Saturday, February 17, 2007

Research project stymies research project

Spent yesterday morning in a research project module at Screen Academy Scotland, where everyone was stressing the need to start our research early so we wouldn't be swamped when the final deadline looms on the first of June. I was hoping to make a start this weekend, but have had to put that aside in favour of - ironically - a research project. I'm assisting with the research for a forthcoming documentary being made for ITV3 on one of my specialist areas of knowledge. I haven't signed contracts for my work but suspect there might be a non-disclosure agreement involved, so I can't specify what the documentary is about. Since the programme-makers are paying me for my exerptise and the project is time sensitive, it takes precedence over the research module for my screenwriting MA.

Having been a journalist of one stripe or another for more than 20 years, part of me rebels at the thought of spending 15 weeks being told how to do what I already do for a living. While I'm sure the module will have uses for my future work, the disciplines involved are principally academic. One of the key requirements for passing is the inclusion of at least 25 annotations for sources we have researched. I can guarantee you this is one of those skills you acquire in an educational environment that will never be needed in real life, much like calculus. [I'm still not sure what the difference between sine and co-sine is - in fact, I'm not even sure they're part of calculus - and I still don't care.] Nevertheless, passing the module is a necessity to get my MA, so I shall endeavour to fulfil its requirements.

Ideally, our research project should inform our final project. In the last trimester, students are expected to write a feature film screenplay, the first episode and series bible for a TV fiction of their own creation, or develop a work of interactive entertainment. Most of my fellow second-year part-timers are leaning towards a feature-length screenplay, and are trying to use the research module as preparation for that. But we have to make an early committment to what we want to research and I'm still procrastinating about what my final project will be. So I think I'll research a topic I've gathering material for over a period of years. It's a setting and a genre I want to explore, but have never been able to find the time [and financial wherewithall] to properly research it on a purely speculative basis. Looks like the research module is the perfect opportunity.

In other news, it looks like I want to quitting the freelance lifestyle to work in an office anytime soon. I applied for a job with BBC Scotland last month and thought I was in with a decent shout. I've heard there were more than a hundred applicants for the job, but still hoped my skills might lift me out of the pack. Alas, I got back from college yesterday to an email saying I hadn't made the shortlist for an interview. That was disappointing, but perfectly understandable in the circumstances. Less helpful was the fact no feedback on my application was available, due to the sheer numbers involved. I'm left with an unsatisfied feeling, wondering why I didn't make the cut and with no hope of discovering the answer.

Such is life. If you want to make a living doing something creative, chances are you'll be rejected far more often than you'll be chosen, no matter what opportunity you're pursuing. If you can't take the occasional rejection, you're in the wrong business. Right, time I got on with my professional research project - deadlines wait for no-one.

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