Archive for November, 2010

17
Nov
10

Inspired by “The adventures of Pete and Pete”…

I used to be a big fan of a Nickelodeon sitcom series called The Adventures of Pete and Pete. If you didn’t have cable in the mid 1990s, you’ve probably never heard of this cult US show as it didn’t make it onto terrestrial TV in Britain. The programme focused on the lives of two red-haired brothers (both called Pete) and often featured some surprisingly famous guest stars e.g. Iggy Pop, Steve Buscemi, Michael Stipe. Nowadays, you can find many episodes of the show on YouTube or even buy the first two seasons on NTSC DVD.

What I liked about this TV show was its curious mix of comedy, nostalgia and surrealism – a sort of cross between The Wonder Years and Round The Twist. It appealed to kids and adults alike (a difficult balance to strike) and the production values were high. If you paid attention to the camerawork and dialogue and pulled apart the storytelling, you began to realise how much creative skill had gone into each and every script. The writers, Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi, are immensely talented and most episodes of Pete & Pete (in my opinion) are mini masterpieces.

Anyway, to cut to the chase: I’ve always thought that a show like this has been lacking in the UK for young teens. I’d never written a TV script before, so I bought a book on screenwriting and taught myself the basics. Then I sat down and wrote “The Blue Butler”, a pilot episode for an ongoing series that I tentatively titled “Out Of The Blue”. The heroes of this story are two young cousins, JB and Jonno, who live on the same suburban street.

You can read the entire script here: Out of the Blue_Pilot_Final Draft

I seem to recall that I initially sent this spec script to the BBC Writersroom, who returned it without comment. Then I sent it to Talent TV, who came back with some lengthy and very constructive criticism… but felt that they wouldn’t be able to sell it.

After that, I searched and searched but couldn’t find any more UK production studios that fit the bill i.e. willing to consider live action, willing to consider children’s comedy, willing to consider unsolicited scripts, etc. So eventually, I filed this away on my hard drive and left it there. All comments are more than welcome.

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03
Nov
10

Capitulatio – a play that lost its head

Roman helmetDid I mention that I’m a lapsed archaeologist? Half of my university degree was Ancient History and the other half was English. I gave up archaeology shortly after I graduated (month after month of digging in the cold, driving rain eventually took its toll) but I’ve always retained a keen interest in it.

In the back of my mind, I always had a niggling urge to write a play set on an archaeological excavation… perhaps with a murder involved, like an Agatha Christie mystery… with enough history involved to get people thinking about Britain’s past.

When I finally bit the bullet and started writing (having taken a week off work in 2006), everything seemed to flow and out of my fingertips poured a 70-page play. I wasn’t happy with it, so I gave it to a few carefully selected friends for some feedback. After hearing their thoughts, I went through a few more edits and I still wasn’t happy.

Time passed. I moved on to other things. I lost interest in my story and in how to fix it. I decided that the project had lost its way, dumped it on my hard drive and forgot about it. Until now. I see this script as an exercise of sorts – it taught me that I need to have a proper story mapped out on paper before I begin to write… and that it’s hard work turning history into drama.

The play is called “Capitulatio”, a Latin word meaning “beheading”. It deals with a present-day archaelogical dig taking place on a remote Orkney island. At one point, it flashes back in time to Roman Britain where we see a Centurion angrily beheading a helpless Celtic family. Cheery stuff!

Here it is. Feel free to have a read: Capitulatio – Final Draft

01
Nov
10

King Cuckoo’s Flight School

This is the first play I ever wrote. I based it on an ancient Greek comedy by Aristophanes called “The Birds”.

It’s a slapstick farce aimed at kids and I originally hoped it would catch the eye of someone at The Polka Theatre (a famous children’s theatre in Wimbledon). But ultimately, it wasn’t their cup of tea. I think I was 22 when I hammered out this script… and looking back, I think I was drinking way too much coffee. Everything about it is hyperactive and every other sentence ends with an exclamation mark.

The basic premise is this: two chimpanzees, Dr Banana and Wally, want to become birds – so they disguise themselves with feathers and try to trick King Cuckoo into teaching them how to fly.

It ain’t perfect, by any stretch, but here it is… all 49 pages of it: King Cuckoo’s Flight School – Final Draft

01
Nov
10

Getting started…

My name’s Russell Norris. I’m 30 years old and for the last 9 years I’ve been making a living as a copywriter in London, England.

In my spare time, I write other things: unsolicited things that tend to get rejected and consigned quietly to my hard drive. I decided today that it couldn’t hurt if some of this writing found its way online. If nothing else, it’s some proof in the pudding… some walk to go with the talk…   

I’d like to share this stuff simply because I wrote it; because it took time and effort to write; because, however inconspicuous, at the very least it might serve as some sort of start. If you take the time to read anything on this blog, feel free to let me know what you think.