State of play

Lovely and busy at the moment. Actually, slightly scarily too busy. I’ve got myself into another one of those situations whereby I’m slightly over-worked now with the possibility of really fucking myself over in the next few months.

The Pain In The Arse treatment has to be approved by three people. Two of them have read it and really like it, just waiting for the verdict from the third now.

In the meantime I’ve been disassembling a script and weeding out the pointless bits in order to accommodate the potential director’s notes. It’s going to be a very substantial re-write and so far I’ve managed to clear out a lot of deadwood, re-think the plot, index card it and re-write the first act.

It’s going well, but I have to stop. Which is a shame because I’m really getting into it.

The reason I have to stop is because I’ve got to knock up a treatment for a new film which is provisionally slated to shoot in January. I promised the producer I’d start the treatment at the beginning of October and since this one is more pressing than the re-write then it has to take precedence.

When I suggested the beginning of October as the start date, I was still blissfully optimistic about the PITA treatment which was nearly finished and surely wouldn’t take more than a few more days. That would leave most of September for the re-write and straight into the new treatment in October.

Unfortunately, the PITA treatment wasn’t giving in without a fight and took up most of the re-write’s time. Add in a brief bout of malaria and I’m running a little behind.

So that’s where I’m at. Hopefully this new treatment is going to be lovely to write and will slip peacefully from my brain onto the page. I’ve got all the basic plot points worked out and it seems simple enough, but you never can tell with these tricksy bastards.

A worrisome blip on the horizon comes in the form of two meetings this month which could lead to two new projects: one for theatre, one for TV. I’ve kind of agreed to these things because in my head it will all be lovely and I’ll have plenty of time, but my PITA experience has made me mildly suspicious of my ability to judge how long a project will take. Add to that the possibility of the PITA screenplay being requested and the future goes from worrisome to frighteningly impossible.

Still, it’s tough, I’ve agreed to the work and I’ll just have to get on with it as best I can. If it leads to a couple of nights without sleep, so be it. As I’ve said many times before, it’s nice to have these kind of problems. It’s nice to be in demand.

Categories: Progress, Random Witterings | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “State of play

  1. Great to be so busy! Nice one! But – question. Is your PITA treatment taking longer than you anticipated because you’re just not getting it right yet or because the three people who have to sign off on it can’t make up their bloody minds?

    It’s possible to sustain a high output as a scriptwriter, but the problem comes when you find yourself working with a team that simply dare not commit. The moment you advance to script stage, they no longer have you by the short and curlies in the same way as they do when you’re rehashing the treatment. Some producers find the treatment stage well within their comfort zone – they can go on amending it indefinitely – but are scared of scripts because they just don’t understand them. They lose a bit of their control when they allow the scriptwriter to get on with what he or she is good at.

    I wish you the very best of luck. But be warned: your entire output could suffer if the PITA guys continue to hold up the one project. They’ll send your head into a spin. Be prepared to withdraw, if necessary, before unreasonable demands on one project create difficulties for all your others.

    Voice of experience.

  2. The PITA thing was purely my fault, the delay was all in the writing because of too much detail, not enough commitment and an inordinate interest in doing ANYTHING but write it. I went into a bit more detail here:

    The guys waiting for the treatment did so very patiently and two out of three read it instantly – the third hasn’t read it yet because of personal problems. If anything, the only problem from their end was the lack of deadline: “It’s something we want to do next year sometime, no rush.” So I didn’t.

    Nice blog, by the way.

  3. You had malaria?
    Odd that, I’ve just got over a bout of some kind of plague.

    Next thing you know all the fish in the sea will die, the sun will turn black, the moon will turn red, and the world economy will go totally Pete Tong. … Ah…


  4. I did indeed, although it turns out it was the fake kind.

    Basically, I had all the signs and symptoms – enough so that the doctor phoned someone to find out if there’d been any reported outbreaks anywhere I’d been recently. Even then he wasn’t sure. In the end he decided it was probably an unfortunate confluence of completely unrelated illnesses and told me to go home.

  5. Phil can I ask you a question? I’ve been aksed to write a telly treatment for a comedy. A four parter. How many pages do you think? I keep getting different responses about this and I don’t want to fuck it up.

    (When I say ‘fuck it up’ I mean in that sense that when I worked in children’s publishing we used to get these book proposals with smiley faces in the margin, and even pictures of cats because people in kids publishing are a bit soppy right? I’d immediately think: FUCKWIT and put manuscript on the shredding pile.)

  6. That’s a difficult question, Jane. I think it depends on how long each part will be, how much detail you want to include and, most importantly, what kind of document whoever asked you for the treatment is expecting.

    A four part comedy is a bit unusual, for a sitcom I think the norm is a page or two on the first episode and just a paragraph or two on the rest – but a four parter sounds a bit more plot driven than a sitcom so presumably needs more detail.

    I think if it’s four half-hour episodes then between four and six pages of treatment per episode sounds right. If it’s four hour-long episodes then maybe eight to ten pages an ep might be needed.

    This is, of course, assuming this person uses the same terms I do and thinks a synopsis is one page and a treatment a longer document. Not everyone agrees on the terminology. If it’s possible, the best thing to do is to ask them what sort of length they’re looking for. If they’ve produced something similar before you could always seek out a treatment for that to get the format right.

    You probably won’t go far wrong by just writing what feels right. You know what your plot is, so it’ll probably become clear when you’re writing the treatment how much detail you need to include. By the time you’ve finished the first page you’ll be able to see roughly how much of the final show it covers, so maybe just judge it from that. I doubt you can get the length so completely wrong they’ll bin it straightaway and the reason everyone disagrees is because there isn’t really a standard.

  7. Thank you so much for that – very helpful.


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