Coming up with names is hard.  It’s the ultimate brand – literally branded onto you by someone else who didn’t even know you at the time.  It represents you, broadcasts you, it’s your ­@lifehandle. 

When I come up with names as a scriptwriter I run them through a check in my head: are they appropriate in terms of:

  • Historical setting
  • Gender
  • Class
  • Geography
  • Ethnicity
  • Story

And by story I mean do their actions reflect the person I’ve branded with that name (or not – setting up a false lead is sometimes good).  A recent BBC article talks about “nominative determinism” – that is the meaning of our names influence our life decisions.

Interesting stuff: if you’re a KEVIN you’re more likely to be ignored on dating apps, less likely to get job interviews … your brand has set you up with more difficulties than if you were a Michael.  So that’s going to shape you – for good or for bad.

Personally, I like using names that transcend … take JACK.  I can see a “Jack” in 1797 or in 2021.  He runs a multinational company with flare, he’s a cheeky welder in a steel works, a hipster brewer, a stay-at-home dad, a pirate.  Chameleon names are rare but useful.     

And me?  I’m very happy with Claire (“with an i”).  Would I have felt as happy if I had been born a boy, in which case I would have been called Trevor?   Erm …

Empty nest writer

It’s hard to let your baby go … and after nearly six years I now have nothing to do with my film script. My first born is in the hands of the Director. Good hands to be in … but it’s so hard! I can’t quite believe there will be no more tweaks, no more rewrites. That’s it!

What I do have is excellent producers who send me pictures on set, so I can stay in touch. And … the papers. Fortunately for me they’re camped outside with long lenses and I can enjoy seeing costumes and outdoor sets along with the rest of the public. So grieving becomes excitement: I’m so proud of her as she goes out into the big wide world. #TheColourRoom #Stokeontrent #birmingham

The nightmare of what next…

You know what’s REALLY HARD as a writer?  Knowing which project to start next.  It’s a stone cold nightmare … committing to something that could take up months, years of your time.  What if you make the wrong decision?  It’s professionally, personally and financially devastating.

With a film in pre-production and another optioned and in script development, I’m already thinking about what’s next and I’ve picked up and put down dozens of ideas.  But nothing felt “right”.  Nothing ticked both the artistic (“I love it”) and commercial (“audiences will love it”) boxes: head and heart. 

But does it have to tick both boxes straight away?    My first film was heart … but has been shaped into something commercial.  So it now ticks both boxes.  And my second film was very much commercially driven, but I’ve come to love it.  Head and heart eventually.   

So I’m going for head (quite literally) and I’ll adapt my second novel Headhunters.  I love the premis, I love the story, I love the characters, and in particular I love the protagonist.  He made such an impact on me, he was the only character I’ve ever written that left me desolate when I’d stopped writing him.  Like a best friend moving abroad – suddenly he wasn’t with me any more. 

It’s been a terrible year and it’s great to pick up my old friend again.  The absolute joy of writing from the heart.  I’ll take a gamble with the “head”.

Sandwich paste and death

Starting out on a new script I’ve been dutifully doing my research – so far I’ve discovered:

  1. How forensics examine a stab wound (seen some awful, graphic stuff)
  2. All the types of sandwich paste (ditto)
  3. Horrendous legal jargon
  4. The killing capacity of a compound bow and arrows

Having a whale of a time but I can tell you the Google ads based on my search preferences are messed up!

Coronavirus days

A writer’s life continues much as always under lockdown.  But with the added benefit of staying at home and never being seen … you can dress up how you damn well want.  Today I’m channelling Miss Haversham.  Wedding dress

Baron: BBC creatively on fire

Today I had a ringside seat for Tony Hall’s address about the future of the BBC.

It was the usual mix of celebratory fluff “hey guys, we’re creatively on fire” and ambitious call to action “lets reach a billion a week” but for me the standout line was given by David Attenborough in a pre-recorded  segment.  Looking right into the lens he said the BBC is there to tell your stories “so … what do you want to say?”

It was a simple but powerful challenge: if you have something to say then the BBC is there to help you tell it, no matter who you are and what your background.

An uplifting moment and a reminder to keep a clarity of vision at the heart of what we do.

And the biggest surprise?  Baron Hall of Birkenhead sports bright stripy socks.  You heard it here first.

Cats reissued: a shiver down the spine

I read with dismay that a new version of the film Cats has been sent out to cinemas after it started its run.  And digging deeper I read that the film was only completed five days before its theatrical release.

Because the world is now digital, tight deadlines are technically possible but aren’t they very, very irresponsible?  Imagine the pressure on the post-production teams, the distributors, the Director.    If only a picture can be given the space and time it needs – within reason – to come together isn’t that better for everyone, not least its audience?

Stress and creativity aren’t good bedfellows … fingers crossed for creatives everywhere that this is a one-off and not the shape of things to come.

Writing and pace

There are so many books on writing and getting the pace right but one writing/pace thing I’ve yet to master…

… pacing my coffee to last the session.

I buy the coffee, I boot up Final Draft, I finish the coffee, I start writing.

So here I am in Coffee No 1, Wellfield Road, having finished my coffee and I’m left with no decent excuse to take up my seat. Writing and feeling guilty. It’s not good.

I’m going to have to buy another… I need to make my coffee last longer pace costs!