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.
Channel 4 released "Boobs" on their Facebook page last night - and I have to say - we'e been blown away by the response. Over 100,000 views in its first 12 hours on Facebook - overnight on a Sunday! WHOOP!
Our first Channel 4 sketch is LIVE on Youtube. It's part of a batch of three from NE Comedy Hothouse that have been released together - the first is "Gannin Oot Oot" co-produced by Roundhouse Pictures, the second is "Took Proud To Split The Bill" from Couch Potato Films. Our film - "If Boobs Were Like Balls" starts at 6:31 - but you really should watch all of them, as they're all pretty, pretty, pretty good.
We were delighted to be asked to produce more Sparks for NECHH and Channel 4. As mentioned earlier somewhere in these pages, we followed Jen Gallagher's "What If Books Were Like Balls?" with another belter from Jen "When You Think You're Being Ghosted". And this past week has seen us work with another talented female director, Emma Roxburgh, on two more sketches - "Behind The Doors Of Junior Doctors" written by and starring Tom Machell and "When You Have To Organise The Hen Party" written by Cathy McSorley. Once again, we're working with the wonderful Stephen Hedley of Fantomeline Pictures on the edit. Hopefully you'll like them all when we share them with you in the coming weeks - in the meantime, look at these lovely photos.
Super excited to have "the band back together" for the second of our two Sparks shoots “When You Think You’re Being Ghosted”. It took a lot of people juggling a lot of projects in order to get their schedules to mesh, but on Tuesday we go into production with the legend that is Sammy Dobson, the wonderful Sarah Lewis Obuba and the magnificent Tom Machell. Lots of laughs are guaranteed.
Will post stills etc as the week progresses.
Today brought the amazing news that we've been commissioned to make two of Jen Gallagher's short comedy scripts for Channel 4's new comedy talent development strand Sparks. It's totally amazing for both us and Jen - as "Mansplain" was the VERY FIRST thing she's ever made and the first short we've produced in forever. After a spell stuck in production purgatory with our NUFC Fans Film, it was great fun to be back shooting and producing again.