Friday, 25 December 2015

14. Christmas Day - what was in our stocking?

Two Christmas presents to ourself here at Shades Of Bad, an L series Cannon 17mm to 40mm zoom, and a LCDVF which is an eye piece you fit to the back of our BMPCC. The 17mm lens was used first shot on the 30th December. 
As a film company we own a number of Red Dragons and a Scarlet we have never upgraded, which hires the best of the whole family.

When we decided to start Shades Of Bad and shoot in a real kitchen, the space was so small we could neither use a crew or a big camera. After much discussion with many DoP's I know and trust we decided on the Black Magic. We shoot everything 2k raw and master at that level two, often boldly reframing and zooming and since watching Brooklyn we have less fear of using the stabilisation feature in FPX. The wallpaper behind Julie Walters had turrets.

I have been very pleased with it, but since shooting the Doris Visits shows we have suffered with not being able to see the rear screen in extreme sun light. The are a set of films from Doris Visits Bequia to Key West where you can see why these wonderful places gave us the problem. Our 28mm to 80mm zoom also listed the wide visits we could shoot because we use an active Metabones to the EFS camera lens whole, which converts to the better EF lens and gives us more light stops.

That means that the lowest we can go, 28mm is actually about 35mm as the metabones conversion is still about 1.35 times the zoom size. The 17mm will mean I have about a 24mm lens. Great. For those tech types you might also like to know that some of our very light lens gave us stop problems in the bright light because the metabones just made them unusable. We added a full set of NDs ages ago and use at least 8ND in sunlight the camera and metabones are so good together.

We are going to do some films on how we shoot Shades Of Bad and Doris Visits but as always there is a queue. We lost the edit suit for three weeks and I got it back yesterday and threw Doris Visits the Norwegian Fjords in there for a first cut but know that next week we shoot with our new star and all our focus will be on that and first cuts of the work with him. Who he is you will have to search for, it is revealed in one of the James Whale radio interviews, which you can find by searching the my blog on James episode which is now released.

Next year I can promise a release of a mega episode, the first 5 cut into a ten minute piece and they look terrific as a longer version. More Doris Visits with trips planned to the Three Valleys, Russia and Denmark, the Canary Islands towards the end of the year and March see is back in the Caribbean. There is a muted but not booked yet trip to Dubai.

In between, our new star head hunts Doris for higher crime, and she will take over the world.

So merry Christmas from us, I am just about to turn the turkey off to let it rest, visit some friends for drinks then enjoy the day ... I hope you do too. Tomorrow Boxing Day, apart from being the release of the James Whale episode, I shall be watching Watford play Chelsea with great interest.

Seasons Greetings to all....

Sunday, 20 December 2015

13. SSP talks with James Whale. Nearly 100 successful media industry years between them.

 The classic James Whale Episode is number 32 of Shades Of Bad (below) where he plays detective Inspector James Whale.

As well as interesting pictures, videos and links to my blogs, a new video interview (below) and two radio interviews are also part of the James Whale episode.

James Whale is a broadcasting legend, he is an outspoken broadcaster who has been on the radio somewhere for over 45years and currently presents the Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Essex as well as an independent show that is circulated both on the web and to many many radio stations around the world. He had his own late night TV show for many years on ITV and is now often seen with other guests on the Sunday morning TV chat shows and others.

Like many broadcasters James trained as an actor, but in 1969 did a broadcasting coarse and I guess you could say that changed his career. But not so many years ago James was told he had little time to live because he had what was thought to be a huge inoperable kidney cancer.   That changed his life.  After being encouraged to come out of a shell he hid in for a while, by a good friend Luke Goss, he and his wife decided to travel, enjoy and spend both money and time together. He then survived and his life changed again. James now runs a kidney cancer charity which I draw him to discuss in the video interview we did in Doris Shades garden.

James and I met in 1978. I was at the BBC, sitting on the bench at Radio 1 waiting for the show it was becoming obvious I would not get any time soon. I had spent some time on air at Radio London but the offer of moving north for the Metro Radio Breakfast Show took little time to consider. James did the evening show, my show finished as the staff and day time guys walked the corridors so in many ways we were the two independents. In 1979 I left the north to take over Steve Wright's show at Radio Orwell when he went to Radio 1, so I was getting closer until I was offered a job as a TV DJ which is covered in the video. But James and I have remained friends and I have appeared on his TV show, now he has appeared on mine. Shades Of Bad.
Here is the behind the scenes interview.

Between us, James and I have nearly 100 years in the media industry, often
being pioneers and certainly covering some ground when you look at the two cv's together. As friends we have stayed in touch and I always support his charity as we did with the premiere of the Status Quo romp movie Bula Quo at the Odeon in Leicester Square. James appears as Detective Inspector James Whale in episode 32 the episode of Shades Of Bad and straight after the wedding. He arrives to arrest; why and what happens afterwards starts to shock. Hey, it is Shades Of Bad, the infectious very dark series. If you are not up to date I suggest you catch up, or jump in at about episode 23 and get the run in to why the police knock on Doris's door.

Having James on the show has not been a secret as we did a behind the scenes video some time ago revealing his shoot day as well as Doris being sent abroad to Norway and Barcelona.  James also spoke with me then or about 30 minutes on his radio show about many things past and present and if you have not heard it it is worth a listen. My interview starts about 30 minutes in.

Those foreign shoots, Norway and Barcelona, were not for the travel spin off series DORIS VISITS that we now have although we might well try and cut the Norway footage if the outtakes work as a travel video. James came in and instantly became part of the team in a professional manner, and he a Jean who plays Doris spent time working on the content of the episode.

Episode 32 is out.

James and I again spoke on his radio show, and this Christmas week show of the James Whale show is where I reveal who we are currently filming with; the new star of Shades Of Bad. The new star I have said is our answer to Idris Elba, an actor we have discovered who is already a star in many areas. If you wish to know who it is you will have to listen to Jame's show.

So, James turns the old year into a new one and we start to look forward. Our three trainee serial killers do have to deal with dead bodies in 2016 and Doris is head hunted by our new star for greater crimes and it is him that sends her to Norway. The UK side of three of those episodes we shoot after Christmas. Then we travel to the Three Valleys with an open book on shooting new episodes of Doris Vists, a relaxed exploring approach to a travel show. If you have not watched any of those yet they will make you want to travel. Have a look at Key West of the beautiful island of Bequia.

Jean now has her own travel blogs so if you prefer to read, here is her blog on the Miami visit.

In closing, take a moment to listen to the two James Whale internet radio shows while you are doing things around the house, and some other episodes that do not focus on Shades Of Bad. James does make you think and he sometimes makes you angry. The sign of a great broadcaster.

The Video Behind The Scenes Interview.

And in closing can I ask you go to the chart site and vote for us, Shades Of Bad.

James Whale Episode but watch the wedding first, the one before.

Monday, 14 December 2015

12. The Christmas calendar: From Matt Damon to Status Quo at the 02, Seth Rogen etc..

It is easy for the diary to fill with dates over Christmas without being invited to multiple cinema screenings each and every night some with huge stars attending, mixing, mingling and doing questions and answers after the film. - Or in Tarantino's case for Hateful 8, before and after the 3 hour plus movie. He was fun and it was great to hear Kurt Russell because he is quite amazing in the picture, though my vote for best supporting actor still sits with Seth Rogan who shocked me in how good he was in Steve Jobs. That was a night to remember because as a writer I was honoured to be in the same room as Aaron Sorkin as well as Seth and the other cast. However, my favourite film is still Spotlight amongst a good crop of movies. The BAFTA votes have become important as they position results just prior to the Oscars and the influence is taken seriously.

From all the many film screenings vying for our votes with wine receptions, to balls, to dance functions there is another event which has been annual for many years: to visit Status Quo, normally at the 02. The arena was packed with a faithful audience dancing and singing their hearts out. The band were on good form. I have been watching them again since we re-met in 2005 on Coronation Street and I proposed making a film together.

Rick then fell ill, we then changed the script to be far less action, changed Vinnie Jones for my daughter Laura Aikman as the film became less hard, violent and more Radio 2 family fun, party in the park. The script and schedule were polished over Christmas 2011 for approval. We left for Fiji as 2012 started. As we head to 2016 I am pleased that The Job Jot has been re-commissioned for her and her love interest in the show Russell Tovey.

I was at the O2 with Jean, who now plays Doris Shades in Shades Of Bad for which she won best actress this year.

In Bula Quo she played Reiko Best the TV news anchor. Also at the Quo concert was our daughter Laura Aikman and partner Matt Kennard who were also both in Fiji with us in Bula Quo, Laura played Caroline and Matt played the reporter, Dave.

Caroline is my favourite Quo song and one I can remember playing as a radio DJ way back when, so making the girl character Caroline meant we could look at a new Caroline song .... The film Bula Quo is still available worldwide and we are just closing a sales deal with Metrodome for it's TV sales as well as the (possible) sequel Namaste Quo which is still muted to film 2017 or 2018. The Fijian mash up brought a Hawaiian / Fijian feel to the classical score with acoustic versions of some of their great hits including Down Down and Whatever You Want. That spurned the Acoustic period. The plan for Namaste Quo is to fuse with Bollywood and introduce sitar rock fusion. You should always have dreams to stretch the future even when some feel safer in the past and that will be fun if it ever happens. It was fun writing the first script, touring India and doing the recce! I watched the concert last night thinking I can see two really hot rock chics playing electric violins and singing backing vocals adding to that line up. We will see, they sometimes listen to my crazy ideas.

I first met Quo and many of the old record industry people in the backstage 02 bar when I was a radio DJ back in the 1970's and spent a time working at EMI in marketing and promotion. It meant another
night of festive fun was with the Knordoff Robbins boxing night at
the Hilton. Jean (Doris) has never been to a boxing night, but her friend Grace Kennedy was there with her partner Nigel Angel the media lawyer and they chatted and talked with other celebs like John Conteh and Ian Wright rather than watching the fights. I should just say here that another night this Christmas week is a gig with the Mick Flinn Band, he the lead singer of the Mixtures who had a hit with The Pushbike Song etc .. and his wife Donna Flinn (who plays Elsie in Shades Of Bad) will no doubt sing. As they both joined The New Seekers (I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing etc) for many years with original band members Marty Kristain and Paul Leyton, I expect to see them there. When as a DJ on Metro Radio in 1978 with James Whale (who appears in Shades Of Bad on Boxing Day) I introduced The New Seekers on stage at the Tyneside Summer Exhibition. I later met Mick at parties where myself, Colin Cook and Davey Jones of the Monkees would site on the work surface in the kitchen, probably as that brought us up to the same height as the others... almost.

A second boxing night appears in the calendar this week at the Troxy in Limehouse, when one of the lads who grew up with my (our) son Luke Aikman and daughter Laura Aikman, a Mr Ryan DaRocha is 'white collar boxing'. This is where members of the public train and have a three round bought (organised Fight Club). He is a tough rugby player who has been in training so I wish him luck at Bethnal Green on the 17th, but Jean (Doris) has said she cannot watch that though she did get John Conteh to sign his a set of gloves as good luck.

We managed to shoot 5 episodes with our new star Derek Redmond over the Christmas period, then went to Courchevel to shoot another travel movie with Doris for the series Doris Visits.

 Episode 30 to 35 are now live, episode 32 stars James Whale.

In between we have Christmas and Laura's birthday but no more filming though the edit suit is chocker clogged with work that will never be completed, and then there is the tax returns to file before the end of January. Sorry, this turned into a little reminisce, but then you do at Christmas....

Here is our Christmas message ... merry Christmas -  Happy Holidays

Monday, 7 December 2015

11. Old Movie Stars, New Web Stars, Rio Olympics and Doris takes over the world in SHADES OF BAD 2016

Old stars and news stars, Rio Olympics... .... read on...

Episode 29 went up in December, a little early and we sighed relief.... but we loaded the wrong one. To be fair Buster is doing it while working nearly 16 hour days on a feature film so he can be excused and as we pulled Lynn who plays Wilma away from her Christmas Stage Show to film the left hand angles of our Christmas card, she watched the newly posted episode 29 in her car on the way to the shoot and said .... 'there's no music!'

Shades Of Bad is certainly credited for the full score and the title music and that is down to Mark Blackledge a long time collaborator. We first met when I was to shoot a musical version of Macbeth which started and had the art and production teams working in Liverpool, then stopped when the tax financier found a deal he could trust a little bit more. We went on to shoot Devil's Gate and have since done a few projects including the Status Quo rock film Bula Quo. So, whilst I love getting composers reels it is unlikely I will change. Mark is a genius. Seen here Bula Quo stars Jon Lovitz and my real life daughter Laura Aikman. Great behind the scenes material on YouTube playlist on the Shades Of Bad Channel all worth watching!  That is also meant to be done as a web series, we just need time.

Episode 29 is loaded with music..... Episode 32 is now up with James Whale, Christmas is behind us.

So the left hand side of the christmas greeting is shot, see the picture !  The right hand side of our Shades Of Bad Christmas card gets shot next week which is the only day our new star can join us. He will stand between Doris (played by Jean Heard) and Elsie (played by Donna Flinn). But we won't have Reg and Wilma. He is tall and dark and we can now reveal having shot 5 episodes with him, and he is great, that it is Derek Redmond.

His episodes will be out just before the Rio Olympics.... I can see availability challenging us next year, but it will be worth it. The Christmas card will be out about the 16th so watch out Idris, we have discovered a developing talent from a well known world sports star. I will alter this blog when the film goes live and the secret is released ... this is going to be a fun start to 2016. I can now report, our Idris was unwell and did not make the shoot, so we changed the script and shot it with the invisible man... you will get to see him next year.

The run up to Christmas has been great, with Doris having a great idea in episode 27, pick it up there and run with it to Christmas. She has started a 'service' for the elderly, to ensure their sexual needs are met, and calls a radio station. I play the DJ, but a real DJ joins us in episode 32, which reminds me I have an interview to cut to go with that. James Whale, the James Whale plays Detective Inspector James Whale and comes to arrest someone, well you will see on Boxing Day. James and I were both on the same radio station in 1978, Metro Radio in Newcastle. I was then transferred to take over Steve Wright's show at Orwell when he went to Radio 1, where I had come from a year earlier but never got off the bench ... long story.

We have been re-editing in the edit suit, we have cut episodes 1 to 5 together, and 5 to 10 together, and at just over 10 minutes each they make a perfect ITV ? Commercial TV half hour and we have 150 minutes shot (not all edited) and the rest where Doris does take over the world is shooting next. All good attacks on the world are sauced from a kitchen!!!  As well, Shades Of Bad has travel films in the edit, you must see the one on the beautiful island of Bequia and share it, this island is wonderful. There are series episodes in the edit, Behind The Scenes and the Christmas Card. Plus we have old movies to revisit and recut as web series, so please subscribe to our YOUTUBE channel if you do nothing else today. But, I see our first pressure hitting home hard next year as I have to go skiing, and that means more travel films!

If you are wondering what to get someone for Christmas as a little stocking filler, there is still time to get the Shades OF Bad book, WHO DIES TODAY from Amazon.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays from me, Stuart St Paul, and the cast and other two crew members.... click here for our Christmas message film....

Check out our Christmas blog

Sunday, 22 November 2015

10. The Travel Show rises from the sea with a bottled beer in hand.

AS Episode 27 of the Shades Of Bad dark comedy web series goes up this week, we cranked our output up, not as much as we would like, but on top of the episode, we loaded 5 travel films and set up the associated twitter account and also linked it to films we have already up on one of our feature film sites, Bula Quo.

The five places we have cover are Barbados where Doris had an overnight and went to Fish Night at Oistins, the beautiful Island of BequiaAntiguaPort Canaveral where she walked down through Jetty Park and along to Cocoa Beach and Miami which could have done with 2 days.

So we are definitely not on the balcony watching the sun go down drinking a Banks Beer, we are back in cold, very cold north west London, in the edit suit working things through.

We hope to get at least twenty new travel films up in 2016, maybe one on Fiji from the Bula Quo shoot and we need to look at the footage we did in Norway and Barcelona when we shot Doris episodes of Shades Of Bad there. The other cast, who are left in her kitchen will be shooting their portions of episodes 43 to 51 (Norway) and 58ish (Barcelona) before and after Christmas and in bits as cast have duties and pantos. However we are having a Christmas break and then going to the Three Valleys where yes, we will shoot the ski resorts with Doris before going back to the Carribean to do three more islands in March. Also next year we have a Denmark / Russia cruise then will get to do the Canary Islands and also have a few days in Dubai. It sounds glamorous, but it is all about the output and we do not hover. See the promo.

If you have not caught up with Shades of Bad you might like to look at our first proper compilation of season 1, where Doris just recounts her best bits. We used to make these all the time when I was at Emmerdale, Emmerdales best Weddings, best punches, best whatever. The secret is having the product to do it because compilations are often as popular as the shows them selves. Take a look at Doris reflecting back on Season 1 of Shades Of Bad.

Might we ask you to drop by our YouTube Channel and hit the subscribe button, drop us a line if you wish to do a sub for sub.

We lost all our big numbers and subs when we were taken down and had to come back up as an over 18 site for many of our films. Some people just don't get dark comedy.

Enjoy Shades, and if you wish to start from Episode 1 and binge watch, two tips, hit the next button as it ends to jump forward and ship titles. And when it asks for a payment for number 9, just go to the season 1 playlist and find it listed there.  The very first episode is here, and we have been in the charts every week since, so thanks for your support.

PS - The ASK DORIS spin off is also still on the table, it is just time and Christmas.....

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

9. Doris Travels, the new spin off travel show as the girl goes as a girl does!

Hi all, and just to make you envious I am writing from my balcony in Barbados with a Banks beer.  But as you can see I am working, or have stopped working to blog. Shades Of Bad the web series is quite an experiment. Those of you who who have read blog and articles from our website will know that I spent 26 years on a UK broadcast soap, and have a creep of directing both movie and second unit on major hollywood movies, so enough was enough, the world and viewing habits were changing and I decided to go alone. I started Shades Of Bad for actress Jean Heard at her suggestion. The show was then my idea and the content shocked her to the core, but there is no point in not being more edgy and more political when on the web.

So, why am I working in Barbados and what am I doing apart from the age old adage of rumours of the director and lead actress sharing a room are exaggerated. I have just finished editing 7 films and my portable hard drive is out of space, so hence the blog. We have been away travelling and have made seven travel films, one on Bequia (near Mystique), one on Miami, one on Cocoa beach Canaveral, another is on Antigua, this one on Barbados and my favourite was Key West a place I have always wanted to stop at. (films will go up end November and links will appear then)

Here is the logic and why the plan. Consider marketing can be looked at as speculative selling, selling
something people did not want or did not know they wanted, and the second selling something they do want or need. The drama series Shades Of Bad falls into the first. No one is looking for a web series. Looking seriously at the figures sport is worth 75 billion, the gaming industry 45 billion and the complete TV output is a poor third at around 30 billion. Drama is a proportion of the output along with the game shows, documentaries and entertainment shows. Travel shows however are a tool for the traveller and along with cookery shows still strike high.

So, the series Shades Of Bad we knew would be hard to market, and we needed content to be there. So now with 26 episode up as of mid November, and 42 finished, Doris could take a break. She even did a season one reflective compilation before we left which is an excellent catch up show.
She can take a break especially as her filming for episodes 43 to 47 is all done and dusted and was shot last year when we travelled to Norway. We may well cut a Norway film together and voice over it and add it to the travel shows. So in the drama Doris has been head hunted by a villain who you will meet in the spring, been sent abroad to collect a package; Norway. They can carry on without her and she can now start the travel shows as 'Doris Visits', which will have a market we have a small foothold in for other reasons. 'Doris Visits' will be available from end November 2015 with links to the drama and she will make references to it, as she is that character.

Similarly we could cut a travel show with the Fiji footage from when we shot their with Status Quo.

The logic here is the cross platform use that I have been used to for years. As you may know I madeThe Krays and Bula Quo with music stars, just as TV actors I have worked with, like Robson Green have fishing shows etc.... Once a character is established they can, because the public know them, share things with them. That is the logic, so the web opens up doors to allow us to create those and in three years from July 2015 when we started, we aim to have up and live over 100 episodes in their short form, have re-editied then to 11 minute mega cuts (which are then a half hour TV length joining two together, ITV is currently 21 minutes 30 seconds per half hour). We aim to have about 60 travel films and some others on 'How To'.  Then there is the book, WHO DIE TODAY which is out now and covers the first 40 episodes. I was to start writing the book for Freight while I have been away but I have been too busy. My work as an author is always pushed back and I have a new movie in prep when I get home.

The logistics work load and investment is huge but that will be a TV channel. If we have time we will cut some of our movies and the behind the scenes materials into other playlists. It is an interesting time to see how content works. We have yet to really get started with Maker Studios which is the Disney label we have signed to so the workload is endless.

So, the travel connection. I started my career as a broadcaster and radio DJ so have always presented and spoken at events. When on Emmerdale I was posted to a cruise ship as part of the PR to talk about how the soaps are made, and after 26 years on Emmerdale as well as stints on Corie, EastEnders and Take The High Road I have a few tales to tell and thousands of stills. I was then asked to expand and include how I went from DJ to TV and some of the huge movies I had been in. So, as a celebrity guess on cruise ships, I can make use of the stops and the footage may find it's way into all sorts of outputs whom we are talking to. But, I stay away from the front of camera, it is all done as Doris.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

8. Donna reflects on playing Elsie in Shades Of Bad

I waited with baited breath for my entrance as Elsie. 

Having watched from episode 1 to 6, I wasn't too sure how the opening of episode 7 would materialise!  Well we didn't quite get the full impact of me being thrown down the stairs, no matter how many suitcases Jean would send flying to the bottom. And on first seeing the episode back,  I realised just how ready you need to be for your first take in film, so would have ideally liked to have done my opening scene again, but there are no second chances and having done a lot of theatre in the past I was so conscious of over acting, even though I was bound and gagged! 

However, I loved Elsie's first line, where in answer to Doris's "why were you knocking?" she replies "I was hungry".   Brilliant, the most unlikely answer from a woman who has just been thrown down the stairs by her daughter in law, which shows us instantly the strength of Elsie's  character.   I also love Wilma's line after listening to Doris telling Elsie that her son is having an affair with her, she says to Elsie "nice boy, you should be proud".  Then of course the last line in this episode when Elsie sees the sandwiches she says  "I'll have them".   

In episode 8 I love the way Elsie says how she can't believe what Doris and Wilma are making her son do....."living between two women".  She is totally in defence of her son being in any way guilty.

Episode 9  Oh my God, like Jean, when I first read this part of the script I was very uncomfortable with it.  Shock, horror, when we find out that Doris has a child locked in her cellar!  Elsie has a Grandchild?   You just had to keep reminding yourself that this was a fictitious drama, gradually turning into a horror.

Episode 10 is quite funny with Doris suggesting to Elsie she and Brad, her son, should make a suicide pact, with Wilma's reaction to Elsie being "let him murder you first, he might then reconsider and come and live with me".   So so surreal!

Episode 11 Says it all... Love this scene when Wilma asks Doris if they fell out, who would she watch the Jeremy Kyle show with?  Found it hilarious, but true to the Series, that Doris replies  "never watch that show again, it's full of very strange people" how ironic!

Episode 12  After watching this episode, I realised how clever Busters' idea of shooting the end of this scene really paid off, as visually I find it very funny. Firstly we see a back shot of the two heads of Doris and Elsie, ending with a front shot of Doris with Elsie creeping into shot with a white face and looking totally off her head.  Elsie has presumably fell into a bag of cocaine in the cellar, created by baking powder being blown into my face.  Unfortunately some of it caught my eye and so delayed the shoot a little, until I managed to get it out.

Episode 13  This I thought was a moment of genius when it was decided that a camera be put inside the oven, whereby the reflection that we see of Doris and Wilma creates the illusion for Elsie to think that they are both actually in the oven.   Whilst all of this is going on with Elsie, we hear more shocking truths as Doris plots to put her on the game!

Episode 15 Doris expands her business into a brothel and we see Elsie exhausted as, unbeknown to Elsie, as she is now addicted to the cocaine, she is the number one prostitute.  Elsie is tricked into believing she has just one suitor who she thinks is her boyfriend called Bill.

By Episode 18 Elsie starts to get suspicious of there being more than one Bill and so Doris tells her that she has a form of dementia where she suffers from facial recognition and whilst Elsie makes a cup of tea for Wilma and Doris, Doris cruelly gets Wilma to swap seats with her, so that each time Elsie turns to them, they are in a different chair, making Elsie believe she really has this form of dimentia.  This was very difficult to keep together, as so many times all three of us just corpsed .
Something I struggle with in all if this, as surreal as the series is and call me old fashioned, but it's one thing believing Elsie fails to recognise one Bills' face from the other, but there's more than a face in question here.....isn't there?
Funny end shot that didn't come out in the edit, where I look to be pulling up my draws and truth of it was, the attachment to my mike that was attached to my knickers was about to fall down!  I had no idea that the camera was still on me.

The Fly Episode 19  Lynn who plays Wilma, was surprised at how I didn't hesitate when asked to fall backwards off a chair in this episode with no thoughts of Stuart not being there to catch me.  It was only later I thought about the consequences of my hitting the tiled floor full on had he not caught me. Yikes!  But then of course I had every faith in Stuart.

Episode 20  Wasn't sure if I was relieved to hear that it wasn't Doris's daughter in the cellar, but someone she found there when they moved in?........ooh very dark.    

Elsie is played by actress Donna Flinn.  Shades Of Bad is a hit web series as well as a Book and Kindle. 

Thursday, 29 October 2015

7. Marketing a web series - easy tips

Here's the thing. Get ten people in a room and you will have ten different versions on how to market. Just the same as if you got ten people in a room and asked them about a script. They should hold creative marketing lessons for anyone studying creative writing, or any form of art including acting. If you want to do any art, someone has to pay, and that requires an audience. If you work in the arts, by default, you work in marketing. let's face it, it is not always art, but it is always marketing!

So, this is just my view.... and who am I? What do I know? As my son often asks and he was mocking me just last week. Let me tell you this story first..... I was telling him that I went to Sussex University to study Physics and Maths under parental pressure, but I wanted to be a DJ on the pirate radio ships of the late sixties early seventies..... the ships were being closed, Radio 1 had just started and there was 208, Radio Luxembourg. I was hammering on all doors - marketing. I was then the DJ at the Lyceum Ballroom (now theatre) in The Strand and The Empire Leicester Sq, probably the two biggest ballrooms in the country, and I only played band breaks for the first few years as live music was still the key. I spent almost no time an Uni and I wrote to every music label, sound studio and record producer to try and get a job as a sound mixer or record producer as a fall back. I was interviewed by Phillips in London, it was very secretive, I was the only applicant as there was no job advert. My letter, my technical credentials and music background, and shear push had blown some dust of a suited team's desk. They had a new invention which was a new disc format that would not scratch, could not be destructed like vinyl. It was to be, many years later the CD / DVD. They wanted me as a conduit between tech and sales - a go between. An imagination to what was the then unknown. So my son laughs .... but yes, it is true, I was a marketeer, just like he is now at his tech company Nudge Digital.

..... He laughs that I could have even been at the start of the CD, but I was nearly. However, it was not my dream and I got offered positions at both Radio Luxembourg and BBC Radio at Radio 1 and 2. Luxembourg I would have got on the air, at the BBC, I was on the bench training and waiting and I might get through. It is like being offered to play for Arsenal and Walsall, I took the big name and never really got off the bench. Wrong choice one might suggest. I spent three years assisting, being posted to a radio station in Beirut and back again, to radio London and back again, I started the old Radio 1 Roadshows before they were roadshows, and then left in sheer frustration as I knew, now 1978, I stood more chance in commercial radio. So to get there I joined EMI as a record plugger in their marketing department. The small world continues and I made life long friends with Vic Bateman who when I was a producer years later at Fugitive Films and we made The Krays, and his United Media had just gone bust, we brought him in as our in-house sales.

So, having been to Cannes, AFM and Berlin Markets for over 25 years, and walked the red carpet at
Verona, Cabourg, Porto, Breckenridge (actually won Best Director) ... and many others, I have been in marketing for years. I still have a huge connection in music which explains the Kemps in The Krays and Status Quo in Bula Quo and work with many music marketeers as well as have released with Universal and Icon as well as various sales agents.

You learn it is hard. - No it is not!

Marketing is EASY. Getting a response to it is HARD. Differentiate between the two. Now.

For example let me explain a record label. Each week I got two new singles to promote. Why two a week? Because that figure fitted everything from factory reproduction, to distribution. So, each Monday I would listen, realise they needed all the help they could get, and I would make a plan for each. Even if all I had was the close down music at ITV before it was 24/7. My first hit was taking the forgotten and unplayed Mink Deville, Spansh Stroll and getting it as my colleague Paul Burnett's record of the week. The rest is history, Willy Deville remained a friend until he died.

Each week many of the major distributors release two films. Some only one a week. Smaller one a month. To be taken on, you need to take a slot from another film. There are only so many slots. When they have wined you and dined you, promised you the world, got you to sign, they move on, away from you to sign the next people. You now have a contact, or a label manager. They automatically outsource your trailer, your poster, your magazine screenings, your press screenings and they all happen at trigger points in a calendar. So the poster designer is getting two a week, the press screenings are getting two a week. It is a simple format lead business and the bus posters, tube posters and adverts are all outsourced. Once outsource, another person looks after you. Eventually you only talk to accounts. It is easy, it is transparent, it is formulaic though budget and style effect decisions trust me little is new.

These are machines. there is no machine for a web series. Worse still, it is timeless television, it has no date. Even if you have a release date it means nothing. You are not the next James Bond, no one will care.

So, how did I treat my idea of web series promotion? I decided that I could not shout about the unknown, unless I shouted into the unknown. I felt I needed a product base to say look, here is a series. I figured we would target 80 episodes, load one a week and that would be about 18 months to 2 years. I figured that until series one was up, we should do nothing that cost time or money. No marketing, just get a base, get a product up, and gain a few views and more than it being new, zero.

We released in June and I knew that was a time no one watched because of summer, Wimbledon and The Scarlet Tunic during a world cup as the audience was not clashing, no, wrong. So I knew the first episodes were about joining the dots and having the first viewers show us what they expected.
football competitions, I have tried to release through them all. I even release

I figure that in 20 weeks I would have a series, a web site, a bunch of blogs, be on Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr, Zooli, Facebook and have character accounts and reading and support material. None of this was easy and as we got up a head of steam and hit the charts in the USA which we never knew existed, we got hacked and sabotaged. The YouTube channel came down overnight, it took nearly 4 weeks to get back and we had lost all the momentum and much of the audience. It did make us work harder and complete other platforms like Daily Motion and Vimeo and Zooli.TV as well as start with Disney's Maker Studios.

So, we focussed on some tent poles. Tent poles came too late because Halloween and Christmas were not planned when writing. We had not charted each episode with a release date. The episodes were juggled a little and re - written slightly but it made us focus. We are now shooting with Derek Redmond who is an Olympian, and a celebrity, and his episodes will be out just before the Rio Olympics.

So at Halloween, episode 24 this weekend we are just starting to think about marketing having got a few connected ducks in a row. our sites link to each other, the videos have annotations, and because web series has no established route to viewer other than Netflix etc we have developed one. We have written the first 40 episodes into a book and Kindle for this Christmas market, WHO DIES TODAY, and paid and appointed a world press agent for books. After each chapter it takes you to the episodes on the web to show you what the director and cast did. The second book will be done next summer and be the next 40 episodes.

A stage play Shades Of Bad has been done, and that is three different treatments and formats of the same material, and that is with a publisher for early 2016 release.

So apart from a little spend here and there, and I mean little, on a Facebook blog, we do not market. A small spend has been done on Doris looking back at season one, it is a 15 minute special of her chatting about the season with clips from 20 episodes and is very different and aimed at a different market.

So, our charts, analysis and viewers show we are not as female heavy as we might expect even though we are a female lead show with three women. The audience is age mature heavy, but not overly, and every 25 it kicks in on both sexes. So, we are not quite The Golden Girls. That said I do not think we know enough to have a target to focus on so the plan is to just bide time until after the Boxing Day episode with TV and Radio celeb James Whale who comes in as a detective. We will see the effect that has.

As for awards and festivals, for the moment I think they are all apart from the established Indie Series Awards in Hollywood, a bit of a waste of time. It appears everyone who makes a web series tries to hold a festival and focus on promoting their own series or stars.

So for me, to go to all this work you need a long term plan. You need a product base. It will take time. You need stars and anchors.

Our long term plan was always to make enough product to cut at least 8 x 30 minute TV slots, which with lengthened advertising allowances is not no more than 21 minutes 30 seconds for a half hour TV slot. We have already got more than that. So, in 2016 we will start to cut long form, and continue to grow. As for marketing, it is routine, it is obvious, it is not rocket science. You can buy views, you can buy fans, but they are worthless.

Plan before you start, market before you start. By that I mean start the web site, the Twitter sites, etc, Establishing a working method to handle all these. The film making is easy by comparison. If you are just doing it to sell your self or try and make the big movie, put your efforts into the movie, for you are not making a series. You are making a short film or two.

Look at the chart, series now means many episodes. Most series in the chart run almost continuously. Here is episode 33 .....

And remember this is timeless TV. People will show you success stories of shows that started in 2012, 2013..... get them to show you an instant success. It is not instant. Series means long term. Series means can you afford what you are doing. We budgeted 80 episodes, we have so far shot nearly 50.

here is the 15 minute special - Doris review of season 1

here is the first ever episode of Shades Of Bad.

here is the Shades Of Bad web site.

Amazon Author biog

Tips on making a web series start here.

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.

Please LIKE our Facebook page, it means a lot to the team to be able to be in contact with those who view the show.

And as there is a weekly world web chart which is part made up by votes, please do visit the site and vote.

5. Doris on completing Season 1 of SHADES OF BAD

We have finished our first season of Shades Of Bad so I was having a little look back. I can’t say it hasn’t been challenging. As an actress I am used to turning up on set, at the call time I have been given, going into make up being given a cup of tea and then going to set which has been dressed and made ready by somebody else.

On Shades of Bad, I am the person that gives the call times, I dress the set and then go and do my own make up ready for when everyone else arrives so I can make them a cuppa and give them a bit of breakfast. We were aiming to shoot 3 episodes a day. I am not naturally an early riser so the call time I gave on our first day, though popular with everyone was far too late. We started at 10am and consequently we had to do some pick up shots as we didn’t finish the 3 episodes. I was also caught out because the scene required great chunks of dialogue from me when I am pretending to read from my kindle. Great I thought, I won’t have to learn that bit I can read it. When we got on set, first problem was I couldn’t read the print without my glasses and second was that as Wilma was positioned behind me she couldn’t see my face so the director, Buster asked me to look over the top of the kindle so it was clear to the audience that I was making the dialogue up rather than actually reading. Good job I am a quick learner. I have gone through the episodes picking out some of my favourite lines.  My favourite lines from ep 1 were
We tested the first episode on a group of women and they roared at this line.
Episode two turned out to be a very intense dramatic episode. It was shot very close up and Doris is playing with Wilma. She knows Wilma has been having an affair with her husband.  She taunts her with the fact that
At the end of episode 1 Wilma is so upset she drops a cup, so we had to use one of my own cups that I had broken previously. At the end of episode 3 I say
Doris: “I used to have a full set of these cups and a husband” which is a line I loved, so cutting and dismissive.
Episode 4 was one of my favourites. Doris explains why everyone will think that Wilma killed her husband because she wrapped his sandwiches in foil bought from Lidl.
Doris “Bought from Lidl, we never shop in Lidl, I wouldn’t be seen dead there, so no-one will suspect me” Hilarious. Doris is such a snob. I also love the line
Wilma “Have you pressed the end in?” Doris “Not lately Wilma have you?” This episode also gives a very helpful household tip that none of us knew. Stuart the writer found it on the internet, and that is if you press in the end of the box of silver foil, the foil stays firm in the box and doesn’t move around. Try it!
Wilma has to know whether Brad was only attracted to her because he wanted revenge for Doris having an affair in Episode 5.
Wilma: “Your affair, before or after we started?”
Doris: “Ever since my u bend was blocked”. No idea why but u bend is such a funny word. It just makes you laugh.
Doris just gets worse and worse. In episode 6 she tells Wilma to go and get Bill’s chair because as Wilma is sleeping with her husband it is only fair that she gets her mother in law so she should put her in Bill (her husband)’s chair and wheel her next door to live with her. Wilma says: “What do I tell Bill?” and Doris callously says “He can now have his chair back!”
I had to do this line a few times before I could say it without laughing
In episode 7 we get to meet Elsie, Doris’ mother in law. This was great for me as I have worked with Donna Flinn who plays Elsie many times and we have always had fun. This was no exception. Doris even has her own language sometimes and she explains with a straight face that because Wilma has been sleeping with her son Bradley that
“Quasistatusartus, technically you are now her mother in law”
We learn in this episode that Brad has not been poisoned by the sandwiches because he forgot to take them to work so in episode 8 Wilma actually throws the poisoned sandwich to Elsie.
Elsie “You dare to give me white bread from Lidl” echoes the Doris theme, but the funniest line in episode 8 is
Elsie: “I’m not into bandage” This made me really laugh because in real life Donna often gets her words mixed up.
In my opinion episode 9 is the funniest episode. I must admit that I was shocked when I first read it and said that we couldn’t possibly have a child locked in the cellar it was too awful. But on reading it a second time I realized that it is so surreal and ludicrous that no-one could possibly take it seriously.  Lynn who plays Wilma plays it brilliantly when she says.
Wilma: “You had a child what happened to it. Did you lose it?”
Doris: “No I know exactly where she is. Locked in the cellar”
Wilma: “I never knew you had a ……cellar. We don’t!”
Episode 10 was another one where I found it hard to get my words out without laughing. There are several lines I struggled with. Namely
Elsie: “Where do I live?”
Doris: “Would you like to live in my shed Elsie?”
And also
Doris (to Elsie) “Don’t mention the mother child suicide bonding pact you have with your son. I don’t want to have to deal with her jealous and disappointment of missing out on something special” It still makes me laugh now.
Episode 11 is another very funny episode. I love it when Wilma says.
Wilma: “If I walk away, who will you watch Jeremy Kyle with?”
Episode 12 is another one I struggled with. Again because it is so dark. Elsie goes down into the cellar to help Doris’ daughter pack the drug shipment. All Doris is worried about is that she didn’t do a very good job.
Doris: “She’s probably ruined the whole shipment!” Again when you think about how far fetched the whole thing is you just have to laugh.
In episode 13 Elsie comes back up from the cellar and she is high. Se has inhaled some of the cocaine. She sees Doris and Wilma’s reflection in the oven and thinks they are inside it.
This was quite a difficult episode to shoot because you had to make sure that the camera and the cameraman were not also seen in the reflection.
Elsie: “What are you doing in the oven?”
Also Doris shows her real psychopathic self here. Wilma says
Wilma: “You’re a drug dealer”
Doris “Only part time and only in schools” as if that is complete justification.
In Episode 14 she is boasting about how taken with her the pig farmers were.
Doris “They thought I was a very stunning, cunning pusher”. We find out she is not only a drug dealer but she has also dabbled in prostitution. Very interesting to play. A complete psychopath who honestly can’t see that she is doing anything wrong. It is all perfectly logical in her head. She is just trying to make a living. Her husband was having an affair with her best friend and she had to find a way to build up some resources and protect herself.Even the affair with the plumber had a practical motive.
In episode 15 Elsie is still stoned and rambling. Doris decides it would be nice for Elsie to have a boyfriend, and maybe she could make some profit out of it. Elsie is mumbling so she throws the tea towel over her head and says
Doris: “I had a budgie like you once, went on and on till I threw the towel over her cage”.
Episode 16 is another one of the funniest, in my opinion. Elsie is flirting on the phone and Mark Blackledge our composer does a hilarious  improvisation of the man on the other end who is a prospective client. Mark’s music really does add to the series but I think in another life he could have been a very good actor. My favourite lines from this episode are
Wilma: “What shall I do with the pig?”
Doris: “Tell him to throw it downstairs.  Suzie’s training to be a butcher. Good to have options.”
By episode 17 the brothel is in full swing. Doris believes she is doing Elsie a favour as she hasn’t had sex in a while. A line that still makes me laugh is when Wilma comes in to announce there’ s another pig farmer at the door Doris decides she doesn’t actually want to be a prostitute herself any more but Wilma can do it.
Doris: “Tell him you’re o special, half price” That line really tickled me. So cold and hard but it is funny.
So to the last three episodes. I struggled again with Episode 18. It is sooo cruel. Doris and Wilma try to convince Elsie who is a bit absent minded that she has facial recognition dementia. This is so that she can sleep with a variety of men believing that they are all her boyfriend Bill. Of course the drugs help addle her brain. In the end it is so ludicrous it is funny and you just have to play it straight. At the end of the episode Wilma annoys Doris and Doris says
Doris: “Have you eaten Wilma?” referring back to the poison sandwiches.
We are all great fans of Breaking Bad and episode 19 is our homage to the fly episode in that amazing series. In this episode Donna playing Elsie does her first stunt. She falls back off a chair after trying to trap a fly on the ceiling, and in doing so breaks another of Doris’ best cups. We were lucky that Stuart, the writer is also a top stunt coordinator so he was there to catch Elsie as she fell and also knew how to make fake blood with washing up liquid and red food colouring. At the end of the episode Doris says
Doris: “It’s not all about the fly Elsie, that would just be stupid!” ……Our homage to breaking bad.
So the season ends. We find out that Suzie, the girl who lived in the cellar and was there when Doris bought the house escapes, the brothel is doing well, and Wilma is now packing the drugs. At the end of the episode 20 Doris says to Elsie
“We’re here for you Elsie” then turns to camera with a horrible smile.
Up till now everyone has escaped being murdered but something tells me it is only a matter of time.

This blog will be cut to a video of clips introduced by actress Jean Heard, and it will be available here.