A guest post from a regular writer of Doctors.
Actually, I meant to email you some time ago because yes, I did get a shot at this year's writer's academy and I read your post from last year about it as part of my prep, so thank you for that. Not that it did me much good, as I didn't get as far as you... more on that below.
Current status - writer for Doctors for 4-5 years now, with my good friend M - we're currently writing our 22nd episode, I think, so we average 4-5 episodes a year. When they had block contracts for Doctors - basically a guarantee you will write 4 episodes in a series - we had one, which was a nice comfort blanket though the money still isn't that great and of course we only get one fee to split between two of us. Current fee for an ep for experienced writers is about £3.6k.
We really, really like writing for Doctors. A lot of other people we know who write for the show, with more experience than us elsewhere, say that it is one of the nicer shows to work for. You have a lot of freedom to tell original stories, the people are for the most part very pleasant and supportive, and generally it is a more "writer-friendly" show than many that are out there. Obviously being daytime the pressures on the production team are correspondingly less, which must help. Typically you do a scene by scene and four script drafts, or three and a polish, within a 4-5 week timeframe.
We've also done half a dozen or so episodes for a kid's show you probably didn't see called Planet Cook.
I did a solo radio play last year on Radio 4 with a local producer up here in Suffolk. Having not been that interested in radio, I really enjoyed the experience - though my producer/director had a lot to do with that, as she was very collaborative - and would be keen to do more, but have failed to get any ideas through in the last three radio drama rounds.
M and I are developing various projects jointly and separately. We became a writing team almost by accident (BBC Talent came up in 2000, or was it 2001, we didn't have time to both do entries, so we wrote half a script each, joined it together, and got short-listed. From then on we were a team, to our mild surprise, but it works very well. From then it took about 12-14 months, I think, to get our first ideas accepted on Doctors, but luckily we’ve got stories through quite regularly since then.
We acquired an agent who is very good and pro-active and who we get on very well with. She watches all our episodes and gives us feedback, which seems to be rare. She's also incredibly friendly to us (she sends our kids presents!!) and ferocious on negotiations with producers, which is a good combination. We got her through Doctors, as she phoned our script editor there and asked if there was anybody who they rated who didn't have representation.
We both have day jobs, as the money from writing just isn't enough to support two wives and two toddlers.
Writers' Academy - we suspect the Doctors team pushed quite hard to get some of their hardcore writers on to this, as there was a good sprinkling of Doctors writers there. And apparently none of us got through, but that may not be correct, or if it is, just bad luck.
Aside: There is a general sense, I think, that moving on from Doctors is harder than it should be. It's always been claimed to be the "nursery slopes" for writers, but there is certainly no easy path on from there and certainly nobody comes looking for you. As always, you have to keep knocking on doors, making contacts, politely but firmly pushing yourself forward... we've had near misses with The Bill, Casualty, EastEnders and Emmerdale. In each case we had a meeting, been asked to send in scripts as a follow-up, and then been told no thanks. Or in at least one case, heard nothing further at all.
Anyway, we went along to the Writers' Academy "workshop" last month, participated in the group discussions, did our "scenes in an hour", went away and did the first 10 pages of an EastEnders script over night... and got told thanks, but no thanks. Feedback has been a little vague but as far as we can tell we fell down on the "scenes in an hour" exercise.
That was a bit of a blow - we hoped at least to get to the interview stage - but so it goes. It's hardly news that this is a staggeringly tough business and you hear 99 no's for every one yes. At least we have Doctors, and we're proud of our work there, and we have some new leads which have come up just this week which we're exploring. Fingers crossed.
Very happy to field questions on Doctors, as it's really the only area where I can speak with any authority...
Thanks! Just what I had in mind for guest posts. Keep 'em coming friends. On any matter or subject relating to the world of scriptwriting & script reading in the UK.