Neighbours (a synopsis)

Early last month I posted an excerpt of a writing project that caught my imagination, in draft, while I was kicking a few ideas around during a writing binge.

That project is still running, but it has changed shape from the comedy it was intended to be.

While I develop that project in to the hard-hitting SciFi-based drama it is crying out to become, I want to work more on sketching out some funny bone writing.

So I’m going to have another go at the funnies but I want to ask if this concept might hit the humorous.

Working Title: Neighbours

Genre: Comedy

Synopsis:

A leafy village in a rural shire. A cul-de-sac of large semi-detached houses. Two families next door to each other.

The Jones family (middle-aged, both work full-time). They are renovating the inside of their house, as such time around their professional lives allow.

The Smith family (middle-aged, he works full-time, she works 2-1/2 days per week). The Smith family have a dog which barks and howls non-stop when left in the house alone (which is at least 2-1/2 days per week, plus occasional ‘lone’ times at weekends and evenings). In addition to her part-time job, Mrs Smith does a couple of massage sessions most Saturdays, but doesn’t charge for her services.

Mr Jones has emailed Mrs Smith several times to politely complain about the non-stop barking when the Smith dog is left unattended. Three emails were sent over a particular six week period, while Mr Jones was recovering at home after a heart attack. No additional emails have been sent, as the situation appears to be beyond the control of the Smith family. A year later, the non-stop barking still happens whenever the dog is left alone.

Lately, Mrs Smith has started emailing Mr Jones to complain about the house renovation noises that occurred on a Saturday. The reason for the complaint is because this disturbance interfered with Mrs Smith’s ‘ambience’ during the two massage sessions she carried out on that Saturday.

Mrs Smith has included, in her email, the times of her massage appointments the following Saturday, and asked the Jones family for a lack of disturbance during those times.

Meanwhile the Smith’s dog continues to bark and howl, non-stop, 2-1/2 days a week, and occasional weekends and evenings.

___________________________

That’s the basic premise of ‘Neighbours’.

I think there is a significant amount of comedy that could be built in to this scenario.

Do you think it has potential for a six-part TV sitcom?

WIP

Title: Undecided

Preface: First Words/Last Words

Muffled noise.

The seatbelt had done its job.

I was securely strapped to the driver’s seat, upside down.

I shook my head to try to shake the impact memory, the thuds, the bangs, and my head being jarred around.

The windscreen was crazed, but held itself in place.

Blood dripped from my face on to the car roof below.

I was still holding on to the steering wheel.

There was a thud outside.

‘Are you OK in there?’ asked a muffled voice.

I didn’t answer.

‘Hello?’ A little clearer.

The blood continued to drip upwards from my nose, and I realised my chest hurt.

She put her head through the open window on the driver’s side.

‘Are you… Jesus Christ!’

I tried to tell her that I wasn’t the Son of God, but my tongue wouldn’t work and I realised that the blood dripping from my nose was originating in my mouth.

There was a bang on the other side of the car, and someone said something I couldn’t hear.

The passenger window was kicked in.

She was still learning in through the driver’s window when a gloved hand reached in through the passenger’s window.

The hand held a gun.

The gun spat once, and her face disintegrated.

The gun spat again and I died quicker than I was already dying.

How to write good, motorbiking, moving

I stole this off of the Twitter:

How to write good

And I made this earlier today and then put it on the YouTubes:

Hasn’t it been an awesome week (so far)? The weather has been brilliant. I’ve been able to commute on the VFR every day.

And it promises to be a dry weekend too. Woohoo!

So I’m thinking of getting a bike trailer. That’s a trailer to put a bike on, not a trailer to pull behind a bike.

And I’m thinking of moving house.

Yeah.

Meanwhile, in another galaxy

I’ve been writing film reviews again. I can’t help it. I’m now conditioned to write film reviews, after all the years of high living that writing film reviews has given me.

Aaaaahahahahahahahaha!

*wipes tears of not laughter away*

Ahem.

I shouldn’t grumble about the weather. People have been seriously injured through unfortunate weather-related events. And worse than seriously injured.

And it is, after all, the winter (and for all of the faults with the UKs weather system, it is consistent at bringing us rubbish weather at this time of year).

A colleague at work said her father had been without electricity for four days. I thought that was an extreme way to avoid watching the crap that was served up by our television channels, over the festive season.

And let’s be totally honest, this year the calibre of the Christmas viewing that our mainstream TV channels have offered us, has been spectacularly mediocre (even at its best).

But speaking of mediocre viewing…

I am working on an idea, and I sort of need some kind of assistance, sort of. Kind of. A bit. Perhaps. Maybe.

I’m working on a series of *very* short videos; it is a project for a childish audience (4-400 years).

I’ve written the scripts for 25 episodes (I did say they were *very* short, right?).

I’ve sketched out the design of the set backdrop (as much as a person like me – who can’t sketch a straight line with the aid of a ruler) can.

I have a design in mind for the occasional foreground.

What I now need is the cast.

Of two.

Yes, that’s right.

Two characters.

I’m thinking of Action Man-type dolls.

Look, stop asking questions. This will be much quicker if you let me get to the point in my own way. Right?

Good.

So, in my head (which is a funny little place at the best of times), I have two Action Man-type dolls dressed as, erm, the subject characters.

I’ll set up the lighting (going to use my portable lighting rig). I’ll mount a camera on a tripod (single angle camera, I only have one pair of hands, and don’t have the patience to coordinate twin-camera shots by myself). I’ll film. I’ll edit the film to my scripts. And then I’ll record, and edit in to the mix, the audio (the audio will be the VO and a musical track as intro, soundbed and outtro). I’ll template the titles/credits, and just copy them in to each episode.

So, as (I hope) you can see, I’m well advanced in the planning of this project.

Except I have a problem.

A teeny tiny sort of a problem.

*cough*

Ahem.

I actually have none of the Action Manesque dolls.

En to the Oh to the En to the E.

Sadly.

This is, it must be admitted, something more than a minor inconvenience.

Yes.

So if you happen to know of either one or two Action Man-type dolls, not having much to do for the next couple of weeks, could you let me know?

Thanks.

In other news.

I’m off to various DIY places this weekend to look for suitable material to begin painting the backdrop on.

Blogathon 1/13 Procrastination!

PC: It’s Groundhog Day [beat, beat] again.

The words of Phil Connors, leading character in the brilliant Groundhog Day (a film about which I know far too much).

(there’s a fun little game played by film buffs called The Mark Strong But Game – so-called because it was brought to popular attention by the actor Mark Strong. You run through the cast of a good film and add the not-good cast member. In the case of the above it would be ‘Groundhog Day. With Bill Murray. But Andie MacDowell’. Yep, it just works, doesn’t it?)

The real Groundhog Day is tomorrow (February 2nd), and yes, it is really held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. So don’t say you don’t learn anything from hanging around here.

Today, though, is the start of my own little Groundhog Day recurring event, it is the first day of the annual February post-a-day-Blogathon, inspired by young Mr Masher.

And here’s a work update.

This afternoon (it is 2pm Thursday), I am sitting on my couch.

I’m between ‘day job’ contracts and, according to my meticulously documented schedule, I am supposed to be working on my writing.

Like all writers, things aren’t going to plan.

I have written my shopping list.

I have written a couple of emails.

I am writing this blogpost.

I’ve written a few Tweets.

Sadly, the one thing that I haven’t written is the rewrite of Episode 3 of ‘Shelved’.

Oh well.

I’ll just have to spend some time over on YouTube looking at video of motorbikes.

Just until inspiration lands.

See you tomorrow, then?

I’ll try to have another interesting fact or two for you.

Ooh, must go!

Jeremy Kyle is on.

Why this matters: ‘

The difference between:

Helping your uncle jack off a horse…
and,
Helping your Uncle Jack off a horse…

is the correct use of capitals. The difference between:

Your a lovely person…
and
You’re a lovely person…

is the correct application of human intelligence. It’s that simple. Really.

I know I am guilty of using and abusing the English language (as, for reasons of emphasis or dramatic phrasing) many writers, over the years, have.

But I am considering starting an e-Petition to have those who are guilty of failing to use the apostrophe correctly, sent to the Falkland Islands.

For life.

Let’s face it, failing to correctly use an apostrophe is either a sign of abject laziness, or it is a symptom of a failing IQ.

Either way, people who can’t get to grips with the rules around this simple piece of punctuation are not welcome here.

Searching for inspiration

I’m looking for a domain name.

I get flashes of inspiration that occasionally produces solid gold possibilities, but when I check them out I find someone has got there before me.

The domain name is for the new media website that I have finally finished designing.

All I need is a name.

I thought I had the perfect one and nearly spent money buying it.

Just in time, before I pressed the ‘buy’ button, I noticed the typo.

Yeah, that could have been embarrassing.

So I’m still looking.

I can’t go in to details here, but if you’re feeling creative, leave a comment/drop me a line and I’ll email you the basic details.

Texas-bound

which actually sounds, when I read that title back, just a little – you know – BDSM-ish…

So I am en-route to Texas.

This means I’m sitting at Heathrow waiting for my United flight to be called. Or it means I’m actually sitting in an aluminium tube at 33,000ft. Or it means I’m desperately trying to kill the horribly-long layover at Houston. Or it means I’m actually in Austin, but haven’t got around to updating this blog yet.

I’ve thought long and hard about how I’m going to play the social media thing while I’m at South by South West (or #sxsw if you prefer the Twitter tag for it).

Muso-related output will, I have decided, go straight on to the This Reality Podcast website. This output may be text, video, audio or a combination of all of these things. There will also be muso- and SXSW-related tweetage on the podcast Twitter account.

This blog will carry random Texas-related text, video, audio or a combination of all of these things. And possibly non-Texas-related thoughts too. There will also be random tweetage on my personal Twitter account.

And that’s it.

The bad news is that I may have to cut short the visit, as I have been offered a contract, but it is a contract term that I start work on Monday 19th March.

This means that I’m probably not going to be able to make the Softball game that I was going to get slaughtered play in.

Oh well.

 

Review: Hamlet, The Young Vic, January 2012 (7/29)

Abstract and Brief Chronicles; a review of Ian Rickson’s production of Hamlet, as performed at the Young Vic, January 2012

It would be, if I’m honest, far too easy to focus on Michael Sheen’s performance in this staging of Hamlet.

Why would it be too easy? Because, at the risk of invoking a pun, Mr Sheen’s performance cleaned up. He left the worthy efforts of almost everyone else on the stage trailing, forlornly, in his wake.

So let’s look at the production first.

This version of Hamlet is set, controversially, in a secure mental hospital. Some of the more unadventurous critics have looked unfavourably on this setting.

And yet the metaphorical (and indeed literal) parallels between Shakespeare’s Denmark and Ian Rickson’s staging of Hamlet-in-a-mental-institution are littered throughout the original text for all to read, for all to hear in this performance and – in my own case – for all to understand with a refreshed palate.

Here’s what I mean.

You already know that Hamlet is a play with the topic of madness at its focal point, right?

So what could be more logical than transplanting a play which, essentially, hinges on the condition of mental imbalance, from the state of Denmark, to a lunatic asylum?

For as Hamlet himself remarks, ‘Denmark is a prison, in which there are many confines and dungeons’.

Hamlet (Michael Sheen)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shakespeare’s play is not just *about* madness, however. To say this play is ‘about madness’ conjures up a mental image of a grey, soulless landscape with no cause, no effect and little passion.

Hamlet is all about passion.

The heat and emotional light – and darkness – that the play generates, under Ian Rickson’s direction is, at times, breathtaking. Hamlet also deals with the cause – and effect – of this unfortunate condition.

Shakespeare chooses to focus the play on the madness of love. Or the madness that love is capable of bringing to those who had previously basked in love’s gentle warmth.

So for me, on a number of levels, the lunatic asylum setting worked. And it worked on a number of cunningly-staged levels.

The lead role of Hamlet was played, as mentioned, by Michael Sheen. Michael threw himself, body and soul, in to this role with such convincing effort, that any lesser actor would struggle to keep up with his pace.

 

And there were lesser actors, and they did struggle. To be fair, if the lead role had been played by anyone other than Michael Sheen, the gap might not have been so noticeable.

The comedy duo of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (Eileen Walsh and Adeel Akhtar) fell horribly flat on their faces. Metaphorically speaking.

Whenever Michael Sheen powered his performance in their direction, they were exposed as bumbling half-wits. But not the funny bumbling half-wits, which they should have been. They were just full of cringe.

Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude (Sally Dexter), had a patchy night that ranged from mediocre to strong in parts, whereas the despicably devious Claudius (James Clyde) played his role with style and, dare I say it, with threatening charm. In a smarmy kind of way. And that was a brilliant production fit.

Claudius (James Clyde)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ophelia (Vinette Robinson) teased out the subject of ‘madness of love’ (which, let’s face it, was one of Shakespeare’s central themes throughout a number of his works: for example, both Twelfth Night and Romeo and Juliet) with a scary realism.

It is worth nothing that Opheilia’s song was written, for this production, by PJ Harvey.  Ophilia’s mental deterioration, caused by the news of the tragic death of her father, was so brilliantly portrayed, that it could have been filmed and introduced in to the final edit of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.

And once again, there are more paralells to be found within the play; the comparative onset of madness that both Ophelia and Hamlet experience, upon learning of the death of their respective fathers, is clearly identified.

Polonius (Michael Gould)

 

A quick word on Polonius (Ophelia’s father). Michael Gould put in a workmanlike performance that quickly hit the ‘above average’ mark.

But a casting twist, in the latter part of the play, where the same actor played another role, enabled the cast to use some highly amusing eye-play amongst themselves, and with the audience.

 

 Speaking of twists, this production finishes with a casting device that I didn’t see coming. The revelation made me – and those around me – gasp in amazement.

Unfortunately, the flattest part of the evening was the casting of Horatio (Hayley Carmichael). I enjoyed Hayley’s performance but, in the face of the almost continuously overpowering stage presence of Michael Sheen, Hayley didn’t have the charisma to make the subtleties of Horatio work as well as they should have.

Maintaining the original dialogue, but introducing a modern setting and hosting the play, effectively, in the round, made Hamlet a very accessible play. Ian Rickson’s production/direction was brilliant, and, although this run has now finished, I hope that it surfaces elsewhere and continues to entertain audiences wherever it goes.

This production is an easy play to score: 9.5/10

Getting dark

I have written what is/will be a screenplay.

It is a dark piece, but it’s not the large piece of black humour that I am aiming for.

This is just a taster.

It is ‘is/will be’ because I have not yet put it in to ‘proper’ screenplay format.

But it is written.

Called ‘Go Back To Sleep’ (allegorical), it is a simple ‘to camera’ piece, narrated by a ‘him’ and a ‘her’.

On run-through, the screenplay times-in at 2m 30s.

Yet for 2-1/2 minutes, it is a powerful piece with an unexpected twist in the tale tail.

So having written it, I need to do something with it.  There are enough unfinished projects around here.

And my 2012 resolution is to finish projects.

Here’s the plan.

I shall, this weekend, put the piece in to the correct format.

And next week I will begin looking for a couple of people to play the parts.

I shall ask around, and if that doesn’t work, I shall begin calling local Am. Dram. groups.

I hope the piece plays out on film as well as it plays out in my head, and when I read it back.