TV writer tries hand at big screen


LONDON -- Once a regular on the U.K. stand-up comedy circuit, Aschlin Ditta quit the microphone to concentrate on writing a few years ago and is about to see his first screenplay hit British screens early next month.

Since calling a halt to performing, Ditta has co-written all three seasons of the award-winning "The Catherine Tate Show," the third season of which airs here at the end of this month on the BBC. His other credits include writing for the successful Channel 4 comedy drama "No Angels."

Last year, Ditta telephoned his accountant to ask if he'd mind that Ditta was going to be "very poor for the next 12 months" while Ditta pursued a long-held dream of becoming a movie screenwriter. Ditta quit his job on "No Angels" ahead of its third season to write a screenplay while continuing to write for Tate's television show.

The result was "Scenes of a Sexual Nature," which Ditta penned in a few weeks after longtime friend, collaborator and short-film director Edward Blum decided he wanted to shoot his first feature from a Ditta script.

Shot for less than £500,000 ($942,223), "Scenes" attracted a stellar British ensemble cast including Tate, Ewan McGregor, Oscar-nominated actress Sophie Okonedo, Adrian Lester and Hugh Bonneville, who all worked for Equity minimum wage. McGregor declared that Ditta's quick turnaround script is "brilliantly written."

For his part, the unassuming Ditta is keeping his feet on the ground. "Two or three years ago I planned on writing a collection of short stories centering around one summer afternoon in London," Ditta says. "I hadn't thought about it as a film but that's what it became." On said afternoon, seven couples explore love, sex and relationships in a complex, dark and very funny series of vignettes.

A Tin Pan Films production, "Scenes" will be released Nov. 3 by the filmmakers' own outfit, the Really Honest Little Distribution Company, headed by indie distribution veteran Martin Meyers.

Ditta has also written a script titled "French Film" for new low-budget digital production company Slingshot, likely to shoot next spring. The movie is about two London couples who find themselves in a story that increasingly resembles a French movie. Short- film maker Jackie Oudney will make her feature debut with the script.

Ditta is now penning "All Our Christmases" for BBC Films, a dark, romantic comedy road movie about singles at Christmas set in East Anglia, regarded by some as a strange part of the U.K. and where Ditta lived for six years. "I'm just getting things out of my system. I'll get all those ideas written and see if they get made," he laughs. "Then I'll go to America to see what I can do."