By Alex Mawby
The light flickers. The air conditioning hums. My hands are damp with perspiration as my glasses slide off my nose.
I am scared. I am nervous.
I am about to meet Mawby.
The key to writing good dialogue, so Pete said, was to listen to people.
I had tried going to the supermarkets and shopping centres. I had tried listening in on ‘real’ conversations, but it seems ‘real’ people don’t appreciate having their conversations recorded (and they’re even less keen on being interviewed about it afterwards in the car park).
It soon became clear: before finding the voice of the people, I would first have to find my own voice.
I would have to listen to myself.
What follows is a treatment of that interview. It has been edited for clarity, taste and spoilers.
To avoid confusion, anything I (MAWBY) say, will be highlighted in bold. Anything He (MAWBY) says, in normal type.
INT. A POLICE INTERVIEW ROOM – PRESENT
A security camera blinks in the corner of the room. We see the scene from its point of view.
Mawby sits, slouched, nonchalantly playing with the drawstring on his coat. He squints at the light on the ceiling.
I ask if he wants a coffee, but he does not respond.
I bring him a cup-a-soup and a copy of the New Yorker. Throughout the interview he will occasionally roll this up and hit me in the mouth with it.
He delivers most of his answers in a broken German accent.
MAWBY: What do you think makes a good copywriter?
MAWBY: I dunno.
MAWBY: You’ve got no idea?
MAWBY: Not really. It’s just all about writing puns isn’t it?
MAWBY: Well that’s as Gouda explanation as I’ve ever heard.
MAWBY: I told you I’d try and keep it Brie-f.
MAWBY: As simple as coaxing an animal out of hibernation.
MAWBY: ‘Scuse me?
MAWBY: Oh dear.
MAWBY: Alright, so perhaps it isn’t just puns. Maybe some real artistry is required?
MAWBY: Flair, flow, eloquence. A reflexive and intuitive relationship with the English
MAWBY: Steady on. Poetry? We’re only glorified car salesman. We sell or we die. Either a
bit of writing helps sell a product, or it doesn’t. No one’s asking for poetry.
MAWBY: What’s your favourite line of copy at the moment?
MAWBY: “After you get married, kiss your wife in places she’s never been kissed before.” –
It’s a headline.
MAWBY: What for? Durex?
MAWBY: No. It was just from some exotic honeymoon-holiday provider in the 70s.
MAWBY: Ah. And you can’t see the poetry in that?
MAWBY: Poetry? It’s just a line! A killer line certainly, but it’s hardly a sonnet. It speaks
directly to the consumer. Here’s a travel agent who understands exactly what I want from my honeymoon. No fat. No waffle. Perfect.
MAWBY: But surely you can appreciate the writing? The wordplay? The comma
halfway through which sets up for the shocking finale? It’s absolutely genius.
MAWBY: Yeah it’s shocking. It’s interesting. It gets peoples’ attention for 10 milliseconds
and maybe influences a decision at some point days, months or years down the line. Unfortunately ads don’t just exist in archives and portfolios. They have to go out into the real world and persuade ordinary, busy people to engage with them over the million other ads they see that day. However well written, however much time and effort, blood, sweat tears and jizz you’ve poured into that rhyming couplet or end line, it’s all for nothing if it isn’t effectively shifting units.
MAWBY: Are you done?
MAWBY: Then could you please remove your hands from around my neck?
MAWBY: Why did you get into advertising in the first place?
MAWBY: I want to be an influencer. I want to start a revolution. Change behaviours, make a
difference. I want to leave my mark on the world.
MAWBY: You sound like a Bond villain.
MAWBY: Why did you get into it?
MAWBY: I just want to make great work for people to enjoy. Isn’t that enough?
MAWBY: Whatever tickles your pickle mate.
MAWBY: I suppose now we have to fight.
MAWBY: To the death?
MAWBY: Let’s just see how it goes. Pistols at dawn?
MAWBY: Don’t be wet.
At this point MAWBY flips over the desk and lands an ineffectual, open handed punch to my neck.
We fight for what seems like days, perfectly matched opponents, neither able to get the upper-hand.
Eventually he slumps down across the room from myself, exhausted. We fall into a deep sleep, together physically but apart in our dreams.
When I wake up he is gone.
The camera does one last, slow pan of the room.
Fade to black.