Stingers call for entries

Northern Film and Media have announced the launch of their latest Stingers scheme. I’ve just completed a mini-Stinger for them, Come Back, which hopefully will be getting premiered soon. It was an amazing experience, working with a great production company, Vita Nova, and all kinds of lovely and professional people to create… well, a fairly daft but hopefully funny little film.


The cast of Come Back

Anyway, if you’re in NFM’s catchment area (Northumberland, Tyne & Wear, County Durham and Tees Valley) and into the whole writey-filmy thing, it’s worth getting involved, either as a writer, or a director, or as both.

Stingers 7  Call for Entries

Stingers 7 is the annual digital short Film Scheme from Northern Film & Media, run in association with the UK Film Council. As the title suggests, it is a scheme that has run for the past seven years, launching the careers of many writers, directors and producers from the region, taking some as far as international success.

To freshen up the Stingers format this year’s scheme will be run a little differently. There are now four separate strands to the scheme; Mini Stingers, Maxi Stingers, Digital Nation (formally Digital Shorts Plus) and 4mations.

Mini Stingers 7

Mini Stingers is open to new and emerging writers and directors. Each production will have total budget of £4,000 and the film must be under five minutes. You can apply with a drama, docu-drama, documentary or animation-based projects to this scheme..

Maxi Stingers 7

Maxi Stingers is open to writers who have a track record in the industry and have had at least one commission before. Directors should have a track record of short film making or have a similar experience in another medium (i.e. TV drama, documentary, commercials etc).  Each production will have a total budget of £12,000 and be no more than ten minutes long. This scheme is drama only.

Digital Nation (formally Digital Shorts Plus)

Digital Nation invites applications from directors and writer/directors who are ready to make the leap to more ambitious cinematic short films.   You may have made a Stinger or work of a similar level, for example you may have a broadcast credit in drama or documentary or you may be an established theatre writer or director.   Digital Nation will provide you with the opportunity to join a nationwide talent pool and participate in an intensive tailored development process designed to hone your script and your voice as a filmmaker.  At the end of this development process the UK Film Council will choose 12 films over 2 years, each to be made at a budget of approx £18, 000.


4mations Digital Shorts is a new animation strand of the Digital Shorts Scheme which will have its own guidelines and deadline date. 4mations Digital Shorts will open for applications on the 10th October and close on the 10th November. If you are an animator then you should apply to that scheme through the 4mations website directly . The 4mations Digital Shorts page (with guidelines & application form) will not be available until Friday 10th October on the 4mations site. Right now, you can subscribe to the 4mations newsletter, and the 4mations team will keep you up to speed as they go live. Details will also be posted on our website once finalised.

We are seeking ambitious, original and thought-provoking narrative driven proposals from developing animation talent. Preferred running time is 3 minutes but we will accept up to maximum of 7 minutes. We will commission 1 film through the 4mations Digital Shorts Scheme at a budget of £15,000.

You must be based in the North East region (Northumberland, Tyne & Wear, County Durham and Tees Valley). You must also not be in full-time or undergraduate education.

To apply, please download the appropriate application form and guidelines from our  Website .

The deadline for applications is 5pm on Thursday 30th October 2008.

Me Me Me

Because this blog doesn’t contain enough me…

Here’s an interview with me done by Mr David Bussell (a talented sketch-maker, the bastard), and originally posted on the British Sitcom Guide’s Forums on 07/08/08.

You think you’re all that and a Toblerone, don’t you? Well lay it out for me, tough guy – what makes you King Shit?

Well, I got head-butted by a giraffe once, and lived to tell the tale. Writing wise, I’ve done a few short films, a few sketches, a few animations and some brilliant Christmas thank-you letters.

 But really, it’s the giraffe thing I’m proudest of. Lesson learned: if you’re looking up at a giraffe, and its head appears to be getting bigger, it isn’t.

I heard it was the other way round – that you nutted the giraffe for spurning your advances. Take it from me, sunshine, that big black tongue might look inviting but she’s only after your doughnuts.

I’ve been to your website. Pretty swish. You build that yourself or did you have a lackey do it?

You ever tried necking with a giraffe? Takes ages. Plus you get a crowd of people standing round going: “you missed a bit.”

I do the website myself, which is why it only gets updated sporadically. It’s worth doing, though, to have a central hub where you can stick your stuff. I’ve had a couple of jobs come through just ‘cos people have found me via the site.

Also we get a fair few hits from people looking for Shameless the TV show. I’m bracing myself for a cease and desist any day now…

You’ve gotten a lot of your stuff on the telly I see. Any special tactics or can shall I put it down to the sweet tang of your velveteen lips?

Oh, it’s not my lips. They’re more like terry towelling than anything.

Some of the telly stuff has come from producers spotting my films online. Shows like Totally Viral and Teethgrinder, which want YouTube-style shenanigans. Some pay, some don’t, but it all looks good on the CV.

The other TV has generally been the result of the late BBC Comedy Soup site. I uploaded a cartoon called “The Prophecies of Nostradamus” and it won their Funny Hunt talent search (incidentally, do you think that name was supposed to sound like “Funny C**t”?), and I got to go to a comedy seminar thingy in Manchester with all the other Funny Cu… uh, winners, which led to us all being invited to submit sketches to a new show which turned out to be Scallywagga.

Then someone saw Nostradamus on Comedy Shuffle and decided I must be an animator. Which I’m not, but I wouldn’t tell them that. So I’ve done some animations for BBC3 show called FAO3 and I’m currently working on a mini-series for Channel 4’s upcoming animation website

Oh, and I’ve sucked an awful lot of cock, obviously.

An awful lot.


You give it out for free all the time, I can tell. How frustrating is it for you to be expected to give your comedy away for nothing more than an elusive and often useless credit? Does it worry you that with the growth of ‘user generated content’ programmes like Teethgrinder, The Wall etc, that us funny f**kers will be expected to work even longer with no reward?

Good question. These shows can be useful for getting some exposure initially, but there comes a point at which you have to put a value on what you do, or what you do will be seen as having no value. In the case of Teethgrinder, they’re not paying but it’s a BBC credit, and I’m only letting them have old stuff which people can already watch for free on t’internet. Obviously, the hope is that some big-name comedy producer will be watching, and decide to stuff tenners in my speedos for me to go make some more sketches. Likely! But I wouldn’t make anything new for anybody else without getting paid for it. No more “sucky f**ky no dollar” for me.

I think I’ve reached the stage where I object to not getting paid for work that will generate income for somebody else. I’m still happy to write and film sketches for my own amusement though. And I’m happy to bung them online. It’s free love, baby.

You’re right, it was a good question.

You’ve some handsome looking videos in your collection. What’s the most you’ve laid out to see one made?

Most of my stuff is made for pennies, but…

I did a short for BBC3 a couple of years back, The Space Time Envelope, which theoretically had a budget of £3000, but I wasn’t allowed anywhere near the money side of things. They paid me with a £1 coin sellotaped to the inside of an envelope.

Moon Shot UK was funded to the tune of £900, and I was in control of that money which is why I have a £500 spacesuit hanging in my wardrobe.

And I’m currently in post production on a £4000 short film made as part of Northern Film & Media’s Stingers scheme. They took one look at my wardrobe and decided to keep me away from the money again, but it’s looking ok so far.

I’ve made this point elsewhere on the forums, but if you’re a writer it’s worth getting in touch with your local Regional Screen Agency – they want to give you money to help you in your career, and they may even give you money to write and direct a film. And having something concrete and professional-looking to show potential employers puts you ahead of the game straight away.

Turning up to meetings in a spacesuit is another way to get noticed.

I find knee-dropping at the end of the bit in Superstition when Stevie sings “When you believe in things – that you don’t understand – then you suffer-wwoaaoaoaoaaoaoaoaoh!” also does the trick.

Tell us, James, what’s the hardest you’ve screwed someone over in your relentless pursuit of success?

Steady on, Paxman! Is this the point where you draw back the curtain and say “And here he is, ten years after you ripped out his still-beating heart and ground it under your uncaring boot as part of your quest to be almost nearly successful: it’s your old writing partner Terry!”

So, Terry, obviously.

Other than that I’ve kind of poodled along at my own pace. I barely move fast enough to give someone a thumbs-up as they whizz past, let alone stick a knife between their shoulder blades. Not that I wouldn’t if I could, you understand. What I’m saying is, if we’re both in the queue to meet Mr Comedy Cashbags, don’t turn your back on me.

Already forgotten your name, friend.


(ps I am sad today. Send balloons.)

This Duck is Very Excited

Don’t take my word for it…



That duck is excited. No doubt about it. And why? Because the debut of Reassurance with Chad Banger is only, like, a few days away.

The first two episodes will be on 4mations from the 7th October, with episodes 3 and 4 following on October 14th.

I think possibly the duck would be less excited if he realised that he’s only in episode 4 for a couple of seconds, and that something VERY BAD happens to him.

You want to see something bad happen to a duck? Of course you do. Coming soon…


Gus has an interesting bit about the art of Chad Banger over at his bloggins.


I’m currently working on a new cartoon pitch with Gus Hughes, so what better time to take a look at somebody else’s pitching skillz? No better time, that’s what better time.

So here’s John K (of Ren and Stimpy infamy) pitching a new show, George Liquor’s Cartoony Type Variety Show.

 He outlines the idea, includes artwork, sample dialogue,  plot ideas and gags and he does it using a friendly, amusing tone.

He also underlines a Very Important Selling Point:

John K's sexy girls

Don’t forget how good we are at animating sexy girls! Hopefully this would be a ratings grabbing ingredient in the George Liquor Variety Program.

It’s a good template for a pitch I think, and one which I’ll try and emulate:

Don’t forget how good we are at animating people’s heads exploding!

I mean, boobs are all well and good, but c’mon! Heads! Exploding!

I think we’re onto a winner.

Jan Jung on Sitcom Writing

How do I turn ideas into script?


If you have an idea, ask yourself where the idea originates. What is your starting point? Is it a character, is it a funny situation, or is it an idea of a setting? Don’t start with a script, but write down as many ideas you can about it. Remember, the characters are the most important thing to develop – if you don’t have good characters, you done have anything. So, if your setting is your beginning, then begin to think about who can populate it. Who is your protagonist who we root for, who’s dreams we follow? Why doesn’t it work – who is also put there to make life difficult for this person? Where does the comedy come from?

To start, write a few sketches between the characters. How would they act and speak to each other – develop their back-story as much as you can. Think about areas they don’t want to talk about, their flaws and what ultimately makes them likeable? Not necessarily, how nice they are, but what makes us like them. For example, Alan Partridge is an obnoxious person, but we love him because we know he knows has a lot of short comings. When he’s alone we see how horrible he feels about himself, but when he’s confronted with someone he takes on the role of a broadcaster and of someone who is on top of it all. His PA is the complete opposite of him and between the two of them, we can see who he is because she doesn’t need to say anything, its just the way she is – she gives us the image of him.

Mould and define your characters. Get the contrasts out. If you have two characters the same, nothing will come out of it. You can only get the bad side out of a character by exposing it to another character who is the exact opposite. When you have this, then you can define your storyline and your pilot script then begin on your dialogue and put it all together.

More at 4Laughs

I Got a Badge


the kitteniest badge on this blog

the kitteniest badge on this blog

I feel very special.

And tonight I’ve been working up some new animation ideas with Mr Gus. I like being an animator, even though I’m not really an animator at all. Best make lots of cartoons before somebody notices and makes me give my kitteny badge back.

Stick a Fork in Him…

Reassurance With Chad Banger
Chad, relaxing by a vortex yesterday

He’s done! Well, subject to approval anyway.

We’ve finished four episodes of Reassurance with Chad Banger for 4mations, and we’re well chuffed with them. Chuff chuff chuff, like a happy train. Gus’s art is gorgeous, and I raised my animation game just ever so slightly. I managed to make people talk and walk. I mean, not at the same time, but still. Awesome.

They should start turning up on the 4mations website before too long. I can’t wait to see what people think of ’em. We’d love to make more.

Our modest hope is that Chadmania sweeps the nation, with t-shirts, mugs and branded lunchable sausages filling the shelves of emporia everywhere. I want to see knock-off plush made-in-China Chads filling fairground claw-machines the length and breadth of the nation.

And that’s probably what will happen. Yeah.

How To Write A Sitcom

From Graham Linehan’s recent “masterclass” in sitcom writing at the Edinburgh International TV Festival:

  • Don’t be afraid to procrastinate: ‘Even playing a computer game is valuable. The subconscious goes to sleep and when it wakes up, it panics. Your subconscious is like a writing partner… but one that’s never there when you need it.’
  • Keep rewriting and rewriting: ‘The first draft is like a bunch of notes, it is just something to work with. Writers should be encouraged not to be so precious in the early drafts.’
  • ‘Censorship is good’. He said thinking of ways of getting around rules meant you had to be get creative. ‘The Two Ronnies had more words for breasts than eskimos have for snow,’ he said. He quoted the Master Of My Own Domain episode of Seinfeld, which was all about refraining from masturbation, but never once mentioned the word.
  • Don’t be afraid to keep cutting, even if it seems painful: ‘When you are losing good stuff, you know you are on the right track.’
  • ‘Don’t do everything a TV executive tells you to do.’ But don’t cause a row, either. Just tell them their ideas are ‘interesting’.
  • Make your own rules and stick to them. On Father Ted he and Arthur Mathews vowed never to show Ted at work, leading to a raft of jokes about his very short Mass in one episode that worked because the actual ceremony was unseen. ‘Rules like that focus the mind. They force you to think in more creative ways to get around things.
  • Find the trap that the characters are stuck in; either physical like Porridge or emotional like Steptoe, and make sure there are no other logical ways out of scenes other than the funny one. ‘Batten down the hatches so audiences never get the chance to say, “Hang on, why doesn’t he…?”‘
  • Think of the classic set-piece moments first. ‘If you can find in every episodes two such moments, then all you have to do is connect them up with a series of gags. The way to write sitcoms is to write these set pieces first’.
  • Show don’t tell. If your character is a cynical lawyer, don’t introduce him as the ‘cynical lawyer’. Show him behaving that way.
  • Write scripts, not treatments, which he called ‘reviews of a show that doesn’t exist yet’. Only when you write will you know what your sitcom is really about.
  • Find someone to work with. ‘Writing with a partner is paid socialising. Writing on your own is work.’
  • Think differently. If everyone is doing silly, do realistic; if everyone is doing sketch shows with recurring characters, write one that doesn’t. ‘The main reason I did the IT Crowd was because everyone said that the silly sitcom was dead.’

Link via Chortle.

 I’m doing all right on the procrastination front, at least. Some interesting tips there, although the “think differently” idea is probably only true if you’ve already got a hit under your belt. If you’re thinking differently to the producers who might buy your scripts they’re probably not going to buy ’em. And currently producers seem to be thinking “silly, studio-based, multi-camera”.

If only they were just thinking: “Funny?”