Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Strangeness of In-Between Days

This is a Taking Care of Business kind of week. My first payment on account for the current tax year is due tomorrow, so I need to write a cheque and post it to Inland Revenue. Fortunately, I now have the money to pay the taxman and Inland Revenue has agreed to reduce my payments on account by five hundred quid. Making efforts to improve my writing - like the MA at Screen Academy Scotland - may be sensible for my long-term career prospects but it's put quite a hole in my earnings by comparison with previous years. I'm trying to play the long game, giving up easy income now in exchange for making myself a better writer (and, hopefully, more money in future).

I guess there's another advantage to tackling the tertiary education system now. I never went to university after high school, opting for six months on a pressure-cooker journalism diploma course before working as a daily newspaper reporter. By the time my friends from school had finished their degrees, I'd already been working for two and a half years and earned three promotions. When I was 18 I wasn't ready to tackle university. I'd coasted through high school on whatever natural abilities and intelligence my parents gifted me.

I certainly didn't have any sort of work ethnic, never having to had worked in my life for anything academically. Getting out into the world and gaining some life experience taught me about the need to make the most of opportunities when they present themselves. [There were no such things as gap years when I was a teenager, somewhere back near the dawn of time.] Now I'm at university , I'm trying to extract every ounce of benefit from the experience. Maybe I doing the younger students a disservice, but some don't seem to eager to make the most of this chance...

This week is one of those strange, in-between periods. It's the week between trimesters one and two at Screen Academy Scotland, so all's quiet on the screenwriting course. I've got a Phantom synopsis to rewrite for Egmont Sweden, and need to write a few extra panels about digitalia as a drop-in for a previous script. I watched the Kenneth Branagh film Peter's Friends (1992) yesterday as research for a story I'm mulling over. At the time it was released, the movie felt like a belated British response to The Big Chill (1992).

Fifteen years later, it holds up pretty well, though the absence of mobile phones is conspicuous. The thing that jars the most is the relevation at the end that one character is HIV Positive, akin to a death sentence in the early 90s. Since then medical science has vastly extended the life expectancy of anyone suffering this illness, so that moment seems curiously antiquated and overwrought now. Still, Peter's Friends has a crackerjack cast and it's fun to see Hugh Laurie so young, when he comes across so grizzled on US TV series House.

In other news, today is deadline day for the Rocliffe New Writing Forum. Hosted by BAFTA, the next New Writing Forum on February 21 will showcase three 10-minute script extracts as they're rehearsed and performed by professional actors. The forum alsoi gives the selected writers feedback from an established industry guest. Best of all, the scripts can be for any medium; film, short film, theatre, radio, sitcom or sketches. You can find more about this on the BBC's wonderful writersroom website.

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