Creative Scriptwriting and Copywriting

And the winner is…

In copywriting, scriptwriting, writing on January 17, 2011 at 10:50 pm

Ricky Gervais’s performance at last night’s Golden Globes shook Hollywood to the core. His crime? To make the kind of near-the-knuckle jibes that Hollywood talk shows and gossip sites thrive on, but to make them when the A-listers he was skewering were sitting right there in front of him.

Cheeky and irreverent? Downright rude?

Or just, as I suspect, simply an attempt to inject some zip into one out of far too many award ceremonies.

Awards are something where I have more than my fair share of first-hand experience. OK, maybe not quite on the scale of the Golden Globes or the BAFTAs. (Although a show I wrote some episodes for was once nominated for a BAFTA, which must surely make me a BAFTA-nominated writer. Surely. No?) But I’ve written enough scripts, speeches and gags for corporate award presentations to really share Ricky’s pain.

The trick, for me, is to always retain a certain respect for your subject, but never forget that even the most prestigious award ceremonies shouldn’t be taken that seriously.

Some times, of course, that’s easier than others.

I once wrote the script for a corporate ceremony that took place on the same night as the Academy Awards. The BBC’s ritzy live Oscar coverage was being presented by Jonathan Ross. Our own more modest bash celebrating the achievements of the UK’s finest photocopier sales personnel was hosted by his brother, Paul. Cue lots of self-deprecating  jokes about the differences between Xerox reps and movie stars, and between the respective career paths of Jonathan and Paul. (To be fair to Ross Snr, he had plenty of his own to add to the script).

Right now. I’m working on material for the annual awards of two motor companies, and a waste management firm.  (Who will be crowned Bin Man of the Year 2011, you ask? I am afraid I am sworn to secrecy at this stage…)

With all of them, I’m trying to move as far away from the kind of bland formality some awards ceremonies can descend into, without ever quite threatening a Gervais-style car crash.  The client, of course, wants a swift, clean professional show, but the audience surely deserves something more than the dry, interminable, humourless evening that I think some clients envisage. It’s supposed to be a celebration, after all. Awards ceremonies should be boozy, breezy and entertaining.

Luckily, I don’t think it’s too difficult for a good writer to create a night that might not be as glamorous as the Oscars or the Globes, but is at least way more fun for the participants than the  stuck-ups at those events seem to find it.  The difference, for me, is in the make-up of the audience. For most of us, a free four course meal in a swanky hotel, and a chance to dress up in fancy clothes whilst your bosses say nice things about you doesn’t happen every day. For Hollywood icons, fine dining, free apparel and non-stop sycophancy come with the contract.

So really, it’s all a question of context. Brickbats of the Gervais kind might bruise the egos of sensitive flowers like Charlie Sheen, Bruce Willis or Robert Downey Jr . But for the rest of us, they’re probably no worse than the sort of banter that’s dished out daily in the office canteen.  Toughen up, celebs!

(All of which is really only a roundabout way to say that the short film I helped make last year has been nominated for a prize of its own. Off to the Odeon Leicester Square in March to see if we win a First Light Award. Will shine my shoes and keep you posted!)


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