Wednesday 26 September 2012

A Woman's Place Is In The Past.

Ah, the season of mists, mellow fruitfulness and TV programmes with lots of nice hats. The autumn TV schedules in the UK are awash with period dramas again. Hearts are fluttering upstairs and downstairs at Downton Abbey; innocent girls are in danger of ruination at The Paradise and war is picturesque hell at Parade’s End.

Now, I like a crinoline skirt and bit of RADA received pronunciation acting as much as the next person. However, it does seem that television is living in the past a little too often at the moment. It’s hardly surprising with the ratings success of Downton and Call The Midwife. It seems that the audience love a little bit of vintage. The problem I have with all this history is that it doesn’t leave much room for her-story.

The lack of strong female characters on TV and in the movies is well-trodden ground. Barely a week seems to go by without one of our great actresses complaining that there are very limited roles for women and especially older women. And I agree with them. Furthermore, I have to question whether television that harks back to a time when women were disenfranchised, silenced and given limited life options is actually going to help the cause.

Of course, there are parts for women in period dramas. After all, someone has to wear the nice frocks and heave their bosoms – but sometimes it feels like that’s all they do. Period dramas often rely heavily on their own set of female stereotypes. The wide-eyed innocent girl in danger of being ruined by the rapacious employer. The bitter spinster always ready with sharp rebuke seemingly just because her hymen is still intact. The dowager insisting that things are done properly and making sure that everyone knows their place as the sun sets on the British Empire. And of course, the plain and simple serving girl popping up to drop a blancmange whenever we need a little light relief. And those characters are great fun and probably wonderful to write.

However, it seems that the drama for those women revolves around the same old issues and crises. In their fictional world, the worst thing that can happen to them is that they have sex outside wedlock, marry a poor man or drop a blancmange. Those things are simply not high stakes in the modern world (or at least one would hope not). So, the constant harking back to those simpler times is surely having one of two effects.

Either, we are condemning female characters to a life of inconsequential stories that we don’t really care about. We never see them in the trenches or in a cabinet meeting with Lloyd George or doing the important stuff. They are too damn busy dropping blancmanges on their heaving bosoms.

Or, if we do accept that to lose one’s virginity when one doesn’t have a ring on one’s finger is simply the very end; are we reinforcing ideas about women that should have gone out with the Charleston? If we see female characters in constant servitude and represented as powerless, that can’t be a good thing. Can it?

Also, side note, there seems to be a great love amongst the writers of period drama for killing women in a romantic fashion. There’s the old trope of blood in the handkerchief meaning imminent death by consumption or Spanish Flu. Or the troublesome birth that leads to our hero clutching his sweaty wife’s hand as she uses her last breath to ask whether the baby is okay. Those women are always so very, very brave and have the stiffest of upper lips. Not one of them begs for their life or rages against the dying of the light. It’s almost as if their deaths don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, isn’t it?

Even in shows where historical accuracy is not exactly paramount women are being sidelined. There is a new series of Merlin about to start in BBC1 and I can only pray that the women in that show get to do something other than be evil super bitches or anxious serving girls. But as Gwen/Guinevere barely features in the trailer, I’m not going to put money on it. Come on lads, you’ve taken enough liberties with the Arthurian legend, why not a bit of equal opportunities around the Round Table? I’ll even write it for you. I’m just saying, it would be nice to see a kick-ass female role model (other than Amy Pond and River Song) on a Saturday tea time. Whither Buffy?

Sure, it's all about context and it’s interesting to see how far sexual politics have come but I worry that we are consigning our great actresses to the kitchen and the corset. For example, it is the great Maggie Smith that makes the faintly ludicrous Downton Abbey unmissable. She turns a high-handed, catty remark into utter poetry. But that’s all she bloody does! Imagine if a writer had the imagination to write a part where she has real power? Maggie Smith as a Cabinet Minister, a retired spy, a diplomat, a serial killer? I’d watch that!

However, and I’m going to be tad harsh here for a moment, I think in that ideal world of women doing actually dramatic things there wouldn’t be many parts for some of the other actresses. The wide-eyed virgins who are called on to do nothing but simper and blush? They’d be on the dole (or in Hollyoaks). Because those performances and roles are archaic and dull. It’s time to consign them to the past.

But, in the interests of fairness, I must give an honourable mention to two period dramas for letting the sisters do it for themselves. Firstly. The Hour had some truly brilliant female characters working in a man’s world. And Parade’s End did something utterly brilliant by exploring the constraints on women in the early 20th century. Those characters were not happy with their lots in life, they didn’t accept the orthodoxy of their gender and it drove the drama beautifully. And they still wore nice frocks. Food for thought, but not blancmange.

Friday 17 August 2012

Not Quite The Best of Men

It's usually me losing my temper on this blog, but this week I am handing over the ranting rights to Martin Jameson. Martin is an experienced writer, producer and director who has worked in TV, Theatre and Radio for many years. Recently he has written for Holby City, Casualty and Emmerdale. He too was at the BBC TV Writers' Festival session about the representation of people with disabilities which I blogged about last month. Last night he watched Lucy Gannon's BBC 2 drama 'The Best of Men' and he wondered whether the BBC should be putting their money where their mouth is. I agree.


A Rant
Martin Jameson

Don't get me wrong, I found lots to enjoy in Lucy Gannon's script of The Best of Men - the little known story of Dr Ludwig Guttman - pioneering spinal injury doctor who instigated the Stoke Mandeville games, the forerunner of the Paralympics. Funny, insightful, heart warming... Eddie Marsan was fantastic - and will surely win, or at least be nominated for a BAFTA and well deserved it will be too.

But hang on a bloody minute....! What on earth is the BBC playing at? Both 'disabled' leads were played by non disabled actors. Ok... so Rob Brydon's there because he's a 'name' and will draw in an audience (not enough of an excuse in my book... work harder BBC - sell the show on having honest disability casting please). But then the other lead is played by George Mackay, also able bodied.

So the justification there would be that there are flashbacks and dream sequences where the character, William, can walk. Well, in my not so humble opinion, not only were those sequences dispensable but even if one felt they were absolutely essential, both would have been achievable with non disabled body doubles.

Again, don’t get me wrong, both Brydon and MacKay gave excellent performances, but… but… frankly I think it's a disgrace. The paraplegic actor David Proud was sitting around in MacKay's shadow with barely a line to say. In my professional opinion David would have been more than capable of playing William. Not as well known, but there was nothing integral to that that part he couldn't have done as far as I could see. And he would have been great. Obviously I can’t speak on David’s behalf, and on his blog he says he was honoured to be involved.  I’m sure he was, but this viewer, this writer would have wished for him to have had a much higher profile.  Surely he should have been much more than ‘involved’…

And then...AND THEN.... some of us were at the BBC's TV Writers Festival in Leeds last month. One of the key sessions was about 'Changing the Face of TV Drama', about challenging the invisibility of disability and disabled actors on our dramatic TV screens, and guess who was on stage, leading the panel?

Lucy Gannon that's who... saying that it was up to us as writers to make sure we wrote good parts for disabled actors, that they were included naturally within the drama. No mention of the fact that she'd just written a major BBC drama and actually she had written it in such a way that it gave the production team a get out to cast non disabled actors in those key roles.

As someone who has worked hard to include disability in the mainstream drama (i.e. soap) that I've written over the years, and don't tend to have the kinds of opportunities to mold change that Lucy has as a writer, I now find this to be hypocritical and jaw dropping. Ok... it might have been completely beyond her control, but I would like to know that she at least TRIED to fashion the script to at least give some disabled actors an all too rare opportunity to take the main stage here.

By failing to think this through, the BBC has cast itself in the role of the out-dated Dr Cowan, the disablist villain of Lucy Gannon’s script, unable to trust disabled actors with the lead roles in their own story. 

Given the content of the piece, and in the year of the London 2012 Paralympics… it’s a bit bloody ironic.

Friday 10 August 2012

Update: Manners

This is just a mini-blog following up on my earlier entry bemoaning the lack of manners amongst development producers. After spending the first 7 months of the year doing actual paid work, I am spending the rest of my year on development. It's a great luxury and I'm very lucky.

This week I started making a plan of action/works (I am ever the optimist). I went through all the pitches and submissions that I'd managed to make amongst writing on New Tricks and Midsomer Murders. And I got angry all over again.

I couldn't quite believe how many pitches had been initially been enthusiastically received and then utterly forgotten about. Producers who had urged me to write pitches and treatments and to come to meetings (all for free and without any offer of expenses) had simply not bothered to follow-up on my work. Some of them have flat out lied to me; promising that they won't be like all the others and that they value me and my work. So, why do they still treat me like dirt?

And yes, I am still talking about my writing life, not my love life. That's a whole different blog.

Now, it might be that the ideas weren't any good or were too similar to others on the slate. And that's absolutely fine. It happens. But to not even bother to drop me an email or make a call to say we're not interested is just damn rude and unprofessional.

But it's not only that, it is potentially detrimental to mine and other writer's careers. Those ideas are my currency, my product. And if you don't want to buy them, that's okay. However, by sitting on them you are limiting my window of opportunity to take those ideas elsewhere. And the more I thought about this the angrier I got.

So, here is my plan of action.

I'm going to follow-up on every single one of those pitches with a polite but to the point email or phone call. I'm going to make it clear that I want a yes/no answer and that I want it within a few days.

If the answer is no, then I'll take the idea elsewhere.

If the answer is maybe (because let's a face it, it's never a straight yes), I'm going to ask for a time frame. I want to know where they are taking the idea next and when I can expect to hear something.

I'm also seriously considering no longer abiding by the unwritten rule that you only pitch an idea to one person at a time. It considered bad form to tout your ideas around to multiple companies. Well, I say fuck that. They're my ideas and I'll show them to whoever I damn well please. If you like the idea then get your finger out and make me an offer. Maybe I won't take my idea 'off the market' until someone is talking to my agent.

It's time for a change of attitude amongst writers. They are not doing us a favour by listening to our new ideas for characters and stories and worlds. If writers stop bringing those ideas in, then it all grinds to a halt. And if they can't show us a basic level of courtesy then maybe we should stop pitching to them?

Again, I say all this on the understanding that not every development producer is rude and thoughtless. I have worked with some crackers this year. Producers who talk to you like a human being, keep you in the loop and push for quick decisions. For those wonderful people, I go the extra mile. But I'm no longer even going to put on my shoes for the other rude bastards.

So, if you're a producer and you're reading this; ask yourself which category you fall into.

Thursday 26 July 2012

PC Gone Mad (or Cognitively Impaired Causing Behavioural Challenges)

One of the most interesting sessions at the recent Television Writers’ Festival run by the BBC Writersroom was called something like ‘Changing the Face of Drama’. It was run at the end of the first day and no-one was entirely sure what it was going to be about. I’ll admit that I assumed it was going to be the usual yadda-yadda about big stories and interesting characters. Because, you know, we’re all trying to write those inconsequential stories and boring characters. Maybe next year there should be a session on bears defecating in wooded areas and the Pope’s religious preferences…

Anyway, bitchy whining aside…

The session was actually about how under-represented disabled people are in British drama. There were some pretty cracking statistics. The one that sticks in my mind is the fact that 24% of the British population has some form of disability. That’s a pretty much a quarter of the population and I don’t think that anyone would deny that quarter of the population is under-represented on our screens. And so, I left that session vowing to pop a wheelchair user into my next script. As I’m sure everyone else who was there did.

However, I’ve given it some thought since then. And I wonder what the realities of doing that will actually be. And I genuinely think that before we see disabled characters that are anything other than a token we need to have a serious conversation with ourselves as writers. Because whilst we’re not getting it right with disabled characters, we’re also often making a bugger of representing black, Asian, gay, Transgender and… for fuck’s sake… female characters.

So, am I saying writers all a big old bunch of racist, sexist, cripple-hating homophobes? No! And that’s kind of the problem.

I can only speak for myself but I’m the wishy-washiest of liberals. So, when I come to write a character that is different race or sexuality or physical ability to myself (I’m white, straight and able-bodied, by the way), I start to panic.

I analyse every line of script for potential offence and worry about stereotyping. And so the character becomes blank and bland. Their experience of being black/lesbian/blind isn’t being incorporated into their attitude and dialogue. So, what’s the point of them being Asian/transgender/deaf? Am I just creating a character that will piss off the casting director and make me look like a PC tosspot? But if I do allow my Chinese/Polyandrous/Crippled character to explore who they really are, I run the risk of looking ignorant because I really don’t know what it’s like to be an Inuit/Bisexual/Wheelchair User. I really don’t want to offend any Native American/Hermaphrodite/Cerebral Palsy sufferers that might be watching the show. And so, I end up playing it safe and writing from my comfort zone.

I’m not proud of that.

A big part of it is language; a fear of it. And I had a theatre experience a couple of years ago that I think set me off on a journey that hopefully will improve my scripts. I wrote a short play called ‘Going to Extremes’ about two old friends who find themselves on opposite sides at an English Defence League demo in Bradford. Lee is a white lad from Essex whilst Amir is a Pakistani Muslim from Bradford. They bump into each other running from the violence and discuss their individual reasons for coming to the demo/counter-demo. Whilst writing this play, I let myself off the leash in a way that I never would whilst writing an episode of the TV show. I didn’t worry about offending the viewing public, compliance issues or watersheds. I wrote Amir and Lee talking to each other as two lads in their twenties would.

But the eye-opener was in rehearsal. The play was directed by the sickeningly talented Trevor MacFarlane and starred the equally brilliant Joe Ransom and Sushil Chudasama. Trevor only had a short rehearsal period and had to get Sush and Joe to a very comfortable place with each other. Any political correctness went out the window, because there simply wasn’t time to tiptoe around language and sensitivities. All three boys started to speak to each other as real people do. They took the piss and there were no sacred cows. It was all up for grabs – race, religion, gender and sexuality. It was real.

But I question whether that is achievable on telly. The reality is that we work so damn hard to keep everything inoffensive for a mass audience that we run the risk of making everything bland and dishonest. I’m not suggesting that people should be calling each other pakis, queers and mongs in the Rover’s Return or on the wards of Holby General. I actually really don’t want to see that. But let’s have some honesty about how we react to each other in the real world. We are not colour-blind and we are morbidly curious about people who are different to us – that is humanity.

And so, is that the key? Whilst I’ve been tying myself up in knots about writing characters with a different cultural experience to me, I should actually be reflecting my discomfort and fears. It’s not about writing those characters, it’s about writing the reactions of the characters around them. That is where the honesty is often missing. And, let’s not miss a trick here, where some genuinely interesting drama could be.

I’m not pretending this is the answer. This is just my personal revelation. But at least I am giving it some thought now instead of brushing it under the carpet. The best thing about my job is I’m always on the steepest learning curve.

I asked a friend of mine, to write a guest blog about race and her unique experience of it. But then they are all unique experiences and maybe it’s our job to get over ourselves and write the stories. Anyway, she’s asked to remain anonymous. And if anyone else would like to add to the debate feel free to leave comments or get in touch with me and I’ll be more than happy to host other guest blogs. Here it is…

Race Is a Myth by Anon

My first memory of race awareness is this - when I was little I ran into a public toilet in desperation and got chased out by a large woman with a broom. That was ok, they stank, yet when I reached the one next door there were flowers and shiny tiles and I was allowed in. They were both the Ladies’, this was 1970s South Africa and the lady with the broom was black. And I’m not, so I was in the wrong place. I never got my six year old head around this.

My partner isn’t black in South Africa, but he isn’t white either. He wasn’t black until he came to the UK at the age of 21. In Mauritius, where he was born, he is Creole. They are black people, but have mixed over time and are descended from the plantation owners who still cling to the edges of that beautiful island as much as from the slaves from Africa that were freed or died there. Here he is Black. Or Paki. Sometimes French, if they hear the Creole accent (the last one with a confused face) but never Mauritian, which he proudly is.

In Mauritius last year having a big fat family Christmas, I found myself racially confused a couple of times. There is a kind of caste system where the lighter your skin, the better it seems within the Creole community. I had to bite my tongue listening to darker members of the clan being referred to as “Zulu” and girls fretting about the sun turning them too black. Maybe it’s my post-colonial guilt, but knowing Kwa-Zulu Natal as I do, I certainly wouldn’t put the Zulus at the bottom of the status pile. The only other white was an Australian fiancĂ© who starting bitching about Aborigines half way through dinner. The tea drinking Creole ladies tutted sympathetically while I made a tactical dash to the balcony. At least no-one is hunting me down with a rifle as they threatened to do in South Africa.

While not invisible as the only white in the family, I sometimes forget that I am. This is a national school of thought in the UK I find. Whites have a given invisibility. How often do they refer to each other as “that white guy” when there are no black people present? Really? Non-whites are raced by language – “that black woman”, the “that Asian bloke” but whites are just “that woman”, “that bloke”. Have you ever noticed how the category ‘White’ on monitoring forms is always at the top and no-one has ever thought of putting them in alphabetical order?

Raced language does exclude a lot of teenagers I must admit. Something in me is thrilled when I hear two white London girls addressing each other as “Bruv”, but then I don’t like the N-word so this is for over 25s only I guess.

I think Race is a myth. As in, we made it up. This is not to say that we don’t perceive differences in pigmentation and in hairstyle, we certainly do. But the order of it? The way we endlessly fuss over the details, surely that is all about satisfying our need to classify and categorise, to put things into hierarchies and make the complexities of the world just a little bit easier to understand. Differences in race do exist but the meanings we imbue them with and the names we give them are all carefully constructed piece by piece, cemented by individual experience.

Tuesday 3 July 2012

50 Shades of Hey! That's not nice.


I’m not usually one for bandwagon jumping, but everyone else seems to be blogging/tweeting/yapping on about EL James’ Fifty Shades books. For God’s sake it was the topic of a Radio Leeds mid-morning phone-in last week. And women in their fifties were talking about it at my diet class. And, what the hell, it might push a bit of site traffic my way.

 So, let’s get the obligatory questions out of the way.

Have I read them?
Yep. All three. In quick succession.

But, are they as badly written as everyone says they are?
Fuck, yeah.

Would you go to the Red Room with Christian Grey and the riding crop?
Fuck, yeah. Times about a billion.

So, what is left to say about the badly written mummy porn? Well, nothing. My problem is with the tone in which it is all being said. The snarky, high-handed, sneering way in which the three best-selling books have been discussed. But not just the books; the women that have read and enjoyed them.

Apparently, anybody reading them for anything other than research for a Guardian column is being suckered. They have ‘suboptimal reading skills’. They are buying into terrible sexual politics and want to be dominated by emotionally crippled billionaires – the sappy fools. The very phrase ‘mummy porn’ smacks of value judgement. I understand that mummys like sex too – I believe that’s how most of ‘em get up the stick in the first place.

And here’s what I recently realised. When those snarky twats are describing this simpering, nappy-changing bint who has to sound out the big words, they’re describing me. I read the first one out of curiosity. I was on holiday and wanted something unchallenging and fun. And I got what I asked for. I enjoyed the first one so much that I went straight out and bought the second. I got the third one in the airport and read it on the flight home.

And yet at no time did I switch off my critical facilities.

I think Anastasia is a silly bitch and almost completely unreflective of any other women I know. Perhaps EL James edited out the chapter where she gets the lobotomy. Just because I read the book, I don’t want to BE Anastasia. I wasn’t fantasising about being a doormat. Actually, she was being one so that I don’t have to be. Isn’t that the point of fiction? To take you places you wouldn’t normally go to walk in other people’s shoes?

As for Mr Fifty Shades. Well, had I been Anastasia there would not have been three books. The minute he pulled out that ‘I don’t make love, I fuck’ line, I’d have handed him his grey tie and shown him the door. Don’t get me wrong, I’d have been tempted to set aside my principles for a whizz-bang with the well-endowed, sexually dextrous, billionaire but I’m pretty sure I’d have said no. Well, I’m reasonably confident that I would. You know, depends whether I’d made an effort and put on an uncomfortable bra for the date. You don’t want that going to waste…

Oi! Holdsworth! Isn’t this blog supposed to be about writing not bonking?

Oh yeah. Point is that I think the Fifty Shades phenomenon kind of proves the point of my earlier blogs. If something is seemingly inexplicably popular, as writers we should be trying to explain the inexplicable. All that energy spent sneering is just sour grapes. Because after I’d finished inhaling those three books I was left with the overwhelming feeling that I could have done it better, No! That I should have done it better. I should have had the instinct to write a best-selling bonkbuster. But a well-written one.

I should have been aware of that possible audience. Not the dumbasses that the columnists would have us believe are reading that book but women like me. I deserved better on my holidays. I deserved a book with good fucking and good sentence structure. There’s a huge hole (Ooh, missus) in the market! I should have seen it.

And here we come to the part that may make some people squirm in their seats, so look away if you are of a nervous disposition. Maybe the reason that there isn’t a better class of clit-lit out there (or at least it isn’t being marketed to us) is because it would mean admitting that women masturbate.

Quick, the smelling salts!

Because that’s what all the sneering and tittering has really been about. The success of these books has been because women like to get off. Although, looking at the coverage, you’d think that female masturbation was only invented last week. Hence the huge amount of press coverage; because male newspaper editors think that jilling-off is the phenomenon; not the EL James’ big old cash-in on it.

So, what have we learnt? Firstly, my mother can’t read this blog – ever. Secondly, stop sneering at bad writing being a success. Acknowledge the potential audience and give them something better! Give them something that blows their minds, challenges their intellect and feeds their souls. Know this: you are as sure as shit a better writer than EL James.

And that’s cruel. But then I’m sure Ms James is crying herself to sleep on her big fucking pile of money.

Friday 22 June 2012

Manners Cost Nothing

A couple of weeks ago, I heard some good news. A show that I had been developing with a producer at one of the bigger independent production companies had been given a green light. How exciting! And well-deserved, I can tell you. I had put some serious hours in to the pitch document. I had been up and down to their Soho offices (at my own expense) to have numerous meetings with the development producer. I’d had a meeting with the author of the book on which the show was going to be based and got along famously with her. It all went on hold whilst the development producer went on maternity leave, but she assured me that someone would be looking after her slate and they’d be in touch.

That was two years ago. So imagine my utter joy when I saw that the show really had been looked after. Looked after so well that it starts shooting next month. Hang on! That doesn’t leave me a lot of time to actually write the scripts. Blimey, I had better clear my schedule and cancel my holidays… Wait a minute.

Of course, the show has been commissioned but with a different writer. And that is absolutely fine. It happens. But what also happens is that production companies and producers don’t have the common courtesy to get in touch with writers to tell them that their services are no longer required. I have a folder on my computer called ‘Dead???’; it is full of projects that I developed with producers that now I simply don’t know whether they are dead in the water or still bouncing around on someone’s desk.

Actually, I do know. Those projects are deader than Bin Laden. I know in the same way that you know that the bloke you went on the really nice date with three weeks ago who said ‘Hey, so this was great. We should totally do this again’ is a lying sack of shit and is not going to be rocking up to your doorstep with a bunch of roses and an engagement ring any time soon. The producer is just not that into you and your little idea. Get over it.

But this isn’t a date. It’s a professional relationship.

Now, I’d like to think that the reason those producers never bothered to get in touch is that they thought I was delicate flower who would go all Sylvia Plath the moment someone even thought the word ‘rejection’ in my general vicinity. Actually, they just don’t give a flying fuck. What they actually think is that writers and their ideas are expendable. Like small children with a new toy, they only love you until your paint gets scratched and your batteries run out.

Sidebar: I think a recent TV experiment in ‘improvised dialogue’ has shown us that writers are far from expendable. If writing was a relationship, a certain broadcaster should be stood outside our houses holding up a boom box and playing a Peter Gabriel song right about now.

In fairness, a lot of development producers are only passing on the treatment that they have received at the hands of their own employers. Let’s put it this way, if my job title included the word ‘development’ I wouldn’t bother learning the receptionist’s name and unpacking my favourite mug. Those poor buggers are rarely in the same job for longer than a year. So, the reality is that when writers do one of their periodical ring-rounds to chase up their projects, the chances of speaking to your contact is pretty slim. And that is true of both independent production companies and good old Aunty Beeb. We keep being told that it is important as writers to foster relationships with like-minded producers. Yeah, good luck with that. At best, your relationship with a development producer is like an intense holiday romance. Nice whilst it lasts, but there’s no way that Pedro is going to still remember your name once your tan has faded.

That fact is that it is still unacceptable to treat people in this way. Those ideas of mine that are languishing on hard drives across London are my babies. I don’t let pitch documents away from my desk unless I really love the idea. I don’t involve myself in projects unless (at the outset at least) I genuinely want to see it on screen with my name on the credits. Those ideas are my currency, my product. How dare anyone treat them with such a cavalier attitude?

Now, let me just quickly say that not all producers and companies have treated me this way. Some producers are nothing short of conscientious about keeping writers informed. In my case, those producers know who they are because I’ve continued to bring ideas to them. You guys are the tops.

As for you other buggers, here is what I’m going to do. Sometime soon I’m going to book a week in London and I’m going to pay a visit to all the producers of all the projects in my Dead??? file. I’m going to stride into their offices, clapping my hands together in an industrious fashion and I’m going to say ‘So, when do we start filming?’ Because if no news is good news…

Obviously, I’m not going to do that. But I should. We all should. We should demand a basic level of courtesy and etiquette from the people to whom we entrust our precious ideas. And so my real message to those producers is this: - Oi! Didn’t your mother teach you any manners?