The end…

… of the course and the beginning of my life trying to be a scriptwriter.

I’m still not entirely sure how I’m going to go about the scriptwriting life, but now at least I know how to actually write a script – by this I mean make sure it gets written, rather than having a load of ideas and making vague, random attempts at turning them into scripts. When I was interviewed for this course, I was told the purpose of it was to teach us to take ourselves seriously as writers. And that is exactly what has happened.

So on with competitions and drama groups and agents and on with my next writing project (which I did think was fairly advanced, but when I came to the second draft I had a change of heart). The merry-go round starts again.

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The Final Countdown

What other title could I have given this one? One month today is the deadline for our major project. Nearly a year ago I was thinking “oh god, what have I done?” and now I’m thinking I wouldn’t mind another year at uni and wondering what interesting stuff I could do next. I was eyeing-up a drama course in New York the other day…

I think I’m on schedule with the project. In fact, following my tutorial on Wednesday, I know I am. And I think it’s OK, but I’ll hang fire on going too far down that road until it’s been marked! What I really hope I’ve learnt this year, is how to look at my work critically myself and instead of just reviewing the language so that it reads alright on the page. I’d like to think I can now look at characterisation, motivation, themes, structure, genre and no end of other things I would have ignored before.

Meanwhile, I have to look for a job. I knew from the moment I decided to do this course that this day would come, but I really do have that “back to school” feeling. I hope though, that when I return to office life, I will not get sucked right back into it and forget about what I’ve been doing this year and why I’ve done it.

With that in mind, I’m keeping up with the drama group and I’m working on a stage play (which will give me a chance to exercise my new critical skills). I’m keeping an eye on BBC Writersroom, Ideastap etc and I have a few competitions to enter over the next couple of months. Next year will be a case of (hopefully) keeping my eye on the prize and not getting swamped in day to day stuff.

But for now, it’s Friday afternoon, I’ve worked hard this week, I’m going out in a bit and there’s just time for an episode of Breaking Bad before I get ready… (Hank’s just been shot)! Does life get better?

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This major project really is a major project

Had a tutorial last week which has revived my enthusiasm for my major project. Since we broke up in June I’ve gone from “right, this is my big chance to do a really good piece of work” to “this is really difficult” to “why am I here?” and now back to “this might actually be alright”. There’s still a lot to do and I imagine there will be right up to the last minute. I’m happy with the story and I’ve spent a lot of time filling in the cracks so that it’s watertight; I’d hate to mess it up now in the actual writing of it. This is the first time I’ve really thought about how a drama series works and how they give you information by what you see rather than what you hear. I think it’s something that probably gets easier the more you do.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to do a stage play with a view to eventually getting it performed, with a further view to one day getting an agent… I’ve done a first draft, but it’s pretty short! It’s just the bare bones of the story really. I need to go back and do some work on the characters and the themes. I created the characters, then when I started writing it two of them came out fighting with each other and vying for control of the group, which is something I hadn’t anticipated. It makes sense, though, knowing what I know about them and I think I’ll carry on down that route.

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Good intentions

So, lectures are finished and below are a few useful quotations. Not as many as I anticipated when I decided to compile the list. Some are specific to pieces of writing and some are general advice:

Characters sound like people, but they don’t behave like people – all they do is pursue goals.

A short script is a moment in time.

The world of the story is wider than the short.

Doggedness does it.

The treatment should be a good read.

Keep pushing and something will give.

Nobody knows you exist.

It’s probably worth adding “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

This summer my good intentions are: finish my major project (obviously); do a couple of short scripts (to be submitted for Actors Workshop events); do a theatre piece, with a view to doing a production and work on treatments for the pieces on my slate. So why I thought I had time to watch Homes Under the Hammer earlier today is a mystery. That said, it’s quite hard to summon up a sense of urgency when it’s only the middle of June, even though it only seems five minutes since it was the middle of May and it will only seem five minutes more before it’s the middle of September.

It’s really exciting to think that this might be more than a pipe-dream and at the same time a bit of a concern that I really need to tackle my dawdling issues. I’ve known this since I was about five. Still, I made myself sit down and do a load of financial exams when I didn’t have to, surely I can do this!!

I think I can, mind: I did do the financial exams when loads of people gave up; I stopped smoking with no help; I kept up yoga until I was good at it (then my knee scuzzed out and I had to stop); I learnt to drive when I secretly thought I couldn’t do it; I got out of a dead-end job and gave myself the chance to do something good. I CAN CHANGE!

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The home straight

Just about recovered from Gregynog weekend and it’s starting to sink in that that was our last weekend together. It doesn’t really seem like we’re coming to the end yet, because there’s still a fair bit of work to do. We discussed our eureka moments on the last morning and mine was definitely to write out my major project scene by scene before I actually sit down and write the script. By doing that I’ve found that I save myself up to an hour faffing around and procrastinating time every time I sit down to work. In addition, I have not seen an episode of Judge Judy for over a fortnight!
I think the best thing about the weekend was probably meeting Barry Simner, though I forgot to do the amateur thing and tell him how much I love/ loved Byker Grove and Midsomer Murders and how my friends mock me because I have series 1-11 of Midsomer Murders on dvd. And one day I will have more. I’m familiar, obviously, with the episode he showed us the outline for. It was a bit disappointing that he didn’t really enjoy Byker Grove and bailed out as soon as he could.
Over the weekend I decided that I am going to compile a list of useful things to remember that I have come across over the year, eg. “A short script is a moment in time” and “Characters sound like people, but they don’t behave like people” (which sounds a bit spooky to be honest). I’ll give it a couple of weeks – ’til the end of term – when I should have a full set.
Meanwhile, I have a hit-list of agents to draw up alongside a list of competitions, my major project and draft three of my short script, which is sort of alright and sort of in need of an over-haul. I want to get rid of one of the characters, but I don’t know how I’ll manage the penultimate scene without him. Puzzles…

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Must try harder

Oh dear, I’m not sure I’m really getting the hang of this blog. I forget about it for ages, then I remember and it haunts me for days because I don’t know what to write. Then, eventually, I write something and log-out thinking “yes, I’m off the hook again!!” Next thing I know it’s been ages…

On the March weekend with the part-timers we saw the first act of people’s major project. It was really interesting to see them, especially those where we’d had the treatment seminars together and I knew the stories pretty well. I was happy with the comments I had when we work-shopped them in small groups (mostly carry on). That said, there’s a lot to go back to, although I sort of knew the beginning would need revising from the outset. Now I have to create a language/ style for my medieval characters to separate them from the modern characters. And different ways of speaking for the different social classes!!! Yikes. I have the Collected Plays of Howard Barker Vol I out of the library at the moment as, apparently, he has a very distinctive style. I don’t think I’ve read the best examples yet. I’d like something somewhere between Howard Barker and the character Batiatus (John Hannah) from “Spartacus Blood and Sand”. It’s a bit of a tall order, though.

Meanwhile… short script. I had my idea as soon as I knew where the site we had to use was and I still like it. However, I was offered a place on a new Actorsworkshop course (which I took) where we write a short film and one of the films will be made and my idea’s maybe better for that. I was a bit concerned the course would be repeating a lot of the stuff we’ve been doing in uni, but I needn’t have worried because the brief is to write a ten minute film with EIGHT main characters. Which is something I don’t think Wyn will ever tell us to do. My problem is, I like the one idea I have so much, I can’t think of anything else. So, I’m wondering if there would be any problem with just adapting my idea for a short film (the uni version is for radio)? It would take a fair bit of adapting. The first draft is due a week on Saturday and if I’m not careful I’ll have a first draft of nothing. (NB: If you want to do the course yourself, I think there’ll be other ones later in the year. I’m not keeping secrets, it’s a new course and I was only told about it quite late on).

As far as the uni short script is concerned, there’s a fair bit of work to do on the first draft, but at least I feel like I know what to do. There’s nothing worse than knowing stuff needs changing, but not knowing what to change it to.

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The show must go on

The Showcase rehearsals are coming along nicely. Jamie (the director) has started banging on at us to get the last of the tickets sold (so please buy, buy, buy). To be honest, my first thought was that I didn’t want anyone I know seeing me in this, but now it’s all coming together, I’m having a change of heart. Especially since we rehearsed my monologue a couple of sessions ago: it’s a piece I wrote myself three or four years ago and I was really pleased with the reaction I got from the others in the group (“ha ha ha”, then “oh my god” when they realised what had happened). Afterwards a few of them were asking me about it, which for some reason, is just as satisfying as the initial response.
Meanwhile, starting the major project script is a bit more of a struggle. How do you get two modern day girls from the streets of fifteenth century London to the middle of the king’s court? (Answers on a postcard….). Wish I could just skip to the good bits. The biggest mistake I’ve made so far was opening a bottle of wine and Freecell, telling myself: this’ll help me think. Thought for the day: it doesn’t. And, as it happens, nor does this!

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