Friday, November 16, 2007

There endeth the lessons

Graduated from Napier University and Screen Academy Scotland yesterday, attaining a Master of Arts in Screenwriting with distinction. Arrived far too early for the ceremony, picked up my tickets and gown, got all suited and booted - but discovered I still had two hours before the graduation ceremony started. So I did what all sane people do in such circumstances; I shopped. [Live to Shop, Shop to Live, that's my motto.] Bought a new book about screenwriting.

Returned to Edinburgh's Festival Theatre and took my seat in the auditorium. We still had half an hour till kickoff, but it gave me a chance to natter with some of the other people from my screenwritng class who were graduating. There were 12 or 13 at the ceremony, the other half of those eligible to graduate choosing to do so in absentia. There were hundreds of nursing graduates, a rowdy mob.

Inevitably, the hood kept coming apart from my robe and going everywhere. Academic robes and hoods have been used for centuries by universities, you'd think the design flaws would have been corrected by now, wouldn't you? I guess there's no great imperative when it only gets worn on rare occasions these days.

The ceremony started with processions, speeches, pomp and circumstance. Two honorary doctorates were awarded, one of them to legendary guitarist Bert Jansch. The vice-chancellor singled out several examples of students who's work has already attracted attention and awards in the wider world. I was somewhat mortified when my name got mentioned, thanks to the Page International Screenwriting Award I got for Danny's Toys. Felt like I was being mentioned in despatches.

Then it was time to get the piece of paper. Row by row, school by school, we marched up to the steps, handed over our cards and got our names announced. Walk across the stage, try not to fall over your feet [funny how the simplest of acts became a tightrope of tension when watched by a few thousand strangers in a room], shake the chancellor's hand, collect piece of paper, back to my seat.

Due to a combination of alphabet, surname and getting a distinction, I was first from the MA Screenwriting class to collect my degree certificate. I was also given the university medal for topping the class, recognition for having attained a distinction in every module on the course. The medal's quite heavy, but there's no ribbon attached and no cash prize. Alas, screenwriting is not the sort of world when winning a medal at university is going to be worth anything beyond novelty. Still, it's a special memento of the day and the course.

Afterwards there was a reception on the other side of the city that didn't quite work. More sensibly, lots of graduates gathered at the Filmhouse cafe in central Edinburgh for a celebratory drink. Got to see lots of folk who didn't make the graduation ceremony, and catch up on how they're doing. Got the last bus home and staggered through the front door twelve hours after leaving, now officially a Master of Arts in screenwriting. With distinction. And a medal.

Today it's back to reality. I'm writing a novel, got a fistful of script submissions to read for a screen agency and am doing revisions on my reference book, The Complete Inspector Morse. All of which should keep me busy and help erase the dull ache inside me borne of the knowledge I'll never see most of the people from my course again. We laughed and learned together, and now we're flung to the wind, hoping against hope we can turn what we've learned into some sort of career. Fingers crossed.

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