Wednesday, 21 March 2012

What to do if a Tory or Lib Dem approaches your home

When they come canvassing, talk to them.
Talk to them for ages.
Tell them not to walk away as you tell them what you think of them because you're being reasonable.
Tell them every second they spend with you is less time they'll spend with the less reasonable people further down the road who simply want to kill them for what they've done to this country. Wish them luck.
You do not have to mean it.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

The Power of No

I did something a little bit unusual for me recently. I turned down work, or more accurately turned down the possibility of work. It's not something a freelance ever does lightly, but I'm really glad I did.

It was for a job I'd had some ideas for, one of which got fairly fully developed and which I was very enthused by, but they weren't really gelling with the commissioner and it was suggested I come back with a different proposal. I had a bit of a think and realised that actually the problem here was me, and the most sensible way to tackle that was remove myself.

Basically, I'm not the kind of writer the commissioner really needed for that project because the idea I'd felt a strong sense was the right one for me didn't match their vision.
I felt the best that could happen next would be that I'd come up with an idea I liked less that I'd work up feeling it was inferior. Something decent might emerge but it would be a difficult creative process trying to fit in where I naturally didn't.
More realistically, with my instincts clearly being at odds with the desired direction for the project, I suspected any new idea I came up with would be rejected too. With deadlines looming it struck me the wisest thing to do was withdraw and let someone else have a crack, rather than mess around people I've a lot of respect for.

I've said yes to things when my instincts told me to say no in the past and ended up doing work I'm not proud of. I don't want to do that again if I can because I invariably get deeply involved in my work and while I can accept other people not rating it the bottom line is I have to.

So now I'm writing something else, in an entirely different genre and entirely on spec after a very gratifying run of commissions, but the important thing is it's to please me first and hopefully others later.

Monday, 5 March 2012


We saw The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel yesterday, and it's not bad. It won't, I think, ever surprise you or particularly challenge you. It's a pleasant film with a great central cast, a smattering of funny lines and a thin story. The Full Monty conquered the world on far less.
There are a few little niggles though, all of which could have been avoided. It feels like one tiny rewrite away from being a more satisfying film, and the details that are wrong feel so obvious I can't help wondering whether it's one rewrite more or fewer that would improve it. These are things that feel like they must have been in the script and got lost along the way.

So, if you think you'd like to see the film with all its twists and turns intact (even though they are tiny and you'll anticipate them all) SPOILERS FOLLOW...

1) Maggie Smith's character journey as Muriel is muddied and her hidden strengths go unhinted at for far too long. Surely, her interest in organisation should have been expressed alongside racist suspicion in her exasperation at the management of her health care, her flight and the bus journey to the hotel. It's a tiny addition in the portrait of her intolerance that would have gone unnoticed until the reveal of her efficiency with a spreadsheet. As it is the revelation comes a little bit out of nowhere in the middle of her story.

2) Muriel also asks, apparently without guile, where Tom Wilkinson's Graham goes every day. He dodges the question, yet a minute later she is able to tell Penelope Wilton's Jean that he goes to the Public Records Office. There's either a big subplot about Muriel gone here or the Graham and Muriel scene has been cut down either in the writing or the edit and once had that revelation in it. It's a jarring mistake that's easily avoidable.

3) There feels to be a character beat missed at Graham's cremation. Jean should be expressing, no matter how discreetly, a number of conflicting feelings that move her on- I'd expect some revulsion at the custom given her other reactions to aspects of Indian life and regret about what she'd invested in Graham as well as grief. The scene really should be a further illustration of how far she's moving from her husband who's embracing the culture. As it is, it seems her story just stops for a bit to simply portray sadness. This feels like it's just one brief wordless cutaway from being resolved, and maybe an editing rather than writing issue. The notion Jean is conflicted vanishes when it should be highlighted, even by as little as a held reaction shot.

4) The story of Judi Dench's Evelyn teaching the call centre workers how to talk to older British people doesn't have enough pay-off. I feel Dev Patel's Sonny's eventual declaration of love to Tena Desae's Sunaina or their shared confrontation with his mother, and ideally both, should be laced with communication lessons learned, and could possibly even be done by 'phone to make it easier for the characters. It feels such a natural pay off I find it hard to believe it wasn't there at some point. What we have is probably easier to make immediate and visual but I feel there's a big thematic call back flapping around those scenes wanting to get in, and it seems daft to have kept it out.

Anyway, you might enjoy it. It has no explosions and a great cast and I liked it for what it was, even though I'd have loved it if it'd been 5% different.