Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Front line bulletins from nowhere in particular

Spent an enjoyable afternoon in the libraries of Midlothian yesterday, talking to young people about writing and graphic novels. One of the workshop exercises I use is getting people to tell a story in comic strip form: The queen died. Soon after, the king died of a broken heart. The soon after bit forces folk to use two panels.

Instantly, the storyteller is making multiple choices. How do they depict the queen's demise? How do they indicate the passage of time between panels? How do you show someone dying of a broken heart? Yesterday's sessions featured several existentialists who questioned if it was possible to die of a broken heart, and how that would happen.

Judging the mood of my audience, I tweaked the story ever slightly to this version: The queen exploded. Soon after, the king died of a broken heart. The exploding queen proved very popular. But how did she explode? Too many baked beans was one answer. A dodgy taco was another. Swallowing a hand grenade speculated one participant.

All fun and games. Then there were the brothers who argued about suicide bombers taking out the queen. Could the bombers be corgis? Or would the dogs die in the blast - corgi killing as collateral damage. All of which made me realise what a sheltered upbringing I had in New Zealand. I didn't know about suicide bombers when I was 11.

Spent the weekend in St Albans for a celebration of the in-laws. This coincided with worldwide filming for Ridley Scott and Kevin MacDonald's Life In A Day project. so I took my Flip HD camera along and much strangeness resulted. If I get my arse in gear I'll upload the results to YouTube today or tomorrow. Expect winklepickers.

Had my follow-up meeting from the CBeebies Lab last week. Development money is not something that gushes from every portal of the BBC, no matter what some propagandists may say. But I'm working up a one-page pitch to see if there's any interest further up the corporation in the children's drama I created while on the Lab.

What else? Been busy supervising a quartet of creative writing MA students as they near the end of their time on the course. The part-timers will be with us for another year, and a new cohort of full-timers and first-year part-timers arrives in September. We're still interviewing applicants but recruitment is all but over for this year.

Also been working up Story of the Day pitches for my script editor at Doctors. I've already got one banked, awaiting a suitable slot to be commissioned, plus three more lurking on the Producer's Pile of Doom waiting a read. But I need to keep developing fresh material. Can't let my momentum drop off, not when I'm making genuine progress.

Filming has already started on the block that includes my next broadcast ep. I'm flying down to Birmingham this Sunday to observe filming the following day. Figure the more I know about how the show is made and the more I understand about that process, the better writer I can be for it. I want to keep learning, keep discovering more.

One of my long, long, long-term goals as a TV drama writer is to create and executive produce my own series. I'm just at the start of my journey as a writer, but I know even less about the production side of TV drama. Going along to see my second ep of Doctors filmed is another baby step on that particular path of knowledge. Onwards!

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