Dynamic Duos: The Crime Fighting Partners Formula

What makes great crime fighting partners? One mind, two bodies? Opposites attract? An office romance - or bromance? Or do you simply need a yes-man for your genius? I explore what makes crime fighting partners successful and compelling - and the building blocks required for writing a solid partnership. As the old Hollywood maxim goes: "The same, only different". But first, a little background... Crime Fighting Partners: A History From the very beginning of detective fiction, our heroes have worked in pairs. C. Auguste Dupin and his anonymous narrator friend, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor John Watson - a great detective can hardly impress if he has no one to question him. Early cinema derived heavily from detective fiction, including Dupin and Holmes, and brought Lord Peter Wimsey and his camera-wielding valet Bunter to screen. In the world of comic books, Batman Issue #1 introduces both Caped Crusader and acrobatic sidekick Robin. In the world of television, the 1960s brought an explosion of crime fighting partners in...
Read More

2011 Top Eleven

Here are my eleven favouritest things from this year. They all come with my highest recommendation. X-Men [Colon] First Class Out of all the comic book movies released this year, this was undoubtedly my favourite and a good film in its own right. It takes two big characters with decades of history and brings them back to their potential. It shows a complicated relationship develop into the closest of friendships - and then shatters it. The supporting cast enliven the film and the action plot ain't too shabby. Come for the fights, stay for the characters. Tangled After Disney's recent output, I was nervous about a new film. But the trailer sold me instantly and the feature didn't disappoint. The first song threw me completely, as I'm now accustomed to Pixar's style, but the dynamics between Rapunzel and Flynn (who I want to call Gwaine) sold it. Easily Disney's best film for ten years. Easy A I missed this at the cinema, so rented it on...
Read More

The Writer and The Director

I was thinking earlier on the differences in notoriety between writers and directors. Films are all about the director - as demonstrated by Dale Launer's comments (boosted by Scott at GITS). However, TV shows are a lot more about writers. Obviously, the bigger names are the showrunners - Joss Whedon, Aaron Sorkin, Russell T Davies, Steven Moffat, JJ Abrams etc. etc. However, I also recognise most of the regular Doctor Who episode writers - for example, Euros Lyn and Moffat, when his episodes were the terrifying highlight of a season. Maybe it's because I know TV better, but it genuinely feels that writers get more credit in TV. Then again, movie writers get far bigger paydays. So, is it worth it? Do we want fame or money? Or...do we make the conversion? Aaron Sorkin is a renowned TV writer. Admittedly, he wrote films first, but TV is what he's famous for. 'The Social Network', however, is Aaron Sorkin's movie more than it is David Fincher's. There's...
Read More

Role models

I'm in rewrite Hell. I hate every damn word of my script and I want to throw it in a fire. Scratch that - I'll rake it over glowing embers so that it suffers more. Meanwhile, I decided to populate my brain with good writing. This involved going to the cinema to watch Inception and catching up with Sherlock on iPlayer. And, well, damn. First, a confession: Christopher Nolan does not rev my motor. He did pretty much nothing for me with the Batman franchise, because I like my Bats with a little less brooding and a lot more sidekick. However, Inception was beautiful, twisty and really frickin' weird, with pitch-perfect dialogue and character building. I have not seen a film that good in a very long time. And then there was Sherlock. Obviously, I caught the high-budget period version, which I frankly adored, but this was something else. It captured the spirit of the original brilliantly and yet modernised it with a delicate touch...
Read More

What’s the hook?

One of the most prominent pieces of feedback I've received about my TV pilot is this: what happens in the series? And how do we know? Why will we tune in next week? Those are very good questions. And I know what happens in my series, but how do I show this in the pilot? So, I turn to some of my favourite TV shows, past and present, and watch their pilots or think about their premises to get a sense of why I kept watching them. I've discovered two things: One - I really love police procedurals right now, and; Two: I'm sold on engaging characters and a cool premise. Assuming that not everyone is as easily pleased as I am, what is the hook? One of my favourite TV shows is a little-known first season cancellation called Jake 2.0. It's about a geeky tech support worker, Jake, who becomes infected with nanites at the NSA and then becomes a spy. It was fun and sweet...
Read More

This is your dialogue on drugs

I'm spending my holiday time wisely by watching hours of television. Seeing as I'm writing a television pilot (draft three, with the editor), this seems like a smart move. Having marathoned the lamentable Space Precinct 2040, I jumped forward in time and across the Pond to the laudable Sports Night. I am a big fan of The West Wing. I had a blip where Rob Lowe quit and Channel 4 insisted on moving the timeslot around like a yo-yo, but last year, I watched all seven seasons in four months. It was brilliant. But it did suffer a dent when Aaron Sorkin was fired. Sports Night is a proving ground for The West Wing. Big speechifying, The Walk and Talk, the adorable and nerdy Josh Malina - and a showcase of guest stars who seem pretty familiar. Also, some plots and scenes crop up: big poker night, the dad with the 27 (or was it 28...?) year affair, the insane love of trivia....
Read More

Patchwork Post

I'm back from my holiday in sunny Italy - and it's raining and overcast and generally homely, which is nice. I do like it when the weather puts on a homecoming parade. However, this does mean I've been parted from my beloved laptop and my affair with Space Precinct for a week. This would mean a kick in the nads for my Red Planet Prize screenplay were it not for the fact that I boarded a train today - and therefore knocked out twelve pages. What is it about trains that makes me so productive? I need to build my own railway just to do some work. Projects are ticking over. Steampunk Assassins and Old!Robin Hood are with my director, poolside, and I'm musing over resurrecting a complicated novel with new people, culture and language that's been simmering on the hard drive for a couple of years. We'll call it Overambitious Island. In other news, Ada Lovelace is my heroine, being a queer Christian...
Read More

For want of structure

I'm really struggling to make pages at the moment. I think the 60-min TV format is confusing my brain. I'd just got my head around the 110-page movie format, with my BS2 in hand. Also, most of my televisual input comes from the States. Or via Doctor Who, which is also 45m. (And was simply AMAZING tonight - the proof that a well-structured and carefully thought out season can really make a finale.) Therefore, the sixty-minute piece of television has thrown me for a loop. I've gone with a three-act structure, because all television act structures seemed geared towards adverts, which is inappropriate for the Beeb. But I find myself flailing wildly at page 35, wondering where I'm going to dredge up another 25 pages from. I'm probably good to end at 45, tbh, and that's because I'm so used to that length of television making sense. Either I need to take in more one-hour dramas or I need to seriously rethink the middle...
Read More

Space Precinct 2040

The name's Brogan - Lieutenant Brogan. For twenty years, I was with the NYPD. Now...well, let's just say that I've transferred to another precinct. ...and I screamed with delighted nostalgia. As research for my Military Monster tv pilot, I decided to flick through the British sci fi archives and get a feel for the history. I already watch Doctor Who and Torchwood, and I love some Red Dwarf, but there was a whole world about which I knew nothing. A quick search for British sci fi then turned up a show I did remember - SPACE PRECINCT. It only ran for one season in the mid-Nineties, but who can resist cops-in-space? From Gerry Anderson? I didn't think so. I re-watched the pilot today and, well, it was bad. Terrible dialogue, obvious plot twists, some hollow acting, and a bit of preaching to boot. However, it was also brilliant and funny and all about the ensemble. In short, it's a great piece of inspiration and has given me...
Read More

The television forecast

Now that the big work project is over, I have more time to work on my writing. Wrong. What I actually need to do is pack up all my belongings for a move. Wrong again. The bigger the task before me, the more I distract myself with writing. And it all gets done eventually, so it's a win-win situation. This morning, instead of piling books and old VHS into boxes, I wrote the series outline to go with my pilot. This may seem a little ambitious, given that the pilot is currently eight pages long and chances of it getting commissioned are slim-to-none. However, I don't think one can write a television pilot without knowing where the whole thing's going. Does it have the legs for a season, let alone five seasons? What is the theme of the season and what arcs need to be set up in that very first episode? Submissions to BBC Writersroom require a complete pilot script AND a brief series...
Read More
12