Things I Learned From… Gravity

Gravity is a remarkable film by any standards. It’s a science fiction film (yes, it really is! Science fiction = fiction about science, it’s that simple) that’s attracting art house audiences.

It’s effectively a resurgence of the 1970’s big-budget disaster movie: the top stars of the day, the best special effects that money could buy, and a near-unimaginable disaster that forces the characters to reassess what’s important in their lives and instills in them new hope and a determination to survive.

But perhaps the most interesting thing about it is how lightly it wears its technical artistry. The special effects and visual effects teams on this movie have done remarkable things – but at no point does that threaten to pull you away from the plot. It would be perfectly possible to sit through Gravity and never realise the effort that had gone into creating the illusion of being in Earth orbit.

Hollywood movies have always shifted form to take advantage of the latest technologies. The great screen musicals were a direct response to the invention of the ‘talkie’: now we have sound, what’s the most dramatic use we can make of it? Technicolor, Dolby sound – even my least favourite development, 3D – all changed the creative elements of the movies as much as the technical ones.

And new visual effects have made it possible to tell stories we could never have told previously. Jurassic Park, Avatar, The Matrix, Pacific Rim, all stories it would have been impossible to tell effectively without CGI.

What Gravity seems to suggest is that we’ve now reached a point where those effects are no longer a selling point – because they’re simply another storytelling technique. They’re exactly like sound and colour: something we simply accept as part of the fabric of the movie.

This may make it harder to sell those big blockbusters previously marked on the quality and novelty of their visual effects. But it places the story back at the heart of film-making – and that can only be a good thing.

Wolfblood Behind The Scenes Photos

And here are a few behind the scenes snaps from season two…

The outside of the set for the tunnels in Fall Of The Wild

The outside of the set for the tunnels in Fall Of The Wild

And here's the inside of the set, with Niek Versteeg (Liam) trapped under the rubble
And here’s the inside of the set, with Niek Versteeg (Liam) trapped under the rubble

The crew on site in the woods

The crew on site in the woods

Getting a high-angle shot

Getting a high-angle shot

Shorelle Hepkin (Kay), Gabrielle Green (Katrina) and Rachel Teate (Kara) in their coats between takes

Shorelle Hepkin (Kay), Gabrielle Green (Katrina) and Rachel Teate (Kara) in their coats between takes

Leona Vaughan (Jana) and Bobby Lockwood (Rhydian) wait for the crew to set up

Leona Vaughan (Jana) and Bobby Lockwood (Rhydian) wait for the crew to set up

Writing for CBBC

So, I was one of the speakers at the CBBC Writers Day on Friday – a day for working writers who are already working for, or might want to work for, CBBC or CBeebies. As well as a range of guest speakers, the commissioning and development staff talked extensively about what they were looking for. Here are the highlights –

What kind of ideas is CBBC looking for?

We want to find enduring fantasy and adventure stories with strong, memorable characters and unusual settings. Young Dracula and Wizards vs. Aliens have proved big successes, but what could be next?

Is there a show like The Dumping Ground, not set in a school or care home but that has a similarly broad and refreshable cast? Perhaps there’s a show that could be built around characters currently in our dramas, or an older-skewing ensemble show.

We are also looking for low cost comedy ideas that might possibly include CBBC talent and could be set-based (as in Hotel Trubble) or out and about (Scoop).

Any top tips?

Immerse yourself in our content.

Demonstrate a passion for writing for our audience.

Think about how kids watch TV and the different ways you can tell stories (with interactive and online elements)

We can cover social issues within a show as long as it’s done in an appropriate way for our audience

Make sure your idea not only reflects the lives of 6 to 12 year-olds but entertains them too.

Don’t be afraid to pitch something a little different; we are actively looking for bold and original ideas that we haven’t seen before.

Don’t let production issues limit your ideas, but we find shows with a precinct and/or multi-protagonist shows work well for us.

It’s difficult for us to achieve ideas driven by complicated special effects, and we have a couple of period dramas on our slate already, so are not looking for any more

Don’t be disheartened if your idea doesn’t go to commission. The needs of the channel constantly change, and development is about having an ongoing relationship with you and your work.