Sunday, April 11, 2010

Ending the week that wouldn't end

The past seven days felt like the week that wouldn't end. It was probably exacerbated by starting away from home at Eastercon, the British national science fiction convention. I was down in That Fancy London [well, mostly airports alongside Heathrow] from Friday to Sunday, eventually getting home round midnight on Sunday. Monday to Wednesday was work on a project I can't discuss yet.

No doubt I've mentioned this before, but there's an unfortunate interregnum when writers who blog start getting somewhere with their writing - and the blog suffers. They become understandably skittish about discussing a project in public before contracts have been signed, for fear of kiboshing the whole thing. Loose lips sink commissions, and all that jazz. So, generalities abound.

But I'm not ready to pull the plug on this blog. If nothing else, it's a useful way to keep family and friends apprised of what I'm up to [particularly useful when all your relatives live in New Zealand - hello Kiwis!]. And Vicious Imagery is a good way of getting my arse planted in my office chair, writing. So the blog stays, even if I can't talk about certain specifics.

Where was I? Oh yes, the week without end. Like I said, Monday through Wednesday was the project that dare not speak its name. Deadline for the first draft is Friday April 30th, so it'll be occupying plenty more of my time between now and then. Thursday and Friday was back to my part-time job as a lecturer on the Creative Writing MA at Edinburgh Napier University.

Thanks to some gorgeous sunshine, I kept having flashbacks to last year before the course began. That summer felt like the calm before a storm - writing module handbooks, interviewing applicants, trying to prep for the unknown. We've pretty much concluded the taught section for the first cohort, and are now prepping for the summer trimester and year two.

The current cohort are on their two-week Easter break, but work continues for the teaching staff. So Thursday and Friday we were interviewing applicants and writing a module handbook for the major project each full-time student will be creating over the summer. Also trying to figure out when to take holidays - more accurately, when I won't be in at uni this summer.

What else? Oh yes, Wednesday night I was playing the part of Doctor Love for a film student's graduate project. The shoot was to be done by 8pm, but inevitably overran so it was nearly midnight before I got home. Still, a lot of fun. I'm also directing an amateur production of the play Les Liaisons Dangereuses, so that's eating at least three nights a week of my time.

Spent much of Saturday catching up on my TV drama research, watching two Doctors eps [including a cracking all-serial effort from Friday, written by Claire Bennett], the return of Waterloo Road, this week's Holby City and some EastEnders by top bloke and Writers' Academy graduate Paul Campbell. Hard to feed my Good Wife addiction amidst all this British continuing drama.

Speaking of the Writers' Academy, the annual BBC scheme to train scribes in the ways of scripting Doctors, EastEnders, Casualty and Holby City is now open to applications. To be eligible you've got to have at least one professional (paid) drama commission in film, TV, radio or theatre. Then it's the quality of your writing sample that decides whether or not you get further.

I've been eligible since my first radio play was broadcast in 2006, and applied twice without much success. No shame in that, up to 100 people try out annually for each of the eight available academy places. Apparently my 2008 entry got past the first sift, but not an invitation to the workshop day. I didn't apply last year, having committed myself to the uni teaching gig.

But now it's decision time again. I'm a lot further down the road than I was two years ago. Back then I'd just completed a successful trial for Doctors, was pretty fresh off my screenwriting MA and only had a 15-minute radio play as my qualification. Since then I've been on the Doctors shadow scheme, had my first Doctors ep broadcast and sundry secret projects progressing.

I'm a better writer, but still have so much to learn. Getting into the academy would be a great leap forwards, but it's far from being the only path. I didn't need it to get my first drama commission, or secure representation from a London agent. There are plenty of writers who've broken through recently [e.g. Danny Stack, Michelle Lipton] without being in the academy.

Getting in would be a dream come true - and a massive upheaval. It'd mean leaving my wife, my home and my friends for three months to live in London. It'd mean giving up the teaching job I enjoy for at least one trimester, if not for good. It's the fast track to EastEnders, Casualty and Holby City - but it's not the only route to writing those shows, those opportunities.

So, it's decision time. Fortunately the deadline isn't until May 5th. In the meantime, I've got a script to be writing. Onwards!

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