did you get involved with Spaced?
I did my first TV work at the Paramount Comedy Channel in 1996.
This is where I first worked with Jessica Stevenson briefly on a
sketch show called Mash & Peas, starring Matt Lucas
& David Walliams. The next show I worked on was Asylum,
a kind of black comedy set in (wait for it) an asylum. This was
co-written by me and David Walliams along with the cast which included
(wait for it) Simon Pegg & Jessica Stevenson. They in turn had
already done a sketch show together called Six Pairs Of Pants
on TVs Meridian.
Asylum was a very low budget show, but it was weird
and heavily stylised and it all came together pretty well. And Simon
& Jess themselves were so good together, that it was suggested
by Paramount that they should develop their own sitcom. This obviously
was SPACED. So as far back as 1997 when S&J wrote the first
script, they had asked me to direct. This worked out very well,
as I was able to chip in from an early stage.
would you say sets Spaced apart from other (less successful) comedies?
Well, we set out to do something different with SPACED. I wouldnt
want to slag off other programmes, as I know how hard it is to make
a comedy show. That said Im pleased that the show has been
seen as a response of sorts to flatcoms like Babes In The
Wood and Game On (or Janus-coms). Obviously the
lack of studio or laughter track helps this.
In terms of the film & tv reference, these were a collective
vision, as all three of us like to present the mundanities of life
in a cinematic style. Simon is also very influenced by The
Simpsons and its quickfire visual humour, while Jess
was very keen to present a realistic view of twentysomethings. I,
on the other hand, wanted to rip off as many horror films as possible
and put some cool shots on my showreel....That last bit was a joke.
In that its funny because its true.
are your feelings about SPACED's recent nominations for the British
Great. Its good to be right up there with Dinnerladies.
No, its really nice to be recognised. I really hope Simon
& Jess get their respective gongs, but I dont think well
get Best Sitcom - thats a dead cert for The Royle Family.
The one bonus about us not winning Best Sitcom is that I can get
pissed without fear of having to get on stage.
direction do you see Spaced going in the future?
how does producing Spaced work? As Simon and Jess actually wrote
the script, do they influence your directing - or visa versa - do
you influence the script?
Bit of both really. They asked me to do, because they liked the
visual style of ASYLUM. But at every stage of making
SPACED I would suggest things to them, just as they would to me.
Also they knew I was on the same wavelength, so if they wrote a
zombie or paintball or clubbing sequence, they trusted me to come
up with the goods.
It was a very organic process making the show - to the point where
roles become so intertwined that I would be thinking up verbal gags,
just as they would visual ones.
is the worst aspect of filming Spaced?
Getting all the shots I needed in a limited time. Some days we shot
so many camera angles - I think the record was 73 set-ups in one
day. Conventional wisdom says you shouldnt shoot the
shit out of comedy for risk of tiring out the performers,
but SPACED demanded a much more filmic look to distinguish it. Luckily
the cast and crew were as up for it as I was.
is the best?
I love editing. Its equally intensive as filming, for me anyway.
But you can create so much in the edit suite, even new jokes and
layers, especially as far as sound effects and music go. I even
loved doing all the trailers.
there is one thing you could change about SPACED, what would it
Nothing drastic though. Erm, well there were a few scenes here and
there that I would pace up a bit. Im quite a perfectionist,
so they are minor details that only I would notice.
would you describe Spaced in three words?
A situation comedy
the visual concept already there when you became involved in the
project? In other words, were you brought in because you were the
person who could make it a reality? Or was the direction style all
yours from the start?
Were any scenes written later, as a result of an ideas you had?
I think I answered this in the above question, but yes, Simon &
Jess had always set out to do a show which was visually different.
That they thought I was the man for the job was really cool. The
scripts were already very ambitious in the first draft stage and
I didnt want to be the one to let them down. Because we had
worked together before, we were aware of each others talents and
so we all egged each other on.
However I would like to think that if I had not directed SPACED
there would have been a noticeable lack of whip pans and Sam Raimi
cast offs. I think my style is becoming a mite predictable, though.
A friend of mine has started to call me Whip Pan Wright.
do you see yourself doing in the future?
After the second series of Spaced - Id love to do a film
is your favourite site on the web?
I like Aint It Cool News, the film gossip page, although Harry Knowles
falls over himself to find merit in everything, Godzilla and Phantom
Menace included. I also just found the Onion page - which is great.
you always want to become a director?
No I used to want to be an animator when I was about fourteen -
then I saw Jonathon Rosss Incredibly Strange Film Show
about Sam Raimi and decided otherwise. Prior to that I wanted to
write for comics also and prior even to that I wanted to be an actor.
Well, I say actor, in reality when I was five years old I really
wanted to be Han Solo. Or failing that Colt Seavers.
other programmes do you like on TV?
UK : Brass Eye, The Day Today, Patridge, Royle Family, Father Ted.
Going back Id add early Vic & Bob (Big Night Out), Peter
Cook & Dudley Moore, The Young Ones, Python.
US : The Simpsons, Futurama, Larry Sanders, Seinfeld, Letterman,
South Park (when its on form)
TV job would you like?
I would have loved to have directed an episode of The Goodies.
do you find sexy on TV?
Ooh - erm, how about Miss Jessica Stevenson? And Simon for that
matter. But only in his Hippies wig.
do you find totally unattractive?
Well Calista Flockhart used to be attractive but she now she seems
to only be visible on a widescreen setting
will you be celebrating the millennium?
I have no idea - I have this terrible fear that wherever I am, Ill
want to be somewhere else.
is your first memory of TV?
Tom Baker era Dr Who - maybe Robots Of Death , Mud on
Top Of The Pops and and episode of SPACE 1999 called the Dragons
Lair which had this tentacled monster in it that freaked me
would you change if you were world leader?
I would make The Paramount Comedy Channel bring back the triple
bill of Seinfeld, Larry Sanders and David Letterman.
is your favourite author? Why?
Elmore Leonard - because he can make the sharp funny stories from
the most insignificant crimes.
is your pet hate?
Sequels that irrevocably taint the memory of the original. That
means you, Halloween II
do you love above all else?
My lady love and Jackie Chan. I can only choose one? Okay then,
watching Jackie Chan with my lady love.
do you think, is the world's greatest injustice?
That Robin Williams won best supporting actor over Burt Reynolds
at the Oscars. And that great films like Bottle Rocket
Freeway and Waiting For Guffman were not
released at the cinema in the Uk. Oh and that Letterman was axed
from The Paramount Comedy.... oh Ive covered that.
technology has made your life the most easy?
The dreaded mobile - of ear cancer fame.
you were stranded on a desert island, which one luxury could you
not do without?
A VHS copy of Six Days, Seven Nights
nationality do you admire the most? Why?
The pygmies. Because hopefully they would help me off this desert
is your life ambition/or have you already achieved it?
Well my life ambition was to have made a film and had it reviewed
in a big film encyclopedia. Ive half-achieved this with my
no-budget debut Fistful Of Fingers having appeared in
Halliwells and The Time Out Film Guide. However my new ambition
is to make a film which gets into the American film encyclopedias,
namely the Leonard Maltins Film Guide. If I do itll be sods
law that hell slag it off.
Incidentally in Halliwells - Fistful Of Fingers is listed
next to Sergio Leones Fistful Of Dynamite and
gets one more star in the ratings. Which is nice, but bollocks frankly.
is the secret to a happy life?
Enjoying your work
would you most like to change about yourself?
The fact that I have man-tits.
than those in the SPACED cast, who is your favourite British comedian?
Currently Sean Lock, Julian Barret & Noel Fielding
qualities do you think a good director should have?
Energy, patience and some ideas.
do you think influenced your style of directing?
The Coen Brothers, Sam Raimi, John Woo, Martin Scoresese, Dario
Argento, Woody Allen and the early work of Johns Landis and Carpenter.
is the difference between film and TV show directing?
In terms of studio direction - very much so. In shows with a studio
audience you have to keep it simple and think on your feet. In terms
of SPACED which was single camera, I certainly tried to shoot it
in a filmic manner, albeit with less time and money. However, sometimes
having no money, means you are forced to be more inventive.
is the most important aspect, do you think, of presenting comedy
Usually it is to keep it simple, so the gag reads. But in terms
of SPACED - it was to unify the gags and the visuals, making the
does your job as Director of Spaced differ from other shows you
Well I try to make a visual stamp on everything I do. Indeed the
Alexei Sayle series was very similar in style to SPACED. The difference
is that you can end up simply imposing your tricks on an already
established format. Because SPACED was new and willfully unconventional
- it gave me the first chance in ages (since ASYLUM in fact) to
really let rip.
tips have you for would-be directors?
Dont go to film school. Do it yourself.