Friday, October 02, 2009

Movement, progress and momentum

The results of this year's Page International Screenwriting Awards are in and THE WOMAN WHO SCREAMED BUTTERFLIES didn't win a prize. Such is life. I'm proud my script was one of ten finalists in the short film category, even if TWWSB couldn't repeat the success of DANNY'S TOYS in 2007. The Page Awards received nearly 4400 scripts from 58 countries this year, so getting as far as I did in my category is still noteworthy.

The upside is that two different parties are keen on developing TWWSB. Perversely, not winning anything at the Page Awards makes it easier to press on. No hands have been shaken or deals struck yet - but I've more hope of this script being made than I did for DANNY'S TOYS. That required animation and was going to cost a bomb. TWWSB has its challenges, but could be made relatively cheaply. Time will tell.

What else? My first script for Doctors is pretty much done and dusted. Not sure if it's been absolutely, formally locked, but everyone seems happy with my efforts. The director for the block has already started prep and filming's scheduled for later this month. I'd love to pop down to Birmingham for a day to observe, but that will require the alignment of many different planets. Keep you posted.

Once my script has been locked, it's back to the blank page for me at Doctors. I don't have any more story of the day ideas already approved and in the bank, waiting for a slot. Two of my pitches are lurking in a pile, waiting to be read, but it can take months [and months sometimes] before I'll hear back about them. So I need to develop and submit some more fresh ideas, building on what I've learned.

Despite being back at zero in some way, I've achieved two significant things with my first Doctors script. Getting that first broadcast credit makes me that little bit more credible as a TV drama writer. I'm not just talking the talk, I've taken my first baby steps on the career path. Now comes the even harder part - securing a second commission, and a third. Proving one wasn't a fluke. Can I build up some momentum?

The other achievement is less tangible, but perhaps just as important - performing as a professional writer. My scene by scene breakdown did its job well, even if I had too many scenes. My first draft nailed both my story of the day, and captured the voices of the regular characters. Continuing dramas like Doctors depend on their regulars to hook audiences and keep viewers coming back for more.

Most of all, I delivered all my drafts on deadline [ahead of them, in fact] and took on board notes. The latter statement isn't just implementing notes, it's about trying to make the script even better. Being professional is about making everybody else's job easier if you can. It's a collaboration, not an us and them situation. Always think to yourself, "How can we make this script better?"

In ten years as a comics editor, I worked with dozens of freelance writers. High maintenance individuals who needed their hand held through every single bloody stage of the process didn't last for long. Writers who argued over every notes were almost always more trouble than they were worth. I didn't want to work with writers like that. If I had to, I would minimize contact as much as possible.

When I went freelance, I made a vow not to become a high maintenance writer. All the talent in the world will only get you so far if you're a nightmare. Be professional and people will want to work with you again. Make their job easier by doing good work and they'll employ you again. If you can't be a genius - and far of us are - be a professional. That's how you progress your career. Onwards!

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