I spent most of yesterday in London town with Mr J Dredge making a MOVIE! It was precisely as GLAMOROUS as you might expect.
Things got off to a bit of a rocky start the night before when, approx. 18 hours before we were due to start filming, I found out that we had lost our cameraman. I immediately LEAPT into action, digging out my old camcorder which promptyly BROKE, leading to about an hour of frantic googling to try and fix the, apparently notorious, "Error C:32:11". It turned out I COULDN'T fix it, so was forced to fall back on that old piece of folk wisdom: "Throw money at the problem".
It just so happens that I live 6 minutes away from one of the largest shopping centres in Europe so, after a further hour of RESEARCH I strolled over and, after a bit of wandering about, managed to buy myself a new digital camcorder. Throwing money at problems, it does tend to work! It'll also probably end up being rather handy, as it means I can now film OTHER stuff. Call me crazy, but I think this whole "internet" and "video" thing could well be big in the future.
Next morning I arrived at our location laden down with props and tripod and camera and general STUFF, and found John arriving at precisely the same time, similarly laden. I'd managed to book a room at my old Alma Mater, City University, through the LOVELY people at the Alumni Office so, after quite an ADVENTURE through darkened corridors and Other People's Offices, we found ourselves in the meeting room we'd asked for. Cristina from the Alumni Office was there to meet us, and we thanked her for doing such a GRATE job - the film was set IN an office building, so this was perfect!
Cristina left us to it and we commenced two hours of FILMING. It all went surprisingly smoothly - it's only a very short film but it has several locations, some with quite complicated set ups, but through a combination of pre-organisation and John being A Proper Actor we managed to MOTOR THROUGH until just after noon when we found ourselves doing the final shots outside. These were the most difficult to do as PEOPLE kept wandering past. It was noticeable that nobody batted an eyelid about what we were up to tho - this was LONDON, where everyone Pointedly Ignores anything even vaguely unusual!
We packed up and went up the road for some a) LUNCH b) SCHEMING. We'd written this film so we could enter the Reed Short Film Competition but we've got an idea to make a whole SERIES of them. Lunch was thus soundtracked by excitable CHAT about how we are going to conquer THE UNIVERSE through the medium of online sketches, and also some rather ODD (for me) ideas about casting. I'm not IN this film at all, which usually would bother me as (SPOILERS) I do tend to want to be THE CENTRE OF ATTENTION, but for this I found I was quite happy NOT to me. This is either MATURITY or me realising that I am NOT a Proper Actor, but either way we agreed that we'd look into using some of John's other Proper Actor friends to fill in parts, with me maybe doing HITCHCOCK-ESQUE small parts!
When I got home afterwards I was quite excited about all the possibilities ahead of us, and also a bit worried in case it hadn't actually worked. The camera had run out of battery - FIVE SECONDS after we'd done the final shot, weirdly - so I was a bit AFEARED in case nothing had been recorded, but it was all there and so I spent the evening going BOGGLY EYED doing a first edit. I sent it to John, received NOTES, and am now working on the NEXT version. We don't need to have it all done until mid January but I'm hoping to get it online well before then - i shall CERTAINLY let you know when it is!
posted 19/12/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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The Season Finale
On Thursday I strolled through a rather Christmassy London Town towards the King & Queen, where we were having the Season Finale of this series of Totally Acoustic. I was RIGHT looking forward to it, but was a little taken aback to arrive and find the downstairs of the pub RAMMED. I suppose it WAS "little Friday" in Office Party season but still, it was a STRUGGLE to FITE my way through to the back of the room, where Mr and Mrs Hewitt were squished up by the door.
It didn't take long for us to move up to the less steamy, more spacious upstairs area, which was MUCH nicer, though it did mean that I had to keep going back downstairs to get a) people b) BEER. Every time I went downstairs two things happened - I FOUND somebody just coming in, and BUMPED the people standing in front of the door. I felt a bit guilty about this latter the first few times it happened, but eventually thought "Hang on, you're standing right in front of a DOOR. Being bumped is pretty inevitable."
Our ACTS, Frankie Machine and Chris T-T arrived in good time, as did the audience, and by about 7:45pm I was ready to go on and do THIS:
It was, according to all informed sources, slightly ramshackle. Normally I am TOTALLY PROFESSIONAL so the only explanation for this is that I did mostly Christmas songs which, for some reason, I only seem to do about once a year and so don't know very well. I'd printed out the words but had done so in a much too tiny font size, so had to keep stopping to look! The only non-Christmas song, Mental Judo, was done as a request, so I needed the words even MORE. The highlight of the set though was The Flashing Santa. I've never done it live before because it features HARD CHORDS which were written and performed by Mr FA Machine so, as he was in the room, I got him to play for me. It was rather nice!
After a short break Frankie himself came on, and was BLOODY MARVELLOUS. It felt like AGES since I'd last seen him play and he informed me later that that's probably because it's been AGES since he's played at ALL - his last gig was 18 months ago! He did a TONNE of gorgeous, thoughtful, funny, emotional songs including my favourite "How Great Thou Art" (which I'm totally nicking for The Validators if he doesn't record it soon) and some GRATE new ones. It was brill!
And then we closed the show, the series, and indeed the ROCKING YEAR with a fantastic set from Chris T-T. He's dead good, is Chris, as soon as he starts playing you know you're in safe hands for a STIRRING set of thought provocation and, occasionally, bears of little brain. As I said in my intro, he's one of the few ARTISTES that I still happily pay Actual CA$H to go and see of my own volition, and it was an honour to have him back.
With all that done we headed downstairs for the traditional post-gig CHAT and also WHISKY. It had been a beautiful, Christmassy evening - there was a Christmas Tree upstairs, we had mince pies and everyone took turns wearing the SNOWMAN HAT I'd bought on the way - and it continued in a similar vein until closing time, when we strolled up to Kings Cross with Frankie, who was hotelling nearby.
It was a rather SPARKLY end to a rather delightful, if occasionally stressful, series of Totally Acoustic. We're back for the next series in February, with a SMASHING line up of acts, but in the meantime you can listen to the podcast for THIS show HERE, and we'll have an extra show of highlights next month!
posted 16/12/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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Diverting The Train
Rehearsals for me and Steve's new show 'Hey Hey 16K' reached a MILESTONE last week as we made our first RECORDING of the whole show. Steve likes to have this done so that he can LEARN it and so we spent an enjoyable hour or so rollicking through and, especially, DELIGHTING in the segues. Man, there are a whole lot of dialogue into song SEGUES in this show, and we LIKE them!
After we'd finished THAT we spent 20 minutes or so doing DANCING - there's going to be DANCING in the show too - which was a whole heap of a) fun b) DIZZINESS. Despite all this we still ended up finishing ahead of schedlule so I had high hopes of getting an earlier train home. There's only two trains an hour direct from Tottenham Hale to Stratford but, after the travel disasters trying to get home from our last rehearsal, I thought I'd wait for the next one of THESE rather than try anything CLEVER.
When I got to the station I was alarmed to find that there'd been all SORTS of problems, and that pretty much every train was delayed. My service was only a few minutes behind, however, so I settled in to watch train after train go through to Liverpool Street until, ten minutes before expected, an announcement came over the PA saying that the next train was for Stratford. I was SURPRISED but PLEASED and prepared to head home even earlier than expected.
The board said "Stratford", the announcement said "Stratford" again but when the train came in IT said "LIverpool Street" on the front. I got on and all the signs inside said "Liverpool Street" too so, after my previous experiences, I WORRIED. Other people getting in were unsure so I dashed down the train and found an On Train Assistance Facilitator. "No sir, Liverpool Street" he said, pointing at the internal sign. "Yes, but the announcement said Stratford and that's what it says on the board outside" I replied and, after going round this a couple of times, eventually he looked out of the door and realised I wasn't making it up.
He promised to check and I suggested MAYBE he could make an announcement so that all the other people who'd got on didn't go to the wrong place. People who work in trains always seemed ASTOUNDED when you suggest this sort of thing, and he was no exception, but at least he did seem to be calling someone.
At this point a pompous prat with a lanyard stalked past, and deigned to glance at what was happening. The first chap I'd spoken to WHISPERED something to him and pointed at me so I said "Is this train going to Stratford or Liverpool Street?" and the prat SCOFFED at my IDIOCY. "Liverpool Street!" he said, pointing at the internal signs. I explained about the signs and the announcement and he looked at me as if I'd suggested the plane might FLY. I explained THREE MORE TIMES until eventually he too looked out of the window and saw the sign and then heard an actual announcement on the platform. He insisted it was for Liverpool Street so, again, I suggested he make an announcement himself, you know, for the passengers, and he looked at me as if I'd asked him to stir complimentary tea and coffees with his genitals.
He INSISTED once more that the train was for Liverpool Street so I, and the other nearby passengers, got off and waited once more on the platform. Two minutes later, with the train still there, I heard a prattish voice shout "STRATFORD TRAIN". Looking round I saw our be-lanyarded friend leaning out of a door, looking MIGHTY PEEVED, waving an arm. He might have been gesturing at the train OR at another platform, so I called "Is this the train for Stratford now?" and he replied with a) no eye contact b) a vague gesture c) "STRATFORD TRAIN." He did not look pleased.
I got on AGANE to hear an apology to anyone who was hoping to go to Liverpool Street and final confirmation that we were going to Stratford, then off we headed home. You might be expecting this story to end with the train supervisor AT LEAST coming along to shake me by the hand, more likely making an announcement that I had been awarded Passenger Of The Year for stopping them making a TERRIBLE ERROR but amazingly NOT. Instead I got off and wandered home, where I eventually realised that I may have HIJACKED A TRAIN for my own personal convenience. Who needs PLAUDITS when you can do THAT?
posted 15/12/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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Have I Got News For You
After a KRAZY week of EVENTS I would very much have liked to have lain down my tired/cold-ridden body last Thursday and slept for the rest of the YEAR. This, however, was not an option, as I had Glamorous Showbiz Occasions to attend.
The first of these was my usual Thursday meet-up with Mr John Dredge, during which several schemes were plotted, after which I headed off to The London Studios on the South Bank, where I was due to go and watch the filming of Have I Got News For You!
This had come about from my LAB with Ged Parsons at the London Screenwriters' Festival last month. He'd invited us all to come along, one at a time, to a filming and this week was my turn. Unfortunately I had printed out only half the instructions about how to get in, missing the crucial Where To Go section, so had to ring The Runners In My Production company and get her to HACK IN to my emails to get the details, all while standing near a HUGE crowd of excitable people. Apparently One Direction were filming an appearance on The Graham Norton Show in the same building!
Now fully informed I entered the building and began the long process of being gently shunted about. This seems to be the way with any recording I've been to, radio or telly, where you have to stand in certain places for a while before being moved on by nice young people to other places which tend to feature a BAR. It's very much like going to a Wedding, in fact, without the dancing at the end!
After a couple of hours of shuffling I ended up in the actual studio itself, which was decidedly ODD. I've seen HIGNFY about 100,000,000 times and suddenly there was the ACTUAL SET, looking slightly cold and tatty, right there. The mind, it boggled! We sat around some more then a floor manager came on and then, for some reason, a warm-up man. He was very much in the Big Hair/Tight Jeans/Child Noticing Things genre and I don't really understand why they'd have such a thing. Everyone was EXCITED already, he just delayed things!
Anyway, the show got started and almost immediately everyone just sat and looked at the screens. Again, we've all seen it SO many times that we fell into our usual "Oh, it's on!" mode. Occasionally I'd look down to the Actual Humans (including Mark Watson, Joan Bakewell and Jack Dee this time) and tell myself "Look at them, not the tellies!" but then the eye would wander back.
It went on for two hours and, to be honest, felt LONGER. There were funny bits but long gaps of general talking, and they did lots of extra versions of all the rounds. It was fascinating to see - I mean, I've done a whole DEGREE about telly and that (MA Telly And That, in fact) but it's still a surprise to see how much it gets edited down. As I say, it was a bit boring at the time, but when we watched it on telly a couple of nights later it was HILARIOUS!
When the show was finished there was more waiting as those of us on the guestlists sat around before being escorted upstairs to the BAR for the AFTER SHOW! I thus spent a very very enjoyable hour or so with Ged and various other people discussing comedy stuff while occasionally thinking "Crikey, that's Ian Hislop over there!" and then looking out at the AMAZING view over London from the 14th floor. It was brilliant and EXACTLY as glamorous as I'd hoped it might be.
I set off home with brain FIZZING full of SHOWBIZ and the possibilities of being part of it, but also with one AIM left in my brain: to get to BED!
posted 12/12/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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All Aboard The Enterprise Allowance
It was lovely being on tour with Mr G Osborne last week, the only downside of it was that I was a bit too busy to fully enjoy the experience in my usual way i.e. by loafing around in bed until midday, relaxing on trains, and then getting drunk. All right, I did most of the second two, but ENGAGEMENTS meant I had to keep DASHING to places during the daytime.
For instance, last Wednesday morning there was barely time to WOLF down a cooked breakfast (with oddly UN-cooked tomatoes - I mean, I like tomatoes as they are but surely cooking them is implicit in a "cooked breakfast"?) in Northampton before I had to trundle off back to London to attend a meeting about the New Enterprise Allowance Scheme. For LO! I'm going to try signing up for THAT in an effort to not have to go and Sign ON quite so often and/or launch the business of ME as a proper business. The general idea seems quite groovy, but GOOD LORD the company doing the "training" were APPALLING. All the information was half-arsed, we spent AGES just sitting in rooms with nobody telling us what to do (until certain Concerned Attendees HEM HEM got fed up and chased people along corridors demanding to know what was happening) and the "business talk" was TERRIBLE. The guy giving the talk didn't have a clue what he was on about - I'd GOOGLED the scheme for ten minutes and knew more than he did, especially when he answered people's questions WRONG - and then when it was all done I had to wait ANOTHER hour for a "one to one mentoring session" which involved him saying "Have you got a network?" me saying "Yes" and... er... that was it. It was utter bollocks, but having spent over 20 years working in a University I am ideally equipped to cope with byzantine idiocy and hoop jumping. It's a transferable skill!
With that all finally done I headed home once more to pack and re-pack, by which time i was KNACKERED (not much sleep the night before PLUS an incoming COLD) and, to be honest, would not have been DEVASTATED if the gig had been cancelled and I could have just gone to BED.
Luckily this didn't happen as (*SPOILERS*) the gig was AMAZING. I rolled up at The Rose And Crown expecting a stinky old Camden pub that would either be a) grotty and scary b) poncy and expensive c) all of the above. Instead it was DELIGHTFUL - lots of nice beers, friendly staff, a mix of people, pleasant seating and all round GOOD TIMES. I found Gav sat with a whole bunch of pals, featuring The Hewitts also, and things continued in this RATHER PLEASANT style. I did worry that the basement, where the gig was happening, would be a DANK HELLHOLE but it was perfectly pleasant, and we even got to set up the PA system ourselves. This might sound counter-intuitive as a Plus Point but i actually LIKE it when you get to do this as a) it's another transferable skill and b) it meant that I got the best seat in the house for Gav's sections of the gig i.e. by the side of the stage at the sound desk!
We'd somehow manage to SELL OUT of our alloted 40 tickets, much to the surprise of us AND the landlord, so when the doors opened all I had to do was stand there with the list, ticking off names. Gav and I came up with a plan to do two sets each, a short intro and a proper long one, and so I kicked off the proceedings THUS:
Man, I have GOT to do Back For Good more often! I usually decide not to because I forget the chords for the middle bit, but this time I simply pointed it out before beginning and everyone SANG ALONG acapella. It was GRATE! Gav then came on and answered with a ROUSING rendition of "It's The End Of The World As We Know It" which continued the singing along and before we knew it that section was DONE, with just time for some more BEER purchasing and then my return to the stage THUS:
I've said it many times but it bears repeating - the healing power of ROCK is an INCREDIBLE thing, as my cold temporarily disappeared for the duration of the above. It was a lovely audience who went along with everything I had to say and - continuing the plan the day before of saying new, non-age-obsessed, things between songs - I felt ten feet tall talking to them. And once all THAT was over Gav came back on and STORMED the room. Hoorah!
Afterwards several people came over and said variations of "I had a LOVELY time", which pretty much summed up the evening for me. The landlord even bought us a drink, that almost NEVER happens!
A little while later there were more hugs and, as we left, an agreement to tour again in the New Year. When you're having this much fun, why stop?
posted 11/12/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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A Change In Direction
Last Tuesday morning The Pillows On My Bed and I had to DRAG ourselves out of our lovely comfy Premier Inn room in Norwich in order to make our way back to That London. As we readied ourselves I asked the aforesaid Times On My Timetable what she'd thought to the gig the night before. Some might say I was actually saying "Please tell me I was BRILLIANT" but obviously nothing could be further from the truth. She reported that John and Gav had been EXCELLENT, which of course they had, but offered some THORTS on my set which gave me, well, pause for THORT.
For the past year or so I've been basing a lot of my between song chit chat on the fact that I am over forty years old (no, I am, don't be so amazed) and how that makes me feel, especially pertaining to the fact that I've met people recently who are significantly younger than me. I've thought this was a delightful accompaniment to the themes inherent in some of the songs, but it was pointed out that I'm now BANGING ON about it pretty much THROUGHOUT, combining it with a) telling the audience they're really old too and b) scratching my head and stumbling around like a Weird Old Man. Now, that final point is partly due to me wondering what I'm going to do next and being naturally DISORIENTED when faced with BOOZE, but I knew from experience that I had to take this opinions on board and analyse them. I thought I was just being DELIGHTFUL, but might I now be going too far? This was something to PONDER!
Mind ABUZZ we got home and I swiftly de-packed, re-packed, and headed out again to NORTHAMPTON. On the train there I sat in front of two AWFUL people who sat talking loudly saying INCREDIBLY THICK and/or offensive things, laced with swearing, WITHOUT STOPPING. As a veteran of train travel I knew what to do, and just went and sat in a different carriage, from which vantage point they became quite funny, as they managed to get confused by toilets, doors, and signs telling them where to leave stations. Years ago I would have sat and FUMED, shifting seats is much easier!
I arrived at The Langham Hotel to find it was much as advertised and reviewed online i.e. VERY old fashioned but perfectly nice. "Your friend is already here!" said the Eastern European NAN who greeted me, and so a few minutes later I was reunited with Mr G Osborn, TOUR BUDDY, and we were heading into town.
The day before in Norwich I'd pointed out that it was TRADITIONAL for at least one of us to visit a castle when touring together, so Gav insisted that we follow another of our traditions i.e. have our tea in Weatherspoons, before heading off to the NN Cafe where we met Tamsyn and Joe, our hosts, and got set up for the evening. It's a dead nice place, the NN Cafe, the sort of place where, as I found out, they have many kinds of tea and Soya Milk available on request.
The gig wasn't HUGELY packed but was a lovely crowd who enjoyed our chums Chris and Charlie performing "Jurassic Park: The Musical" very much. As did I - they have expanded the show since last I saw them by adding in more BICKERING. Some may have thought more SONGS might have been a priority but actually this worked really well. They were talking about making it a fully fledged show, though I have to say, a musical about dinosaurs sounds KRAZY.
Gav went on next to a room of people most of whom had never seen him before, and WORKED it to the point that everyone was singing along to "Closing Montage" at the end, which was a JOY to witness. Then, after a brief break, it was my turn to get on and do THIS:
I had an absolutely LOVELY time. I was very aware of the "going on about being middle-aged" thing so very determinedly did not mention it at ALL, and found the results REVELATORY. I'm sure observers might well not have noticed any difference, but I felt TALLER, STRONGER and felt my BRANE fizzing away as I had to re-route well worn intros and find new things to say. It was EXCITING!
Afterwards we sat around for a chat and Tamsyn got out THE CHEESE BOARD. This is the highest accolade that I believe the NN Cafe can give, complete with crackers and some pretty amazing WALNUT CHUTNEY. Thus our evening concluded with discussion and zinging taste buds before a COLD COLD hike back to our hotel. The tour was into its final leg!
posted 10/12/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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A Power In The East
Just over a week ago The Features On My Map and I headed to the distant East to a land I had only read about in books or seen on TV: NORWICH!
I was booked to play there on Monday as the first leg of myself and Mr G Osborne's "Trains And Automobile" tour, but decided to go a day earlier to have a look round, as neither myself not The Dates On My Tour had ever been before. You might think "But Hibbett, you are from Peterborough, how could you NOT have been to a huge city not very far away?" and I would state that you have answered your own question i.e. "I am from Peterborough".
We went on the train, utilising our local transport hub to go via Colchester, and arrived at the (lovely) Premier Inn just in time to unpack and head straight out again to the Cathedral. Being Rock And Roll we do like to go and have a look and a local Cathedral when on a mini-break, and while planning this trip I'd noticed that we'd be arriving just in time to go for the ADVENT PROCESSION. We thus arrived to a PACKED, also DARK Cathedral to be greeted by an elderly chap at the door who nodded, and gestured "Come with me". We followed him along to some side seats to watch the show I mean SERVICE. It was GRATE - it started with the choir down one end of the building then moving gradually along, lighting lights as they went. By the end the Cathedral was FULLY LIT but the choir had moved so far along we could hardly hear them.
It was DELIGHTFUL. I find Church services are much like The Football - when I was small I'd be DRAGGED to them and they seemed to take FOREVER. Now I wander along every now and then and have a perfectly lovely time which seems to FLY by. This one was also full of incidents - a passing chorister nearly CAUGHT FIRE when a candle Over-Flickered and was saved by a the Nice Lady next to us LEAPING up and patting them down. There also appeared to be a POLICE VICAR who SWEPT along the corridors throughout. NO idea what he was doing, but it seemed jolly important.
When it was over we shook hands with the Bishop, as one is wont to do, and went for a wander round town. Norwich, it turns out, is FULL of Churches. You cannot MOVE for them, it's like the ancient yeomen of Norwich bought a job lot. It was only a day into the trip when we realised that there's actually TWO Cathedrals - they're Church MAD!
Next day we had a GINORMOUS lie-in, only dragging ourselves out of bed in time for LUNCH, which we had at the Wild Thyme Vegetarian Cafe. It was BLOODY GRATE - not only was the grub delicious but I THINK we saw International Film Star Kristin Scott Thomas (talking to a THEATRICAL DAME who we couldn't work out who it was) in there too! FANCY!
Fully fed we walked round to the CASTLE and chanced upon a BRILLIANT guided tour of the KEEP. It was ACE but we then rather overdid it by going into ALL the galleries - it's a Traditional Local Museum, much like the one we went to recently in Canterbury and, indeed, the one in EVERY medium British town, so there were local painters, World War One exhibitions, Something To Do With The Romans and, of course, a METRIC TONNE of BADLY STUFFED ANIMALS!
After a revivyfying coffee we went back to the Premier Inn, re-adjusted packing, and then it was SHOWTIME! The gig was round at The Bicycle Shop, where I discovered Gav had already arrive, along with our other participant Mr John Osborne. It was only half an hour or so into our acquaintance that I realised I had seen him ages ago in his GRATE show "John Peel's Shed". Much to my delight he turned out to be exactly as nice a chap as the show would suggest i.e. a LOT!
Some of Gav's pals from his University days in Norwich came and took us to a nearby pub for a bit after which we returned to a respectable and COSY audience for the gig itself. John went first and did POETRY which was actually more like storytelling, and was FAB. I'm hoping to get him over for the next season of Totally Acoustic in the New Year, as it was moving, funny, and also INSIGHTFUL - three of my favourite things!
Next it was ME and I did THIS:
I had a FINE old time with a whole lot of LARFS, although I wasn't to know until later (the next day, in fact) that ASPECTS of it would persuade me to change my "act" FOREVER! Actually, you'll have to wait until tomorrow to find that out too, as not long after I came off stage it was time for Gav to go on and be GRATE. It's lovely doing tours like this with Gav as I get to see him do GIGS, which he's really really good at. This time he premiered a new song about a) May 1 1997 but mostly b) his friends from Norwich. It was beautiful!
To top off the evening he dragged (well, "asked") me back onstage where I fulfilled a request for Boom Shake The Room. With all that done we finished off our beers and headed off - Gav and John in search of curry and us back to the Premier Inn. It had been a MARVELLOUS start to the tour, but a whole lot more was still to come!
posted 9/12/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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It's (an easy) CHRIIIIIISSSSTTMMAAAAS!
Yesterday we wrote the last of our Christmas cards, listened to Bob Dylan's Christmas album, had stuffing with our dinner, put up our miniature Christmas tree and watched 'Planes Trains And Automobiles'. It must be Christmas!
And if it's Christmas that means it must be time for the MJ Hibbett & The Validators Christmas single, which is right here, right now, and called Easy Christmas:
The video was filmed by Edie and Lola Pattison a couple of weeks ago when we were at the Snug in Derby doing some recording, and features some of the finest effects that MovieStar can offer - if you ask me it has come out as a GENUINELY PSYCHADELIC movie! The song is available directly from us via our bandcamp site either as a single download or as part of our ever expanding Christmas Selection Box album.
As ever, any passing of the WORD would be much appreciated. We hope it brings festive joy and a very Merry Christmas to one and all!
posted 8/12/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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The Big Comedy Conference
I went to another CONFERENCE on Saturday and, like the London Screenwriters' Festival a few weeks ago, it started at KRAZY O'CLOCK in the morning. I thought WRITERS were meant to get up late?
This was pretty much my only complaint about the event, as otherwise The Big Comedy Conference was GRATE. It was a whole day of panels and talks about COMEDY STUFF, taking place in Clerkenwell, and I nearly hadn't gone as we were booked to see Morrissey later that evening. A couple of nights ago I'd mentioned it in passing to The Delegates At My Session, saying "If Morrissey ends up cancelling there's a conference I'd like to go to instead". She pointed out that the conference was in the DAY and Morrissey was in the evening and that I therefore could and indeed SHOULD go. So I did!
They had a really good line-up of guests, including David Quantick, Vicki Pepperdine, Andy Hamilton and especially Graham Linehan, one of my all time HEROES of HILARITY. My favourite part of the whole day was during a Q&A with him. I put my hand up towards the end hoping to ask the following ERUDITE question: "I noticed that 'Count Arthur Strong' featured several emotional scenes which, unusually for a British sitcom, were not immediately undercut. Was this intentional, or did it emerge from the character?" GOOD EH? I managed to sort of ask the first part (though I did start with "HIYA! I love Count Arthur!") but before I could ask the actual question at the end Mr Linehan said "Thank you!", looked REALLY pleased, and went into a reverie about being inspired to make it that way through a memory of the pilot episode of "Hi-De-Hi". It was all rather heart-warming, and even nicer when I bumped into him later in the corridor and he thanked me for mentioning it and we shook hands in a MANLY fashion. It was lovely!
The other high point of the day was a SCRIPT SESSION with Hayley McKenzie of Script Angel which came free with the ticket and was pretty much worth the price on its own. I'd sent her the first ten minutes of a sitcom idea I've been working on, hoping she could help me sort out the opening. What actually happened was half an hour of INCISIVE THOUGHT and EXCELLENT POINTS which made me realise I could drop a whole character, move others around, and make the whole thing MUCH MUCH BETTER. It was brilliant - she also LARFED at some of the jokes and said she liked it, which helped, and I came away full of THORTS.
Apart from those HIGHS there was another significant aspect which could be either a high or a low - only TIME will tell. At every session I went to, solo or in the company of Mr John Dredge, one theme shone out at me: the best way to get work as a comedy writer in the current climate is to do stand-up comedy. It's something I've wondered about and WRESTLED with in the past, but nearly EVERYBODY who talked about getting actual WORK mentioned it, and nearly ALL of the younger writers there had at some point DONE it and got breaks that way. I have no wish to pursue stand-up comedy as a career but it does seem like the main way of meeting comedy agents, producers and commissioners these days.
One of the main reasons I have NOT pursued it any further is that I hate the idea of rolling up at comedy nights and begging for an open mic spot - goodness knows I have done enough of that in the world of ROCK - as I would have no idea where to start. However, Mr Dredge has recently done a 10 week course in stand-up which a) showed him how to do it b) gave him writing exercises to do and c) ended with a couple of showcase nights. I am thus pondering the wisdom of doing the course MYSELF next year. I mean, I have done enough GIGS not to be scared of it and it would at least be INTERESTING, but I'm not sure how much I want to have to go to lots of comedy nights afterwards. File this under PENDING!
So all in all it was an EXTREMELY thought provoking day which also featured many LARFS and Enjoyable Remarks. I left full of THORT and IDEAS and headed over to the O2 arena where I met The Audience In My Stadium just in time for... well, a couple of beers and THEN Morrissey, who was GRATE. He was in TOP FORM, especially for the first and last 20 minutes of the set. In between there was rather a lot more of the new album than I would have asked for (i like it, but I also like the back catalogue!) but after reading and hearing stories about his health it was fantastic to seem him being SO AMAZING. And crikey, the new chap he's got in the band has improved it NO END.
Also of note was how SURPRISINGLY NICE the O2 Arena was. It's YEARS since I last went to a gig that size, and was impressed by how good the sound was, how easy it was to get in and (especially) out, and how well I could see. Maybe I'll book it next year for my stand-up tour!
posted 4/12/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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How To Clown
A few weeks ago I was talking to Mr H Carr after our WRITERS' GROUP about CLOWNING. Yes, that's right, I am DEAD CLASSY. He'd been on a course to learn about it in France, so it turned out to be the FRENCH type of clowning i.e. not being very funny while looking sad, as opposed to not being very funny while pretending to throw a bucket of water over someone.
He'd been told that the KEY to any kind of performance is to give the impression to the audience that you're enjoying it. Even if you're in character as someone miserable (i.e. like a SAD CLOWN or something) you have to convey to the audience that the human you underneath it all is happy to be there, and then THEY will be happy to watch you. I thought this was quite interesting as it made me think of all the old-time comedy GREATS who do exactly that. Obviously Morecambe & Wise do this to the XTREME and its obvious just from watching them but, as Mr J Dredge pointed out when I was telling him about it, so did Les Dawson, whose ACT was being curmudegeonly but seemed to be enjoying it too. As long as you think the person on stage is having fun then YOU will too.
I was pondering this again on Wednesday night when The Gags In My Act and I went to The Wanstead Tap to see Mr John Otway. Regular readers will no doubt be thinking "PHEW! You have only seen Otway about 800 times so far in your life, you need to top up" and you would be almost right. I reckon I've seen him about 50 times, but then I've only been going to see him for about 25 years so cannot be blamed for such a low score.
Seeing Otway is ALWAYS a treat, but especially so this time as he was playing a) not far from our house and b) in a LOVELY Beer Bar which was FULL of tasty beers! The actual gig was excellent too and we laughed and cried in pretty much all of the same places as we ALWAYS do. This is what made me think about the CLOWNING thing - whenever I watch Otway I am filled with ENORMOUS JOY, largely because of the ENORMOUS JOY he projects from the stage. It's pretty much the same set every time - a LOT of the gags have been exactly the same for the ENTIRE QUARTER CENTURY that I've been going - but he always seems to take fresh DELIGHT every time he does them. For instance, there's one NEW bit (NB by "new" i mean "has been introduced in the current century") that he does as if he's JUST thought of it and I still find hilarious despite having seen it at LEAST five times before. It works because, as Monsieur Le Chief Clown would doubtless say, Otway gives the very definite impression that he really IS enjoying it.
I suppose it's a fancy way of saying that FUN breeds MORE FUN, which certainly applies to the great man. We had a fantastic night - the only downside is that now we have nearly THREE MONTHS before we go and see him again - how will we survive?
posted 28/11/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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A Cure For The Mystery Illness
It was a bit of a funny old day yesterday full of mild PAIN and GRATE delight. The pain was caused by the fact that I had a Mysteriously Illness. I can't think what caused it - I was FINE on Monday night when I went out with Mr S Hewitt for a couple of pints and a gig. I can't see what could POSSIBLY have changed between doing that and waking up the next morning feeling DREADFUL.
The gig, by the way, was Allo Darlin' at The Scala, and it was BRILL. It was (and always is) a bit WEIRD seeing people i don't even know, let alone am currently in BANDS with, carrying Fortuna Pop tote bags or, indeed, listening to Fortuna Pop bands, and there were HUNDREDS of them there. The gig itself was similar to the last time I saw them at Indietracks. For the first three or four songs I thought "Yes, this is all very nice and excellent, but I do not feel totally engaged - maybe this is the moment that My Favourite Band Who Are Still Gigging CEDES that title?" Shortly after that, just as at Indietracks, the gig went ZOOM and became AMAZING. I think it was around "Crickets In The Rain" (my favourite from the new album) which is INCREDIBLE, and when they rolled into "Tallulah" (NOT at the encore for a change) the whole room was a) AGOG b) SILENT c) having a little bit of a CRY. After that it was FULL-ON HITS and the whole room was leaping about. It was ACE!
So why, after all that (and popping up the road for another cheeky pint afterwards) I should feel so grotty the next day I cannot think, but grotty I did feel. By mid-morning I was ready to go back to bed and REBOOT the whole day, but was cheered up by The Post In My Postbox returning from the lobby of our flats with some MAIL. It was a formal letter from the Vice Chancellor of City University confirming that I had indeed PASSED the MA in Creative Writing (Playwriting and Screenwriting) what I have been working away on for the past two years. I'd had the information online at the end of last week but having it on an official letter was exciting all over again especially as it meant we could re-check the grade and find that, yes, it still said that I had got a DISTINCTION! A distinction! I still can't quite believe it - this disbelief is not ENTIRELY modesty, I mean, I thought the script I did was pretty good, but I've spent much of the past two years telling The Grades In My Marks Sheet that i WOULDN'T be getting a distinction ("that's not really the point" i would say, "It am about the writing wot happens") that it's taking me a while to get my head round it. I am mostly trying TO get my head round it by telling people loudly in pubs and, as of today, on this blog, so hopefully that'll help. If that doesn't work I guess the next stage will be to MODESTLY hire a SKY WRITER PLANE.
We both did the small dance of joy in the kitchen again and progressed with our afternoon - in my case this involved quite a lot of sitting on the sofa, groaning, and saying "Oh dear, I think I am too poorly for HULA HOOP class today." Hula Hoop class, by the way, is an Exciting Thing we do every week - the people who run/OWN the Olympic Park put on free exercise classes for residents via the marvellous Our Parks organisation, and the pair of us have been doing HULA HOOPING since the summertime. It's a lot of fun and, in my case, EXACTLY as DIGNIFIED as you can probably imagine.
The Athletes In My Exercise Group suggested that doing some exercise would probably HELP my Mystery Illness and by golly she was right. An hour and a bit later we returned to the flat REVIVIFIED to find my phone saying I had 34 new messages. THIRTY FOUR? Clearly something was going on so I turned on the laptop and rapidly discovered that we had been played on the radio! The excellent Mr Steve Lamacq had played the single version of The Lesson Of The Smiths (with swearing removed!) as part of his Lost 45 feature! He said he'd been going through some old t-shirts in preparation for Wear Your Old Band T-Shirt To Work Day and found his "I VALIDATE!" t-shirt from our WE VALIDATE! album tour back in 2006. I was really very touched to know that he had KEPT it, and excited to be back ON AIR! It's funny how all that's changed - when first we got played on the radio, LO back even in the 1990s, you'd find out because someone would RING you. Now it's all on twitter, with retweets and wotnot, and you can Listen Again for yourself. It's ACE!
Best of all, it turns out that hula hooping plus being on the radio can pretty much SORT OUT a Mystery Illness as I spent the remainder of the evening hopping about with JOY, so NEXT time it happens - if of course it ever does - I know how to CURE myself! HOORAH! Let's celebrate with a tonne of BEER!
posted 26/11/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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Last Sunday found ALL Validators returning to the studio with Mr R Collins - even arriving within 60 seconds of each other - for OVERDUB day.
Before any actual overdubs could happen, however, our first priority was to do a VIDEO for Easy Christmas, our new Christmas single (which will be available from December 8th, by the way). The plan was for our VIDEO CREW (Miss E and Miss L Pattison) to record the whole thing using an APP but it didn't quite work out that way - there were COMPLICATIONS and DIFFICULTIES but, after Quite A Lot of "discussion" we ended with the girls filming us miming to the song a couple of times. They've done FILTERS on the Moviestar APP which, we hope, I'll be able to edit into a video of some kind. I didn't really understand what was going on, which did make me feel a bit OLD, but we made up for it with some DRESSING UP, as demonstrated below:
Once that was all done Frankie went off for some BRUNCH, Tim did SLEIGH BELL overdubs, then me and Emma did our vocals for Easy Christmas. As previously stated this was the number one priority due to the rather pressing FESTIVE DEADLINE, but it all went SWIMMINGLY and we mixed it in no time. It sounds GRATE!
With that all sorted Tim took the CREW to the pictures leaving me, Tom and Emma with Rich to work on some more vocals. I did a batch of mine first, which was TREMENDOUS fun - I went into the booth and sang each song 2 or 3 times, then Rich COMPED the best bits from each take together into one. Once THAT was done we'd listen and then I'd go back to do individual bits that still needed work. I usually find this part of the recording process a bit stressful, but thoroughly enjoyed myself this time, especially BELLOWING You Make Me Feel Soft Rock. As you can see, Tom and Emma thoroughly enjoyed the process:
I did vocals for three songs all together - (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock, 20 Things To Do Before You're 30 and That Guy - then Emma went in and did her vocals on the same. We did Emma's in a similar way to mine but it took a bit longer as she was doing HARMONIES - and more specifically harmonies to MY SINGING, which is always a bit challenging! The highpoint of this was when Rich ended up putting the word "Kraken" on a loop so that Emma, he, Frankie (who'd returned from BRUNCHING) and Tom could work out the correct harmony for it. Those who know Emma will be SHOCKED to know that by the end of this the air in the vocal booth had turned QUITE BLUE. I was APPALLED!
Luckily the FOUL LANGUAGE had abated by the time Tim returned with daughters, and the five of us gathered back in the live room for our final job of the session - hand clap and AIR PUNCH overdubs for (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock. You might not think it possible to RECORD air punches, but let me tell you it makes ALL the difference!
With all that done Rich ran us off mixes of the weekend's work and it was time for HUGS and goodbyes. Tom gave me a lift back to Derby station and as we motored through the wintery streets we MARVELLED at how much we'd got done. Everyone always goes on about how The Beatles recorded their whole debut album in a single day but a) they didn't do all of it, they had four songs already b) it had to be done pretty much as live and c) they'd been playing the songs for AGES, so, in a very real sense, we were AS GOOD AS THEM! Over the weekend we'd done about HALF of all the work for the album - at least seven songs nearly finished, which is INCREDIBLE for us. It turns out that NOT filling everything with orchestras, explosions, and DINOSAURS makes it a lot easier!
The plan is to learn up 3 or 4 more songs in the new year then, hopefully, get it finished off maybe late summer 2015. Of course, i ALWAYS say this and it ALWAYS takes three years, so we'll see, but I must say I'm VERY happy with how it's gone so far - it sounds GRATE!
posted 25/11/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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Rock History Commences
Saturday was an auspicious day in the annals of ROCK for LO! The Validators began work on their SIXTH studio album! Note this day well, oh you historians of ROCK, and also of ROLL.
I had to get up at KRAZY o'clock in order to be at the studio in Derby at 10:30am, but this was more than made up for by the fact that I bumped into Mr K Hewick in Derby town centre. I was quite surprised to see him and he was very surprised to see me but we had a LOVELY chat and he, ever the prepared professional, even gave me a couple of CDs. He'd been in town to play at a Kevin Coyne tribute the night before (which coincidentally our very own Mr FA Machine had been at) and was on his way to a Christmas Fair back in Oadby. It was lovely to see him!
I thus arrived at Snug full of happiness which was only increased when I was greeted by the smiling face of Mr T Pattison, saying "You're just in time - I'm about to do the drums!" He'd been in since slightly earlier with Mr R Collins, our engineer/BOSS for the weekend, setting up the kit and LUCKY ME I'd arrived just right to not miss ANY of about an HOUR of drums being hit. MY FAVOURITE BIT.
Mr T "The Tiger" McClure and then Frankie arrived within the next five minutes and we were QUORATE (as Mrs E Pattison would not be arriving until curry o'clock). We had a chat while the drums pounded then got ourselves together and, by 11:30am, were ready to WORK.
And work we very much did as, over the next few hours, we PLOUGHED through a TONNE of songs. The EASE with which we did this was aided by several things, notably the FACTS that 1) Tom had printed out a Spreadsheet Of ROCK 2) we'd spent the past year Actually Learning The Songs (a revolutionary idea which I suggest other AVANT GARDE groups like us experiment with) and 3) the studio was set up right nicely for us. As usual Tim and Frankie were in the main recording room, with me glaring out at them from the control room, but this time we had Tom in the seperate recording booth so we could all play along together. Here's my view of proceedings:
This way all of us could see MOST of the rest of us, and we were all connected via microphones and headsets, so we could RATTLE along, eventually recording (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock, 20 Things To Do Before You're 30, Easy Christmas, That Guy, Burn It Down And Start Again, We Did It Anyway and Leaping Hare In Broadgate. We worked SO efficiently that we EVEN had time to fulfil a long-held dream of Tim's by Jamming In The Studio! I'm not sure quite how well that actually went, but we did DO it at least! We also had a quick go at re-recording I Want To Find Out How It Ends but, as Rich said: "You can do it better another time. Go to the pub."
Who were we to argue? We packed up for the day and headed out to Frankie's local, where Mrs Machine joined us, and then on to BALTI INTERNATIONAL for the traditional Validators' Christmas Curry. Emma joined us there and a HIGH old time was had. There'd been some suggestion of sorting out gig plans and album titles, but as far as I recall it was mostly CURRY and LARFS. We said our farewells full of the joys of ROCK, ready to reconvene next morning for more of the same!
posted 24/11/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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I've been working REALLY HARD for the past few weeks, doing THE WRITING!
It all started around the time of the screenwriters' festival, when I realised that I didn't have anything NEW and FINISHED to hawk around, so I decided to do something about it. I had two ideas, a film and a sitcom, which I'd been thinking about for AGES but had never got around to actually WRITING. I had to do one-pagers (i.e. a logline and synopsis) for them for the festival, based on a TONNE of prep I'd done for each previously, so once all that was finished I sat myself down and wrote proper TREATMENTS for each. This is a screenwriting thing where you write out the whole plot like it's a prose story, with bits of dialogue along the way. The idea is that if you're working on a TV show or something you can show it to the Producers who can then make suggestions/changes before you've gone to all the trouble of writing a full script, but it's also a GRATE thing to do when you're just writing at home. It's MUCH easier to see problems with the plot and FIX them at this point than when it's full length. When I did my big script for the course last year my mentor, Mr A Cartmel, was VERY keen on getting this fully sorted, and we spent about as long PLANNING as I did actual DIALOGUE writing.
So, I spent quite a while working on the treatments and, once that was done, did myself a PLAN, giving myself two weeks to do the first draft of the film script and one week for the sitcom. This was JUST to do the first drafts - I thought that the best idea would be just to DO it and worry about whether it was any good later. Re-writing stuff is the FUN bit, but you need to WRITE something before you can RE-write it so I made it a rule to NOT go back and read what I'd done. I did have to go back a couple of times to check/change things, but the joy of having the proper treatment is that I didn't really NEED to. I knew where I was in the story and what was happening next, so all I needed to concentrate on was typing it out. I thus sat myself down every day for a couple of hours and TYPED!
I know it seems like I was just hacking it out, but it flipping worked - last Thursday I got to the last page of my film script and did a VICTORY LAP around the flat! On Monday - after spending the weekend getting excited about it - I started writing the sitcom and by lunchtime today I'd FINISHED. The sitcom especially is going to need a LOT of work - for starters it's nearly twice as long as it should be and definitely needs some more GAGS, but that's all part of the plan. The important thing today was to a) get to the end b) do another VICTORY LAP around the flat!
The next stage of the plan is to print the film script out and take it with me on Saturday to read on the train to Derby (it's Validators Recording Weekend! ZANG!) then work on RE-WRITES all next week. This is ALSO quite exciting - as I say, I've not looked at it at ALL since I got to the final page of typing, so have no idea what it's like and will (hopefully) have forgotten some of it while my BRANE was concentrating on the sitcom. I've got myself scheduled to spend a week working on that then flip over and do the same for the FOLLOWING week on the sitcom, this time reading it on trains to and from Norwich and Northampton on tour with Gav. After that it'll be the same again for NEXT drafts, and then I'll try and get some people to READ them and see what they think.
It's not quite the POETIC IDYLL of me sitting with a QUILL gazing at CLOUDS but it DOES seem to work, and if it means I've got some NEW STUFF to send people/enter into competitions/show off about after Christmas then it'll all have been worth it. For now though I'm going to have a couple of days off of The Writing and a couple of days ON with THE ROCK in Derby - ROCK HISTORY awaits!
posted 20/11/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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Prepare The Care Home
I've had a couple of incidents so far this week which, if I was slightly older/even more infirm, would have a concerned Social Worker making calls around the local social housing agencies.
The first was on Sunday when I had a bit of a FALL. I was on my way to the swimming pool when I was distracted by a piece of Interesting Roof. Stratford International train station has a large AWNING which stretches out over the adjoining road, almost reaching the awning that comes out of the associated DLR station. The gap is covered by a small square piece of roofing which, I realised, was there to enable people to squeeze drily between the two stations when it was raining. Unfortunately, just as I was being PLEASED by this, I was also crossing the area where the slope towards our house turns into STEPS and gently blends into the station forecourt at a not quite normal angle (it is a DEATH TRAP) and so TRIPPED over, sending me flummoxing forward. In these situations the BRANE does a super speedy risk assessment, and thought "One knee is definitely going down HARD, that's a write-off, but if we adjust the fall and put our hands out we should be able to get away without a twisted ankle".
It thus could all have been a lot worse but CRIKEY it didn't HALF hurt and shook me RIGHT up. You know when small children fall over, pause a moment, and then SCREAM with tears? That's exactly how I felt. Unfortunately there were a couple of other people around who asked if I was OK, so I had to say "Yes thank you, all fine" when what I really wanted to do was sit on the floor and CRY and be a bit sick.
I BRAVELY staggered on to the swimming pool, only to find that it was peak time so my off-peak pass wouldn't work, and so had to hobble back home un-swam. It was all a bit upsetting, but as time has worn on I've been rewarded for my IMMENSE BRAVERY with a COLOSSAL BRUISE. It's brilliant! I feel like a 7 year old boy with a scabby knee, as I want to keep LOOKING at it and, if possible, SHOWING it to people - my whole right knee has basically gone black and swollen to TWICE it's size. I've just had another look at it - it's better than telly!
The second incident happened yesterday, on Monday night. I'd just finished another rehearsal with Mr S Hewitt, where we'd tried out a NEW PROP, agreed on the PLAN for the next few weeks and generally ENJOYED the show (although it still feels disarmingly straightforward - it can't be THIS easy, surely?), and as we headed back towards Tottenham Hale station I saw my TRANE leaving the platform. It was a bit annoying as they only go from Tottenham Hale to Stratford every half hour, but when I got to the platform itself the Stansted Express had just arrived. This is a quick-ish train which goes direct to Liverpool Street and so, I reasoned, if I hopped on this I could then get a train from there back to Stratford. It would take quite a bit longer than the direct train BUT would involve less hanging around outside so would, overall, be a) a bit quicker b) a lot warmer than waiting around here.
I got to Liverpool Street and as I stepped off saw another train about to leave on the other side of the platform. I often catch a train from there and there's always LOADS going to Stratford, so I stepped across, hopped on, and was soon heading EAST again. We soon stopped at Bethnal Green, which was odd as Stratford's usually the first stop. Gradually I realised that I had in fact got on the WRONG TRAIN. It turns out that NOT all trains go to MY HOUSE and so I got off at the next station and checked my options. Walk to a near-ish tube station? Get a bus? Find a taxi? LONDON PANIC!
In the end I decided the easiest/least risky thing to do would be to just get the next train BACK to Liverpool Street and try again. This I did and ended up getting home only about 10 minutes later than I would have done if i'd just WAITED, a slightly older and WISER Hibbett who next train won't just assume that ALL the trains are for ME.
It's been a worrying couple of days, but I'm sure everything'll be all right from now on. Anyway, must dash - before I get out my Sholly to do my shopping I've got someone at the door who wants to tarmac my drive and then I'm using an old step-ladder to put a new light fitting in!
posted 18/11/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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Since I stopped having an actual JOB I appear to have WORKED more than I have ever done before in my entire life. Last week though I went one step further and did something I almost NEVER did in my 20+ years of Actually Having A Job: CAREER DEVELOPMENT!
The first part of the TRAINING SCHEME that my employer (me) had sent me on happened on Thursday afternoon, after (another) very good meeting with Mr J Dredge about STUFF. I wandered over to The Phoenix Theatre Artists' Club for a Writers' Guild Of Great Britain night for new members, where got given name badges and did NETWORKING. When I signed myself up for it I was TERRIFIED, but since doing a whole weekend of talking to strangers at the Screenwriters' Festival I found it all to be FINE, and spoke to some very nice people indeed. I even got some INFO - apparently there's another topical sketch show, in Brighton, that you can send sketches to, so we'll have to get ON that.
Next morning I got up at RIDICULOUS o'clock to go and Sign On again, although it turned out that it was just a "catch-up". I told my nice signing on lady all about the Edinburgh Fringe and she very politely listened, then suggested I might be eligible for the New Enterprise Allowance Scheme. As far as I can gather this is the same as the old Enterprise Allowance Scheme except a) it's new b) but it'll soon be abolished, so I need to get in quick. The other thing I know about it is that BANDS used to all be on it in the 1980s, so I am confident that this time next year I shall be forming OASIS.
That done I headed back into London Town to attend a day long course called "Finance For Freelancers". Having been on PAYE for my whole working life the very idea of TAX fills me with UTTER DREAD so I thought I'd have another go at doing a course about it, having been on a RUBBISH one a couple of years ago. As I approached Equity HQ, where the course was taking place, I considered just GOING HOME, and convinced myself that I could probably do the first session then leave before lunch. It's weird - i KNOW that this is something I want to do and have booked myself, but two decades of a JOB have drummed it into me that any kind of training day is a CHORE to be got out of as quickly as possible!
I'm glad I DIDN'T flee though, as it was GRATE. It was run by David Thomas who I would highly recommend to ANYONE as he was BRILLIANT. Between 10:30am and 4:30pm he told us, as far as I can tell, THE LOT. Tax! VAT! Invoicing! Chasing invoices! Business plans! Sole Traders and Limited Companies! At the grand old age of 44 I feel like i FINALLY understand what on earth all that stuff is about, and indeed feel quite INSPIRED to actually BE freelance - or, to be more exact, a self-employed sole trader. My BRANE was throbbing with all the new FACTS which, several days later, it is STILL working through.
As well as being inspiring and informative he was also a GRATE example of How To Deal With Troublemakers. As ever on this sort of course there was one person who didn't quite understand how it all worked - in this case one of those people who are SO POSH that they can't sit properly or change the volume of their speech. Every time he made a Good Point, when the rest of us would smile, nod, or murmur "Hmm!" she would go "WOW! Really? That's DISGRACEFUL/AMAZING/APPALLING" and then two minutes later ask a question that he'd JUST answered, or give an example from her own WEIRD life, or just SAY something. I personally wanted to leap across the table and lead a ruthless mob of killers, but he remained calm throughout, answering questions politely where he was able and otherwise firmly, but always politely, just saying "No." It was an example of How To Do It that i hope to recall next time I am faced with a Difficult Audience Member.
Best of all, however, was shortly after the course had finished when I met up with The Carriages In My Train to head out of town to see some PALS. On the way I told her all about what I had learnt, and every time she said (for instance) "Did he mention invoicing?" or "when DOES a company have to register for VAT?" i totally knew the answer. Obviously NOW most of the information is evaporating out of my MIND, but he also gave us HANDOUTS!
It was a great couple of days full of ADVANCEMENT. It's beginning to feel like I could DO this!
posted 17/11/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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And So It Begins Again (Again)
On Monday night I was back at Bally Studios in Tottenham Hale to commence rehearsals for me and Steve's NEXT show 'Hey Hey 16K'. We were back in the same room at the same time as usual and it all felt VERY familiar - which confused me a bit, as surely it had been two YEARS since the last show, but Steve pointed out that we'd returned earlier this year to re-learn Total Hero Team for the York New Musical's Festival back in the summer.
This time, however, we were embarking on a WHOLE NEW SHOW and we were doing it in a WHOLE NEW (well, slightly new) WAY. Previously we've used rehearsal time to sit down and go through the show from start to finish every week without stopping. This has been quite a nice way to get to know it, but I've always been conscious of the fact that a) it doesn't really give many options for changing it b) it's not a particularly good way of learning it c) nobody else in the history of THE ARTS ever rehearses like that. Thus, in a dramatic turnaround from usual practice I suggested that we try it the NORMAL way. KRAZY, i know!
Hence we spent the first three quarters of our allotted time working on the SONGS. We prioritised these because we reckoned that if we at least have the songs sorted out by the time we do our first gig (currently scheduled for Leicester in February) then we should be able to BUMBLE through the rest of it. Some of them are OLD ones which we'd pretty much know already, but there's a batch of new ones to work through and I know from previous experience that the UNIQUE JAZZ PHRASINGS of my lyrics do take other people a while to get their head round. Imagine then my surprise, also GLEE, when Steve got there pretty much IMMEDIATELY. There's one song in particular, "I Wish That I Was Normal" that even I (what wrote it) have a job fitting the words to, but by the second run through he'd got it RIGHT. I was so amazed I forgot the chords! Admittedly I don't have to be VERY, or indeed AT ALL, amazed to do that, but I was!
We made several adjustments along the way, including changing the JOURNEY of 'The Future Is Amazing' and replacing the closing MEDLEY with a REPRISE, before turning our attention to the BOOK. We worked our way through the first 8 (of 27) pages, and had a FINE old time doing so. As planned we did it little bit by little bit, going back and trying things different ways and making alterations, which was ACE. We removed and/or FINESSED certain sections, and also marvelled at how many JOKES there were! When I wrote Total Hero Team i was at the start of my MA so had a BRANE full of The Three Act Structure and Character Motivation, and I think that's why it took so long to BEAT it into the shape of a Comedy Musical. THIS time I've got a BRANE full of writing GAGS and SKETCHES, and GOODNESS me but you can tell from the script. SO MANY JOKES!
It was, in short, a really good practice which I hope will set the tone for a real good year or so of DOING the show. The plan is to spend the rest of 2014 practicing every week like this, getting it in the best shape we can before hunkering down and LEARNING it ready for Leicester. Call me crazy, but I think it's going to be fun!
posted 12/11/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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Opening A Franchise
I was in NOTTINGHAM on Saturday, there to kick off the latest* (*there was one in Leicester) franchise for the Totall Acoustic. This one was operated by Mr Alex Hale, and so it was that he and I ended up sat in the Chameleon Cafe at 2pm saying "I'm sure SOMEBODY will turn up."
Shortly after 2pm some people DID turn up, and then some more, and then there were Quite A Few, which was DELIGHTFUL. After a brief introduction from Alex I stepped up to guide everyone through the theme tune, like an Indie Bruce Forsyth handing over to Claudia Winkelman), then Alex took over once again to ROCK the house with a set of TUNES. Mr Daniel Sheen was next with a set featuring 3 Lemonheads songs and thus, inevitably, a room full of people singing along very quietly. There was then a brief BEER break before Ms Shelley Jane did a rather ace set on the ukulele, and then it was my turn, during which I did THIS:
I had a THOROUGHLY good time - it was great to be doing a Normal Gig again (i.e. not like usual Totally Acoustic's where i have to try and do something different every time) and I was VERY pleased to get some new REMARKS in re: Hereward The Wake, amongst other things. It was GRATE - for me, if nobody else!
Once that was all done and dusted we re-grouped round the corner in The Crafty Crow where I had a lovely a) pint b) chat with various people before heading off home again. It was a really nice way to spend a rainy weekend, and I'm already looking forward to going back next year, when Alex has us tentatively booked to do a Hey Hey 16K preview. He's got a whole six months worth of SHOWS to do between now and then though, and so I wish good luck to his FRANCHISE, and also all those who ROCK in it!
posted 11/11/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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Thursday has turned into my "in town" day, where I go into Actual London and DO stuff, and this Thursday just gone was no exception. I did LUNCH with Ms E Morgan, where we talked about SITCOMS, and then had COFFEE with Mr J Dredge, and told each other lots of JOKES. It was a lovely way to spend an afternoon!
The main business of the day was yet to come, however, as it was time for another Totally Acoustic. This run has been, well, not exactly BLIGHTED but at least AFFECTED by various illnesses and ISSUES that have stopped people from being able to play and/or causing equipment to go wrong, so I arrived in the pub slightly trepidatious. I'd already had my originally booked act for the evening CANCEL so hoped that would be all that went wrong. SPOILERS: it was.
I'd got there early so was able to tentatively book the NEXT run of gigs, which'll be running from February to June next year. The pub needed to CHECK a couple of them, so I'll wait until then to properly announce them, but it felt GOOD to know there'd be more!
I was soon joined by Mr S Hewitt and then, just after 7, by a SLEW of people, pretty much ALL of whom were CHUMS of long standing. It was a bit ODD to be honest - many times the audience at Totally Acoustic has featured almost NO people I know in real life, but this time a METRIC TONNE of old pals rolled up. I ended up swanning about upstairs introducing people to each other like it was a SALON!
All the ACTS had arrived in good time so we BEGAN in good time, although just as I was about to start I realised I needed a WEE so got Steve to welcome people - a job he did as if he was BORN to it. Once I returned we did the THEME TUNE and then i played THIS:
It looks like an ODD little set but it seemed to work, and I rather ENJOYED it. It was nice to do songs at Totally Acoustic that I actually KNEW and it was, as ever, HEARTENING to have the new one, That Guy, go down well.
After me we moved straight on to Mr Martin Austwick, who was a DELIGHT. I think he spent as much time EXPLAINING songs as SINGING them which, as anyone who's ever seen me live will know, is an ALIEN IDEA to me, but he did it with such STYLE and CHARM that it was thoroughly enjoyable and, as he said, gave us all a door into his unique, COMPLEX, thoughtful songs. It was ace!
And then, after a beer break, it was time for The Patron Saint Of Totally Acoustic, Mr Pete Green, who was GRATE. Last time I saw him he'd said he was going to try out some POEMS and I must admit I was slightly AFEARED. I need not have been, as they were BRILL - funny, interesting, and really rather beautiful. The songs were good too!
You can hear it all for yourself on the podcast, but what you can't hear is the rest of the evening, when we fell to MORE BEER before retiring en masse to the downstairs bar, where a large contingent of us stayed until well past closing time, YACKING and drinking whiskey. It was a lovely night, though the next morning was hard to deal with!
posted 10/11/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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Canterbury Day Two
Our plan on the second day of our trip to Canterbury was to SPRING out of bed bright and early and head straight to Howletts Wild Animal Park. It didn't QUITE go as planned, partly due to SOMEBODY setting the alarm for 8PM rather than AM (i was tired!), but also due to the fact that Premier Inn beds are SO VERY COMFY. Say what you like about the advertising industry, but they've got that one right!
Quite a lot of things didn't go to plan at this point, as my pre-visit research rather unravelled. We'd hoped to get a BUS to Howlett's but it turned out it wasn't running in this off-peak season, so I ended up having to ring the park itself to find out how best to get there. They were LOVELY - they first of all questioned whether we really wanted to go when the weather was so rotten (it rained a LOT), but then offered to come and pick us up THEMSELVES from the nearest train station! In the end we decided to get a mini-cab, but crikey, how many other places would make an offer like that?
With a whole new city of experiences on offer we made the brave decision to stride over the road to the Waitrose Cafe for breakfast - we SEASONED TRAVELLERS do like to live dangerously - before getting a cab out to Howletts.
As we arrived I was a bit worried about how much we'd actually see as it was SO grey and rainy, but as it turned out it was UTTERLY BLOODY AMAZING. The fact that we were there on a rainy Monday lunchtime in term time meant that we had the place very nearly to OURSELVES so could spend as long as we liked wherever we liked. Nearly ALL of the animals were out and about too - most of the small primates were (very sensibly I thought) staying inside in the warm, but we saw all sorts of INCREDIBLE animals. There were RHINOS and ACTUAL ELEPHANTS, there were (quite a lot of) wild dogs and wolves, TONNES of antelopes, big cats, monkeys/apes various, it was astounding. Sometimes I couldn't believe what I was looking at - could that really be a TAPIR? In KENT?
Before we went The Features In My Brochure had had a WISH LIST of animals she most wanted to see, and to my delight we saw THE LOT - Elephants, Tapir, Honey Badgers and Capybara, all of whom were GRATE. We also spent AGES looking in AWE at the Gibbons, basically stunned by the way they interacted and, well, just EXISTED as such beautiful beings. I also let out a YELP when we came round a corner and saw a RUDDY GREAT TIGER! It turns out I am SCARED of Tigers, and it also turns out I am right to be so, as we saw memorials around the park later to THREE keepers who'd been KILLED by them!
I'd been concerned before going about the ETHICS of this sort of place - this wasn't a ZOO but it was a place for KEEPING animals, so I was relieved to find that they all seemed very well looked after, with LARGE areas combining indoor and outdoor spaces, and going by the many displays all around LOTS of thought going into their care. Sometimes we'd come to what looked like a traditional ZOO viewing area - a sort of CABIN with a window on one side, with lots of animals inside it - where I'd think "this can't be right surely?" before noticing the VAST area outside that they were free to lope off into. This was especially clear when we saw the JAVAN LANGURS, who were all leaning against the window like a bunch of men leaning on a BAR waiting to be served, while through a FLAP they had access to about an ACRE of grass, trees and climbing frames. "Shall we see if we can get close without scaring them?" I asked as we crept RIGHT up, but all we did was PERTURB them by blocking their view of an (apparently fascinating) VAN.
I know this is getting to be a bit of a LIST but it was SO BRILL that I still can't comprehend we saw so much. There were some DUSKY LANGURS (i had no idea there WAS such a thing as Langurs before Monday) with BRIGHT ORANGE BABIES, there were Actual Gorillas, beautiful CLOUDY LEOPARDS, Lions, deer, bison, lynx - it was FANTASTIC!
After a lengthy wander round we got a taxi back to town with our minds TRULY BOGGLED by it all, collected our bags from the hotel, then went for some much needed LUNCH. Whenever we go somewhere new I always check to see if there's a Veggie Cafe because, well, One Feels One Ought, and Canterbury had The Vegbox cafe, which was LOVELY. It wasn't QUITE as old fashioned as i like veggie cafes to be (no BEAD CURTAIN into the kitchen) but they DID have the traditional cork board of notices, and downstairs there was a PROPER Vegetarian Shop which not only had a PILE of the sort of products you can only get in proper vegetarian shops (TEN kinds of pretend cheese for instance) but ALSO had its own cork board with a range of PETITIONS you could sign. LIKE.
It also had some BEER which I felt HONOUR BOUND to buy, and thus it was we clanked off to catch the high speed home. 49 minutes later we were back in The Olympic Village (well, back in Tap East, our local, but still) ruminating on how amazing it had been to get there and back so quickly and to see so much. We're already planning our NEXT Mini-Break: Norwich - it has a lot to live up to!
posted 5/11/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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Canterbury Day One
This weekend The Cathedral Of My Cloisters and I went to Canterbury for a MINI BREAK. The idea occured a few weeks go whilst waving The Family Machine off from Stratford International Station. We picked up a leaflet about Howletts Wild Animal Park and, noting that a) it was only 49 minutes from our station to Canterbury where the park is based b) we could get a voucher to give us 2 for 1 entry c) there are ACTUAL ELEPHANTS in KENT, we decided to go and make a TRIP of it.
On Sunday morning we had great plans to get up bright and early and get there in time to have a look round the Cathedral, but it didn't work out quite like that due to LIE-INS (i'd been to see Peterborough United the day before and so was MENTALLY EXHAUSTED). We ended up getting to Canterbury just before 2pm and got a (rather expensive) taxi to our (not very expensive) hotel, The Premier Inn. In my experience Premier Inns are usually ODD places that have been converted into bedrooms from OFFICES and so feel WEIRD, but this one was LOVELY. It was so nice that I have already been on TRIPADVISOR saying so - the sure mark of quality!
By this point we'd missed the normal looking around hours at the Cathedral so went to the PUB instead, thus echoing a choice made by generations of GALLANT BRITS. We went to The Foundry, a brew pub which was GRATE. We had every intention of going to EVENSONG at the Cathedral, but missed it due to the lovely BEER and also HUGE piles of food that we ended up ordering, so went round to the Beaney House Of Art And Knowledge instead. It had a funky name and had clearly been SPRUCED UP of late but it was still very much The Local Museum - you could tell by the fact it had TAXIDERMY tucked away in a side gallery! It also had a FANTASTIC Photography exhibition and a very touching World War I display too. There were two Christmas postcards home from the front from a local man who later died in the trenches, sent to his Mum and Dad (who he addressed as "my pal"), which had been passed on to his widow. She'd remarried, then when SHE died her second husband married again, and he'd kept the letters and passed him on to his son from THAT marriage. It took us a while to work it all out, but it was EXTREMELY moving.
We then made our THIRD attempt at visiting the Cathedral, this time succeeding. We didn't actually get to go IN, but we have been inside a LOT of Cathedrals over the years. Instead we went ROUND it, sticking our noses into The Chapter House (which i don't think we were supposed to go into) and wandering round the Cloisters. It was GORGEOUS - as we were to find out over the rest of the trip, the fact that it was a bit rainy, and very much out of season, meant we got the place pretty much to ourselves!
Feeling fully CULTURED UP we popped round the corner to The Shakespeare for COFFEE (which was very nice indeed), went back to the hotel to "freshen up" ("watch telly") and then headed out again for TEA. Being creatures of habit we went to ASK, which was delightful except that we got CONFUSED when the waitress changed clothes halfway through our visit i.e. she came back in a DIFFERENT COLOURED T-SHIRT to the one we'd first seen her in. Panic and Confusion reigned - WAS it the same person? Were there twins working here? WHAT was going on? We never did get to the bottom of it - this panic will be, i fear, reflected in my TripAdvisor comments. "Please avoid this in future by EITHER ensuring that all staff wear consistent clothing OR are clearly labelled as TWINS."
After all that we were in need of a STIFF DRINK, so nipped into the bar of the Abode Hotel, which looked VERY swanky from the inside. It looked the same from the inside too, and we allowed the Nice Young Barman to mildly patronise us with a talk through the Whiskey Shelf. He seemed to assume we were just "starting out" with whisky (surely one look at my STOMACH would have hinted otherwise?) but he was being NICE so we didn't say "We've drunk TONNES of it mate, just leave the bottle". He did however refer to various brands as "approachable" which I think I shall use in future instead of just saying "It's nice".
After all that we staggered back to the Premier Inn hoping for a good night's sleep, for LO! We had ELEPHANTS to see the next day!
posted 4/11/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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A Surprise At The Job Centre
I'm not sure if I've mentioned it before, but i REALLY like living here in The Olympical Village, as it is ACE. On Monday night, for instance, we went for an evening stroll and got to a) nosey round the shop units, where've they've just put up vague signs saying roughly what they're going to eventually BE e.g. "Under Offer - Cafe" b) Wander (accidentally) around the "Year Of The Bus" sculpture trail and c) stroll beside the canals looking at the lovely lighting displays and the new fountains. It was pretty bloody GRATE!
On Tuesday morning, however, I was expecting a somewhat different experience, as I had an appointment at the JOB CENTRE to see a CAREERS ADVISOR. When I went in to sign on on Friday my ADVISOR said "I don't know if it'll be much help for you, but it's worth a try" and I really was NOT expecting much - I'm pretty sure HOLLYWOOD PRODUCERS don't advertise for their latest blockbusters in the Job Centre - but I thought it only POLITE to go and see.
When I arrived there was a small crowd of people outside, who I assumed were having a FAG. I walked to the door, pushed it, and nothing happened. Looking through I saw nobody was inside. A man behind me laughed "What did you think we were all doing out here?" so I said "I thought you were having a fag!" "All of us?" "Well, it CAN be quite stressful" and then we had a bit of an old CHAT. I was basically still NETWORKING from last week.
My appointment was for 10am, and I was relieved when the doors opened at 10 on the DOT. Some people in the queue said they'd been waiting for ages, but nobody inside seemed flustered, so maybe it was a training session? I went in and, as before, it was a bit of a SCRUM as there's no receptionist of any kind. I suppose this is meant to make it feel more OPEN, but it just means that everyone has to crowd round a G4S person who, to put it mildly, does not appear to have been trained for Customer Relations.
Eventually I got upstairs and to the desk of my Careers Advisor, Debbie. She asked why I'd been sent to her and I told her, as reported above, that my Signing On Person said there probably wasn't much she could tell me but we'd try anyway. I told her I was hoping to do screenwriting and KAPOW! She was OFF!
We got onto the Careers Advice website and suddenly there were OPPORTUNITIES! LINKS! IDEAS! ACTUAL ADVICE! I was completely stunned - I thought I was going to spend 10 minutes saying "No, a scriptwriter, not an underwriter" or "No, I don't want to do Data Entry" but she TOTALLY knew her stuff. Apparently she'd worked round Hackney and Dalston so had met a TONNE of unemployed actors, writers, cameramen, sound guys etc etc. "I did used to think I should write some of my stories down" she said. I thought she might as well, she clearly has a VAST contacts list!
The most reassuring bit was when we looked at the Government advice for becoming a screenwriter and it said the best thing to do was to enter competitions and do lots of networking. "You want to be in Hackney drinking in the wine bars" she said. I wanted her to put it in writing so it could list it on my BACK TO WORK PLAN - "This weeks activities: WINE" - but she thought maybe that wouldn't look so good. SHAME.
I was absolutely astonished by the whole thing. As I told her at the end (I didn't really want to leave, as we were having a RIGHT old laugh, but she had someone else waiting), I'd expected the whole experience to be pointless but it had been brilliant. "I'm sure you'll make it" she said as we shook hands and I came away full of ideas and HOPE that this could all work out.
It was all A BIT FLIPPING WEIRD. Perhaps I went in the wrong door and saw the HOLLYWOOD LIFE GURU instead?
posted 30/10/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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London Screenwriters' Festival Day Three
After all the excitement of the previous two days I was expecting day THREE of the London Screenwriters' Festival to be a bit more low key, and I must admit I didn't go in with QUITE the GUSTO for chatting to people as I had done the day before. It was all the fault of the festival really, as I was so KEEN to get on with WRITING stuff I was less in the mood for hearing about it!
The first talk was another slightly dreary one where someone spent 90 minutes doing, basically, a ten minute talk on how to identify the "theme" of a story. We did get to watch a big chunk of the film "Philomena" though, it looked really good!
There was a huge gap for LUNCH, during which I met Mr Donald Eke and had a chat, then went off to see a discussion between David Reynolds (again) and Steve La Rue, a Producer who worked on BUffy (amongst many other things). As with the previous David Reynolds talk there wasn't a VAST amount of solid info, but it was a very interesting look into how HOLLYWOOD works with a TONNE of gags from both of them. They were so DELIGHTFUL to listen to I could have sat there all day!
My final planned stop was a talk about writing sitcoms, featuring the hilariously dour John Lloyd, who did Spitting Image, Blackadder, Not The Nine O'Clock News. Other people were full of various opinions, but he seems to think that everything wrong with television - and perhaps the UNIVERSE - is due to iniquitous TV Commissioners. I know he has a BIT of a point, but CRIKEY he doesn't half go on about it! It was a good session though, and afterwards I RAN round with Mr James Huntrods to make sure we got a seat for the Script Chat, at the end of which one person collected up BUSINESS CARDS in order to form a mailing list of Supportive Sitcom Writing Colleagues. We were networking without even having a beer in our hands: RADICAL!
At this point I considered going home, but poked my head around the door of the FINAL David Reynolds session of the weekend and saw a seat, so sat on it. He'd been doing a "script to screen" talk about "Finding Nemo" - basically a live DVD commentary - which I'd missed, but did get to hear about half an hour of more CHAT and more GAGS. It was, once again, ACE!
As I turned to leave I saw Mr Ged Parsons sat behind me so we had a right old chat about IDEAS that went on until we were asked to sit down for the Closing Remarks. This was... um... a bit different. The organiser of the whole event seems to view himself as a bit of a Motivational Speaker, and did a whole ACT where he was SHOUTING about how FUCKING AWESOME it all was and how he was nearly in tears about how INSPIRING it had all been. It felt a bit weird for me, as I totally WAS inspired by the whole thing and it HAD been brilliant, but having someone shout at me about it like I was at a sales conference was almost taking away from it. Part of the experience was an extremely lengthy slide show of pictures taken during the weekend (including one shot of the back of my head, featuring my Weird Ears!) over a neverending LANDFILL INDIE song about how we've started a bonfire or something. It was SO AWFUL that it became funny, and then they did a bit where you had to turn to the person next to you and COMMIT to something you FEARED. Me and my neighbour chatted about how uncomfortably this whole bit was, but how brilliant the weekend had been, and I suspect that conversation was going on a LOT!
It all ended with everyone who'd worked there or spoken, and not managed to HIDE, getting dragged on stage for a long long long clapping along to a song session. It was a WEIRD way to end it all, made even more weird by the fact that when I got out I (and lots of other people) were amazed to find that the BAR had been closed down! At 6:30pm? At an event for WRITERS?!?
Still, the odd ending aside it had been a pretty bloody brilliant weekend. I'd met lots of lovely people, heard some inspiring talks, and got a whole lot of LEADS and HOT TIPS about what to do next. I'll definitely be going next year!
posted 29/10/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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London Screenwriters' Festival Day Two
The second day of the London Screenwriters' Festival started a bit late for me, as I spent the morning MENTALLY PREPARING. I was booked on to do the Pitchfest in the afternoon, and as there weren't any talks I was hugely interested in I thought my time might be better spent practicing for it.
I eventually arrived at the festival just before 2pm, in time for a talk about "getting your first gig in radio" that was Quite Good as it was chaired by Mr Paul Bassett-Davies who kept a FIRM HAND on there being too much "sorry" and "this may not be right", and it also featured Mr Danny Robins, who was very good. At the end I heard a couple of people talking about writing science fiction, so i joined the heck in with them, and we all swapped cards. Networking is PEASY!
We went round the corner for the "Script Chat" section, which was an extra bit in a smaller room, but i didn't get there in time for a seat so didn't stick around for long. Instead I wandered round to the room where the Pitchfest was happening. There didn't seem to be anyone there so I went and got a coffee, and it was only when I came back that I realised that the queue was round the corner!
I LEAPT in and spent the next half hour chatting to some of the other people waiting. This was a really nice way to CALM DOWN, as I was feeling a bit TERRIFIED. The Pitchfest is a 90 minute session where you queue up to get five minutes with your chosen Pitchees - a producer, commissioner, agent or whoever - to PITCH your idea, a bit like speed dating. There were meant to be 35 pitchers and 13 people to pitch to, but when we got in it turned out that although all the pitchers had turned up only 7 of the pitchEES had! This was a bit upsetting for lots of people, including me, as it was mostly TV people who hadn't come. I had three ideas ready and a HITLIST of people to talk about them to, but ended up concentrating almost entirely on my film idea, "Alpha Male". The nice thing about this one is that it's a "High Concept" story with a VERY high concept (ask me in a pub, I'll tell you!) which made it good fun to tell people about. The only downside is it is by far the least worked out of my ideas, so if someone asked for a script it would mean a busy few days (at least!) getting it ready to send!
I only got to pitch "Storm House", my main idea (i.e. the one that I wrote for the MA, which has a completely completed script, bible, treatments and all sorts) to one person, who wasn't interested at ALL, which was a bit disappointing, and there was nobody there to do my sitcom, but still, one person DID ask for a script for "Alpha Male", a few others took one-pagers about it, and EVERYBODY looked a bit stunned and said "That IS an original idea", so I was very happy!
After all that I definitely need a BEER, and ended up not going to any more talks at all, spending my time Effectively Networking (drinking). Mr Phil O'Shea, head of the aforementioned MA, was there and introduced me to some other graduates from other years, who were ace, and I ended up talking to LOADS of people. I realised that you can say things like "Can I network with you?" or "Let's do business cards!" and people tend to be PLEASED that someone else has said it so you can get it all out of the way then carry on CHATTING. Basically, if you swap a business card then you are doing Professional Business and NOT just drinking. Definitely.
By the time I'd wandered around a bit I was slightly tiddly but VERY happy with how it had all gone. I'd pitched and I'd networked - I felt like a Hollywood BIGSHOT!
posted 28/10/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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London Screenwriters' Festival Day One
This weekend has been looming LARGE on my Personal Mental Horizon for months now because it was the weekend of the London Screenwriters' Festival. It was an exciting event to look forward to, and I'd been using it as a PLANNING MILESTONE for various PROJECTS - for instance, I was booked onto the Pitchfest session, so in the weeks leading up to it I was beavering away on TREATMENTS and PITCHES for three different ideas. I was also WORRYING about it as I was going to be spending three days on my own, possibly having to NETWORK, which is not exactly my favourite activity.
The festival officially ran Friday to Saturday, but there was an extra pre-opening night on Thursday for "Networking Drinks". I thought it might be good to GO to this so that a) I could pick up my PASS and thus wouldn't have to queue next morning b) I could work out how to get there and c) I was in town anyway. I got there super early, got my pass, MOOCHED about, then got a BEER and mooched a bit more. It was all a bit frightening to be honest - one of those occasions where everybody else seemed to be in GROUPS, chatting and LARFING, while I was just skulking round like Gollum with a Lanyard. I finished my beer and scurried home.
I was up EARLY next morning as I had to go and SiGN ON at 8:30am. The security guard didn't turn up to let me IN until 8:35am, which was a bit annoying but the rest of the meeting was DELIGHTFUL, as I explained what a pitching session was and my nice Signing On Lady wished me luck with it. I bet Quentin Tarantino didn't get this sort of support!
I hopped on the tube and ZOOMED off to the festival, where i was booked in for a SCRIPT LAB at 10:30am - the timing of all this had been one of the big sources of WORRY leading up to the event, and so one of the big reasons for going in for my pass the night before. The LAB was a morning with four other people and Mr Ged Parsons, one of the main writers on "Have I Got News For You". It was GRATE - he was FULL of information, stories, and most of all VERY VERY IN-DEPTH advice on how to write GAGS. We'd sent in some one-liners, and he did a PAGE on each one, explaining what to cut, what to change, and how to change the placing of WORDS to make the jokes better. It was ACE, and also a BRILLIANT way to get an instant GROUP together of people to talk to for the rest of the weekend.
I spent most of the rest of the day going to TALKS. Two of them were by British people and two by Americans and GOOD GOLLY there wasn't half a cultural difference. The British people were all "Is this all right? Sorry! Oh, I've missed a bit. This could be entirely wrong of course" while the Americans were much more "Here is how you do it." The British way is all well and good (and goodness knows I do it myself enough) but it does get a bit ANNOYING after a while when what you really want is some FACTS. There were some British FACTS, but they were mostly "look at writersroom" and "Send stuff to Newsjack", which is fair enough advice but is hardly REVELATORY.
The American's, however, were ACE. I went to an INCREDIBLE talk by Lee Jessup called "How To Make It In Hollywood Without Moving There" where she talked through a whole heap of ACTUAL THINGS YOU COULD DO to further your Hollywood Career (she's a Hollywood Career Coach) in an engaging, well-rehearsed, confident way that made you think "Hey! This sounds actually possible!" I'd gone because I wanted to see if there was anything I could do with the "Big Bang Theory" and "New Girl" spec scripts I'd written for the Nickelodeon competition, and was getting VERY excited when she kept saying "Of course you don't have to MOVE to Hollywood to sell scripts there..." right up until she said "... unless you want to write TV, of course." Ah.
Still, it was INSPIRING and full of TIPS which i'm still working my way through days later. Later I went to see David Reynolds, who wrote "Finding Nemo" and "Toy Story 3" among others, and was BRILLIANT. There wasn't a whole heap of information, but he was SO interesting and FUNNY, that I ended up seeing him THREE times over the weekend.
The evening ended with some ACTUAL NETWORKING. I bumped into Ged Parsons and some of the rest of my LAB group and just CHATTED. It turns out that Networking is a piece of PEE in this sort of environment - earlier in the day, while queueing for a particularly WET talk (where a couple of blokes who deal with lottery funding took an hour to say "fill in the forms correctly") the chap next to me said "Hello, how are you finding it so far?" and we had a CHAT and then continued to do so throughout the weekend. I was so surprised by how easy this was that I ended up doing it myself over the next couple of days, and by Sunday was happily saying hello to all SORTS of people as we crossed paths around the buildings. It was lovely!
It was thus a happy - and RELIEVED - Hibbett who wobbled off home. The official first day was done, but tomorrow there would be PITCHING!
posted 27/10/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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