Archive | November, 2011

BBC Radio 4: Opening Lines

16 Nov

Thank you as always, BBC Writersroom, for drawing my attention to this:

The BBC Radio Drama Readings Unit welcomes unsolicited submissions from writers new to radio for their annual series, Opening Lines which is broadcast on BBC Radio 4.

As well as broadcasting the three strongest stories in the summer of 2012 they will be publishing transcripts of the shortlisted stories on a new Opening Lines webpage.

The next window for sending in material is October 17th – December 2nd, 2011. Stories submitted outside this time-frame will be returned unread. Your story will be read and responded to within three months of the submission deadline.

Content and format: They are looking for original short stories which work being read out loud i.e. with a strong emphasis on narrative and avoiding too much dialogue, character description and digression. Pay particular attention to how the story opens and closes. They’ll be looking to see whether the beginning of a story successfully links to how it ends. The Readings Unit are interested in seeing stories which cover a broad range of subject-matter but material which explores particularly dark, harrowing themes is not best suited to Opening Lines. The BBC has a rigorous taste and decency policy and cannot accept stories of a sexist or racist nature, or those which use the stronger swear words. The time allotted for each story is around 14 minutes, which means stories must be between 1,900 and 2,000 words in length. Submissions must be typed and double-spaced on A4 paper and it is important to put your name and address on the script itself. Please do not send a recording of the text.

Submission details at the WritersRoom site.

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Rocking the popularity contest

10 Nov
I'm going to admit two things upfront: this post has very little to do with theatre or writing, it is firmly in the 'and stuff' category; and this post is undeniably a rant - not an attempt at a well-constructed argument.


So, if you're still with me, here goes. I have gone from being bewildered to being pissed off about this whole "vote 4 Table Mountain" business.

Here’s a quick trip down memory lane. The original “Seven Wonders of the World” was a marketing campaign to Hellenic tourists traveling around the Meditteranean. They chose seven because it was considered a lucky number. There were several different lists, but consensus seems to have the seven wonders as: the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the Mausoleum of Maussollos at Halicarnassus, the Colossus of Rhodes, the Lighthouse of Alexandria.


During the Middle Ages people made more lists. Lots of lists. One thing these lists all have in common, is that they were lists of Things Humans Made. We were expressing our wonderment at our own skill, essentially. Such a very human thing to do.


It comes as no wonder then that modern minds have sought to exploit this idea. There are even more lists of wonders now, ranging from the opinions of individuals to the contest currently underway.


So. Let’s assume, for a second, that it’s worth making another list of wonders. I can accept that – most of the ancient wonders don’t exist, why should we trust the Greeks, tastes change, new things have come to be, people are traveling more and more widely now than then.


We then have to assume that none of the current lists are good enough. That’s a pretty large slap in the face to the people who curate them, but we can understand the human urge to “do it better”.


And let’s go with the callous disregard for the fact that Wonder with a capital W is defined as a human made marvel, regarded with awe. Let’s ditch all that, keep the name, and make an entirely new list. Because, clearly, your list is going to be the one that makes people leap out of their seats and scream “I was going to go to Paris, but now that it’s number five on the list I’m going to honeymoon at the Dead Sea instead!”


I’ll take those as read. Now, here are my questions:

1. WHY THE POPULARITY CONTEST? I know people whine about this for shows like Idols, but at least an argument can be made that part of being a popstar (the clue is in the name) is being popular. When did it become part of the job description of a mountain to be popular? And Table Mountain is just the tip of the iceberg. Can we take  a second to marvel at the conceptual complexity of the campaign currently underway called “Vote Dead Sea!”?

2. WHY ALL THE EXPENSE? Where is all the money going? Why the emphasis on voting via sms? Why did the organisers have to come and physically see the mountain? And then there is this article, detailing the millions spent and the millions potentially still to be spent on this lunacy. Do we need to be spending so much on this? Honestly, Table Mountain is already fairly famous. Since they openly admit that their contest is completely non-scientific, I non-scientifcally asked a bunch of people on Twitter and they’d all heard of Table Mountain.

3. Why is Cape Town so all over this? As @tarrynsaunders pointed out, we could be using all those R2s towards making the mountain safer for people who visit there. Or putting it into an environmental trust, maybe? What would it actually MEAN to us? What difference would it actually make? Really?

4. Why, WHY, do we have to vote “4” Table Mountain? You’re too lazy to type THREE DAMN LETTERS? Yeah, that’s how much you care.

5. Please, let’s not nominate Cape Town for the New7Wonders Cities contest. Please.

So here it is folks. One of the most iconic pieces of rock in the world. The mountain my kids call “ours”. The mountain by which I navigate. The mountain which marks out home. And no. I am not voting for it.

Yes, I am a reality TV junkie

3 Nov

“I won’t do it,” I told myself. “I won’t mention the Kardashian divorce.”

And for a while, I held firm. I thought I could do it (after all, I managed to get all the way through August without berating the concept of Women’s Month).  But then the comments started getting nasty about Ryan Seacrest, and I knew I could remain silent no longer. Seacrest is, you see, rather a hero of mine, someone who works incredibly hard to achieve what they want, and is jolly successful at it.

I detest writing bios for myself, but one thing that I always tend to add is that I’m a reality TV junkie.  Of all the things I’ve ever said in my bios, this has garnered the most comments. People are scathing, or condescending, or guiltily admit to liking reality TV too. Reality TV is like the You magazine of the television milieu, no one ever admits to buying it, yet everyone seems to have read articles in it, and everyone and their aunt has an opinion about it.

Here, then, are some ideas about reality TV – and the fans thereof – that I’d like to debunk:

  1. Just because I like reality TV doesn’t mean I like every single reality TV show that exists. Saying “I like wine” doesn’t make one an indiscriminate nana, who will happily chug down the chemical tasting red along with the finely aged merlot. Reality TV runs the gamut from the talent related (my all-time favourites Project Runway, So You Think You Can Dance, and Ru Paul’s Drag U) to the pseudo celebrity (Girls of the Playboy Mansion) to the ordinary folks in extraordinary circumstances (Survivor, Amazing Race) to the utterly mundane (Big Brother) to the rather horrific (Toddlers and Tiaras, Bridalplasty) to the endearing (Cake Boss) to the have a good old weep into your tissues (Extreme Makeover: Home Edition). Then there are all the niche special interest shows like Pimp my Ride and Masterchef. A plethora of tasty choices, and a couple of nasty flavours thrown in.
  2. Liking reality TV does not preclude the watching and appreciation of other shows, let alone the watching of films, the reading of books, swimming, or indeed any other activity. Saying “I like wine” doesn’t mean you only ever drink wine and you never eat and all you do is lie about in bed all day drinking wine (except in some cases). I am not a realitytvaholic.
  3. There is nothing “guilty” about entertainment. Fascinatingly, after a day of work and parenting and driving about and, you know, LIFE, I crave some entertainment. Sometimes intelligent entertainment, sometimes good old fashioned mindless entertainment. This does not make me a mindless individual; it makes me an ordinary person in want of a little distraction, a little escapism, a little, oh what was that word again: ENTERTAINMENT.
  4. Voyeurism is a natural human tendency.  There is nothing sinister about being fascinated by gossip. We like to observe the foibles of others. We like to commiserate. We like to gloat. We like to relate. So we’ve moved on from leaning over neighbours’ fences or people gazing at pavement cafes. The good thing about reality TV is that everyone involved has chosen to be there.  Kim Kardashian, bless her cotton socks, decided to put her whole “life” on show. Which brings me neatly to point 5…
  5. Reality TV is some of the best scripted stuff on television. Any of you labouring under the illusion that anything is ‘real’ need, well, a reality check. From the psychological profiling of participants to the careful manufacturing of circumstances to the detailed editing, there is nothing real about these shows. This is what makes reality TV more entertaining than most documentaries. This is what makes reality TV more entertaining than most people’s realities. As a writer, I am fascinated by the creation of tension, dramatic twists, the explorations of people’s psyches under extreme circumstances. Season 22 of Survivor aka Boston Rob’s superlative and award-worthy trouncing of the opposition in a flawless game is one of the clearest demonstrations of how an antihero can make a story a success.

There are other things I love about reality TV – that it has a clear beginning middle and end, for instance. That it provides an opportunity for narcissistic twats to reveal their true colours. That it gives us non sporty types things to get worked up about. That it sometimes truly does have the power to make someone’s dreams come true. There are other things I hate about it, but I’ll leave the hating to the many, many people out there who are so good at it.

Returning to Ms (safest title) Kardashian, and Mr Seacrest. Arguments about how the money would be better spent building schools or saving the planet are, to my mind, rather specious. Spending large sums of money on the making of these shows (and in this case, apparently, a faux wedding) doesn’t automatically mean that the people involved don’t give any money to charity, or do any good deeds. Or that they had an either or option, and chose MAKING MONEY MWAHAHAHAHA. And as they are private entities, what they do with their money is really no one else’s business. Unlike, you know, Greece, for example.