The Real World

In the few days since America inexplicably elected a frequently bankrupt sexual abuser and racist blowhard as their new President, I’ve heard a lot of people say that they don’t want to live in his world, or the world of his alt-right crybaby trolls.

I understand why you’re saying this, I do. I don’t want to belittle your pain, or the problems to come. But let me put it to you that we don’t live in his world. No matter how much he yells and stamps his feet, he still lives in ours.

Because no matter what he says, the facts of human existence have not changed. Women are the equals of men. Black lives do matter. Latinx are as much a part of America as any other race. Sexual assault is wrong. LGBT+ people are as valuable and as “normal” as anyone else. Those are facts, and no amount of speeches, laws and publicity stunts can change that.  And every time he does something that denies those facts, he isn’t changing the world – he’s simply lying about the nature of reality.

Those lies will, of course, cause cause terrible suffering for those that they are turned against. Lies tend to do that. And it’s all of our duties to mitigate that suffering in any way that we can.

But like the cult leader who insists that a UFO is about to descend and ferry the faithful to paradise, he’s living in a fantasy world. The “Great Again” America that he and his followers are looking to create is a bubble of delusions, and eventually it will burst, and everyone will have to face up to the lies he told them, and they told themselves.

There are hard times ahead for the world. That bubble may yet expand far beyond America. But those of us who can see the world as it is still have that much to cling to. Human lives still have the value they have always had, and a single act of kindness, however small, is more valuable than all the political posturing and hatred he can muster.

It’s our world, not his. Let’s live like we believe that.

 

 

 

Wolfblood Secrets

Can’t wait until next year for new episodes of Wolfblood? Well, it’s your lucky day!

Starting on the 21st September, CBBC will be broadcasting Wolfblood Secrets, a series of ten mini-episodes bridging the gap between series four and five. Written by Neil Jones, and set just after the secret is revealed to the world, the episodes will introduce a team of government investigators tasked with investigating this new threat, ‘wolfbloods’. One by one, they interview Jana and her friends, trying to find out whether these creatures hiding among us are dangerous…

They’re really fun episodes, and I hope you enjoy them!

(NB – if you’re outside the UK and you want to know when/if you can see Wolfblood Secrets, you’ll need to contact CBBC, or your local television channel, and ask them. As always, I don’t know the details of availability in all the different countries Wolfblood is shown in.)

Since a lot of people are asking –  no, Wolfblood Secrets is not happening instead of series five, or replacing the regular series in any way. It’s a one-off extra, just like the secret episode or Jana Bites.

Filming for series five starts at the beginning of October, and we’re on course to transmit the episodes sometime next year (CBBC won’t decide on a precise date for a while yet)…

Wolfblood Season Five

I had the great pleasure of appearing at the Hay Festival yesterday, along with Leona Vaughan and director John Dower, to talk about how Wolfblood is written and how the cast, directors and the creative team and crew contribute to the storytelling.

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We also signed copies of the Wolfblood novelisations, and met a lot of fans, many of whom had travelled from all over the country…

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And best of all, we were finally able to announce that a fifth season of Wolfblood has been commissioned! We’re already writing the scripts, and we hope to film in October 2016 for transmission in early 2017. We look forward to bringing you more adventures in the brave new world where the existence of Wolfbloods is public knowledge, and both humans and Wolfbloods have a lot of adjusting to do…

Wolfblood Season Four BAFTA Event

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Excellent day at BAFTA London today, showing the first two episodes of Wolfblood season four to a very excited audience! You can see a lot of the event, including the Q&A, on the BAFTA training site, baftaguru.org, which is full of great information about working in the creative industries.

On Tuesday 8th March, CBBC will be showing the red carpet interviews and the Q&A from the Newcastle event, interspersed with the first two episodes. From the following week, Wolfblood shows two episodes a week, on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Hope you enjoy!

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Wolfblood Season 4 Preview Screening

Though a final transmission date hasn’t been decided yet (we won’t be sure until about a week before transmission) season 4 will probably be hitting your screens some time in March. And if that’s not fast enough for you, you can see the first two episodes at a special screening in London on Saturday 5th March! I’ll be there, with the production team and some of the cast, including Leona Vaughan (Jana), and we’ll be answering questions afterwards.

You can book tickets at http://www.bafta.org/whats-on/bafta-kids-tv-preview-wolfblood-qa . Hope to see some of you there!

Things I Learned From… Hannibal

I’m a late arrival to Team Murder Husbands. Trust me to get into a show just as it’s cancelled! In fairness, I did watch half of season one, before getting bored with the detective procedural stuff and giving up. It’s only thanks to persistent fans on Twitter that I went back to the show, and I’m very glad I did. It’s a whole different animal from season two onwards. So there’s a lesson there…

But the aspect of Hannibal that I really want to talk about is how it sustains such a theatrical, exaggerated story world, and makes it not only believable, but actually normal.

Operatically-pitched story worlds are quite the thing in American television at the moment. The final season of Sons Of Anarchy definitely tipped over into grand guignol, but the best example is probably True Detective. Massively exaggerating the tropes of Southern Gothic, it creates a fantastical world where men are monsters, but literal monsters also wouldn’t seem out of the question.

But the thing is, I didn’t believe a word of True Detective. In fact, I found a lot of the supposedly deep and meaningful moments laugh-out-loud hilarious.

Whereas I believe absolutely in the world that Hannibal creates.

So, why is that? I have a few thoughts…

Narrow focus. Hannibal takes place in a very streamlined, narrow-focused world. Apart from some scenes with Jack’s wife, which have a darkness of their own, we rarely see a domestic situation or a glimpse of ‘everyday’ life. Our characters live entirely within this theatrical, heightened world. The music we hear, the way characters dress and live and eat (!), even the places that crimes take place, are all carefully selected to reinforce this elaborate and claustrophobic story world. And since reality never intrudes, this becomes our reality.

The fresher your premise, the more exaggeration it will take. True Detective is essentially yet another treatise on the pressures society exerts on ‘traditional’ masculinity. But we’ve seen this a thousand times – and familiarity is what causes a story to tip over from stereotype to parody.

The twisted polysexuality and intellectual mind-games of Hannibal, however, are something we’ve seen far less of on television. We don’t have the afterimages in our head from all the million other times we’ve seen this situation – and that helps keep parody at bay.

Everyone has a goal. The characters of True Detective may be investigating a crime, but from scene to scene, they frequently seem to be drifting around in a haze of self-obsession and indolence. The characters in Hannibal are probably equally self-obsessed, but they all have clear, quantifiable goals.

Hannibal initially wants to frame Will for his own crimes, but his goal shifts into an elaborate scheme to release Will’s ‘true potential’. Will’s goal remains remarkably solid across three seasons: bring down the Chesapeake Ripper, whoever it is, and somehow retain his sanity. Jack Crawford’s goal shifts from Will to Hannibal and back, but he essentially wants to save whichever of them is sane and take down whichever of them is not…

And everything everyone does, however elaborate, twisted and bizarre, is clearly designed to take them another step closer to their goal. There’s no moustache-twirling evil for evil’s sake. This gives a solidity, a believability to their actions that grounds them emotionally.

Of course, we all have our own breaking point. Undoubtedly there are viewers who have the exact opposite reaction – who think True Detective thoroughly believable and Hannibal too far-fetched. But for us as writers, the lesson remains: if you’re writing a heightened version of reality, you can ground it using focus, a fresh emotional premise, and strong character goals…