Thursday, 22 October 2015

6. Continuous drama output should be easy after 30+ years

Stuart St Paul the creator talks about continuous output. His Amazon profile. IMDB Credits.

CONTINUOUS - means it does not stop........... series means more than just a few.... and we set the task of Shades Of Bad being weekly.

You get to live with continuous story telling after 40 years in the business. Last year I did a series of Strike Back for HBO in Hungary and it is no different to doing Emmerdale for ITV which I did for 26 years. Given the time and budget, production always demand more than is possible, you always want to give more than maybe you should.

I had been working on all the soaps for some time in between some huge films, the likes of Bond and Superman, when I was asked to go up to Leeds to discuss a special project on Emmerdale. That was the plane crash. That was the event that would take them out of the afternoon soap label, to doing what the movies do. I must have done a pretty good job because I stayed there as one of the main creative heads right up until I left to direct Bula Quo with the rock band Status Quo in Fiji.

I saw the show, Emmerdale, go from 2 each week, to three, then four, then five then six, and for a while we were also shooting DVD films for the Christmas market. You learn about scheduling, delivery pressure, and that there is no excuse or place for failure. Having always been a writer at heart, and having got close with writing some TV series (Smith and Patel was optioned from me by Fugitive, who optioned it to Noel Gay, who optioned it to the BBC for two years)..... I did mainly single dramas.

Emmerdale was 6 transmitted episodes a week, which means you have to make 6 x episodes each week without fail, and pile the ones for the crew Christmas break. That is done by having three teams on a rota, each making 4 episodes in a two week period. That gives you the 12. As broadcast TV is very like a factory, with permanent staff, the 40 hour week is almost observed, so each unit works a 4 day week, of 10 hour days. We have a crew of one and maybe a bit... that is it. Buster does sound and camera and lights, the girls assist and do all in front of camera from art to make up. One editor, then one sound mixer/composer.

Shades Of Bad was meant to be 3 minute episodes, and we tried to shoot 4 a day but no one liked long film days, so three a day became normal. It drops to two as the episodes get longer. And we shoot a few days a month. So why the change from terrestrial TV to web?

The advent of web programming and downloads is now at the point where most people have AT LEAST three or four screens. The prediction is we are expected to have ten each within years, it was obvious at some point I would have to explore the web. I was informed at a lecture by Eileen Naughton that the UK is one of the most progressive web users with a billion in trade surplus, five times that of Germany and the USA put together. 91% of the UK adult population owns a mobile phone and 75% of those are smart phones, and she should know those numbers. That was one of the private lectures we have at the British Screen Council and web and web viewing has come up a lot over the last year. I like new things and had decided I would go into web programming.

The task I set myself was to make 80 x 3 minute shows which would be just over a year at one a week, and would cut into longer segments. We have cut the first 20 together as an internal experiment and it is 47 minutes. A BBC TV hour. That is with just the one title. The episodes are getting longer but I see that 65 or 6 seasons might offer a TV series.

The idea was to make each show short, like a Dan Brown chapter, easy going, driving the story forward, starts and jumps straight in, but ends on a knife edge pivot that leaves you wanting more.

Being for the internet I was not going to copy a broadcast soap, it had to be fantastical, it had to go to places un trodden. So I start with a female Psycopathic serial killer (no one dies until episode 23, Halloween 2015) and then the bodies start to drop. It gets darker. It will go to a place no one is expecting, which not Emmerdale or Coronation Street could do. But then why make a series that is the same as broadcast TV, the web demands more. Doris will take over the world, at the moment only I and Doris know how.

It was a shock to get a review in the USA, now we get mentions all over the world. That is so different to UK broadcast TV. We need to get back into subtitles, we stopped because the software is not yet available for MAC the operating system we use.

As season 2 plays we are filming season 3, and the foreign parts of those shoots have been done. Clips of those appear in the second Behind The Scenes film. We are now shooting the matching UK side with our new star, someone who will have some relevance just before next years Rio Olympics when the episodes air.

So we are way in front, episodes pilled ready to go up, the book is out of the first 40 episodes, WHO DIES TODAY and a change version is available from us as a three woman stage play. I am now looking at doing another movie and getting back to Shades before the episodes run out.

Shades Of Bad season 1 playlist is on Vimeo, Daily Motion, Zolli and others, this is the YouTube link.

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