Saturday, 28 February 2009

For Fun

Two pieces of writing will be taking up most of my next few weeks; one of them is proper serious work (the comedy), and one is just for fun (the drama).

The comedy is a TV project I've been working on with Colin Stevens for a while now, and he and I will be launching a web presence for it very soon: I shall keep you posted on this here blog. The drama? Well, it's very rare to have some screenwriting to do that's 100% for the enjoyment of doing it, with no hope to sell or make the piece afterward. And it's quite refreshing. Here's how it came about:

As many readers of this blog, and others in the scribosphere, will know, I regularly meet up with a group of writers in London for drinking, gossiping and the setting of script challenges. These are usually standard things: write a radio play, write a script report, finish something you've started, and all have the same timeline: one calendar month elapsed to complete, doesn't have to be good, but it does have to be finished, else you face a round of mockery from your your peers at the next drinking session. I've gone in for many of these in the past, but I don't normally post about a challenge as I'm superstitious, and worry that if I shine a little light on it, I'm bound to fail to deliver.

The latest challenge, to be completed in the month of March (and not a single word of which is to be consigned to hard copy before midnight tonight), is to write a spec episode of a current UK TV series. Unlike the US, in Britain this is a bit of a silly idea, as - according to every 'how to' writing guide you'll ever read - no one wants to see a spec episode of anything, and they'd rather see something all-original (although one occasionally hears of an exception to this).

Boring old best behaviour would be for me to do a spec episode of Doctors, as it's the nearest you can get to entry level TV, and I'm currently watching the episodes and studying the format, and I want to get to pitch ideas for the show; but, sod that: I'll do that in April (I don't want to rush it with an arbitrary imposed timeline). I'm going to write a Doctor Who.

This is the closest I'm going to get to a commission to write for the good Doctor any time soon. And it multiplies the silliness: it can't really be shown to anyone as an example of my work, it's for a show that one gets into by invite only and where a showrunner would give you a plotline rather than have you pitch one, and best of all... it doesn't have a publicly available house style at the moment. All the episodes of David Tennant's tenure have been written and are currently being shot, and no one bar Steven Moffat and Piers Wenger knows what the Matt Smith era is going to be like, or even who the companion's going to be played by. There is no other reason to write it than the fun of it...well, maybe there's the humble pie reason too.

An infamous Doctor Who novel author and online critic, who I'm not going to name, keeps a blog where his opinion of other people's TV Doctor Who scripts is never less than forthcoming, and is usually quite critical. When challenged, this person wrote and posted up an example of how they would write a script for Who; I read that script, and disliked it very much. I was quite free with my negative opinion of it at that last writers' meet. Now, it has occurred to me that this is no way to behave about a fellow writer, even one I disagree with. So, the challenge is to do what he did, and create my own script: it will be for a David Tennant-like Doctor, with no regular companion, in a style which would roughly fit within the Russell T Davies years.

I have so many ideas for this - the first Doctor Who script I will have written since the one I co-wrote with a boy called Graham when I was twelve years old which had a Cyber-Dalek hybrid in it - whirling around my head: roll on midnight.

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