Friday, 21 July 2017

A funny thing happened on the way to the camera

Never say no

They do say never say no, but I don't know who they are. Still there are those who wait to be employed and those for a corner shop to rent and the film and acting game is the same. You can wait for the phone to ring or demand a salary, or make a web series and win awards and get noticed. Ewe are all artists and Picasso did ask for a dollar each time he picked up a paint brush. Enough said, but we have always made and invested in films, and had we not many of the pop videos we made back in the day would never have turned into making The Krays, I would never have been able to give myself such a huge credit at the front of the film as Stunt Coordinator and got an instant career bump, and then been able to afford to make my own films etc...

The road trodden is never straight. So, just as I am at think tank conferences at the British Screen Council and with distributors learning a little about on-line morphication, (there spell checker deal with that one!) My wife asks if she can make something for the web. Coincidence my composers (Mar k Blackledge who is brilliant and has his own studios) said his son wanted to direct, so I threw about 20k at setting up a small camera set up to make web series. There was no way they were shooting that on my 5k Red Epics!

After 61 episodes of Shades Of Bad and winning countless awards, we had shot in Norway and Barcelona as well as the UK, just for a laugh and just because we could, and we ended up with a travel show - DORIS VISITS

Now some 200 travel films later in less than two years, we have an on line travel shop web base and people are booking hotels and cruises through us. You see when I started as a trainee DJ at radio 1 & 2 back in 1973, then went into commercial radio a few years later I never knew I would be cast as the DJ in a TV soap before the decade was out. I never knew once I got into TV that pop videos would be invented or I would produce and direct via a weaving route in and out of action.

I certainly never thought I would be a travel agent. But that is why you should never say no. Just saying, if you need a hotel use our link through Doris Visits, it is an official affiliate link as is our one to Monarch, P&O and a dozen other cruise lines and Tour Guide functions. That is because of volume of content and traffic, and it all came from no where.

So, the hair pin bend, and there always is one. I am given scripts all the time. Some to direct some under the guys of would I direct when what they would really like is for me to produce so they can direct. They are all normally poor. But, I was brought a series of books. Very raunchy female romance books. Why Me !!! ????  Now my wife Jean, now presenter on Doris Visits has often been heard to say that when I am offered female lead things. She nearly dies when I was asked to direct a film with Claire Danes in the USA by a producer who thought my output was female lead (Devil's Gate with Laura Fraser, The Scarlet Tunic with Emma Fielding etc) .... I stray. These books lacked a direction but had legs. It is that wonderful line I am sure is from a Linda Seger I read years and years ago... so we want to buy your script, it just needs a complete rewrite - here's why.....  Years later when I understood Hollywood a little more I wrote my own take on it, The Script Writing Cheat Guide, which I must update. But these books were / are still I have yet changed them that much, but wait. Are still about an older woman released from you will find out what in good time and when she is ready to tell you and can tell you, at an older age into life. So, to cut top the chase, she realises the clock is ticking and she wants to discover what most do in their teens. As an agoraphobic, by a route to be discover she swaps the house for a steel box otherwise know as a cruise ship. It is a fascinating look at life, and somehow I was the fit... female lead, cruise industry - obvious! (no there is no action.)

So, the SOLO CRUISER book series was in development and the table I set up (writer's table, development table) sat and criticised as they do. But I wanted to see ten episodes. Forget film, film is dead. Forget books I have no skills or interest. I needed to see a structure that worked for TV. I have an older Bridget Jones type, we all love her, where she is going but it is a mess. How would you handle it? So far this is what we have done. I have changed each book to be around a real cruise, the books starts the moment you board, ends when you get off. For arguments sake, Southampton to Southampton, round the Canary Islands. Then we have a time line, we have a looming end, we have a fixture. Book one ended up being placed into a cruise template of the Canaries that was Doris Visits Azura Cruise A628. Book 2 ended up being based on Arcadia Cruise round the Baltics and the third of Violet Becket's story, now more confident in direction uses bits and bobs of cruises in the Caribbean.

Look it is a tough life, but someone has to do it, and remember this is years of work with no fees and me investing, so that would put many off. I happen to thrive on it. My connection was this other little piece in the jigsaw, Amazon Editor Simon Okhill who came to me and got me to put my Brit Flick Freight into book form. He had the cruise project and made the fit.

What is next? Well having spent years advising soaps, and loving Jimmy McGovern's work, I can see the SOLO CRUISER books series as a soap, but each of the characters coming to the front in film fashioned with their story. That was a battle, but I seem to have one that Violet's story, as fascinating as she is, is only three books long.
Her Virgin Voyage
The Perfect Storm
American Portrait
and Panama On Your Six is a rewrite using Tank Commander Kieron Phipps as the new solo cruiser for the next series / three books. Those who know me will see a little of my influence in book 2, The Perfect Storm which is much darker.
All versions of the books are selling and as such will come up easily on Amazon searches, but I have added links. They are free on the Kindle library. What we are doing now is a simple break down into ten episodes and location structures because we obviously can't shoot it all on a cruise ship. But it will look like at as we all know, and quite wonderful. I need series two, which is three more books and I guess it is a five year project.
I also have insisted on Light versions of the books, not just the full fat versions. So there are two Virgin Voyages; Book 1, Virgin Voyage is very raunchy, but Her Virgin Voyage is the lighter version some 2500 words shorter. Book 2 is in two versions which are less than 500 words apart, and book three I think can survive in one version.

Life is strange, but who knows what will come next. The secret is to never say no.

Stuart St Paul

Thursday, 3 November 2016

James Whale moves to Talk Radio

James Whale moves from BBC Essex to Talk Radio

Our good friend and supporter of all Doris does, not obviously in the script, she is a killer - James has moved to Talk Radio. James who was in the celebrity Big Brother House did go back to local radio for a few weeks but the offer to tempt him back to national radio was too huge.

He can now be heard on Talk Radio daily, Monday to Thursday 7pm to 10pm. My guess is the only way that the BBC would have kept him was to offer him a national slot, and Radio 2 is deadman shoes almost literally. Working for Sky TV and Talk Radio give James a national platform and hopefully we will see him back with a TV show of some form very soon.

James appeared in, episode 32 of Shades Of Bad just for fun, as Detective Inspector James Whale and has been a supporter of the Doris Shades spin off show DORIS VISITS which is a travel channel dealing with mainly adventurous seniors and causing, but we are talking ski, golf and ride the white water rapids of the Zambezi. 

Stay connected to us on twitter DORIS VISITS, Facebook DORIS VISITS and


Doris serial killer - Killing with a sandwich, or playing with a sand wedge.

Doris Shades Of Bad - serial killer in training, takes a break

It is good to hear when a serial killer takes a break, but having watched many of the TV shows on those who investigate such disturbed people, they can't take a break. Something stops them. In the series we started Doris killing with poisoned sandwiches, then she used a Sand wedge. Despite more than the allowed par swings, she did not kill the bin man and he ended up her partner in crime... sadly Wilma and Doris both came to an end in Season 3.
So Doris is on a break, and swinging that sand wedge as she reviews two golf courses. Stayed logged to the new channels as well as the drama channel if you like her travel show as we have REMOVED it from the Shades OF Bad channel and given it it's own identity.

Visits considers two different Golf Weekends in the UK

Although Doris Visits is predominantly a cruise travel channel, we find fellow adventurous and like minded golfers and skiers when cruising. Not in the golf nets on the top deck of the ship, but normally in the 19th hole! Sometimes known as the crows nest or the Glass House....

So, as those who travel and are adventurous sometimes have the same interests, we have added a couple of UK fun weekend golf retreats. One north of London, one south.

TUDOR LODGE - Maidstone - Marriot Hotels

Tudor Lodge has one 18 hole coarse. It is a good coarse, varied holes. Side information is that the foxes come out to see you on the 10th, bold as brass, because they know you might have stopped for food and expect you to share.

Maidstone is just south of London, less than an hour by car or train from London. Only 20 minutes from Ashford International and Eurotunnel, 40 minutes from Dover and close to London Gatwick Airport plus major rail and motorway links, it is very easy to get to.

BELTON WOODS - Grantham - Q Hotels

Belton Woods is quite a family escape with a lot to do. There are two courses, the middle one, the lakes has quite a few water hazards as well as a few long holes. The Woods is slightly higher and wraps around the lakes. That means there are 36 holes to choose from.

Grantham is up the A1 beyond Peterborough, for us it is a mid way to meet friends from the north of the country. This link should take you to their site. They have other sites, the one in Northampton has a bowling alley as well.

I won't bother our non golfing cruise followers here with more detail, but the films look at the hotels, family facilities and the golf courses hole by hole. If you are a golfer, then do go to the web page and take a look. Click here.

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Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Doris Shades next stop Tenerife, Canary Islands

Doris Visits Tenerife, Canary Islands on the P&O ship Azura A628

Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands and it has an active volcano, Mount Teide, which often rumbles and has a dramatic moonscape landscape now a National Park. Other landscapes here are the verdant valleys and lush plantations and vast pinewoods to the glorious beaches. There is a lot to see, but a great bus service throughout the island which I tested.

Santa Cruz

Tenerife’s cruise port Santa Cruz de Tenerife has grown from a fishing village to the capital city with 300,000 inhabitants. It is a welcoming city with classy bars and restaurants, shops, and interesting museums. It is easy to walk into the city, follow the blue line, cross the road, round the lake and the tourist office is hidden under an eco garden. The city begins right outside the port gates. If you chose to stay in the city you will find a café-lined boulevard leading to the Plaza de Espana, at the heart of the port’s main shopping area. If you prefer museums and galleries, try the Museo de Bellas Artes, which contains works by Bruegel. The Museo de la Naturaleza y El Hombre shows topography, flora and fauna.

However, I fancied an adventure and wanted to test the buses. The first was a simple tram to Trinidad, not the island but the Avenue in the old city of La Laguna.

La Laguna

Is definitely worth a visit and will take a half day to explore the old houses in the main street. Again, it has a tourist office, get off the tram, walk to the top of the road, turn left, walk a block then turn right and it should be on the corner. Ask someone, everyone is helpful. See my film on Laguna and you will be enticed.


I could have got the bus direct to Puerto de la Cruz and we did get the bus all the way back. But from La Laguna we got the number 30 from the bus garage at the other end of Trinidad.
Here is a tip, get off at the Botanical Gardens then walk down. You will then pass the Orchid Gardens where Agatha Christie and William Wilde, Oscar’s father have stayed, and then can walk down to the sea. If you go all the way in you have to walk UP to the gardens and they close at 6pm.
It is likely your ship sails late from Tenerife so you have time to do the gardens and go down and enjoy Puerto de la Cruz for late afternoon and early evening. The promenade is very attractive and the coastline is dramatic. We treated ourselves to a lovely lunch overlooking the bay.

As always we will eventually cover them the gardens in a separate film .. another time.
We had plenty of time to explore as the ship didn’t sail till 10.30pm but I have to admit we were exhausted at the end of the day.

Tours available from your ship will probably include

Northern Panorama
Loro Parque
Gardens of the Valley
Puerto de La Cruz and Orotava Valley
Mamas and Tapas
Mount Teide National Park
Mount Teide Cable Car
Playa de las Americas on your own
Puerto de la Cruz on your own

Shades Of Bad sends Doris to Madeira

Doris Visits Madeira with an overnight stay.

After three days at sea which seemed to fly by, we arrived in Madeira, otherwise known as the Garden Island because of the wonderful display of sub-tropical plants and flowers. A few months before we arrived there was a terrible bush fire that destroyed homes and killed three people. The results were seen from the cable car.
You can walk into town from the ship and it is easy to see the route and how far it is.
It is hardly surprising that large and colourful flower markets are one of the most arresting features of Funchal, Madeira’s capital, though next door is the fish market that reminds you the island has a history of using the sea. Madeira is also known for its aquarium where you can dive with sharks, rays, morays and hundreds of other fish. Whale and dolphin watching are other featured activities for visitors to the island which is about twice the size of the Isle of Wight.
The market town is easily walkable and the further you go the steeper and narrower some of the streets become. On Santa Maria street, where there are many restaurants art work can be found on most of the doors. It features on the main Madeira film. Locally made wicker furniture gives a positive aroma to the clean air. Lacework and tapestries are also local trades as is the ubiquitous Madeira wine.
It will not surprise you that Funchal is also the base for tours to the islands botanical gardens; the fishing village of Camara de Lobos where Churchill went to paint, this also features on our main Madeira film. Camacha, the wicker centre; the Levada walks, part of an ancient irrigation system; and to Reids Hotel for traditional afternoon tea, making cruises to Madeira a must do. Many of these sites and more feature in our madeira film.

The Monte Tropical Gardens

The Monte Tropical Gardens are so extensive that you could spend a day there and walk back to the ship. Inside there is a three storey museum and the gardens and the museum feature in their own film although a short piece is in the main Madeira film. In the museum you will see art and sculptures from Zimbabwe and an exhibition of stunning minerals and stones.

The Toboggan Ride

Lastly the toboggan ride is great fun and one of the things Funchal is famous for. We thought we would show you the run in full although it is shown briefly in the main film. If you want to know what the toboggan run is like the full four minutes is covered.

The cable car, tropical gardens and toboggan ride are enough for one day without all the other things the island has to offer.

Tours available from your ship will probably include

Tea at Reid’s
Famous Toboggan Ride
Evening with Folklore (if overnight)
Deep Sea Fishing
Cable Car and Toboggan (see film above)
Nevada Walk
Jeep Adventure
Discover Whales and Dolphins by ‘rib’.
The Caves of São Vicente
Eco City Tour, Tuhxi Madeira
Farmers Market and Botanical Gardens
Leisurely Scenes of Madeira

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Filming on board ship - even the small Volunteer Holiday ships

Filming on board ship - even the small ones like the Adonia with which Carnival have started a Volunteer Holiday group called Fathom

We were still very much into shooting the web series Shades Of Bad when we went on the Adonia as celebrity guests. Stuart was talking about Emmerdale and Mrs Brown's Boys, two of the shows he has worked on, and we circulated the ship knowing it was to go out of service.
The guests on that ship loved it and as the rumour spread and was confirmed there was a general feeling of loss. This was now the smallest ship in the P&O fleet and it was being moved to a new program.

There is a very interesting program by Carnival Cruise company which owns P&O and has taken the Adonia and some of the other ships from the fleet to form a new cruise company called Fathom.
I wish we had filmed the Adonia the last time we were on it, but we had not really started Doris Visits then, and although it was an idea and we were filming Canaveral, Key West, Bequia and Barbados we never filmed the ship. Part because we knew it would be out of service in a year, part because Doris Visits as a travel channel had not formed. Certainly I now wish we had.

However we had shot around ten episodes of Shades of Bad while on a Norwegian Cruise, and two episodes while on a Mediterranean cruise, so shooting on the move suited the kit we had bought for Shades Of Bad. It just needed refining. The latest addition to the kit is a fisherman's belt that carries everything.

The aptly named Shakespeare Agility Belt has numerous pockets. The Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera with lens and attached radio mic receiver goes in the main pocket. Twelve spare charged batteries in front left mini pocket and as they are used the dead ones go in the right pocket. Left pocket is ND and other filters, right pocket sound bits and change colour furry wind shields and spare mic batteries. Click here or use this link to get the belt that turns you into a walking film truck.

For the kit that goes into that belt see previous blogs, but I wonder if the news and doc crews will head out with volunteers on these ships and work as light. Or maybe they will just use the camera phone like the news guys. Funny to think that we have now sold both our Epic Dragons and this is the new current kit, in a belt. Click above for the belt, see previous blogs for kit.

The Adonia will visit Puerto Plata for four days/three nights on one-week cruises from Miami, starting in the spring, docking at Carnival Corp.'s soon-to-open, $85 million port, Amber Cove. The cruises will be bi-weekly – alternate weeks the ship will be sailing to Cuba. They will take volunteers to areas that need help, teachers and contractors and workers, who for a few days can go ashore and do good work, then retreat to the ship at night.
These new volunteer holidays may have come just when needed. Despite the storm some areas have people living 40% below the poverty line, which is why such terms as Impact Travel are being used.
Officials of Fathom have interesting backgrounds and have impressive credentials. COO Kurt Kroemer has worked in a lot of areas including fighting genocide and human trafficking and was also an executive with the American Red Cross and the Make-A-Wish Foundation of America.
The ships that have been moved to this are the smaller ships. Adonis was the smallest P&O ship in the fleet and some might say the most charming. The piano bar was always great fun, and the more random the pianist, the more random the night. Where else can you have nights like that on land, entertainment like that on land. It does not exist. So, do good by day, and relax by night.
What have you got to offer while you experience a cruise ship holiday with a difference.
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