Back in May 2007 I was being mentored in screenwriting for television by Adrian Mead, thanks to the Scottish Book Trust's mentoring project. [The SBT is all about writing and about all writing, not just books.] He encouraged me to think beyond the script I was developing, to set out some specific goals and priorities for myself, alone with a timeframe in which to pursue them. I've got five months left of my two year plan, time to assess how it's going.
1 - Get an agent: Made some efforts to do this the back end of 2007, but needed a better portfolio of work and more evidence I could make enough money to be worth an agency's time and effort. Shelved this in 2008, will revisit it in May 2009 once I've completed the Lighthouse project [see below].
2 - Get more radio plays commissioned: My efforts to crack TV drama writing have come at the cost of pursuing opportunities within radio drama. Feel like I'm perpetually postponing this particular quest, which is likely my subconscious telling me something. Consider this shelved for now.
3 - Get my first TV drama credit: Hasn't happened yet, but feels a more realistic goal than it did back in May 2007. Did a successful trial script for Doctors, got asked to submit story of the day ideas and invited on the Doctors mini-academy. Plugging away, trying to get a story pitch banked.
4 - Develop and write at least two more TV pilot spec scripts: One of these, Families at War, is through to the second round of the Red Planet Prize. The other project isn't a pilot, but will fill a gap in my portfolio as an original spec script. Need to develop two more pilots in 2009.
5 - Get work experience in TV drama storylining or script editing department: Limited success. Spent a day at Emmerdale, had a good meeting with River City's then executive producer - but nothing further. Realised I was too old for entry level positions, so shelved this objective in 2008.
6 - Get on another script workshop and/or mentoring scheme: Selected for Lighthouse's TV drama team-writing workshop. I'll have a new calling card script for my portfolio in May 2009, and the course ends with a networking event in London where I'll meet agents and production companies. No guarantees beyond that, but it's an opportunity to target potential representation, which leads me nicely back to my first objective and goal on this list.
All in all, not a bad effort. One thing pursuing this list taught me was the value of timing and patience. I made a push to secure representation in 2007 after my short film script DANNY'S TOYS won a prize, but didn't have the portfolio or profile to get an agent. Feels like I'm nearer the mark now, but still another six months away from the zone, maybe longer. Having an agent isn't the be all and end all, but it does open doors otherwise closed.
Not having an agent hasn't stopped me getting a toe in the door at Doctors, nor does it prevent me having meetings with script editors, directors or producers. You simply have to get out and hustle, make an effort to network and build relationships. Cuts time and money, with absolute no guarantee of success. Most writers I know find most of their own work. Agents open doors, but they don't do your job for you. Ultimately, a writer writes.
So, how about some goals for the next two years? Call this my career resolutions for 2009-2010, a checklist of things I plan and/or hope to achieve. Some will definitely happen, some are likely and some are pretty ambitious. Some I'll likely fail, others are old favourites revived from past lists, but all are worth pursuing and would be rewarding achievements in my humble opinion. Eyes down for a full house of stuff, hopefully sans hubris.
1: Get an agent. For all the reasons stated above.
2: Get a TV drama credit. Because one credit should lead to another.
3: Write at least one feature screenplay. It's a gaping hole in my script portfolio, and I've got just the story that I'm itching to write.
4: Write at least two new TV pilots. Already got three potential projects in various stages of development, waiting to be written.
5: Don't be afraid of drama. I've been concentrating on improving my dialogue. Time to bring more emotional heft to the tales I tell.
6: Get an original story commissioned. This could be a novel, radio play or TV drama, but needs to be all my own work, my unique voice.
That should keep me busy until the end of 2010, especially with a part-time job as a lecturer in creative writing added to the mix from Monday. I'll be disappointed if I can't achieve at least three of these goals, although quantifying success for number 5 won't be easy. No doubt something will arise in the coming months to complicate matters beyond belief, but this six-strong list gives me a reference point. Onwards!