Do you remember the time…
…you became aware of scriptwriting?
Around the mid-80s when I read William Goldman’s book, Magic. The film adaptation was then on TV and I couldn’t believe that it was not a word-for-word rendition of the book. I was intrigued, and immediately hooked.
…you made the decision to give it a go?
I was always interested in writing and every time I came out of the cinema, I somehow felt I had the talent to do a better job than the bad films, and a great job of the decent ones. So I started to write a few short scripts in 1991.
…you bought your first scriptwriting ‘How To’ book?
1992. Writing Screenplays That Sell by Michael Hauge. Despite its unashamedly commercial angle, it’s got useful advice and I still refer to it to this day.
…you wrote your first script?
I was working in Bruce College in Dublin in 1992, as a Student Supervisor of all things (Colin Farrell was one of the students auditioning for Boyzone at the time), and I used the office’s typewriter to bash out my first script, The Good Guys, which was fairly tame but had some fun moments and led to an option almost ten years later when I told a producer what I’d do to make it better.
…you gave up the day job?
I gave up my cushy Channel 4 job in 1999 to follow my writing dream, sidestepping it for a few months by working on Black Books (series 1) and being Ali G’s researcher for a while. Then, I realised I had to get serious so it was total immersion in script reading and scriptwriting from about 2000 to the present day.
…you became a script reader?
I did some sitcom reading for Channel 4 when I left my job there in 1999, and then I asked Film4 if I could read some of their scripts, which led to me knocking on Tiger Aspect Pictures’ door and I got lucky. They became my sole provider until I needed to broaden my earnings and contacts, and I started to read for Working Title and others.
…you did your first proper rewrite?
Oh God. Not until 2001/2 with the rewrite of The Good Guys. A “page one” overhaul. A very good lesson and exercise nonetheless.
…you got paid for it?
Let’s see. The first time I got paid to write was when I received £300 to do a treatment of a modern day version of The Canterville Ghost. The option/rewrite on The Good Guys came after it, I think, around 2002.
…you got your agent?
In 2003. I figured I had written enough good scripts to get an agent, and I had. Micheline Steinberg stepped forward and led me to my first commission on Doctors.
…you got your first TV gig?
I pitched Doctors two ideas and after about three months, they responded and said ‘yes’ to one of them. I jumped up and down in complete elation, cried for ten minutes, and then washed the kitchen floor.
…you saw your first on-screen credit?
Sitting at home by myself watching my first episode of Doctors in February this year (3 years from idea accepted to the screen, yikes!). I pumped my fists in triumph. No tears this time.
…you made your first short film?
In the summer of last year, I wrote and directed a 3 min, no-budget short. I knew it was better to have something made, something you could show to people (and hopefully was good) instead of being ‘just another wannabe writer’. You can watch the short on YouTube here.
…you got your first cinema release?
Still working on that one.
Feel free to amend some of the questions to your own particular writing.