Happy Journalism & The Mind Of Moffat

As much I ache to dive headlong into full-on screenwriting, there are times when journalism is really good fun. Times when you can forget all the irritating stuff, like having to transcribe lengthy interviews or deal with PRs who decide they'd really rather like to sit in on your face-to-face interview, because they've got fuck all else to do with themselves.

I've spent the last couple of days honing and editing a lengthy interview with Steven Moffat, which I'm writing on for Doctor Who Magazine. It will chart six months or so of development on his latest two-part Doctor Who story The Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead, which will broadcast on May 31 and June 7. It's a fantastic couple of episodes, and Moffat's a compelling conversationalist. You literally learn something from every sentence.

When you tell people you're a journalist, one of the first questions they ask is who your worst ever interviewee has been. I was asked this for a magazine recently, and I was going to say the blind Canadian guitarist Jeff Healey. I interviewed him around 1994, with relatively little experience under my belt. I felt awkward about the fact that he was blind, and the grumpy six-stringer did precious little to make me feel at ease.

I say I was going to give this magazine Jeff Healey as my answer, because I Googled around for "Jeff Healey" and discovered that he'd died a mere two weeks beforehand. So to cite him would have seemed like crowing.

The truth is, the worst interviews are the ones you just forget, because they're dull, dull, dull. To my shame, I've never had an interviewee walk out on me, but if I had, that would probably rank as one of the best. I have, however, had an interviewee jam a knife-blade down between my fingers on a table. Which was quite memorable. That'd be Blaze Bayley of Wolfsbane, before you ask. I also narrowly escaped being thrown into a swimming pool by the assembled members of Suicidal Tendencies, by reminding them that I had our hour-long interview tape in my pocket (weirdly, present-day chick-lit author Louise Bagshawe was their press officer back then, and she did get dunked). Oh, and there were death threats at one point. Ha! Look at me, eh? Still breathing and everything.

Anyway, people's second question is who my favourite interview might be. And I haven't always known what to say. But I suspect that, after finishing this Steven Moffat interview, I might finally have an answer.

10 comments:

John Soanes said...

I'm no expert on things DW, but I'd incorrectly assumed Mr M wasn't going to have time to write for this series, so a two-parter is terrific news, especially so soon after his BAFTA win. Yay!

Don't know if you've seen his interviews etc on the Joking Apart DVDs, but they're great examples of a writer explaining what works and doesn't in a way that you can actually absorb and apply. Wonderfully articulate man, it seems, both on page/screen and in person.

Can you give a clue as to when your article might appear, Jason? I'd be very keen to see it.

J

Jason Arnopp said...

I can give you a very explicit clue, Mr S - it'll be published in late June. After the episodes have aired, so they can be discussed in all their dark, scary, funny, bonkers glory!

Piers said...

I almost got a ride in Steven Moffat's cab once.

It was up at the Edinburgh Festival, and I was late for a show, and utterly desperate for a cab, and then - lo!

As if by magic one pulled up directly across the road from me, and Steven Moffat got out, and I would have loved to have stopped and told him how much I adored his work from Press Gang all the way through to Doctor Who, and how I even saw Joking Apart and loved it, and thought the way he constructed farce was amazing but I didn't have time because I absolutely had to see this show, so I ran across the road and jumped in the taxi thinking "Well, at least I get to ride in the great man's taxi" and I told the taxi driver where I needed to go and he said:

"Sorry mate, I've got a booking."

So I got out again.

Frankly, I need a better Steven Moffat story. Can I have yours?

John Soanes said...

That's fab - thanks, will keep an eye (or two) out for it, and then pay actual money for it. You can tell 'em you were responsible for the leap in circulation, ahem.
J

David Bishop said...

Hopefully Jason will forgive this cheeky bit of hijacking...

Should you want some Steven Moffat wit and wisdom to savour, you can read an online transcript of a roundtable discussion between Moffat, Paul [Being Human/Family of Blood/ Father's Day] Cornell, Doctor Who and Torchwood novelist Andy Lane and, err, me.

It took place in 1995, ten years before Who made its triumphant TV return. Here's the URL:

http://nzdwfc.tetrap.com/archive/tsv43/onediscussion.html

Jason Arnopp said...

Piers: Of course you can. It's available for a mere 10 rupees per annum.

John: Splendid, sir. Much more principled than simply reading it in Smiths and much easier on the legs.

David: We can never have enough Moffatine goodness, sir!

Phill Barron said...

Aren't you supposed to be in Cannes?

Jason Arnopp said...

Christ! I knew I was supposed to be somewhere!

No, hold on, it's okay. We're not going 'til Monday.

Danny Stack said...

As an assistant in C4 comedy, back in the day, I read a script by the Moff and it was great: witty, pacey and not afraid to play around with structure or basic techniques. My boss said the script was 'very bold.' To my knowledge, the script has never been made. A couple of years later, I showed the Moff and his lovely wife to their seats when they showed up with Jack Davenport to watch a recording of Black Books. Then, last year, at a BBC party, James Henry and I chatted with Mrs Moff while Mr Moff & Guy Jenkin gossiped to the themselves in the background. That's all I have...

james henry said...

Danny: I remember that - Mr Moff was ranting about Pinter at a considerable volume to the extent I was too scared to go over and say hello.

I did an onstage interview with Ruth Rendell once, which took years off my life. Although the next day I heard her on Radio 4 being interviewed by Mark Lawson, and realised I had got off lightly.