Four writing opportunities –
A reminder about the GRASS ROUTES PRIZE, mentioned in my last newsletter, closing date for applications – Jan 8th 2024. ‘A new competition for new, unrepresented working class writers.’
THOUSAND FILMS COMPETITION. This very well-regarded initiative also closes for entries on January 8th 2024.
OXBELLY WRITERS PROGRAMME. Another screenwriting training scheme that has been highly recommended to me (by one of the writers who was on this scheme last year and also on 4screenwriting 2023). Deadline for applications – January 19th 2024
WRITE ACROSS – for writers from Birmingham & the Black Country. A new initiative from BBC Writers. Closing date – March 5th 2024
TV, FILM & BOOK HIGHLIGHTS from 2023
As this is my last newsletter of the year, I thought I’d choose the TV, films and books I’ve most enjoyed over the last year (based on when I came to them, not that they necessarily first appeared this year).
There were so many excellent new shows in 2023. In particular I was struck by how many good series there were – and it reinforced for me what a great narrative form the TV drama series is. In particular I loved the Northern Irish police procedural, BLUE LIGHTS. In many ways this is a back-to-basics, conventional, slightly old-fashioned police series. But it feels so rooted in an authentic reality, such care has gone into the creation and development of the characters and their stories.
Similarly with BOILING POINT, although this was only 4 episodes long, it was a great example of series TV at its best. The restaurant kitchen was such an intense dramatic space.
Of the less high-profile shows, my favourites were FLEISHMAN IS IN TROUBLE on Disney+, the 2nd series of the wonderful SOMEBODY SOMEWHERE on Sky Atlantic; and the final episode in what is billed by the BBC as a comedy – THERE SHE GOES written by Shaun Pye but is very much a drama comedy rather than a comedy drama.
The final season of SUCCESSION was a triumph – and it was great to see the show bowing out while still at its absolute peak. There were so many brilliant, memorable scenes and moments in this 4th & final series.
And the series pinnacle was the third and final series of Sally Wainwright’s seminal HAPPY VALLEY. It was great that, seven years on from series two, it still maintained such incredibly high standards, still had all the strengths and virtues of the first two series.
I saw fewer feature films than TV shows but even so am finding it a lot harder to pick out highlights.
One of the best films I saw was the delightful RYE LANE – a great example of a lower-budget UK film that worked on every level.
At the London Film Festival I saw three fantastic films that will be released in the New Year – Jonathan Glazer’s chilling holocaust film THE ZONE OF INTEREST (And by the way if you’re looking for a compelling book about the holocaust, Jonathan Freedland’s THE ESCAPE ARTIST is a brilliant, horrifying read.)
Richard Linklater’s HIT MAN is a thoroughly enjoyable comedy.
SHORTCOMINGS is a US-indie comedy that was a lot of fun.
And on Amazon Prime I also really enjoyed the low-key comedy drama, YOUR HURT MY FEELINGS, written and directed by the consistently excellent Nicole Holofcener.
And finally a random list of books that I’ve enjoyed this year.
The Mistress’s Daughter by AM Homes – a memoir about the adopted writer’s investigation into her biological family – emotionally complex and compelling.
Wandering Souls by Cecile Pin. An epic story of Vietnamese migrants, their journey to the UK and their struggles in the UK. A brilliantly-told, incredibly relevant story.
An Actor’s Life In 12 Productions by Oliver Ford Davies. Something of a personal history of theatre in the UK over the last 50 years, told from the POV of an under-rated and excellent actor – and writer.
Good For A Girl by Lauren Freshman – a bit niche – this is a memoir about a professional female athlete in the US – but the way it talks about gender politics in sport is inspiring and instructive.
Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld
Tomorrow Tomorrow & Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
Probably my two favourite books of the year. Both brilliant pieces of storytelling, real page-turners with strongly engaging characters. But what I also loved about both books was the way they both touched on, discussed, through the respective stories, the nature of creativity and story. Both books are hugely enjoyable pieces of storytelling – but will also make you think about the how stories work and the nature of creativity.
NB It would be great to hear about YOUR narrative highlights of 2023 whether TV, film or books – so that I can share them in a future newsletter.
In the meantime I hope you have a great, relaxing (and creative?) Christmas / New Year break. The newsletter will be back on Friday January 12th 2024.
Happy Christmas & Happy Writing wishes for 2024
Friday December 15th 2023