Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Playing Taps for TAPS

Saddened by the news about TAPS shutting its doors after 18 years of helping writers get a toe in the door with TV drama. The writing had been on the wall since TAPS lost a six-figure sum in funding from Skillset last year. The news coincided with filming wrapping on The Bill, the ITV cop drama with which TAPS often worked.

I first encountered TAPS in 2006 thanks to its weekend-long workshop for TV drama script editors. Didn't tell me everything I wanted to know [an impossible task in two days], but offered a lot of insights and information. It was also a damn sight cheaper than the only other option, a two-day BBC Training introductory course that cost £670 back then [now its £840!].

In 2007 I went to the Cardiff for the TAPS Continuing Drama Workshop. This was a rites of passage for numerous budding screenwriters over the years, with veteran Emmerdale scribe Bill Lyons offering a crash course in brutal honesty. A talented few would have a script filmed on the Emmerdale sets for showcasing on the TAPS website [including Jason Arnopp].

Looking back, I found the Continuing Drama Workshop a lot less satisfying than the script editing course I did with TAPS. Some good challenges over the weekend, but comments by one or two guest speakers rankled. I knew before leaving Cardiff that I wasn't going to be selected for showcasing, but I'm still fond of my script.

Cutbacks in funding are what have done for TAPS, but there's another reality. But when it began in 1992 there were next to no places you could take courses about writing for TV drama. Now there are screenwriting MAs and short course aplenty, it's a crowded market. Still, I wish the best to Jill James, Diane Culverhouse and company - thanks for all you did. Onwards!


Robin Eveleigh said...

David - I was also one of the lucky few to have a TAPS piece produced. And you're right - there are any number of short courses, MAs and the like out there willing to take your dough.

Where TAPS differed, though, was in the showcase element to their work. In fact, the training element only came years later - when funding requirements necessitated a move into training provision.

Whatever TAPS' shortcomings, there aren't many training bodies who can boast the pedigree of their staff and creative board, and as far as I'm aware there aren't any who provide the opportunity to have a script produced on set at ITV.

As one producer told me: 'It's the next best thing to actually having a continuing drama commission.'

Tough times indeed, and with yet another opportunity for new writers falling by the wayside, they just got a bit tougher.


jmswallow said...

It's a real shame to hear about TAPS closing shop; me and my mate Andy Walsh taught their Games Writing Workshop a couple of times, and we got a lot out of it. Here's hoping something similar rises from the ashes.