Sunday, July 12, 2009

Stepping back

--Update from 2014 at the end of the post--

Before I start, this post - and every post on here, and anything I say on Twitter, or anywhere else - is entirely MY opinion. Nothing to do with the people I've worked with, or the BBC, or anyone else. I don't speak for any other writers, I *only* speak for myself, and I will not pass on any messages to anyone.

Here's my position: I'm not going get into any more discussions or debates about what happened in Torchwood this week (being vague, in case people come across this and haven't seen it). Not now, not in the future.

Why? I started trying to discuss it, but swiftly realised that it was pointless. It simply turns into "No it isn't" / "Yes it is", and there's no way I can win the argument, because in certain people's opinion, I am wrong, and that's the end of it. And it's all just opinion anyway. It would also feel like I was trying to justify the show, and I'm not doing that. I have absolutely no need to. The show is the show. Whether you like it or dislike it, that's up to you.

I helped plot the whole storyline, and I stand by every single decision. Yes, including *that* one - I had my hand on the death lever along with everyone else, and was fully involved. I think it's a fantastic, brave, challenging drama, and contains some of the best moments on TV all year.

I've received over a thousand messages from viewers talking about the show. The vast majority have been extremely positive. Even though many of them are upset, angry and shocked, they have managed to express that without making it personal. So to you, I'm extremely grateful. I'm glad you liked the show, and love that it made you respond so strongly. I can't reply to everyone, it'd take weeks, so please accept my thanks.

But the rest of the messages? Unacceptable. Some have been spewing insults and passive aggressive nonsense. Accusing me of deliberately trying to mislead, lie, and hurt people. Telling me I hate the fans, that I'm laughing at them, that I used them, that I'm slapping people in the face, that I've "killed" the show, that I'm a homophobe, that I want to turn the fanbase away and court new, "cooler" viewers, even that I'm hurting depressed people with dark storylines. Asking me to pass on vitriolic, hateful messages to people I love and respect.

Not cool.

These are all things that nobody would dare to say to me in person. But on the internet, it's easy for them to fire off these things. Forgetting that at the other end is me, a real person, someone who has been nothing but open and friendly. But I've been a bit too open, a bit too nice, a bit too willing to explain the thought process behind story decisions. And some people are taking advantage of that, or misinterpreting what it means.

So here's the deal: I'm a professional writer. That's my job. I write what I write, for whatever the project might be. I have the utmost respect for you, and honestly want you to like my work, but I can't let that affect my story decisions. Everybody wants different things from a story, but this is not a democracy, you do not get to vote. You are free to say what you think of my work, even if you hate it, I honestly don't mind. But the ONLY person I need to please is myself, and the ONLY thing I need to serve is the story. Not you. I will do my work to the very best of my ability, in an attempt to give you the best show, the best movie, the best story, the best entertainment I possibly can. Even if that means that sometimes, I'll do things you won't like. I won't debate it. Either you go along with it, or you don't. None of it is done to hurt you, or to force some agenda down your throat, or anything else. It's all in service of the story.

When I started this blog, I wanted to give some insight into the writing process. I've done that. I've answered all the questions, written about the process, done several huge posts trying to pass on what I've learned. The posts are all still there, and will remain there. I've had great fun with it, and given as much as I can, but it's never going to be enough. For a while now, I've let things get too cosy here, indulged myself too much, and if I let it carry on, it will affect my work. The last few days have just confirmed that for me. So I'm going to step back and take an extended break from it. Things are very busy for the next month or two, and I won't have the time anyway. I'm extremely grateful to everyone who has commented on here, and if the blog continues at a later date, it will be limited to anything that isn't about the work - announcements, TV/movie recommendations, etc. I have to concentrate on my writing.

And I will not put up with any more abusive messages, or threats, or accusations, or attempted guilt trips. So while I completely understand your pain at some of the events in the series, that does not give you the right to insult me. Talk about the *work*, all you want. But lay off the person behind the work. Because I'm simply trying to tell you good stories. In the end, that is all I can do.

James Moran

Please feel free to pass this on, I encourage you to do so, to make my position clear to everyone - but you must include the link to the full post here:

Update from 2014: This post keeps getting linked to quite a lot, so for those who've just found this - I reactivated the blog in April 2010, with comments turned off. I'm still updating it fairly regularly. This post was written at a time when things were very hectic and unpleasant, but staying away for a while seemed to let the dust settle. It feels strange looking back at it now. Anyway. Just wanted to do a tiny update for people just coming across the tale, so you know it all ended well.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Torchwood. Children of Earth. Day Five.

Day Five.

(Note: this was written before the online stuff happened, will do a full blog post over the weekend addressing it, and what I think, and responding to everyone.)

All hope is lost. Is this the end? Today's nuggets: mild, vague spoiler for yesterday's episode - I helped come up with the reason why they wanted the gift (you know what I mean), and explained what I meant by describing how foie gras is made (look it up, it's horrendous). As for tonight's episode - in the very first storyline meeting, we went through several different versions of the ending before settling on this, and then it changed again. And it's not going to end the way you think.

Good old Broadcast, taking the tiny drop between eps 1 and 2, and spinning it into "OMG TOUCHINGWOOD IS D00MZ0R3D". Every series drops off after the first one, even stripped ones - Criminal Justice lost 700,000 after ep1, but that's normal. Torchwood's smaller drop was actually pretty cool. Unless you're Broadcast. No sign of the "Torchwood leaps back up to 5.9m" story on their site, maybe I'm not looking in the right place. Also, 6.4 million for last night's episode, it went up even higher, which is pretty fantastic.

Don't forget, there'll be spoilers in the comments, so if you haven't seen the episode, don't read the comments. And remember, the Americans and Canadians don't get the show until the 20th, so please don't drop massive spoiler bombs where they can't avoid seeing them (like in your public Twitter feed). Be considerate!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Torchwood. Children of Earth. Day Four.

Day Four.

Shocking revelations, and much more. Today's nuggets: you'll see the object that I was brought into a room to see when I was on set, the object that horrified me and made me wonder if we would actually get away with this. You'll know it when you see it, it's during a scene where you find out the reason for something. This scene was going to be in episode 3, but would have meant too much exposition/delay in the middle of the cliffhanger, so got moved here.

As for last night's overnight figures: 5.9 million viewers. Holy fuckbum titspangling cockbananas. Normally there's a gradual drop off as a series goes on, as viewers forget it's on, or drift away. This is fucking incredible. I'm so, so chuffed and proud. Audience appreciation index was 90, which is fantastic.

Thank you everyone for the amazing response to yesterday's episode - comments, Tweets, emails, and so on - I'm gobsmacked yet again at how cool you all are. I really do get nervous before anything of mine airs, you never know if it just won't catch the audience in the right way, if everyone will hate it. I knew it was a solid, cracking episode, and thankfully, most people seemed to really go for it. I had 100 replies on Twitter, mostly between 10.00pm and 10.09pm. As I was reading those, another 37 came in. As I was reading *those*, another 19 came in. And they kept coming in, it was amazing. I tried to reply to as many questions as possible, but had to stop around midnight, I was knackered. Sorry if I didn't reply to you, but I really appreciate every single comment, thank you so much. This morning, another 70 replies! Blimey, I love Twitter.

Don't forget, there'll be spoilers in the comments, so if you haven't seen the episode, don't read the comments. And remember, the Americans and Canadians don't get the show until the 20th, so please don't drop massive spoiler bombs where they can't avoid seeing them (like in your public Twitter feed). Be considerate!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Torchwood: Children of Earth. Day Three.

Day Three.

Blimey - overnights for last night's second episode: 5.6 million. The first day was 5.9 million, and you'd normally expect a big drop after the first episode, every new season is the same, but this is incredible. Thank you all for staying with it, I'm so excited.

Hello! Today's nuggets: to those who have asked about the shared credit, me and Russell are both credited tonight - I did five drafts of the script while he did episode 1, and then he took ep3 from there for the final draft. I'll talk more about the writing process once it's all over, if people have more questions. There's also an interview with me here at Den of Geek, in which I explain a bit more about the writing process.

Bonus nuggets: This episode was also the first time ever I'd written a specific kind of thing - it disappeared later, as the subplot changed location, but it was still a first for me. I'll say what it was in the comments after the episode. Also, the team are forced to do something they've never done before. And I come up with a creative solution for a clothing difficulty. Oh, and watch out for the chopping board, in one of my favourite scenes.

One last nugget, which I'll leave you to ponder, it's not spoilery because I refuse to explain it: "The Hub 2". And no, it's not what you think.

But for now - something is coming...

Don't forget, there'll be spoilers in the comments, so if you haven't seen the episode, don't read the comments. And remember, the Americans and Canadians don't get the show until the 20th, so please don't drop massive spoiler bombs where they can't avoid seeing them (like in your public Twitter feed). Be considerate!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Torchwood: Children of Earth. Day Two.

Day Two.

5.9 million viewers for last night's episode, which is REALLY good news - and that's just the overnight figures, not taking into account HD or BBC3 viewers, or iPlayer, or Sky+ recordings, so it'll go up even more when the numbers are all crunched. Viewing figures actually went up during the episode, too. Let's hope we can keep hold of as many viewers as possible, so keep watching.

Hope you enjoy tonight's cracking episode from John Fay, as the story continues. Today's nuggets: potatoes play a very significant role at a crucial moment. As does a hearse. And I predict the internet will *explode* when you see a certain something through a security camera feed. Enough! I say no more! Enjoy the show!

Don't forget, there'll be spoilers in the comments, so if you haven't seen the episode, don't read the comments. And again, the lovely Americans and Canadians won't officially get this season until the 20th of July, so PLEASE try not to spoil in Twitter posts - I don't mean you can't talk about it, but don't just post huge spoilers that will, well, spoil the surprise of the show for them. It's not fair to them, they're trying to stay spoiler free. Thank you.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Torchwood: Children of Earth. Day One.

Day One.

When every single child on Earth stops, Torchwood is thrown into a world of terror.

Just in case you've missed all my blog posts, Twitter mentions, the Radio Times pullout cover, the Telegraph article, the covers of several magazines, the trailers, the TV ads... Torchwood Children of Earth starts today, at 9pm on BBC One.

It's a big, 5 part story, so you'll have to watch the whole thing. If you miss an episode, then it won't make sense. My one is on Wednesday, but you should be watching them all.

And as usual, the pre-broadcast nerves spring into action. They never trouble me until the day before it's on, then suddenly they arrive. We've all been working on it for so long, and are all so proud of what we've achieved, we haven't really had time to think about anything else. But what if everyone hates it? You never, EVER know if something is going to go down well or not. It's worse this time, because I haven't simply done an episode - I'm one of only three writers, and we (me, Russell, John Fay, with the producer, director, script editor, and Julie Gardner) storylined the whole thing, working out the entire plot in a room in Cardiff. There are bits from all of us in every single episode. So I'm partly responsible for the whole thing this time, which scares me a bit.

I'm not fishing for compliments or sympathy here. I genuinely never know if anyone's going to like something. I do the job to the best of my ability, but you still just don't know. But we've made what we think is a damn good show, and really hope you enjoy it.

There's an interview with me over at Den of Geek, in which I talk about the show and a bit more about the writing process - don't worry, there are no spoilers.

I'll do a mini post every day for each episode, with a small nugget of info each time, so feel free to comment and say what you think. Like or dislike, I'm a grown up and honestly don't mind, but let's keep it civil. Also, if you haven't seen the episode and come here after the fact? There will be spoilers in the comments. Be warned.

See you tonight, for episode one, "Day One" - it begins. Today's nugget of info: we'll meet a hitch hiker, but not the sort that thumbs for lifts. And the sentence "We are coming" - that's not the whole sentence. There's more, which you'll find out at the end of the episode...

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Twitter caption competition results

Okay, the Twitter caption competition results are in! Sorry it took so long, but there were well over 300 entries, and the judging panel had to read through them all. The competition was simple - come up with a caption for this photo:

There were lots of jokes about beaming up, and lots about me looking up skirts and kilts. You must all think I'm a Star Trek-obsessed pervert who likes copping sneaky looks at genitalia. You know me better than I realised. A lot of you went for the redecoration angle, there were several superglue gags, and lots of me being horrified by sexual antics out of shot. The most frequent captions involved me getting shat on by Myfanwy, which is clearly something most of you want to happen. I'm taking it as a compliment.

But we narrowed down the entries, until a few rose above the rest. The runners up, who get nothing but the glory of coming OH SO CLOSE:

BinkyBird: James was begining to wonder if he'd misunderstood Jack's instruction to "head for the other entrance"

psycicflower: James was taking extreme precautions to make sure he never heard the question 'When does the new series of Torchwood start?' again.

KGaleway: "New rule, no antigravity clamps during naked hide and seek."

And finally, the winning caption:

Andrew_Taylor: "If Microsoft Voice-Activated Teleporter 2009 is working, I should be arriving in Florida any second. Touch wood."

It's funny, it's clever, and it's still making me laugh. Well done, Andrew Taylor, you may nominate yourself or a personage of your choice to be named and possibly shamed, maimed or killed in the next thing of mine that gets made or published. It may be a TV/film project, it might be a short story, but either way, your chosen name will be in there. Email me (link in the sidebar) with your chosen name, and the address you want the signed copy sent to when it comes out.

In fact, because I'm feeling generous, I will also use the chosen names of the above runners up - BUT, Andrew will be first, and only he gets the signed copy of whatever it is. It may be a little while before you runners up get your names in something, so be patient. Send me your chosen names now, and I'll use them when I can. Sorry to those of you who didn't win, but don't worry, I'll have another competition at some point, because it's good fun.

Thank you to everyone who entered, you're all funny, clever, and brilliant. And filthy.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Telegraph article by me

Just a reminder that tomorrow's Telegraph TV Magazine (it comes with the newspaper) features an article by me, all about the Torchwood Children of Earth writing process, with a few other random digressions. I believe it'll be mentioned on the front cover, which is very exciting.

Update! It's also now online, so you can read it right here, without having to leave the house.

And another reminder that the new series starts on Monday at 9pm on BBC1, although I'm sure you all probably know that by now. Yes.

Update: Didn't realise, but this was my 500th post! Blimey. That's a lot of nonsense over the past 6 years. You may celebrate in your own way, or not at all, whatever you prefer. I'm a benevolent dictator.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Gallivanting around

I'll be popping up in various places here and there over the next few months, so let's try and do them all in one big post:

Doctor Who Magazine

The new issue (410) of Doctor Who Magazine is out now, and features a huge, er, feature about Torchwood: Children of Earth, written by none other than friend of the blog, highwayman, and male escort Jason "Beastmaster" Arnopp. All of the Torchwood creative team were interviewed, including me, and so it's liberally peppered with things I've said. Go and read it now, it's lovely - but be warned, it's a little bit spoilery, so you might want to wait until after the show has been on. They've also got an interview with Karen Gillan, the new season 5 companion - whose first DW appearance was in The Fires of Pompeii - and loads more too. It's quite literally the best ever 410th issue of Doctor Who Magazine ever. There'll never be another 410th issue of DWM like it.

Telegraph TV Magazine

I was asked to write an article about the Children of Earth creative process for the Telegraph's Saturday magazine. It'll be in next week's edition, on Saturday 4th July, so keep an eye out for that, before my mum buys up all the copies to give to her friends.

Torchwood Magazine

The new issue of Torchwood Magazine is out now, with articles about Children of Earth - be careful though, because it is fairly spoilery for Episode 1, even more so than the DWM article, so again, you might want to skip those pages until after you've seen it.

Speaking of Torchwood, the BBC site has been updated, with a great new trailer, and some lovely photos. The trailer, for those of you outside the UK, is on YouTube already (I won't link to it, otherwise a BBC Weevil attack squad will go and take it down, but I'm sure you won't have any trouble finding it). The pics are great, especially this one - Eve Myles pulling off a textbook leaping, two-handed gun manoeuvre:

San Diego Comic Con

Yes, I'm very excited to be coming to this year's San Diego Comic-Con, as a "professional guest". That makes me sound like someone who makes a habit of just turning up for free booze or something. So I suppose that's pretty much accurate. But I'll be there, checking out panels, making contacts for possible future work, and getting drunk with various unsavoury individuals. I'm bringing my saucy minx of a wife Jo with me, and we're really looking forward to it.

I don't think I'm doing any panels or anything, but I will be there for the duration. So don't be scared to come and say hello, I'm very easy going and will probably be jetlagged or tipsy anyway.

Time and Again

Later this year, I'll be at the Doctor Who Appreciation Society's one day convention, Time and Again. It's on Saturday 10th October, from 12 noon, in London. Tickets are 39 quid, 35 if you're a DWAS member, 25 if you're under 16, 24 if you're under 16 and a DWAS member. I may have made that sound more complicated than it is. Check out the guests page, which has thankfully got a new photo of me on there, taken by Jo - I was getting fed up of the cheeky-grin-in-the-TARDIS one, it's all over the place.

Why should you be excited? Well, the chance to meet TV's James Moran, is OBVIOUSLY the biggest draw. If that's not enough? How about these: A screening of episode 3 of the newly re-colourised Planet of the Daleks. Dan Hall from 2Entertain. Philip Hinchcliffe - blimey. Christopher Ryan - a Sontaran, Mike "the cool person" from The Young Ones, and Spudgun from Bottom. Trevor Cooper, from Revelation of the Daleks. Colin Spaull, also from Revelation of the Daleks, and Rise of the Cybermen and The Age of Steel. Peter Purves. That would be enough, surely. But that's not all. They've also got Sir Derek. Bloody. Jacobi. I am literally quaking with excitement about meeting the man, he's an absolute legend. Come along, if you dare. I'll be trying desperately not to beg him to recreate this hilarious performance from Frasier for me.

Phew, think that's everything. There may be more as the year goes on, or less depending on work commitments, etc, etc, nothing is a guarantee of anything, you might get hit by a bus tomorrow, your mileage may vary, there is nothing wrong with your television set, do not attempt to adjust the picture, do not operate heavy machinery while reading this blog or having your trousers removed by mechanical monkeysharks, this blog can only help slimming as part of a calorie controlled diet, do not make eye contact with this blog before I've had my morning coffee, and don't EVER do that thing again that your Auntie Mabel caught you doing, she hasn't been the same since and you KNOW she's had a dodgy ticker since the war.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Twitter competition

I recently reached over 2000 followers on Twitter, and decided to mark the occasion with a competition. This blog post is for those of you in different timezones who missed the live rule-tweeting. But please note: this is a Twitter competition. You can only enter on Twitter, following the rules below. If you enter by email or using the blog comments, you will be disqualified, and I'll point and laugh at you for being unable to follow simple instructions.

If you don't "do" Twitter, you have two options: (1) join Twitter and enter the competition, or (2) don't enter, and carry on with your life as normal. I won't judge you if you choose (2). Lots of perfectly normal people will never ever use Twitter. That's fine. But this is a competition specifically for Twitter people, so don't complain that you can't enter. You *can* enter - if you use Twitter. Nobody's forcing you to do anything, nobody's taking anything away from you, this is all just a bit of fun that you can take part in or not. Your life is still your own! Now, those Twitter rules as they were posted:

To celebrate 2000 followers, here's a Twitter exclusive competition. Details to come. Please read ALL conditions carefully, and follow them.

Caption this: - tweet a caption, or edit pic to add speech bubbles, if you like. Use #jmcap hashtag so I can see it.

Make sure you use that hashtag so I know it's an entry into the competition. You don't have to reply to me. Use the hashtag and I'll see it.

If you're not sure what the pic is: it is me, standing on the lift, in the Torchwood Hub. Looking up at the exit.

Just text. No adding images into the pic, that's cheating. Just text (and speech bubbles if required). As funny/weird/scary as you like.

I will ONLY accept entries on Twitter, with the #jmcap hashtag. Otherwise I can't/won't see them.

Deadline is up to and including 1st July. Any entries on 2nd July won't count. Me, @jodiekearns, and possibly a panel of experts will judge.

Judges decisions are final. Any "but mine was better" whining will result in public ridicule. This is meant to be fun, don't poke the bear.

Prize? Your name. As a character. In the next thing I get made or publish, whatever's first. Might not be DW/TW related, though.

Might be TV ep, movie, short story, no idea yet. You might be good, bad, or twisted babykiller. You take your chances. No idea when, either.

Can't promise you'll have lines. But your name will be prominent and clear. You can show it to people. I will blog it so you can prove it.

Will also sign and send you a copy of the DVD or book or magazine or whatever, when it comes out. Don't keep asking me when, I may not know.

You may nominate your mum/friend/husband/etc's name if you like. No fake names. No "Shithead McCockfiend". No messing about.

I'll Tweet and blog the winner, and runners up (who might get small things if I have any around). It's open to all followers, old and new.

I will repost these rules on my blog, so that people can find them more easily. But you must ONLY enter on Twitter. Not on blog or by email.

Enter as many times as you like. But quantity doesn't matter, only quality. No rush. You have a week. Calm down!

By the way, I use my friends/family names in things regularly, so they have no need to enter. This is for all you lovely followers.

Don't forget, you don't need to use reply, just the hashtag- this gives you more room for captioning.

These are the rules. Do not argue or I will destroy you. If your question isn't answered here, the answer's probably no. Go! Get captioning!

So there you have it. For new Twitterers, go here to find out what Twitter is, and here to find out what hashtags are. You can check out all the entries so far here, or by searching for #jmcap using any other Twitter search device. Now have at it!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Torchwood: Children of Earth broadcast date

Thank fuck for that. Torchwood has a broadcast date.


Ahem. Yes, I knew. Someone bloody told me, (not naming any names, although it rhymes with Muscle Pea Gravies), and I instantly felt my heart sink because I'd have to keep the secret for ages, and not blurt it out. Damn you, Muscle! Damn you to hell!

So I had to lie, and keep quiet, to avoid any difficulty. But in future, when I say I don't know? I don't know. If I do know, I'll say that I know, and am not allowed to say. Nobody bloody believes me when I say I don't know anyway, they still think I knew who the new Doctor was going to be ahead of time (I didn't, I really didn't, I have no reason to lie about it now, I had no idea).

By the way, I love the dry description in the TV listing: "Science-fiction and crime drama created by Russell T Davies dealing with the machinations and activities of the fictional Torchwood Institute in Cardiff." Wow, that sounds... thrilling. "What ho, Captain! What machinations and activities will we find ourselves up to this week, I wonder? I venture a pinch of snuff will be required to gird our loins!" Honestly, it's actually very exciting and action packed and scary and funny and mad.

Anyway. It starts on Monday the 6th July, 9pm on BBC1. I did episode 3, which will be on Wednesday 8th July. But you have to watch the whole thing, or it won't make sense. It starts in America on BBCA on the 20th July. Hopefully this will be the last thing I ever have to say about the broadcast date. Watch the show. It is epic. I mean, proper epic. Textbook epic. Yes.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

What's next?

Warning: long, rambly, self reflective, self indulgent blogwank ahead.

I've been in a funny mood lately, feeling a bit down, a bit directionless. This year, I've mostly been working on in-development stuff. It's all commissioned (i.e. paid) work for brand new TV shows, some at outline stage, some at script stage, but as with all in-development stuff, execs could say no at any point if they don't like it, or it's too expensive, or difficult, or not the right time, or some other channel has something similar, etc etc. I'm loving all of the work, but there's the constant nagging worry that none of it will end up on a TV screen. I really want these things to get made, because I'm really proud of them, and think they'll be great. One is solely created by me, some I'm co-creating, and two are single episodes of someone else's show. But everywhere is cutting back these days, and new shows face even more of a struggle to get made.

Whereas last year, and the year before, everything I worked on was actually in production. Getting hired to do an episode for a show that's already filming, means that the thing you're typing right now will be filmed in just a few months. There's more pressure, less time, but it WILL be filmed and broadcast. Usually you'll even have a rough idea of when it'll be on TV. Nothing focuses the mind quite like a transmission date...

So for the first time in my TV adventure, everything I'm working on might only ever be seen by me, the production companies, the execs, and nobody else. It's worrying, and makes me feel really uncertain about what lies ahead. I might spend the whole year writing these things, only to have it all fall apart. Yeah yeah, how terrible your life is, woe is you, pity the poor TV writer whose dreams have come true, welcome to the real world, that's what many writers face all the time, you could be unemployed or dead, etc etc. Look, I know how fortunate I've been - but I made that luck happen by working my arse off, and I continue to work my arse off to sustain it. And just because "it could be worse", it doesn't mean I'm not allowed to be frustrated by it. My point is, what can any of us do in these uncertain times? What if all of these projects never see the light of day? What happens next?

Well, I need to take stock, and plan out the next move in my career, decide what I want to do. Whether these projects take off or not, I need to have the next thing all ready to go. Never stop moving, plotting, always have a backup plan, always think three moves ahead. I'm already trying to get my own shows off the ground, which are 4 of the above projects. That's currently the stage I want to get to, much as I love doing episodes for other people's shows, I still have to play by their rules, put the toys back in one piece when I'm finished. I want to be heading up my own show, making the overall decisions on characters, story arcs, making my own rules, deciding who lives, who dies, smashing the toys and making all new ones. I have big stories I want to tell, which will only be possible during the run of a whole series that I oversee. It will happen, hopefully sooner rather than later. And I'm always trying to come up with new stuff, just in case the current stuff doesn't happen.

I'm also dipping a toe back into the movie world. After getting utterly shafted on a script back in 2007, I've kept far away from the evil, soulless vampires that seem to circle around many movie projects. But now that I don't actually *need* to sell a movie script, I'll be in a stronger position to negotiate. I want to collaborate with smart, cool people, and I want to be treated like a human being, given that I made the story up out of my head from nothing. With that in mind, I have two new specs, one of which is almost ready to go out. And I've recently been hired to write two movies for other people. One is a new horror comedy for some lovely, smart, cool people I've worked with before - the pitch outline is currently out there, seeking funding. If all goes well, then I'll be writing it this year, hopefully shooting in winter. The other is a rewrite job, for another horror comedy - again, it's with smart, cool people who I've wanted to work with for a while. That's the most important thing to me - choose who you work with, very carefully, and you'll have a much better time of it.

I'm also hoping to venture into another arena at some point this year - comics. As a long-time comic reader, I've always wanted to write for them, but have been worried that I might not have the right toolkit. I know that it's nothing like normal scriptwriting, and I'll need to learn a new set of skills. But I really want to go for it. So I'm currently doing my research and preparation, figuring out the format, coming up with pitches for my own stuff and for established characters, making contacts and working out who to approach. It's scary, different, and out of my comfort zone, which is why I really want to try it. If you're not trying new things, scaring yourself, and making mistakes, then you're not learning anything.

There are a few other side projects too, one of which will mean trying something completely different and terrifying. All of which means lots of planning, researching, brainstorming, contacting people, and working out ideas and pitches for all kinds of things. It sometimes feels like I haven't achieved anything solid by the end of the day, because none of it involves scripting or outlining. But it's all crucial, and needs to be done if I want to move forward.

So it's been a strange year. A great year, really creative and exciting - but unsettling, because it feels like I'm on uncertain ground, and am not sure where things are going. But whatever happens next, I need to *make* it happen. And I will. Because ultimately, we're all in control of our own lives, and nobody else can get you where you want to be.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go and conquer the world. WITH THE TERRIBLE POWER OF MY MIND. FEAR ME.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Torchwood screening, spoiler avoidance, and nut butter knickers

Had a great time at the Torchwood screening on Friday night at the BFI. They showed Episode 1 to a sellout crowd, and it went really, really well. They laughed in the right places, and some unexpected places, cheered, gasped, oohed and aahed, and when it ended, they tore the fucking roof off the place, cheering and whooping and applauding, it was brilliant. Two people either side of me looked stunned at the reaction, they weren't expecting it to be so huge. Another was surprised at the high female to male ratio in the audience - but when it comes to Torchwood I've found that the female fans usually outnumber the male ones, at least in my experience.

But that's the thing about science fiction, and other genres - people still don't seem to realise that both men *and* women have been watching it for a long time now. Even some people who make genre stuff (not the TW or DW people, of course, they know what they're doing, thankfully). When working on something genre-ish recently, I was asked what we could put in to get "the girls" to watch. I explained that "the girls" already watch this sort of thing, so all we have to do is make it good. It really annoys me when people trot out the old "teenage boy living with his parents" cliche, but it still seems to be a widely held belief. Which may explain some of the dodgier science fiction which continues to get made - clearly, some folk just aren't aware that the audience has moved on since the 1950s.

Anyway. The screening was great fun, and I'm sure everyone would have happily sat and watched the whole 5 hours if we'd screened them all. The music is superb too, and I can't wait for the soundtrack release. Ben Foster has done an amazing job, it's an epic, movie-style score that will go straight into several of my writing playlists. You can have a preview listen here, check out tracks 2, 4, and 5, in particular. Warning! There are some medium to heavy spoilers in the tracklistings though, so be warned.

Before we went into the screening room, Russell pronounced my sparkly shirt "a bit gay" (it is a bit, okay, a lot, but it's fabulous), then sat behind a desk of sandwiches in the green room and started charging money for them (bless him, he's out of work now, needs to earn a few quid between jobs). We then learned from Caitlin Moran (no relation, well, not to me, she's a relation, obviously, just not mine) that there's a new type of toilet paper which is brown, and infused with some sort of nut butter. Apparently you can get knickers with the same stuff in.

Knickers full of nut butter. Too. Many. Jokes.

I thought she was making it up, but I looked it up, and I shit you not. Shea butter bog roll and knickers. Welcome to the future, folks. See you in hell.

Met lots of lovely blog and Twitter folk, including the lovely Rosby from the comments here. Hello to you all again, and thank you for being so nice and making me feel famous. Thank you also to Alexandra, Grace and Cat, for letting me grope Captain Jack's balls (photo by Cat):

Ended the evening in the fancy room upstairs, talking nonsense with Simon from Torchwood Magazine. Obviously, HE was the one talking nonsense, whereas I made perfect sense and never said anything silly. Oh, and I also discovered that he keeps getting mistaken for me at conventions. So I'll be sending him to any dangerous ones, as my stunt double. Cheers Simon!

And finally, a plea, from me to you, if you weren't at the Torchwood screening:




Seriously. Trust Uncle Jimbo, now. It will have SO much more impact if you don't know what's about to happen, you'll only spoil it for yourselves. There are several cool surprises in there. If you read a full, detailed synopsis of the episode on the internet first, you won't get to experience that feeling of surprise while watching. It won't be the same. I totally understand that you've all been waiting a long, long time for the new season. We've been dying to show it to you. And I know exactly what it's like, waiting, desperate for information, snippets, anything. I understand this. It happens to me too. But please, try to resist. Mind how you go on the internet, and avoid those pesky spoilers. You'll thank yourself later.

And if you have been spoiled already - you're still going to the Special Hell, but don't worry too much about being spoiled for the whole story. There's sooooo much more to come, you have no idea what you're in store for...

(Standard disclaimer: No, I have no idea when it's airing. Yes, they do know, but are keeping it secret so that other channels don't try to gazump them. No, I don't know if they're doing a simultaneous broadcast thing or whatever, yes I know about the BBCA HD date of the 20th, no I don't know if that has any bearing on anything else at all. Yes it's agonising to have to wait and OMG why can't it be on now. All other questions: Yes, no, no, yes, definitely no, only after 4pm, no, yes, yes as long as it's lubed up sufficiently, yes, no, no, yes, definitely yes, three guys in speedos, no, yes, down the right hand side, no, yes, yes, and Marg Helgenberger with Sigourney Weaver and a bucket of ice cream.)

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Torchwood at the BFI, and magazines

A quick roundup of some things:

Thing 1: On Friday, June 12th, there's a special preview of Episode 1 of Torchwood: Children of Earth at the BFI. Afterwards there's a Q+A with John, Eve, Gareth, Kai, and director Euros Lyn. I'll be attending too, in the audience (won't be in the Q+A, it's not my episode), so hopefully I'll see you there. If you're going, let me know, and say hello if you see me. Don't be shy, I'm just some bloke, and not at all scary in real life...

Thing 2: The Doctor Who Magazine special issue is now out, featuring 200 Golden Moments from the entire series. I've contributed a small piece for it, on the closing speech in Survival. The whole magazine is a lovely piece of work, and is a big love letter to the show.

Thing 3: I'm also briefly quoted in issue 3 of Wired UK. It's been a fantastic read for 3 issues now, and I thoroughly recommend it. You can probably grab back issues of 1 and 2, so go and do that. Can't remember what page I'm on, but I'm there with some other media types talking about the future of entertainment. Full disclosure: Wired UK deputy editor Ben Hammersley is in my garden right now, with a knife between his teeth, "watering" the grass. If I don't plug the magazine, I fear for my safety.

Next post will be some rambling about my current projects, and what I'm doing next.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Utopia convention

Don't forget, I'll be at the Utopia convention tomorrow, Saturday, 6th June - link goes to the schedule. There aren't any more tickets left, but this is just to remind those of you already going that I'll be there. Come and say hello, don't be shy, I don't bite too hard, and usually have already murdered someone first thing in the morning, so my kill-urge will be sated for a few hours.

I'm doing a panel at 10am with Tracey Childs (Metella from my Pompeii episode), and will be signing anything you want to bring along from 11.20am until 1.30.

Let me know if you read the blog, or follow me on Twitter, I'm always curious to find out if any of you are real. Looking forward to seeing you there! If you exist, of course. And if *I* exist. Which I'm not sure of.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Links, Torchwood trailer, and Who companion

What a bizarre, brilliant week this has been. Partly work, partly sorting out various arrangements (like renewing my passport, for example), and partly having lots of fun with cool people. Yes, Jimbo is in a benevolent mood, so you may all stop flogging yourselves for an hour. What the hell, make it two hours. I know! It's like Christmas!

Great interview with the fantastic, 2008 Hugo nominee Cath Tregenna over at the BBC Writersroom. Cath is a superb writer, I absolutely adore her work. Very interesting to read about her writing process, too, especially now I'm learning about the acting side of it. So much so, I think for my next spec thing I'm going to give it a go, to see how different the results are for me. Anyway, go and read the interview, and then go and watch all her stuff.

And yes, my Twitter army know this, but I'll mention it here too: I'm doing a beginner's intro course in acting, purely to help with my writing. I want to know about every aspect of film-making - when you see a filmed, edited version of something you wrote, it's very educational to see what was trimmed, what slows it down, what speeds it up, and so on. And the actors always manage to bring something extra to it, because they have to become that person for a while. It's been really helpful already, I've picked up a few things that make me look at characters in a different way. I'll talk about it more when I've finished in a month or so. And this is just to help with the writing, so no, I won't be acting in anything I write, bloody hell. That way madness lies. If I ever appear on screen in my stuff, it'll be standing in the background, holding a spear, or something.

OMG, the cracking new Torchwood Children of Earth trailer is out! For everyone in the UK, and also for everyone in the US (and everywhere else). Much more stuff crammed in there, but still, you have no idea what is in store...

And before I continue, because it's commenting on big news, if anyone chooses to quote the next two paragraphs elsewhere, please don't paraphrase, and make sure you spell my name right...

A Soothsayer from my Pompeii episode has been cast as the new Doctor Who companion. She's called Karen Gillan, and I imagine her email inbox has just broken into millions of tiny pieces. Very pleased to see more details gradually coming out about the new series, I'm sure she'll be great.

However. I was very surprised and displeased to get lots of messages complaining that she's "too young", and that this is a bad thing for the show. To those people, I have this to say: She's an actress. HER AGE IN NO WAY AFFECTS THE QUALITY OF THE SHOW. It didn't turn into a comedy sketch show when Catherine Tate was hired. It didn't turn into a motel-based soap when Freema Agyeman was hired (her first job was on Crossroads). It didn't turn into a teen pop song show when Billie was hired. Seasons 1 and 2 didn't have Rose singing a song at the end of every episode, about how cute Timelord boys are. Season 3 didn't have the Doctor and Martha opening a motel. Season 4 didn't have Catherine Tate dressing up as sweary pensioners or donning lots of prosthetics. Karen Gillan is 21. Not 12. She's an adult. But it doesn't matter how old or young she is, or what parts she played before, or how tall or short she is, or what colour her hair is, or what her opinions on cheese are, or anything else. She's an actress, and a very good one. That's all you should be worried about.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Comments and spammers

Hello everyone! TV's James Moran here. Well, it was good while it lasted, leaving comments open and anonymous, but once again some troglodyte has been spamming me with comments about how to buy gold, or hire sexy detectives, among other nonsense. I've just had to go through over 70 posts, deleting spam comments. Not good.

So, I've had to disable anonymous comments again, probably for good this time. But Uncle Jimbo, I hear you cry, what if I want to leave an anonymous comment, or make up a silly name for comedy purposes?? Never fear, because you can easily register for a Blogger or Google or Livejournal or Wordpress or Typepad or AIM or OpenID account, all for free, all anonymously - you can create an account with a false name if you need to. It's only a slight inconvenience, but will save me from huge amounts of spam trouble.

OpenID is good, because you may already have one - lots of accounts you probably already have will work as an OpenID login. Click here to find out which ones will work.

The downside is, if you want gold, or sexy detectives, you will have to go elsewhere. Sorry about that.

I've put this info above the comments box, in case people miss this announcement. You'll also notice a few words about some house rules - nothing major, just so that everyone knows the score. Basically, play nice, don't be a dick, careful with spoilers, and don't insult other writers. Most of you don't need to be told this, for which I thank you sincerely. Now, you may go about your business.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Americans! Primeval on TV and Crusoe on DVD

My episode of Primeval is on this Saturday, 23rd May, on BBC America, at 9/8C (Americans will understand that strange timezone thing, it's been explained to me several times but my brain refuses to store the information). American folk, this is your chance to see it. It's episode 2, or "the gremlin/haunted house one" if you like.

Now, I was going to do a live Twitter-chat during the episode, but it'll be around 4am here, so I don't think it's going to happen - also, with commercials, I won't know what scene is on at any one time. If there's anything else you'd like me to do before or after the episode, let me know, and we'll work something out.

Also for you lovely Region 1 folk, Crusoe the series is now out on DVD. You can still get it if you're Region 2 folk, as long as you have a multi region player. My episode is either 4 or 5 depending on the order on the disc - episode 4, but hour 5 - and is called "High Water". I'm really happy with the finished episode, it turned out even better than I'd hoped. I'm delighted with how well it went, the whole experience was great fun and really challenging (in a good way).

There you go, America - lovely TV gems for you, because you're worth it.

Monday, May 18, 2009

BAFTA Television Craft Awards

I'm extremely proud to say that The Fires of Pompeii has won the Visual Effects BAFTA in the Television Craft Awards. I still remember the first time I saw the finished effects, sitting in a tiny room in The Mill, watching a tiny TV screen, and marvelling at how bloody fantastic they were. They looked even better at the press screening for episodes 1 and 2, when we watched it on a huge cinema screen. The eruption of Vesuvius was gobsmacking, and the Pyrovile creatures were superb - exactly as I'd pictured them in my head, even the way they walked and moved. The Mill did an amazing job, and the award is very well deserved. Even though I can't actually take credit for the visual effects, I'm still going to pretend to have won a BAFTA - there's no way anyone will be able to find out the truth, is there? No? Good.

Also delighted to see that Philip Kloss won the Editing Fiction/Entertainment BAFTA for his work on Doctor Who. Go Philip!

Very disappointed that RTD didn't win for Midnight, I honestly think it's the best episode so far of New Who, hands down, it's a stunning piece of work. Disappointed that there was no nomination for the sound on that episode either. I guess the only thing I can do is get the BAFTA directory, then find and publicly spank every single member, including myself, to teach us all a lesson. Don't worry, I'll do it good and hard.

But it all works out in the end, because at the BAFTA Cymru awards, Russell won Best Writer for Midnight, and the same ep took the Best Sound award too (the fab team of Julian Howarth, Paul McFadden, Paul Jefferies, and Tim Ricketts), along with Philip Kloss again for Editing, and Euros Lyn for directing The Silence In The Library. When I went in to do my Pompeii commentary, Paul McFadden gave us a quick demonstration of the sound work he was doing on Midnight - he'd been doing it for ages, and was still only halfway there. As I saw how finely detailed and difficult the work was, I felt myself starting to go insane. I get the same thing when I see how they make stop motion animation films. So I'm really glad that they got recognised for their hard work.

Finally, I'm very pleased to announce that I've just won the TV's James Moran Award for Being Awesome, a highly regarded award in my house, which is decided by me. Obviously, to avoid accusations of cheating, I make the decision with my eyes closed and my trousers down. This is the tenth year running that I've won my own award, but it gets better every time. Go me!

Award! Award! Award Award Award Award Award!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Two quick news snippets

Mr Tony Lee and Mr Dan Boultwood are signing their graphic novel Hope Falls, at Orbital Comics, 8 Great Newport Street, London, tomorrow, Saturday 16th May, from 2pm to 4pm. If you buy Hope Falls, Tony Lee will also sign your copy of Doctor Who: The Forgotten. So go along, support good comics and creators, and don't look Tony directly in the eye if he's been at the gin. He has also threatened to hold a post-signing drinking session somewhere. Run. Run away.

Primeval starts on BBC America tomorrow - Saturday 16th May, at 9pm ET/PT whatever that means. My episode is the 2nd one, so it'll be on Saturday 23rd. No idea if they're cut, but the show is normally on ITV with several ad breaks, so hopefully any cuts will be minimal. Was hoping to do a live Twitter-along when mine is on, but I think it'll be 3 or 4am here, so... I'll have to do something else. Suggestions always welcome...

That's all for now, work to do, nothing to see, move along.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Scott Frank, answering questions

Okay, if you want some pure, fried gold on the nitty gritty of screenwriting, you need to go to this link here - Scott Frank, in the Ask a Pro section of the Artful Writer forums, is answering questions, explaining how he works, and generally kicking ass and taking names. Yes, Scott Frank. Little Man Tate, Get Shorty, Out of Sight, Minority Report, The Lookout, and many more. You'll need to register in the forum to see the thread, but it's free, quick, and easy.

It's brilliant stuff, especially his thoughts on the sequence-based approach to writing scripts: "This gives me a headache. But if it works for you, go for it. I wonder, though, if Steve Zallian organizes his scripts this way. Or Tony Gilroy. Or Charlie Kaufman. Or Paul Attanasio. Or Paul Thomas Anderson. Or the Coens. Yes, now I that I think about it, Slumdog Millionaire could have benefitted from being a little better sequenced."

Go read. Now.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009










Monday, May 04, 2009

Movie recommendation: Bone Dry

Just a quick post, and I don't want to make too much of it, for fear of spoiling it, but you really should check out Bone Dry, starring Luke Goss and Lance Henriksen. Rent the DVD. Don't watch any trailers or read about it, the less you know, the better.

It's a low budget, straight to DVD flick which is better than many of the studio movies I saw last year, a tense, simple thriller that takes its concept, runs with it, and gave me several harsh, twisted moments that made me wince. With a tight script by Jeff O'Brien and Brett A Hart, very nice direction by Hart, great performances from the two leads, this is a really solid piece of work. If you like dark, hard thrillers, then you should check this out.

That's all for now, go about your business.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Doctor Who Magazine, Storybook 2010, and Severance

Some more news: The new issue of Doctor Who Magazine is out, which features two mentions of your humble blog host - there's a nice mention of my Primeval and Crusoe episodes, and the announcement of the upcoming 200 Golden Moments special issue, which features a small contribution from me.

Even more excitingly for me, they have officially announced the 2010 Doctor Who Storybook, in which I have a story called "The Haldenmor Fugue". It's one of the two stories I was working on recently, but I couldn't say what it was until now. Once again the storybook will be fully illustrated, featuring stories by several other talented folk, and should be in shops by August. I'm really pleased with how the story turned out - it was one I was wrestling with for ages before actually writing it, and was worried that it wouldn't work, but as soon as I started writing, it all somehow fell into place, and a new ending suggested itself as I went along. I'm extremely proud of it, and can't wait for people to read it.

Also, just so you know: yes, I am aware of this story. I don't want to comment on it until the trial is over, as there's a danger I might find myself in contempt of court (publication of material that might compromise a fair trial). So when the trial is over, and a verdict has been reached, I will then comment on it and explain how I feel about it. But for the newspapers and websites reporting it: it's a *woman* in the film, not a man, and it's not a *spoof* horror movie - it's an actual horror movie that has some funny bits in. Anyway, come back when the trial's over, and I'll be able to talk about it then.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

New Torchwood 10-second teaser

The title says it all - there's a new teaser for season 3 of Torchwood, it's only 10 seconds, but is worth a look if you're waiting for any snippets. It's on the BBC website here, and is probably UK only, I'm afraid (but these things usually pop up elsewhere soon after). Update: It's now on YouTube. I can't link to it for legal reasons, but it's easy enough to find...

Here's an embedded version, to save you a click:

Ooh, spooky do's! Booga-booga-booga!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Severance on BBC1 tonight, 11.50pm

Don't forget, Severance is on BBC1 tonight, at 11.50pm.

If you've been thinking of seeing it, but didn't want to spend the £3.99 to buy it from Play, or whatever it costs to rent it from your local DVD emporium, then you can watch it tonight, on telly, for FREE! Unless you live outside the UK, in which case, you can't. Sorry.

If you like horror movies, you'll like this one too! The synopsis on the Sky guide says "A team-building exercise goes wrong when the group is set upon by crazed killers. Contains very strong language and graphic violence." Very strong language! Graphic violence! YEEEES!

If you hate horror movies, check it out anyway! I know several people who liked it even though they don't usually like horror. You could be one of those people!

If you have already seen it, then good for you! Why not watch it again? It's not that long, and you might discover a whole new subtext the second time around (yeah, I said "might", didn't promise anything).

If you don't have a television, why not sit staring at the corner of the room for 90 minutes? You can imagine what it's like, and then compare notes tomorrow with your friends who do have televisions. Just think of the fun you could have!

If you are dead, then... sorry! I promise it wasn't me, I wasn't even there, what are you talking about, I have an alibi for that day.

Just watch the bloody movie, or I'll keep talking shite like this. And nobody wants that.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Various news items

Some news items and stuff, while I'm in the middle of writing other things:

Fans of Doctor Who/Torchwood/Sarah Jane Adventures might want to check out a one day convention on June 6th, called Utopia, in London (who knew Utopia was really to be found in London, coh, what a surprise, etc etc). Among the guests are Toby Whithouse (writer for Doctor Who, Torchwood, and Being Human), Carole Ann Ford (Susan, the Doctor's grand-daughter), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa, companion of the 4th and 5th Doctors), James Strong (director for Doctor Who and Torchwood), Tracey Childs (Metella in my Pompeii episode of Doctor Who), and a very handsome, talented writer for TV and film called-- oh, how embarrassing! It's me!

Yes, I'll be there, talking, answering questions, signing things, and so on. There are lots of other guests, and more to come, with panels, Q+A's, etc, so if you like the sound of that, come along to the Cockpit Theatre in London. As I post this, there are only 36 tickets left - 40 quid for adults, 20 quid for kids - so snap them up if you want to go. Update: Only 28 tickets left now!

The new Torchwood magazine is out here in the UK, with lots of stuff and photos of the upcoming series. They've also announced a book of short stories, called Torchwood: Consequences, which explores how Torchwood's actions can sometimes have far reaching effects. It all sounds really good, especially considering they've got people like Joseph Lidster, David Llewellyn, Andrew Cartmel, and an incredibly handsome, talented writer called- oh, how even more embarrassing than the last time! It's me! Yep, I'm doing one of the stories, it's quite a long one (ooh, matron) and I got away with all sorts of mayhem. It'll be released in October.

Several people have asked about Law & Order UK, but I'm actually not working on that any more - things got way too busy last year, so I had to step aside, and I don't have any episodes in the show. I know, I should have mentioned this earlier, but you know what I'm like with blog punctuality... But I had a great time working on the show while I was there, learned a lot, and got to meet the whole cast, including Jamie Bamber, who actually flies a Viper in real life (probably). You have no idea how hard it was to *not* say things to him like: "so, how was your flight over? Any turbulence...? Cylons...?" Somehow I managed to stay professional and not behave like a giggly schoolkid. Much.

Another bit of Primeval fun: Just after the episode had aired, it had only been a few days since the character was introduced, but already there was slashfic out there featuring Danny Quinn. I was very impressed at the speed of this. By the way, I got to give Danny his last name, and decided to name him after one of my best mates, Emmet Quinn. I won't tell him about the slash, though. Well, not until I can do it in person so I can see his face. (Just a reminder: I'm not allowed to read anything like this, be it slash, fic, or unrelated stuff, for various boring legal reasons, so please don't send me any etc. But I can look at the titles, and see who is being paired with who, which fascinates me.)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Where were you when the page was blank?

Severance news! Yes! 3 years later, and I'm still getting mileage out of it! It will be shown on actual proper TV here in the UK, this Friday 24th, at 11.45pm, on BBC1. That's prime time... for horror movies. If you pick up the current issue of the Radio Times (18-24 April, with Ashes to Ashes on the cover), it's Film of the Day for Friday, with a lovely review, and a very nice article all about it and the resurgence of British horror.

Just a shame there wasn't any space to mention who wrote the movie.

Yes, yes, I know that's how it is in "the business", writers are always left out, you should get used to it, blah blah blah. But that doesn't mean I have to bend over and take it, every single time. I constantly have to put myself out there, and so should all writers, so that people know that it isn't cool. Hence this post.

And I'm not blaming the writer of the article - maybe he did actually mention me, but had it trimmed out after he submitted it (which is also why I'm not naming him, this isn't an attack on him). But this is the Radio Times. They always list the writers of TV shows. But not, apparently, movies. Even the Film of the Day, which gets a big article all about it. Plenty of room to mention the directors, they always get a listing at the bottom. But never the writers.

Sure, it's a collaborative medium. But as the saying goes, "where were you when the page was blank?" You'd think that the person who made up the story out of their head FROM NOTHING might warrant a brief name check. I spent over 3 years of my life working on the movie. A full year writing over 20 drafts, by myself, figuring it all out and sweating blood onto the page, while also working a dayjob in an office full time, 5 days a week. You can look back over the blog, and see how long I was writing it, back before I knew anybody would ever buy it. Then when it sold, I did 2 drafts for the film company, addressing their notes. Then 2 more drafts once the director and producer came on board. Then finally, me and the director worked on it together for several months (which is why there's a shared credit). I wrote alternate versions of some scenes, did a full draft of the corporate video all by itself so there would be plenty of audio to play in the background of the bus scene, even wrote several extras for the DVD. I pimp it mercilessly at the drop of a hat, I've been to festivals to promote it, was part of the DVD commentary, and in the other special features. But apparently, I don't exist, because I didn't direct it.

Of course, I don't sit around desperately hoping my name is mentioned in TV listings magazines. I realise that in the great scheme of things, it's not exactly genocide. And yes, I'm very fortunate to be doing what I do, and blimey wouldn't it be great if that was all we had to worry about, ooh I wasn't mentioned in the Radio Times, I wish I had your problems, etc etc. I'm very aware of all that. And I'm not fishing for sympathy or compliments. It's a very nice, positive, complimentary review, which is lovely.

But I worked my arse off on that script, for YEARS. Would it fucking KILL you, if you're mentioning people involved, to mention the person without whom it would never have existed in the first place?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Open letter to all film and TV directors

(contains much swearing)

To: Every Director In The World,

Hello. TV's James Moran here, with a small request...


Someone sweated blood on that script, and now a large crew is sweating more blood to bring it to life, actors are pouring their hearts out, people with gaffer tape and odd tools are staying up late and getting up early to build and maintain things, stunt people are risking life and limb to make it all look great. And I would REALLY LIKE TO SEE WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON. I cannot do that if you are SHAKING THE FUCKING CAMERA AROUND LIKE AN EPILEPTIC SITTING ON A BUCKING BRONCO WHILE STARING INTO A STROBE LIGHT.

Hey, don't get me wrong. I like a bit of dramatic shaky cam. I get the whole "documentary-style, let's just happen to catch the action" thing. Battlestar Galactica does it, but does it *properly* - most importantly, it catches the action, and then STAYS on the action. The camera's still moving, but it lets you see what is happening. But when you judder the camera in a frenzy, you are not doing that. You won't win any prizes for directing if I CANNOT SEE WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON. THAT IS NOT DIRECTING. THAT IS WANKING. You may as well stick a camera on a piece of string, spin it around your head, and film a big shaky blur for 90 minutes.

It's not much to ask for. Just make sure that the camera is pointing at the thing you're trying to film. That is my directing tip to you, trick of the trade, free of charge. Tell all your little director friends, too, pass it on. Thanks. Before I go cross-eyed from the fucking wobbly screen.

Oh, and by the way, if any editors are reading: There's no need to have 8000 cuts in under a second. You don't have to use tiny snippets from every single take and angle. Especially if it's a fight sequence, where it's more impressive if you don't interrupt the action so much. Also, stop dropping out lots of frames and speeding it up so that it ends up looking like a fucking Benny Hill chase sequence. I've paid for sound *and* visuals. So just let me see what's going on. Cheers.

Yours sincerely,

TV's James Moran, audience member

Monday, April 06, 2009

Primeval aftermath and interviews

Blimey, that was good fun - the live Twitter chat thingy went really well, everyone was really nice, and nobody shouted "OMG U SUCK LOLZ", which was a relief. If you missed it, or have only recently watched the episode, you can see the whole thing starting from here - I'm posting as "itvprimeval", just keep clicking the "Newer" link to go through all the posts. Thanks, ITV people, for letting me login to your account, and sorry for making fun of one of the adverts during a break, but it *was* bloody disturbing ("Mummy - I'm going to have a POO. Yes, a POO. I'm going for a POO now" - okay, okay, I get it, thanks for that image at teatime by the way)

There's a short interview about the episode over at the Den of Geek here, which I completely forgot to mention before the show, because I'm rubbish.

Speaking of interviews, I did a really fun one a while ago for Whotopia magazine, and the first half (I ramble a lot) is out now. Pop over to the website and check out the magazine. Tell em Uncle Jimbo sent you. As added incentive, I'm on the cover, and am the jam in a Matt Smith/Bonnie Langford sandwich. Yeah. Yeah, you like that.

The Writing FAQ got a lovely mention over at the blog of author Nicola Morgan, who quite correctly points out my failure to mention boots, chocolate, and sparkly wine as crucial elements of the creative process. Also, the importance of NOT putting sweets or other cutesy stuff in with a submission - it won't make you seem quirky and fun, it will instead have the same effect as smearing the words "I IS MAD" on a sheet of paper using your own faeces. Great, I've lowered the tone again, now she's going to regret sending people over here from her respectable blog... Sorry. Anyway, check out Nicola's blog, which is full of fantastic, detailed advice - it's aimed at authors, but many of it crosses over and applies to screenwriting too - agents, query letters, and so on.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Primeval, with live Twitterage

So, my Primeval episode is showing on Saturday, at 6.55pm on ITV1. Last week, for the premiere, there was a live Twitter chat during the show, for fans of the show to talk about it as it happened. So I thought it would be fun to do the same thing for my one, but with me joining in and answering questions and so on. I mentioned it to the ITV chaps and chapesses, and they suggested I be a "guest Tweeter" on the official ITV Primeval Twitter account. This is good because (a) it makes it official, (b) people who follow me won't be inundated with posts, and (c) ABSOLUTE POWAHHHH!

If you want to join in, here's what you need to do:

1: Sign up for Twitter, if you haven't already

2: Get ready to watch the show on ITV1, or on the ITV website (where you can also play their interactive game thingy, Primeval Evolved)

3: When the show starts, type your messages into the text box on your Twitter home page, making sure to put the word #primeval in there (don't forget the # symbol) - a hashtag is just a label which means that other people can easily find your comments

4: Go to the Twitter search site, or TwitterFall, or use a Twitter desktop client like TweetDeck (I use this, it's free and brilliant), and search for the hashtag #primeval - this will show you every Twitter entry that contains that term. If you're using Twitter software, then you can chat and see what others are saying at the same time - the Twitter chat won't be on the ITV website, so you'll need to use something to see all the #primeval posts

5: Keep chatting until the show ends, at which point I will say goodbye, and go back to my regular account, which is here

Any questions?

Q: I haven't seen episode one/the previous series/any of Primeval/any TV episodes of anything ever - can I still watch yours without confusion?

A: Yes. SPOILERS! Very mild spoilers in this paragraph! To sum up, the show is about a group of people investigate strange holes in time ("anomalies"), because dangerous creatures from Earth's past or future come through the anomalies and cause mayhem. Cutter (gruff Scottish team leader) is currently trying to figure out how to predict the anomalies, and his evil ex-wife Helen is usually up to something naughty. You'll be fine.

Q: I can't see it until it's on BBC America - why do you hate me?? WHY??

I don't hate you, you're very special. So when it shows on BBCA, I will *TRY*, timezones and work permitting, to do something similar while it airs. It may be tricky to co-ordinate, and I might have to do something else. But I'll try and do something specifically for you. See? I *told* you you were special.

Q: I'm still not clear about Twitter - can I get a friendly celeb to explain it all for me, simply and clearly?

A: Yes, you can. Click here for Phillip Schofield's guide to Twitter. Yes, seriously. But remember, he's not a Twitter Policeman.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Script Frenzy!

Script Frenzy has officially started. Well, it started yesterday, but I forgot to blog about it. 30 days for a first draft of that movie script you've been putting off - why not give it a go? Even at 3 pages a day, that's plenty of time. Make sure you have a rough outline first, just to make sure you don't run out of story. But get stuck in.

And I don't want to hear about anyone not having the time. I wrote Severance while working full time, 5 days a week, and I could still do drafts in a few weeks, just taking a few hours every night and at weekends. Sure, I spent a year fixing it, because I didn't have an outline (see above, I mean it about having an outline). But it can be done. And once you have a first draft, you can soon have a second draft. And then a third. Re-writing a first draft is much easier than staring at a blank page. I know it can be difficult to find time to write. But if you find time to watch TV, surf the net, check your mail, then you can find time to write. Maybe even an hour a day, surely you can squeeze that in somewhere. If you don't make time to write, then how do you expect to get better? "Oh but you're faster than me because you've been doing it for longer" - yes, but when I started out, I was in your position, and I still made the time, and made myself go faster. A month is plenty for a first draft. I don't want to hear excuses. I want to hear the sound of furious keyboard mashing.

You're still here? You could be writing! MOVE!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Writing progress, Primeval, BAFTAs and Script Frenzy

Blimey, I can't believe I actually finished the big FAQ. Thank you for all the comments and feedback on it, very much appreciated. I'll add to it when necessary, and will probably do new posts linking to the edited bits when that happens. There's now a link to it in the sidebar, too. I've also added a special button to the end of every post, that lets you share it on other sites. You can now send any post, if you so wish, to people on Twitter, Digg, Facebook, and any number of sites that are not AT ALL about procrastinating, how dare you even suggest such a thing, I'm doing research, shut up.

The writing has been going well too, finished first draft of the TV script last week, then a TV outline/bible thingy this week, as well as sample scenes for the horror comedy movie I'm working on with some colleagues. There are another couple of potential movie things in the works, and two more new TV series at early development stage. I'm loving the work, after my time off, and long may it continue. I'll update about anything that moves forward, but at the moment most of it is a good way away from the screen, which doesn't make for exciting bloggery just yet. But I'll keep talking about stuff in my usual vague, nonsensical way. Also something Very Exciting may be happening this year, if I get off my arse and do something about it. More later.

My next upcoming TV thing will be Primeval, which starts this Saturday 28th March on ITV. I did the 2nd episode, which will air on the 4th April. The website has info and an interactive game, and you can follow Primeval on Twitter for other updates. After that, the next thing I've got on telly will be Torchwood, which I can exclusively reveal will be hitting your screens... sometime between right now and December 31st. No, I don't know.

The BAFTA Television Awards nominations have been released, and I'm very excited to have worked on two of the shows nominated in the Drama Series category - Doctor Who, and Spooks. So if they win, I can claim to be partially responsible - and will do so, naturally, as loud as possible. And because there are four shows nominated, I have a 50% chance of sharing in that glory. Nice!

If you've been toying with the idea of writing that spec film script, then why not go for it in April, with the Script Frenzy - write a 100 page script, in April, over 30 days. Bear in mind that in telly, you often get 2 weeks for a 60 page first draft - less if possible. 30 days is more than enough, if you can do 4 pages a day then you'll even finish early. And I reckon it doesn't have to be 100, a 90 pager is perfectly fine, especially if it's a genre flick. As long as it's about 90 or more, and finished, then I say you're a winner. Go for it.

And finally, don't forget you can still follow me on Twitter - if you don't, you've already missed several shared video watching frenzies (including The Hoff, Mr T, and some devil music), and a late night, drunken discussion about what constitutes a "spectacular rock epic" (i.e., NOT Def Leppard or 30 Seconds To Mars, yes, Kerrang TV station, I'm talking to you). See what you're missing?? How can you possibly stay away??

Thursday, March 26, 2009


As of today, I've been going out with the gorgeous, insane Jo for exactly 10 years. In May, we'll have been married for 3 years. And it has been exactly five hours since she woke me up by leaping on to the bed, shrieking, like one of those flying/gliding squirrel things. How has she put up with me for so long? I keep her drugged, and chained up in a cupboard under the sink.

They've been the best 10 years of my life, so far, and I couldn't do any of this without her, watching my back, looking after me, and occasionally bitchslapping me when necessary. She's lovely, warm, funny, sexy, silly, mental, clever, talented, has the voice of an angel, and the mind of a tart. I love her to bits, and can't wait to see what the next 10 years have in store.

Now get back in the cupboard, wench, daddy's working.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Big Writing FAQ

Hello! James Moran here. As you may or may not know, I get asked a lot of questions about writing, breaking in, and all sorts of other stuff. Many of the same questions crop up repeatedly, so this post is an attempt to put all the answers in one place for handy reference. I'll be adding to this regularly, so it will change and update from time to time. It's broken up into sections, and each question has separate links to make it easier to find everything. If you have emailed me with a question, and I have sent you a link here, it just means that your question has an answer in the list. I'm always happy to answer questions, and will continue to do so, but hopefully this will save us both a bit of time. If there's a question you'd like answered on here, email it over or add a comment. But please check this list first and make sure your question hasn't already been answered. You can click on a question to be taken directly to the answer, or read the whole thing, it's up to you.

And remember - any writing info I give, that's purely specific to me. Feel free to follow it, or completely ignore it, it's just what works for me. If you want my advice, then here it is, do with it as you wish. There will be some swearing. I'm not going to beat around the bush here, because I'd just be wasting everyone's time, especially yours. If you want to be told that you're brilliant and talented, go and ask your mum. She loves you. So, let's get started.

Becoming a writer and breaking in:

I really want to be a writer, what should I do?
How did you break in?
What about writing courses, or books, or contests? Are they any good?
How do I get better at writing?
If I send you my stuff, will you read it and give me feedback?
So who can I get feedback from?
Can we collaborate on a script? Or if I have an idea, do you want to write it?
Is writer's block real? What do I do if I have it?
Okay, I've rewritten my script, what now?
How do I get an agent?
Will you recommend me to an agent? Or pass my stuff on to producers/companies/etc?
Do you have a list of agencies or companies that accept submissions?
Is it really that hard to break in?
Is it who you know, rather than what you know?
What if I'm no good? Should I just give up?
What should I write? What are TV/film producers looking for?

General, day to day writing and so on:

When you still had a day job how much did you write daily? Did you have a set goal?
How fast did you write?
Do you have a writing routine? What's your writing process?
Any opinions or experience with collaborative writing?
Can I interview you for my university course/project?

Doctor Who and Torchwood:

How do I get to write for Doctor Who? Or Torchwood?
Did you get to meet Russell T. Davies / Julie Gardner / David Tennant / John Barrowman / etc etc? What are they like?
Can you get me David Tennant's/John Barrowman's autograph/email/mobile number?

Other things

Can I have a part in your TV show/movie? Can I do the music, make up, costume, special effects, etc?
Are you going to be at a particular event or convention / Will you come to our event or convention?

Becoming a writer and breaking in:

I really want to be a writer, what should I do?

Start writing. Keep writing.

Seriously. Sounds simple, and it is, it just requires a lot of work. If you want to be a writer, you have to write, a lot, and read a lot, and rewrite a lot. You write and write and write, and you might not be any good for a long time, maybe several years, until you get a bit better, then you keep going, then eventually you'll get good at it. There is no short cut, no magic solution. There is nothing I can tell you that will help you jump the queue. How did I get in? Is there a secret to it? Yes: write stuff! Keep writing until you get good. I wrote and wrote and wrote, for years, got better at it, and then managed to sell something. THIS IS THE ONLY WAY TO BECOME A WRITER. I can't make it any clearer than that. When you finally write something really good, it will probably sell. It might not sell immediately, but if it is genuinely good, it will find its own way. People are always looking for good stuff.

How did you break in?

I wrote, for years and years, until I got better. I was close to giving up, because I didn't know if I was any good. I entered a script competition, the Sci Fi Channel's Sci Fi Shorts - if you won, then they made your script into a short film. I didn't place the first year, then won the second year. They made my short, Cheap Rate Gravity, and it was shown in cinemas in front of other movies. But that wasn't me breaking in - it would have all ended there if I hadn't worked my arse off. It gave me the motivation and validation to keep going. I got some more scripts together, then narrowed them down to two - a film script and a TV episode. I drew up a list of agencies, put them in order of preference, and started submitting. The first agency I approached took me on, and I then spent a year - a YEAR - writing and rewriting Severance. My agent sent it out, it sold, and I was in the movie business. But that still wasn't enough, I couldn't rest on my laurels. I had to keep writing stuff, keep pitching for jobs, keep sending stuff out. Until eventually I got my meeting with the Torchwood producer and script editor. Once I got a few TV jobs under my belt, the work started coming in more regularly. It takes a lot of hard work - a lot of writing. And rewriting.

What about writing courses, or books, or contests? Are they any good?

Not as good as writing and then rewriting, over and over. I haven't done any screenwriting courses myself, but I know several people who have, and got a lot out of them. But from what I can tell, the biggest advantage of any course seems to be that they get you to write a lot of stuff, and get feedback. Some books are helpful, in that they help you analyse movies. Some are not. But you don't *need* any of them. What you need to do is write. A lot. When a script lands on someone's desk, they don't care what qualifications you have, what books you've read, who you are. All they care about is that script - is it good or not? There is no book or course or magic trick that will turn you into a screenwriter. The only thing that turns you into one, is writing. A lot.

There are some books that give you valuable advice - none of them will tell you how to write, but some will give you good pointers on how to start and build a career. The one I'd highly recommend is Adrian Mead's "Making It As A Screenwriter" - it has lots of good strategies to break into the business, the proceeds go to Childline, and I (as well as many, many others) have happily endorsed it. But again, all the strategies assume that you are going to write, a lot, to become a better writer. You have to put the work in.

As for the screenwriting books - again, some are helpful for analysing movie structure. But they analyse the structure of existing, *finished* movies. They are of no help, in my opinion, when you are sitting staring at a blank page trying to work our your story. And I wouldn't touch anything written by anyone who isn't a writer or some sort of film-maker. Seriously. The Syd Field books have some useful analyses, but he's not a screenwriter. "Story", by Robert McKee, I found to be a monstrous, dull, dry bag of tripe. It's a billion pages long, has a few decent, common sense points buried among pages of waffle, and actually has charts and graphs. Graphs! About writing! I hated every second I spent reading it. And yes, I read it all the way through, just to make sure I gave it a fair chance. Complete waste of my time. I could have written two drafts of a script in that time, and learned *more* by doing that.

Books I'd recommend by writers, directors, filmmakers - some have good advice, some have good stories, I learned something from all of these: "On Writing" by Stephen King. "Adventures in the Screen Trade" by William Goldman (and the follow-ups). "Hollywood Animal" and "The Devil's Guide to Hollywood" by Joe Eszterhas. "On Film-making" by Alexander Mackendrick (a director, but I learned more about writing from this than all of the "how to write" books put together). "Rebel Without A Crew" by Robert Rodriguez. "Hitchcock" by Francois Truffaut (series of interviews that share the thought processes behind many of the movies he directed). But you don't *need* any of them.

Contests are a mixed bag. It all depends on the prizes. Some have a cash prize and some generic "we'll show it to industry professionals" nonsense. Some make the script as the prize (the Sci Fi Shorts competition I won, for example). Some give you valuable, actual industry feedback and help (the Red Planet Prize, still the best UK contest ever, I reckon - mentoring, script commission, cash, and an agent). Some have entry fees, some don't. I personally wouldn't enter a contest with a fee - but then some of them are incredibly useful, and can kick start your career if you win or place highly (the Nicholl Fellowships, for example). If it's worth a go, then it's worth a go. But read the fine print. If the prize is to have it made into a film, and you get paid a small amount for it, then it might be worth just sending it out for sale - you'll make much more if it sells to a production company.

And don't get disheartened if you don't win - you can't always be the very best at everything. Suppose, to make up a silly example, you entered a competition the same year that the script for The Godfather was entered. It wins, and you don't. Does that make your script shit? No. Best case scenario if you lose - you've written a good script, as quickly as you could, and now you have something to sell or send to an agent.

How do I get better at writing?

Write more. Read more. Write more. Rewrite lots.

The more you write, the better you get. Read as many books as you can - fiction, I mean. Read all the scripts you can get your hands on. I'm not going to provide links, if you can't manage to find scripts on the internet, with a simple Google search, then maybe you're not cut out for this. Read good scripts, see what they do well. Figure out how they work. See how lean and minimalist they are. Rewrite your own stuff, be merciless, cut out anything you don't need. Watch good movies and TV shows. Listen to the commentaries, watch the documentaries, see how they were made, hear what choices the writers and directors and producers made.

Anything that helps you increase your vocabulary or learn more about the world is good - so read a lot. And write a lot.

If I send you my stuff, will you read it and give me feedback?


Why not? Five reasons. (1) Because I get tons of requests like this, and I'd never get any writing done if I started saying yes. (2) Because if your story features a giant robot, and in a year's time you see a Doctor Who story with a giant robot, you might think I nicked your idea and sold it to the production team. (3) Because if I'm already writing something similar to yours, I'll have to abandon it, otherwise I'll feel like I'm copying it - unless it's different enough to carry on, and then you might sue me. (4) Because I don't have the spare time, the spare brainpower, the spare energy to work for you - and it would be work, for me. (5) Because I'd probably be completely wrong about your script anyway - sure, I love A Clockwork Orange and all sorts of clever movies. But I also love movies like Road House. And I'll defend Road House to the death, passionately, not in a "so bad it's good" kind of way, I genuinely love it and think it's a great movie. I might read your script and say it's no good, because it doesn't have a fight scene between two men in sweaty pants. You don't want that.

So who can I get feedback from?

Find 3 friends, with different personality types and different interests. Don't ask people who will just say it's all great, and don't get ones who will just slag it off mercilessly, neither approach is helpful. Ask people who will be honest, but not cruel - constructive criticism is the way to go, things like "I didn't understand that bit, I liked the end but wanted the hero to do X as well, thought the beginning went on too long" etc. Things that are useful, that you can work with. You want people who will pick the script to pieces, and point out every logic flaw or plothole, or twist that doesn't work. Some things they say, you won't agree with. But if all three say the same thing, then maybe it needs fixing.

If you don't know anyone who can give you useful feedback, then the internet awaits you. Start a blog, join the scribobloggosphere-o-tron, and offer to give feedback to other bloggers if they help you out too. Again, if one person doesn't like the ending, it's up to you if you want to change it. But if 10 people say the same, you should have a look at it. Update: I linked to two peer review websites originally, but they don't exist anymore. If someone in the writer blogging world wants to set one up, I'm sure people would find it useful. Although one of them disappeared due to lack of interest - for all the complaining about "I can't get feedback!", people apparently ignored a genuinely helpful website when it existed for that very reason. Maybe things are different now, if someone wants to give it another go.

Or you could try It's more focussed on film scripts, but you'll get feedback. You have to review other scripts, and others have to review yours.

If you want professional feedback, then you can always pay for a pro script reader to give you coverage. They'll analyse the script thoroughly, say what worked, flag up areas they think need work, and so on. Prices are usually about 30 or 40 quid. Only go to them when you've done several drafts, there's no point giving them your first draft.

Can we collaborate on a script? Or if I have an idea, do you want to write it?

No. I'm concentrating on my own stuff right now. And I have plenty of my own ideas that I want to write.

Also, I don't know you, and you could be crazy. And you don't know me either - *I* could be crazy. I probably am. I only collaborate with people I know and trust, and so should you. It is a very rare event. And 999 times out of a thousand, I'd rather write it myself, because that's the way I work. I'm a loner, a maverick, sometimes I break the rules but I always get the job done, dammit. I have done and still do rewrites, but only on professional projects, and only when I'm taking over. If it's going to have my name on it, then every word on every page has to go through me. Unless it's something that has been rewritten by a showrunner, but that doesn't apply to this question.

While we're on the subject, don't be so quick to throw away your sole credit. Right now, it's your idea, your script - you haven't even finished it yet and already you want to share your credit? What does that tell you? Many people think that getting an established writer to help them finish their script will give them a way in. It won't. It just suggests that you want a shortcut and don't actually care about writing at all, or you can't be bothered finishing your work and want someone else to do the hard work for you.

Finish your script, for better or worse, because right now it's yours. If you can't finish one script, then maybe you're not ready for this business. If the thing really isn't working, and you want to abandon it, fine, but finish *something*. You have to finish what you started.

Is writer's block real? What do I do if I have it?

If by writer's block you mean "getting stuck", then yes, it's very real. For more on that, I've gone into further details here.

As for dealing with it, here is another, very long post about that very subject.

Okay, I've rewritten my script, what now?

Rewrite it again. And again. And again. I *guarantee* you it's too long. Be ruthless. There's nothing you have done that is so brilliant it can't possibly be trimmed down a bit. If it's a TV episode for a one hour show, anything from 58 to 65 pages is okay. If it's a movie, try and keep it between 90 and 105 pages - that's a general guideline, I always try and keep mine shorter, 90 to 95 is my personal preference. If your script is 120 pages, it's too long. It just is. Again, this is a general guideline, for newcomers submitting scripts to agents or production companies etc, not for everyone or every project. But trim it down anyway.

How do I get an agent?

Write something really good. Send a short, polite query letter to an agent, asking if they'd like to read it. If they say yes, then send it to that agent. If they reject it, send it to the next agent. Repeat until someone takes you on. If the script is really good, then you will get taken on. That's what I did. I sent a film script and episode 1 of a TV script, an agent liked them, and took me on. Actually, he only liked the TV script, he thought the film script was shit. So that 30 page episode script was enough, because he liked it. I liked it. It got me in.

It will probably take you a while to do this. While you're doing that, send scripts to production companies - again, you can find places online that accept submissions. Look at the credits of shows you like, and the name of the company will be there. Enter script competitions, put scripts on Triggerstreet for feedback, go to to see if anyone is looking for short film scripts (they always are), see if you can get a short made or hook up with other up and coming writers or tv/film makers. Try and get a temp job or free work experience at any media company - the pay's shit, but it's good experience. Keep pushing yourself, keep writing, keep rewriting, keep sending stuff out. You can't just write one thing and hope that everything will magically fall into place.

Will you recommend me to an agent? Or pass my stuff on to producers/companies/etc?

I'd have to read your stuff to make sure it was something I wanted to pass on, and I can't do that (see above). But you're actually better off without my recommendation, as the agent/producer/company won't then feel guilt tripped into reading your stuff just because I've asked them to. If your work is good enough, then it will speak for itself. Trust me.

Do you have a list of agencies or companies that accept submissions?

No. I have an agent, and don't keep up to date with every other agency and what they're looking for, that's something you should be doing! You can find a full list of them in the Writers & Artists Yearbook, or by Googling. I have no idea which production companies accept submissions either, but again, Google is your friend. See the next question for more on this.

Is it really that hard to break in?

Yes. It really is.

If you want it badly enough, you have to work at it. I got an agent, but that didn't mean the job offers suddenly came rolling in. I did more than 20 drafts of Severance, over the course of a year, evenings and weekends while working a full time job, 5 days a week. I was fucking exhausted, nobody gave a shit who I was, I was nothing and nobody. But I made it happen, because it's the only thing I've ever been really good at, and I wanted it more than anything. If you're talented, and prepared to work your arse off, you'll get in. Nobody's going to do it for you. Sometimes people email me and ask me for information that can easily be found with a quick Google - like lists of agencies. Now, I have an agent, so I don't have an up to date list of agencies - when I started out, I Googled them, and got the Writers' & Artists' Yearbook for backup. How did I find them in Google? I typed "uk film tv agencies" into Google, and spent half an hour looking through different websites. You have to put the work in, if you want it badly enough, then you'll make the effort. Seriously, if you're not prepared to even do a bit of Googling, then you're in the wrong business. If you think I'm being unfair when I say that, then you're *definitely* in the wrong business.

It's really, really, really hard. Of course it is. Is it unfair? No. It is what it is. The "system" isn't keeping you out. Some of you will break in, some will take longer than others, and some will never break in. If you're good at what you do, you'll break in. Just like any other job. Complaining about it won't help. Spend that time writing instead, and improving your work. I might as well say that the "system" is preventing me from being a fire fighter, even though one time I helped to put out a small fire in a dustbin. Don't they recognise my talent?? Well, no. They need a bit more than that. So hang on to the day job for now, you'll need the money for luxuries such as food, rent, electricity, etc.

Is it who you know, rather than what you know?

No. A good script is a good script. Knowing people is helpful, in that it gets you meetings and so on, but without a good script to back it up, they're not interested. They want good scripts, good writers. End of story. To stretch my already painfully thin analogy, suppose my uncle Fred worked at a fire station, and got me an interview. Would I then be immediately hired as a fire fighter, and sent straight into a burning building? No, of course not. Same with TV and movies. They don't care who you know, they care what you can do. And if you force your way in somewhere with a friend or family connection, you'll have to work ten times as hard to impress them, because they'll automatically be annoyed.

What if I'm no good? Should I just give up?

I don't know. Maybe. Unless you have a talent for it, then you'll never get anywhere. You can be taught the mechanics of scripts, story structure, screenplay format, and all that, but unless you have that spark, that certain something, it won't happen for you. I don't know if you have it or not. You may not know. For a while, back in the bad old days before I won the short film competition, I wasn't sure myself if I was good enough to break in. What made me keep going? My wife convinced me to keep writing, she was always honest with me, and I knew she wouldn't have said it if she didn't really, really mean it. After that, I just knew I had *something*, some sort of a voice, something to say. Maybe I wasn't brilliant, but I definitely had a talent for it. I didn't know if I'd ever be good enough to make a career out of it, or even sell one single thing. But I knew I had something.

If you really want to write, if all you want to do is tell stories, if you have a head full of ideas and desperately need to get them out - then write your arse off, rewrite, and keep going. If you "really want to be a writer", but have never written, have no ideas, and simply like the idea of it, then it's probably not going to happen. Sorry. If you want to do something, then do it. Sit your arse down on that chair, and do it. If you're not prepared to do that, then it's impossible.

What should I write? What are TV/film producers looking for?

Okay, this is a closely held secret, that all of us professionals try to keep you from discovering, but I'm going to break the code of silence and tell you: TV/film producers are looking for GOOD STUFF. That's it. Don't waste time wondering what genre or type of story is "in" right now, because by the time you write it, sell it, get it made and released, something else will be "in". Any time a producer or channel says "we're not looking for X, and Y doesn't work", ignore it - if they got a script that was fucking amazing, about X *and* Y, they'd snap it up. Things don't work until they do. The second you start trying to tailor something to the market, your script will suffer. If you have a story to tell, something you're dying to get out into the world, write that. Write from the heart, put your soul, blood, sweat and tears into it. And it'll get you noticed (if it's good, obviously). Producers want to see your original voice, not something you think they want, or a carbon copy of whatever's popular at the moment.

General, day to day writing and so on:

When you still had a day job how much did you write daily? Did you have a set goal?

As much as I could manage. I'd get home about 6 or 7pm, eat, then get straight on to the computer and write until 10 or 11pm, sometimes later. Some days, I'd be too tired or fed up to do anything. This was during the Severance days, before I sold it, and was still trying to figure out the story while on the 12th or 13th draft.

How fast did you write?

Back when I was on my journalism course, in 1993-1994, I managed just over 60 words per minute. When I moved to London and had been working in offices for a few years, and writing at night, I was much higher than that. I'm still pretty fast now. As long as I have the storyline roughly worked out, I can crack through loads of pages a day.

Do you have a writing routine? What's your writing process?

I try not to have a writing routine, because as soon as I decide to write at a certain time of day, that immediately makes my mind go blank at that exact time. Some people write during certain hours, and if that works for you, fine. I probably should do that. But I just can't. If I'm working on a script, then I get up, have breakfast, procrastinate, and when I get to the point where I can't put it off any longer, I make myself start writing. Every project is different, so I don't have a standard page goal. On the first day of scripting something new, I take it easy, and see how many pages I get done. That then becomes the unofficial daily goal for the rest of that draft.

Update: inevitably, my lack of routine started to become a routine. For the past year or so, when I've got work to do, I have a new routine - I get up, have breakfast, check email/blogs/etc, then get started, and keep going until dinner time. I'm a lot better about sticking to daytime working hours now, because I know my brain won't be as useful later in the day. Although it's nowhere near a 9 to 5 routine, I could never do that. Some days, your brain just doesn't work properly. Some days, you get up bursting with ideas and can't stop writing until after midnight. My one rule is: get it on the page, now, and don't look back until you get to the end.

As for my writing process, I'm constantly tinkering with ways of finding the soul of a story, and am always fascinated to hear about how other writers figure things out. You never stop learning in this business, and it's never too late to add a new gadget to the toolbox. Right now, I've got a process I enjoy and that works well for me. I go into detail on that current writing process here.

Any opinions or experience with collaborative writing?

During the actual scripting stage, I usually work alone, and prefer it that way. I have collaborated a few times, and sometimes two heads are better than one, you can spark off the other person, get instant feedback - but it's easier if I'm on my own, and can just rattle on with it, then get feedback afterwards. Just the way I prefer to work, really. A way that can work is the "taking it in turns" method, where one person writes something, then the other person has a go at the next bit, or reworks the first bit, and so on. If you're sitting there at the same time, both trying to decide what comes next, it can be a bit awkward. Better to work out the stuff you want to do by talking about it, and then moving to the page. Brainstorm first, then write.

Most TV shows are collaborative in that you'll be bouncing ideas off the script editor, exec producer, head writer, etc, and sometimes the other writers too. You're fully supported at every stage. But when it's time to write and rewrite the script, you still have to sit in a room and do it yourself. I've rewritten others, been rewritten, but you're still working alone when you go to the keyboard.

Can I interview you for a magazine/university course/project?

I've done a lot of interviews for various things, and while I enjoy doing them, they take up a lot of time. You can still ask, and let me know what it's for and how long it'll be, but depending on what I'm working on or how many interviews I've just done, I may have to decline. Don't be offended, but I have to say no a lot of the time.

As for interviewing me for your university course or project - I don't do that. Interviews involve promoting something I've worked on, helping out with fanzines, having fun on podcasts, or getting wider exposure for me or for writers in general. School and university projects involve me helping you do your homework, and are not interviews. I didn't like doing homework back when I had to do it, and I like it even less now. Again, I get asked to do a lot of these, and I can't do them.

Doctor Who and Torchwood:

How do I get to write for Doctor Who? Or Torchwood?

First of all, DON'T write a spec episode, or an idea, or a pitch, or anything even remotely related to the show. They're not allowed to read it, and nobody else can do anything with it. All spec episodes or ideas are binned or returned, unread. I keep telling people this, but the question keeps coming up. It's not a "slim chance" that you'll get an idea through. It just won't happen, because they're not legally allowed to read anything like that.

The best thing to do, is write something of your own. They need to see that you can write, that you can tell a story. So write your own thing, anything, even if you don't think it's commercial, even if you don't think it'll ever get made - they want to see your voice, what drives you, what you love. Write the first episode of the best TV show in the world, according to you. Write something from the heart, something you feel passionate about. It has to be a story you're burning to tell, and if you feel *that* strongly about it, it will come across on the page. Show off what you can do.

I got my agent based on the first episode of a mad TV idea I had. It'll never, ever get made (it's sort of a comedy, and a surreal science fiction horror hybrid, but features kids being brutally killed and eaten by alligators). But it's got me more meetings than anything else. Later, the script editor on Torchwood read Severance and Curfew, and I got a meeting with him and the producer at the time. Severance is a horror comedy, Curfew is a none-more-black horror with no jokes or light at the end of the tunnel. Neither of those would seem a good basis for eventually working on a family TV show. But they could see that I could write, tell a story. After working with them on Torchwood for a few months, they offered me the Doctor Who job. But I had to show everyone what I could do first.

If you show that you can write, then get an agent, then hopefully write some more good stuff, then you can get your agent to send the production team your work. But be patient. You can't break into the industry but *only* write for Doctor Who, you have to write other stuff along the way, gaining the skills and experience of a working writer. Otherwise you won't get the job - they want people who can write. If you're a writer, then you have a burning desire to write all kinds of stories, not just for one particular show. Either you're a writer, or you're not. So go and write stuff.

Did you get to meet Russell T. Davies / Julie Gardner / David Tennant / John Barrowman / etc etc? What are they like?

Yes. RTD and JG were in charge of the whole thing when I was hired, so obviously I worked with them a lot. And then there's the readthrough and a set visit, so I got to meet most of the cast, including David Tennant and Catherine Tate, everyone except Billie, who wasn't in my episode, and Freema, who also wasn't in my episode (although I eventually met her later when she joined Law & Order). I met John and the rest of the Torchwood cast when I did Torchwood. What are they like? I realise it sounds like a load of PR nonsense, but they are all genuinely lovely, clever, and fun to work with. Although RTD likes to bite people. If you ever work with him, and can't think of an answer quickly enough, guard your shins, he'll gnaw right through them. There's nothing quite as terrifying as a very tall man crouching on the floor and gnawing your shins.

Can you get me David Tennant's/John Barrowman's/anybody else's autograph/email/mobile number?

No. Even if I was their best mate (which I'm not) and had all their contact details (which I don't), they'd hardly want me giving them out to strangers, would they? As for autographs, sure, I *could* probably contact the office, hassle the crew and wheedle an autograph somehow, but I'm not going to. I mean, I *could* come and help you do your shopping, defrost your freezer, or set the timer on your DVD player. But I'm not going to. I have my own life to live.

Other things

Can I have a part in your TV show/movie? Can I do the music, make up, costume, special effects, etc?

To clarify, I must explain that there are two stages to everything I work on:

Stage 1: this might never, ever happen, it's YEARS away. In which case, things are still being written, and important people with big hats have to decide whether it's worth spending the money to maybe film them one day.

Stage 2: ohmygoditsontellyin2weekshurryupandfilmthefucker. By the time it gets greenlit, suddenly there's a huge rush, and things have to happen immediately.

Stage 1 is way too early to even think about hiring cast or crew. Stage 2 is where you could come in. However. Usually, as the writer, I am the last person to have any sort of say about casting, music, etc etc. Or the show is already established, has its own people, and I'm simply doing an episode.

Unless it's a show I create or co-create - some of which I'm working on at the moment. But they are all in Stage 1 right now. If they move to Stage 2, and I get my own show up and running, then I'll probably have some say, or can at least put things in front of the right people (casting director, etc). If it is at all in my power, then I will post details of the places to send these sort of things, or make it as easy as possible for you to get your stuff to them. I'm well aware that there are tons of incredibly talented people out there, and it makes sense to cast a wide net for some jobs, unless there's a specific person we already want for various reasons. But I'll do my best to make it fair, and make things open and available. Your part of the bargain? Be professional, do your best, and if it doesn't happen, take it on the chin, and try again next time.

But until I put out the call or point you towards a place/website/etc - there is NO POINT sending me things, like headshots, or work samples, because right now, I can't do anything with them, and will probably lose them by the time we're ready to look for people. So hold on. I'll shout if/when things happen, trust me.

Are you going to be at a particular event or convention / Will you come to our event or convention?

Update: Here is a regularly updated page with my event schedule.

I usually announce it on the blog when I'm going to be a guest anywhere. If I haven't mentioned it, then I may not know yet, or sometimes negotiations may still be under way. I love going to things as a speaker, it's always great fun to meet new people and talk about the work. But I can only go to things that I've been invited to, I can't just turn up and demand to be given a panel and a Q&A (it never works). Like a vampire, I must be invited in. If you would like me to be at a particular thing, contact the organisers, and ask them to invite me, my contact details are on the blog (tell them to contact me *directly* by email, *not* my agency). The organisers will then (hopefully) contact me, and invite me along.

If you are the organiser and you want me to be a speaker/guest at your event or convention, just email me and ask - don't ask my agent, email me directly, he's busy getting me work and draining the lifeforce out of lawyers. I'll check my calendar, see if I'm available, see what my workload is like, then see if it's something/somewhere I'd like to go. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. I'm up for anything really, and always like to see new places.