And following the fabulous tips from top author Elizabeth Chadwick in the last blog (including a competition to win a signed copy of award-winning novel 'To Defy A King'), I went off to get even more inspiration at a special weekend course up north – that's why I wasn't on air on Saturday and Sunday nights as usual!
OK so I never got to go to a campus uni! I stayed at home when I went to the London School of Economics, so it was with great pleasure that I experienced a little bit of campus 'life' last weekend at the York Writing Festival run by Writers' Workshop on the grounds of York Uni – we even stayed in the halls of residence. Never had en-suites in my day!
'Oh man! Look at those cavemen go'…
I don't know what it was about that series that captured everyone's imagination, but if you recall, 'Life On Mars', (named after the smash seventies record of course), was an amazing success when it hit our screens in '06. If you didn't see it, it might still be worth a rent if you get all nostalgic about the seventies – it focuses on a cop, Sam Tyler, who is transported back to 1973 after a car accident.
Is he dead, in a coma? Time travelling? We don't know. Well not till the end. But it captures that era so well, it makes you yearn for those triangular frozen 'Jubblies', 2p phone boxes, and flares and David Bowie music. OK forget the flares, after all they're just back in fashion again. But it's so clever the way it uses '70's references, music and styles. And political 'uncorrectness'. Anyway, advert over. As you can tell, I loved it!
Turns out the whole series took – guess how many years to make? EIGHT! Eight years! Eight years before it actually got made, Ashley and two of his mates from the industry had sat around working on new show concepts and thought the idea of a current day hi-tech, 'by-the-book' cop being back in strike-ridden, un-PC Britain, in a Bodie and Doyle/The Sweeney type police station would be an amazing idea!
Channel Four missed out on it; the top bods turning it down as a bad idea, even though the Head of Drama liked it so much. Ultimately the same guy went to the BBC, got it made with Kudos – who early on had only done small scale fishing films! – and the rest is history.
Now I've been on me scriptwriting courses before, but never listened to a real-life, bona-fide professional explaining his craft in blow-by-blow detail. So it was a joy to watch episode four all the way through and analyse it afterwards. OK so I'm a geek – but you knew that anyway, right?!
Another amazing fact for you – don't know if you realised, but the whole lot is shot from Sam Tyler's point of view. There are NO scenes where he's not in it. None. That's why – industry gossip – a third series never got made. It should have done, but John Simm opted out as it was such hard work and he had a young family back in London apparently.
Which all gave rise to a follow up series – 'Ashes To Ashes' – set in the '80's with a clever twist to how the main characters appear the same. Ashley and the team weren't quite ready to say goodbye to the Gene Hunt character so they made him even more funny and had another hit in 'Ashes To Ashes', thank goodness. Thank goodness for us, thank goodness for tens of thousands of soundtrack CD's, and thank goodness for the timely 80's shoulder-pads resurgence. Oh, and for Keeley Hawes' career!
Actually, I also loved 'Ashes To Ashes' but for completely different reasons – they were like two different series to me. What did you think? Oh and there's a wonderful clip of outtakes on YouTube if you search 'Monastic Productions'! And if you're interested in scripts, if you go to Ashley's website, monasticproductions.com, you can even see some of the shooting scripts from 'Life On Mars', 'Ashes To Ashes', and other fab productions of his. Great inspiration and a cracking good read!
Some of the cast and production team after the last scene of 'Ashes To Ashes' was filmed – from left to right: Matt Graham, Philip Glenister, Keeley Hawes, Jane Featherstone (MD of Kudos Productions), Ashley Pharoah and Simon Crawford Collins (Kudos Productions)
Reading out my story – my TiFFT for March!
Another highlight of the York Festival last weekend for me was doing my reading – the first 500 words of my novel - in the final of 'Authonomy Live' – the after-dinner competition where the final seven stood up in front of about three hundred people to read out their work! OMG. I may be happy with TV cameras but I was still sick with nerves about doing that!
OK, not quite sick – I did manage to eat dinner! – but I was glad I did it. Didn't win – was just chuffed to have been in top seven, and the reading by the winner Cicely was fab, all about a coming-of-age in a 1950's boarding school. She brought the house down! So without further ado, see below for paragraph one of my story, and I'm happy to announce that my TiFFT for March is doing Authonomy Live!
For those that don't know, it means 'Try it For the First Time' Club, and my offering for March 2011 is that nerve-wracking experience of reading a bit of my own story out in front of a room full of industry people! What's yours? (NB. Facebook group also available to join – search 'tifft' on Facebook!)
Anyway it all went well, and I got a few laughs, in the right places happily! And I had some lovely feedback – mostly from ladies saying the funny start of my love story made them smile! In case you're curious, at the bottom of the page is that first bit of my story – just remember I'm writing a Mills and Boon romance 'The Playboy Billionaire's Hawaiian Affair' (!!)
Student drama and a very important visitor
I was Hermia in Midsummer Night's Dream, and he was my 'lover' Lysander. It was a fabulous experience to tread those hallowed boards – even if I was a fairly rubbish, fairly Cockney actress! ("Oi am amAY-ZED, and know not wot to sighee…").
Now to help with publicity the director, Laurie Ireland, invited a certain Elizabeth Taylor to come along for some pictures with all of us! She was in town performing in the 'Little Foxes' at the time. She was very gracious, posed for tons of photos, and several made the papers the next day. We were all absolutely chuffed to have met such a legend. This pic shows me shaking her hand, with pal Jane Purcell in the background (she's a writer now) next to Mark Bannister. I wonder what Mark's up to nowadays? Last heard of, fixing kitchens after a brief stint as an actor in Casualty or EastEnders or some such years ago!
Anyway, you know when you meet somebody and they just carry such a presence that everyone and everything around them just pales by comparison? And everyone goes quiet and 'knows not what to say'? That's what it was like being near such a screen legend as Elizabeth Taylor. Such a shame she's gone. One of the last true Hollywood icons, they said. And according to latest reports, one of the true romantics too – she was apparently buried with a letter from Richard Burton, which she'd kept on her bedside table for more than 20 years.
It was one he'd sent her just days before he died, which she'd kept from biographers and press for decades, apparently talking about true loves. Bless. Asked about whether he was her true love she reportedly said 'I married him twice didn't I?' And legend has it she was born with two rows of eyelashes, so much so that in her first early film, when she was about 8, Roddy McDowall a fellow child actor at the time recalls the director demanding she go have her mascara removed! No wonder she became a star. Still we can console ourselves with some of our fabulous cosmetics brands on QVC to make the most of our lashes, even if we've only got one layer, eh girls! Lol.
Our little stint at the Old Vic in '82 had a lot of ups and downs, but that visit was one of the highs – not just of that show, but of my brief acting 'career'! I stuck to presenting after I finished uni – best to leave the acting to the professionals I think!
Anyway hope you have a good week. I've got a fab weekend of products lined up! See you on the telly box!
PS – don't forget to leave a comment and tell me what you think to the above – or the below! Or if you've got a lovely recollection about meeting somebody famous!
(PPS – here's the first bit of my novel – so far!!)
If throwing a mobile phone into the sea could take all her troubles away, then Sadie Turner would be a stone lighter, debt-free and not in the mood for killing somebody.
Well, one 'body' in particular– the one whining away into her ear right now about why he couldn't meet this month's alimony – OR have the girls at the weekend. Again. The useless, lying, cheating, no good, thieving…
"HELLO there? This one's not for sale I'm afraid", said a voice nearby. A deep voice.
Startled, Sadie swung round and fumbled the phone, nearly fulfilling her prophesy.
"Oh!… Hang on, there's… no, hang ON…" she told her caller, who didn't hang on, "…Ugh! I'll call you back another time." She looked up, face like thunder. "I'm sorry?"
"I said THIS yacht's not for sale. You need to go two berths further down, don't you?" The man was in the shadows but seemed to be gesturing towards her elbow.
Puzzled, Sadie hoisted her bulging handbag higher, forgetting about the shiny sales brochure tucked under her arm. It slid down and smacked onto the slats of the jetty. She bent over to retrieve it… slowly… and her ever so slightly-too-tight business suit pinched a little. Then removing her fake designer sunglasses she squinted up at him in the Mediterranean sun.
He stepped forward – he was tall – tall and lean. Attractive in a rugged sort of way – if you liked them rough and ready. And Sadie did. Thing is, no-one had told her pounding heart she was supposed to be on a 'Man-Ban'.
He was wearing shorts. Just shorts. All that stood between them was a pair of oily cut-offs and a spanner.
UH-ohhhh… The afternoon sun wasn't the only thing that was getting hot.