Although the official lockdown didn't come into force until the end of the following week, we at FNA Central have been lying low for the past two weeks - only venturing out to sit on the door step in the sun or for essential supplies.
This doesn't mean work has stopped however. We are working with a host of writers to come up with more sketches and short films. We're also developing a slate of comedy projects - and of course trying to finish our NUFC documentary.
Until next time.
Shit's getting real isn't it?
Covid-19 is really changing the world quite rapidly.
We're already in semi-lockdown at FNA Central, no symptoms - but two asthmatics and an autistic teenager with a Never Ending Ear Infection are making us play it safe. Hang in tight everyone and support independent artists and businesses wherever possible. Also look after those around you.
And now some Van Halen, because this never fails to make me smile.
If you'd told me twelve months ago that we'd be making comedy sketches for Channel 4, I'd have laughed in your face! But here we are - with extra special thanks to The North East Comedy Hothouse (Emma, Lisa and NFM) - watch, like, share, comment, repeat, please.
The exciting news keeps coming at the minute:
Earlier in the week I found out the lovely Demi Donnelly - an absolute superstar Youtuber from Wallsend who was in a short I produced for BFI Network/ Tees Valley Screen / NFM in 2019 - was nominated for the prestigious Cosmopolitan Influencer Awards (YES THAT COSMO!) - vote for her plz.
Then the BBC finally announced its Writers Room Northern Voices writers for 2020 - including the fabulous Joseph Willis (aka Our Lovely Joe) with whom we're developing some shorts - so we can share that news here (been dying to for ages).
And FNA's good pal - actor Micky McGregor (BAFTA Elevate 2020) got to meet his hero (and doppelgänger) the uber talented Stephen Graham! All in all good times for everyone in the wider FNA Family. #FNA4Life
Finally our favourite hip hip producer Configa (from Low Fell, Gateshead - of all places) - and who features on The Stagg Do soundtrack, dropped this absolutely banging track with MC Jahi of PE 2.0.
As I mentioned last week, we were nominated at the local Royal Television Society Awards - just got home to this... I was not expecting it, so that's nice.
At some point last year, just before the deadline (HAHA - does any other time exist?), we entered "If Boobs Were Like Balls" into the regional Royal Television Society (RTS NETB) Awards - it was a strong field with entries from two of the other North East Comedy Hothouse shorts and other very established North Eastern companies. I'm delighted to say that although we didn't win (the overall gong went to our fabulous NECHH stablemates Roundhouse Pictures with their hilarious sketch "We're Gannin' Oot Oot"), Boobs was in the nominations! So overall, a huge success (and vindication) for the whole concept of the North East Comedy Hothouse and its Founder/ Exec, Emma Lawson, hopefully this will bring more commissions NECHH's (andFNA's) way!
Slightly gutted not to get a picture with Pam Royale, like!
Life - the need for money to pay bills, kids and all that stuff - has a mad way of misdirecting you and taking you away from your original goals. Waaaay back in the olden days, all I ever wanted to do was produce comedy. Comedy films, comedy TV, comedy theatre - I wasn't fussy as long as it was comedy.
I was obsessed. The only prize I received at school was a book about Footlights (the Cambridge University group that had birthed Monty Python, Fry and Laurie and the rest of my heroes). I bought comedy shows on VHS (I told you it was the olden days!), scripts (Withnail and I was the first screenplay I ever read), religiously watched pretty much anything made by Hat Trick. I think I even thought about applying for a job there - found an address, looked them up and everything, but probably got sidetracked with work...
I spent a lot of my spare time working at [Chirpy Chappie's] Comedy Cafe which was run by Dave Johns (yes THAT Dave Johns) at the Tyne Theatre. Watched and met some amazing stand ups who've gone on to become bone fide stars: Jack Dee, Bill Bailey, Sean Lock, Lee Evans. Then I moved from theatre into film and got completely rerouted - even though I LOVED comedy and comedy scripts, they generally didn't get funded (at my level) so I just stopped following it - time is limited Dear Heart - especially when you have young children.
So what's the point of this? Sparks has not only helped me gain my first TV commissions as a producer - but it's allowed me to reconnect with my true passion. So last night - for the first time in a lifetime, I went out to watch some stand up comedy at The Stand in Newcastle. It was a Red Raw night (so new comedy) and therefore a mixed bag - but overall it was marvellous and hilarious and just great to get back to my roots. Ostensibly I was there for work - imagine that. Laughing my ass off for a living. It's like a dream come true!
Our good friend Jonny Tull let me know that Lee Ridley (AKA Lost Voice Guy) gave our film The Stagg Do a massive plug on Richard Herring's podcast in the summer. I did ask Lee if this meant I could say I discovered him, but he just replied with a grinning emoji - and we all know what that means!
Anyhoo, if you didn't notice the link above - click below and scroll to 31 mins.
Lee Ridley as Dick Pounder
I don't really know what it was about January, but it really seemed to go on and on and on, but now we're into February - I bought my first daffodils and spring isn't too far away, so it's all good.
We have lots of exciting "almost news" to announce, but can't really share anything quite yet - as nothing has been confirmed yet... I hate being a tease, but I really don't want to jinx owt and I had to write something here or it wouldn't be a news page would it?
Anyhow it's 2020 and my resolution is to be fearless - so enjoy! x
2019 was a very bizarre year for Team FNA.
We had to try a new approach after being hamstrung by events outside our control for too long. So we changed our approach, invested time and effort in some new talent and somehow ended up making two BFI/ Tees Valley Screen shorts and four comedy sketches for Channel 4 and the North East Comedy Hothouse. Making comedy has always been our goal - so to finally have an opportunity to do so for a national broadcaster was a dream come true.
Obviously it's too soon to see if this will bear fruit in the longer term, but between this new strand of our work and the fact that the NUFC Fan Film will be released this year, I have to say we at FNA Central have high hopes for the new decade.
Comedy and documentary may seem like strange bedfellows - but really all any of us are looking for is the truth and a way to share it with our audience.