Monday, February 25, 2013

I Know It's Over

So. Being Human is over. Ish.

Obviously for the viewing public, there are still two episodes to air but for anyone involved behind the scenes, it's always a series of little deaths; the last day of shooting, the wrap party, the breaking of the sets.

The writers have their own little landmarks; the last time they type a line of script, meet with production staff or an actor says a line they wrote up on screen.

I've had some fairly ropey writing jobs over the years. Being Human wasn't one of them. It was the first adult drama I was asked to write for and it proved to be a joy. More than that, I would go so far as to say that it was the best job I've ever had. Which sounds a little child-like in it's simplicity. But it's also true.

The best part of the job for me was story lining. Which basically involved sitting in a room with some combination of Toby Whithouse, Phil Trethowan, Polly Buckle and Laura Cotton. And saying 'What if....' for an entire day. And laughing. And debating. And arguing. And laughing some more. And imagining exactly how our vampire, werewolf or ghost would behave in the insane situation we had just dreamt up. And then going home and marvelling at the fact that I was being paid to do this.

In a writer's room, it's wise to keep to the maxim 'best idea wins'. And my scripts benefitted immeasurably from the mighty brains in that room. Notes on my scripts invariably pointed out real problems and offered canny solutions. Which believe me, is not always the case with notes.

That's not to say that the job was always a bed of roses. Being Human is a show that spins a lot of plates and sometimes entire plotlines would be have to be abandoned or massively changed. But this was never done in a capricious or casual way. We all understood that this was a necessary evil, a side effect of never settling for 'just good enough'. Always striving to make the show better.

I considered doing a big list of 'thank you's', naming everyone involved, but I feel that would be a little bit self aggrandising. I've not won a fucking Oscar. I just wrote an episode per series. So I'll end by saying a big thank you to everyone both in front of and behind the camera who helped make this show the success that it is. You know who you are.

And to Lord Tobester himself (yes, that is your name now, suck it up): thanks putting up with four years of my compulsive wise cracking, for letting me turn George all sweary, for giving me a zombie to play with and for letting me bond Tom and Hal over a discussion about virginity. But most of all thanks for taking a chance on a new writer, a little green behind the ears with a knotted hanky on a stick and a dream in his heart.

Thank you.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

2000AD and Me

Judge Dredd. Rogue Trooper. Slaine. Halo Jones. Nemesis the Warlock. If you are of a certain age and geek status you'll just know. From the age of nine onwards the comic 2000AD and these characters, this attitude, were a massive part of my mental landscape. Buying the comic on Saturday became a magical ritual. The stories and characters are seared into my memory. Thirty years later I can still quote swathes of it verbatim. My shelves groan with comics and geek ephemera, all of which sprouted from that weekly fix.

But all good things must come to an end. In the mid eighties America opened it's chequebook and lured titan after titan away; Gibbons, Bolland, Moore, O'Neill. One day I looked through the comic on the shelf in the newsagents and it just seemed limp and lifeless. For the first time in a decade I left without buying it. I've dipped in occasionally since, but it's like checking out an old lover on Facebook: she's doing different things without me with people I don't recognise.

In it's prime the comic had an outlook, a satirical perspective and very distinct sense of humour which had a huge effect on my creativity. It also shamelessly mixed genres in a way which now seems second nature to me.

So thank you, 2000AD, and all who sailed in you. You opened a door in my head which I've never even tried to close since, have given me immense pleasure and more importantly a career. Of the three projects I am currently being paid to work on, there isn't one that would look out of place between your pages.

Your children have grown up strong and we're doing just fine.

Tears Of A Nerd

I keep trying to sneak nerdy shout-outs into my scripts. None of them ever make it to the screen and it hurts my soul every time that I fail.

Let me give you a little run down of my failures:

In 'FAQ About Time Travel' Pete's lighter has 'FUCK COMMUNISM' stencilled on it. Like the one in the comic 'Preacher' and later in the comic 'Y-The Last Man'. I even wrote a scene where you saw a close up of the lighter. But as I was the only comic reading nerd on the production, the idea was met with blank looks of incomprehension and the shot never made the final cut.

In last year's episode of Being Human that I wrote, 'The Graveyard Shift' I suggested in the script that gothic Vampire wannabee Michaela should have ankh eye make-up, like Neil Gaiman's Death character. I soon learnt that suggestions to the make-up department is like suggesting camera angles to the director. And so it never happened. But imagine the squeals of nerd delight had it come to pass...

And in this year's episode of Being Human that I wrote, 'Pie and Prejudice', at the point when Tom comes running downstairs to tell Alex that 'Hal's got a girlfriend', we wanted Alex to be reading something when he entered. I wrote in the script that she was reading the comic 2000AD. We went as far as writing off to them to get a few copies and their approval.

In the actual episode, she has some magazine open on her lap, which could literally have been anything. Possibly even the galaxy's greatest comic. I couldn't tell you. I was too busy weeping hot salty tears as I failed yet again to shout out to my nerd brethren.

Still, I had a little cameo. Which is probably the nerdiest thing anyone could possibly do. I think you can just see my head in the screenshot below.