Christmas SoapBox

2nd February 2014

With January well and truly behind us, now seems like as good a time as any for a trilogy of Christmas posts. In November, I was asked by StayGo Magazine's Guest Editor Carolyn Gray to write their monthly SoapBox rant. Sadly the issue never made it to print after the Editor In Chief was called away on business. So my little articile was orphaned. It is published below for your pleasure...

It's December and even someone as determined as me to avoid it until the last possible moment can't deny that Christmas is nearly upon us. One of the final clues when I was younger was the first sighting of the Festive editions of the TV listings magazines.

Around the third week in December my brother and I would go through the Radio Times (other listings magazines are available!) and circle everything we wanted to see. Often this would include premieres of films long since removed from cinemas with ones worthy of recording underlined. For better or worse this is a festive tradition that cheap DVDs available only a couple of months after a film's release and the need of television executives to programme dozens rather than four channels have thoroughly annihilated.

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Categories: Writing, Reviews

Why No NaNoWriMo

19th November 2013

As part of a recent trend of mine of commenting on things at least weeks after they've ceased to be relevant, this post is about writing exercise NaNoWriMo.

The project, in which participants try to complete the first 50,000 word draft of a novel in November has, probably unsurprisingly, proved to be popular with several friends of mine, with one in particular running a heroic campaign to get as people as possible "NaNoing"'.

It is in part for her, then, that I write this as a statement in my defence. There was a degree of expectation from several quarters that I would NaNo - not the most unreasonable assumption ever - but when it transpired that I would be NaNoing, some questions were asked. While my friend has been very understanding my decision, I am evidently feeling guilty enough to have to justify myself in blog form.

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Categories: Writing

Designing Cartoon Characters Is Hard

30th October 2013

Or rather, as with all things, designing cartoon characters well is hard.

As you may have seen on Facebook and Twitter, at the start of the month I declared I wanted to write an animated sitcom. Whether it will be me who ends up animating the series I have no idea at the moment, but I find having a visualisation of the characters useful when getting to grips with their personalities.

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Categories: Design, Writing

NT Live Hamlet Review

27th October 2013

Moments of brilliance from Rory Kinnear as Hamlet were left mortally pricked by a supporting cast that insisted on shouting its way through the script at breakneck speed, punctuated with pregnant pauses, much snivelling and wailing.

Coupled with the obvious attitudes of the characters and a great deal of "sawing the air with their hands" betrays a lazy interpretation and lacklustre direction from Nicholas Hytner, who seemed more concerned with congratualing himself for drawing a spurious parallel between the events of the play and a modern East European police state than with telling an engaging story about characters on the brink of sanity.

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Categories: Reviews

NYCVS Award Ceremony

25th October 2013

I’m very pleased to say that the SAFE project I worked on recently was nominated for an award for partnerships between adults and young people. As unlikely as it seems, I was the adult in this relationship.

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Categories: Misc

Big Top Video Workshop

5th August 2013

As part of Trinity Theatre's Big Top I am running three one-hour Introduction to Video workshops. You will get the chance to get hands-on with professional recording equipment and lights to see how a scene is shot.

Over an hour, I will show you how to set up a scene, frame the shot, record sound and light a scene to make it look like a big-budget production, including my Number 1 tip to make any scene look like it comes from a glossy Hollywood movie for (almost) nothing.

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Categories: Misc

Summer In February Q&A

23rd July 2013

Producer Pippa Cross and writer Jonathan Smith, who adapted his own novel, will be attending Trinity's screening of their film Summer In February at 8pm on Weds 31st July to answer your questions.

I will be chairing a Question and Answer panel with screenwriter, novelist and local boy Jonathan Smith and producer Pippa Cross, who has nearly 40 films to her name, at Trinity Theatre on Weds 31st July as they talk about their film Summer in February.

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Categories: Film, Writing, Events

Cuckoo Calling

16th July 2013

I could be being unnecessarily cynical - I know, control yourself! - but I can't help feel a little curiosity that news that hitherto unheard of detective novel The Cuckoo's Calling was in fact written by JK Rowling moments before hitting the shelves and soaring to top of the best-seller list.

True, Rowling herself seems faintly aggrieved that her cover has been blown, but news of her deception certainly doesn't seem to have done sales any harm. In an era when publishers and authors are competing for every little sale, I can't help but wonder who leaked the story, and what their connection to the publisher is.

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Categories: Misc

MUD Review

15th July 2013

Mud is one of those films that creeps up every now and then that is hard to classify. Billed as a modern Tom Sawyer, Mud is the story of Ellis (The Tree of Life's Tye Sheridan) and "Neckbone", two teenagers who find a boat in a tree on a desert island. They initially plan to turn the boat into a tree-house, only to find drifter "Mud" (Matthew McConaughey) has already laid claim to it.

The boys are suspicious of Mud and his story, but Ellis's feelings soften when Mud explains he is there waiting to join his girlfriend. Seduced by the romance of Mud and Juniper's (an almost unrecognisable Reece Witherspoon) story, Ellis agrees to help, bringing food and supplies to Mud. As his own parents' relationship becomes increasingly hopeless Ellis becomes more determined to do everything he can to help Mud and Juniper.

The film is beautifully paced, with a slow (but never dull) story developing through subtle character interactions that refuse to conform to stock characterisation or cliche, and is adept at keeping sympathies on the move. We quickly warm to Mud following his introduction, and why he would impress Ellis is apparent. But as more characters are brought into the story Mud's pure narrative starts to taint.

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Categories: Reviews

The Name Game

14th July 2013

Assumptions based on Human Nomenclature.

As usual I was a fairly late-comer to a big pop-culture event, namely Katie Hopkins' bashing of certain first names.

As a writer, I feel qualified to discuss people's names as, despite appearances, we tend not to select names at random. Coincidentally, I recently named a young character "Tyler" who is the adolescent son of an alcoholic and petty thief.

He is a handful, but not a bad character. He is the product of his upbringing, and changes for the better over the course of the story. So in a way I agree with Katie's statement (let me finish!), in that certain types of names are an indicator of a person's background...

BUT it was because I wanted to make a comment on his parents, rather thank him that I chose the name. And I think that is what Hopkins missed in her, I suspect, deliberately inflammatory position (after all conflict is drama, right?) - that a person's name tells you about someone's parents, not about them. Sure, a person is a product of their upbringing, but they are just as free to reject that background as they are to embrace it.

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Categories: Writing

S(c/k)eptical Tarot

13th July 2013

It's been a long time coming, but I finally made it to a Tunbridge Wells' Skeptics In The Pub meeting last week. In fact I made it to two. The first was a fascinating talk, given the provocative title "How America Saved The English Language", the second was "Confessions Of A Tarot Reader".

The thrust of Lynne Murphy's convincing argument is that a lot of what we think of as "Americanisms" are, in fact, originally "Britishisms" which were taken over to America with the immigrants, that we in England subsequently changed for fashionable reasons (mainly to seem more French!).

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Categories: Misc

First Post

12th July 2013

So after literally years of pussy-footing around the subject, I decided to start a "proper" blog. But, because nothing can be simple and I'm a weird control freak that way, I decided not to go with any of the usual providers. Tumblr's great, but is more of a scrapbook, WordPress generates tons of flabby code and Blogspt... well, I fell like Google knows enough about me already.

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Categories: Misc