Friday, 30 December 2011

2011 - The Thick Of It

*Clicks send and breathes out *

It's been a while since I blogged. That's because I've been buuuuuusy - juggling writing duties with working a desk job as usual. So... what's been up? Well, the outline for my M.I. High episode was well received by the executive at the production company but required a couple of more drafts to iron out a few kinks and get my ideas to fit within the format of the show.

After that, I had a period of waiting while it was sent off to the BBC for their notes - during which I took my first proper week of holiday in over a year and the first break since finishing my MA. Needless to say I got ill. It always happens - I have a high exhaustion threshold but when I slow down all my deferred sicknesses hit at once. I'll spare you the details but it was grim - my poor wife had to listen to me hallucinate for two days, and two months on I'm only just getting back to strength. There's a lesson there about sustainable lifestyles and one I'd really like to put into practice but sadly can't see happening for a while...

Between drafts on the outline, my agent set me up some meetings with the development heads of some London TV companies. A big part of being a TV writer is meeting up with such folks - in the hope they will want to buy one of your ideas or offer you a slot on one of the shows they are currently making. I really enjoyed scooting about the city - adapting different ideas depending on the tastes of those I talked with. A couple of people wanted me to write up some pitches for them which is a good sign so I've been crafting those between M.I. High work - which has been great and hopefully might lead to some offers of work in the new year. I have another few days of meetings planned for early 2012 as well so it'll be all go on that front.

Anyway, once the BBC got back to me I was given the OK to move onto my Scene by Scene - a breakdown of my story that this is like a blue print for the script - laying out the content of the scenes you want to include and a brief description of what would happen in each. I'd never been asked to write one before and my brain kept wanting to rush ahead and write loads of dialogue and action but that's not the purpose of the exercise; a SxS is to show that you can bring the story in to time/budget and alert the producers to any of your ideas that are unpractical or too expensive - as well as any story problems that got missed at the outlining stage. I've just completed my scene by scene which will be sent on to the execs at Kudos and CBBC in early Jan when they are back in the office and, hopefully, I'll be able to begin the script later in the month.

So... having hit that milestone on the second last day of the year, tonight seemed like a good time to take stock of 2011. It's been a crazy year - tough but better than I could have hoped. This time last year I was still doing my screenwriting MA - dreaming of finishing well and preparing myself to make the most of being a finalist in the Red Planet Prize. I was ready to spend a couple of years trying to secure an agent and get my first script commissioned so to be where I am just now is hard to get my head around. I have a long way to go until I have anything like a "career" as a writer but am in a better place than I could have imagined twelve months ago

I want to be honest with you about how hard life has been living on next to no money doing and 60 hour weeks for the past four years in order to get here, but not for a second do I want to complain. Yes, my successes this year have been down to hard work and taking opportunities but also down to good people having invested in me and being willing to take a risk on a new guy and I'm very grateful to the staff at Screen Academy Scotland and Kudos/Red Planet for giving me such a great start in things. 2012 will be about completing my M.I. High script and trying to secure more commissions so I can begin to build a future out of this.

Some highlights of 2011...

* Red Planet mentoring sessions. Attending workshops with Tony Jordan and development meetings with the execs of both companies - nerve wracking but amazing.
* Writing two scripts I'm really proud of, The Bright Lights and The Youth Movement, on my MA which have opened some great doors for me.
* Meeting and signing with my brilliant agent - I feel very looked after.
* Being offered my first TV writing credit for M.I. High - a dream come true. Storylining the series with the writing team and working with a really supportive producer and script editor have exceeded my expectations . Best job ever.
* Developing my short Fairground with a great director and producer.
* Being asked to write a trial script for River City - sadly the dates didn't work out but I've been asked to approach them when I'm freer so am looking forward to that.
* Graduating from my screenwriting MA with distinction.
* Writing and producing a (very) short film that I might just have some news about in the new year.
* Great times with mentors, family, friends and work pals. Realising more and more what really matters in life is time with people you love.

Somethings that have been tough in 2011 / could go better in 2012

* Not seeing enough of family and friends.
* Unemployment in my family - things have been quite tough for us.
* Illness and exhaustion - a big hope for 2012 is being able to live at a better pace.
* Not spending enough time on other creative pursuits - need to write more songs and rock out with muso friends more!

Anyway - I should get off home. Have a wonderful New Year celebration and a great 2012!