Tag Archives: Television

Going in front of the camera

TVPhil3Phil: Once upon a time, authors could hide away behind their typewriters and word processors. We turned in our great words to someone who took them away and did the rest.

Times have changed. Even if you have a conventional publishing deal where someone handles book production and distribution, authors are expected to be front and centre in the publicity drive to sell copy. Even those of us in the magazine world find ourselves with a more varied career than just hammering a keyboard. Social media and blogging are one thing. Worse, you can be expected to appear on camera.

Now we expect that this is going to happen. In many ways we are looking forward to it. Writing is fun but selling the story is a task we really look forward to tackling.

If you look at the heading on this page, it’s pretty obvious that half of team NolanParker are TV friendly with years of extras work as well as a background in marketing and PR. The other half now finds himself having to take a crash course in not looking stupid on camera.

The magazine I work for has decided to produce DVDs where the team will illustrate some of the content on the page. Since I’m the “How to” article man, I’m going to have to feed on years watching Blue Peter presenters wrestle with sticky back plastic and double-sided tape to understand how to perform properly.

Step 1: Clean clothes and a haircut. Check.

Step 2: Turn up at the studio. Work out your “narrative” and get on with it.

The narrative is essentially the story you are trying to tell. In the film world, they will storyboard everything so you can see a visual thread running through the production. I just worked out what I wanted to do and the order I wanted to do it in my head.

Step 3: Try not to talk rubbish.

I’m not very good at learning lines and if I did, I suspect it would sound like I am reading from a page. When presenting to an audience, I use the slides as cue cards along with a few notes and make the rest up as I go along. Ten years of hospital radio presenting honed my skills but when a camera is involved, it steps up a level.

The closest I can describe my efforts is the radio panel game, Just a Minute. Contestants have to speak for 1 minute without any repetition or pauses. When I write, I’m very careful to avoid close repetition of words and phrases. This is fine on the page because I can edit away any problems. On screen, it’s even more important to avoid this but there’s not much you can do when you screw up except go for another take. Since I want the cameraman to like me, he’s also the editor and has ultimate power over how stupid you look in the final cut, it’s important to do this as few times as possible.

Anyway, I have now seen the final version of the film we made. 9 minutes of Phil for just over an hours filming. That sounds poor but I’m told is pretty good going. Candice tells tales of incredible amounts of time spent perfecting each scene in TV drama land. I’ll admit that I watched the TV through my fingers but I don’t think it’s too bad.

All this is useful because hopefully I’ll be fully practised when it’s time to tour the worlds TV studios to promote The Book!

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Murder Mystery Nights

Candice: Has anyone been on a murder mystery night?  I’ve been on one a long time ago for a Hen do.  To be honest we drank too much and couldn’t really keep track of what was going on.

However, Friday night I went to an amateur one, amateur performers but a professionally written play performed by them. The proviso was a wedding where the whole family were there and suddenly in the middle of the performance someone keeled over and died.  It was our job, as a table of 8, to work out who done it.

The deceased was the father of the groom, an obnoxious man who told everyone what he thought of them before keeling over. The rest of the wedding party then came round each table and you were able to ask questions about what you had seen or heard.  This turned into a bit of a bun fight as everyone on the table wanted to ask questions at once (and got progressively worse as they drank more Crabbies Ginger Beer).  At the end we had a conclusion…however it wasn’t the same conclusion across the table!

After a vote we decided on the answer but I didn’t agree, it seemed too obvious to me.  The murderer was supposedly the wife of the deceased, killing him for being cruel to her.  Well, the fact she had her arm in a sling was a bit of a give away.

However, that was the consensus and we went with… and we were right.  Or rather the table was.

But to me it did not ring true.  In my world of plotting, she was too much of an obvious subject and I thought it was some else, some one more subtle.  However, in all my reading and watching these kind of programmes perhaps I am looking for the red herring before the actual culprit.  This show did not break off 10 mins before the end to have an advert break before announcing who the real killer was, which messed up my usual lines of deduction.

So, am I not as good as I thought I was?  Perhaps I’m just better as murder dramas for TV or film, not for entertainment on a Friday night in the local community hall.  Good show though!

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The police procedural

Riozoli and IslesCandice: I like to read police based fiction as the main body of my reading matter, as well as watching it on TV too.

To me it is the toughest kind of writing, as I always struggle to work out how they come up so many different ways for people to commit a crime, with added twists and turns and red herrings. I know, during the writing of the book, Phil and I have created some side stories to make things more interesting but none of them involve having to know about police procedure or medical technical jargon. They just involve mad ideas that popped in to our heads.

When I read and watch these dramas I am just amazed at how they come up with the route to the end of the story, does the crime and culprit come first and then the padding of extra characters. How do they manage to find so many ways for people to seem like they’ve done it, when they haven’t ?

I love to work out who has actually done it before the end, I actually quite good at it, but it doesn’t mean I could write a story like that. So hats off to all you crime writers out there.

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Twitter could kill TV storylines

Dr WhoPhil: I’m not really a Twitterer. I might have a user name (Practical_Phil since you ask) and 38 followers (14 less than someone else) but despite quite a bit of research, I still don’t get it.

Apparently, Twitter is all about conversations and the way you take part in these is to use the appropriate hash tag. I’ve been meaning to give this a go so on Christmas day, I watched the Dr Who special and tuned in to #drwho on my ‘phone.

What I found there was lots of moaning. 10 minutes in and people are pronouncing the episode a terrible failure. As we progress, they are commenting that of course the potential new assistant looks like a character seen in a previous episode because it’s the same actress. And so it went on.

Now the show only lasted an hour. That’s 60 minutes. You could watch the whole thing and even if you didn’t like it, you hadn’t really wasted much of your life. Not for the Twitteratti though, judgements had to be made instantly because their opinions were vital to the sum of human knowledge.

This is all fine. People love a moan and if it keeps them entertained, who cares. Except that despite being aimed at a slightly drunk audience with bellies full of the devils own Brussel Sprouts, the plot was a little bit more complicated than it appeared. Yes, there was the main story about killer snowmen to entertain Granny, but alongside this was a darker plot with an emotionally damaged Doctor finding the will to carry on after the “death” of his last companions.

It brought to my mind the book version of James Bond in “You only live twice”. This opens with Bond recovering from the murder of his wife and we first find him a depressed man in mourning, not unlike the Doctor at the start of his story. Like Bond, by the end of the show, he is back on form and we have a new mystery in the form of Oswin who we are told will become the new companion despite dying twice in two very different eras.

All good you might think. We like slightly convoluted plot lines, mysteries and twists in the end. Except that those hammering Twitter don’t. They want nice, sequential, simple stories that they can comment on and understand at every single point. Mystery, no thanks. They want everything served up on a plate. We can’t waste time building the plot – give it to us now ! They yearn to see behind the curtain and if the Wizard wishes to keep his secrets, the result will be a tantrum.

This might not matter except that the people who commission this sort of stuff read Twitter. They will remember the opinions of people who couldn’t wait until the end to make comment. Commissioners will demand ever simpler plots full of linear narrative. It will be a gradual process but slowly, the complexity of TV drama will fade.

Still, we’ll still have books won’t we? Surely no-one tweets as they read?

 

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The Hunger Games.. hungry for more

Candice: This time of year brings to mind a number of things for me, either “whey hey, the football is over” or “oh bugger, I’ve got another four weeks of it and its going to be worse than before”. Well, this year, unless you don’t have a TV you can’t have missed that there is a small tournament going on. I believe it’s called Euro 2012.  So, for the last week or so I have found a new home, our conservatory.  While the other half is watching in the lounge, I have been chilling in the lovely daylight, sometimes with my able furry assistant.  Emanating from the other side of the house can often be heard, “oh, ah, ohhhh”, and that’s not the blue movie he was watching.  Nope, it’s the sound I hate, FOOTBALL.

However, this has allowed me some quality reading time as I have been a bit slack since the return from holiday.  So my first tackle (ha ha) was The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  Written for a slightly younger audience than I, it impressed me by drawing me in from the word go.  Having read “The Running Man” by Stephen King, a similar premise of someone trying to escape game that involved being killed,I wasn’t sure it could do it better, it didn’t but just approached it differently.  I have to say there wasn’t a point in this book where I didn’t want to know what happened next, and though I had an inkling of the outcome, I wondered how she would achieve it.

I won’t give the game away but safe to say, it all ends well but with a nice twist leading on to book two.  And, though there is alot of violence, the sex is minimal (thank god!).

The characters are well drawn, the main female Katniss is strong but shows some weakness, but doesn’t do anything that makes you think, “oh she’d never do that.”  And the fact she can survive in the environment is built well from the start, rather than her suddenly being an expert outdoors person.  I want to know more about the world they live in, and how the present world became their ‘Panem’.

Book two is on my list, but I am holding back else I will read them all in a month and then feel a bit bereft afterwards.   I also think I’ll make an effort to see the film when it’s on the movie channel to see how that works.

So I have one thing to thank the football for!

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