Monday, June 02, 2008

Screen academy drinks offer life snapshots

Three years ago, I'm not sure I'd ever heard of Screen Academy Scotland. The new faculty at Edinburgh's Napier University was running the first year of its Masters in Screen Production Development, and prepping a new MA in screenwriting. Two years ago I'd completed the first half of my part-time screenwriting MA, and the first intake of full-time screenwriting students had finished their two terms of tutorials and modules with just their final projects to write. To celebrate we all went to a hotel bar near the university where drinking, talking and laughter was had in abundance.

Thsi time last year the second helping of full-time screenwriting students reached the same point - and so did the first class of part-timers, including me. Back to the same hotel bar, and a merry time was had by all. Well, another year's passed and I got an invite to revisit that same hotel bar last Friday. It was a chance to catch up with some of my former classmates, alongside the current part-timers and full-timers on the screenwriting MA course.

I'd met quite a few of them before. Several were on the TAPS continuing drama workshop I attended in Cardiff last September [they all got through to the second round, I didn't - such is life]. Plus I was invited back this academic year as alumni speaker to give a student's eye view on the research methods module. On Friday several students told me my talk had been useful, so that was gratifying. If I helped one person pass the highly academic module, it was worth the effort.

Had a fun, raucous time on Friday night and drank three pints of beer in one sitting - something I haven't done for a long, long time. Aside from the obvious sense of deja vu, it gave me a chance to reflect on how far I've progressed over the past three years. I've had a radio play broadcast by the BBC, won an international screenwriting prize in Los Angeles and learned more than I thought possible about writing.

But I've still got so much to learn, and so much I want to achieve. Getting my first TV drama commission, that will be a big breakthrough when it comes. With hard work, inspiration and a little luck that should lead to further TV writing gigs. Hopefully I can use those to convince an agent I'm worth representing. It's not that I expect the agent to get me more work, but not having an agent excludes you from opportunities I'd dearly love to pursue.

What am I doing to achieve my goals? Writing, writing and more writing. Working hard to break through with a particular TV show. Applied to the BBC Writers' Academy, and will spend this week writing the first draft of my entry for the BBC writersroom Sharps initiative. Meanwhile, I'm also trying to keep the wolf from the door with paid writing work. It's a difficult juggling act to pull off. How little money can you survive on? How much longer should I pursue the dream? Well, I ain't nearly near scaling back my ambitions yet.

Sometimes everyone writer feels like giving up. Other times, success feels so close you can also taste it. Right now I'm near the tasty end of spectrum. That could be self delusion but hey, I'm a writer - I make things up for a living. What else did you expect? Right, time to get to work. Onwards.

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