TV, Film & Media

Relationships, reactions and turning points. Life’s a drama.

Things at the heart of good drama include – relationships, reactions and turning points. Drama is an uncertain journey where steps are taken with no assurance of the outcome. We stare into the eyes of our fellow cast members not entirely sure of where we stand. Yet we journey together dependent on one another overcoming obstacles and moving to a place of irreversible change. The appeal of good drama is that it gets close to where we’ve come from, who we are, and where we might be going.

I confess I am addicted to TV dramas. Feeding my addiction is Netflix which has given me access to many of the Scandinavian thrillers like The Bridge and American series like 24. Some of the best TV dramas here in the UK, in my opinion, have been produced by ITV like Foyles War. The BBC wasn’t very confident about Ripper Street, but I have to say the Amazon funded series of Ripper Street has been absorbing. The the dark Victorian crime story was designed and directed beautifully with compelling performances that were intense and immersive. The latest series of the BBC’s New Tricks has fallen short with some tame story lines, lack of clarity, slow pace, predictable outcomes, poor acting and little depth. It looks elderly and dated.

I am not high minded or particularly sophisticated in my viewing, I make no pretence. For me formula works pretty well. I like strong characters, a roller-coaster journey of unexpected twists. I appreciate good acting and camera direction, but for me it’s the strength of the story that keeps me engaged.

The ingredients of a good story are high stakes, dramatic turning points and a well timed beat. Take 24 for example with Keifer Sutherland as agent Jack Bouer. The formula is well worked out with stakes as high as they get – for example world war three! Every ten minutes there is a seemingly insoluble disaster and yet the hero turns it around. The characters are crude but well defined. Underneath this crudeness you get to see the mind of the writers exploring aspects of American life with the characters taking on representations of key power groups like the press, government factions and the outsider. Crude and upsetting but insightful. Foyles War gentler but reminding us of many of the atrocious things that went on in our name during the war.

The key thought in this blog post is the idea that a great life is made up of ever changing relationships and turning points. Whatever situation we find ourselves in there is always hope. The refugees flocking into the country for a better life, the loss of a friend or relative, a difficult relationship – these are all things which go into our story. We may have difficulty finding a job or wake up cornered by financial difficulties. Yet, the experience of life is that there is always the hope of a dramatic turning point.

The ingredients of a good drama include, as I say, relationships, reactions and turning points. Good acting is not about acting but re-acting – it’s how we respond that matters. A comfortable life many not afford an opportunity for drama or story and be a waste of our limited time. Risk opens up the possibility of fuller and more exciting life

Have we got the right relationships? Are we reacting to our circumstances in a helpful way and are we hopeful that things will turn around? Are we part of the story or just an observer? Are we moving our ow story forward to that all important resolution?


david hockney – the bigger picture

I love David Hockney's pictures. I warm to him perhaps because, like me, he was born in Bradford and I often pop in to Salts Mill to see his work.

I met his friend the late Jonathan Silver once and there are people like them who have a wonderful independence and way of looking at the world; they're able to look at something ordinary and make something of it.

Hockney Imagine on BBC ONE last week featured a film about Hockney made by Bruno Wollheim over a three year period. David Hockney would not have a film crew follow him but did allow Wollheim to shoot the documentarty on his own.

The way the film was made is in itself interesting. At one point in the film Wolheim could be seen in a mirror both conversing with Hockney and shooting the film simultaneously. Here was a film being made by someone on the inside of the story being given special but qualified privilege.

David Hockney declared photography as incapable of capturing things as they really are, "this needs looking at" he says with a twinkle. He explains that it was all looking through holes; all Western perspective was – you're not connected with it, you want to be in it. I don't look thought the camera anymore,he said.  So, having once embraced photographic techniques to aid his art he has now abandoned the camera, or so he says. Wollheim catches Hockney sneaking some photography into his work and challenges him on this. 

I liked the tone of the film and David Hockney comes over as thoughtful, witty and even spiritual. He thinks that three things are required to paint great pictures – hand, eye and heart.

If you're quick you can watch it again on BBC iPlayer here

Bruno Wallheim's own story in The Telegraph


radio academy leeds: stations may close

Get a hundred or so radio presenters in one room and what do you have?  A lot of talking!  Had last night's event been run by TV people there would have been more posh frocks and Champaign but here at Tiger Tiger in Leeds it was beer and banter.

The winners of the Radio Academy Nations and Regions Awards was Rother FM – apparently for the second year running, praise given for their exceptional contributions to the local community.

Andrew Harrison of The Radio Centre was the guest speaker and he opened with comments about the hard times facing commercial radio. He said that there were more radio stations than the sector could support (he took us through his sums) and said he expects some local commercial stations the close this year.

I couldn’t help thinking how much like Greg Dyke Andrew looked.  And then following my instinct to make connections I reflected on how many former marketing people are now running broadcasting in the UK. There is Andy Duncan at Channel 4 and Tim Davie at BBC Radio, to name but two.  It just goes to show, selling skills are valued in the industry now –  it’s gone from a being a producer led industry to one which is marketing led, and for good reasons I’m sure.