Monthly Archives: October 2008

Making it as a screenwriter

Okay, so I know most of you will have got this message by now either from Jason or Lucy or maybe even the Shooting People bulletin this morning and I hate to copy other people; but Adrian emailed me yesterday and asked me to help spread the word. So just in case there are people who read this blog who don’t read theirs (why? You fools!) or somehow haven’t heard about it yet, Adrian Mead has a new book out:

MAKING IT AS A SCREENWRITER – new book

In the confusing forest of screenwriting books here is a sturdy oak: simple, honest and true. Highly recommended.”

Ashley Pharoah
Co Creator of Life On Mars. Ashes To Ashes. Where The Heart Is.

MAKING IT AS A SCREENWRITER is not a “how to write” book but a manual that lays out exactly what you need to do in order to achieve your goal of becoming a professional screenwriter.

Every aspiring writer should be forced to read this, at gunpoint.  If I’d had this when I first started writing, I’d have cried a bit, but would have been so much better prepared. You need to read this book immediately.”

James Moran  Screenwriter
Severance. Doctor Who. Torchwood. Primeval

I love this book, it just tells you how it is and what you need to succeed.”

Tony Jordan  Screenwriter
Creator of Hustle, Holby Blue. Co Creator of Life On Mars

Getting your hands on a copy of MAKING IT AS A SCREENWRITER, couldn’t be easier…but first I’d like to tell you a story.   

I pressed the button on the phone and the first sound I heard in the headset was a child sobbing.  She was barely able to speak, kept saying the same thing over and over…”I just want it to stop.”  It was Monday morning 7.30 am.   My very first call as a ChildLine volunteer counselor.

When I first heard that ChildLine were opening a new office in Edinburgh I started to think about volunteering.  Their website stated, “ChildLine is the UK’s free and confidential, 24-hour helpline for children in distress or danger”.  What would I be letting myself in for?  I mean, play me the scene where the mother elephant reaches her trunk through the bars to caress Dumbo and I’m bawling like a baby.  How would I cope?

The interview process and training was fascinating. Yes there are calls about abuse, however children also call to talk about bullying, family break ups, exam pressures, homework, puberty, and pretty much anything they feel unable to discuss with parents, teachers or friends. 

The fantastic training and the short time I have experienced as a counselor so far has definitely given me new skills and an insight into my own psyche. I’m convinced it’s also made me a better writer and director.

Okay, at this point you may be thinking, “What’s all this to do with me?   Well, here’s where you come in.  Apart from a tiny admin cost, all proceeds from sales of MAKING IT AS A SCREENWRITER will go to ChildLine.  By making it exclusively available as a download we can maximize the funds the charity will receive. 

Here’s a few more professionals who think you should get hold of a copy.

“Generous, authoritative, and plain speaking. This is the book for all those planning a screen-writing career.” 

Publicity & The Printed Word (Publicist and Project Manager)

I will recommend this book to all the aspiring writers I work with – it’s practical, honest and inspiring.”

Carly Rich-Conway –
Red Planet Drama Executive and writer 

Lots of other screenwriting books do the ‘Go! Screenwriters!’ cheerleader routine.  Adrian Mead is more the hard-bitten coach in the dressing room, slapping you in the face and telling you exactly what you have to do to win.  It won’t make you write better scripts, but it will help you sell them.”

Andy Conway 
Shooting People Screenwriters Network’

Hard graft doesn’t always get you what you want, but used in conjunction with this book as your guide, the chances are it’ll help you turn that dream into a reality.
 
Marc Pye  Screenwriter
Credits include The Street, Eastenders, The Bill

‘… jam-packed with honest and life changing information that could only come from a successful industry insider.  I highly recommend it to anyone serious about making it in TV or film.’

Geoff Thompson
Author, Screenwriter and BAFTA winner

The simple truth is talent isn’t enough.  You need to know how to get your work into the hands of people with money and then to continue to build a career beyond your first commission.  MAKING IT AS A SCREENWRITER will teach you all this and much, much more.      

Practical, insightful…It’s all about the nuts and bolts of how to get ahead rather than any grand posturing about ‘how to write’.  I wish I had something like this when I was starting out, it would have saved me a lot of time and frustration.”

Danny Stack
Scriptwriter

MAKING IT AS A SCREENWRITER is now available for the price of £7.79.  You can download your copy from our site www.meadkerr.com 

Your purchase will enable ChildLine to continue to offer support and help to children throughout the UK.  

Best Wishes
Adrian Mead
Writer, Director and ChildLine volunteer telephone counselor

So there you go. I can’t personally endorse something I haven’t read (and I can’t believe anyone would be swayed by my opinion anyway), but I’ve just bought a copy and will be reading it tonight.

Not all of it, obviously – I’m a slow reader; but I should manage three or four words by sun-up.

Categories: Someone Else's Way | 1 Comment

Wrong Door – Bondo

Last episode of the series tonight:

Commander Bondo of the Clown Secret Service is tasked with thwarting a dastardly Ninja plot to assassinate Captain Goitre, leader of The Train Pirates.

Melanie’s relationship with Philip the Dinosaur reaches breaking point and Xotang the giant robot’s holiday plans are ruined when he forgets his passport.

There’s a vague possibility that some of the Bondo stuff is based on a couple of sketches I wrote. I say vague because it’s equally plausible that someone else submitted a similar idea and it all sprang from that, or possibly several similar ideas arrived at the same time and were merged together.

By the sound of it, the sketches were all handed round for rewrites a few times anyway, so even if my sketches were part of the original inspiration there’s only a very slim chance any of the lines survived to the final version. Maybe some of the words might have made it in? You know, like ‘the’ and ‘of’ and ‘cockface’.

I guess I’ll find out tonight: 10.30pm – BBC Three.

Categories: BBC, BBC Sketch Show, The Wrong Door | 9 Comments

The secret of screenwriting

I keep seeing courses offering to teach you the ‘Five Secrets of Screenwriting’ or the ‘Seven Secrets of being a Successful Writer’ or the ‘Ten Secrets They Don’t Want You To Know’.

Why THEY don’t want you to know things, apart from because it’s a secret, and who THEY are is beyond me; maybe I need to take that course?

Now, seeing as I’ve never been on any writing courses what I’m about to say may very well be even more ill-informed, inaccurate and downright useless than usual; but it seems to me there’s only one secret which eludes the majority of people trying to cross the line from ‘writer’ to ‘paid writer’ …

I was going to say ‘wannabe writer’ or ‘aspiring writer’ to ‘real writer’ but I guess those terms are quite offensive and can easily refuted by pointing out anyone who writes words down is a writer – whether they get paid or not. So I didn’t.

Anyway, from talking to other writers and reading blogs and forums about writing I’ve come to conclusion that the one secret every writer should know is:

YOU HAVE TO ACTUALLY WRITE THE WORDS DOWN.

There, I’ve said it. I hope THEY don’t come for me in the middle of the night.

Actually, I don’t mind if THEY do, I’ve got a house full of interesting weapons and I’m always up for a fight. True, I’m more likely to hit myself with the interesting weapons than anyone else and most of them are useless in any space more enclosed than a football pitch; but, you know, I’d have a go.

It seems to me that a lot of writers don’t actually do much writing; which I suppose makes the aspiring or wannabe writer tag a bit more accurate. I mean, think about it, how many scripts have you written this year? Could you have written more? Divide the number of pages you’ve written by the number of days. Could you have written more? What about the number of pages divided by the number of hours in the year so far? See what I’m getting at?

I keep seeing announcements that so and so new writer has a script in production with company x and I get a pang of jealousy. How come they got that production company to make their stuff? Why isn’t that company making my stuff?

Well, possibly because I haven’t got round to writing the idea which is suitable for that company, neither have I re-written it, edited it, got opinions on the draft, re-written it again, spell-checked it to within an inch of its life or actually submitted it to the company for consideration. Faced with odds like that, it’s not surprising the idea rattling around in my head hasn’t been commissioned.

People say writing is in their soul or it’s a burning ambition or they’re compelled to write – yet they don’t actually do very much of it. Okay, so most of people have lives to work around. Jobs, kids, family, friends; but really, are you doing as much writing as you could be?

We all procrastinate, that’s practically part of the job description; but, and here’s where the secret comes into play again, you have to actually write the words down afterwards in order for it to count as procrastination. If you don’t eventually get round to writing something it’s not procrastinating, it’s just not doing.

So what’s a reasonable amount of writing to be doing? My average top speed for producing reasonable quality work seems to be about 5 pages an hour; but that’s far from a constant. That’s when I know exactly what I’m going to write, all the problems are solved and I’m in a flat panic because the deadline’s standing in the doorway with a baseball bat checking his watch. Sometimes one page can take eight hours, sometimes it can take eight minutes – there’s no way to judge it until you try to write it. But let’s pick an average, something we can calculate with. Does a page an hour sound reasonable? Bill Martell reckons five pages a day which I presume is over an eight hour day. Although given all the other stuff he writes on a daily basis, possibly not. Let’s go with a page an hour for now.

So how may hours a day is a reasonable amount to commit to writing? Let’s say you’ve got a full-time job and a family to spend time with too. Writing’s important too though, remember? You have to treat it as a career from the beginning, because until you do you won’t get anywhere. You have to allocate it some proper time. Can you do two hours a night? Are the kids in bed by ten o’clock? Does that sound unreasonable? Could you give yourself ten to midnight to write?

I’m sure some people can’t, their lives might be too hectic. Perhaps they’re a full-time carer for a disabled family member – that would make it harder; but even then I’m sure some people manage to find time from somewhere. Those are the kind of people who have the real burning ambition, inner drive and are compelled to write because ink flows through their veins and words are seared on their hearts.

Personally I think I’d just not bother under those circumstances, but that’s why I’m in awe of people who succeed against all odds. Me, and probably most of you, don’t have those kind of problems to deal with. So two hours a night sounds fine.

Similarly, there are two days in the weekend. Why can’t you put one of those aside for writing? Lots of people have to work six day weeks, so if you’re only working five in your day job, why not allocate the sixth for writing? You can spend one day with family and/or friends and the other with the imaginary people in your head. That’s another eight hours there. Hell, if you’re doing a whole day, why not push right through and do twelve hours, or even fourteen? But fine, let’s leave it at a reasonable eight.

Which makes eighteen hours of writing a week. At a page an hour, that equals eighteen pages. A hundred page script should only take you five or six weeks to write. At that rate, you should be able to write nine features in a year.

Nine.

Okay, so that’s probably unrealistic in this model because it doesn’t take planning and pre-writing into account. Let’s say five features a year. Does that sound unreasonable?

Have you written five feature films this year?

Again, this is slightly flawed because it’s not taking re-writes and edits and whatever else into account; but the point is, successful writers are the ones who write enough reasonable quality material to get noticed. You don’t have to write every hour the universe sends, but you do have to write in at least some of them.

I know life gets in the way, I know you have to work and socialise and whatever; but is that really what’s stopping you from writing? I used to work sixteen hours a day for four days a week and eighteen hours a day for the other two. I had very little time to write and got very little writing done. Then I switched to a job where I only worked two night shifts a week. I had FIVE days off a week!

Well, technically seven, but it gets confusing when you work nights.

All that free time and I STILL got very little writing done.

Why?

Because I wasn’t disciplined enough. I didn’t actually write the words down, I just complained about everyone else’s undeserved good luck. It’s not undeserved, anyone who achieves success as a writer does so by working hard. Luck comes into play a little, but you can’t rely on it. Those who luck into getting their first script produced – I’m now in awe of rather than jealous of. Well done you. For the rest of us, work harder.

All of this is really just a long winded way of admitting I’ve been a bit slack as of late. Sorry.

Right. Lunch and then back to work.

Unless there’s any Stargate on.

Categories: Random Witterings | 13 Comments

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