Buzzard: yak yak yak

Boring picture of script

Luckily, summer has been awful so far. I say that because even if the isobars had smiled upon the South West, bringing sunshine, picnics and gambols in the hay, I’d have spent the entire time stuck indoors with a laptop, channelling an incorrigible curmudgeon of a protagonist whilst the birds sang and the rest of the world stuffed its fat face with ice-cream and cider. Bollocks to that. Let it rain whilst I draft.

Hey, are you a writer? I bet you are. Everyone’s a writer nowadays. I think there are probably inert gases currently working on their first novel or poetry cycle. Well, seeing as you’re a writer (and I’m trying, god knows I’m trying, to make a decent fist of the same) let me share with you my latest discovery, geared towards promoting a happy, healthy writing practice: DVD commentaries.

I know there are plenty of people who like writing to music — I can’t. I’m far too sensitive to it… if a CD starts skipping repeatedly in a pub, I’m likely to be tearing up the floorboards and glassing the locals in seconds. But whilst I’m constructing stories and editing dialogue there’s something helpful about whacking on the ‘waffle option’ for Godfather Part II or Fitzcarraldo . It’s a bit like working in an office where Martin Scorsese and Jessica Hynes are popping in now and then for the odd conversation… and of course, from time to time you look up from your desk and someone’s banging on about issues relevant to the job in hand. Here are two of my favourites:

Paul Schrader discussing the number of ‘things’ in a script. This is somewhere around halfway into the commentary for The Last Temptation Of Christ, and Mr Schrader ruminates upon the film containing an unusually high number of ‘things’. Normally, he explains, he’ll plan for 25 to 30 ‘things’ in a 2 hour film. Last Temptation has approximately 50 ‘things’ (but there you go — that’s God for you.)

Inclusion of the word ‘underpants’ makes any given phrase 20% funnier. From Matt Groening’s team of writers on Futurama. From my own experience I can tell you that joint writing efforts feature endless debates as to the intrinsic funniness of any given word. I’ve managed to wrangle a few favourites into Buzzard – which I won’t reveal here, for fear of tainting the gag – but those that didn’t make the cut include the idea of someone “having an enormous wappy” (too Midlands-specific, I fear) and a character with the unusual, but extant, US christian name of “Treehorn.”


So, with a second draft happily fuelling pre-production, the piecemeal work of hammering a play into shape continues. Co-director Tanuja and I make inroads into the choreography in the upper reaches of BOV one day (drawing unwanted attention from Old Vic’s resident family of kamikaze seagulls) and plot through AV cues the next with animator Dane Watkins.

Bit by bit the aesthetic of the show is emerging. This is helped by designing the show’s website, trying to present its content “in character”, hampered only by my cackhanded programming style…

Buzzard html wtf lol

BUZZARD is at the Bristol Old Vic, September 23 – 26 2009.

Part three of this diary can be found here.