Saturday, 8 October 2011

Begin the Begin


It's been over a month since I last blogged and I've been on a big old learning curve working on my first TV commission. As the show won't be filmed, let alone screened, for a long time I can't give details about my episode but wanted to share some of the processes I'm going through and what I'm learning.

Work started last month when the production company got the team of writers down to London for a two day conference to work through the "big picture" for the new series. The programme has been on air for a while now but this year will see a load of new characters arriving and new stories kicking off. While a few tentative plans had already been made, a lot of information needed to be sorted out. Gathered were the writers, the producer, the script editor and the executives and together we worked out a lot of the over-arching details. It was great environment - everyone chipping in on where the show might go. While some didn't fly, it was encouraging to see a lot of my ideas taken into the mix and become part of the programme's DNA. At the end of our time we had a good sense of the way the show is going this year.

After the conference, we headed home to work on pitches for our individual episodes. We had a week to submit at least three 'story-of-the-week' ideas; single page rough outlines of adventures for our characters to face. I submitted seven (!) then met with the producer and script editor to discuss which one they wanted me to develop and was set to work turning that in to a full outline - of which I've now done five drafts in the last two weeks.

Writing the outline has been a good experience. I was encouraged in initial drafts to just explore the premise without worrying about practicalities of cast or budget. According to the producer my first version was "like a feature film" in scope (which is a note I seem to get a lot!) so I then focused on simplifying it and bringing it in to length. The next few versions were about me fitting the idea around the format of the show and the reality of the funds available - which I found challenging but totally worthwhile. Making so many changes in such a small space of time was pretty exhausting but also exhilarating; having to create and scrap and recreate large portions of the story every two days was a reminder of how creativity can work under pressure and how to be flexible with an idea while still retaining its essence.

My outline is now being sent to the executive producer at the production company for her notes. I'll then have a few days to make changes before it goes to the executive at the broadcaster. After that I'll hopefully start writing a scene by scene breakdown before moving on to scripting. There will be a few versions of this before my final draft which is due early next year.

Before all that starts though, I will be spending much of the next month writing a trail script for a soap opera which will be another big educational leap - getting my head out of kids TV land and into gritty inner city mode! Gonna be fun.