Thursday, 1 May 2014

Update 4 - Quality not Quantity

Final topic.  Again, not a topic.  More a manifesto for 2014.  A bit like this manifesto, which I happened upon a couple of days ago and enjoyed.  But a personal one.

This year, I will follow the quality of a project and the people involved in it.  I will reject projects and people I find lacking in quality.

I said earlier, it has been four years since Chalet Girl was filmed, three since it came out.  That project, and those people, remain my professional high point.  I am still working with the director and both the producers on various projects, and our creative sympathies and synergies remain as strong as ever.

So why have I not been able to replicate that model across other creative teams?  I have worked on half a dozen major projects since Chalet Girl came out but none of them has yet fused together creatively in the way Chalet Girl did.  In some cases, I followed a pay cheque.  In other cases I thought I was entering into one kind of relationship, but it turned into another (like this old lady).  Others, to be fair, are still in play, but nothing is approaching production at what you might call warp speed.

Case for the defence.  There is nothing wrong with taking what work comes along.  Nothing wrong with being a jobbing writer.  No shame at all in earning a living at this game, even if you’re not running at maximum creative capacity, or the road is a little bumpy, or, potentially, heading nowhere.

But still, time is dragging on and my ambition remains undimmed.

So how to get there?  I now believe it is by eschewing the so-so projects, by thinking hard before taking a job just for the money, and by running a million miles from people who talk shit.  Life is way too short for any of that.  Instead, I will actively pursue those people and projects I want in my creative life.

Cases in point:

Through the Writing Assignment Tracker project I worked closely with a producer whom I have come to admire greatly, and whose script sense I value highly.  I look forward to working with her on another project.  This is high on my pile.  Why take a dozen general meetings with people you don’t know, in the hopes of finding a creative bullseye, when you have people out there with whom you know you work well?  They are precious commodities, make sure you are mining them judiciously yet vigorously!

Recently, I have worked with an experienced director on a rewrite.  I think we got each other, I think he liked my work and I think his coat-tails have space for me on them.  I have him in my sights for more projects, once this one runs its course (hopefully all the way into production).

There is a script editor who loved Kajaki, and who has got me countless meetings with producers off the back of that.  I need to stick with him, cheek by jowl.  And possibly buy him a bottle of wine.

Through my recent Adventures in TV I have developed a good relationship with the head of development at a well-established TV indie.  I feel I can now pitch her TV ideas as they come through.  One of them may hit.

And I am compiling a list that I will shortly send to my agent of producers and directors, and in some cases writers, whom I want to meet and work with.  They will all be set a grade or two above where I’m at.  The challenge will be to convince them that I can be more useful to them than they can be to me.  Richard Curtis doesn’t know it yet, but he does in fact need me in his life.

And in the past, if I have seen an announcement in Screen that so-and-so has optioned a book or true story that I like, or that the BBC is launching a series of remakes of classic novels (like they did recently), I have emailed them, or my agent, with a polite ‘do you think I could possibly get on the list?’ query.  Now I’ll go after those jobs harder, and if necessary less politely.  I should be doing this stuff.

All of this might involve doing some more work on spec, so I will need to balance this with income from other sources.  Might be back to the two weeks / months on, two weeks / months off model. 

But I trust that this is the way ahead.  I want twenty-year relationships with these people.  I want to go all the way with them.  Quantity shortens the odds, but not by much.  Quality is the only sure fire way to emerge from the pack.

Topic ends.

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