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?

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Cutting the costs of ITV regional news. Perhaps more accessible?

itv calendar newsI’m very interested to see how the professional media world is merging with consumer level media. Calendar News, part of the ITV news network, is using online tools that are accessible to everyone.

 

The ITV online news channel is basically a blog populated by videos hosted not by ITV but using Vimeo. Vimeo is a free video orientated social media channel a bit like Youtube.

I’m not sure what this does for the brand image of ITV as a big player, but it may be seen as a means of making the service feel more accessible and “ordinary”. I don’t have a problem with this especially if the journalism stands out as being excellent. ITV‘s great strength in Yorkshire is its approachability in my view.

The great news is that for any aspiring journalists, you can create a news website which follows this model and uses these very tools. The next step, I imagine, is to encourage the participation of citizen journalists in ITV’s news coverage – a step we began to take when my team established ITV Local Yorkshire a few years back but proved too expensive at the time.

Another interesting aspect is that if you have a Vimeo account you can get statistics about how many people have viewed the videos and for how long – introducing a daring competitive element.

Calendar News website

Calendar News Vimeo channel

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Regional news returns to ITV.com

When Erik Huggers joined the BBC he said that the BBC's internet service tended to be a lonely experience, meaning he wanted to be aware of the other users on the site an interact with them.

ITV Local Yorkshire, when it existed, was not a lonely experience. The comments and interactions over the death of an Emmerdale star, the demolition of a local landmark and the inclusion of viewers photos and films made it a space of genuine interaction and participation.  At the time the service was running we had a stream of visitors to Kirkstall Road and even a dedicated studio for viewers to have their say. I witnessed some real passion.

The internet has come a long way. Once upon a time it was a place to put information that was already available on other services, but now it has become a medium in its own right with its own way of doing things. ITV Local was an attempt to respond to this trend.

And so I was interested to see the return of Calendar News to ITV.com  I wanted to find out whether it is old fashioned TV being recycled on the internet or a new offering from Calendar News. Perhaps a complementary service that extended the value of their excellent TV journalism?

To its credit, the site is simple. It's a list of reports that you can see again if you happened to miss them on the evening news. A catchup service. So far I haven't been able to find a comments section nor a way of watching the reports on my iphone. There doesn't seem to be a way of adding my own version of events. In fact there isn't even the obligatory "contact us" button.   All in all disappointing as this is just an old fashioned web site in the model of old fashioned broadcasting. A lonely experience.

All this is a shame because ITV's big strength has been its relationship with audiences.  When I was at the BBC we were for a time aware that the corporation had the image of a distant authority figure – reliable but dull, intelligent but aloof, high quality but slow, unapproachable, behind closed doors etc.  ITV, on the other hand, was daring, fun, risky, approachable. Above all it was someone you could talk to – not distant and forbidding.

It was for these reasons that I'd hoped that ITV could be a people channel through services like ITV Local, offering points of contact and engagement. I'd thought that it could offer an open door to its audiences and be a place where people could really meet one another and have a bit of fun. That does sound a bit like Britain's Got Talent and X Factor doesn't it, but perhaps not much else. It would be great if participatory thinking could permeate through to other areas of the output even to the regions.