Category: blogs

Pitching a Comedy

I met a commissioning editor the other day….

I went to the RTS sponsored Speed Date The Comedy Gurus where you get a 3 minute session to pitch an idea to the actual heads of the channels. To people like me who have sent shorts and ideas to the established companies that sit on piles of other people’s genius ideas it is a revelation to actually see how they operate when it comes to what they want for their relevant strand.

My first 3 min speed chat was with Robert Popper and foolishly I tried to pitch two ideas whereas I should have concentrated on one. I came across like Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now with my stream of consciousness speed talk, which was ultimately didn’t win anyone over but he did give me pointed notes on where I was going wrong.

My first pitch, Microphone Fiends, is a semi autobiographical story of 2 people in dead end jobs who decide to try stand-up on a whim and suddenly get drawn into the comedy world. If I were a commissioner I wouldn’t find that unique as comedy and stand-up ideas are everywhere and I realise that people will think that I’m jumping on the currently trendy bandwagon. To be clear for my conscience, it is an ensemble character piece I have been writing for a year and a half and not riding on any trends. The stand-up is just a backdrop to propel the two people’s friendship and the comics they meet. It’s about the eccentrics and the seediness of London’s nightlife. Also I know Ben Miller did a film called Huge which people would unfairly bundle together. My idea (as I kept saying) is a modern Nashville. These people don’t have time to sift through a script (life is too short) so I really should have summarised it to stand out which I have learned.

The second idea was a 6 part show called Fear and Loathing in IT, about an ex-pat American hedonist living in London and working for a large nebulous IT industry. Instantly I was told that was a bad idea as it has the words IT in it and easy connotations to the popular channel 4 series. Again my idea is poles apart from The IT Crowd but in terms of the pitch it could have been better to distance it from a popular brand.

Needless to say for the next two pitches I concentrated on one idea and sounded less demented (i could be wrong).

Three minutes feels like a short time to pitch your idea and one main thing I learned is to get to the point of the idea as a unique logline. Also be aware everyone has to do the quick pitch. I know heavyweight producers who trundle up to the commissioners and do the speed pitch so don’t feel that you are an lesser exception.

In the end just to get access to the talent and feel what goes into a pitch is priceless and good luck to all the people that attended. RTS needs to do more of these and find the undiscovered talent and bypass the development divisions (for an evening at least!).

And for me? I will carry on trying to convince people to realise my idea. I believe in it and hopefully someone will too but that’s another story!

That’s the thing about Rumours….

So, there were all these rumours circulating about Jimmy Savile and the underage noncing he did but I won’t talk about that as it is endlessly analysed in the press. What I will do is a comparison.

Why did the BBC staff stay quiet when all this was going on FOR 30 YEARS? The victims were obviously scared to come forward when he was alive so the fault falls on those that had instant access to his sick personal life and kept quiet. Forget the bullshit that nobody knew what was going on. It’s the same crap said by the Nazis on trial in Nuremberg about the Holocaust.

One scenario is that the BBC saw how much prestige he brought in and as long as that happened, he (as long as it didn’t come out) could get away with it and he did until he died. Why else was the Newsnight report killed?

The comparison part:

I recently read a fascinating biography about Errol Flynn where it was proved that he was a die Anti Semitic Nazi sympathizer and actually helped the Third Reich with his spying antics. Why did the overwhelming Jewish film factory turn a blind eye to his anti American behaviour? Let’s not forget, there were rumours about him too but the truth is that he made them money and that’s all that counts when in Company Town, just look at Mel Gibson.

 The BBC basically turned a blind eye due to a ratings winning personality and now it has bitten them all in the bollocks and all those that thought it was funny to be extremely sexist and more will eventually be revealed, causing more headache for the Corporation.

Cast your mind back to when Hardeep Singh Kohli was suspended because he was inappropriate with a staff member, and I am in no way alluding to racial bias, but the Corporation did its bit for damage control but in the past allowed too many celebrities to go unchecked on more extreme perversions.

This is a story that will destroy many a career, much like Savile’s. Get the popcorn ready and enjoy what the Sun will call SavilleGate.

Alt: Religion and the Command of the Media

I watched an Interview with Charles Manson and one thing struck me. He has total control of the interview and is a completely, albeit demonically, captivating figure. Now, the scary thing is if you take the murders out of the equation,  Manson would have gone down the path that L Ron Hubbard went with scientology and gather a large following obeying his twisted words of wisdom and become a powerful figure. Alas he slashed a few celebrities and became a role model for unrepentant mentalists the world over.

Note to self: In a town full of Jews why is Scientology more popular that Judaism?

Watch a clip of L Ron Hubbard being interviewed and you will see the same style of personality but in a more controlled, exacting and dare I say it, cunning.  The kind of persuasion one needs to get subscribers to join a completely invented religion.

Manson effectively created a cult shaped around his own twisted image like Hubbard but the latter knew he could make a lot of cash there rather than be a two bit dime store novelist. Both are failed talents who found a way to diversify their dementedness The only difference between the two is that Hubbard had business savvy and Manson was mentally insane and his own nihilism and self-belief caused him to ruin his life. Being a predator takes some savvy.

Even as unrepentant as Manson is, there is a fine line between calculated, crazy, financial reward and prison sex. Maybe Manson didn’t want worldly goods but at least Hollywood can sleep at night now that the boogeyman is locked up.

One last thing to mention is that Manson’s religion will die when he dies but Hubbard’s will carry on as long as they can keep the belief and the money machine going.

Are you ready for the next mentalist to come claiming a new religion for the masses?

If this sounds Pythonesque then you will not be far off. A guide to starting a religion.

Stage 1: Claim you are the Messiah

Stage 2: Make a Ribald statement with winning enthusiasm

Stage 3: Make a Convincing argument for Stage 1

Stage 4: Wait for the minions to come flocking to you

Stage 5: Fleece them of all their money, virginity, emotions or whatever you want to enhance your lifestyle. Just knock yourself out you ol’ deity

Alan Clarke Remembered

Alan Clarke. He’s the guy that directed Scum. The brutal cinematic indictment of the borstal system, his most famous film and initially made as a television drama and subsequently banned then remade as a feature film. The television production was only shown for the first time in 1991 on Channel 4.

Lesser known than Ken Loach who, to me, share the same blistering anger at showing society’s darkest moments around them, Clarke seems to be mostly forgotten in history and his work is hardly screened outside of the odd retrospective but filmmakers can learn from his work and his filmic output needs to be brought back for public analysis. Find a copy of Diane, a teenager who lives in a dilapidated block with her father which I discovered in some obscure digital portal and rarely shown since 1975, Christine about heroin addict filmed in an uncompromising manner that far from glamorizes drug addiction or Elephant, about the IRA killings which indirectly influenced Gus Van Sant’s film of the same name. Even Larry Clarke’s Kids has a similar voyeuristic tone.

If you think his films are of another era and not relevant nowadays then think again, they are a stark look at the society around him in showing real people in its most raw. His films have made a difference in the case of Scum and pushed people to see what they want to brush under the carpet (The elephant in the room). The modern equivalent is Hanif Kureishi’s My Son the Fanatic and Kidulthood to name two films.

Remember, Scum changed the laws on borstal institutions after it was released and if you want to make films or even documentaries that challenge what the government or society is doing then take note, watch and learn. This is the prime medium to make a change and sometimes people forget that.

Don’t be fooled, his films make for uncompromising and often difficult viewing but you want to make an impact he is the granddaddy of them all.

Tales of Diversity and other Tastes


I just read the transcript of Armando Iannucci’s Bafta Speech which is an honest breath of fresh air about the current state of British television and the lack of risks (for the most part) that is being taken. As Mr Ianucci said, compared to American television, we are back in the dark ages in many ways and it’s time to bring back the anger that fueled people like Alan Clarke to make a difference.

My personal concern is the lack of diversity in television and the lack of parts available. It seems it’s ok to be stereotyped in Eastenders and Coronation Street to a point that makes Mind Your Language seem contemporary and I will get to Citizen Khan, the Great Brown Hope of the BBC’s diversity remit in a minute.

there is more–>

Mr Khan: Perpetuating a Myth for the British Public

Disclaimer a go-go:

You may think that this is shameless self publicity but in fairness it is a knee jerk reaction to what I feel is the first Asian lead BBC TV show since Goodness Gracious Me. I know you will say “what about Mumbai Calling and Meet the Magoons” but I will get to them later and anyway they were ITV and CH4 respectively.

Let me start by saying I don’t hate Mr Khan, starring the talented Adil Ray, but I did find it unfunny. The reason being is it was structured like a BBC sitcom with Pakistanis in the place of White suburban families. The dynamics, interaction and comedy timing are the same as Terry and June, just colour adjusted. I gave up watching these bland dreary sitcoms 20 odd years ago (yes, the last thing I watched was Fresh Fields!). Clearly the BBC hasn’t learned from their diversity remit, remember the Crouches? The all Black sitcom and written by the guy who created Rab C Nesbitt?


Racism is back

Ladies and Gentlemen, racism is making a comeback and now coming from the mouths of people I wouldn’t normally associate with bigoted comments. Yes, immigration has been out of control and The Daily Mail has been doing it’s bit to stoke the flames but now with the steady and increased popularity of Nick Griffin’s party winning over voters with their anti immigration rallying cry we are entering a dark phase of British culture similar to that of the 70’s and communities are becoming more divided. We all suffer from this division.

This country is forgetting the fundamental benefits of multiculturalism as noticed by the 2012 Olympics, which brought this great country together in times of financial hardship but some organisations are hell bent on destroying this vital infrastructure.

I now often hear people saying “they should go back home” in front of me as if I am instantly going to agree with them, on the bus and in public places.

It’s not just verbal attacks but having walked past a pub in Acton, West London with a scrawled Nazi slogan on the side, listened to a disgruntled British customer having a go at the staff’s work ethic and as he walks out openly says that “they” are giving the jobs who need it the least and you have the notorious Emma West’s outburst which will become more common.

I am currently writing a feature script, Microphone Fiends, about the mix of Londoners from different backgrounds and how they use stand up comedy to vent and inform on their frustration and create a snapshot of the dark situation London is at the moment much in the same way that Alan Clarke’s Scum and Franco Rosso’s Babylon showed how the times were.

Babylon and Diversity in Cinema

Babylon and the Road to Diversity

Babylon is a 1980 film that deals with racism and integration from the viewpoint of the black community trying to live in London. A true snapshot of what Britain was like as a cultural melting pot ready to burst into violence, which preempted the Brixton riots.

The financing for the film was incredibly tough to put into place with compromises being met on every aspect of production but it eventually managed to get finished but had a very limited release and quickly disappeared due to the fact that the cinemas were resistant in showing it due to concerns of commercial viability. As the main cinema chains controlled the vast majority of the theaters there were very few alternative avenues for this film to find its audience but it eventually did get a minuscule release and subsequently sank without a trace. Remember, this was before Channel 4 was launched which showcased diverse talents such as Hanif Kureshi and other like minded angry people getting a chance to make their mark. Babylon was simply ahead of its time.

Fast forward to the advent of the home video boom, it gained a new lease of life on VHS tapes in mainly black communities during the 80’s. Often in very poor quality it stayed an underground must see for those that felt mainstream programming was not representing their community enough.

This in itself dispels the myth that there was no audience and considering Ken Loach regularly had his films financed and released and these dealt with social issues in the same vein as Babylon. It seems that nobody wanted to light the touch paper in 1980 and nobody was brave enough to push the film to find its audience in its initial release. Today it is different when it comes to releasing “edgy” films to the marketplace.

Thankfully, in recent years Babylon has been rediscovered and celebrated with a fresh transfer for DVD as a time capsule of an uncomfortable era.

Why am I talking about a film made over thirty years ago and what relevance has it to what’s happening now? Basically nothing has changed, go to the cinema or switch on the TV and the same people and taste makers still give very few avenues for diversity and the next generation of filmmakers who want to make the same social awareness films are still finding it hard to get the relevant platforms. The odd breakout like Kidulthood comes in but there is nothing to compliment it in the marketplace. There have been small pockets such as Hanif’s films (courtesy of Channel 4 and BBC), Flight, about an Indian woman who runs away from her arranged marriage, which is criminally ignored to name but a few.

Same as the Brixton and Southall riots in the 80’s the 2011 summer riots was waiting to happen and nobody outside the black community knew it was coming until it was too late. Kidulthood and its sequel came close but bordered on caricature and urban melodrama rather than a genuine angry insight into contemporary London. The only difference about now is that with the Internet age we can address the balance to a certain degree in getting your ideas out there without being bound or stifled by the big broadcasters but to make something presentable you still need money and it’s back to the same old cap-in-hand approach and who holds the purse strings?

As long as there is an imbalance in contemporary London and as long as the people’s voices aren’t heard we need to push by any means necessary to get our voices heard