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Thursday, 25 February 2010

On My Radio

I love the radio ads for casino resorts and hotels here. They all end the same way:

"Please gamble responsibly."

Monday, 22 February 2010

Back in LA

Last night's wrap party was great. I knew so many people there that I always had someone to talk to, unlike those vast BBC affairs where you just keep circulating because you don't want to stand on your own looking like a tool. There were loads of people I didn't know, as well, and some that I didn't know I knew, like Esrin, our network exec to whom I'd only ever spoken in conference calls.

The party took over an entire trendy nightclub right on Hollywood Boulevard, and we filled the place. It's so trendy that it has no sign, just an ill-lit doorway and a bouncer with a list of names on a clipboard. I circled past it about five times and only realised I'd found it when I spotted someone I knew going in. We'd used the interior as a strip club in episode 12. Jim Hilton had put together a gag reel that was projected in a loop on the wall. After 10.30 the club opened up to the public and I left as it filled up with strangers. I had no voice this morning.

I think this was the first wrap party I've ever actually made it to, and it was on Hollywood Boulevard on a Saturday night... one to remember! I drove home down Sunset feeling like the coolest guy on the planet.

In my rented Hyundai.

I have meetings early next week, but I'm getting in some research for a new book over the weekend. I drove out to the Paramount Ranch yesterday afternoon. It's a much-used Western location, now a state park. The 'western town' consists of a few wooden buildings left over from Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman and to be honest are about as impressive as the old Frontierland attraction in Morecambe, and about as realistic. I walked along the Coyote Trail and didn't see any coyotes, and it wasn't much of a trail either - by taking every option to extend it I managed to make it spin out to just over a mile, but I was hardly ever out of sight of the point I'd set out from. I managed to work up a bit of a sweat, though, so there was some point and exercise involved.

I found a second trail going out the other side, and that promised to be a mile and a half, so I set out again. After a couple of hundred yards I was met by two big dripping wet golden retrievers coming the other way, and a family desperately calling them back on the assumption that no stranger would welcome their attentions... we got talking as I fussed the dogs a bit. Turned out the bloke is a co-executive producer on The Simpsons! We chatted for a while and eventually the dogs got bored and wandered off.

The drive out along the freeway had been a tad dull, so on the way back I drove along Ventura Boulevard through Calabasas and Tarzana. Calabasas has a shopping plaza that loooks like it was built for King Ludwig of Bavaria. Tarzana came about when Edgar Rice Burroughs subdivided his land for development, but apart from the name it's hard to get much of a thrill from the association.

This afternoon I went to look at the barn where Cecil B DeMille shot The Squaw Man, now preserved as the Hollywood Heritage Museum. It's been moved about three times and now stands in the car park of the Hollywood Bowl. It's the kind of place I like, not too well organised, full of authentic bric a brac and fronted by a true enthusiast on the desk. The novel that I'm working on has themes touching on early Hollywood and the Old West; the idea sprang from my Wyoming trip a couple of years back, and it's caused me to seek out William S Hart's home and the Autry Museum. When there's another decent day I'll go and find the Fox Movie Ranch in Malibu State Park.

It's tough work, but someone has to take it on.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

STFU, Parent

Whose blog is it, anyway?

My Favourite Headline

Some headlines just stick in your mind. Like BUDGIE DIES IN FIRE, from the Bolton Chronicle. The Chronicle was the local freesheet that was pushed through our letterbox once a week back when I was living in Bolton and working in Manchester. It featured several pages of classified ads filled out with a minumum of illiterate editorial matter written by school leavers on minimum wage.

Then there was the time that I'd been speaking at a booksellers' event in Guernsey. There was a stack of local newspapers on the hotel's reception desk and I noticed, as I was checking out, that the front page story of the week was headed MORE PIGEONS FOUND KILLED.

Not found dead, but found killed. And not for the first time... clearly a pigeon serial killer was stalking the island.

For a while my favourite headline was one that I found in a microfilmed copy of a New Orleans newspaper from 1903, when I was researching the project that eventually became The Kingdom of Bones. It was a story about a tense political situation in South America and the headline was, ALARMING REPORT COMES FROM COLON.

But I think it's been replaced by this one.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Chimera on DVD

From Revelation Films with a launch date of May 24th, if you're interested... Chimera wasn't my first TV work but it was the one that upshifted my career and spoiled me for anything less than big-budget 'event' TV.

Few official details yet but the product description reads, First broadcast on British TV in 1991, Chimera is a controversial story about a plot to create a new breed of human, based on crossing the genetics of a man and an ape, and the attempts by the government to cover up their secret plans.

Revelation have been negotiating for the rights even since their launch of the Oktober DVD, when I recorded an interview for inclusion in the extras. They've had access to a lot of background material and it promises to make an interesting package. I'll write more about it and my memories of making the show as the launch gets nearer but for now, here's the Amazon link.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Writers Who Direct

In Conversation: A Writer's Perspective is a projected series of author interviews edited by James Cooper. Volume One is available now and is a publication of The British Fantasy Society.

Contributors include Joe Lansdale, Graham Joyce, Ramsey Campbell, Mark Morris, and Tim Lebbon. My conversation with James was in the form of a series of emails over about a year, keeping the sense of a developing exchange rather than a simple Q and A.

This from our discussion of writers directing:
The experience of directing Oktober (a four-hour miniseries for ITV) was both exhilarating and harrowing. It was hugely time-consuming, and that’s partly one of the reasons why I haven’t done it again since. I wasn’t writing anything else or generating any new ideas at all for more than six months, and when I came out of it I virtually had to start engineering a comeback. Add together the prep time before it, and the time spent getting back up to speed with something new, and you’re pretty much talking about a couple of years out of the game. If you’re a full-time director, when you finish a job you move straight on to your next script; when you’re a writer, you have to go back up the mountain.

Having said that, I absolutely loved it. I mean, come on, for a while there I had my hands on the train set. Professionally it was the most taxing thing I’ve ever done. Imagine launching yourself out into something like that, in the certain knowledge that from day one you’ll be out of your depth. I had a terrific first assistant (industry veteran Roger Simons) to steer me in the day to day practicalities, and even those among the crew who clearly didn’t think I was up to much gave 110%.

How satisfied was I? I’m never satisfied. You know the old saying about, be careful what you wish for because you might just get it? Well, there’s a certain reality underlying it. The stuff’s always perfect in your head, but even when you get it down exactly as you visualised it, that’s the beginning of a journey, not the end of one. You’re then contending with a question that you’d never otherwise have to face... Well, I got what I intended, so why isn’t it having the effect that I imagined? And you want to make it over, do it again but different, incorporate what you learned, get it a bit closer to what you meant. And you can’t.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

L A Song

I'm trying not to worry, but when the kid came to visit I caught her measuring up my apartment.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

The End of the Road

If I see a worse film than 2012 this year it'll only be because Roland Emmerich rushes out another one... not that it wasn't well-made on every technical level, but it was of an order of dumb magnificence that pretty much took my breath away.

Its narrative intelligence was at the level of a simulator ride, and the bits that made it worth sticking through were exactly those moments where some vehicle or other was hurtling through a collapsing CGI landscape. Cusack, Ejiofor and company sell their terrible lines with such commitment that they ought to be the front-runners in every awards race that's going. Any halfway decent actor can find motivation in a good script and play their role sincerely; it takes a titan of the profession to bring conviction to shit like this.

One example. Some organisation is charging a billion dollars per passenger for a place on an ark that will let the purchaser ride out the complete destruction of all civilization on earth.

Er... why? That includes the banking system and all currency, folks.

And would you want to trust your life to the design and engineering skills of someone who couldn't even think that one through?

Apparently people have been calling radio stations in the US, worried that the Mayans had predicted all this and that it's all going to come true. I reckon that's all the proof you need to justify taking someone's kids away.

Here's what I'd like to see; a video mashup combining 2012 and The Road. Two sides of the same apocalypse. It shouldn't be too hard to find match cuts to counterpoint The Road's exploration of the father-son relationship with 2012's many 'I love you dad' moments. The Road's dour and sombre tone would add a much-needed gravitas to 2012, which in turn would liven up the Viggofest with some much-needed campervan stunts and exploding cities.

Then at the end, Mad Max shows up and saves the kid. Doesn't matter which kid.

Moderation in all things, say I.