Friday 11 January 2019

Staying Germy

Already nearly two weeks into 2019 and no updates.
Deary me.
Anyway in product out there to buy news...
The New Counter-Measures- The Hollow King is out there to buy! Yes! From here in fact (other shops will follow in a month or so, but you won't get the offer of a download and I'll be surprised if it ends up cheaper)
It's had a couple of lovely reviews as well which I'm delighted by. Here and here.

It's a stand alone story but there are continuity Easter Eggs for the very keen- the company Rachel's lab's with has been mentioned in passing once before in a Guy Adams Counter-Measures, the museum referred to is one invented for a John Dorney Doctor Who story (I suspect so utterly ghastly things weren't alleged to have once happened at the British Museum), there may even be a nod to Clifford Jones of Llanfairfach and a little bit of chat about the UN and a Royal Institute that might even be discussing UNIT and Torchwood. That's even before you get to the OTHER STUFF.
There- you simply have to buy now.

In other news, this month I am absolutely full of something virulent, have just delivered the audio component of a new Rifftrax piece with Matthew J Elliott and have written a short play.

Friday 21 December 2018

Going Germy

I accidentally went a tiny bit viral on Twitter this week.
Just before bed one night an advert came on the TV for Pepsi which featured exciting young things surfing with neon boards in the middle of the night in what would obviously be freezing sea.
"Make new traditions" the ad concluded. It's sort of a tacit admission that Pepsi can't compete on Christmas fizzy drinkness with Coca Cola which has the modern image of Santa as some stupid trucks delivering pop every year at the core of its brand. Pepsi, in brand terms, is always the second one you think of.
I tweeted a thing which has often occurred to me that Pepsi should use this underdog thing a lot more, particularly in the UK because we love a bit of self-deprecation here. We're the third best at it in the world.

Responses were a lot faster and more plentiful than I'm used to. I primarily tweet to quite a small group of people but I soon realised what was happening because it happened similarly but on a larger scale to a good friend earlier this year.
The main difference is her tweet was actually very funny and very her.

You can read her response to going viral here. It mirrors mine but is better, like she is, and I am apparently Pepsi to her Coke.

The main thing I've learned from the experience is how unpredictable and unplannable going "viral" is (only in retrospect did I realise talking about big brands has a mass appeal I never normally reach for). I'm sure there are key times of day to tweet and all the rest of it if you want this kind of thing but it seems to me there's a lot of luck in how the snowball rolls down hill.
I've also learned how overwhelming a wall of replies can be, blocking out other communication for hours.
I think this may go someway to explaining why some famous people on Twitter end up either really quite weird or virtually unresponsive- they must get this noise constantly and there's no great way to deal with the volume.
I've also noticed quite a lot of people seem to have read the tweet as a personal attack on Pepsi which is odd because I'm a soda water with ice and lemon man, and have very little truck with any colas (holidays are coming, holidays are coming). That seems to confirm just how common confirmation bias is to me (ha, ha, I am clever).

Beyond that, responses boil down to people telling me-
The observation is accurate.
The phrase is universal but with some regional variants.
They work in a bar and the staff there recite it like a mantra.
This would be a good advertising approach (I agree).
It has actually been done in Brazil (well done, Pepsi Brazil people).
Someone else has thought this before.
I probably should have said bar staff not landlords.
Bar staff habitually use the phrase to avoid being accused of passing off one product as its competitor.
Which of the broadly indistinguishable drinks they prefer.

I'd like to reply to about half of them but there isn't time (I have Christmas presents to wrap- holidays are coming, holidays are coming). If any of you happen on this blog, I am genuinely grateful for your replies (unless you were a bit strange, but if you were I doubt you'll realise).

Another friend, Alistair McGown suggested this morning the tweet's unexpected popularity may be down to a Russian plot to destabilise cola brands and thus the entire US way of life. He may be right- it will also explain why Jac 'Coke' Rayner's anti Amazon tweet is 7 times more impossibly popular than mine. Curse her.

Monday 10 December 2018

A Bit of Fun

I'm editing a RiffTrax recording on the PC at the moment (mainly just noise clean up etc.) and to make sure the riffing soundtrack and video matched up I opened up the film in Sony Vegas and found the last project on there still unfinished.
So, I finished it as simply as I could. It was meant to have much more going on but there's no longer much point. The thing was started as an April Fool's Day joke for Doctor Who fans so long ago that reality has pretty much superseded it. Tom Baker has finally recorded The Iron Legion and this little flight of fancy is a bit redundant.

Enjoy (if you're silly enough). There are four or five little bits of animation in there I have to say I'm pretty pleased with.

Tuesday 13 November 2018

Hollow Hills

There’s now a trailer, cover, blurb and cast list up for The New Counter-Measures: The Hollow King an audio drama I wrote due for release from Big Finish Productions in January 2019.
It’s an Earthbound 1970s science fiction adventure featuring characters spun off from a 1980s Doctor Who serial, though no knowledge of that is expected or required. It stars Karen Gledhill, Hugh Ross, Pamela Salem and Simon Williams as a team investigating the strange and unusual and this is the third play I’ve written for them (you can find the first two here and here).

We often talk about The New Counter-Measures as being an audio in the style of the globe-trotting ITC film adventure series of the late 60s and early 1970s though, to tell the truth, I’ve imagined this one slightly differently. I thought it’d be fun to think of it as an episode of the 1970s TV series Thriller, which is set in a slightly skew-whiff England as an American tourist might imagine it or a UK TV company might present it when trying to make something you could sell to America and show at home.  
A lot is still on film (though mostly mute), but whenever you go into the village pub or the local lord’s country estate where all the dialogue breaks out you’re definitely on video in a studio set…
Anyway, that is sort of the world of this play. Don’t worry we’ve not sound designed it to feel like a video and film mix, there’s no out of place US guest star and people do talk outside. It's just there’s slightly more chance of sparring dialogue over large tumblers of whisky than you’d get in The Champions. 
It’s rural England with top 1970s concerns laced through, UFOs, the counter-culture, quaint folk tradition and scary analogue synthesisers.

Major influences include Sutton Hoo, an episode of Project U.F.O. I adored in 1979, the gloriously eccentric musician and writer, Desmond Leslie, a rather lovely festival of ideas I was invited to in 2016 and the sub-genre of 70s British film and TV we’ve come to call Folk Horror.
I hope I’ve managed to serve both our cast’s beautiful way with dialogue (they can all land a gag superbly) and audio’s power to disturb.

This play was originally planned for the second series of The New Counter-Measures released last year but around the start of March of 2017 the writers working on scripts were told one of our stories would be bumped to make way for a late addition to the box set. We later found out this would be a story featuring the Doctor Who adversary, The Great Intelligence. Big Finish's executives had just negotiated permission to use it and dropping it into The New Counter-Measures set would allow Big Finish to mark the 40th anniversary of its first TV appearance.

Once our first drafts were in it was decided my play (it's the closest in tone of the four initially planned to an Intelligence story), should be the one held back for recording in series 3. I thought that’d be that for a while until I got an email on holiday in the July of 2017 asking if I could do a second draft to get my play ready for recording with the others after all. So, over a couple of days swapping notes with script editor John Dorney, that’s what I did.
I think, reading between the lines, getting my play studio ready was just to give flexibility in case anything dropped out late in the day. No one wants to hire actors for a week and not fill all their time!

Unfortunately, the sales of the second New Counter-Measures box last year weren’t quite strong enough to automatically greenlight a third, so unusually my play’s ended up being released on its own. I’m delighted it has because if it hadn't been squeezed into that recording week it could very easily not have seen the light of day at all.

If you’re clever, and I suspect you are, you might spot a couple of elements in the play that we’d intended to pay off down the line in further stories. It’d be wonderful if one day that can still happen.
Fingers crossed. I’d love to think that there could be more adventures if this accidental one-off sells well enough to make them viable.

Monday 5 November 2018

Things you may have missed...

Since I was last here (previous post excepted) a few things have happened, often despite me, but I've also managed to do a bit of work in between them.

Matthew J Elliott and I have written and recorded a few more riffs for Rifftrax- Hangar 18, Planet Outlaws and Snowbeast (and as I mentioned in the last entry we've more ready to go). I think we've hit quite a nice vein now and I'm very excited about the upcoming riffs which I think include some of the funniest work. Do not feel you have to pop in here and tell me if you later disagree.

I also wrote a book. A whole book on a single four episode Doctor Who story. Seriously, it's longer than the script and the novelisation. The Black Archive 16: Carnival of Monsters comes from those excellent people at Obverse books and is full of analysis of the story and its themes, thoughts on empire, class, race, language, writer Robert Holmes' life and how it may have influenced his work, and important things you didn't even know you didn't know about the production, like the proper order it should have been shown in and how very, very different the first script was.

For Big Finish I wrote an episode of Survivors, the post-Apocalyptic story of people trying to be decent and thrive in a ruined world which I was quite pleased with. I tried to follow the 1970s series tone quite faithfully, and also had fun populating an insular village entirely with family names from a local 19th century census in pursuit of a genuine small town feeling. That was already written when I mothballed the blog, but hadn't been announced.
That was followed by my Doctor Who Short Trip The British Invasion which had been announced but wasn't scheduled at the time. That was a joy to write and research, all the history and geography is true and everything I say about the alien menace is defensible(!). It's also blessed with a rather beautiful reading from Wendy Padbury.

After that came a further episode of the Doctor Who spin-off The New Counter-Measures which comes out next year after being recorded in July 2017, an episode of the revived 1980s Hard SF police series Star Cops, and a Doctor Who Early Adventure- An Ideal World. I'll probably talk more about all of those later.

I've also audio edited and sound designed some projects for them again- three of their Short Trips Doctor Who stories, How to Win Planets and Influence People, Mel-evolent and the forthcoming The Devil's Footprints.

It probably looks more like the sum of an afternoon's work to you than 20 months but you can only take the work you're offered and only do it if you have the time!

Welcome Back, Potter

I have decided to quietly resurrect this weblog.
The main reason is so some people I know who’ve have left Twitter and don’t do Facebook can still see I’m alive, charming, eminently employable and enviably modest.
This week’s fun fest should see me giving blood, recording some Rifftrax, working on a second edit of a sound design project and ideally getting some writing done.  I’ll probably tell you next week how that went.

Sunday 8 January 2017

Promotional New Year's Messages

I hope you are well. I've had a rotten year following things I believed in being systematically destroyed and people I loved and admired dying. Professionally, it was much better, damn that faint praise.

So last year, after Vienna series 3 came out, I had another Rifftrax Presents release with Matthew J Elliott Flight to Mars, which was a lot of fun and I think strikes the nice balance of being a movie that's just about watchable without a riff over the top and having some nice silly jokes layer on it.
You may disagree. I'd not be surprised or disappointed. There's another riff close to recording right now. We'd have liked to have got it out last year, but life kept getting in the way.

I also wrote three Doctor Who audio stories, one released, two due for release in 2017, The Becoming, The British Invasion and Cortex Fire, an episode of the Doctor Who spin off The New Counter-Measures, a play for another audio series that hasn't been announced yet and two episodes of the audio reconstructions of missing episodes of The Avengers, Death on the Slipway and Dragonsfield.

The last project is a really interesting one, because in the case of both stories I did the scripts are missing and the reconstructions rely on TV listings, brief synopses and surviving photographs, primarily tele-snaps, an off air record of the show as it went out, in the case of these episodes about 80 over an hour of TV.

Obviously, they will never be the same as the original show, and there has to be a lot of educated guess work involved but my aim with the two I adapted was to mirror the approach of the episodes of The Avengers that survive or we have scripts for from that first year of production and to adhere closely to the style of the two original writers James Mitchell and Terence Feely, looking at how they approached both their later Avengers episodes and their other work before and after this period.
It proved instructive and when an additional season 1 episode was recovered later in the year I was quite pleased by how stylistically close it was to what we'd done. I hope if you listen to the plays our deep respect for all the cast and crew for this incredible series comes through.

Oh, and I did my half marathon. Not as quickly as I would have liked but I got there.

Happy New Year!