And then came along the BBC Writersroom Sharps comp. Write a 30 minute script with the theme of "The Health of the Nation". God, that theme went round and round in my head for a long time. What to write about? Sitting on the tube one day going to work, I noticed three or four stories on the same page of one of the freebie newspapers which gave me one of those, "Jesus, what is the world coming to?" moments (it was early in the morning). They were only a few lines long but they were all about internet stalking, etc. And there was my idea. Why not take those, develop them and see if there was a way to link them? Tell four different stories in half an hour. There was a challenge! Problem was, I only had a few days to the deadline (see a pattern emerging here?). I went home, sketched out the storylines and got writing. Three days later, I'd finished it and stuck it in. And waited.
And didn't get chosen.
Oh, well. Three days work was never gonna get me down to the shortlist. They'd had 600 entries for 25 places on the course for the finalists. Still, I liked the idea of my script so maybe one to re-write.
The best thing to come out of Sharps though was that through the discussions on the writersroom blog, someone had decided to set up an online writers group. We were invited to put up our scripts and give feedback on others. Sharpshooters was born! If you don't know about the group, I suggest you get straight over there and sign up. It's great for new writers to get feedback on their scripts, exchange ideas and news about opportunities, and just have a good old chinwag. It's a great group of people and makes the solitary world of writing that bit easier.
Then I decided to go for the TAPS Continuing Drama Course in Wales. Three days working with writers and script editors from Emmerdale and The Bill, etc and insight into the world of continuing drama. There was also a script to write at the end of it, with the best being filmed on the Emmerdale sets. They wanted a 10 page script sample and CV. I honed the beginning of 99'er (ditching the 10 page first scene), put it up on Sharpshooters for feedback, rewrote it, and sent my application off.
And got in! I was off to Cardiff!
And just before I left, I got a nice surprise. An email from the writersroom saying that even though my script hadn't made the final cut, I had got through to the second round and a full read. Down from 600 scripts to 80 odd. Hardly my own primetime series on BBC1 but nice encouragement.
August arrived and I packed my bags for Cardiff. I was nervous as hell, to be honest. I felt a fraud, After all, I knew nothing, had no experience and not even the whiff of a commission in sight. What if I was found out?
It turns out, I wasn't the only one (although EVERYONE seemed to have more experience than me) but I really enjoyed the course, not just for the sessions (especially those by the wonderfully entertaining - and quite scary - Bill Lyons, writer for Emmerdale), but mostly because I felt like I was getting somewhere. I was in a room full of writers and professionals and they were taking me seriously (fools that they were...). Probably the best part about the whole thing was meeting other writers like Piers, Kieran and Rob. Great guys who've Ive stayed in touch with and who've helped me no end since then.
And then there was the script after. We had to write a 30 minutes standalone story using only 3 sets (out of a choice of 6) from the Emmerdale standing sets. No more than 20 scenes, with a cliffhanger at the 15 minute ad break. Oh, and no more than 6 actors. We had 3 weeks. Doesn't sound that difficult but I'd not been used to writing with restrictions (hell, I'd not really been used to writing) and I found it a tough call.
I sweated and planned and wrote and re-wrote and sent it in. A few weeks later came my feedback and the news that I hadn't made it to the shortlist. But Rob did! And you can see his marvelous winning (filmed!) script here.
So, back to the drawing board for me. A little wiser. A bit more experience.
I'm still learning.
Next up... 2009 and Francesca and Giorgio makes a comeback, Fair City comes calling and I go speed dating at the Screenwriter's Festival!