Thursday, October 29, 2009

Placing Brands

This week I have mostly been talking like Lola* and I have no idea why, other than it has been a funner-er way to live my week with a stinky lurgy.

Becoming quite attached to a favourite screen character is nothing new; many people would never dream of missing Doctor Who, Torchwood, BSG, Heroes, Lost, Holby - you name it - just to see what 'Character X' does next - but on Kids' TV, as an adult?

I write stuff, produce and direct stuff, have reels to prove I have voiced characters just like Lola on screen and 'puter games (although not as successful - goddamit!). More to the point I am an adult - yes, I know some would debate this - but surely all of the above should add up to an ability to remain unaffected by a pink-milk swigging girl on kids' TV? But our Lola is far more than that: she is quite the example of examples. I can spot a piece of Charlie and Lola merchandise a mile off; within the first four notes of the opening titles I know it is on, and even the last seven notes of the theme tune still drive me to distraction because I always think of Hill Street Blues; every time I see glitter and gaudy coloured scrap paper I think they'd "be good for stick-er-ing" and so it goes on.

Branded: that's what has happened to me, and the way in which Lola phrases her sentences has become very much part of the brand too, but I am unconvinced as to whether I know if a child or an adult has more brand loyalty. Obviously adults hold the purse strings and make most of the overriding decisions within a household and so therefore could be supposed to dictate brand choice, but given the option of anything and everything in a room, would a child *only* pick up his/her favourite "Dora the Explorer" merchandise? Or would they pick up Dora, only to fancy a bit of "Timmy Time" topped off with a snippet of "Thomas Tank" merch? I suspect they would as a rule of thumb, but all children differ. How about adults though? Stick a bunch of adults in a warehouse of *free* entertainment electronics - Sony on one side, LG in the middle and Beko on the other side - most people would probably gravitate towards the Sony goodies based on brand presence in the marketplace, unless they had previous bad experience or were ardent fans of LG or Beko. Ever heard someone vehemently defend 'their' Football Team, talk about how 'their' TV programme is about to come on (so everyone: shut up or die), how they prefer Nigella's Christmas recipes to Jamie's? Brands, each and every one. We are branded 24/7. So why am I stating the obvious - well, for screen writing and production reasons, of course?

Next time you sit down with a flashing cursor on virgin white 'screen paper' having completed all your background research, just take five minutes to read through your notes on how your project may be branded or at least perceived in the TV marketplace - because you've completed them too, haven't you? No? Well, you may want to start making mental notes to this avail because brands as we know are big business.

No need to spend hours and hours agonising over whether the name will look good on the Point of Sale posters, or whether the font is slightly too Doctor Who - that is what the sales, marketing and design experts are paid to do. Just see your story in a simple graphic, a doodle, a colour, a photo; assess how that graphic/doodle/colour/photo makes you feel and perhaps keep it nearby? Perhaps, if you hit a brick wall just after the midpoint, a quick glance at your initial 'concept brand' is all it would take to get your creative juices flowing again. This may all seem really rather far removed from any form of real writing creativity but over the next month or so, the guidelines on product placement within the UK TV industry (but not BBC) will be changing with a big bang, so it's worth gradually trying to re-tune your mind a little.

Film is no stranger to product placement: take Warner Bros Watchmen (2009) - the main featured brands totalled a fairly average nineteen, all of which were 'vintage' 1980s versions; "The Proposal" (2009) (Bullock/Reynolds) reads like a who's who in luxury designer brand placement, with placement winner, Apple, having an iMac in every computer scene.

"But I'm a writer, not a marketing & PR person!" I hear you shout and, yes, this is true: but you are, however, in business. So you would think your creativity would be curtailed by the fact that XYZ Brand's Product is heavily investing and therefore needs prominence - in fact, it has been suggested that blatant placement turns a lot of viewers off - but it is worth bearing in mind, once the guidelines have been drawn up, you may just have to incorporate certain elements into your work. I may be wrong and talking total rot, but I feel it is sometimes better to be prepared and open to new ideas.

When you are sending out your work, obviously you don't brand anything (unless you've been asked to, of course). Just make these ideas/visuals your own personal branding, one which enables you to focus on the crux of your story and allows you to talk with even more passion and gravitas than you had upon idea conception.

Give it a go. It may just help.

Monday, October 26, 2009

0110 - Part Six

Choosing Writer No. 6 for "0110:Twisted Tales & Glorious" was always going to be really tough - and that's not to say selecting Writers number one through five wasn't hard enough with all the obscene talent out there. Writer No. 6 always had to have an addition strong element attached to them - a duplicity, as it were - and in my ideal world (and weird mind) that 'other element' had to take the form of a performer.

Now, believe me, scheduling five writers and myself to be in the same place at the same time has been tough enough, but when you add filming commitments/performance schedules into the mix, it becomes really good fun.

So, I have been up and down mountains and hit the dusty track many a time over the last few months in my search for the perfect Writer No. 6. Like all the other Team members, I have not just had to assess their writing ability and determine whether this person would gel and work with the other Team members, I have also had to bear in mind their performance suitability for the project. Then, two weeks ago, just when I thought I had totally exhausted all avenues of writer/performers I flicked on the TV and saw a certain actor who, not I had not only worked with, but also knew to be a writer.

The next day we spoke and arranged a time to meet up - although not immediately as he was just about to fly out to Georgia to appear literally alongside Andy Garcia in Renny Harlin's new feature, "Georgia". When he got back we had a fine lunch and a great meeting. We both got very excited about the possibilities ahead for "0110" and so without any further waffle - apologies for too much already - ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I am very happy indeed to announce our final writer, our "0110:Twisted Tales & Glorious" Writer No.6 and Performer No. 1 is the marvellously talented, Alan Mckenna.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

0110 - Part Five Point Five

A brief respite from "0110: Twisted Tales & Glorious" over the weekend - normal service will resume next week...

Indeed there are a few more announcements to be made, and it's not 'just' Writer No. 6...

Until then.

Friday, October 23, 2009

0110 - Part Five

I wish I had something not so glistening to say about our next "0110: Twisted Tales & Glorious" Writer, but I haven't. I mean - they all sound too damn perfect, don't they? Well they are. End of. Deal with it.

And so, without further ado, let me introduce you to the utterly delightful - and possibly not so well known to all my usual blog readers - Writer No. 5: Dan Hall.

As soon as I met Dan, we gelled; then, once I read excerpts of his work and saw his visual style in the photography field, I knew he would be the perfect fit for our 0110 jigsaw. He possesses an incredible writing talent as well as an impeccable TV pedigree and, strangely enough, is a jolly nice person to boot.

Welcome, Dan!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

0110 - Part Four

A quiet wackiness entwined itself around the table at our very first 0110 Writing Team meeting - an energy that required, as expected, movement of furniture and quick, sardonic replies.

With that visual in mind, it is time for another announcement - to introduce you to our "0110: Twisted Tales & Glorious" Writer No. 4: Piers Beckley.

I have read a great deal of Piers' work and can only wonder which part of rocket science and nuclear physics he failed (or perhaps he didn't). A very clever writer who is also possessed by a most congenial nature and a fractal outlook that embodies the spirit of 0110.

Welcome, Piers!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

0110 - Part Three


And so to the third of our "0110: Twisted Tales & Glorious" scribes.

It is my great pleasure to announce that Writer No. 3 is the delectable, deft and dedicated, Michelle Lipton. Quite the drama queen - in a literary sense, please - Michelle will add her own polished distortion of thoughts to 0110, and for that, I am utterly delighted to have her on our skilled team.

Ms Lipton - welcome!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

0110 - Part Two

As I mentioned yesterday, all this week I will be announcing our writers for "0110: Twisted Tales & Glorious" and so without further ado, I am thrilled to announce Writer No.2 is the adorable and buoyant Helen Smith.

Having been privy to quite a few of Helen's plays, I am very excited she has become part of the Team and will be bringing yet another different style and outlook to the table. Welcome to the madness, Helen!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Broadcasting 0110 - Part One

Hello you

I've been having a mighty busy few days since I last dropped by to check on you all, but boy has it been good.

First of all, a belated thank you to Conor Dignam (Director, Emap's media group), Lisa Campbell (Editor, Broadcast) and their lovely Marketing & Editorial team at Broadcast who very kindly asked me to join in for a light lunch in order to discuss the contents - past, current and future - of that very shiny trade weekly and website. For those of you who aren't subscribers, you really should be. If you want to know your market - as a writer, director, producer, technical genius - then the pages of this weekly should be regularly digested. In fact, just the access to the online Commissioning Index alone is worth it's weight in megabytes and will soon become a subscriber-only section.

From my point of view it was refreshing to be able to put one's tuppence-worth forward and then listen to the challenges and ideas the Broadcast team have bubbling. At the best of times, both film and TV are challenging industries, but at the moment the bar has been raised with regards to 'challenging', with finance being pulled and budgets being slashed everywhere you go. Trade press, such as Broadcast and Screen International can have an enormous amount of influence on the reporting of stories as they break and so to actually sit back, take the time, and assess how they can best help the industries can only be a good thing. Well done!

And so for the rest of my week: taken up with the final tweaks and preparations for "0110: Twisted Tales & Glorious". We had our initial Writing Team meeting and believe me, there was something mighty special going on. The ideas were buzzing and the air was sheer electricity. I am thrilled to be working with so many exceptional people and this is just the beginning of it all.

Every day this week, we will be announcing a new 0110 writer on the main "0110" website and with that in mind, I am totally and utterly pleased to tell you that Writer No 1 is Laurence Timms. Well done, Laurence - it's great to have you on board and to finally be able to work together.

Get on over to the 0110 site every day and see the Team grow!

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Road Was Long

What a weekend. What a week. What a month - or two.

The documentary footage went down very, very well and I had a totally amazing night at the Awards Ceremony; I'm not sure why, but I was quite weirded out by the whole evening but I guess it was seeing the exact same reactions and emotions I had experienced, rippling around the 300-odd people in the room as they watched the very footage I have now seen and mucked around with so many times. Needless to say, it was a very emotional night for everyone involved after such an intense period working on the whole project. A big shout out & well done to all those on the 'arrangement' side as well as my production side. The event wouldn't have been as successful without incredible communication, hard work and dedication all round.

And on the list.

If you are a regular reader of this blog you will be aware of "0110", and whilst moving towards the latter stages of the recent documentary/interview footage editing, I was also slowly making headway with the early development of "0110: Twisted Tales and Glorious". I am very pleased to say we now have our Writing Team and what a top bunch of talent they are. I am thrilled to be starting work with them very soon, but more on all of them over at the 0110 website. Keep your eyes peeled here and there for a load of info coming your way very soon. In fact, the diaries have just been updated.

There's an awful lot going into the cauldron at the moment but until I've got my fresh newt tails and chameleon claws to add to the mix, you'll just have to hang around to see what the result is.

Well, that's it from me for now. Hope you're all having fun and you've located and freshened up your snuggly jumpers - make sure you don't catch the sniffles and stay cozy.

Monday, October 05, 2009


This week finally sees the screening of the documentary/interview footage I have been working on lately. It will be encompassed within an 'as live' broadcast award ceremony and, I must admit, it's all looking and sounding rather lovely.

Much thanks goes out to the wonderful people who let me and my trusty crew into their lives and stories - there is a vast amount of extremely strong footage to be shown that will be sure to produce quite a few lumps in the throat. What these men, women and children have been/are going through makes what I do seem so damn insignificant, but at least on this occasion I could help orchestrate bringing these marvellous stories of bravery and fights against all odds, into the public domain.

For this opportunity - and all the others heading my way soon - I will be eternally grateful.

Now - onwards.