Quite a bit happening at the moment. What with being in the middle of post-production on the short film (up and down to London quite a bit), chasing up other writing opportunities and doing student talks, there's the little matter of my EastEnders episode that airs next Monday (18th May, 8pm). Wahey, woo-hoo, wazaa!
Then, on Wednesday, there's the workshops for the Red Planet Prize, which I will be attending (perhaps not all day, maybe just the afternoon workshop). Mark Wilkinson, the winner of this year's Prize, did a Q&A for the Red Planet Prize blog a few weeks ago. You may have missed it. So, here it is in full in case you want to have a look. I'll post again on Monday for the exciting build up (well, for me anyway) to my EastEnders' episode!
Congratulations on winning the Red Planet Prize! Where were you and what were you doing when you found out?
I was on the way to work, Simon Winstone from Red Planet left a very brief message on my phone asking me to ring him. I waited a couple of hours before ringing back, convincing myself that I hadn’t won.
How long have you been writing?
I started about ten years ago on a film and television course at Leeds Metropolitan University. On and off since then – more off than on.
And how long have you been writing your winning script, The Ropes?
I spent about 10 months on research, character biographies and thinking about the structure of the series. Once I had an idea of where it was going, I worked my way backwards to find out where it should start. The writing of the actual script took about 3 to 4 months.
OK, how long did you spend on your first ten pages?
The first ten pages came relatively quickly, maybe a couple of weeks. But I spent a long time thinking about whether I should change them - because nothing really happens. It’s a slow introduction of the three main characters, there’s no car chase, meteor strike or plane crash. I just tried to set a tone, create some interest in the characters and show that I had some writing skills.
Did you have the rest of the script ready to go, or did you have to write and revise it while waiting for the 2nd round call?
One or two minor tweaks, on the whole it was ready and waiting to go.
What do you consider the biggest frustrations to be for a new writer trying to find his or her way?
For me it was a case of: I’ve written a script - now what do I do with it? Send it to BBC Writers Room and The Red Planet Prize – but who else is going to read it? If you’ve spent 14 months writing a script you’d like more than two people to read it.
Ever consider that it wasn’t going to work out for you?
Yes, I still do – fear and doubt are huge motivators for me. I still have a full time job outside of writing. The only thing I’ve done of note is win one competition. There’s still a long, long way to go before I’d ever consider thinking of myself as a writer.
What helped you get through the tougher times, in terms of your writing?
Absolute belief in my ability, however misplaced that may be. And that hard work will eventually be rewarded. I was absolutely committed to this script, I lived and breathed it. Nothing else mattered.
What’s the best bit of advice you’ve received, or take inspiration from?
“Write, always.” Something I’ve only recently heeded. It’s not easy to lock yourself away for 8 hours on a sunny day and write. But it’s got to be done. The more I write the more I seem to improve.
What are your favourite TV dramas?
The Sopranos, The Wire, Mad Men, Lost.
Apart from Tony Jordan! – well there’s David Chase as I’m a huge Sopranos fan and Mathew Weiner who wrote for The Sopranos and created the fantastic Mad Men. Paul Schrader, perhaps too much - as I spent far too long trying to write like him, instead of finding my own voice. Another favourite is Guillermo Arriaga and his trilogy of Amores Perros, 21 Grams and Babel.
What are your TV guilty pleasures?
The Hills on MTV – utter trash, but brilliant.
And finally, what’s next for you?
For so long it just seemed ridiculous to me that I could become a writer – but now I have a fantastic opportunity to make it happen. So it’s a case of more hard work to make a dream become a reality.