Friday, 2 February 2007

Murdering people

I spent yesterday working out how to murder my wife.

Don't worry - Carolyn's perfectly safe. But the TAPS course (see below) set us all some delightful homework which involved seeing into the mind of a murderer.

We spent the first two days analysing the first part of a two-part episode of The Bill that was transmitted last year some time. For anybody who knows the show, it was the one where Smithy was locked up for the alleged murder of his lover, Louise. Part one showed us Smithy on the inside getting involved with a young prisoner who seems to have stabbed another inmate. Meanwhile, on the outside, the team at Sun Hill are trying to find evidence that Smithy was set up by Louise's gangster husband.

Our homework is to produce a step-outline of part two. All we know is that part one ends on a downer as everything seems to be going pear-shaped. And we know that, by the end of part two, Smithy is off the charge, Louise's husband is arrested for her murder and the story of the young prisoner has to be tied up and sorted.

If any of you saw that episode last year... please keep the details to yourself! I don't want to know. When we go back for the second part of the TAPS course we'll get to see the script and watch the episode as transmitted. But, in the meantime, I have to work out what the backstory might have been and how the cops solve the crimes. Which is why I spent all of yesterday trying to work out how Louise was killed, and whether that young prisoner really did stab someone in the shower or whether he too was set up (of course he was!).

It's been a lot of fun. I now know what happened in both cases (or, rather, I have now invented my version of what happened), and I've worked out how the cops work it out. My problem is working out how to tell it on screen.

The difficult thing with The Bill is that they have a convention that we never see anything unless it is actually witnessed by one of the cops from Sun Hill station. So, although I now have my elaborate back story, I can't actually show on screen what happened. No flashbacks, no dramatic reconstructions. I have to get my characters to tell the story through exposition (aaarggh!). It goes against the grain of everything I have ever learnt as a screenwriter. But I've been watching a lot of The Bill recently (obviously), and it works! It's very distinctive, and sometimes frustrating, but it's an interesting editorial decision that gives a distinct feel to the show. Yes, there's a lot of cops walking through busy corridors talking through their theories of what might or might not have happened, but you find yourself thinking it through with them, trying to work it out.

Now all I need to work out is what happened to the blood-stained towel. Any ideas?

4 comments:

Deborah said...

I thought you couldn't blog about TAPS... ?

Paul Campbell said...

Well, there's blogging and then there's blogging...

What they were worried about, I think, was detailed description of the course material and intrusive accounts of the individuals attending the course.

Dan said...

Blood stained towel?

Are we still talking about an episode of The Bill or are you now working on a women's hygiene advert?

Deborah said...

oh right, got you.