Best of the blogs


I've just seen Sir David Hare give a lecture on screenwriting. He was very urbane and interesting, talking and answering questions for an hour-and-a-half. The structure of his talk consisted of his rules or beliefs by which he writes.

1. In any piece of film, the director is the only one who has a full idea of the concrete finished version in his head. Everyone else involved will have their own idea of what's being produced, but it will not be the same as the director's. Filming of The Hours was delayed for six hours while Meryl Streep had the set rearranged to fit her preconception of it.

2. This leads to disappointment. Sir David said that "a film they dreamed of as being everything is suddenly something", and that cannot fail to disappoint (remember all those times you've stared stonily at the first cut of your ad, trying to process ten million things at once AND look politely pleased in front of the director?).

3. What does a writer do for a living? Mostly he or she thinks. Or to put it less prosaically, he or she imagines (remember yesterday when you were sitting at your desk with your feet up? Back-breaking work). He said that it's all about the structure, and once that's in place, writing dialogue is a piece of piss.

4. In any field, in any meeting, only the idiot speaks first. The most powerful person speaks last and, in film, that is the director.

5. Your imagining (the script) is merely a kind of booster rocket to allow the director to do his own imagining before discarding yours.

6. Always end-load your film. Sir David said that most films are based on some idea/proposition, eg. Sandra Bullock is a nun who inherits $100,000,000 on condition that she marries a Muslim. The problem with that is that it is front-loaded and will not produce a satisfying ending. Start with what happens at the end and build towards it.

7. Allow more talented people than you to do their work.


Carmichael Lynch resigned the Harley-Davidson account last week. It had done terrific work for them for decades.

While the client didn't say "the world is changing and these guys can't give us anything new", and the agency didn't come out and say "these knuckleheads don't even understand their own brand", my guess would be that these were the issues behind the break-up.

Reading between the lines, it sounds like there was arm-wrestling over the brand personality. It sounds like Carmichael was fighting against diluting the Harley brand by trying to appeal to a "broader audience". In other words, the usual stupidity of trying to be everything to everyone. Or, more accurately, nothing to no-one.

The problem an agency faces when trying to protect a brand from itself is that it is labelled "incapable of coming up with something new and fresh".

The more the agency tries to protect the client from tin-eared yahoos who are unwittingly determined to undermine the brand, the more they are stuck with this tag. This is particularly true when sales are lousy and advertising becomes the scapegoat.

If, as I suspect, Harley tries to "broaden its appeal", what we will see is an instant replay of Saturn.

An agency invents a brand. It protects and nurtures the brand. There is a bump in the road. The client panics. A new agency is brought in. The brand can't figure out who it is any more. A funeral is held.

In this case, however, the agency built such a strong brand, even tin-eared yahoos probably can't kill it.


If we want to see a sign of how well TV is doing, just look at social media. Look at the trending topics on Twitter at almost any point of any day; most of the top ten will be related to the programmes that are on TV at that very minute. For example: Saturday evening, Twitter is full of X Factor chat.

How could this save TV? Well, let's think about it for a minute. TV is not interactive, the internet is; one reason why people keep expecting TV to decline, you can't get involved with it. Except with mobile internet now a widespread commodity, you can. Every minute of every day, people are talking about the shows that are on our TV screens. TV has become indirectly conversational, indirectly interactive.

In essence, Twitter and social sites are actually contributing to an increased relevance for TV. Adding value to an existing medium through a new medium. Funny how people often miss that. So will Twitter save TV? No. Nothing is ever that simple. Funny how people often miss that too.