Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Cold hard talk

Bloody hell it's cold here in LA. And don't bother asking me the temperature because I'm very very confused - partly due to the cold and partly due to the fact that when I learned about measuring temperature at school it was all done in Celsius,  so I know that freezing is 0 degrees Celsius and  boiling water is 100 degrees Celsius,  but over here with its Fahrenheit and whatever,  I have no idea. I just know it's cold.

I've considered that it might just be because I'm coming down with something, or maybe because I'm getting older and then it's dawned on me,  I have become a complete and utter woos.

On a weekday morning, some little gadget that Mark put up in the kitchen tells me it's 50 degrees of something outside and I go through some sort of bizarre grammar lesson with my kids.
"Boys, get a jacket are you warm enough?"
"Is he warm enough?"
"Does he look warm enough to you?"
"Are you going to be warm enough?"
"Is it warm enough outside?"
"Do you think they'll be warm enough?"

EVERY morning. I even annoy myself.

And the worst of it is, I grew up in Scotland, where at times it was freezing.
My brother and I would walk the mile to school in all weathers, wearing the worst type of weather clothing in the world.
Every year, going back to school after summer would be marked by the arrival of a new- or often, as I was the youngest, in my case, a handed down duffle-coat.
Part of me believes the duffle-coat might have been invented by Dick Cheney. A great big heavy lump of a garment that restricted your arm movements and nipped at your fingers with the toggles. No matter what the weather, you were guaranteed discomfort.

In Autumn - or Fall as it's called over here - sure it might keep off the wind, but walk more that a couple of yards in it and the sweat begins. Open the duffle-coat and it catches in the wind like a giant heavy sail, so closed it stays, wrapped around you like your own personal sauna.
Are you warm enough in there?
Frankly, I'm bloody melting.

In Winter when it snows, you better hope there's not a snowball fight, because you'll be done and dusted before you've ever managed to manoever a gloved hand to the ground to scoop up some snow And as for throwing, forget it. There's no way your arms are gonna launch anything.
But worst of all the rain. And in Scotland, rain can make an appearance in any season.

A wet duffle-coat is one of the least pleasant feelings in the world, for the water soaks into the wool rather than running off,  and the coat takes on twice the weight and smells a little like the sheep that so kindly offered up its fleece in the first place.
And there's no way out without battling through the leather and wood toggle trap.
I sometimes wonder if they called depression "the wet duffle-coat"  more people would be understanding as to what it was.

I know my schooldays were 30 years ago and I am certain the duffle-coat has evolved enormously since then, but some memories stick. I'm sorry makers of duffle-coats, whoever they may be, but there'll be no future custom from this house. Just put it down to sins of the fathers.

In the mornings, when I am barking out my "warm enough" grammatical exercise  my 10 year old says to me, "Calm down Mom, there are worse things than being a little bit cold."
And I think to myself, he is wise beyond his years.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Happy Birthday!

I've noticed my blogs have been a little melancholic of late, so I’m aiming for one with a practical tone. 

Just over a year ago, Mark and I had an idea. (we'd had ideas before, don't get me wrong, but it was one of those ideas that wouldn't go away.)
Over a glass of wine, I was complaining about how workwise, everyone seemed to want a "half hour" of scripted comedy, and that unless you were driven by some great idea, it was pointless writing yet another half hour to be added to the pile.
 “If I have to write a half hour, ” I said, “I’ll write 30 individual little minutes”
“How would that work?” Mark asked, pouring me another glass.
“Easy,” I said, “Like the Google Doodles. You know, something based on this day in history, but delivered as a joke. A different minute every day, delivered by a different performer.”

The next day, he set about building a green screen studio in the room above the garage,  and despite the fact that till we moved to LA,  Mark had been Mr Suit and Tie Ministry of Defence (or stateside 'defense') Consultant,  set about learning how to light, shoot and upload video.

We shot five vids, just with me talking to camera - and even though they were pretty rough, bizarrely and magnificently, we managed to rope in an amazing line up of performers such as Alfred Molina, Bradley WalshGina Yashere and John Thomson literally in our first two weeks of shooting.

Less than 4 days of shooting and we had well over out 30 minutes. A brilliant designer friend came on board. We had an identity.
And the performers kept coming:  Cold Case star Jeremy Ratchford and Disney star, Brian Stepanek, movie actress Kathy Baker and novelist Colette Freedman, actor and presenter Ross King. All good friends.

Soon, Mark and I acknowledged we were going to go for the whole calendar year and that we’d shoot, edit and upload a video every day until it was done - a ridiculous decision as the urban legend that viral videos make people millionaires on YouTube is really just a legend.
True, some people do make millions, but just like not every software programmer turns out to be Mark Zuckerberg, not every YouTube video goes Gangnam style. We battened down the hatches, tightened belts and forged ahead.

Mark decided we needed a teleprompter and promptly set about building one out of wood, (don't ask).

I took my first shot at show running: scheduling, assigning and emailing dates, writing, and collecting scripts, arranging shoots.
We explained to everyone involved that we weren't paying anything. That technically, really there was nothing in it for them other than us taking up their time, but everyone came and did it anyway, sometimes even in the middle of a vacation like Stephen K AmosJack Docherty and Moray Hunter and Greg Hemphill.

The past 12 and a half months have been kind of mind blowing.

We’ve had writers from pretty much all continents emailing me jokes for no more thanks than an end credit, logos and titles and corporate identities designed for nothing more than a thank you, all manner of great, clever and talented people have been gracing our little studio in the room above the garage,  performing little stories about what happened on this day in history for completely no money -  and merely the off-chance of a bowl of homemade soup, or maybe a bit of quiche if they're lucky – even our two kids have even taken to it, performing possibly my favorite tribute to Elvis Presley ever.

But we set out to do 30 minutes and then a year and now we’ve pretty much covered what we set out to do….except…

We’ve had such a brilliant time, we’re going to continue. Not uploading every day any more – the videos are becoming longer and too complex to do that.
Aside from that Mr. Tweddle has a hankering for a job outside the green screen studio, (maybe even wearing a suit and tie like the old days, or maybe not)
And me?  I’ve had this notion for a scripted half hour….

So we're going to make the move from being calendar bound, to character bound.
Instead of 7 uploads a week, maybe just two or three.
Astronomy will still be sexy. Kurtwood Smith will still be the "Bing Crosby of comedy". Kathy Baker will still be as wise as the sphinx. Meanwhile Alfred Molina is introducing a new character to go alongside Fabio the Italian dentist and Nigel in the Laundromat, and our great assortment of just bloody brilliant and bizarre performers, will still be turning up to shoot in the room above the garage somewhere in North Hollywood.

And though I promised this would be a practical blog, just typing it, I find myself getting pretty sentimental.

I’ve learned a lot this year, about video production and the world of online and a mountain of trivia about what happened on certain days in history.

Mostly, I’ve learned though that there are some people who will do amazing things for a bowl of soup or a slice of quiche or a thank you and that to those people I will always be indebted.

Thank you all, you mad old bunch.