Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Taking pains, not staking pain

Welcome to the 1000th posting on Vicious Imagery, home of online ramblings and other work displacement activities by writing David Bishop. This blog is fast approaching 70,000 visitors since it was launched in October 2005. Can't say I've got any moments of blinding insight or genius to share with you today, so at least there's no change there then. Or there. But I'll endeavour to stumble across a theme or a notion as I go along, and maybe there'll be something worth reading along the way. You be the judge.

Two years ago I decided to change my life. Not in a Masterchef Goes Large kind of way, but more of a redirection of ambitions. I wasn't happy with my work. Not the jobs, but the challenges. I was writing novels, audio dramas, comics and articles - but none of it was pushing me. Making a comfortable living but not getting out of my comfort zone. Writers are like sharks, they need to keep moving. I didn't want to look at my career and hear Woody Allen saying, 'What we have here is a dead shark.'

So I choose to challenge myself. To set goals beyond what I was doing. I knew I wouldn't achieve them all, but better to aim high and miss than not take a shot. Applied for a two-day BBC Radio drama lab and got in. Applied for the new MA Screenwriting course at Screen Academy Scotland and got in. Felt I was getting somewhere but needed another push. Then Adrian Mead and Clare Kerr visited our class, and said something that made me sit up [I'll paraphrase].

Don't let the course happen to you. Don't just fulfill the minimum requirements. Grab every chance that comes by. Introduce yourself to guest speakers and make a positive impression. Network like crazy. Look beyond the course for opportunities. Identify what you really want to do and go after it. If you're not satisfied with what's on offer, say so. Don't sit in the cafeteria moaning, make things happen. Take responsibility for your writing, your ambitions, your future.

So I did. Realised I had far more interest in writing for TV drama than for films. Went along to two of Adrian's one-day seminars in Edinburgh. Got on a six-day writers' lab for BBC Radio drama. Secured nine months being mentored by Adrian in TV writing. Got selected for the TAPS script editing course. Went to London for the Script Factory's TV Forum event, and thoroughly enjoyed the same organisation's Storylining For Continuing Drama workshop. Even entered one of my scripts in an international screenwriting contest and it's gotten through to the semi-finals.

Inevitably, not everything has come off. Was one of many who applied for the BBC Writers' Academy but didn't make the cut. Applied for a job in the drama department at BBC Scotland and didn't get chosen. Wangled myself an invitation to write sample scenes for the BBC Scotland soap River City, but I'm still waiting for an answer eleven months later. Various other efforts are sat on desks, awaiting contemplation - another job application, a continuing drama writing workshop, and more.

And I've been plugging away at my screenwriting MA. Eight modules completed, eight distinctions, only the final project to do. It's due to be delivered in thirty days and I haven't started my first draft yet. Nor will I be able to for another week. Got a 5000 word feature to finish today, and an issue of The Phantom comic to write by Friday. Away in St Andrews this weekend. Away in London Monday and Tuesday. Come next Wednesday I have to hit the ground running on my final project. Want to make a good job of the last module, want to nail the dismount.

Come September I'll be back out in cold, wide world, joining the throngs of writers and wannabes looking for fresh opportunities. It's not that I've ever stopped looking while I've been going to Screen Academy Scotland, but the MA was an anchor for the past two years. Sometimes it felt like a safe harbour, other times it was a weight round my neck, stopping me from doing other things. That won't be factor or an excuse come September. It'll be something I've done.

The last two years have been about getting some of the tools I need to pursue a career in TV drama, be it as a writer, storyliner or script editor. I knew I needed to learn more, network work, discover more. I've started that process. It won't end when I finish my MA, but one phase will be over. Looking forward to seeing what the next phase will bring, and having a little extra pocket money to spend en route.


Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,

Well done on your achievements. Your photo in this month's HOTDOG was a surprise looks nothing like your beardy blog photo. I was wondering if you can tell me where I can get one of your Phantom comics, as he's been a fav of mine since watching Defenders Of The Earth. I asked in my local Forbidden Planet but they weren't much help.

Huey K

David Bishop said...

I'm guessing you mean my photo in DeathRay. The comedy facial hair comes and goes, depending upon whim.

If you want to see my Phantom stories in English, you need to get the Australian reprints by Frew. My most recent story is in Frew #1483, and features stunning art by Sal Velluto.

You'll have to order from an Australian vendor to get copies, like the courteous coves at King Comics...