Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Two year retrospective

It's my birthday today, and I'm now closer to 40 than I am to 30, so forgive me if you find me in contemplative mood. I'm currently in the middle of a course; it's nothing to do with screenwriting, it's for the day job. But it's being held in a training centre in Holborn that I attended another course at, almost exactly two years ago. And it was at that course where I took a call telling me my script had been picked for the Film Council's digital shorts programme.

I don't want to blow the event out of all proportion - before that I'd had lots of encouragement from industry professionals, had done lots of courses, written reams and reams, and made many, many no-budget short films. But that phone call meant proper recognition. And budget. So, I mark that day as a starting point of sorts.

Two years later, and I'm reflecting on what I've achieved in that time. I haven't stopped working - up to and including today, I've always had some contracted screenwriting on the go, as well as a healthy amount of spec work, which is good. Conversely, I haven't stopped working at the day job either - the screenwriting I've done has not paid well enough up front for me to reduce my hours toiling in the big smoke. But that's the UK film industry, and I knew what it was like before I started.

It comes down to a question of why one has chosen to write in the first place. I do it, and I don't think I'm a special case, because I'm arrogant enough to think I have something unique to say that might entertain people. I don't do it for the chance of money. Although that would be nice, because something else has happened in those two years - I've rather wonderfully got a family and a mortgage and commitments. And these commitments do impact on the screenwriting, there's no way they could not.

So, I have decided for now to concentrate on developing broadcast opportunities, which will mean trying radio plays and getting a script on Doctors for starters. I have one ongoing short film commitment, which the director and I hope will turn out to be a TV project of sorts too (very exciting - watch this space!). 

As I want to stay based in the UK, it makes sense to concentrate my efforts on an area which has the best chance of providing an eventual income for my family. And the day job allows me to not be in any particular hurry too, as TV's obviously a very competitive arena to break into. I won't be saying goodbye to film forever, and I will obviously revise this policy quick-smart if Steven Spielberg turns up at my door with a shedload of cash to replace Steven Moffat on the next Tin Tin movie. But barring that possibility, it's Au Revoir Cinema for a bit.


David Lemon said...

Hi Stuart
your comments pretty much reflect where I'm at. Whilst 'Faintheart' has been good for the profile, films-especially low/micro-budget UK ones are rarely a money spinner.
I'm on a pretty cool course where they pay you to write a film script, but after that I can see myself definitely veering back to TV.
Incidentally, I've written 5 eps of doctors over the last few years, so if you need any advice...?

potdoll said...

Happy Birthday Stuart x

Helen Smith said...

Happy Birthday xxx

Jason Arnopp said...

Happy birthday, sir, and check your e-mail, you big Arrow Of Darkness, you.

Adaddinsane said...

In the immortal words of A A Milne: "A Pippy Pappy Bthuthdy". (Or something like that.)

Stuart Perry said...

David - 'Faintheart' was a wonderful success just for the simple fact of getting made, let alone anything else. So, be justified in being proud. And thanks: I'll take you up on that offer of advice someday soon...

Potdoll, Helen - Thanks. It's been a fun day!

Jason - Hello, Sir. Thanks too. Just replied to your email.

Stuart Perry said...

And thanks to you too, Adaddinsane

Paul Campbell said...


Films - (almost guaranteed) irregular work if you're lucky, no income, no result, no audience.

TV - (realistic potential for) regular work, steady income, drama produced and broadcast, 2-3 million viewers just for Doctors (6-10 million for EastEnders etc).

And the idea that film gives you greater potential to express yourself is a myth too. Most professional film scriptwriters work on commission, adapting books or other people's concepts.

To me, it's a no brainer.

Jennifer said...

Belated happy birthday, Stuart. Hope it was a good 'un

Piers said...

Happy Birthday. For yesterday.

And TV's the way forward, I feel.

Stuart Perry said...

Jennifer, Piers - thanks both for you kind comments.

Paul - Thanks also, and I think you've hit the nail on the head there!

Frances Lynn said...

A belated H. birthday!