Shooting People

Quick post before I jump in the shower and go to work (don’t worry, I am clothed)

I’m getting lots of nice comments about the Screenwriters’ Diary. Thank you very much. I’ve been thinking of ways of spreading the word and obtaining more information for it and I’m considering returning to the Shooting People fold. 
So, a question. What’s it like? I used to be a member and it was really useful. I made some contacts through it, got some stuff optioned. Then, a few years ago, it seemed to descend into nothing but people having arguments on it and, well, it stopped being useful. 
How do you find it? Has it improved at all? In these “harsh economic times” and being a SITCOM family (Single Income Two Children Oppressive Mortgage) I’m loathe to throw thirty of my hard earned quid away. 

The Story of How I Got An Agent Interested

Kid B was up at 5.30 again. Been the same all week. I think she’s slowly becoming nocturnal. What with long work hours, a two and a half hour round trip to work and the writing, I haven’t been this tired since she was a newborn. And the Better Half and I get to do it again in May when Kid C arrives! I tell you what, I’m having the snip after this one. 

They should film my life for a contraception commercial. Forget all the STD and the “respec’ from your mates” stuff. All they need to show is a picture of me. See this man? Haggard, grumpy, skint? Yeah, this is what happens if you have a few glasses of wine and think “We’ll be ok going bareback just this once.” 
Or I always thought the slogan “Buy Me And Stop One” would be good for Durex. 

Still no word back from the BBC Writers Room about “Stuck Between Stations”. Yes. Definitely on Someone Important’s desk. 
I’ve got a meeting with my agent this afternoon to discuss my plans for the year. I think I said a very long time ago that I’d write about how I got them interested. So here goes. I’m not saying that this is a foolproof way of getting an agent, or even a guide. It’s just a series of events that happened. 
First, I did my research. I used a copy of the Writer’s Handbook by Barry Turner (no relation). There’s a big section in there listing agents. I went through this and drew up a list of the agencies that might be interested in my work (let’s face it, you don’t want to be wasting money sending letters off to agencies that have no interest in representing screenwriters) and who already represented people that I respected. That was my A-list. (If my agent is reading this, you guys were on the A-list!)
Then you need to drill-down.  You need to find a contact name. Most agencies have a website, it takes two minutes to find the name of someone in the company who represents the type of stuff that you’re writing. Get it in their (or their assistant’s) in tray. 
Letters addressed to just the agency are, I’m guessing, going to drift around aimlessly until someone claims it. Or just get a straight “no thanks, we’re too busy”. That theory is based on absolutely no empirical evidence whatsoever. 
When it comes to the query letter, keep it short and sweet. No more than a page. Less, if you can. A few paragraphs. If I remember rightly, my letter launched straight into the pitch for the script I wanted to send. Then I said a tiny, tiny bit about me that was relevant (the fact that I’d had this and a previous script optioned) Don’t go on for 9 pages about how, when backpacking through the Urals, you had a vision that this was your calling. Apparently that happens more than you’d think. 
Then I thanked them and hoped to hear from them soon.
The letter was duly posted (I also included a stamped, self-addressed postcard with “I’d like to read it/I’m not interested” on it. They never get used, but I think it shows keenness and organisation on your part. I’m not even sure that’s needed, actually. When I started searching for an agent, email wasn’t massively popular. What do you think?)
I got a very nice email saying that they’d like to read the script. After reading, they said that they could see promise in my writing. Had I got anything else? So I dusted off a previous script and sent that off. They liked that, so we had a meeting.
Then they asked a very pertinent question “Have you got anything we can actually sell?” I’d spent my time writing features and I think we’re all well aware of how difficult it is to get someone to give you any actual money for them. 
Then life got in the way, but now I think I’m actually writing stuff that they can actually sell. Go me. 

Word of the Day

Excuse me, but I’m trying something new. The family and I are all sat on the sofa watching Nick Jr, waiting for the Simpsons.

So, I have taken this opportunity, this eye in the familial storm, to try posting a blog on the Blackberry.

Which brings me to the new word of the day I just learned.

“Blueface”. Apparently, its music industry slang for a+r men because they spend the whole time at gigs on their Blackberrys, their faces illuminated by the blue light from the screen.

What cool (or book) words have you learned recently? I’m all about spreading the etymological wealth.

Sitcom. A Different Way of Writing. Discuss.

I’m cream-crackered so I’ll try and keep this brief. New project at my day job, long car journey, lots more to learn, I’m sure you’ve all been there! Going to have to work on ways to organise my day to fit everything in. 

Big Thank Attack to everyone who’s said nice things about the Screenwriters’ Diary Newsletter, or told people about it, or – hell – read it and, hopefully, found it useful. 
On my journey home, I was thinking about sitcom. When I started out, I was trying to write features. In those, it’s all about the hero’s journey. A character starts with one point of view, you stick him through the ringer and he emerges from the other side with a different point of view. 
You stick him/her up a tree, throw things at him/her and then get him/her out of the tree. I always liked that analogy. Is that the right word? I’m too tired to find a dictionary.  
Sitcom is the complete opposite. The characters do not and cannot change. But that’s the point. Does Basil Fawlty learn anything in those 12 episodes? After five series, are Mark and Jez in “Peep Show” better people? No. 
Even “Friends”, which I think was unusual for a sitcom in that it had series (or at least several episodes) long story arcs, if you watch the first episode and the last episode, 10 years apart, the characters are exactly the same. Are you the same person you were 1o years ago? I hope I’m not. But we want Joey, Homer, Edmund Blackadder and Tim and Daisy to be.
It’s a different way of writing and I’m having to get used to it. Does any of that make sense?
I may have to go to bed, now. Sleep tight, Space Cadets. 

Shameless Self-Promotion

This morning I was updating the Screenwriters’ Diary. Going through my list of contacts and references, I got all frustrated and thought “Gah! Why isn’t there one central place where I can just search all this stuff in date order? It would make the research so much easier.”

Then I remembered that there is, it’s the Screenwriters’ Diary and that frustration was the reason it came into being. 
I’ve compiled the weekly newsletter that will be going out tomorrow morning. There are some interesting opportunities that I’ll be taking advantage of and I think you should too!
There’s still time to sign up by simply adding your email address to the top of the page. Go on, feed my ego. You just have to delete an email every Monday morning…

The Waiting Game Part 2

It’s been over four months since I had confirmation from the BBC Writers’ Room that they received “Stuck Between Stations”. 

This means either:
A) It is amazing and it’s currently sat on the Head of BBC Comedy’s Desk.
B) It is trapped under a heavy object in the readers’ room.
C) It has spontaneously combusted. 
D) They’re swamped.
Anybody know the turn around times they’re working to at the moment. I emailed the Writers’ Room on Wednesday, but I haven’t got a reply yet.   

Virtuocity Update

We Daves, as a breed, are a helpful bunch. So it’s a big thank you to Dave Melkevik over at The Columbo Effect for updating me about the call for screenwriters by Virtuocity. My original post’s here.

Apparently, in a last minute decision, the contract has been awarded to another company so Eyebrid Blaze Ltd aren’t taking any more submissions.

I’ve removed it from the Screenwriters’ Diary to avoid any confusion.

Right, back to Twitter. It’s like networking, but you can do it in just your pants.

(Yes, those who are already tweeting, I know I used that line yesterday, but I quite like it!)

Career Opportunities

I currently have the Clash very loud on my iPod, so that felt like a suitable post title…

Quick one today. Have a lot on in my day-job and have to try and fit in writing a new scene for the re-draft of “Stuck Between Stations” in my lunchbreak.

Two screen agencies are recruiting at the moment. They’ll pay you and everything, so you can buy more pencils and notepads. Not strictly writing gigs, but a foot in the door and all that.

The first one is a Production Administrator with Screen Yorkshire. More details here

And the next one is with Film London. They have an internship available in their production department. Get the skinny over here

Both have a deadline of 27th February 2009, so brush down those C.V.s

Notes From The Prod Co.

It seems, currently, that there’s a lot of writing activity going on in the Blogosphere. Novels or screenplays, laptops or crayons, people look like they’re getting their heads down and scribbling. More power to your elbows, kids.

For my part, I got the notes on “Stuck Between Stations” from the prod co. I met on Monday. My limited experience of these things seem to go “I love the script. It’s perfect. Now, here’s everything that’s wrong with it.”

And you know what? They’re completely right. I went through the list and agreed with everything they said. You learn early on in this game that you’re not going to make the best script you can on your own. You need that outside input. You’re making this for other people to watch, so you need to know what other people are thinking.

I’ve sketched out a rough treatment for the new draft. I’m sad that some of my favourite jokes are going to have to fall by the wayside, but you’ve got to be ruthless, no matter how good that Scooby Doo joke is. Luckily, most of it is going to just be moving furniture around to help the pace and set up future episode plotlines. I’m chomping at the bit to get started and really excited. I’m actually writing something I’m really proud of and, for once, don’t think I’ll be wincing when I read it back in a few years time.

I couldn’t do anything last night because the printer died, but that’s okay. I’ve made a pledge not to write on Tuesdays because that’s Battlestar Galactica night and I just feel really bad comparing my writing to that show.

I don’t know for sure, but this might be the meaningful thing that I’ve been trying to write. And I’ve managed to retain some knob gags.

Let’s all keep it up!

So Very Tired And Celebrity Spotting

Been up stupidly early these last two mornings. I keep thinking of jokes at about half past two in the morning and not been able to really get back to sleep until I’ve got up and written them into the script. Stupid jokes about Van Morrison. Well, they make me laugh…

The meeting yesterday went well. The producer is going to give me some notes for “Stuck Between Stations” (and he got the reference in the title. Always a good start) and I’m going to try a re-write. He also seemed pretty interested in “Four Horsemen” and wants to read that when I’ve got a half decent draft available. Don’t want to say too much as I don’t want to jinx things. And he might read this.

It’s really pathetic that I still get little frissons of excitement when I see famous people in the street (and I’ve had lunch with Alun Armstrong, donchaknow?) Saw Rhy Ifans going into Quo Vadis and, later on, saw the Don himself, Richard Curtis. Unfortunately, he had gone before I could get to ask him whether he’d like to start being funny again. But I’m sure he’s busy with Comic Relief…