands of girls who are forced down this route. However, the more we talk about these issues and the more aware we become that this is absolutely going on; the closer we are to being able to tackle things like this. There are people who dismiss any ideas you have about helping but anything has got to be better than doing absolutely nothing....hasn't it?

Fingers crossed :) x

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Here's some information about organisations working with children and women affected by sex trafficking in Cambodia:

  • CWCC: This is the centre featured in the programme where women can stay and they also run training courses, like the hair and beauty course Alang hopes to do. Cambodian Women's Crisis Center website

  • SSF: This is an NGO who try and help girls and their families before they are trafficked. In the programme, I met a young girl and they cycled together to her house. Her mum told me about her debts and how her daughter was approached by a trafficker. SSF Website

  • M'Loptapang: Although we filmed with this organisation, the sequence wasn't used in the end but they do very valuable work with 'at risk' kids in Siem Reap. M'Loptapang website

  • Riverkids Project: They work to end child trafficking in Cambodia. Riverkids Project website

  • APLE: They monitor and investigate people suspected of sexually exploiting children in Cambodia. APLE Cambodia website

Stacey Dooley presents Sex Trafficking in Cambodia: Stacey Dooley Investigates which is on tonight at 9pm on BBC Three.

You can read about Stacey's experiences filming Kids with Guns: Stacey Dooley Investigates on the blog here.

What do you think? Add your comment.

How Not To Live Your Life: Filming Diary Part 1

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Dan Clark Dan Clark | 14:52 UK time, Friday, 8 October 2010

How Not To Live Your Life

I ended my first day on the set of How Not To Live Your Life Series 3 tied up in S&M gear, running around outside, barefoot, freezing my breasticles off. Although we were filming in July, the weather in Scotland (where we shoot the series) was like a mid-February evening. I was cursing the writer for putting me through all this. Yes, that's right. I was cursing myself.

It's a strange thing. Every year I find myself shooting a scene I deeply regret writing months before. It's normally nudity or sex scenes. If you've seen any of Series 1 or 2 you'll know there are quite a few scenes featuring nudity or sex. People often ask me if I love getting naked. No I don't. But when I write those kind of scenes I'm not thinking about the fact that I'll have to film them. I've trained myself to forget that something I'm writing might be horrible to shoot. However, that's not the case with the aforementioned S&M scene. As I was writing that particular one, I knew I'd be cursing my own name in a few months time.

How Not To Live Your Life

The premise - without giving too much away - is that Don has been tied up in chains with a ball-gag in his mouth in preparation for some bizarre sexual encounters. He's not entirely into the idea, but the girl involved is incredibly domineering. The episode ends with Don running around a large country house, hiding from the girl's father. We (myself, the producer Gary Reich and my script editor Drew Pearce) wanted to incorporate more physical comedy into this series. I had recently re-watched the little known Peter Sellers' film The Party, in which Sellers, as an Indian man, goes to a party in LA and simply wanders around causing minor chaos with very funny slapstick set-pieces. There's very little dialogue in the film and whilst it's by no means perfect, it's occasionally hilarious. I liked the idea of a scene or section of an episode of How Not To Live Your Life where Don can't speak; hence the ball-gag. But because the scenes amount to about 8 minutes of screen time, this meant me being in the costume on and off, for four days.

How Not To Live Your Life

I even had another brief stint in that costume a few weeks later. I had to stand on the side of an A-road and act trying to hitch a lift; to real cars driving pass. Even though it was incredibly embarrassing being seen by all those drivers (who, by the way, couldn't see the cameras and therefore thought I was a genuine member of the public trying to hitch a ride in S&M gear!) I could also see the funny side. I mean, if I was driving home one night and saw a man in chains and ball-gag, thumbing a ride, it would probably make my day. One car even turned around to come to pick me up.

So, the next time I write a funny scene involving a hideous situation for Don, maybe I'll hesitate.

Make sure you check back here next week for the second installment of my filming diary.

Dan Clark stars as Don and writes How Not to Live Your Life. Series 3 starts on BBC Three in November.

Add your comment.

My experience filming 'Kids with Guns: Stacey Dooley Investigates'

Well, well, well! What can I say? If someone had of told me a couple of years ago I'd be visiting one of the most dangerous parts of the entire world to investigate something as scary as child soldiers I would have defo thought they were fibbing!

Kids with Guns: Stacey Dooley Investigates (Stacey Dooley with ex-child soldiers at a transit centre)

Stacey Dooley with a group of ex-child soldiers who are now at a transit centre. (Photos by Fiona LLoyd-Davies.)

The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the most unstable, hostile environments you could possibly imagine...and initially I wasn't sure I was ready for such a place. I had to think really hard about whether or not I was up for going, as there was no point if I wasn't up for doing it properly. The country is notorious for years and years of fighting. Rebels and gangs kill, rape is rife and I read that an estimated 45,000 people are still dying every single month as a direct result of the DR Congo conflict.

Kids With Guns: Stacey Dooley Investigates (Stacey Dooley with ex-child soldier called Patrick, photos by Fiona LLoyd-Davies)

But the plan was to go out there and find out how the kids of Congo were affected and I genuinely thought that was important and a strong enough reason to take a risk. So off I went!

I had to have specialist training to even visit. I had to learn how to act if I was kidnapped or what to do if anyone was shot and how to handle volatile situations. Gulp!

The Democratic Republic of Congo was the most unbelievable place I have ever seen. Now I'm not normally a massive fan of landscapes but the country was just so so stunning! It was weird to think that such awful things can happen in such a beautiful place.

Kids With Guns: Stacey Dooley Investigates (Stacey Dooley with ex-child soldier Akili, photos by Fiona LLoyd-Davies)

I spent a lot of time with the youngsters, who had been literally dragged into the thick of the fighting. I listened to mums telling me how their kids were walking to school when a group of older lads or men kidnapped them, handed them a gun, fed them drugs and just completely destroy and manipulate them. These kids were forced to kill whoever they were told to. If they didn't kill, then they would almost certainly be killed. These boys are often only 9, 10 or 11 years old! Rape is used as a weapon and so often these boys are taught to rape girls and women.

They are told that the drugs they must take are important, as they work as 'armour' and keep them strong. They call it magic medicine. One lad told me the magic medicine he took made sure the bullets fired at him 'bounced off' and made him invincible.

I heard lots of heartbreaking, terrifying stories out there. I found it difficult to get my head around the fact that such awful things happen. But they absolutely do and so it's important that we are all a bit more in the loop about what's going on. And there are also a lot of amazing people, doing amazing things out there.

Muna, who you see in the programme, is an amazing guy who runs the centre for ex-child soldiers that I visited for the programme. This gives them a place to live, learn and eat and he ultimately tries to reunite kids with their families.

Kids with Guns: Stacey Dooley Investigates (Stacey Dooley and some ex-child soldiers, photos by Fiona LLoyd-Davies)

Stacey Dooley in an art class run by Nadege, at the transit centre for ex-child soldiers. (Photos by Fiona LLoyd-Davies.)

I also met the coolest young girl, Nadege from Belguim, who is working with an organisation to help teach child soldiers how to be children again. You can see her in the programme teaching an art class.

Kids With Guns: Stacey Dooley Investigates (Stacey Dooley and ex-soldier Zawadi, photos by Fiona LLoyd-Davies)

I was introduced to Zawadi, a former girl soldier, who after being gang raped and rejected from her family managed to pick herself up and learnt how to make dresses. She now has her own space in a workshop and wants to be a successful business woman. After hearing her story, I promised to buy her a sewing machine. Together with the film's director and producer Fiona Lloyd-Davies I bought her the sewing machine and table that she needed. Although we didn't mention it in the film, Zawadi was pregnant at the time and she's had a baby girl (whose second name is...Stacey!). She made me a gorgeous purple dress, watch out Karl Lagerfeld!

This experience has made me believe that you have to look at the positives and think that some good can come out of such devastating circumstances or nothing will ever change, will it? X

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Here are some details of the organisations that were featured in Kids With Guns: Stacey Dooley Investigates:

BVES is an NGO that runs the transit centre where we filmed the child soldiers run by Muna. For more information visit the website.

Children's Voice is the charity which trains and supports kids like Zawadi, the girl in the film. For more information visit the website.

Unicef is the United Nations agency for children that campaigns to end the use of child soldiers. You can learn more on their website.

Here are some other useful links if you want to find out more about the issues we covered in the programme:



Kids With Guns: Stacey Dooley Investigates (Zawadi and Stacey, photos by Fiona LLoyd-Davies)

Stacey Dooley presents Kids With Guns: Stacey Dooley Investigates at 9pm Thursday on BBC Three.

Stacey will also be sharing her experiences of filming Child Trafficking: Stacey Dooley Investigates here on the blog next week. Her programme looking at child trafficking in Cambodia will be on BBC Three next Thursday 14th October at 9pm.


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Creating brand new lesbian drama Lip Service

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Harriet Braun Harriet Braun | 11:40 UK time, Tuesday, 5 October 2010

When I was first asked whether I would like to write a UK based lesbian drama, I didn't immediately jump at the chance. The L Word had just run for five seasons in America and was about to go in to its sixth. Many people I knew had seen it and its characters had taken on an almost mythic status. Did I want to try and follow in its footsteps? I ummed and ahhed for a while and then I thought - of course I do. If George Lucas had worried about that kind of thing, then the Star Wars trilogy would never have got off the ground. Clearly there was room for another lesbian drama; the more the merrier.

With a commission for a treatment from the BBC in place it was simply a matter of what to write. Staring at a blank page is always intimidating but even more so when you know there will be lots of expectations from a community that is very under represented. However, I soon realised that to be able to do this I had to put all such concerns aside and simply get on with my job, which is to write a good story.

Lip Service (Ruta Gedmintas as Frankie and Laura Fraser as Cat)

The first idea to pop into my head was of a woman crying in an inappropriate place after finding out her ex is seeing someone else. The scene was loosely based on something that happened to me, which just goes to show for a writer there are up sides to embarrassment and humiliation. I knew I wanted to include a love story, so next up was someone returning from New York and throwing her ex into a state of panic. And so I had my three leads; Tess, Frankie and Cat. The friendships between gay/bi women and straight men is something I've rarely seen on TV and fancied exploring; enter Ed and Jay stage left. Having gathered the characters together I always knew I wanted the show to be as comic as it is dramatic, both because I like writing comedy and also because, in my experience, life tends to be like that.

Fast forward to a year and half later. We'd been given the green light by an enthusiastic BBC and I was on set in Glasgow where alongside writing I was working as one of the producers on the show. It was the beginning of the shoot. I knew that before filming started in earnest, there were going to be some test shots of the three leads. I headed off across the Merchant City's cobbled streets and was directed towards the café where Ruta, Laura and Fiona, dressed as Frankie, Cat and Tess were waiting to start. It's a surreal experience walking into somewhere and seeing characters that started off in your imagination chatting, drinking tea and reading the newspaper. It's rude to stare but I couldn't stop. It totally blew me away.

Lip Service

I have a lot of memories of that time: the buzz of being on set, late nights and early mornings at the computer, how very, very cold your feet can get on location in Glasgow coming up to Christmas, and consequently discovering something new to me and fairly magic. It was nearing the end of the shoot and we were on a rooftop terrace filming a romantic scene. It had been written to take place on a mild evening but was actually being shot in rain, wind and snow. What can take five minutes on screen can take hours to film and I suddenly became aware that my feet, which formerly felt much like feet, now felt like two painful ice blocks. Then someone tipped me off about foot warmers, gel packs that you slip inside your shoes and function as a hot water bottle for the foot; a genius invention that is now up there in my estimation alongside sliced bread and the internet. As I felt the glorious sensation of warmth permeate my toes, I pondered the exciting thought that, what had started with a single image of a woman crying over her ex, was now a whole series that was nearly in the can. I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed being a part of it.

Harriet Braun is the writer and creator of Lip Service which starts at 10.30pm Tuesday 12th October on BBC Three.

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