Thursday, 29 July 2010

A Random Rattle Bag of Thoughts

I was drafting a new, and let’s face it, long overdue, blog post with an update on where I am with my screenwriting comeback(!) and with some thoughts on writers’ block, which is obviously floating in the air as a topic at the moment. (I’m not blocked, by the way, but I have found that on resuming writing, I needed to relearn a lot of basic skills, like actually writing one word after the other – more on that another time.)

But, a few things have happened that I couldn’t let pass without comment, rant. So, this will be something of a random collection of scraps. Firstly - and I know everyone's talking about it, but I can't let it go by completely - there was the ridiculous and short-sighted decision by the ConDems to abolish the UK Film Council. Needless to say, I'm in agreement with Mike Leigh et al, and I do wonder about the thinking of a government, or any institution, that announces what it's going to tear down before it announces what it's going to build. Still, time will tell how/if any new system will work. Good luck to all of us in our funding applications yet to come...

...we're going to need it.

As some kind of compensation to writers, this year sees the return - in all its austerity-defying glory - of the Red Planet Competition. It is almost certainly the best screenwriting opportunity out there, particularly as it's free to enter. The deadline fast approaches, and my script and 60-word synopsis are being buffed up now, nearing completion despite all that writers' block that I didn't have. Another good luck to all who enter.

Next, and I know I'm late to the party again, but wasn't Sherlock absolutely excellent? I wasn't as blown away as I thought I'd be by the writing in this year's series of Doctor Who, so it's good to see the the Moff be fully Grand again. I've read a few online criticisms about one small aspect: Holmes seemed unnaturally slow on the uptake about the profession of the killer. But this allowed for a big, fantastic "He's Behind You" moment later on, so it was forgivable, I think. The ratings were good, so I'm looking forward to seeing some more.

Finally, it seems churlish to celebrate much, but Displacement Activities has quietly crept past it's three year anniversary as a going concern; and yes, I know there have been times when I've pushed the definition of 'going concern' to its absolute limit, but survival is all that matters: I'm still typing. A moment's reflection then (something along the lines of "Three years, and that's all the posts I managed? Sheesh") and then onwards.

Displacement Activities will Return in - I dunno - a bit, with:

"I done busted my writing bone, and other tales of Writer anxiety".

Thursday, 20 May 2010

I like your manifesto, put it to the test-o

Okay, so what happened is this: I became a father for the second time last Summer, the day job continued to become more and more consuming, and the continuing Global Economic Situation reduced the opportunities across the board for new screenwriters.

I was busy, therefore, and lucky too. But not in screenwriting. I thought it would be nice for a while to use my spare time to relax and be a normal person with a family and a, you know, respectable and profitable career. So, I stopped writing. I pretty much stopped tweeting too, and I let this blog die. I just let the old thing gather dust, no-one to notice it. I let it become a strange little thing in a corner of the internet. And over the months, the world moved on.

I had no ongoing writing projects, paid or unpaid. I had nothing sitting in anyone's in-tray to waste hope on. I was in the middle of a spec script, but someone else's too similar piece was just then announced for Summer 2010 broadcast on BBC4 so I stopped (which is possibly the nicest of the two ultimate ends for my spec scripts).

I did not hustle, I did not network. I read books on my commute, I played with my kids. I didn't relax. Instead of writing in my spare time, I was 'not writing'. Deliberately, consciously. Something still ate away at my mind. Ideas for stories nagged at me, and I had to resist them. Word of opportunities still managed to reach me, some of them (thank you Big Finish) too good to resist entering something.

It's often said that if you give up, you were never meant to be writer. There's something nice and Darwinian about that, but I think it's bollocks. The truth is writers can't give up in the same way junkies can't give up. Whether they're any good or not, or - completely unconnected - whether they have any success or not, is immaterial. We're all addicted.

So what finally changed my mind, and got me fully back on the skag? Well, for a socialist and old Labour party member such as me, a Tory government (or even half of one) is a hell of a spur. I thought - I've got to keep going, because there's things worth saying, things that need to be said. And, so inspired, I was just about to start on my comedy horror spec (it has subtext, okay, so don't judge!) when what hits my inbox but a political screenwriting opportunity. It's almost made to be.

The blog will henceforth be used to chart my attempts to restart. How easy is it to get back into the game? Is it harder than starting out? Don't think anyone's talked about that before - it should be interesting to see how it turns out. So, that's my manifesto...

... i.e. don't be surprised if it turns out I don't do any of it exactly.