Tuesday, 16 June 2009

London & CBBC Q&A

As you'll know, I went to London yesterday to meet up with Michelle. We've been friends for about a year but only spoke yesterday - weird I know! Anyway, after getting up at 6am (to make the most of the day) I got on that tiring train to London. On the way, I saw some interesting people. At 8am, the three blokes at the table next to me broke out their first cans of Stella. Less than two hours later, they had consumed 10 between them.

I met up with Michelle and we faced navigating London. We may have gotten lost a few times but we made it. We also got a fair bit of exercise walking all over the place, including from King's Cross to Oxford Street - go us!

Before then, outside King's Cross, I saw a few police cars and ambulances. I also saw a cop getting kitted out in anti-stab gear and whatnot. Caught my interest to say the least. Then we saw about 4 police vans racing around, packed with fully-armoured cops. They seemed to be sectioning off an area outside King's Cross. Not a clue what it was about, so if anyone does, let me know.

Where was I?

So after getting lost a few times in London and walking for miles, we made our way to Sloane Square and chatted for a bit, while sitting by a pretty fountain thingy. There we saw this random bloke shouting insanely loud into his phone. Was quite funny. Another guy appeared at the fountain, took a handful of really dirty water and either drank it, or used it to do his hair (we didn't see). Either way - freak!

Then we met up with Katie inside the Royal Court Theatre, had a good natter about writing and went into the CBBC Q&A. This is the part where I'd go through what happened in there but other bloggers have beaten me to it. So I'll link you to Jason's post - he links to other people who have talked about it.

But they haven't covered everything. [Note: I put 'anything' here originally. Supposed to be 'everything'. A complete typo I assure you - no insult intended. Good links] So I'll just bullet point a few things that should help with children's writing and drama in general. They're not particularly organised, but some useful info here:
  • Steven Andrew (new head of CBBC drama) has the vision of making kids see the world in a different way. Write something that shows the world differently.
  • Never patronise the kids - they know when you're doing it.
  • On that note, be careful. There are some issues that are out of bounds and shouldn't be dealt with too much. Some things they're not looking for are; relationships (bf/gf) and sport.
  • They see kids' TV as having 5 genres: action/adventure, morality, fantasy/sci-fi, comedy, multi-cultural. They also seem interested in mental/psychological issues, but only if it's done right. Research before attempting! Know that schizophrenia is not Multiple Personality Disorder. Attack one of those areas. Do it well and - most importantly - differently!
  • Don't just write a drama about saving the world etc. Make sure things are grounded. Show the kids' real problems. Eg - they worry about exams etc.
  • In kids' drama, the kids need to do the main things - it's no good having an adult think of the thing that saves the day. A child needs to do that - it's their show.
  • Don't write the kids into every scene - they can't work all the time (for legal reasons). So have some scenes with just adults to even things out.
  • You can do stranger, weirder things with kids because that's what they like. Have some insane, bizarre events.
  • Go with the standard conflict & resolution process: someone needs to get somewhere. The car breaks down. Their friend gives them a lift. They get a flat tyre. He steals a skateboard. It breaks. He finds a bike..... you get the idea. One problem is solved and they're faced with another.
  • Be careful what you show kids doing. The BBC can't condone dangerous behaviour without consequence. If someone climbs a tree, they need to get hurt top show the kids at home it's dangerous. Similarly, if someone breaks the law, they need to get caught.
  • Remember the core of the story/show. In BUFFY, it was about her slaying vampires. The finale still had that. Your show should know what the purpose is and stick to that above all else.
  • Provoke a reaction to a character - make the audience care about a character and make them respond to their actions.
  • Action vs dialogue. Kids like action, not lots of talking. Don't tell when you can show. Anyway, kids can't remember pages of dialogue. They can, however, remember where to walk.
  • Have a small cast to save money.
  • Keep the perspective from the child. As soon as you're not telling the story from the child's POV, it becomes an adult drama.
Those are the majority of things I took away from the session. As I've said, check out other bloggers, especially Michelle, because she'll be posting more no doubt (probably tonight). Katie has also done a vlog about the night here.

After the CBBC session, we hung out in the bar at the theatre (where a lot of celebs go, including Matt Smith - the new Dr Who)

After a few drinks, we made our way to King's Cross. On the tube, we saw some females devouring a bottle of vodka and some beer. To be honest, they looked more like orcs than women!

After leaving Michelle and Katie, I got on my train and collapsed. I fell asleep, woke up, got off the train, got ripped off for a taxi and climbed into bed dead on midnight.

Looooog day. Worth it though - I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Happy writing folks.

4 comments:

John Soanes said...

I was hoping to go to this, but got tied up at the day job, and was too late, grr.
So, many thanks for a great summary.
And on behalf of London, I can only apologise for some of the strange sights you saw...
J

Paul McIntyre said...

Yeah, a great summary - really helpful notes too - cheers Neil.

Splinter073 said...

Brilliant post Neil! I especially liked the throw-away comments on the sites you encountered during your mammoth trek down to London! :)

Antonia said...

Thanks fopr the excellent write-up and the adventures of two roaming scriptwriters. Fab.

I'm particularly interested in the thoughts of Steven Andrew, when he talks about making children see the world in a different way.

Not read Katie's or Jason's posts yet, but Michelle's is brilliant too.