Thursday, August 30, 2007

Final thrash on my final project

My screenwriting MA is accelerating to a finish, with final projects due to be delivered by 5pm tomorrow - one electronic copy, two hard copies. I'll be in Cardiff by that time, participating in the TAPS continuing drama workshop [Nations variant for writers based in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland], so have to hand in my hard copies and electronic version today. Yikes.

My final project is devised for TV, not a film script like almost every other screenwriter on the course. Most will be handing in a screenplay of between 90 and 120 pages. To meet requirements I'll be handing in a TV script of around 60 pages for a returning drama series of my own creation, along with a series bible delineating the characters, sets, and outlines for further episodes. My character outlines need tweaking, the set list is fine and my episode outlines need a polish.

The script itself isn't in too bad a shape. I still need to rewrite two early scenes, and some fixing's required on pp 42-51. I sent the first draft out for peer review [I'd say Power of 3, but I wouldn't wish to make English Dave vomit] and got some useful, broad brush feedback. Everyone had their own niggles and questions, but all stumbled a little over the sequence of events between pages 42 and 51. It helped point up something I knew wasn't quite working when I wrote the first draft, but couldn't fix at the time.

That's the value of peer review. It forces you to face the problems you've managed to skate over. How I fix those problems is up to me. The version I had in as my final project is still only an early draft. I've no doubt there's plenty more work to be done, improvements to be made, dialogue to be sharpened, even some further period research that can inform the script. Once I've got it to a point where I feel it's ready to be seen, that's when I get a professional to look at it.

I'd never presume to send a first draft out to working, professional writers for feedback. You only get to dip into that well of good will so many times, better to use it on material that's ready to be seen. People you've never met will judge you on the quality of your writing. That ink of the page is like a tattoo, representing you to the outside world. Once they've read your script, it will leave an impression that's hard to erase, much like a tattoo.

Wow them with a great script and they'll remember you for all the right reasons. Send out a half-baked, half-arsed, not ready for prime time effort and they'll dismiss you for all the right reasons. Choose your moment. Most of all, be ready for your moment when it comes. At least, that's what I believe. Your mileage may vary.

Grud, I can ramble when the mood takes me, can't I?

So today is final thrash day for my final project. There'll be afters when I get back from Cardiff; a self-reflective essay on my final project, feedback to be collected and contemplated, a mark for this last module and a gathering on September 14th with some industry notables to introduce ourselves. The slow curtain closes in November, as the class of 07 graduates. But that's all in the future. Today I need to finish what I started back in September 2005. Onwards!

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