Thursday, 1 May 2014

Update 1 - the update

First post since December.  Apologies.  My ‘writing assignment tracker’ is on pause while the script I wrote is shopped around.  There is a deal with the lawyers at the moment, which is exciting, but I can’t say any more about it because I don’t know any more about it.

In order to get my blog count up I’m going to split this morning’s offering into four posts – the first, this, a brief update on what I’ve been up to, then three ‘topic’ posts on stuff that’s going round in my head at the moment.

So, since December I’ve:

-          Worked on that quick and dirty rewrite I mentioned here.  I delivered the revised draft just before Christmas and it was good enough to get a green light for three days of location filming with some principal cast.  So I got paid my writing fee and even a principal photography bonus.  All great.  Except then that they pretty much junked my entire draft and went back to the calamitous previous version.  It’s a long and very weird story but the lesson is don’t work on vanity projects, unless you’re only doing it for cash.  More on that in my ‘Quality vs Quantity’ post coming later on today.  (No hyper-link because it doesn’t exist yet.)

-          With some change banked, I could spend a blissful January back in the R&D lab, working up some new TV and feature ideas.  God that was fun.  Buying a lot of second hand books on Amazon, immersing myself in a couple of new worlds, looking for stories and characters and themes, and then squidging them all together into some new and gleaming proposal documents.  I do love a freshly minted pdf.

-          The TV series idea – 6x42 min 9pm ITV comedy-drama – took up most of February.  I partnered up with a ‘subject matter expert’, who also happened to be a great writer in his own right, and we followed the “Pitching A TV Idea For Beginners” play book.  Step 1, work up idea.  Step 2, work it up some more.  Step 3, send to agent, work it up some more.  Step 4, agent sends it out to a number of independent TV production companies.  At this stage, Step 4a usually kicks in – nobody likes it, do not pass go, do not collect £200.  In this case, extraordinarily, somebody did like it, so we moved onto Step 5, work on it a bit more with production company.  (Usual discussions of ‘do we need to take an option on this or are you happy for us to shop it informally…?’  Usual outcome.)  Step 6, production company pitches it to ITV.  Step 7, rework it some more on the back of ITV’s not-unfavourable comments.  Step 8, submit it to ITV drama department.  Step 9, put the kettle on.  That’s where we’re at now and I shall keep you posted.  The odds never get any better, but if the worst that comes from this is I’ve gone through the process, and learned a lot, and made a good contact at a good production company, then it’s disappointing but not totally wasted time.

-          March was back to earning a bit of money (my R&D fund had been largely maxed out by then), did another corporate job which was interesting as ever but also got in the way of two exciting low-budget feature / tv movie ideas that I was desperate to get back to.  Finally got back to one of them, and that’s now with the BFI.

-          A script I wrote in about five days got sent out in LA and New York through a manager who is informally repping me there.  Predictably, no bites.  Lesson is you should probably work on scripts for longer than five days, even if your manager is desperate to get something out there.

-          The vanity project resurfaced.  They want you to do some work to the old script, Tom.  But I’ve already done that.  Oh, yeah.  We’ll get back to you.

-          April was an exciting month.  A project came to me with a great director attached, a hot actor interested, and various distributors, financiers etc circling.  The script was based on existing material, and was good but not landing the knockout punch.  Can you have a look at it Tom?  We can pay x (insert low figure here) upfront but xx (insert slightly higher figure here) when it goes into production.  I read it and gave some notes which they liked.  I took the job not so much for the money (either now or, less likely, later) but for the chance to work with a director whose work I’ve enjoyed in the past.  And it came together really well, and everybody likes it.  So we’ll see.  More on this in both ‘Quality vs Quantity’ and ‘It’s easy when it’s right’.

-          And since sending that in I’ve managed to finish the second feature-length proposal and send it out – another deliciously beguiling monochrome pdf.

-          And KAJAKI has been moving ever-closer to a start date.  The fund-raising thermometer is getting hotter by the week, we have some great casting agents attached now and we’re sprinting towards a shoot in Jordan in the summer.  Will keep you posted.

-          And I’ve also managed to fall out spectacularly with a writing partner with whom I’ve worked on the same single project for over fifteen years now.  No blame on either side, just two ships sailing in very different directions.  As a writer you can’t control much – not the business end, the money, even the response to your work.  All you can affect is the process and your own quality control.  In this case, both of those were being compromised too, so that wasn’t great.  A tough nettle to grasp in the end, but the air has cleared now.

My ‘brief updates’ are never that brief, are they?  And looking back, I’ve squeezed a lot into the first four months of the year – hence the lack of blogging I suppose.

I’ve got to tell you I’m pumped.  My son just turned four, which tells me it was four years ago that Chalet Girl was shooting.  Since then I’ve had one low-budget feature shot, and some fun and challenging script commissions, and the whole Kajaki ride.  But I don’t want that ‘production year’ gap on imdb to grow any bigger.  I need another movie made, or a TV show announced, and I’ve got to push and push and push until that happens.  2014?  Oh yeah, come on you beauty.

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