Friday, January 27, 2006

Taking (film school) stock

So last night I uploaded the last assignment for the first trimester of my MA Screenwriting course. As a part-timer, I only had two modules this term - Writing and Screen Project Development, and The Business of Screen Project Development. As our final pieces of assessed work, we had to hand in a script report on an unproduced screenplay for the writing module (3-4000 words) and a market analysis on a market segment of our choosing for the business module (2-3000 words). These count as 75% and 60% of our total mark for the module, respectively.

My script report was on 'Vivid Gray', a action comedy buddy movie in the style of 48 Hours and Lethal Weapon. Yes, you read the title right, it's called Vivid Gray. I guess it could have been worse, the scribe could have called it Dull Gray, but you'd expect an action movie script to all least have a hard as nails, jeopardy-implying title, right? Anyway, I downloaded the screenplay from, a site set up by Kevin Spacey and associates to give wannabes a chance to get their scripts read and reviewed by their peers. It's a great idea, although you have to jump through a few registration hoops to access the meat of the site. Coppola's seems a similar function, I'm told. I selected Vivid Gray (argh, that title!) because it was rated as Screenplay of the Month last September. No disrepect to the writer, but September can't have been the world's greatest month for screenplays at triggerstreet. Such is life.

For my market analysis I investigated science fiction and fantasy TV drama for family audiences. That's a market that apparently didn't exist before the resurrection of Doctor Who on British TV last year. Now everyone is rushing to develop a science fiction or fantasy series aimed at encouraging family viewing. The BBC's got Robin Hood well along the path, but pulled the plug on its Merlin project. [I was intrigued to read about the Merlin scribes getting to work with American screenwriters, learning hwo to break a story in a writers' room environment. I'd love to give that a try, though I may not be suited to it - not all writers thrive in such an environment.] Meanwhile ITV is opting for the cloning route, coming up with a series called Primeval that sounds like a cross-polination of Doctor Who and Quantam Leap. Sadly for wannabes like me, none of these projects is open to newcomers who don't already have a TV broadcast credit...

Anyways, I'm pretty happy with my final two assignments - fingers crossed the tutors are too. I got D3 for my first assignment on the writing module [D5 is near perfect, Distinction grade 5] and D1 [just squeaking into the distinction category, but considerably better than just a pass] on the business module. I think my market analysis is at least as good as what I delivered before, while the script report [hopefully] displays the requisite breadth and grasp of knowledge. We'll see.

My first priority for the MA is completing the course and getting a pass. But having had a taste of Distinction for my first two pieces of assessed work, that's got my competitive streak hungry for more. I've heard it said getting a Distinction for four of the eight modules [and passing all the modules] means you get an MA with Distinction. It's a long, long, long time since I've done anything academically, but I want to do well on this course. Twenty years ago I did a Journalism Diploma at the Auckalnd Technical Institute in New Zealand - I think it's now called the Aucland University of Technology. Back then I was all too conscious of the fact there were many other people on that course who knew more, had more confidence and were simply better at being journalists than me. My goal then was to get through the course and pass, which I did. Now I'm setting my sights a little higher...

Next week is a 'reading week' between the first and second trimesters. Translation: do some paying work. I've got the second part of a Phantom script to write for Egmont Sweden, closely followed by scripting another issue from a supplied plotline. That's next week taken care of. I've also got an interview feature to do for the Judge Dredd Megazine and some editing to do a couple of scripts for the same title. I'm waiting on feedback from the first draft of my radio script. I'm looking forward to hear the producer/director's comments. I used to resent being told what need improving in my writing. Thanks to the MA course, I'm eager to get feedback, find places I can improve. That's a pretty fundamental change of mind - and an important one. Heaven forfend, am I in danger of becoming a professional writer, as opposed to someone who writes for a living?


Barry Cowan said...

Dear David,

I already know your opinion of my title, but I would very much like to read your report on my script "Vivid Gray". Could you please email it to me?


Barry Cowan

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