Thursday, October 09, 2008

How long do you keep pursuing your dream?

Went to Coatbridge yesterday to do a spot of acting for former classmate Wilma. We were among the first part-timers to take the MA screenwriting course at Screen Academy Scotland. Wilma has been making low-to-no budget films for years, most often with her partner Duncan. All that hard work is getting them some attention - their last feature, My Life As A Bus Stop, was selected in competition at the 2007 Edinburgh International Film Festival.

When Wilma asked if I'd like to appear in her new film, I was happy to say yes. Alas, I can't sustain a Scots accent to say my life, so she cast me as a frazzled teacher. It was my first experience of guerrilla filmmaking, and for me it made an interesting afternoon away from the computer. For Wilma it's a hobby that's become a lifelong passion. We got to talking about the struggles of pursuing your dreams, never knowing if they'll pay off.

I learned a lot on the MA, but a big part of that experience was the camaraderie we shared - especially the part-timers. While the full-time students were rattling through the course at ramming speed, we had more time together as a group. Writing is a largely solitary endeavour, so it was good to have people in the same boat with whom you share the triumphs and the torments. I've struggled to fill that absence since finishing the MA.

I've found the best way to keep the dream alive is setting little milestones, and enjoying the achievement when they happen. One of the last things we did in class as part-timers was plot where we wanted to be in years to come. Back in May 2007 I turned that discussion into a list of six goals and gave myself two years to achieve them. I didn't expect to nail the lot, but hoped to hit at least half of them. [Aim high, that's my policy.]

One was getting an agent - I've set that aside until after I get some more broadcast drama credits. Not much point asking an agent to represent you if you're not going to make them any money. Goal two was pursuing radio drama, something else I've sidelined for more urgent objectives. Three was get my first TV drama credit. Hasn't happened yet, but the BBC invited me on the Doctors shadow scheme this year, bringing my goal that bit closer.

Four was write at least two more TV pilot spec scripts. Falling short on this one, I have to admit - but help may be at hand [see #6, below]. Five was get more experience in TV drama storylining and/or script editing. Big tick here - did a Script Factory course, spent a day with the Emmerdale storylining team and there's more ahead. Goal six was get selected for another script workshop scheme, such as the Lighthouse TV drama course in Brighton.

Another big tick here after having my first day on the Lighthouse course last week. That experience will run through the next seven months, involving storylining, team writing and working directly with professional script editors. It concludes with a networking event in London to meet agents, drama execs and indie production companies, and they get sent out finished work. You never know, that might get me closer to ticking goal #1.

Those six goals have helped keep me focused since May last year, and they'll carry me through to May next year. Then comes the tricky part - decide my objectives for the next two years. In the meantime, I've got three Story of the Day ideas to develop. Onwards!

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