Friday, May 05, 2006

Marc Pye TV writing masterclass

By rights, yesterday's session at college ought to have irked - schlepping in and out of Edinburgh takes three or four hours for the round trip from where I live if you have to rely on public transport. So getting in to discover the afternoon's session was cancelled and only getting two hours teaching time should have turned this blog into a fodder for complaint rock lyrics.

But quality trumps quantity when it comes to learning.

Yesterday the MA Screenwriting class at Edinburgh's Napier University was treated to a two-hour session with Marc Pye, a British TV scribe whose star is rapidly rising. He got his breakthrough on Scottish soap High Road, and scripted dozens of episodes for the show. He quickly went on from there to writing for The Bill, did a stint on EastEnders and is now one of the most prolific screenwriters for BBC Scotland's soap River City.

But the job that's gotten him the most attention is writing an episode of The Street, a new series of stand alone [yet interlinked] dramas devised by Jimmy McGovern. Pye's story was broadcast last week and focused on a wrongly accused schoolteacher whose life is overwhelmed by snowballing events. The Street makes for compelling viewing and has already been recommissioned for a second series. The association with McGovern has added a skyrocket to the upward trajectory of Pye's career and he's now swamped with offers.

Despite that, he found time to spend two hours with us, talking about his career path, his enthusiasm for scripting River City and answering a few impertinent questions. Pye is refreshingly candid and unashamed at being a commercial writer. That doesn't mean he doesn't care about what he does, but he talked a lot about the need to embrace collaboration if you want to progress.

I hung round after the session ended and nabbed a couple of minutes with Marc, walking him out of the building and asking a few extra questions. All in all, a top bloke, extremely approachable and well worth listening to if you ever get the chance.

4 comments:

Optimistic_Reader said...

Hi David, thanks for taking time out to post this, much appreciated. Something I've been wondering about in relation to getting a radio play broadcast (jumping the gun a bit here, as I haven't even written it yet) is whether as an untested writer it is best to submit the script to the Writer's Room, which has a 4 month turn-around, or directly to the Radio Drama Unit. Every piece of advice I have ever been given about getting that "fott in the dorr" opportunity has been to target radio, as there is so much airtime to fill they are crying out for writers. But I wonder if the lack of experience my still count against me by going direct to Radio Unit, whereas the Writer's Room will champion a writer whose work they like, even if they do take a long time to get through the work. I suppose I shouldn't distract myself at this stage, I should just get on with writing the thing and worry about that later!

Optimistic_Reader said...

Oh dear. "fott in the dorr" - I'm the world's worst typist at the best of times, but this is what happens when I'm in a hurry! Woeful...

Optimistic_Reader said...

And just noticed that I've posted those comments to the wrong post! Seriously, I have no idea what was wrong with me yesterday...

Lucy said...

Well, on the RIGHT subject - going cross-eyed with all the reading, OR?? ; ) - Amen to that on Marc Pye. He's a top notch fella and did a Q&A on my blog only a couple of weeks ago. Woulda liked to have gone to his masterclass myself!