Thursday, December 07, 2006

Not Ready For Primetime Player - yet.

In the comments section of my blog posting about Day 2 of the TAPS TV script editing course, tonyB asks if I'd considered trying out as a writer on The Bill. Yes, I have considered it - but I don't think I'm nearly ready for that. Yet. I was a high court reporter in New Zealand for a year, covering the trials for serious offences like murder and rape. I've also been a reporter covering the police round numerous times in my career, so I've no shortage of stories I could tell. But I'm not ready yet.

For a start, The Bill wants writers with some experience, some 'seasoning' as one of my former editors once put it. there have been nearly 500 episodes of The Bill over the past 20+ years and I doubt more than a handful have been scripted by newcomers to TV drama. Judging by the script we worked on at the TAPS course, it's a particularly terse show, full of clipped dialogue, clipped writing and snappy storytelling. That suits me fine, but I'd want a few things under my belt before I considered trying out for the show. According to Mark G [in the same comments section], it's a very demanding and challenging show - something I don't doubt for a moment.

I've had a couple of opportunities to get my foot in the door of TV shows before and on both occasions I blew it. The problem wasn't so much storytelling talent - I figure I've got to have some of that, otherwise I wouldn't be able to make a decent living from telling stories via radio, novels, audio dramas, comics and the like. The problem was a lack of craft in writing for TV, and amateur hour ignorance of what not to do. If you don't know any better, you don't know any better. Last year I realised was never going to get anywhere in TV and radio drama unless I took the time to improve my craft and got to know more about the broadcast drama industry.

In a way, it's the return of Doctor Who to TV that get me a much needed punt up the posterior. I emigrated to the UK in January 1990, hoping one day I might get the chance to write an episode of Doctor Who for TV. Unfortunately, the show was about to lapse into oblivion for the next 15 years, barring a one-off TV movie in 1996. So my long-cherished goal was more of a pipe-dream. But when the show came back and was a success, that old dream resurfaced once more and gave me a nudge.

If I want to write Doctor Who for TV one day - and I still do - then I needed to get my act together and become a professional, experienced and skillful writer of broadcast drama. Hence the two radio drama labs I've been on. Hence the screenwriting MA I'm doing at Screen Academy Scotland. Hence the mentoring project with Adrian Mead guiding me towards writing an original calling card TV script, the pilot for a returnign drama series. Hence the TAPS TV script editing course I did last weekend. hence my efforts to get a foot in the door at River City. [Like everyone else who submitted material to the show this year, I'm still awaiting on feedback to my sample scenes. Fingers crossed for news before Christmas!]

All of these efforts are me actively trying to improve my craft, improve my knowledge of the industry, improve my chances of being ready for the next opportunity when it comes. By next September I intend to have three original calling card scripts - one of 10-minutes in duration, a 25-minute effort and a feature-length screenplay. Plus I'll have the pilot script for my original returning drama series. These will be my tools for getting an agent and, from there, getting some meetings. By this time next year, I want to be ready for primetime. Bring it on!


Bang2Write said...

I'm wondering if I'll EVER scrape through the door of TV. Weirdly, when I try and focus on it, it seems more off-limits than it was in the first place. It's always "maybe" in TV - at least with films they say for definite: "This script is crap!" or "This script is great but we have no money to make it!" With TV it's "yep, like your stuff..."/"So how about it, then? Can I do a trial episode?"/ "Maybe, we'll get back to you."

Still waiting bee-atches!

Anonymous said...

Did you not consider applying for the TAPS Continuing Drama course as a step in the right direction?


Anonymous said...

Sorry, that was a question for you David!

David Bishop said...

I didn't feel ready this year - plus I had tight deadlines for three books with a total of 320,000 words to be written. Decided I'd hold off to apply the script editing course, and see how that went.

But if I'm still looking for opportunities next summer, one of the TAPS courses will be a definite target for me.