Published work – September 2014

Metro iconAs it’s almost October, I thought I’d share some of the articles that I’ve written for Metro Blogs throughout September.

After going to the launch of Glue, E4’s latest drama, I’ve written a couple of pieces about the show – which has since become one of my favourite programmes on television at the moment.

I also celebrated the 20th anniversary of Friends by selecting my choices of the sitcom’s best episodes and revealed some of my favourite Derren Brown shows – an article that was then shared on the illusionist’s Facebook page.

Check out the following blogs:

Friends turns 20: 20 episodes you need to watch

7 reasons I’ll be watching Strictly for the first time this year

9 best moments from the McBusted Tourplay announcement

11 types of students you’ll meet during freshers’ week

9 reasons why E4’s Glue is an unmissable yet shocking drama

Bad Education is back: 10 reasons Jack Whitehall is top of the class

9 reasons to be excited about Disney Infinity 2.0

13 things you need to be a convincing pirate on Talk Like A Pirate Day

11 lessons learned from Educating the East End (including how to run an election)

7 best moments from Our Girl series opener

Our Girl: Can anybody compete with Downton Abbey?

8 times Derren Brown blew our minds

Glue: 8 biggest shocks from episode two

8 reasons why How I Met Your Mother should’ve used its alternative ending

Giant spiders vs crane flies: Who wins?

And there’s plenty more to come in October…

more! Magazine Suspended after 25 years

More Magazine Suspended

This week Bauer Media announced that it was suspending more! Magazine after 25 years of publication. Some embraced the news saying that these women’s magazines promote negative lifestyle choices but others stated their fears that this wouldn’t just be the beginning of the end for young adult magazines but of the production of print magazines in general.

Reports have stated that more! Magazine was suspended due to a significant drop in readership over the last year. According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations (cited in The Guardian), for the final half of last year the magazine had an average weekly circulation of 92,459, compared to 200,000 in 2007 and 300,000 in 2000.

There’s no denying that the decline in print sales is due to the increase in online writing. Bloggers and online magazines are now prominent outlets for the 24 hour news (or gossip if you will) cycle. If people want celebrity news, it’s now readily available online from a number of popular blogs. News hits Twitter quicker than anywhere else and with increased engagement with readers, online writers are far more personable than an unnamed person in a magazine.

Some publications have adjusted to these changes – Company Magazine place a lot of emphasis on fashion bloggers, promoting them on their website and in their magazine, but it remains to be seen if this will be enough.

Whilst I’m the first to admit that it’s easy to fall into the trap of visiting a magazine’s website then not feeling the need to buy the magazine itself, I’ll be sad to see more! Magazine go. Regardless of what people say about the influence of the magazine industry on young girls, for me, more! inspired positive career choices, embraced women from all walks of life without judgment and looked at sensitive issues that many women struggle with whilst always maintaining the magazine’s infamous witty humour.

Hopefully other magazines will be motivated to adapt following the news of more!’s cease in production by embracing the digital age and working on what readers want and what will encourage them to remain loyal to the print format.

Crowd Funding: How Veronica Mars Could Change the Film Industry

Crowd Funding

Crowd funding is the process in which individuals can donate money to people and organisations to help them achieve their goals. It has long been associated with the arts, specifically with unsigned musicians or filmmakers, who ask their fans to help fund their projects.

These funding websites, such as Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, frequently reward donators with perks and rewards for their financial contributions.

In the past, these websites were predominantly used by those who were relatively unknown, but recently they have become a source of backing projects made by well known organisations and filmmakers.

Since the cancellation of television series Veronica Mars in 2007, fans have been campaigning for series creator Rob Thomas to make a film version of the show. Both Thomas and actress Kristen Bell had expressed their interest in doing so but Warner Brothers, the show’s production company, opted not to fund the project.

Following persistence from Thomas and Bell, Warner Brothers agreed that should they find a way to provide funding for the film, they would back it. The pair organised a profile on Kickstarter with an objective of raising $2,000,000, the highest ever goal on the website, to be reached by April 12th. At the time of writing this article, with 18 days left to go, they have surpassed their aim and $3,872,624 has been pledged.

Due to the Kickstarter funding campaign, a Veronica Mars film is going into production this summer [Image: Kickstarter]

Due to the Kickstarter funding campaign, a Veronica Mars film is going into production this summer [Image: Kickstarter]

With the target being reached, the production of the film will now happen, with contributors winning rewards including scripts, limited edition t-shirts, DVDs, signed posters, twitter follows, premiere tickets  and even a speaking role in the movie.

Due to the support of the Veronica Mars movie project, the rumour mill has been going wild with the possibility of other defunct television shows being able to make films through fan funding. Shows including Pushing Daisies, Chuck and Firefly are now all being rumoured for revival.

The biggest issue with the increased interest in fan funded films is the fact that, should these higher budget films be successful, it will be a more frequented method of covering production costs and smaller independent projects may get overlooked.

When big production companies are already involved with the film’s development, it does feel like an elaborate ploy for these corporations to earn extra money and it is a shame that people are likely to be more willing to contribute to these ventures than those with absolutely no means of funding their projects without extra support.

Furthermore, this method of funding changes the whole viewing experience for film fans. Rewards are there to ensure that financial contributors aren’t taken advantage of, but the process still holds great risk – what if the production doesn’t deliver with its promises and, more importantly, what if the fans who contribute towards the project aren’t happy with the final result?

Fans will be donating a lot of money to the film, what with the initial funding pledges, cinema trips and the purchase of dvds and merchandise, these contributors will therefore expect a lot from the final product and so they should.

I guess it comes down to Veronica Mars to set the precedent but, because of the media attention of the project and the persistence of fans, it seems likely to be a commercial success, which may mean film fans could soon have a more active role in the production of higher budget films, whether this is for the best or not.

Top 5: Invaluable Web Tools for Bloggers and Online Journalists

[Image: Zoomzum]

[Image: Zoomzum]

Web tools are essential for bloggers and online journalists, whether for generating traffic, sharing articles or enhancing your skills. There are numerous free tools on the web that are invaluable for these writers in order to make their posts, and websites, the best they can possibly be. Here are my picks of the best of these web tools:

Google Trends

Sometimes it can be so difficult to decide what is newsworthy enough to be written about. Whilst I’m a firm believer that as long as you are writing about something that interests you it will be worth it, publishers don’t always think in the same way.

Google Trends allows the user to not only see the “Hot Searches” in their country of choice; it allows them to see the most searched terms on any subject of their choice. This is a great way of seeing what subjects are of interest, and will potentially bring traffic to your website, and what trends people are interested in at the moment.

Google Alerts

This goes hand in hand with Google Trends but is of more use to the a subject-focused journalist. For example I have alerts set for Film, Literature, Music and Television as they are the subjects I enjoy writing about most.

You can set alerts to be emailed to you however frequently you want (with broader topics like mine I would suggest getting updates less frequently).

With Google Alerts, the best articles of your subject of choice are sent directly to your inbox so you are kept up to date with trends and interests.

Dropbox

I tend to work using numerous devices, so it can be really frustrating keeping track of a master document. I’ve had bad experiences using USBs in the past and as I frequently use my tablet for editing, the Dropbox app is a great find.

Dropbox is user friendly and simple to use. It creates a folder to save documents in on the computer, which is then synced to the tablet’s app. When using a different computer, documents can be accessed by logging in online, making work accessible whenever and wherever needed.

Bitly

Sharing posts is a great way to drive traffic to your blog, especially when you can use social networking websites, like Twitter, to reach like-minded people. However, with a limited amount of characters to use, it is often essential to shorten URLs in order to be able to say everything that needs to be said.

Bitly not only shorterns URLs, it allows you to organise URLs into bundles to save, and share, all over the web. Once links have been shared, you can go back onto bitly and get their stats– when they were clicked, the location of the viewer and the referrer of the link.

Codecademy

Whilst many blog hosts don’t require knowledge of HTML and CSS, it’s still a great skill to have as an online writer. Codecademy offers simple lessons on Web Fundamentals (as well as many other programming topics) in an easy to do format.

Instructions are relatively straightforward, with hints available when needed. The layout of the website is great, you enter the code you’ve learned into the box on the left and it appears in a result tab next to it.

As well as teaching the fundamentals of coding, it offers productive tutorials that can be applied straight to the user’s personal website, such as the design of a button.

 

Whilst these may not suit all writers, I’ve certainly found them to be useful. Are there any tools you would suggest for an online journalist or blogger?

#danceponydance – Social Media Influences Ad Campaign

Advertising agencies are now embracing social media to the full. Nowadays it is rare to see an ad without the familiar ‘hashtag’ (#) symbol in the corner, inviting viewers to discuss what they have seen on Twitter.

The latest viral ad to take the world by storm is Three’s #DancePonyDance, featuring Socks, the moon-walking Shetland pony. Created by Wieden and Kennedy, the ad sees Socks shimmying across the Scottish Highlands to Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Everywhere’. Watch the ad below:

As a brand, Three are trying to put more emphasis on their Ultrafast network and as a result are encouraging people to share the things that they enjoy via networking websites:

Three want to let the world know that all the seemingly stupid, funny and downright daft stuff we look at online on a daily basis…is not silly at all. Their point of view is that this stuff connects us to one another through the simple act of sharing it. Which is why as a network they do everything they can to help you live up to their brand line ‘Keep on internetting’. The commercial ends with the line ‘Silly stuff. It matters’.

[Source: Wieden and Kennedy London]

The brand have even started a “Sharing Stuff” section on their website where they discuss the top online sharing habits of the week:

[Source: three.co.uk]

[Source: three.co.uk]

As well as encouraging viewers to discuss, and share, the ad campaign using the #DancePonyDance hashtag, a web-hosted app was also released to further inspire online sharing.

The remixing tool, The Pony Mixer, allows people to make their own customisations of the ad by adding different backgrounds and props as well as changing the music genre. Once the user has remixed the viral, it can be shared online again via social media. Some of these user-generated ads are now being televised alongside the creator’s twitter name. The @ThreeUK twitter feed even has a promoted post sending tweeters to The Pony Mixer, making it unavoidable to connect with the brand.

The ad has been so popular that numerous celebrities have now mentioned how much they love Socks and the first @ThreeUK tweet linking to the ad has now been retweeted 1,277 times. A parody account for Socks has also been created on twitter, @ponydanceparody.

Perhaps the biggest sign that the public are influenced by ads, and social media trends, is the fact that Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Everywhere’, the soundtrack of the ad, has now re-entered the UK charts. It will be interesting to see if the new songs featured on The Pony Mixer will follow suit.

Socks the moonwalking Shetland. [Source: Creative Review]

Socks the moonwalking Shetland. [Source: Creative Review]

The ad has undoubtedly been a success for Three. Viewers are now linking their emotions towards the advert with the brand itself and the majority of tweets on the #DancePonyDance hashtag are positive.

However, there has of course been a surge of jokes relating to the recent horse meat scandal and now there is an unfortunate report of yobs forcing a Shetland pony to moonwalk off of a cliff. So it remains to be seen how long responses to the ad itself will remain positive.

Until then, I’m off to remix my own #danceponydance ad…

What are your thoughts on the ad? Love it or loathe it? Does it make you think of Three differently?

World Book Day: My Most Memorable Books

Today is the annual event made for avid readers like myself – World Book Day. It is the biggest celebration of books and reading in the UK and Ireland and whilst when I was younger it was an occasion to dress as my favourite fictional character, it has since become a time when readers recommend new books to read via social media.

In celebration of World Book Day, I have decided to look back on the most memorable books that I have read throughout my life:

Harry Potter and the Philosophers StoneHarry Potter

I would think the Harry Potter series would appear on most “life in books” lists. The series is so timeless that it can be read over and over again (in fact I’m half way through re-reading the books again now). Whilst J. K. Rowling may not have the most sophisticated style of writing, she created a world that is loved by children and adults alike.

The characters are all unique, intriguing and relateable and as a child I wanted so much for Hogwarts to be real. The best thing about the series though is that it doesn’t shy from more negative themes that children need to learn about – loss, neglect and danger.

 

A Clockwork OrangeA Clockwork Orange

I originally read Anthony Burgess’ classic ‘A Clockwork Orange’ for my A-Level English Literature coursework and immediately loved it. It was the book that introduced me to dystopian novels and I loved the fact that the themes of the novel were prevalent in modern culture.

When I discovered that the characters all used their own language in the book, I initially thought I would struggle to follow the narrative but I found it easy, perhaps due to the influx of modern day slang terms.

The best element of the novel though, in my opinion, has to be the main character, Alex. You want to hate him, he commits vile crimes and is extremely narcissistic but he is the definition of an anti-hero because in the end you actually root for him to turn his life around.

Never Let Me GoNever Let Me Go

Kazuo Ishiguro’s ‘Never Let Me Go’ is another one of my favourite dystopian novels. It is set at a fictional boarding school in East Sussex where children are raised being taught the importance of being fit and healthy. It is revealed that the children are clones being raised to provide organs for “normals”.

The novel follows friends Ruth, Tommy and Kathy throughout their childhood at the boarding school, as they move to the “Cottages” a residential complex for young adults and eventually, when Ruth and Tommy become ‘donors’ and Kathy becomes a ‘carer’, looking after those who donate.

The narrative is completely captivating and emotionally heartwrenching. The book has a film adaptation, directed by Mark Romanek, which is extremely faithful to the novel.

The Hunger GamesThe Hunger Games

Suzanne Collins’ trilogy of novels has become my new favourite book series. Again, set in a dystopian future the narrative follows 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen from Panem, a post-apocalyptic version of North America. Each year, one boy and one girl from each of the twelve districts of Panem are selected at random to compete in the The Hunger Games.

The Hunger Games is a televised event in which the selected participants are sent to fight to the death in an arena all in the name of entertainment for the rich that live in the Capitol. After her sister Prim is selected at random, Katniss volunteers to take her place in the event.

Collins’ writing style is absolutely fantastic and she keeps you captivated on every page. The novel is carefully written in the way that there is a cliffhanger at the end of every chapter and you just want to continue reading.

The Perks of Being a WallflowerThe Perks of Being a Wallflower

Stephen Chbosky’s ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ is the last novel I read that made me feel emotionally vulnerable. The epistolary style of writing puts you straight into the mind of the main character, Charlie. By writing in first-person in a series of letters, Charlie is honest and doesn’t hold back. He is extremely easy to empathise with and you end up putting yourself in his state of mind.

This novel also has a faithful film adaptation, with the script adapted by Chbosky. I’ve already written about an article about both the book and the film on this website already. Check it out here – Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower – From Page to Screen.

So there are my favourite books – are any of them your favourites? Which books would be on your lists?

Everything You Need To Know About Monsters University

Mike and Sulley return as teenagers in 'Monsters University'

Mike and Sulley return as teenagers in ‘Monsters University’

It’s hard to believe that we were first introduced to Mike and Sulley from Monsters Inc. a little over eleven years ago.

The loveable duo captivated hearts as their friendship, and careers as professional ‘Scarers’ in parallel city Montropolis, were put to the test when they accidentally let a human, Boo, through to their world. The story followed Mike and Sulley as they attempted to keep Boo secret and return her to her own world.

This Summer a prequel, Monsters University, is being released and will show Mike and Sulley during their university years and explain that, despite their closeness in Monsters Inc., they weren’t always friends. 

Here’s the low-down on what we know about the prequel so far:

It’s been a long time coming…

Plans for a second Monsters Inc. film have been in process since 2005, however, disagreements between then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner and Pixar CEO Steve Jobs caused issues. Changes in management at Disney and renewed negotiations led to the confirmation of a Pixar-made film in 2012.

In a screenshot from the film we see villain Randall is featured in the film. [Image courtesy of www.filmofilia.com]

In a screenshot from the film we see villain Randall. [Image courtesy of http://www.filmofilia.com]

Many of the characters from Monsters Inc. will be returning…

John Goodman (Sulley), Billy Crystal (Mike), Steve Buscemi (Randall), Jennifer Tilly (Celia), Frank Oz (Jeff Fungus) and John Ratzenberger (the Abominable Snowman) are all reprising their roles for the sequel. Kelsey Grammer will replace James Coburn as Henry J. Waternoose III following Coburn’s death in 2002. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Boo will be returning.

New additions to the cast include Ken Jeong as a character named Mack, Rob Riggle as a character named Jenny and national treasure Helen Mirren will appear as head of the school Dean Hardscrabble.

You can enroll too…

In order to prepare for the film release, Pixar have revealed a fully functional website for Monsters University

The website is presented as the university’s own and includes admission information, campus news and a store where you can buy merchandise.

Here are some of my favourite elements of the website:

The website features many humorous articles including "Excel at the Art of Extreme Creepiness"

The website features many humorous articles including “Excel in the Art of Extreme Creepiness”

Comments by “students” are the kind of sickingly sweet quotes found in actual university prospectuses

A short film will be released alongside it…

As is the case with it’s predecessor, Monsters University has a short attached to it for it’s theatrical release. The short in question is The Blue Umbrella, directed by Saschka Unseld and produced by Marc Greenberg.

According to The Big Cartoon Database, the synopsis is as follows:

Amidst the rain in a singing city, two umbrellas– one blue, one red– fall eternally in love. The blue umbrella notices and takes a shine to the red umbrella. Distance and natural forces halt their attraction, but objects on the street- such as construction signs and a mailbox- come to life to help bring them together again.

The film will be featured in Disney Infinity…

If you’ve yet to hear about Disney Infinityit is the upcoming video game that uses collectable figurines of Disney characters that are then virtualised into the game. These virtual characters are then available to interact with in the game.

Monsters University will be one of the worlds in the game and Sulley, Mike and the Abominable Snowman will all be featured characters. The game will see these characters interact with other Disney elements and although marketed for kids, I can’t wait to hear more information about it. Check out some screenshots below:

Sulley and Mike appear in their Disney Infinity set

Sulley and Mike appear in their Disney Infinity set

Mike and Sulley will also play alongside other famous Disney characters

Mike and Sulley will also play alongside other famous Disney characters

The UK will need to wait until 12th July to see it…

Whilst Monsters University is set to be released on the 20th/21st June in most countries, us poor Brits will have to wait a few more weeks to see the film. (Click here to see the scheduled release dates).

Until then, enjoy these trailers!!