Posts Tagged ‘Scriptwriting’

the three reasons why I’m no longer worried about turning forty

9, February 2013

I always hated the idea of waiting until I was forty to really hit my stride but I was convinced for the longest time that was what was going to happen. I told myself it was the universe’s way of teaching me patience and I resented the stupid meddling universe for it.

It turns out my prediction was right but I’m happy to say that with my fortieth a mere seven weeks away all that looking up at the sky and shaking my fists in resentment has now melted away … and here’s why.

The Three Reasons Why I'm No Longer Worried About Turning Forty

The Three Reasons Why I’m No Longer Worried About Turning Forty

new york

Me at Bleeker Street Pizza, New York

My last trip to New York …

… with TJ

Not only am I travelling to New York to celebrate my birthday, I also get to share the experience with my partner TJ and four of my closest mate. Crazy right?

TJ was the one who originally suggested it … I suspect to nip any potential mid-life crisis well and truly in the bud.

I have to say, It’s been one of the easiest holidays to organise. After putting the word out, our best mates here in London, Lawrie and Amanda, who travelled with us to New York before, jumped on board and two of my oldest mates from my school days, Stephen and Ashley, signed up as well without a second thought.

Lawrie, TJ, Me & Amanda in NY

Lawrie, TJ, Me & Amanda on the Brooklyn Bridge

Thanks to AirBnB we’re staying in a beautiful apartment in Chelsea/Greenwich Village that is very fitting of my soon to be mature forty years and I cannot wait. It’s definitely going to be a trip to remember.

new job

For the past three years I’ve been working part-time as a moderator and live engager for the social media management company Tempero. If you ever wondered who deletes the defamatory expletive-filled comments from news article or responds to you from a brand’s Facebook page, it’s someone like me.

Engagement

Engagement

Moderation

Moderation

Tempero was my first regular employment here in London and I owe them a lot. Prior to joining them the only work I could seem to get was the odd bit of film and television runner work … something I was vastly over qualified for or delivering junk mail for a dodgy Ukrainian dude … who’s idea of a farewell gift was to stiff me of my last pay.

The glamorous life of a runner

The glamorous life of a runner

Junk Mail

Mail’s here …

 At the start of March I’m moving to a full-time position at a start-up YouTube network called BuzzMyVideos as an Audience Development Partner Manager. What that means is I’ll be helping to look after content creators who are signed to the channel and working with the BMV team to develop and implement strategies to attract more eyeballs to what they’re making.

It’s a great new challenge that is both scary and exciting but anyone who knows me knows that I have always been passionate about the digital video space and independent content, so this new job is a perfect fit for me.

new commission

In 2012 my writing goal was simple: “write, network, produce and seal a deal”. Well I’m happy to say that all that work has paid off and 2013 is going to see me writing and producing a project I’m very excited about.

I’m holding off revealing the details about what and when as you usually only get one good go at making a splash with an announcement like this but hopefully before the end of February I’ll be able to reveal all.

To say that I am excited about it is an understatement.

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So there you go, the three reasons why I’m no longer worried about turning forty and why the stupid smarmy universe was right all along.

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reflection on 2011

31, December 2011

As I sit here reflecting back over the past year waiting for twenty twelve to arrive I realise 2011 has been a good year. I didn’t achieve everything I wanted to but honestly, do we ever?

This year I released my Sample Radio Sketches, attended the London Comedy Writer’s Festival, completed the scripts for Tessa & Adam, made more industry contacts, pitched projects, enjoyed hanging out with the ScriptTrank, Script Chat and British Web Series crew and spent way too much time on Twitter.

My two big achievements this year have been seeing New Eden come along leaps and bounds and moving more into social media engagement work as part of my day job at Tempero.

New Eden has been the number one topic I’ve blogged about this year and with good reason. We’re yet to officially release footage but I have to tell you it’s looking great. Freek’s illustration and animation skills has been in high demand this past year but he was still able to carve out time to work on the New Eden pilot. We’re currently finishing up the animation and starting work on the music and sound design. We aim to have the pilot completed early in the new year.

The New Eden web series scripts are completed and I’m currently adapting them into a half hour animated TV comedy pilot script as well. We’re working with some talented creative and business people and have a plan to pitch New Eden as either a web or TV project in 2012, depending on who we’re talking to. So expect even more New Eden blog posts in 2012.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working in social media engagement at Tempero. Tempero has been a great company to work for and a great bunch of people to work with. Engagement is now another tool I can add to my  writing/producing toolbox and what I’ve learnt this past year has helped inform my social media/marketing plans for my current projects.

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In 2011 I said I wanted to “write, network, produce and seal a deal”. I can happily check off the first three and feel like I’m well on the way to reaching the last. Despite what I said earlier, I do believe that we can get what we want out of life. It just takes persistence and patience, well for me at least.

On my laptop I have three little mantras that help keep me going. The first and the last are my own little notes to myself. The second came from a newspaper interview with someone, I forget who now but that’s not important, and it always struck a cord with me.

So, with this in mind my goals for 2012 is to stay the course and spend more time enjoying the work ahead.

inspiration from across the blogs

26, January 2011

The new decade seems to have kicked off to a good start for many writers and there’s a real sense of positivity and hope out there. It may just be because it’s the start to a new year but it does feel like some of the uncertainty surrounding last year has dissipated and people are just cracking on or starting to see the fruits of their labour bear fruit.

So if you need a bit of inspiration for the new year, look no further than your fellow bloggers.

David Bishop has an excellent post entitled “Don’t wait for an engraved invitation to write” … Danny Stack, inspired by a mate’s low-budget filmmaking endeavours, has been spurred on to take a step closer to his dream of directing a feature … Jason Arnopp talks about how his many years of work and building a portfolio helped him secure an agent … Jez Freedman blogged about Massive Action Day, a fun and free way for writers to support each other as they collective kick off the year with a mass day of writing … Laurence Timms has been giddy of late over seeing his work going in front of the camera … Lucy V Hay‘s appropriately titled post “Can’t Get Read, Yes You Can” gives loads of helpful tips on getting your stuff past the gatekeepers and read by that elusive prodco you’d love to work for … and the Writer’s Guild of Great Britain recently posted an excellent podcast “Writing Comedy for Television” where the central message for emerging writers was to just get out there and get your work read, seen or made any way you can.

If anyone else has their own success stories or sources of inspiration, feel free to share.

goals for 2011

7, January 2011

Looking back over my 2010 goals I’m pleased to see that I’m on track with what I hoped to achieve. Phew!

Last year my time was divided between writing my own projects and chasing other opportunities. Out of this I am happy to say that I have:

  • made connections with several producers, writers and actors
  • started developing a new project with a talented mate back in Australia
  • recorded some audio sketch comedy samples to be released soon
  • did further writing on Tessa & Adam
  • and teamed up with a talented Dutch animator on my other project New Eden, which is developing along nicely

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In 2011 my goals are simple:

write, network, produce and seal a deal

the one thing that I felt held me back last year was spending too much time worrying about competitions or opportunities I wasn’t taking or missing out on rather than staying the course on the projects that I believe will benefit my career and creativity the most.

This year is about getting work finished and out into the world. I have a good mix of production and writing skills and a strong independent Aries streak so it’s time to stop waiting for permission, play to my strength and get things done.

my writing habit

10, October 2010

Recently someone ask me about my writing habit. In the same week I read a blog post on the subject by the talented Michelle Lipton, which sparked some interesting discussion in the comments, so I thought I would pick up the ball and share my thoughts on it.

9 to 5 / mon to fri

I usually write 9 to 5 because I like to keep my evenings free to relax, hang out with the girl, socialise or watch telly. I ease into the day with emails, twitter and my RSS news feed, take care of any housekeeping and then get down to it. I’ve estimated that on a good day I can get 4 to 6 solids hours of writing done. If I know the girl is coming home late or is away I’ll tend to work even later, with some breaks, which can be a great time to write as there just seems to be fewer distractions or demands on your time at night.

I love my notebook

If I’m not churning out pages or editing a script then I’m usually writing in a notebook. One of the best habit-forming things I did was morning pages from The Artist’s Way. I don’t think I completed the entire book but the act of doing pages, getting out ideas, removing blocks, brainstorming, doodling and generally engaging my brain has been invaluable in the development of my writing process.

making the most of a commute

My day job is shift work, which keeps me out of the poor house and also affords me time to write. So whenever I do find time to write I make the most of it. This includes my commute to work. If I can get a seat on the tube then I’ll usually be scribbling in my notebook or marking up my latest draft. For me it proves to be a very effective use of my time and apart from the odd Friday night drunken query from a fellow commuter I find I can usually zone everything else out and focus on the task at hand.

splitting attention

At the moment I tend to focus on one project at a time, partly because I’m somewhat of a completest but also because there’s only so much I can keep in my head. This year I’ve been developing a passion project but have had to put it aside for several other opportunities that have come my way. Slowly I’ve been knocking them off one by one but I can’t wait to get back to what I was originally working on. As I mentioned, I make plenty of notes because there is no worse feeling than losing an idea, so I’m confident I’ll be able to pick up where I left off.

personal sanity

I have a couple of trusted writing buddies, a writers group and sounding boards that I meet up with from time to time to puzzle through story problems, to share work with or just to shoot the breeze. Like most writers I’m content with the isolation of the job but I have to admit sometimes I do go a little stir crazy and need human contact now and again, usually when I start talking to myself on the bus or pounce on my partner for attention the second she walks in the door. That’s when I know it’s time to step away from the keyboard and go outside.

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I think creatives of any discipline all have to find their own rhythm and pattern to their work. I agree with the general consensus that it’s a job like any other but when you’re constantly having to create by yourself, as opposed to working in a team, then I think you need to set yourself some parameters. Otherwise you’re just not going to generate your best work and will probably drive yourself crazy in the process. The most important thing I guess is that you create a habit that gets you writing and doesn’t create distractions or excuses for you not to.

This is what works for me. What works for you?

Roger & Val, Him & Her, Tessa & Adam

6, September 2010

For those wondering, yes Tessa & Adam is still going ahead. I’m in the process of finishing up writing episodes but have been side-tracked with some other opportunities and pitches I’ve had come my way, so I’ve been bashing away furiously on them.

A couple of new UK television comedies have popped up lately investigating the intimate nature of relationships that play in the same sandpit as Tessa & Adam and are worth mentioning.

Roger and Val Have Just Got In – A new Dawn French comedy vehicle with her playing off Alfred Molina. Very English, very bittersweet, very real – all in a good way.

Dawn French and Alfred Molina, two of the nation’s best loved actors, star in this new six-part series focusing on the everyday, seemingly trivial trials and tribulations faced by a middle-aged married couple. The bittersweet comedy looks at how they get on in the first half an hour after walking through their front door. Developed from an original idea by Dawn French, the series is written by Emma and Beth Kilcoyne (Dogtown).

In between the comic situations peppered throughout the episodes the series story arc is creeping in more and more, which is very tragic and heartbreaking, so it feels like it’s morphing into a drama more and more with each passing episode. You can read a BBC Comedy blog on it here.

Him & Her – A new young couple sitcom premiering tonight (Mon, 6th Sept) on BBC Three at 10:30pm:

Steve (Russell Tovey) and Becky (Sarah Solemani) are Him & Her – a young couple deeply in love, often in bed and rarely in employment. Content to commit days on end to little more than eating, drinking and lazing around the pair are happy just to exist, doing their best to avoid the world beyond their flat and only occasionally letting life find them at home to visitors. Written by Stefan Golaszewski, Him & Her is an anti-romantic comedy. It lifts the lid on love as it really is – warts and all with farts, bickering and toast.

I see Tessa & Adam as being a younger sexy version of Roger and Val and even Outnumbered to a degree, which I love, so I’m interested to seeing how Him & Her plays as I think we’re talking about some of the same things. Of course Tessa & Adam is web and Him & Her is television and there are other defining differences as well, so I’m not worried … not yet at least.

Anyhoo, that’s it, back to work!

dealing with feedback after a script reading

17, July 2010

So Wednesday was the last Script Tank meeting for this term (they resume in Sept) and also the reading of my 60 min comedy/drama pilot that I have been preparing for the Red Planet Prize.

As I outlined in my previous post about sounding boards, a script reading should be a safe environment where you can test out new work in front of your peers.

But what do you do if you are confronted by the feedback you get?

Here’s the thing, script readings can be deceiving. In my case the read went great. The actors dug it and I got lots of laughs and reactions from the audience. Sounds likes everyone’s in agreement right?

Well they also all agreed that there was some core issues to be addressed within the story and central character to make it work as a 60 min TV drama. Entertaining in a room full of supportive peers doesn’t automatically mean it will hold together once it’s on screen in front of an uncaring audience with one finger on the remote. A good script reading isn’t just about the reading, it’s about the feedback afterwards as well.

What can also be confronting is individual feedback. I got a lot of mixed responses, which was hard to collate initially but after some thought here is what I have come up as some guidelines:

  1. People’s initial reactions are often off the cuff and so naturally coloured by their agendas, prejudices or personal tastes – they are just human after all. So listen closely in the moment and think deeply afterwards to extrapolate the core problem they are trying to identify rather than get caught up in your own knee-jerk reaction to their reaction
  2. Don’t waste time trying to please everyone. At the end of the day it’s still your script and your creative voice. Work out how the feedback helps you hone both.  This goes equally for people you hold in high esteem as well as your harshest critics, trying to please either is a trap that is more about your insecurity than your work
  3. Don’t forget your own opinion in the process. Give yourself time to mull over the feedback and your thoughts before making any decisions
  4. Have follow up chats with people who’s opinion you trust to help sift through the feedback and to delve deeper into the problem areas you are wrestling with
  5. And remember that you asked for feedback, so take it all on board graciously and say thank you

Initially I felt quite battered by my feedback but upon reflection and by applying the above approach I was able to figure it out and move forward.

Hopefully this advice can help you too.

who is your sounding board?

3, July 2010

For as long as I can remember there has been one person who has always read my material. I’d say he’s read everything I’ve ever written as well as heard a million stories that never made it to the page. He’s my best mate since our amateur theatre days and is the first person I go to when I have written something new.

Why? He’s a sounding board I can trust. He’s someone I know I can talk honestly with, he’s someone who understands story, he gets me and my writing and sometimes he has moments of brilliance that he lets me steal!

Graham Linehan (The IT Crowd, Father Ted, Black Books, Big Train) recently said:

“Writing with a partner is paid socialising. Writing on your own is work.” Chorltle.co.uk

This is what bouncing stuff off my mate is like; a great opportunity to not only hang out together but also do what we love – discuss and pick apart stories. And after countless months bashing something out on my lonesome it’s a great reward and has now become an invaluable part of my process.

Now your sounding board may be a co-writer, an editor, a dramaturg, a script assessor, a director, a producer or even your mum. But what makes someone a good sounding board?

  1. As I said before they have to be someone you trust to share new and often raw work with.
  2. Someone who knows what they’re talking about. Anyone can give an opinion but not everyone can give constructive criticism.
  3. But make sure you pick someone you respect. There’s no point bouncing stuff off some lauded genius if you don’t respect their opinion.
  4. Same goes for having someone who gets you and your writing. You need someone who can challenge you but ultimately is on your side.
  5. Oh and get someone who makes you smarter. Two brains are always better than one but they have to be the right two brains.
  6. And finally, someone you want to hang out with and can be comfortable with. Not just over a beer but someone who is as equally willing to share personal truths, embarrassing memories and human observations as you are.

I recently finished a session with my mate reviewing my latest work, a 60 minute comedy/drama pilot (writing sample + competition fodder) called ‘Mad Love’. I have a script reading in about a week and I needed someone to go over it with one last time before spending a small fortune in photocopying and shooting it off to the actors. So naturally my mate was the first person I turned to.

What was meant to be just a couple hours turned into a six hour session. We read, discussed, pulled apart scenes, put them back together and general had a great day with a cheeky break in the middle for kebabs from up the high street. The script is now all the better for it. All my niggly little bits of dialogues and moments got duly addressed plus some other ones I didn’t realise needed hammering out as well. Six hours may sound like an eternity but for me to potentially achieve the same result by myself whilst dealing with being way too familiar with the material could have taken six days, so in my mind it was incredibly efficient.

Thanks mate.

So, who is your sounding board?

reflections on script tank reading of ‘tessa & adam’

4, June 2010

As I mentioned in my last post, I had a couple of episodes of my web sitcom ‘Tessa & Adam’ read as part of a “short works” night at Script Tank on Wednesday and I’m pleased to say I’m very happy with the result.

I got to test out my new pilot as well as another ep that I have worked up. Just hearing it read was valuable enough because it allowed me to quickly weed out the lines that weren’t needed or didn’t work and tighten both scripts up as a whole, which I am always happy to do.

Building on the feedback from my last reading and this most recent reading I’ve now been able to refine my synopsis and the parameters for what makes a ‘Tessa & Adam’ episode:

Tessa & Adam follows the idiosyncratic antics of British lad Adam and his Dutch expat girlfriend Tessa. Capturing their clash of culture, love, life and sex the show reveals just how odd someone can appear once you start sharing your life with them.

  1. It’s observational comedy- finding comedy in intimate ‘truths’ or small moments within a relationship
  2. It’s about discovery – finding out just how odd someone can be once you start living with them
  3. The hook/comic situation needs to be set up ASAP – the first page if possible. If not, open with a joke
  4. Tessa and Adam must always have opposing goals or points of views within each episode to create the greatest amount of comic conflict
  5. The twist more often than not comes from some sort of reversal or reveal related to the characters
  6. Tessa and Adam are equals and must always be able to hold their own, no matter the situation
  7. The stakes may appear low but that doesn’t mean that what is going on in each ep isn’t vitally important to them in that moment
  8. Tessa and Adam have a real and loving relationship – their fidelity and commitment to one another is never in jeopardy
  9. Each episode is self contained and must be resolved at the end

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On another note, I also got my Channel 4 Coming Up submission in this week, early even, which makes a difference already to last year. I was also far less stressed this time around because I really believe in my writing samples (episodes of ‘Tessa & Adam’) and had a clear synopsis/pitch that I re-worked and re-worked over several weeks.

To celebrate I went out for fish and chips and a midday pint on Abbey Road. Nice!

So with Coming Up completed it’s back to the keyboard to bash out some more ‘Tessa & Adam’ episodes and mulling over my potential entry for this year’s Red Planet Prize:

Each year the Prize is slightly different, to provide a fresh challenge for those who enter – and to reflect the difficulties faced by professional script writers.

This year’s competition is for an original 60 minute television script, either a single play or a pilot for a new series. You are initially required to submit the first ten pages along with a short synopsis.  The full script should be available on request, you may be required to submit this within a month of the final closing date.

As before, the winner will receive £5000, a script commission and the option of representation if required.
Red Planet and Kudos will also mentor finalists for the Prize.The competition is open to anyone within the UK. The RED PLANET PRIZE with close to new entrants at midnight on 31st July.

channel 4’s Coming Up applications are now open

30, April 2010

I’ve been waiting to hear when this was going to come around again, so thanks to David Bishop over at Vicious Imagery for the heads up on this on.

I applied for Channel 4’s Coming Up scheme last year and plan to do so again this year. Entries close on the 9th June 2010 (by post). You have just over a month to get your entries in, so get cracking!

APPLICATIONS FOR COMING UP 2011 ARE NOW OPEN

COMING UP is the only talent scheme currently in the UK where emerging film-makers have the opportunity to make an authored drama with a guaranteed network broadcast.  Now in its tenth year, Channel 4 and Touchpaper TV, part of the RDF Media Group, continue their commitment to innovation, experimentation and new voices.

We will make seven eye-catching, innovative and challenging films from the best fresh talent in the UK.  Each film will be for a half-hour C4 slot and we are looking for:

Bold, original and surprising ideas with strong voices – unafraid of ambition, wit, urgency and fearless entertainment.

Films that can be shot in 4 days on a limited budget

THIS IS NOT AN ENTRY LEVEL SCHEME – BUT FOR WRITERS AND DIRECTORS BUILDING A TRACK RECORD AND A CAREER IN FILM AND TELEVISION DRAMA.  Submissions from multi-cultural and nations and regions-based filmmakers are encouraged.

WRITERS: This scheme is open to all writers who have NOT had an ORIGINAL single, series or serial broadcast on UK television; writers who have contributed episodes to series or serials (e.g. a long-running soap) are eligible to apply.

DIRECTORS: The scheme is open to directors without a primetime TV drama credit.

WRITER / DIRECTORS: We will accept submissions from Writer/Directors (as above), but excellence in BOTH disciplines must be shown to be considered in this category.

THE CLOSING DATE FOR APPLICATIONS IS:

1pm on Wednesday 9th June 2010

N.B. Submission is by post only

Note for the writers out there, the minimum you have to submit is a synopsis/pitch for your half hour film plus a writing sample (either the script you are pitching or another sample of your writing), so as long as you’ve got a kick-ass idea and a sample there’s no excuse not to enter.