I had a brilliant experience this week.
My first meeting with a TV production company, at their offices in the City of London. The fabulous Script Angel services came through for me again – Hayley forwarded a tv script of mine to an editor who not only read it, they liked it enough to meet me.
So, I work in IT – that’s my bread and butter while write myself a healthy CV – a portfolio of Calling Card scripts and co-writing assignments.
I go to meetings in the City or West End all the time, all over London but especially in the City.
In my meetings, I discuss firstly requirements of a pragmatic, tangible nature. What are your problems, are they measurable? What is the impact on your business and can I assist?
But not this this time.
This time I’m not in my City costume of a suit. It’s media, darling, a suit won’t do!
I proffered my hand and was instead kissed on the cheek.
Then, I’m sat opposite a lovely woman, in a sleek, City office, both of us professionals in our disciplines, talking about... zombies, trans-dimensional aliens, white slavery and teen fiction
The utter strangeness of being in this professional context and talking about the madness in my head, and other people’s heads, was actually surreal.
Do people really talk about monsters in meetings? Hell, Yes! And I’m having one!
This year has already had a few ups and downs. Non-progression in Red Planet and BAFTA competitions, but more competitions pending… I have new draft 1 script finished, starting a review process with the fabulous Script Angel, which is a real passion project – possibly my first. I’ve a stonking tv series I’m compiling and … drum roll… a production company read Gower and want to meet me! And, my co-writer’s writer’s agreement with a US production company is going up a gear as funding discussions are had in LA.
For every low – self-esteem worries, competition flunks, days devoid of inspiration – there are highs and the pendulum has finally swung the other way. I’ve never been really phased when a script doesn’t progress, but finally I’m approaching a stage of equality between the highs and lows.
Hayley’s mentoring period has accelerated the process exponentially, I was so lucky to win that and during my work sabbatical, so I’m finally gaining a little traction. It’s a long old road, with many twists and dead-ends, but I can’t actually imagine not writing any more.
Huge thanks to Hayley McKenzie!
So, lots of ‘stuff’ recently about the absence of powerful females in industry in general, which is reflected within the sub-strata of ‘film’– behind the camera and in front in juicy roles, instead of stereotyped as a)ditsy love-interests, b) hard-nosed bitches, c)seductresses/femme fatales, or d)tank girl-type kick-arses.
So, where are all the women? I dunno about industry, but I’m pretty sure the Church is to blame! No, I’m joking – sort of. I think women have for a long time been painted as ‘home-makers’ in Western society, with the life goal of marriage and children, and the yardstick of success the partner’s income. Anyone who breaks this mould is painted as b, c or d, and children’s film and televisions still perpetuate these models.
I was talking with my writing partner about my horror, Sequestration Manor.
It involves old people, the supernatural, death, mutilation and decapitation, as any self-respecting horror would.
We were chatting, conversationally, about the blood and gore and I caught a young man looking at us. It struck me that actually it's odd to talk about murder and evisceration. We obviously carried on - as you would, it's important to ensure your murders aren't gratuitous. I did think afterwards that a fly on the wall might call the police....
What a lovely job -well, it is as long as the anti-terrorist squad don't turn up at my house
It’s pretty obvious I guess, I’m finding blagging really hard at the moment.
I notice this coincides with real work – both the drudgery of earning a living, and the ‘sink your teeth in’ stage of writing.
I’ve finished my WWI TV pilot, and entered it into a few competitions, so we’ll see what happens later in the year with those, but I am happy with it! I’ve just done my first draft of a horror, Sequestration Manor - Polishing like billyo to get that to Hayley McKenzie. Also sounding out the beat sheet for SM – which is a truly arduous process. Writing is hard but ‘beating it out’ is painful. Re-writing is painful, but the beats are agony. My mind wanders… I’m even considering housework instead of comparing my beats to the horror. Aha, I know – I’ll update my blog. That’s a worthy distraction…
Still, I intend submitting SM to competitions this year, before I can start on my new TV idea, so I’ll resume momentarily.
Perhaps it’s the time of year but it feels pretty relentless – almost hopeless! I’ve been writing for 8 years now? If I'd known when I started what I know now... But too late - now the pull is irresistible.
After this many years of free reign for the characters in my head, I also suspect I’d quickly turn schizophrenic if I suddenly stopped channelling them onto the page.
I’ve learnt the obvious. Had it smacked around my head, drilled into my brain, hammered into my atoms: you have to LOVE the stories you’re writing because you're going to spend a lot of time with them.
The question people ask is, when is your script ready? There’s a danger of
keeping on working it and never letting go. Hayley McKenzie pointed out another real gotcha – The danger of producers asking for changes without stumping up any money, and a hamster wheel of edits that never end.
For me, I’m new enough to take any advice I can get and if it means the script might get made, I’ll do it! It definitely helps me improve as a writer going through this cycle – all grist to the mill, right?
It’s all about LSF at the moment, every writer I know scrabbling for loglines, pitches, workshop prep… the script is by-the-by right now. If we’re not ready we’re too late!
What about first impressions with those all-important execs at LSF?
In an office, everything is about how you look. My history is IT, which is a ‘new’ industry. The nerds and geeks finally found their place in corporate world, exempt from suits – and they created their own uniform. A rebellious, never before allowed look of jeans and t-shirts – the programmers never actually met a customer, right? The techie guys crawl under desks, it’s allowed. No overtly rude of offensive t-shirts, but logos and long hair and scruffy jeans abound. Most call centre people nowadays sit in a large room with no windows! In fact, they’re probably based in a 3rd world country, who knows what they wear?
…Until you get promoted, when you slot right back into Office World and the suit comes out – the default uniform that reassures everyone you’re a professional.
An interesting article http://leejessup.com/lee-s-blog/screenwriters-are-you-paranoid-or-industry-really-looking/ by Lee Jessop came to my attention. Guess what, the execs in showbiz are the same as the execs everywhere else. They expect clean and tidy. They judge us based on what we present them, for much the same reasons:
A week and a bit off London Screenwriters Festival and yet another coup for me!
Just got a confirmed place on Meet the Experts, a 20 minute individual session with a panel of experts to discuss my script... that's on top of the Actor's Read of another of my scripts, with a director, AND the amazing Crime Lab. And and and, that's on the back on winning 6 months with Hayley McKenzie.
I SHALL pitch too, so that's another opportunity: 2 TV pilots and 1 maybe 2 features (energy levels permitting).
9 days to go and the experience is amazing before I've even started. I feel a bit like a hermit crab being pried out of my shell, and I'm sure I'll be blinking in the bright lights and noise after working from home for so long. Nerves are mental too, but the network is lovely and full of other people even more nervous than me!
Best investment in my writing career was my ticket to LSF before it even begins, and the buzz, events and learning will carry me through the dark winter nights. What an amazing, supportive and energetic group of people
Poor Hayley McKenzie at Script Angel, we’ve started my mentoring and a quick, one line question from her elicits
a full page response. But there’s so much to say! But is there? No! Be concise (note to self... and other new writers) and don't try to be too clever. Twitter is great for frugality so I’ll activate my meagre posts. Not that I shut down my account, just that I can rarely think of anything worth saying so sparely. Which is kind of my point...
For the sake of my art, I am selling my motorbike, Derek. Eking out my savings to complete 3 scripts in 6 months with Hayley McKenzie’s help so
as little work-work as possible!
Bit of encouragement needed on this sad day, so I had a browse of
competition progress this year. From the Academy Nicholl Fellowship competition: “…7,251 entries…Regrettably… not …selected as a Quarterfinalist…(but) your script scored well, placing among the top 15% of all
entries.” That's nice, isn't it?
Also, the Beeb writersroom rejected me very nicely! Having progressed to a read and review, their critique was positive, and “ only 5% of all scripts received” got a full read, so that’s encouraging too. I’ve reached the ¼ finals in the Screenwriting Goldmine comp (tho I’m re-working this script with Hayley so that’s not going any further in its present state) AND got my wins from my London Screenwriting Festival submissions.
Poor Derek sold for the greater good but he was getting on a bit. And my reward when I sell a script will be a younger model – wey-hay!
for samples of my work