2014 Writing Talks by John Richards

February 20, 2014

john richards

Looking to book a talk for your library, writers group or geostationary killer satellite? John Richards has a range of talks about comedy and screen-writing which would be an excellent addition to your event calendar.

John is a writer, broadcaster and public speaker, best known for the ABC1 series Outland (“Polished, assured and full of zing” – The Sunday Age, “Sensational writing, a great ensemble, and universal themes of love, loss, and friendship… a hit…” – The Weekend Australian). He’s also written for stage and radio, presented the podcasts Splendid Chaps and Boxcutters and is a regular contributor to radio and print, including ABC774, Joy 94.9 and RRR.

These are some of the talks he offers:

How To Write Funny: Tools For Sitcom Writers

How did Mad About You develop plot out of of characters traits? How did John Clarke construct an episode of The Games? How did Dan Harmon use an 8-step process to plot Community? John Richards, writer of the acclaimed ABC1 comedy Outland, will show techniques and tools you can use for writing narrative (funny or otherwise).

When TV Goes Wrong

No matter how well-planned or organised your production, things can go wrong. An actor dies; a network wants a change of direction; or the original idea simply doesn’t work. Suddenly your suburban soap opera is full of vampires, your lead has a new face and you’re burning through a pile of money while sobbing in a corner. John Richards, writer of ABC1’s acclaimed comedy Outland and presenter of the Splendid Chaps and Boxcutters podcasts, presents an exploration of the television shows that adapted, mutated and occasionally triumphed under the weight of external pressures. From Chances to Supertrain, The West Wing to Frontline, this show will give hope and despair to anyone interested in narrative storytelling.

The Outland Story

In 2005 writer John Richards and comedian Adam Richard wrote a pilot script for a sitcom about a gay science fiction fan club. After being turned down by the ABC and SBS, John decided to film it in his lounge room on a budget of 500 dollars. It travelled the world’s film festivals before being seen by the ABC, who thought it might make a good sitcom. Outland was finally filmed at the end of 2010, edited in 2011 and aired in February 2012 to critical acclaim. John discusses the writing and development of Outland, how it went from an idea in a cafe to a six part series on ABC1, and how to have an overnight success seven years in the making. He’ll share his experience and advice for writing comedy and how to get a show on the television in (slightly) less than a decade! Inspirational story or cautionary tale? You be the judge!

The rate for each talk is $300, which covers a 50-minute talk (including video clips) with discussion and question period afterwards. If you would like to engage John as a speaker for your library or organisation, contact him at outlandonline@gmail.com.

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John Richards is a writer and broadcaster who was co-creator and writer of the ABC1 comedy Outland (“Sensational writing, a great ensemble, and universal themes of love, loss, and friendship… a hit… Pick Of The Week. ” – The Weekend Australian. “…quite frankly, one of the best Australian series I’ve ever seen. Outland is an outrageously great series” – Trespass Magazine). He has also written sketch comedy for ABC television, Channel 10, and radio including JJJ and Radio National. He was a writer and performer on RRR’s acclaimed mid-90s sketch comedy The Third Ear (“boldly rides roughshod over the concerns that feed the modern media… The Third Ear is good.” – The Age Green Guide). In 2013 his Eurovision-themed play Songs For Europe was deemed “Pick Of The Fringe” by Aussie Theatre (as well as “refreshingly original – the writing is crisp and multi-layered and the performances terrific. …you should consider this an absolute must-see of the Fringe” by Stage Whispers and “an impressively rendered telling of loss, hope, art and spirit” by Crikey).

He was a presenter on the TV discussion podcast Boxcutters from 2008 to 2013 (deemed one of the world’s best podcasts by both ABC 774 and The Age, and winner of the Chronos Award in 2011) and part of the iTunes-chart-topping podcast Splendid Chaps (“part intellectual panel discussion and part nerdy Tonight Show” – The Age, “combines analysis, enthusiasm and irreverence” – Sydney Morning Herald, “a smash hit” – Time Out). He has hosted radio shows on JOY 94.9 and RRR, been a contributor to Red Symons’ and Jon Faine’s shows on ABC 774, a guest on BBC Radio Five Live and John Safran’s Sunday Night Safran on JJJ, and featured on ABC TV’s Big Ideas, hosted by Waleed Aly.

He is a regular contributor to publications including Encore, Mumbrella, Cult and DNA, contributed to the text books Media Reloaded (Cambridge University Press) and Queers Dig Time Lords (Mad Norwegian, USA) and is a script assessor for Screen Tasmania. He has been guest lecturer and speaker for many organisations including RMIT, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, the Wheeler Centre, The Screen Youth Futures Festival at BMW Edge, Continuum 7 at ether, the Emerging Writers Festival and various Melbourne libraries.

If you would like to engage John as a speaker for your library or organisation, contact him at outlandonline@gmail.com.

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What Reviewers Are Saying About Songs For Europe: Two Short Plays About Eurovision

September 24, 2013

carnation revolution 4

There’s one week left of our new play Songs For Europe, so what are people saying? Well, stuff like this:

“Don’t think Fringe at all… just think great theatre. These two short plays, linked together by Eurovision song contests of years gone by, are refeshingly original – the writing is crisp and multi-layered and the performances terrific. …there isn’t a single weakness in casting in either play… …you should consider this an absolute must-see of the Fringe.”

Stage Whispers

Full review: http://www.stagewhispers.com.au/reviews/songs-europe

“…fabulous, intelligent, funny and moving… Whether you are a fan of Eurovision or not, this is definitely worth hunting through the back streets of Brunswick for.”

Squirrel Comedy

Full review: http://www.squirrelcomedy.com/?p=4879

“The performers are consistently terrific and the writing surprises at every turn… Full of heart, it’s a work that has a spike under every joke, gently questions its audience far more than the singer, and remembers that there are real people behind our wittiest mocking.”

Sometimes Melbourne

Full review: http://sometimesmelbourne.blogspot.com.au/2013/09/fringe-songs-for-europe.html

“Go see this people! I was expecting campy fluff. What I got was two thought provoking, intelligent pieces laced with humour, intelligence and heart.”

Chris Baldock, Artistic Director of Mockingbird Theatre

“Best Of The Melbourne Fringe”

Aussie Theatre

http://aussietheatre.com.au/reviews/melbourne-fringe-best-part-2

nothing 5

We’re thrilled people have connected to it and are getting so much out of it. You have only four more chances to see Songs For Europe, so book now!


Songs For Europe: Two Short Plays About Eurovision

September 3, 2013

songs for europe poster

Mark Twain once said “God created war so that Americans would learn geography” and this is how I feel about Eurovision. I’d never heard of Azerbaijan before their end-credits-on-an-80s-rom-com number “Running Scared” won in 2011, yet now I can tell you about their location, their exports, their time-zone and even their human rights abuses. They also have one gay man, apparently. And he’s a hairdresser (I wish I was making this up – he was mentioned by an official as a rebuff to the idea the country was homophobic).

Eurovision was, in part, created out of war. In the 1950s the countries of Western Europe were developing television technology and wanted to experiment with multi-country live events, while also hopefully uniting countries that had recently been bombing each other. As it was an international exercise they needed something that transcended spoken language so their first thought was – I kid you not – a circus skills extravaganza! It’s hard to imagine the Eurovision Juggling Contest would be going 50 years later, although it’s nice to think the UK may still have used it as a comeback opportunity for faded artists. Who wouldn’t want to see Bonnie Tyler on a trapeze? Or the members of Blue forming a oddly-shaped human pyramid?

Second choice was singing, and a legend was born. But suffering still infuses through the contest. As Europe has fought, and healed, and changed, Eurovision has been there. Seven countries competed in the first competition in 1956 – thirty-nine in 2013. Our concept of Europe has changed, and Eurovision has changed with it.

And at this year’s Melbourne International Fringe Festival I have a play about it! Co-written with The Bazura Project’s Lee Zachariah, Songs For Europe is two short pieces exploring the Eurovision legacy. In the first half a young journalist comes to interview an aging singer about her nul points performance and gets more than he bargained for; and then in 1974 Portuguese activists gather in a café awaiting the Eurovision song that will trigger the revolution (again, a true story – there’s a Eurovision song that started an uprising. Even Pink can’t claim that).

It has a great cast, including Marta Kaczmarek (The Circuit, Shine, Offspring) and Nick Colla (Neighbours, Blue Heelers, Wicked Science) and has been brilliantly directed by Lucas Testro (Neighbours, Winners & Losers, All Saints). My Splendid Chaps colleagues are all involved too, Ben McKenzie is producing, Petra Elliott is appearing as a Portuguese bar owner – the role she was born to play! – and our tech wizard David Ashton is creating both the sound design and our brand new 1982 Eurovision entry. You can see the whole fabulous cast listed below.

It’s 8 shows only, September 19 – 29, Thursday through Sunday at 7.45pm (6.45pm on the Sundays) at Broken Mirror in Brunswick. I’m really excited about it, and I’d love you to see it. Tickets are on sale now!

So I leave you with the song that started a revolution – Paulo de Carvalho with “E Depois Do Adeus”. And remind you that the real winner here… is music. Au revoir mon Ami!

Songs For Europe: Two Short Plays About Eurovision

Marta Kaczmarek: Sonja
Nick Colla: Patrick
Angus Brown: Alejandro
Noah Moon: Braulio
Jack Beeby : Carlos
Chris Broadstock: Diego
Petra Elliott: Eva

Finger Food

January 25, 2013

Is it 2013 already? Well, another year, another blog post… On January 24th I spoke at a Midsumma spoken word event called Art, Sex & Snacks, organised by the gorgeous and funny Lisa Skye. Here is an edited version of what I said.

jatz

One of my favourite phrases in the English language is “finger food”.

Partly because it sounds tasty, but mostly because it sounds dirty. There’s something about the word “finger” that just makes everything near it go a little bit Benny Hill. I have the same reaction to the phrase “Pacific Rim”, especially when it relates to cooking.

I have never held a sex party, because I’m the sort of person who gets hung up on the wrong things, like the music, or the décor, but mostly I’d be worried about the finger food. Do you provide snacks at a sex party? People will probably get hungry – or will they have eaten before? If they get too hungry they might leave, but then again, do you want people to linger at a sex party? And what do you provide? Do you go retro and cheeky – devils on horseback, perhaps? Or do you go simple and easy – maybe something from Nigella? Or is that too obvious?

Basically I would ruin a sex party by worrying about the canapes.

And the lack of sex parties in my life has started to worry me. Not that I necessarily want to be going to them now, but I want to have gone to them then, in the past. I’m reaching an age where I’ve started to worry about the roads not taken. I’ve never been to a sex party, I’ve never been arrested, I’ve never been on a hovercraft. I could try to kill three birds by being arrested at a sex party on a hovercraft, but somehow that just seems desperate.

Partly it’s the internet to blame. Through the magic of facebook we can now see all the social events we weren’t invited to. All the parties we didn’t attend, the food we haven’t eaten, the men we never had sex with.

It’s all highly edited, of course. No-one’s going to update their status to say “I’m sitting in a filthy dressing gown while watching repeats of Miss Marple and idly masturbating”. And it’s clearly a First World Problem – no-one in India is tweeting “Granny died from diphtheria today. Lolz!”.

But it still makes me feel like life is a game of musical chairs and the music has stopped and not only do I not have a chair, I’m not even in the same room. And I’m naked and… on fire.. or something.

A friend and I used to play a game called “What’s Madonna Doing Right Now?”. You always think of Madonna as recording a new single, or having a tantrum in a dressing room, or having sex with the linebackers of the San Diego Chargers on a winged chariot made of diamonds while being pulled along by a team of wild swans. But the truth is – at any given moment – Madonna is more likely to be brushing her teeth, or meeting an accountant, or watching a DVD of Swept Away and wondering how it all went so terribly wrong.

For the younger members of the audience, Madonna was a singer, a bit like Kylie Minogue with much scarier arms. She famously recorded a cover version of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way 20 years before Lady Gaga did it. It was called Express Yourself, and was featured on Madonna’s CD “Like A Prayer”.

For the younger members of the audience, a CD was a collection of music you would purchase from a shop in physical form, and insert into your parlour’s stereogram when your pianola had run out of paper rolls and you wanted to do the lindy hop.

For the younger members of the audience, “purchasing music” was something we used to do before the internet came along, making everything free and revealing all the parties we hadn’t been invited to, yadda yadda yadda, thus bringing us full circle.

We can’t see ourselves the way others see us. At the very least, it would hurt your neck, or you’d need to carry a big mirror around at all times, and that would be tiring. but it means we’re all a bit clueless of how we’re come across. Jodie Foster, for example, somehow misses the irony of asking an audience of 250 million people to give her some privacy in the middle of a speech about she’s proudly not coming out. There’s an old story that Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, was at a party where a woman was telling him about her travels through Africa and Madagascar. Armstrong listened intently, then sighed and said “That sounds amazing – I’ve never been anywhere”.

That story isn’t actually true, of course, but that doesn’t stop it from making my point.

Everyone thinks they’re average. Everyone thinks their experience is normal. Serial killer Ed Gein probably thought that everyone else was making lampshades out of human skin, and mining magnate Gina Reinhart probably thinks that everyone else… is making lampshades out of human skin. Oh, sure that may be unfair, but you can picture it, can’t you? If you found out tomorrow that Gina Reinhard had been making a body suit out of the skins of her victims to wear around the house you wouldn’t be THAT surprised.

But we want to be exceptional. We want to be special. We want to be adored. We want life to be a smorgasbord, not half a box of Jatz crackers and some old hummus you found at the back of the fridge, as it sometimes seems.

But while we’re alive, there’s hope. And if you’re not alive, I think you have bigger issues to concern yourself with. Actually if you’re not alive and you’re here in the audience then either there’s some wacky Weekend At Bernie’s hijinks going on or you’re a zombie, and either way you’re ruining the poignant conclusion of my talk.

Because there is still time. There’s time to make ourselves the people we want to be. Break out the good china. Take down that cocktail shaker. Organise that illegal hovercraft sex party. You can take that last one as a metaphor, if you like.

Become the person who leaves pictures on facebook that makes other people feel bad.

Enjoy what you have, enjoy who you are. It’s an obvious thing to say and yet I feel the need to remind myself all the time.

I was supposed to talk about art, sex and snacks tonight and somehow I ended up talking about self-esteem and identity. But in a way, we’re all made up of our desires, we’re defined by what we want as much as what we are.

Epicurus was a Greek philosopher around 300BC who believed the goal in life was to achieve tranquillity through freedom from fear, the absence of pain and by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends.

He taught that pleasure and pain are the measures of what is good and evil; death is the end of both body and soul and should therefore not be feared; the gods do not reward or punish humans; the universe is infinite and eternal; and events in the world are ultimately based on the motions and interactions of atoms moving in empty space.

And that, by the way, is the most poetic passage of wikipedia you could ever hope to find.

His name lead to the word epicurean, defined as one who pursues pleasures, especially those of food, drink, and the body.

Epicurus once said “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not – remember that what you now have… was once amongst the things you only hoped for.”

John Richards is a writer and broadcaster. He wrote quite a bit of Outland, the best ABC1 gay-and-lesbian-science-fiction-fan-club-comedy you will EVER see! Why not buy it on DVD? He is also a presenter on the Boxcutters podcast and (with Ben McKenzie) is part of the Splendid Chaps: A Year Of Doctor Who podcast/performance extravaganza.

It’s Me – It’s Not You…

October 12, 2011

For those of you planning to stalk me in the next few weeks, here’s your handy cut-out-and-keep guide:

The best-gay-and-lesbian-science-fiction-fan-club-television-comedy-ever-probably Outland will be having its world premiere in Seattle on October 18th and 19th at Central Cinema as part of the 16th Seattle Gay & Lesbian Film Festival (you’ll find the cinema in the Central District, at 21st and Union. I have no idea what that means, but it sounds extremely glamorous). It starts at 6pm each night, with episodes 1 to 3 showing on the Tuesday and 4 to 6 on the Wednesday. I’ll be attending both screenings as a guest of the festival.

Incidentally, for our American readers, that’s the entire series. Just the six episodes. It’s going to be exactly like Abed and Cougarton Abbey on Community all over again, but without the Inspector Spacetime downloads afterwards. Central Cinema is fully licensed, so if you don’t find it funny you can always get drunk.

Tickets for the Outland screening are available here. Tickets for Seattle are available here (whatever you do, don’t book through Virgin Australia’s Groups And Entertainment section as IT WILL TAKE YOU FOREVER and they will send you emails stressing how unimportant you are. Honestly, it was threatening to go Gasp Jeans there for a bit. “The exclusive airline of Australians In Film”, my arse…).

Then, back in Melbourne, I will be giving a brief talk at ACMI about Star Trek: The Animated Series, because that’s the kind of thing I do, apparently. It’s part of Space: TV’s Final Frontier, this month’s Live In The Studio at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, and I’ll be part of a panel that includes RRR’s Robert Jan, Clementine Ford, Dr Djoymi Baker and my fellow Boxcutter Josh Kinal as referee. That’s what they call it, isn’t it? Tickets are available here.

A warning for those planning on attending events in both Seattle and Melbourne – I may wear the same suit. Adjust your expectations accordingly.

And speaking of Inspector Spacetime – and because the Internet is infinite – someone has created a brilliant tumblr called “Where’s Outland?” that features our two publicity images getting into all kinds of scrapes. Feel free to add to the fun.


Words, Words, Words: The World Of Blurbs

September 22, 2008

It’s festival time in Melbourne. Actually, it’s always festival time in Melbourne. Arts, Film, Comedy, Fashion, Writers, Design, Stencil, Cycling, Jazz, Brass, Animation, Fringe, Moomba, Tap, Travel Writing, Italian, Scarf, Funk… and that’s just the first five pages of Google results. Melbourne has a festival for everything. But how do you decide which film to see? Which comedy show? Which travel writer? Which scarf?

In most cases your guide will be the festival program, and the description of each event. 150 words need to convince you to commit your time and money, to get off the couch and turn off those old tapes of Chances – “The best kabuki puppet western you’ll see all year!” “I laughed so hard I mislaid my socks!” “Gong Li is the most beautiful woman on Earth!”

Anne-Marie Peard wrote about the launch of the Melbourne Fringe Festival program a couple of weeks ago, and we talked about blurbs during the Melbourne International Film Festival. But what makes a good blurb? What needs to be in that magic paragraph to pull in the punters and let the sun shine in?

The Outland Institute assembled a panel of experts to address this deeply important issue…

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Anne-Marie Shows Us Her Fringe

September 8, 2008

Another day in Melbourne, another major arts festival. The 2008 Melbourne Fringe Festival was launched last Wednesday – Anne-Marie Peard attended, so you don’t have to. 

The memories of MIFF and the Yalumba Man are fading.  We’ve had a couple of weeks to sit back on the couch in our Wong Kar-Wai slippers, snack on our Dalek bread and catch up with Australian Idol and that thing where fit people ran around a lot and tried not to think about other events that happened in Tiananmen Square.

Some of us prodded out brains into action with a visit to the Melbourne Writer’s Festival, but the thought of another arty-type marathon was too much for me right now. Until – under the festival tree – the Melbourne Fringe program appeared…

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