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I have toted with checking this show out a number of times, but have always been cautious taking on a gay themed series sight unseen.

But with JB Hifi currently selling the series at a dramatically reduced price – $14.95 NZ – I decided to take the plunge and bought the first season. After only two episodes I have now gone back and bought the rest. It is that good.

Beyond just being witty and about the GLBT community, the series really does present a fairly accurate portrayal of the minefield of issues that face gay men and women on a daily basis. Yes, it is slightly exaggerated, but when one of the character’s states “There are only two types of straight people. Those who hate you to your face and those who hate you behind your back” in reference to gay people.

That’s not only a ballsy statement to have a character make, there really are actually gay men out there who think like this. Presumably this guy is going to have this view challenged before the series ends.

While the series is an ensemble show, there are three clear leads out of the cast of seven. Mike is the narrator who occasionally breaks the fourth wall for comic effect. He’s nice, friendly and clearly a bit of a romantic. Brian is the gorgeous cocky manwhore who doesn’t believe in love just sex for fun. He’s arrogant, but there is a hint that this is to protect himself from a world he feels is just out to get him. Justin is the supernaturally beautiful 17 year old virgin who is just entering the gay community. I say supernatural because the actor is just stunningly beautiful in a very angelic manner. Even when he’s being adorably goofy – for example he is in bed and asked “what do you like?” by a naked Brian and he starts listing his hobbies and after school activities.

I love that the show has a reasonable cross section of the community, including a lesbian couple that don’t look like a crass stereotype.

From a perspective of “would heterosexual viewers like this show?” I think many would. The cast are great, the dialogue is witty and fun. The show is very frank about what the gay community is like, to the point that it may surprise some people as to what it is like to be a part of that community.

I think QaF succeeds in presenting a gay perspective that can engage, shows the sensuality of the lifestyle without being porny and has some bluntly honest observations of how the world looks from a gay perspective.

Two thumbs up. Genuinely good television.

Conan

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Paul Henry is at it again offending people. Yes, it is tiring. Yes, it shows how he really is a one trick pony. But what has riled me up more than a cynical know-it-all-but-really-knows-nothing presenter deliberately stirring up trouble has been the excuses given to put up with this monkey’s shit slinging.

John Key dismissed him as just “a shock jock” and didn’t bring the man to task on national television when Henry said to his face that the Governor-General did not look like a New Zealander.

This is partly because John Key is not that good when he can’t play the smiley nice guy persona he uses. No doubt he internally regretted being next to Henry at that moment, but simply hoped to dismiss the matter before it became political.

Unfortunately for John, it went political pretty damn quickly and has made him look like a bit of a tit in the process.

What annoys me is that John Key seems to think that being a shock jock means that Paul Henry can say whatever hateful or offensive thing he likes and there will be no consequences because people, in old NZ fashion, will simply say “oh, Paul, there you go again.” I’m sure that if John Key was little more down with the yoof he’d probably add a “LOLZ” to that too.

The thing is, being a shock jock should not exempt you from saying such boneheaded and hateful things. Shock Jocks don’t say these things just to get ratings, they have a political agenda. They stir shit because they want change. They want less foreign NZers or more porn on telly or whatever. They say these things to get a change. Sure, they exaggerate, but there is usually something more to it than just publicity.

What further annoyed me, though, was the equally boneheaded defence from TVNZ.

“The audience tell us over and over again that one of the things they love about Paul Henry is that he’s prepared to say the things we quietly think but are scared to say out loud.”

Wait. So most NZers think that the Governor-General doesn’t look like a NZer and the implication that to look like an NZer one must not be Indian in appearance.

Or maybe the reason so many NZers are scared to ask is because they know the question is wrong? Funny how the questions we are apparently afraid to ask involve minorities, insulting someone’s appearance, implying a person is a lesbian or ugly, implying that not being a White middle class man is a crime…

That is a shit excuse. Sure, Paul Henry can ask the questions, but he should reap the results. Not just get dismissed because he is a shock jock. The man is clueless. He may be a very intelligent guy, but he is not wise and lacks the ability to think about anything other than Paul Henry.

NZers who side with him are fooling themselves if they think he is standing up for the common NZer. Listen to him, all his views and ideals are about his own personal benefit. Nothing more.

Paul Henry is a blight on our TV screens. He doesn’t encourage challenging debate, he just encourages debate about whether this is finally the time for TVNZ to boot his ultra-conservative, anti-New Zealand ass to the curb. Make no mistake people, Paul Henry is the guy who doesn’t talk like a New Zealander. His views are outdated, ill-informed and toxic to this country and it’s media.

Conan

So here is another beautiful, crisp, winter morning in Wellington.

I’ve been kind of overworking myself with writing, producing, working and roleplaying. It is great when I get a moment to just relax and meditate a bit on what is going on in my life.

Firstly, I have become addicted to True Blood. It is so sexy and funny and creepy. Unfortunately, Nick is not a fan of the Louisana accents and just can’t get into the show. Which means I usually have to wait until I can watch the series alone as I bought it on Blu Ray – which looks awesome and is loaded with features.

It does amuse me how the character, Jason seems to need to be naked at least once an episode. Not that I’m complaining – he is super hot – but it is kind of funny to observe.

The tone of the series is really spot on, slow burning but hypnotic.

I did note that it treads much of the same ground as Twilight – but if it had been written by someone other than a woman with an obsession with abusive boyfriends.

In other news, The Winding City continues to develop, and the digital artist I’ve gotten involved with the project is producing some exciting conceptual art. I can’t wait to see what else he comes up with! 🙂

Well almost at work – see you all later! 🙂

Conan

Now that I’ve started entertaining the idea of acting on my next series, I’ve found myself inspired for a variety of interesting storylines.

What strikes me is that I am moving away from Finn as central character and now I’m thinking of exploring Finn and Ryan’s friendship.

Part of this is inspired by an article Angeline sent me that pointed out that the gay best friend has become the new accessory for many female television characters.

So I’m realizing that having a show that looks at two friends – one gay and one straight & male – gives me a lot more scope to play around with.

With this in mind, much of the more complex structure is gone. The series is going to focus on four central characters – Finn, Ryan, Sascha and Debbie.

This could prove to be a lot more interesting for viewers as the show won’t be about just a gay guy, but more on how his issues are no different from his friends.

Even if I end up not casting myself as Finn, I am preferring the direction the show is going. I’ll be casting folk this weekend and sending the cast the first episode.

Of course I’ve already cast Ryan and Sascha, just have to decide the other characters.

Exciting!

Conan

This is my first mobile blog post ever! I am writing this in KFC on my iPhone while I wait for the weather to clear up enough to walk to my Sunday game.

I recently got into a discussion about my latest project – Setting it Straight- and I had ended up getting into a discussion about genre.

You see, for the last 25 years or so I have been fairly genre bound in my writing. I have always written fantasy, scifi or horror. Never broke out of those genres.

But SIS is none of these. It’s a comedy-drama firmly rooted in the real world. The surprise to myself while working on it has been that it feels like some of the best work I’ve done to date.

While the show is far from being fully written, I have found the tone and style so quickly and I love the dialogue. The work I’ve written so far feels so natural and I have enjoyed writing it.

It has made me realise that one of the best things a writer can do is challenge his/her habits and break out of that comfort zone so many writers fall into.

While I can be occasionally witty when talking to people, I have always been uncertain that I could write a consistently funny comedy. Yet here I am looking at breaking out of genre and style, and I feel that it is better than a lot of stuff I have written before.

Next weekend I’ll be running auditions for the show – being freed of visual effects means I can get the show filming much sooner than it took the Winding City. Here’s hoping that the casting goes well.

Of course I have a lot of the talent from the Winding City showing up, so I shouldn’t have anything to fear.

Conan

Jarratt said to me recently that it is good to keep momentum going when you are working on a project. With The Winding City heading well into post, with the second episode looking pretty good so far, I need to leap into my next project as soon as possible.

So daring am I, that I have already put out a casting call for Setting it Straight. I have continued to revise the first two episodes, but I’m keen to get my characters cast and the actors rehearsing while I finish off the first series of SIS.

Once again I find myself with more actresses than planned female roles and not enough actors. Currently I’m investigating whether I can get some funding to help entice more talented cast with actual money – but I’m not sure how viable that option is going to be. To make funding work out, I really will need to work on a business plan as to how the series could potentially make that money back.

It’s feasible – but adds a whole new layer of difficulty to planning the series.

What strikes me as interesting is that there seems to be more actresses willing to work on volunteer projects than actors. Of course it doesn’t help that a majority of the male roles are gay and that I have pretty much cast the sole heterosexual lead male already (I haven’t made it official, but I’m already seeing the actor in mind as that role and he has expressed interest in playing it…)

This tends to mean that I am making things more difficult for myself as not all beginning actors are willing to play gay characters. I will need to put together a bit of a gameplan for where else to place casting calls…

Although now that I think about it – I really should put something up on the Big Idea – I got some bites last time I went there…

And I could probably post something on the 48 hours forum after next weekend, when people are still on their post 48 hour buzz and talking about how they should be making more films…

As if that isn’t enough to worry about, after a talk with Norman yesterday, I’m probably going to scrap my budget camera idea and use Norman’s instead. As much as I would like to test out the handicam idea, sound is going to be a problem, and I need it to be clear and strong.

I’ll still do a couple of test runs with my current equipment, but it is likely (especially if we get funding) that I will need to use equipment that is closer to television quality.

So I continue to learn and develop my skills. I’m really keen to see these shows completed and I genuinely hope that they are going to help me stand out from the crowd industry wise – I’d really like to be writing and working on a show as a regular gig…

Conan

I’ve talked before about the ever difficult balancing that is being a Producer on a volunteer project like The Winding City. While I don’t have a huge amount of experience in film-making, I have worked on television before, in a very minor capacity. Enough though to know how demanding an industry both TV and Film can be.

It is very rare for actors to get call sheets more than two days out from shooting, rehearsals often happen on the day of shooting, sometimes the cast haven’t even seen the episode’s script until the week before shooting.

Part of this is due to television’s tight turn around – episodes are often re-written after polls from the first episode, and even with a few months schedule advance on the screening episodes it is still a high pressure experience.

Film has some benefits – often actors get a read-through and some rehearsals in before shooting. But this can raise other scheduling issues, such as The Winding City is suffering.

I’m currently regretting the weekend shoot format I ended up with. I should have taken a full week out and shot the series in one hit like most other projects. Most other webshows do this – they shoot their episodes in one hit, then release them as they are edited.

This will definitely be my approach with the next project I do. Mostly because of the complexity of trying to schedule people. Already I need an actor to be available on Saturday to do some choreography training for a fight sequence, and he has only now advised me that he is unavailable – apparently having missed my e-mails for almost a week.

This puts me in a very difficult position now as I am now effectively short two trained actors.

I have had another actor advise that he can’t do an entire weekend because it is too much work to ask on top of everything else he has on his plate. Which I appreciate, I have been pushing the cast hard over the last two shoots – because I am aware of how much we need to get this into the can soon.

See, I have a lot on my plate at the moment too. There is something developing at work that I can’t really comment on yet, but it could see me under a LOT of pressure in about two months time and I want this show well into post by then. On top of this, I have to be looking for a new flat for Nick and I – which is a lot of work as it is – and now I have a possible medical condition to deal with too (most likely due to stress and dehydration.)

Sometimes it can get very frustrating trying to organise the show and feel that all I get is “I can’t/I wont/I didn’t…”

It’s not the reality, but the usual kind of sensation one gets when trying to organise large groups of people. I do often feel that many people don’t grasp how difficult it is to arrange these kinds of projects. As the director of the Nines said in an interview – being a showrunner is really a job that is logistically impossible for a single person to do. I know exactly what he means.

Essentially everything ends here with me. If we don’t have the right props. My fault. If an actor is not on set. That’s my responsibility. If we don’t have lights, catering, costumes, scripts – it all falls on my shoulders to organise. It is very easy to get frustrated, and I would be lying if after the last few days I have seriously contemplated just pulling the plug.

We are running out of days to shoot exteriors, and I am currently stressed about what to do if it rains next weekend as the two main actors are not available for over three weeks after. (And by time they are free, I really wont be in a position to manage such a large set of shots.)

But despite all this, when I watch projects like The Guild which started off not that much more than we have set out to do – and when I look over the footage we’ve shot… I know that I have see this project through to the end. Because when it is completed, it will be worth all the pain and hard work. But I also know that if I work on another season of The Winding City, it will be the last for a while. My next project is likely to be less visual effects heavy, or at least less complex a series.

One idea I’m working on should be still fairly visually challenging, but I will be aiming for shots all set in the real world rather than having to create an alternate reality as well. 🙂

I have included the behind the scenes video that I put together using iMovie ’09. (Which, by the way, is not as good as iMovie HD, which is a superior editing suite for a first timer. iMovie ’09 is a bit simplistic and lacks a lot of the useful tools for editing audio. (I found it very frustrating trying to get the audio balanced across the entire video as it was shot on two different cameras.)

In other news, I e-mailed The Guild crew for tips on developing a website for a webseries- hopefully they will come back with some good advice.

And here’s hoping that we have great weather next weekend and manage to get all the shots I need done. I just hope it works. I’m already having to look at ways to generate some more capital for next weekend as my medical bills will be cleaning me out tomorrow. As you can see, it never ends as Producer. There is always something else you need to worry about. 😉


 
Conan

Ruby, Hunky (Luke), Rupert and Mina are ready to follow in Joss Whedon's footsteps...

Ruby, Hunky (Luke), Rupert and Mina are ready to follow in Joss Whedon's footsteps...

Just as an update – I’ve been put on an antibiotic regime for the next few days due to pain and possible infection. Hence my being up at 3am while waiting for my painkillers to kick in. Yeouch. Fortunately, it doesn’t appear to be anything serious – just a delayed reaction to watching Go Girls… I kid. But while I wait, I thought I would share a bit of an experience with you all.

So yesterday Nick introduced me to Demons – a British action-monster show created by ITV, apparently in the hopes of competing with the Saturday night family viewing juggernaut of British television, Doctor Who.

Since Doctor Who has gone on a hiatus for this year – only being released as specials rather than a full season this year – ITV must have hoped to capture that market with something attempting to have the same mix of the fantastical and the humourous.

The basic premise of the series is that Luke Rutherford, a typical London teenager, discovers that he is the descendant of Abraham Van Helsing. When his godfather, Rupert (with an inexplicable American accent) shows up and reveals this he also reveals that Luke – unlike other London teenagers – is destined to be a warrior against the Half-lives/Freaks… That he has near supernatural powers of his own via speed and strength as well as a natural inclination towards the martial arts…

Is this beginning to sound a little familiar?

Maybe it would help if I point out that one of the initial encounters with Rupert has him throw a sharp object at Luke, who intuitively catches it in his hand – ala Buffy the Vampire Slayer Movie.

Yes. ITV has created Hunky the Demon Slayer.

 

Edward Cullen, I challenge thee to a pretty boy face off! Hunky (Luke) perfects his pout...

Edward Cullen, I challenge thee to a pretty boy face off! Hunky (Luke) perfects his pout...

You think I jest, but the preternaturally pretty Christian Cooke spends a good part of the first episode wandering around with his shirt off at the smallest provocation. Looking all Abercrombie and Fitch, Luke hunts a little CGI demon in his apartment, shirtless and armed with a mop. It’s all, well, odd to watch.

 

Of course the series is British, and the budget isn’t nearly to the scale of a US show. They have a number of elaborate and expensive CGI shots and sets – which means a smaller cast. So Luke’s friend Ruby ends up pulling double duty as Willow and Xander for the series. She’s the source of the Xander quips and has Willow’s unrequited love, but directed at Hunky. I mean Luke.

Meanwhile there is also the enigmatic Mina Harker, a blind concert pianist who has a few dark secrets of her own and likes to pick on Ruby. She’s very Angelic a character…

Of course there are some differences in the series to it’s “inspirational” source material. But the first episode kind of trundles along and really doesn’t set up a heck of a lot considering it’s a six part series.

Luke learns he’s a hunter. Demon shows up at his home. Ugly Demon Man stalks Luke. Luke accepts that there is something going on. Rupert overacts while showing Luke the way to Van Helsing’s secret HQ – The Stacks. (I kid you not.) Rupert shoots a rat with a hoopy microwave gun just to show that later on he is able to shoot a ray gun at baddies. Luke goes home. More Demons. Ruby and Luke get attacked. Mina is mysterious. Ruby is bitchy. Mina is bitchy. Ruby gets kidnapped. But no Big Bad is hinted at or revealed.

Now don’t get me wrong. This show isn’t bad. And it isn’t as awkward as watching Go Girls was. But, it just isn’t fresh enough in its first episode. There isn’t anything wrong with going for a Buffy-style show with a guy instead of a girl, but at least they could have aimed for a bit more difference and variety. Cribbing entire sequences straight out of Buffy felt less like homage and more like lazy rip-off.

And Rupert. Oh Rupert. Feck off. Something I really hate about Demons is that Rupert is so self-righteous and “we shall smite the enemy” it gets very boring. The show takes the view that all the Freaks are inherently evil and nasty and just need to be smited. End of story. On top of that, Rupert has this ridiculously stupid “Type” category system that, as far as I can make out, has no real measure and is just kind of bandied about to imply the “danger” level of a monster.

I sincerely hope that as the series progresses, that gets turned on its head. Because it really bugged me. I really hate Rupert – he’s obnoxious and, frankly, a prat.

Hunky, I mean Luke, is cute and Christian Cooke certainly does a good job of making him feel like a believable teenager who is learning that his life is not what he thought it was. If only he wasn’t required to take his shirt off so much in the first episode. I mean, I like cute guys without their tops on, but I also like it if it makes sense in the show. Not just the kind of pointless sequence that “Demons” went for.

Having said all that, from the teaser of the second episode, it does look like they have some interesting monsters show up over the course of the show – and it is possible that as it progresses, the series will become more than the first episode implies.

It’s worth checking out – just be prepared for some serious deja-vu.

Conan

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