Sunday, 9 May 2010

Guest: Jack Thorne

I was first introduced to the work of screenwriter and playwright Jack Thorne three years ago when I heard his play 'Left at the Angel' on Radio 4 which caused me to stop what I was doing, grab a notebook and pencil and scrawl down his name in case I forgot it. Not that I was likely to.

From his contributions to shows such as Skins, Shameless and his co-creation of the flawless Channel4 series 'Cast Offs' last year, to his plays for stage and radio and a debut feature film released this year ..... Jack's energies and passion for his work has ensured he's not easily forgotten.

Knowing that he is a fellow quotation-collector I asked Jack to share with us some quotes which keep him and his writing constantly moving foward.


I don’t know quite when I started writing quotes out and sticking them on the wall behind my computer screen. I think I started it five years ago but it could be longer because I’m not very good with time memory.
It’s a sad, tragic and pretentious thing to do – the equivalent perhaps of getting your wrist tattoo’d with “carpe diem” (which a friend of mine did once and then massively regretted) – but I do find them useful sometimes.

For staring at.

When I’ve nothing else to stare at.

Because you know, when you spend ten to twelve hours a day staring at a computer screen – I’m a writer by the way, staring is what I do - well, you look for variety anywhere you can... Anyway, when my lovely friend Julie asked for a “guest blog” she suggested – because we’d talked about it once – me writing about these quotes – and here, cringing with embarrassment – are they – with occasional justifying remarks beside them. I’ve divided them, for the purposes of this discussion into three.

I’ll probably regret doing so.


“Comedy is when you accidentally walk into an open sewer and die. Tragedy is when I have a hangnail.” Mel Brooks.

“Analysing comedy is like dissecting a frog. Nobody laughs and the frog dies.” Barry Cryer.

I am not the funniest writer in the world, but occasionally have to write comedy and these are both useful as means to attack the crass – but what if he fell over on a banana skin – notes that I occasionally get back from my higher and betters - and indeed I shouted them both at an executive once.

Along with the best of the attack dogs: “Executives want answers. Audiences want questions.” Tim Kring (creator of Heroes).

Though that quote worked a lot better when Heroes was a successful TV franchise rather than the soon-to-be cancelled mess it now is. Probably should take that one down now.


“A book should be the axe for the frozen sea within us.” Franz Kafka.

“If you want to provoke, you should provoke someone stronger than yourself because otherwise you’re misusing your power.” Lars Von Trier

Well, do exactly what they say on the tin those really don’t they – I’ll never write as well as either of those two great men. But they’re what to aim at.

Everything anyone else writes provokes jealousy in me – basically I’m a bitter and twisted individual – but I try to compete with the greatest and the best – the unattainable – because at least that way the inevitable failure is slightly tempered with – well, at least you tried.

Another one on the wall is “We should always look back on our lives with tender contempt.” Dennis Potter.

Yeah. Enough said.


“Dialogue should simply be a sound among other sounds. Just something that comes out of the mouths of people whose eyes tell the story in visual terms.” Hitchcock.

“At heart write always for yourself. But make sure that you write from your real self, not one besotted with vainglorious dreams of a future self.” John Fowles.

These are actually the oldest and newest quotes on my ‘quote wall’ (even saying those two words makes me wince). John Fowles was the first thing I pinned up because that was the advice I was always hearing – write for yourself not other people and I was always confused by the notion of what ‘writing for myself’ actually meant. I just love the wisdom of it – I definitely occasionally write and make career decisions with my ‘collected plays’ (how would this play fit in with that – truly madly deeply inevitable - edition of my life’s work) in my head – but I hate that side of myself, and it’s clearly a stupid way of continuing.

So the Fowles quote I try to write by, and occasionally succeed in doing so.

The Hitchcock quote – well, that’s more a realisation I’ve come to recently. Everyone’s always been quite nice about my dialogue and I’ve always thought that it was the best thing about how I wrote, but having spent the last year working with Shane Meadows (a brilliant film-maker and a man who encourages actors to stick to the meaning of scenes but not the words) I’ve come to realise how irrelevant the words actually are.

Story and character and, most importantly, rhythm are what defines great writing (which I hope to achieve some day) and dialogue, which I used to use as a means of writing myself out of any mess, is actually not that important at all.

Right. I feel sullied. I hope I haven’t sullied you.

Blogging is weird.


Thank you Mr.T.

While I let Jack go and wash the scent of filthy, self-revelatory, blogging from his skin ..... I'll brazenly fill you in on when and where you can hear more from him. Because you do want to hear more from him.

Last Jack won the BFI Newcomer award 2009 for his feature film The Scouting Book For Boys:

The film was released this spring and is still travelling around the UK at the moment .... it's not quite reached me this far North yet so, if you fancy seeing it so we can compare notes afterwards, then check out the film's Facebook page or Twitter profile to keep up-to-date with your local show times.

Next weekend sees a performance of a special, multi-authored production which Jack contributed to alongside writers such as Tom Stoppard.Further details of The Laws of War can be found by clicking on the photo below.

To be honest I'd be here all day listing Jack's upcoming productions so the simplest thing for me to do is point you toward his twitter profile where you can keep track of his latest works for yourself.

You'll be glad you did. I am.


1 comment:

Natasha said...

Thanks Copy and Paste for a fabulous weekend full of goodies and what an inspiring blog. I shall have to come back and reread again.

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