Tuesday, August 12, 2008

TAPS continuing drama workshop

I did the TAPS continuing drama workshop last September, and have had a few people who are doing it this year get in touch for advice. Looking back, I'm not sure how useful the experience was for me. The long weekend boiled down to two things - learning about writing for continuing drama [with a heavy focus on Emmerdale], and creating your own script for a one-off drama to a tight deadline [with a large number of caveats and restrictions attached].

If you've done a half decent MA in screenwriting or made efforts to start learning your craft, I'm not sure this workshop tells you much that's new. Tt was fascinating to hear about the creative process at Emmerdale, but the reality is that show doesn't recruit emerging writers. The time and production pressures under which the Emmerdale team creates six new episodes a week precludes hand-holding new writers until they can get up to speed.

All those who attend the TAPS workshop emerge from the process with an original, 23-minute standalone drama script, complete with a cliffhanger in the middle. A few get their scripts filmed with professional actors to create industry showcase DVDs. [You may be able to watch past showcases on the TAPS website, I can never get them to play on my computer.] Sounds great, doesn't it?

However, the nature of the filming imposes a lot of restrictions on what you can write - no exteriors, a maximum of three interior sets [last year these were chosen from a selection of Emmerdale sets] and six actors. Anything involving stunts, fight choreography, complex effects or props [wounds, bleeding] were all non-starters. Essentially, you needed to write a story based around several people in a few rooms talking - nothing filmic.

Now, several people in a few rooms can make for compelling TV - last night's episode of EastEnders where stroke victim Jim Branning came home to visit was a great example. But the most memorable moments in continuing drama stem from long-term character development, paying off traits and plotlines set up over months or even years. The TAPS workshop is about continuing drama, yet they ask you to write a one-off play to be performed for cameras.

I gave up trying to write an original script that fitted all the restrictions. I didn't want to write a kitchen sink drama, or something that felt like a radio play with pictures. Instead I wrote a script I was passionate about, knowing it wouldn't get past the first round. The workshop gave me a deadline for creating a new, original script, and that's what I took away from the experience.

1 comment:

VeryTerry said...

Thanks David, I'm glad I found this as I've just been selected for this year.
My main concerns are that even though we're supposed to feel very privileged to be accepted, the charge is £380 for effectively a 2 day workshop.
I'm also told that it looks very good on your CV to be accepted, but I wonder if that's the case if you don't get selected for the final showcase? Do we want our CVs to say "good, but not good enough"?

Any thoughts on these points are very welcome as i'm currently deciding whether to accept.