Thursday, October 18, 2007

It's official: a student of distinction

The Programme Board of Examiners at Napier University in Edinburgh has made its decision about the status of my post-graduate studies, and here's the result: Congratulations, you have successfully completed your programme and the board have recommended the award shown - Master of Arts with Distinction in Screenwriting. All that remains now is the graduation ceremony on November 15th [assuming I'm willing to shell out another £50 to attend]. I could graduate in absentia, but will probably attend. Let's face it, I'm not likely to do another masters, so this is a once in a lifetime thing.

So, do I feel any different? No. Having passed every module with distinction, being awarded a masters with distinction came as no surprise at all. It's nice to get the affirmation, but that's all it is. Nobody's going to pay me anymore for having a masters, at least not in the sort of jobs I currently do. Will have a masters make me any more employable as a screenwriter? Almost certainly not. It demonstrates the fact I've spent time, money and effort to get the piece of paper, but makes no obvious difference to my talent or skills as a writer. I believe the MA has made me a better writer, but the only proof of that is in my script, not in my graduating.

Was it worth the time, money and effort? That's tricky. There are other MA courses that would probably have served me better, but Screen Academy Scotland was closest to home and most convenient. I'm certainly glad I did the masters part-time over two years. The first year I was there was also the first year of the course, and it suffered all manner teething troubles. Many of these were resolved in time for the second year or during it, but most of those changes will benefit future students. It certainly wasn't cheap. I wasn't eligible for bursaries as I was deemed to be Semi-Foreign Scum®, so it cost me £3500 in fees and another £20,000 in expenses and lost earnings.

I could have invested that money elsewhere and gotten much more for it, but the course was a way of motivating myself to go for my goals, strive for my dream, climb every [metaphorical] mountain and all that shit. Without the MA, I'd never have pursued all the other opportunities I've taken in the past two years, like being mentored in TV writing for nine months by Adrian Mead, or all the networking opportunities the course afforded. I doubt I'd have been selected for the TAPS script editing course or the same organisation's continuing drama workshop. I wouldn't have gone on the Script Factory's storylining for continuing drama workshop, either.

Most of all, I wouldn't have learned all I have over the past two years, both inside and outside the course. These two years have made a massive difference to my outlook and left me with a clutch of calling card scripts I'm now using to try and secure representation. I doubt I'll learn nearly as much in the next two years as I have in the last two years - the learning curve can't stay this steep forever - but I'll keep on learning. Keep on searching for new opportunities, new openings, new ways forward. This is not the beginning of the end, it's merely the end of the beginning. There's a long way to go yet. Onwards.


James Swallow said...

Now you can feel okay about saying "I am the Master, and you will obey me."
But much applause and kudos; you've done brilliantly.

English Dave said...

Well done Dave.

Lianne said...


Lucy said...

Courses can be very useful - as long as you realise they're not very useful... So many of them means there are loads of peeps walking around thinking they can write when in reality they've barely begun.

However the good news here is not only have you kicked ass in terms of consistency, you've got a wicki-wick portfolio together AND a win in PAGE to your name already! So you're well on the screenwriting ladder and I reckon, just ripe for world domination. Or a job in soaps.

potdoll said...

onwards indeed, sir. congratulations! (again)!

Julio Angel Ortiz said...


Andy said...

Well done.

Can I just ask what other MAs you would have preferred to have done in an ideal world?
Perhaps the De Montfort TV Writing MA, given your interests?

As Lucy says, there are so many of these courses around and finding a suitable one is tricky.

David Bishop said...

De Montfort's MA in TV writing would definitely have been my first choice, but I didn't know about it at the time. Plus the commute from Scotland to Leicester is bizarrely all but impossible. It's easier to get from Ireland to Leicester and back for office hours. Plus, it was only going on the Screen Academy Scotland MA that made me realise TV was where my interests lay, not film.