Friday 25 March 2011

What the Frenzy?

I've been staring at this screen for a while now. I wanted to write about competitions, deadlines, Scriptfrenzy, but just like the rest of my week, I'm struggling to find the motivation.

Scriptfrenzy is a challenge to write a 100 page script in 30days. The winner is anyone who completes the challenge, and the prize is oodles of satisfaction, or whatever you aim to get out of it. I just want to feel the sense of achievement.

It sets a timeframe and I work better to deadlines. I have dozens of ideas for scripts and other projects in my head but they get created faster and possibly better when I'm working under the pressure of a deadline. The first script I ever wrote was for a competition and the last script I've completed was also for a competition. I realise these are not the only way of getting a script out there and read, but to me they are a way of getting it done. Winning would of course be great, but having a completed draft that I can work on and improve in the long run is also a win.

When I therefore heard about Scriptfrenzy I signed up. This to me will hopefully be a great opportunity to get that one script I've been toying with for years done. The said script started off as a novel about 5yrs ago, I then decided that it would work best as a script, but have been adding and tweaking and messing with the outline for at least half a year now and it's going nowhere.

Earlier in the week I decided I no longer wanted to work on it and would do something completely different. Five days on and about 4 different ideas and genres later and I'm back to the original script, a drama. I've come to realise that no matter what I decide to go with, there will always be that part of me that will try to find an excuse not to do it, just like going to the gym. It's a struggle to get there, but the buzz and feel good factor during and after makes you wonder why it was so hard to get there in the first place.

I realise that I could simply give myself a time frame to complete a script, just like this challenge, but it just wouldn't be the same. With Scriptfrenzy I have buddies also taking part, all supposedly writing at the same time. We'll be able to motivate each other by doing it together, keeping an eye on each other's development and entering a healthy page count competition. And now that the word competition has become part of it, I'm game.

So with no more excuses, I have one week to go over the outline and then let the writing commence.

I'm in, are you?

Wednesday 16 March 2011


Writing to me is a very personal and private matter. I cannot think of anything worse than having to write or type with someone else reading over my shoulder. My thoughts shy away immediately and I'm left staring at the screen.

When I was therefore asked if I wanted to write together, my answer was a very loose yes. To me it was a future possibility, but I had no idea what we could write together. I had many ideas for features and shorts, but they were all mine. I knew some of them inside out, how could I let someone else into that? Even if that person was my husband.

The reality is that our scripts are never really our scripts. Sure, we are the ones who give it life, create a whole new world with what we believe to be extraordinary characters. We open our minds and let it all pour out. This is our baby, we give birth to it, but as is the case with any child, you prepare them for the world and before you know it, they are influenced and moulded by others. Who they are to become won't be dictated by one person alone.

Every time someone gives us notes on a script, whether it be a friend, family or a professional, the final draft is becoming less 'ours'. It becomes a collaboration of thoughts and opinions, hopefully turning it into a better stronger piece. If it then becomes optioned, produced, directed, yet again there will be a series of re-writes influenced by other players. Never mind if it gets sold, then there is no telling how many different voices those pages will contain.

Considering all of the above, the idea of co-writing shouldn't be so absurd, unless like me, you are a control freak. I realise my way of doing things isn't the only way, and possibly not the best way either, but it's my way, so deal with it.

The first thing I had to do was learn to let go. It wasn't my script, it was our script. From the moment we agreed to write together, we had to write together. I confess having trouble understanding that. Before we even had a chance to talk about an outline I had a draft ready and would send it to him for a re-write. If he then gave me positive feedback, I would get upset that he wasn't taking it seriously, if he actually re-wrote it and replaced my words - how dare he. That was project one.

Next, we worked on our first pilot for a sitcom. This was a huge learning curve and it's taught us both, hopefully, how we work together best, and worse. I was still writing, and my partner re-writing, but I was a lot more open this time and welcomed the changes and opinions. We openly talked about what was working and what wasn't and together tried to work around the problems. We actually made the time to sit together and talk about it. After all, we did live together, why was it so hard to actually talk face to face about a script? 

Our current project is another pilot and we are doing things differently. Before putting anything to paper, we've talked about it, where we each see it going, what our thoughts are about it, the series potential, the focus and who are the main characters and their motivations. Next, we did a rough outline, also together.
I am now in the process of writing the first scenes and we have both realised that we need to sit down and talk further about the scenes and get a proper beat sheet done before we move any further. 
To me, it's a slower process than what I'm used to, but hopefully it will save us time in the long run and re-writes will be easier, if there is such a thing as an easy re-write.

The main benefit to me in co-writing is having someone else know the story inside out, together we are able to edit and re-write possibly faster than solo as one can spot different weaknesses than the other. If one has a writer's block, the other can offer suggestions. You get the gist. Two minds work better than one. I have also learned to let go, share, and well, work together.

Finally, co-writing doesn't mean you always have to co-write. I can and should have my own separate projects, which I can work on in-between the co-writes and can make it as me as I want and can be as selfish as I want about it. Even if these turn out to be not as good as the others, at least it's something that's my own voice.

Wednesday 9 March 2011

Sit-down Comedy

I am one of six, not that there are six of me, that would have been unbearable. Seriously, who can imagine sharing a roof with six of me, all bossing each other around and always being right. Instead, I have five siblings, and thankfully I'm the only boss.

As one can imagine, in such a large household, there is bound to be some drama, but there is also a lot of silliness and laughter. Add to the mix a father who is constantly coming up with his own dad-like jokes and you have my family.

I like to think that I inherited my dad's silly sarcasm. One of my brother-in-law's calls me a liar, but to me it's humour. I merely give silly questions absurd replies, if he believes me, well then he just doesn't get it.

Inevitably I married someone who shares the same humour, oh and he's also always right too. I am however, still the boss. Besides the humour, we also share a love of film-making, which is how we met to start with. Fast forward nine years and we have now become writing partners.

Since the end of last year we have been writing comedy. This is all very new and strange to me as until that point I considered myself a drama writer and had never even thought of writing comedy. I could never imagine myself as a stand up comedian, I'm more of a sit-down comedian. My mind is too slow to come up with quick witty comments and comebacks, but with a pen in hand, no pressure to perform, it seems to come out; at least I laugh at my jokes, so that's one person.

We first started to write a sitcom purely because of the BBC writersroom Laughing Stock competition. I had so much fun writing it that I feel like we have a lot more where it came from. We submitted our first ever sitcom pilot after about 10 drafts and it's already been modified again since. There's a big chance that out of 1808 entries it will not be among the 25 shortlisted, although it would be so bloody amazing if we made the shortlist. It is funny, honest.

Ever since completing and submitting the sitcom pilot, we have already been brainstorming and outlining other comedy ideas. I am very excited about our projects and hope to keep it up.

This is definitely the year for comedy with an upcoming sitcom workshop and festival this April:

Laugh with me or laugh at me, at least someone is laughing.