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Nov 28

To busy writing to write

Posted on Saturday, November 28, 2009 in Thinking Without A Trace

shutterstock_384190951The problem with starting these things (Blogs) is that you have to keep doing them. That’s why I don’t do Facebook or Twitter. At the best of times I have the attention span of a kitten with ADHD on its fifth espresso of the day.

This is not necessarily a bad thing when you have a TV series or two, a book, a newspaper column, a related website and a movie script to deal with all at the same time. I have a horrible feeling that last night at a party I promised a play to someone too.

So I don’t often have the time to spend on this that I should. But if you see lots of things appearing here, it means I’m probably currently unemployed … or drunk … or both.

Apr 5

Bully For You

Posted on Sunday, April 5, 2009 in Uncategorized

Heard Julie Bishop on the TV this morning having a go at Kevin Rudd for “bullying” a defence forces air hostess for not providing him with a hot meal according to his diet.  The poor wee thing (the hostess, not Ms Bishop) was apparently reduced to tears. Can we get something straight?  Raising your voice when you are a bit pissed off is not bullying – it’s being a bit pissed off.  If he had bullied the hostess, he’s have stolen her lunch money.  And why do we have such wimps in the defence forces anyway?  And since when does our PM have to fly on Jetstar?  “Bullying” is the new “unAustralian” – dare to hint that work hasn’t been done to your satisfaction and suddenly you are a bully.  The English language takes another hit from the spin doctors and shirkers who’d rather complain than do their jobs properly.

Mar 14

Rain Shadow – Outback Gothic

Posted on Saturday, March 14, 2009 in TV


The cover of the US and UK DVD.

This is without a doubt the biggest and best thing I have done in my career so far.  The production – co-created and co-written with my very dear friend Tony Morphett, godfathered by Scott Meek, produced by the brilliant Gus Howard and EP’d with just the right firmness of touch by Miranda Dear and, later, Amanda Higgs of the ABC.  Click here to see a trailer. The actors were superb from the top of the cast list to the bottom and the haunting music by The Audreys sounded as if it had been written for the series (it wasn’t).

The story of how it came about is interesting.  I was in London when the ABC announced its new head of drama, Scott Meek. Tony emailed me and said, “he’s in London, you’re in London, he’s Scottish, you’re Scottish, call him.”  So I did and to my amazement he took the call and we chatted for about 20 minutes, which if nothing else made it easier to get his attention when he eventually arrived in Sydney to take up his new position.

So we met and Tony and I pitched various drama ideas – old one, new ones – anything we thought he might like, but nothing.  Then eventually Scott asked, has anybody ever done a vet show?  Now, of course , there was A Country Practice but that was a long long time ago and wasn’t exactly what he meant.  So Tony and I went off and came up with a (merely) brilliant proposal which was basically “All Creatures Great And Small (And Marsupial)”.

Now, Scott kind of liked this but not quite enough.  We were experiencing what can only be described as “creative wheelspin” – lots of noise and energy but no forward movement – so we decided to go to Southern Star (with whom we’d both been talking anyway) and told them we had a foot and half a leg in the door at the ABC but we needed someone who could talk producer to producer.

Southern Star pointed us in the direction of Gus Howard who’s just come off seven years of producing Blue Heelers and was keen to get a creative challenge.  Gus flew us down to Adelaide and drove us round the area where the TV series would be eventually shot.  Over the course of a weekend, as we visited half abandoned towns and dessicated farms, All Marsupials Great and Small became the dark, brooding Outback Gothic piece which is available on DVD today.  During production the crew often commented on how close the scripts were to the location – and the simple reason for that was that the locations were part of the story before a word was written.

Our final meeting with Scott Meek at the ABC before we signed up for the series was one of those stories that can only happen in TV.  Everyone was happy with what we were doing and how we were going to do it and Scott announced that we had earned ourselves a lunch and if we would just wait downstairs in the foyer, he would go and get his jacket and answer any urgent calls that were waiting for him.  So Tony and I went downstairs and waited and waited until eventually we , being insecure writers, decided we must be waiting in the wrong place.  So we called back to the drama department and Miranda Dear came down and told us that they were very sorry but something had come up on another project and we knew how it was etc etc and Scott was very apologetic.

And we did know how it was etc etc so we went off and had a celebratory lunch on our own.  We found out later that Scott had walked back to his office and had been handed a letter telling him his services were not longer required by the ABC. We were his very last meeting there. How Hollywood!  But the show survived and Miranda stepped seamlessly into the breach and Scott got another great job and everything was fine.

But I do have one quibble. Someone somewhere did a deal with the ABC that said the DVD would only be sold via ABC shops and their website – nowhere else. That Christmas, I went into three ABC shops to see what kind of display it was getting and only one had it on the shelf.  Considering it had been rating its noo-nahs off just a couple of weeks before, and that they were the only outlet, you’d think they could have squeezed a bit of space inbetween their BBC costume dramas and Two Ronnies boxed sets for a bit of local product.  Even today, you can go to JB-Hifi and see an entire display dedicated to ABC product and still not find Rain Shadow – because they only sell it in ABC Shops which do, however, have very good displays of All Creatures Great And Small.

Oh, and if anyone ever wants to do All Marsupials Great And Small – have we got a concept for you!

Mar 14


Posted on Saturday, March 14, 2009 in TV

MY AGENT: Curtis Brown, Sydney.

TELEVISION CV (Writer, except where noted)

2007 RAIN SHADOW Co-Creator/C-Writer (with Tony Morphett)/Southerm Star/ABC
2006 SONG FOR THE SOCCEROOS Creator/Associate Producer/ Writer Screentime/SBS
2005 FALCONIO TELEMOVIE Screentime/Ch 10/Power (UK)
2003 LOOKING AFTER No 1 Telemovie for Seven Network
2002-2003 Script Development. Fox Australia.
2000-2001 CRASH PALACE Creator / Creative Producer / Writer.
1999 – 2000 Script Development. Fox Australia.
1997 – 1999 BREAKERS Creator / Story Producer / Writer.
1996 – 97 Script Development. Screentime Prods.
1996 DARLING Sitcom Pilot. ABC.
IN CAROL’S ARMS Sitcom Pilot. Grundys/Channel 10.
ALLY & DOC Sitcom pilot. Seven Network
GLADIATORS Series 3. Seven Network
1995 GLADIATORS Series 2. Seven Network
THE 1995 LOGIES Head writer. Seven Network
FUNNIEST PEOPLE Taffner Ramsay. Seven Network
1993 A COUNTRY PRACTICE Script Editor. JNP Films.

Mar 14

Mean streets

Posted on Saturday, March 14, 2009 in Thinking Without A Trace

Very happy this morning.  I got the cover of the Sun-Herald’s travel section and the centre spread on my “Scene of the Crime” travel piece.  After all these years, I still get a buzz out of seeing my by-line and when the section editors decide to put on a show … well, all you can do is sit back and smile.

Mar 13

Confessions of a Venice Virgin

Posted on Friday, March 13, 2009 in travel, Uncategorized

being_john_malkovich_posterBack in September 1999 (was it really that long ago?) Sue and I went to the Venice Film Festival. It was her second time and my first. As a Venice Virgin I found it exhausting and exhilarating in equal parts, as I hope this piece I wrote for the brilliant Urban Cinefile website conveys. It’s interesting reading it back after all this time – did I really think Stephan Elliott’s movie Eye Of The Beholder was that good? And how could I have missed Hilary Swank who, back then, was giving one-on-one interviews to anyone who cared.
Hello, Darling, mwah-mwah! Ciao bella, mwah-mwah! Welcome to the Air-kissing Olympics.
Everywhere you look at the Venice Film Festival somebody is being greeted, farewelled, stroked, smooched and shmoozed with a Double Bay Headbut (it’s the opposite of a Glasgow kiss but with as much genuine affection).
The streets are thick with Armani, Versace and Valentino as immaculately dressed hunks and elegant divas paw and peck each other … and that’s just the Italian journos. In fact, the current trend for stars to dress down means the scruff next to you in the queue for the gents is more likely to be a celeb than the guy in the thousand buck suit and designer shades – he’s the doorman.
Yes, the film world has made its annual migration to Venice or, to be more precise, Lido, a salami-thin streak of an island 20 minutes by boat from St Marks Square and the Rialto Bridge. Most of the place looks a bit like an Aussie seaside suburb Sorrento or Coogee, maybe, before the bulldozers moved in. But on the glitsy strip between the Salon Des Bains and Excelsior hotels, it’s pure Hollywood.
While mobs of star-struck fans look on, palefaced reviewers emerge blinking into brilliant sunshine after their umpteenth screening – the movies start at 8 am and finish about 2 am the next day – and rush off to another press conference, another “round table”, another piadini and aqua minerale, con gas, per favore.
The round tables are interesting. Laughingly called “interviews” you can find yourself with as many as a dozen other journos from different countries, sitting round a besieged star who may be enthused about their new movie or may only be fulfilling their contractual obligations. In maybe only twenty minutes you have to squeeze your questions in between a local pop mag writer who can’t tell the difference between celluloid and cellulite and a black-clad post-modernist with an intense goatee asking Cameron Diaz about the subliminal opera motif in My Best Friend’s Wedding.
This is one area where fortune favours the brave , or at least the brash, and aggressive loudmouths (like yours truly) can verbally elbow their way in and get their question answered before the others realise the session has started. But this does occasionally have its down side.
Mike Leigh, the grumpily egalitarian director of Secrets And Lies and one of this year’s surprise hits, Topsy Turvy, told me to shut up and let somebody else ask a question. At the other extreme, John Malkovich fixed me with his intense, brain-numbing stare and for a terrifying five minutes – OK, it may only have been five seconds – it was just him and me, chatting, with an audience of six reporters relieved that he hadn’t picked on them.
The worst session so far was with JM’s Being John Malkovich co-star Cameron Diaz and director Spike Jonze. First of all, they got back late from lunch, then they reorganised us into bigger groups with less time so the stars wouldn’t have to stay late (poor things) then they spent the whole afternoon having a whale of a time at their interviewers’ expense.
I was in the first group where we managed, just, to stop it descending into farce. Jonze was filming everybody and he and Diaz were answering each other’s questions “hilariously”. But that’s what happens when you have the hottest movie with the biggest stars in town; you can do what you want. In my group we did the unforgivable and talked over the top of them to force them to answer the questions. Apparently, by the time the fourth group sat down with them, the whole thing had unravelled completely and the exercise was pointless. And they wonder why journalists are always trying to put them down. Next time, Spike and Cam, you get a smack.
I know, I know … interviewing Cameron Diaz in Venice? How tough can life be? But it’s not as if she asked me out on a date. And while I was interview number one for her, she was interview number 127 that MORNING for me.
All right, I exaggerate. But it’s not all sucking up to spunky celebs. Malkovich was hard work, Dervla (Ballykissangel) Kirwan was charming but reserved, Mike Leigh was rude but brilliantly insightful, actors Jim Broadbent and Allan Corduner (Gilbert and Sullivan in Topsy Turvy) were entertaining, Aussie director Stephan Elliott was frighteningly indiscreet, Boys Don’t Cry director Kimberley Peirce was surprisingly charming when I didn’t know who she was or what her excellent movie was about and the bitch in Fox publicity who doesn’t like Australians is in for a surprise when I pass the message on to her boss.
But it’s been a fascinating first week. Tom and Nicole came and went, leaving Eyes Wide Shut and a lasting impression that Nicole’s stature is growing both as a person and an actor. Woody Allen didn’t come (he never does) but his new pic Sweet And Lowdown did and received a huge ovation. Actually, Woody’s name on the opening credits was enough to get the crowd cheering and clapping; they love him in Europe. And Sweet And Lowdown is a gem of a movie so it was well deserved.
In between Tom and Nic’s departure and Woody’s non-arrival, Topsy Turvy, Mike Leigh’s surprising backstage look at Gilbert and Sullivan won raves, as did Boys Don’t Cry, the true story of a troubled teenage girl, played by Hilary Swank, who decides she’s a boy (NOT a lesbian) and suffers horribly as a consequence. Being John Malkovich – the bizarre tale of a puppeteer who finds a portal into the actor’s brain and takes over his life – was the best movie to be shown. Sadly, Holy Smoke, Jane Campion’s story of religious cults and a self-righteous rescue mission, staring Kate Winslet and Harvey Keitel, was one of the most disappointing.
Stephan Elliott’s polished, sexy thriller, Eye Of The Beholder will do nothing to ease the pressures on him to take the money and “go Hollywood”. Aussie actress Gosia Dobrowolska’s decision to take the script and “go Poland” has paid off with a compelling performance in actor-director Jerzy Stuhl’s A Week In A Life Of A Man.
There were a lot of “soft” fims around. Mike Winterbottom’s Irish comedy romance With Or Without You, starring Dervla Kirwan and Christopher Eccleston, was a pleasant slice of whimsy while Meryl Streep’s violin teacher in the ghetto biopic Music Of The Heart was as earnest, uplifting and, ultimately, cloying and sugary as its title suggested it might be. Lasse Haalstrom’s film of John Irving’s The Cider House Rules, starring Michael Caine, was visually sumptuous but emotionally disconnected and failed to match the strength of the novel.

Brad and Edward in Fight Club

Brad and Ed in Fight Club

With stars, publicists and increasingly frazzled looking journalists still milling around the terrace at the Excelsior (coffee nine, count them, nine dollars, grazie) the rest of the week is a race to see the films you’ve written off but which others rate. There’s a buzz of anticipation with Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas (back, ladies) bringing his directorial debut Crazy In Alabama to town, as well as the arrival of Brad Pitt in The Fight Club and Kiwi director Alison MacLean’s competition entry Jesus’ Son.
Otherwise, it’s been so far, so good. You can get a decent cup of coffee for a decent price at one of the many outdoor bars around, provided you’re prepared to stand (I call them knee-tremblers). And to date I’ve only once found myself in the wrong cinema looking at the wrong film with zero minutes to get to where I should have been when the titles started to roll.
Oops, must dash. I’ve got another press conference in a minute, then a screening. Ciao, darlings, mwah-mwah! Waiter, get me a gondola!

Mar 12

It’s an honour just to be nominated … not

Posted on Thursday, March 12, 2009 in TV

The funny thing about awards is that when you tell people that you’ve been nominated what you’re really saying is you’ve lost – you don’t talk about nominations when you’ve got a trophy sitting on top of your telly.
With that in mind, I’ve been nominated three times for sitcom writing Awgies (the Australian Writers Guild awards) and have yet to require space on my shelves for one (just as well as I need all the space I can get for my rejected scripts).
The first time I was nominated twice in one year – once with my very good friend and long-time collaborator Steve Myhill for a pilot episode of a show called “Ally and Doc”, which starred Ernie Dingo and Penny Cook. I might relate the story of how the series came to never be made once all the participants (including myself) are dead.
My other (solo) nomination was for a sitcom set in a Woman’s Day type magazine.
The third nominee was Garry Reilly for an episode of Bullpit (the Kingswood Country sequel) which had the slight advantage of having actually made it on to air. Garry is a genuinely funny man, a good operator and a totally decent bloke and he thoroughly deserved to win. Bastard!
A couple of years later I was nominated for the pilot of Dags, Murray Fahey’s TV adaptation of his almost successful comedy movie (available on video and, no doubt, DVD). I lost that one too.
Since then there hasn’t been a lot of sitcom on TV and what there has been, hasn’t been written by me. But I guess that even if I got all three nominations I still wouldn’t get a gong.
By the way, anyone who tells you that it’s enough of an honour merely to be nominated is either a liar or they’ve just won.

Mar 12

Crash Palace – boozing, bonking backpackers

Posted on Thursday, March 12, 2009 in TV

Tori and Victoria

Victoria Hill (now regularly employed in HCF ads) is possibly the only person on the planet who wouldn’t enjoy massaging Tori Musset. Shortly after “Carla” left for Alice Springs.


Stephanie Waring soon after got her dream job on Coronation St. But then her abandoned baby storyline coincided with the disappearance of Madaleine McCann and was dropped.

Ricky gambles

I caught up with Warren Derosa (John, in the background) and Dan Billet (Ricky) in LA a couple of years ago. Both trying to make it in Hollywood.

CRASH PALACE, 65 episodes of sex, drugs and soap, set in a Kings Cross, Sydney, backpackers hostel was – as they say – seen all over the world. But then, any Australian show is going to turn up filling a slot somewhere on the TV schedules of the planet, even if it is at 2am in Latvia.
I saw the old Aussie drama Sons and Daughters in Vietnam where they had neither over-dubbing nor subtitles. Instead a voice-over explained what each of the characters was saying to each other. Our tour guide explained that they’d tried overdubbing but these attractive Anglo-Aussies speaking perfect Vietnamese looked ridiculous. And subtitles didn’t work because too many people couldn’t read or write.
I saw Crash Palace on a Spanish language channel in Los Angeles with normal voice track (uncensored, I might add) and Spanish subtitles. Not sure how “Happy now, you slag!?!” translated but I’m sure they got the drift.
I know I’m biased but I reckon CP would do all right as a DVD
release. It was the biggest drama on Foxtel back in 2002 but that was a long time ago before Pay TV was doing the numbers it now does. There were a lot of very talented young actors and writers involved in that show (and you could look out for the one who went all anti-topless on us and is now the advertising face of a major health fund). Email me on if you agree and I’ll pass it on to the powers that be.
Anyway, here are some of the cuts. This material was collated by the excellent Australian TV website (link on the left).
JT 06

Welcome to the hotel vice
Sex, drugs, and lithe young bodies have been deemed a winning formula by broadcaster Sky One.
Its new drama Crash Palace, set in a backpackers’ hostel in Australia, unashamedly combines the ingredients.
As Rob Hawthorn in Hollyoaks, Warren played a psychopath. In his new role, he dabbles in drug dealing and uses smarmy charm to seduce women.
No sooner are the backpacks off, than the comely residents are indulging in some nefarious activities.
“On the outside, he seems a bad guy,” says Warren, 25. “But he is different—he has a light side.”
Leading the descent into abandon are former Hollyoaks stars Warren Derosa and Stephanie Waring.
Warren has a string of sex scenes. “When I saw the script I thought ‘oh my God’, but we had complete control.”
“It’s completely different to Hollyoaks,” says Stephanie, 23, who played teenage mum Cindy Cunningham in the Channel 4 soap.
The English stars spent four months in Sydney shooting the Sky One drama.
“The whole feel of it is different. It’s a lot more adult and aimed at a much older audience. We use much stronger language and there’s lots of nudity.”
But while their characters enjoyed an odyssey of abandon, life off the set was far from hedonistic.
Stephanie gives a highly-revealing performance as man-eating Tina Clark. “The sex scenes are really graphic,” admits the cheeky star. “They wanted it real, and in real life people don’t wear underwear. But they did it very tastefully.”
“Our work schedule was so heavy, from six in the morning to 8pm, five days a week—there was just no time to party,” says Warren.
But Stephanie’s boyfriend, actor Ben Maguire from Queer As Folk, wasn’t happy. “He’ll be leaving the room when those scenes are on,” she says.
“We did have a trip to the zoo but that was it!”
The actress’s career is definitely on the up since she left Hollyoaks last spring. As well as Crash Palace, she’s set to star with The Royle Family’s Ricky Tomlinson in new BBC drama Nice Guy Eddie.
Not content with filming down under, the actor has Hollywood ambitions.
“He seems a nice, down-to-earth family man,” says Stephanie, who starts work on the show in November.
“I was supposed to be going to LA recently but it’s all been put on hold for a while after the attacks of September 11,” reveals the intense star.
She is also contracted to shoot another series of Crash Palace.
“I have an agent out there and I was supposed to be there for the pilot season (when new shows are tried out by the networks). There were some shows that I was looking to do but I must now wait until it calms down.”
Some viewers may be shocked by the racy content of the Sky One show but Stephanie insists it’s true to life.
“It’s just the backpackers’ life, isn’t it?” says the actress.”People go to these places to have fun and having fun means having sex with lots of men.”
So, has Stephanie ever backpacked round the globe herself? “No, and I certainly haven’t got a taste for it now,” she smiles.
By Jonathan Donald
October 18, 2001
Dark young man with a light side
Crash Palace sees the return of Warren Derosa as a young man with a dark side.
As Rob Hawthorn in Hollyoaks, Warren played a psychopath. In his new role, he dabbles in drug dealing and uses smarmy charm to seduce women.
“On the outside, he seems a bad guy,” says Warren, 25. “But he is different—he has a light side.”
Warren has a string of sex scenes. “When I saw the script I thought ‘oh my God’, but we had complete control.”
The English stars spent four months in Sydney shooting the Sky One drama.
But while their characters enjoyed an odyssey of abandon, life off the set was far from hedonistic.
“Our work schedule was so heavy, from six in the morning to 8pm, five days a week—there was just no time to party,” says Warren.
“We did have a trip to the zoo but that was it!”
Not content with filming down under, the actor has Hollywood ambitions.
“I was supposed to be going to LA recently but it’s all been put on hold for a while after the attacks of September 11,” reveals the intense star.
“I have an agent out there and I was supposed to be there for the pilot season (when new shows are tried out by the networks). There were some shows that I was looking to do but I must now wait until it calms down.”
By Jonathan Donald
October 18, 2001
Crashing in on drama
FOXTEL will launch its first made-for-pay TV local drama series, Crash Palace, on March 11 on its Fox8 channel. The series, shot last year at Fox Studios Australia by Fox Television, will run on Mondays and Tuesdays.
The series is being produced as a group initiative for a number of leading cable/satellite television networks worldwide. They include Foxtel, BSkyB, Fox International Entertainment Channels in Spain, Latin America, North America and Sky Perfect TV in Japan.
It is already screening in the UK and in some Latin American countries. Cast member Tory Mussett reports she has already received some fan mail from there.
The series is set in a Sydney backpackers’ hostel and follows the lives of a group of young adults holidaying in Australia.
Cast members include Mussett, Jess Gower, Dieter Brummer, Jenni Baird (now in All Saints), Kristy Wright, Tandi Wright (ex-Shortland Street) and UK actors Stephanie Waring and Warren Derosa.
February 07, 2002
The Daily Telegraph
A crash course for pay TV’s backpack
Apart from movie channels, Fox8 is regularly the most-watched pay TV channel in Australia. Which possibly explains why its cautious and relatively late investment in a local drama has been the subject of industry grumbling.
Pay TV drama channels must invest at least 10 per cent of their programming budgets in new local productions. (To be fair, back when the rule was voluntary, Fox8 was one of the first channels to commission a local drama, the long-forgotten 1996 Shark Bay.)
Though the quota was designed to trigger additional local production, the legislation allowed channels to invest in projects that didn’t even end up on pay TV, to provide “top-up” funds for network shows and, in one case, to send money offshore.
But even one of the most fierce critics of the legislation is ready to applaud Fox8 for investing in the contemporary youth drama series Crash Palace. Sixty five episodes have been produced so far and another series is about to be commissioned.
Nick Murray, president of the Screen Producers Association of Australia, argues that productions such as Crash Palace, and TV1’s comedy-drama Shock Jock, honour the true purpose of the drama quota.
“Like Shock Jock, Crash Palace has been commissioned by a local pay TV channel, and you can only see it on that channel,” he says. “Given the success of local content on freetoair television, it’s something you’d hope to see more of on pay TV.”
According to Jimmy Thomson, the creator of Crash Palace, the brief for the 30-minute serial encompassed creative and pragmatic business concerns.
Thomson, a British journalist turned scriptwriter, had been developing projects at Fox Television in Sydney when a call went out to writers at Fox channels around the world for a concept to which all could contribute and from which all could benefit.
“At the time I was living in Kings Cross, backpacker central. Drinking cappuccinos at my favourite cafe and watching all these foreign people living in Sydney, the penny dropped. We can make a drama about backpackers,” he says.
“It had the right elements from the business angle, but in terms of dramatic possibilities it had so much to offer.
“My theory was that these people are at a crossroads in their life; they’re between school and work, but they are all at the threshold of their adult life.”
Thomson says the notion of young people in this situation “becoming someone else” is not as farfetched as it seems.
“It sounds weird but it’s quite common. People will take a year out, come to Australia and decide, ‘I’m not going to be the victim, the office nerd, that kind of person that I don’t like.’
“It’s as easy as that when you’re not in the environment that reinforces all the things you don’t like about yourself.”
In one storyline, a character who desperately needs money turns to working in the sex trade. “She doesn’t have the social and moral pressures of her home life, and it’s a much easier choice to make than she ever thought it would be,” he explains.
As the trailer for the show and a prominent ad featuring Tory Mussett in her knickers amply demonstrate (the Pepsi Chart Show host plays a carefree, liberated 23-year-old from Buenos Aires), Crash Palace makes no secret of its bid to be racy, provocative, edgy and sexy.
Knowing it was made for cable markets—primarily Australia and Britain, where it aired late last year on BSkyB—had a huge influence in how the show dealt with issues, Thomson admits.
“The obvious things are language, nudity, sexual references and drugtaking, but probably more important than that are the attitudes we have allowed people to have. We are allowed to have people who are really, really nasty and get away with it. You’re not allowed to do that in your early evening teen drama. You can have nasty characters but they have to be punished.”
At the same time, he says, the show isn’t trading on nudity or swearing, but on remaining realistic to its target audience. “Our first responsibility to our audience is to give them something that justifies them giving up half an hour of their lives. What the media portrays as a reasonable way to behave is very different to what people in the street actually believe.
“I was a journalist for 15 years and I’ve been part of that whole double standard in which we all operate. Young people today are more sophisticated than they’ve ever been and the worst thing you can do is make them feel that you think they don’t know what’s going on.”
Humour, he says, is an equally big part of the show, and his first love as a television writer. “It’s incidental humour, the kind you have in ordinary conversation, and that’s the kind of humour I’m interested in, less than ‘Bob and Cookie are going to build a barbecue and accidentally burn down the hostel’.”
Crash Palace screens on Fox8 on Mondays and Tuesdays at 8.30pm from March 11
ByÝPaul Kalina
February 28 2002
The Age
Secret life of a backpacker
FORMER The Secret Life Of Us guest star Jess Gower found out just how much her character was loved when she was killed off. Gower, who debuts next week in her next major role, in the Fox Television series Crash Palace, still receives the commiserations of fans who were devastated when her character, Sam, was suddenly hit by a car and killed in the Network Ten drama.
“One lady came up to me when I was in a cafe and told me how Sam’s death really rattled her and how she hadn’t been able to sleep the night after it aired,” Gower recalled.
“But Sam was designed to die—she was too nice, she got the dream job and the dream man—it was all just too good.”
The vivacious 24-year-old actor stars in Crash Palace as Miranda Watts, a 16-year-old New Zealander on the adventure of a lifetime with her mother, Penny.
It also stars Tory Mussett, Dieter Brummer, Jenni Baird and Kristy Wright.
The half-hour adult soap, which will air on Fox 8 from next Monday, debuted in Britain before Australia, like The Secret Life Of Us.
It attracted rave reviews and has already been sold to 11 countries. A second season has been ordered.
Crash Palace pulls no punches when it comes to the hedonistic sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle of your average backpacker.
“The show gets pretty dark as it goes along,” Gower said.
“Playing a teenager is an interesting change, because this one gets to do some serious growing up pretty quickly.
“And I loved the challenge of doing an accent and 20 scenes a day.”
Gower had always been intrigued by the prospect of an acting career, but she didn’t consider it seriously until late in her high-school years.
Although she has done the odd commercial—remember the Telstra ad, where she confuses John Farnham’s manager, Glenn Wheatley, with Paul Hogan?—Gower avoided the traditional soap-opera apprenticeship.
Her next major role, with co-stars Matt Newton and Mark Priestley, will be in Blurred, a film about the infamous annual schoolies’ week on the Gold Coast.
“I’m playing another teenager. I could probably stay in my teens for a few more years,” Gower laughed.
“The film is really about the characters and their first big life experience.”
By Kathy McCabe
March 03, 2002
The Daily Telegraph
Living in a hostel world
A new series delves into the backpacking world of the young and restless who visit our shores. JENNY DILLON checks in.
THEY’VE taken over our best beaches and pubs and created some ugly early morning disputes with the locals, but backpackers also pick up the jobs no one else wants and the estimated 250,000 who arrive each year spend about $4400 each on local goods and services.
And now the global backpacking hordes who have been invading our city are set to entertain us on television.
Crash Palace, a half-hour serial drama that premieres on Fox8 next Monday, portrays the more racy, energetic lives of those who are living it up in the estimated 100 licensed backpacker hostels in Sydney.
It claims to be a ground-breaking look at the “hedonistic, hard-partying world of the globe-trotting backpacker”. But is this based on the true backpacking experience or is this just a male fantasy?
“Well it could be both,” laughs series creator Jimmy Thomson, who confesses to not enjoying backpacking at all, but whose knowledge of the scene comes from living in Backpacker Central itself, Kings Cross.
“From everything I have heard in talking to backpackers, from the people who work on the show and have backpacked and also from living in Kings Cross… the notion that there is a hedonistic lifestyle led by people coming to Australia and going nuts is absolutely accurate.”
That doesn’t mean all backpackers are like that, he stresses. “We’ve just chosen to focus on the bunch who are. That way, you can say that it’s not inaccurate, that we’ve taken a slice of the backpackers world, basically of those who are misbehaving.”
Crash Palace is centred around The Royal, a fictional 120-bed, three-storey terrace in King Cross.
In the first episodes we are introduced to Isabella and George (Lisa Bailey and Tim McCunn) who run the Palace with its eclectic collection of guests.
There’s Wendy and Ricky (Amelia Barrett and Daniel Billett), Americans slumming it on a platinum credit card; and struggling Kiwis Miranda (Jess Gower) and her young mother Penny (Tandi Wright).
The snap-happy singles include Inez (Tory Mussett), an adventurous, spoilt little princess from Buenos Aires; and Tina (Stephanie Waring) from Manchester who’s half naive, half smart and full-on party girl.
Adding to the cosmopolitan energy are the Scottish temptress Angie (Simone McAullay); and Bryan (Toby Truslove), a loser from Essex. On the fringe are local drifter Dave (Dieter Brummer), who claims honest and open relationships with women, and Londoner John (Warren Derosa), who prefers his relationships devious.
They are characters carved by Thomson from his numerous forays into the local hostels with slabs of beer and sausages for the barbecues. He’s heard their stories, understood their emotions and is now redrawing their experiences.
But how true to life are they? Do these travellers act like this when they are in their own countries, or do they change when they come to Australia?
“The latter. Absolutely,” says Thomson. “It’s happening at a very significant point in young people’s lives—that gap year, the gap between school and university, or the gap between university and work.
“For some, the travelling experience is trying to establish who they really are.
“For others it’s more a case of having the last great wild time in their lives before they go home, get engaged and married and get a mortgage and basically have to settle down.”
Most are half a planet away from their family and friends and the peer groups that can force then back into their mould.
“For some people, and apparently this happens more than you would think, it’s a chance to shed the personality they’ve grown up with and become somebody else.
“They say, ‘I’m tired of being the nerd, the loser, the one everyone picks on. I’m going to be the tough guy, the party girl.’ There will be no payback, they won’t be confronted, they can do whatever they want and the consequences are only temporary.”
But for Australia, the consequences work out at about $1 billion a year from these travellers—not a bad sum of money.
Crash Palace, Monday and Tuesday, Fox8, 8.30pm
By Jenny Dillon
March 07, 2002
The Daily Telegraph
Sex and drugs and naughty words
SAYING Fox 8’s new serial drama is a little edgy is like saying the Pope is a wee bit religious.
Crash Palace goes where other Australian soaps have feared and failed to tread.
It features drug use, sexual references, bad language, loose morals and lots of flesh.
And, according to Foxtel director of television Brian Walsh, that was just what the pay TV provider ordered.
“We felt that we could develop a serial drama that was edgy, contemporary and pushed boundaries in a way that Home and Away and Neighbours couldn’t do because they are on free-to-air television and play it safe,” he says.
“(Crash Palace) deals with the issues that face young Australians and young people travelling the world.”
It does this through its unique setting—a backpackers hostel in Sydney’s King Cross.
At The Royal, the show’s 15 characters stage huge parties, have holiday flings, share drugs and fight over use of the shared kitchen.
While its focus on the younger audience may bring comparisons to Ten’s The Secret Life of Us, Walsh says Crash Palace is aimed at a much “younger audience and is not as high brow”.
The show’s mainly Australian cast includes former Pepsi Chart host Tori Mussett, ex-Home and Away actors Dieter Brummer and Kristy Wright, ex-The Secret Life of Us star Jess Gower and All Saints newcomer Jenni Baird.
Crash Palace, Fox 8/Foxtel, Monday and Tuesday, 8.30pm.
By Jennifer Dudley
March 07, 2002
The Courier Mail

Mar 12

Comedy disaster planning

Posted on Thursday, March 12, 2009 in TV

busterThis is passed on from a friend of a friend who was at a TV comedy writing workshop in LA. It was taught by a 23-year veteran of network sitcoms. If the original author objects to this being on the website, drop me a line ( and I’ll remove it.  But I’m thinking, since I first read this, we’ve had the big crash and this advice resonates way beyond the writing rooms.

If comedies stop being produced in Hollywood, we’re on our own. We’re not going to be employed. That’s just the truth of it. Look at what Reality shows have done — half the writers in town said, ‘We’re outta here!’ and left the business.
Whoever stays in the business is going to have more than they can handle, so be prepared to be on your own in terms of water, food, shelter and medical attention for anywhere from one to five seasons.” He wasn’t being alarmist, just realistic.
Okay, so, some practical things to know:
Keep your car’s gas tank half full at all times. You never know when you might have to jam to a development meeting and you can’t count on having enough spare money to buy a gallon of gas. During the last writers’ strike, freeways became snarled with cars that had run out of gas.
Make it a habit to look around every time you enter your home and imagine how you’d get out in an emergency. People will rush to sell their homes at the same time, driving down prices. This is where the crush will occur. Look for alternate exits ahead of time.
Have enough prescription medication on hand to carry you through if pharmacies are closed, or be prepared to give up high-priced anti-depressants and switch to inexpensive fruity wine.
Don’t drink the water from your pool. It’ll give you diarrhea. You can make a 5-gallon jug of water drinkable by adding a teaspoon of chlorine. It’ll keep for up to five years, at which point we have predicted comedy should be coming back.
Or just drink the chlorine to end it all, washing it down with inexpensive fruity wine.
Don’t store spec scripts directly on concrete. It’ll degrade the brads, which you may later need to fashion a crude razor.
Eat food and drink water every six months, at the same time as you change agents. It’s good to have a camping stove in your preparedness kit, to cook up the crumbs agents toss your way. Plus, you can use it to immolate yourself, if necessary.
Make sure your kit contains lots of wet wipes, to erase fingerprints should you be driven to a life of crime.
After a couple days without water, when you’ve flushed your toilet for the last time, take out any remaining water, line the bowl with a trash bag, and jump in. Gross to think about; good to know.
Keep bottles of Clorox within reaching distance of bottles of amonia.
When combined, they can create a potentially fatal gas.
Make sure all pets are either microchipped or have collars with contact info, as you don’t want to lose them. You never know when a “loving pet” might have to become an “eating pet”.
After a dry spell of 5 seasons or more, the effectiveness of your existing spec scripts is questionable. Turn off your mind to protect any sense of humor that’s still in your head. Otherwise, a sense of hopelessness might come in and contaminate it.
Don’t use your cell phone when you curse out your agent. It might lose its electrical charge and he/she will miss a few choice expletives.
Keep a crowbar in your bedroom to make sure you can get out in the event that you are in deep debt and the sheriff is at the door. If you live above the first floor, keep a roll-up ladder as well.
Designate one out-of-state friend or relative as your main “crash person”. They can be the clearinghouse for people to find out if you’re okay. Give them a list of people you’d like them to call for you, so they can save on office supplies thanks to your new capacity as Staples Jr. Manager.
Don’t keep your car in the garage immediately after staffing season.
You will need to sell it, because you will be less stable, plus you will have nowhere to go.
When bludgeoning an agent with a blunt object, use anything that’s taller than it is wide. Anchor your victims to bookshelves, refrigerators, heavy furniture or gas appliances before dropping them into the sea.
If you’re at a big Agency like CAA or Endeavor during staffing season, set fire to the spec scripts on their shelving racks, even if you have to shove the contents onto the floor. It’ll keep you safe from too much competition and allow for the writers below you to collapse.

Mar 12

The Koala Who Bounced

Posted on Thursday, March 12, 2009 in Books

koala-cropKarri the Koala came to life when the artist/cartoonist Eric Lobbecke asked my wife Sue if he she would write a kids book for him to illustrate. For some reason she suggested that he and I collaborate and meantime she introduced us to the remarkable Selwa Anthony whose writer management agency was just getting going. With Selwa’s help we produced a kids book together called “The Koala Who Bounced”.
It took me six days to write and Eric six months to draw but we get equal shares of the royalties. How can that be fair? I even get top billing. I wish I could draw as well as Eric – actually, I wish I could write as well as Eric draws.

Eric is now writing his own stories but we still get cheques for that book every six months and it has even been translated into Korean. Why? Maybe someone thought it should be translated into Koalean and there was a mix-up at the printers. Anyway, thanks Eric and Selwa – our little bouncing koala has done us proud.

This year, the book is going to be published again in its original large-size, hardback format.  Until then I have a few of the small pocket paperback versions which I can sell for $10 including postage.  Click on the PayPal button if you’d like to buy one.