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GOING STRONG IN GORDON ROAD
Hello again. We, (Big Mike, Little Michael and Me) are still here.
I had to fill in a form recently which said ‘Give previous address if you have lived at your current address for less than 3 years’. I realised that I have rarely stayed anywhere longer than 3 years, which I found mildly shocking. More of an eye-opener however, was the length of the list I ultimately produced by laboriously recalling all the houses I have lived in and places I have moved to and from, since leaving home in 1982. In total I have lived in 21 houses and have been slowly orbiting the country around the M1/M62 corridor between The North and The South for the greater part of 28 years. Like my friend Vania once wisely commented I am ‘an ocean liner not willing to dock’.
So I am pleased to say I am still in Gordon Road but the 3 year milestone approaches and who knows, I may have to haul anchor again….
I am glad to say that at last Spring has finally decided to get out of bed, moisturise and face her impatient public. The countryside around our little village is becoming greener by the minute and there are snowdrops tentatively waving from the hedgerows. Even the snow-bogged, mud splattered, rain-drenched, sodden, mildewed mess that is currently our garden has started to look less like a flattened cow pat and more like a cow pat in the process of rapidly drying out. Hurrah! The lid has come off the Early Learning Centre Water and Sand Table (a must have for all 2 year olds) and the toddler lawn mower is finally able to phtt phtt without a splutt splutt.
MOTHER OR MEDIA MOGUL?
Broadcast magazine are doing a survey at the moment. If you are female, work in the media and have ever asked yourself the question ‘can I have a family and a career in telly?’ click this link and have your say www.broadcastnow.co.uk Or if you are currently trying to break in to the industry and also have an idea you might want to be a mum at some stage too, then read on….
Ann Diamond on Five live recently said that she wished when she was a teenager someone had told her to consider when thinking about a career, the fact that she may want to have children also and to decide whether that was going to be sooner or later. Nicely said Ann, but I can not help thinking that if our career advisor had done just that to me and my girlfriends between the ages of 16 and 19 we would most definitely not have been listening (being far too distracted by the problems of finding a pair of truly fabulous fitting jeans, getting away with hitch –hiking to Eric’s in Liverpool without our dads finding out and how to get good grades but still do as little work as possible).
I used to love script editing and producing television programmes and I still sometimes miss the structure, the camaraderie, the deadlines and the buzz of working on the front line. But it was difficult trying to find that elusive thing social commentators call ‘a life/work balance’. I was working too much, not spending time with my friends and missing out on family occasions. But making drama is an all encompassing thing to do, it is both fun and incredibly stressful. While you are in thick of it, the production crew, the script team, the cast et al became a sort of family and for me at least, piling down to the local bar after a heavy script session or a day’s filming was all the down time I needed from the pressures of work. For a while anyway…and then I woke up one morning, realised I was over 40 and my sub-conscious voice that had been whispering ‘don’t you want a family of your own one day?’ had started to shout.
So now I love writing from home and working with writers via my website and running my workshops and giving my 2 year old growing up time with his mum. This has been my choice and I have had to make a ton of compromises along the way. Having tried to write with my son attempting to hog the keyboard saying ‘I want to tap and colour mummy’ (thank you Fisher Price online colouring!) I now pack all my writing and thinking time into the days I can afford to have my son in nursery. I still want to work but I want to be a mum too and between those two things there lies an ocean of compromise.
The question so often trotted out on television programmes and magazines with a female demographic is ‘Can Women Have It All?’ The inference here is that we ought, according to some unwritten rule, to be able to do just that; have our babies and a marvellous career too.
My son was born in my 46th year. This, according to the NHS made me as old as the Peat Bog Woman but he turned out healthy and happy in spite of my Neolithic status. So I for one am happy to concede that I can not have it all and am very lucky that I had the career had and still managed to get the opportunity to be a mum before my bits turned back to peat bog.
DAY IN THE LIFE OF GEORGE JOBBING WRITER
10.00am – My flat – SE London – breakfast niche/office
My flat is compact. It has to multi-task in order to accommodate my needs as Single Girl About Town and up and coming writer of Very Famous Soap. My mate Martin says my flat has ‘the look of a lost kitten’ by which he means it is small, unloved, could be cute but badly needs a stiff brushing. I don’t have time to do any brushing. Or anything remotely domesticated. Am in Development Hell and it’s getting hotter by the minute.
It all started exactly 20 minutes ago when I was not in Development Hell, but happily working on the storyline of episode 2,345 and catching toast as it popped out of the toaster at the same time (there are distinct advantages to having your office in the breakfast niche). The A story (or the main story to the uninitiated) involves Penny Asher (blonde be-wigged owner of the King Vic and Madame of a string of lap dancing clubs) and the return of her prodigal son-gone-to-the-bad Ryan. Penny’s initial joy at having Ryan in her life again turns to horror when she learns that her son and Mr Orange the ruthless and scheming businessman who has been trying to undermine her lap dancing empire are one and the same. This story is a mare to write because it all depends on the audience believing that Penny could entrepreneur anything, not least a lap dancing empire (the woman is about 103) and there’s lots of figures and percentages to get into the dialogue about the club takeover which makes any scene as dull as cardboard. Anyway, I was happy compared to what I am now because then the phone rang.
It was Hope (the nicest Script Editor) from Westenders and she had something Top Secret to tell me. She said that Scary Producer and Sauvignon Deane’s agent Sooki were ‘in crisis talks’ about the actress coming out of the soap because she wanted ‘fresh challenges’. I thought the real reason Sauvignon wanted to leave was common knowledge – she had lost her septum to cocaine abuse and had to have it reconstructed. Hope told me not to be cynical and could I just focus on the job in hand? Apparently we (Hope and me) had agreed to come up with a drama vehicle for Sauvignon that would: a/please the Network by keeping her on the channel and fulfil the terms of her current contract b/please Sooki the agent who represents 80% of the cast of Westenders and could cause us major problems if we didn’t treat her right c/ please Sauvignon.
My heart sank. We were caught in a no-win situation. Whatever pleased Scary Producer was guaranteed to piss off Sooki and as I pointed out to Hope, no-one has ever managed to please Sauvignon. Hope optimistically pointed out that Sauvignon was probably smiling all the time, but you couldn’t tell because of the Botox.
Hope said she was coming round to work up some ideas with me. I have exactly an hour to conjure out of thin air a pre-watershed, family orientated idea that 3 of the biggest and most unstable egos in the business will like at the same time. But first I’d better check the bathroom for bio alerts just in case…..
11 o clock – My Flat – Living Room
We have retired to the Living Room. The Office cum Breakfast Niche scenario did not work with 2 of us and our laptops and our angst. We decided to Abandon Niche when Hope’s elbow flicked the switch on the kettle and she nearly got an impromtu face peel from boiling hot steam.
Once spread across the Axminster I pitched my baby – ‘Star Gazer’; my Who Dunnit Zodiac Idea. Thought it was a winner. New, quirky, family-based (to appeal to the widest demographic) and sexy without having any sex in it. Sauvignon Deane will play Scorpio the feisty young sleuth who learned the tricks of her trade at her daddy’s knee, the hard-bitten old cynic Leo. Along with the gorgeous but misguided help of Aquarius and the super efficiency of the office administrator Virgo, Scorpio solves each week, a series of seemingly unsolvable crimes using her skills at reading the astrology charts and the skies at night through her designer telescope. Hope did listen but then dismissed it. I found that tough. She said it had ‘holes’ and anyway she knew that Sooki was totally anti-‘crystal ball stuff’ because her psychic had predicted she would have the upper hand in the acrimonious split with her husband only to have his decree nisi delivered to her hand at the office the same day she had decided to divorce him.
We stared at each other for a bit then I started Google-ing like mad and Hope began cutting my magazines to bits. She made a collage. There was a wheelbarrow full of pumpkins in an idyllic garden scene, a landfill site, girls in bikinis on a beach, boys on motorbikes and a sweet picture of a puppy wearing a Cath Kitson apron. She said she was trying to capture the zeitgeist – I gave up Google-ing and helped her try to capture it.
6pm – My Flat – Bedroom
Hope has just gone back to base. Westenders called her in, some script crisis that I am really glad is not mine. The collage of ideas took 4 hours, 20 back copies of Heat magazine and a lot of PVA glue to finish. If we were entering some alternative art competition we might be in with a chance but how this is going to get a drama vehicle off the ground in time for when the glue on Sauvignon’s septum has set is beyond me. As well as my Zodiac idea, Hope came up with ‘Self-made Splash’ a comedy drama series about a synchronised swimming team and their bid to win the Nationals. We both got quite excited about it until I remembered how we had to change a recent storyline where Sauvignon rescues Poppy the pub pug, from the canal, to a non water rescue (we opted for a wheelie bin) because Sauvignon has a phobia about water. So for the moment at least, all we have is a very textured and rather eclectic mix of magazine cuttings and I think I have scissor blister.
Hope is confident we will get ‘a flow of conversation going’ with ‘the key 3’ using this collage as a ‘spring board’ – I reckon it’s more likely a case of back to the drawing board…..hey ho, development hell continues tomorrow when I am going to Hope’s house for a ‘brainstorm’. At least there’s room to swing a cat there. Swing a Cat? Title for a sitcom starring Sauvignon Deane as hard-working single mum of 3 struggling to run a Cattery in the Cotswolds?
Think I need to lie down.
I recently came across these interesting souls on the net (which wasn’t hard, as they are just about everywhere!) https://www.bluecatscreenplay.com They are based in LA and do a smart, sassy job of supporting and promoting new and interesting writers and their work. I have pasted below an excerpt from their recent newsletter; an interview Blue Cat did with the programme director of a new initiative promoting writing in the community. I think Script Frenzy is a great idea and a concrete way of getting just about anyone to write something to a deadline.
Interview with Script Frenzy Program Director Jennifer Arzt
Script Frenzy Begins April 1
“Script Frenzy is an international writing event in which participants take on the challenge of writing 100 pages of scripted material in the month of April. As part of a donation-funded nonprofit, Script Frenzy charges no fee to participate; there are also no valuable prizes awarded or ‘best’ scripts singled out. Every writer who completes the goal of 100 pages is victorious and awe-inspiring and will receive a handsome Script Frenzy Winner’s Certificate and web icon proclaiming this fact.”
Every year, thousands of writers take part in Script Frenzy. The goal: write 100 pages of scripted material during the month of April. Late last week, Script Frenzy’s Program Director, Jennifer Arzt, was kind enough to share some time with BlueCat. Inspiring thousands of writers to produce material under a strict deadline, Script Frenzy continues to grow year after year.
BlueCat: Where did the idea for Script Frenzy come from?
Jennifer Arzt: From running NaNoWriMo, we’d seen that all it takes to transform a book-lover into a book writer is a deadline and a supportive community. We’d also seen that the process of writing a book can completely change people’s perceptions of themselves. Once you discover that you can write a passable novel draft in 30 days, you start to wonder what other things you’re capable of. It opens doors that lead to some really interesting places.
We knew that scriptwriting could also work as a similarly great springboard to creative exploration, and the length of a standard script made it an ideal fit for a month’s labors. Unfortunately, we found that people who loved movies or plays shied away from penning scripts because they mistakenly believed it took months to learn the formatting rules (or hundreds of dollars to buy expensive software).
We thought that running a sort of anti-contest writing contest along the lines of NaNoWriMo but focused on movies and plays could help everyday people just dive into the creative process. When we asked NaNoWriMo participants what other kinds of things they would like to write, happily movies and plays were at the top of the list. And thus was Script Frenzy born!
BC: What was the first Script Frenzy like?
JA: It was great! At that point, NaNoWriMo had about 50,000 participants and we had achieved a reasonable degree of stability. It was nice to get in over our heads again by doing something for the very first time. We learned a ton! The first Frenzy had a 20,000-word goal, took place in June, and only allowed screenplays and stage plays.
It turns out that scriptwriters become somewhat violent when you ask them to count words rather than pages, so the following year we changed the goal to 100 pages and everyone was a lot happier. June also turned out to be a tough month because it was the cusp of summer, students were on vacation, and the writerly mojo was low. We also got a lot of emails from folks who wanted to write long TV shows and graphic novels scripts who felt left out of the Frenzy. So we broadened the event’s reach in 2008 to include all kinds of scripts. We haven’t looked back since.
BC: What kind of feedback do you receive from Script Frenzy participants, in terms of what their participation accomplished for their writing?
JA: A couple things seem to come up time and again. I’d say the two biggest comments are about the motivating deadline and the habit of writing daily. The deadline is set by us, an external force. We start on April 1, no matter what. There is no wiggle room given and no excuses taken. Either you’re in or you’re out. I think that the finite quality of an externally set deadline and the rush (or pure fear) of missing it works as an incredible motivator for so many people.
The ticking clock of a timed writing event also gets folks writing everyday. (The easiest way to write 100 pages in 30 days is to consistently write 3.3 pages a day.) We hear so many stories from our participants about how easy it is to say no to invitations because they are taking part in Script Frenzy and need to write. I think it gives legitimacy to writing.
The habit of writing every day gets formed in April and continues through the rest of the year.
SCRIPT ADVICE WORKSHOPS LATER IN THE YEAR….
If you want to be a professional, successful writer, is it better to develop your talent by sheer dogged application and will power; writing better scripts because you write so many, or would you get better results, if you went back to college and did a course? The answer of course, is purely subjective. What ever you think fits you best. And let’s be honest here, there are a lot of mediocre courses out there for writers and not all media colleges live up to their glossy prospectus.
The National Film and Television School however does. And they also run short courses open to any member of the public who wants to learn something about the crafts involved in film and television production.
I am happy to say they have let me in!
In November I will be running a 4 day course entitled PLOT AND DEVELOPMENT which is split into 2 workshops each covering 2 days.
The first 2 day workshop is called HOW TO WRITE A TELEVISION DRAMA TREATMENT and the second workshop is HOW TO STORYLINE FOR LONG RUNNING DRAMAS. I know that some of you may have already been to one or perhaps both of these, as I also run workshops for The Script Factory and these two workshops were in their programme in the recent past. If you would like to see the sort of work I do, then please come to one or both of these workshops and click on the NFTS website for more details.
Well, that’s about it for this newsletter but do check out my website and my facebook group (links at the top of the page) and Thanks For Reading.
BYE FOR NOW AND HAPPY WRITING!
Copyright Yvonne Grace Script Advice MARCH 2010