The brainchild of UK screenwriting luminary Danny Stack, The Writers' Blog Tour is an initiative to connect UK screenwriters, get us talking about our projects and what inspires us. Once you've taken the Tour, you pass it on to three fellow writers to do the same.
It takes the form of four simple questions, so without further ado, here goes something...
What am I working on?
As always, a number of projects. So much to write, so little time to do it!!
1) "Henry The Ninth", a quintessentially British comedy-drama feature. The original treatment won the Euroscript Screen Story prize for 2012, but it has evolved quite considerably since then. Originally intended as a bittersweet satire on vacuous celebrity, it has morphed into a quirky character piece with a feelgood vibe. Currently at the third draft stage.
2) "CUT!", a Wigan-set comedy feature revolving around the infomercial industry and an unashamed farce at that! Based on an original idea I had over 4 years ago, but has been given fresh impetus by my inviting Wigan-based screenwriter Scott Davenport to join me as co-writer. I met Scott at the post-London Screenwriters Festival 2013 drinks in the World's End pub on Baker Street. We got chatting and upon learning that he was from Wigan and had previously worked in the TV shopping channel game I let slip that I had this long-neglected project which encompassed both of those elements. I asked him there and then if he'd like to collaborate and the rest is ourstory. Currently at the first draft stage.
3) "Brambledown", a sitcom based around a dysfunctional neighbourhood watch group. Another collaboration, this time with a US-Style writers room team comprising five like-minded writers who met at the London Screenwriters Festival. We convene once per month to break story and punch up the draft before I don my corduroy slacks and elbow-patched jacket to turn teacher and send everyone away with some homework to prepare for next time. It works remarkably well and I'd recommend it to all. We've received some very positive feedback from BAFTA's Rocliffe new writing scheme on an early script sample and having completed the first draft we are now at an advanced stage of polishing before submitting to production companies.
4) I'm also working on another sitcom which has an independent Producer attached, but am not allowed to share any information at present.
How does my work feel different to others of its genre?
Well, I don't try to re-invent the wheel but one thing I have been told is that my writing has a natural emotional depth which not all comedy writers achieve. That, and I've been told that my secondary characters are fully-fleshed and compelling in their own right.
Why do I write what I do?
Simply because I've got an idea that I find funny, compelling and oddly truthful, and think plenty more people out there will too. I have many more ideas that are much more subjective and in-jokey - of the "you had to be there" variety - but am disciplined enough to keep these for my own amusement and not dilute my writing with them.
How does my writing process work?
I'm a planner and plotter, for sure. Some people favour a stream of consciousness approach - just start writing and see where it takes them. That's great, so long as you've got a sharp in-built editorial sense which is going to be needed once you re-draft.
Once I've got an idea, I'll let it gestate for a few weeks - brainstorming different story and character possibilities to spin off from it. When I think I've got enough material - say 4 pages of brief story and character notes - I'll try and work it into an Act or Beats structure. This is not a cast-iron template, but what it does is test whether the various ideas can link up convincingly to make a whole. Once I've done that, I'll pull it all together into a treatment - typically between 6-8 pages.
If that's working, then I'll start to outline my scenes to make sure they can coherently segue into each other. For this I use the Save The Cat software, which is essentially like using the traditional index cards and pin-board except it's all on my laptop. So, no need to worry about misplaced cards or stray pins (which Mrs B may tread on or Baby B may try to eat!)
Scenes outlined, that's it - embark on the first draft. Having done all of the above, first drafts take me 1-2 weeks for a sitcom and 2-4 weeks for a feature. I never get stuck or blocked because I've already planned it out so forensically - I always know what's coming next and how it will segue. Having completed the first draft, the fun really begins. If I'm working with a collaborator, naturally I'll kick it back and forth with them. If I'm working solo, then I'll look for feedback either from a trusted peer or a professional source like Euroscript. I can easily run up to a dozen or more re-drafts - each taking 1-2 weeks - before I have what I consider to be the finished article.
And which any Producer will consider to be a first draft ;-)
So, that's me.
I'll be back soon with links to the writers whom I've passed the baton on to.
In the meantime, why not check out KT's answers here...