- Thursday 31st July 2008, 10:29pm [Edited]
- London, England
- 9,943 posts
Welcome to the tenth edition of ‘Meet the Writers.' This week's interviewee is Mike Booth, better known to the BCG as Mike Greybloke.
So what makes you so flipping special?
I wrote a lot of the second series of Angry Kid for Aardman Animations. Writing for Angry Kid is quite easy because the episodes are only one minute long, so you never get confused by story structure and subplots and the like. That's the only writing work I've ever been paid for.
I was commissioned to co-write a feature film script with a Famous English Comedian a few years ago, but the production company evaporated without giving us any money so I'm not sure that it counts, even though we finished it.
Since last year I've been writing and animating my Some Grey Bloke series that goes out on YouTube, and today I should be finishing a half hour pilot for that. But look! Instead of getting on with it, I'm answering questions for you.
Right. And I've got nothing better to do than interview snooty writers? Thanks a bunch, little prince poopers!
What's your background? Which came first – the animation or the comedy?
The animation. In 1995, after a spell at art college, I was lucky enough to get a job animating Morph. Although as I "wrote" the episodes as well, and as Morph is kind of comedic, maybe it's more accurate to say that thay both came along at once.
But I didn't really start writing "proper" comedy until the year 2000, after the end of civilisation failed to happen.
Wasn't that the year adults started propelling themselves around on fold-up scooters and Budweiser aired its "WHASSUP?!" campaign? Failed indeed!
What was your first "proper" comedy writing?
I wrote an outline for a thing about white-collar vampires working for an underground corporation, and an animation contact got it to that Famous Comedian, who agreed to co-write it with me and provide the lead voice.
It went through several different spec treatments and formats and it eventually became the failed feature I mentioned. In hindsight it would have worked much better as a sitcom or a series of short cartoons, and I'm now trying to work the idea into the Grey Bloke pilot.
(is it "in hindsight" or "with hindsight"?)
(depends which way round your binoculars are)
Tell us about Grey Bloke. Where did he come from and where do you see him going?
YouTube lets you upload responses to other peoples' videos, and I thought it would be funny to create a character who trawls the site responding to genuine v-loggers. But it didn't work, because they have the option to disallow responses, so after a bit I turned Grey Bloke into a v-logger in his own right.
As the episodes progressed he began mentioning other (mostly unseen) characters, until eventually I felt there was a strong enough basis for a sitcom with him as the central figure. I've written one half hour pilot, and am just about to finish another, better version - if you'll let me - and then the next step is to pitch it to production companies.
I also have a good number of short episodes written but not yet recorded, so I'll be carrying on making those while I wait for televisual rejection.
I had one of those once the other day. I was watching Eastenders and Dot Cotton sparked up in a particularly saucy manner.
Oh, wait. Sorry, I read that 'ejection'.
I hear you were nominated for a Bafta. Tell us how that came about.
I had an idea for an arty short film, so I drew the storyboard. An animation company called bolexbrothers said "we like that, let's make it", and hired a crew for me. We made the film, they sent it to festivals, it won some awards, and I guess whoever does the Bafta nominations saw it and put it on the list.
After that I thought I could write whatever I wanted and somebody would pay me to film it and then I'd go to parties with movie stars. Took a while to realise that it's not that easy.
Maybe if you'd put some velociraptors in it?
I too went to art school. I had dreams of my own studio, huge, ungainly installations sold to the highest chump and a never-ending parade of Ketamine dipped strumpets.
Like me, do you constantly ask yourself "where did it all go wrong?"
I currently make a living teaching English as a foreign language. So that would be "yes".
How much of a difference would you say that self-producing has made in terms of your success as a writer?
I won't consider myself "successful" until somebody pays me to produce Grey Bloke in some format. But I hope that having watchable samples will help convince a company that it's worth doing. I doubt that I'd be able to sell the idea through written scripts alone.
Would you say this is a good time to be a web celeb? Does it bother you that your slick, meticulously produced animations are routinely upstaged by six year old kids bashing their nuts on their BMX crossbars?
Kids falling off bicycles are funny. Almost as funny as that toddler who gets his head jumped on by the cat that was hiding in the bushes. That one never gets old.
You'll always be upstaged by accidents and girls dancing in thongs, but I think YouTube and the other video sharing sites are a fantastic opportunity for comedy writers. Even if you don't want to be a performer or animator, there are plenty of people out there who are do, and who need writers. Some of them are even quite talented.
Obviously it's more difficult to produce certain kinds of work when the writers and performers are scattered all over the world, but if you can write within the limits set by internet collaboration some very funny things are possible. I recommend Church of Blow on YouTube as an example. English writer, American director and actors; quality comedy.
Last question. I'm a Michael Jackson man. Who's your favourite celebrity paedophile?
Ta very much, Mike. Now go! Be free! Back to your pilot!
All the Mike you can eat right here
Last week's ‘Meet the Writers' was with Phillip Barron