Yesterday I signed contracts to write my second episode for the BBC1 series Doctors. Not allowed to say much about it, but my ep's scheduled to tx on Thursday November 18th this year. I delivered the second draft on Saturday [about two minutes to midnight, in fact], and am now awaiting notes. Feels good to have another ep on the horizon, another credit added to my writing CV.
Getting my first TV drama commission on Doctors seemed to take forever. It was 18 months after my successful trial script before I got the call. By comparison, it's only been nine months between that first commission and this one. That's been helped along by how quickly the new ep's progressed. My story of the day pitch got put on the producer's pile in March this year.
By happy chance it was read and banked within a week or three. [As a comparison, the pitch for my first ep spent seven months on the pile before getting the nod.] Took another five or six weeks to be paired up with serial material and sent back for me to write a scene by scene. That seemed to work, leading to a first draft and the recently delivered second draft.
Unusually for Doctors, this episode only features two stories - the one I pitched, plus an extended serial strand. Generally you're given two serial strands to thread through your story of the day, creating an A, B & C story structure. That certainly killed any possible complacency. But the ep seems to be coming along okay [taps head to knock wood].
It's a coincidence, but both of my episodes lead into all-serial eps - no story of the day, just stories that focus on the core cast of characters. Doctors doesn't do those often, as they tend to be the culmination of long-running plot strands. All-serial eps are only given to the core writers. [Joy Wilkinson describes the challenge here.]
Securing a second Doctors commission is important, because it means I'm not a one-script wonder. Getting that first ep was a long, arduous process in itself, but is no guarantee of future success. Winning another commission [and another, and another] is the mark of a working professional. I'm not making my living from TV drama yet, but I'm edging forwards. Little by little, a bit at a time.
Several keys figures from BBC TV spoke at a gathering hosted by the Writers' Guild of Great Britain earlier this month. Among them was John Yorke, Controller of Drama Production and New Talent. [You can hear what he said here.] He said five years ago 4 out of 5 first-time writers in BBC continuing drama didn't get a second commission.
That's a failure rate of 80% [80%!]. Thanks to initiatives like the Writers' Academy and shadow schemes for individual series, that statistic has been reversed. Now 80% first-time writers DO get a second commission - which means 1 in 5 still fail. That's why my second commission for Doctors was important. Onwards!