1 year on; 3 new screenplays & a magic cauldron

Ha, make em laugh, eh? More like, make yourself laugh. I just spotted an old post from a year ago: The Awful Art of Unwriting. It’s a confessional, where I admit to not having done a new spec screenplay (as opposed to a play) for about 5 years.

In the last year, I’ve written three: one comedy pilot (30 mins) and 2 dramas, an hour each.  They’re each still being polished in their own way, and one of them is under the radical surgeon’s knife, but blimey, it’s really worth a backwards glance from time to time.


Various other projects are still in the cauldron – not least the quantum 2-hander & the glorious, audience’s darling, Glitter Knickers – so if you have a time machine/  magic wand/ producer/ magic money tree, you’re very welcome to drop me a line…;)  And meanwhile, new things start to sizzle for theatre and screen (oh, boy, and how….)

Watch this space!

Never quiet; always learning

Gosh – the sediment from Glitter Knickers has just about settled on the bottom of the jar.  The feedback just flowed in – thank you very much indeed, everyone – and in the next couple of weeks, it’s my job to package that up, with a whole load of metrics for The Next Stage. Watch this space.

Meanwhile, paid communications jobs have come in (yippee!) and I’ve just writ my first short film script. It’s an excellent discipline – I’m very much still wearing armbands. If you’ve met me, you’ll appreciate that verbal economy is not always my forte. I’m now a big fan of image boards, drawing out comic strips (as I did for Glitter Knickers) and running away from spoken words.

Y Grace bookI’ve also polished off a couple of TV treatments and had some very handy feedback on them. To make them/ others they best they can be, I’ve also  bought myself a new book (yes, that’s it in the pic). It’s stuff from the brain of Yvonne Grace, a TV guru of great experience who can be found here and if you’re also on facebook, here.

Last, my Jan – April season leading the Rondo Writers’ Group has just ended, with scripts from four of the writers heading into a professionally performed & produced show at Bath’s Rondo Theatre. If you’re local and have the wit to enjoy new writing (and believe me, the scripts, cast & director are great) you can catch this on 4-7 May, here! If you make it, let me know!


A bad writer…

Before you leap in, protesting, writing letters to the Queen, setting up Change.org petitions, I’ll say I don’t mean I’m a bad writer….just an appalling blog writer. Phew. The country heaved a sigh and put down its quills.

On the 1001 excuses list, the top one is I’ve been writing. Loads. All of it (fanfare) unpaid! I mean, obviously, it’s an investment in my future, for when someone does pay for this stuff. (Don’t breathe, cough or in any way prick my bubble here). But in the last two months- aside from the brilliant two development days (‘A Bit of a Song & Dance’ and ‘QM’ at the Tobacco Factory and Tricycle respectively- huge thanks to both for the resources), I’ve been writing, pitching and rewriting.

  • A TV drama which I am v in love with
  • a feature film, with a producer, v Britflick in a post-Curtis age
  • a comedy TV serial
  • a sci-fi/ dystopic /satirical feature with a co-writer/director which should tickle many fancies
  • a new play, written in a whole new way for me, in which I will probably end up using myself as some kind of experiment (feeling a bit LaBute there, a la The Shape of Things…)

And all the while, the fab Allie Butler at tidy carnage continue their Passion adventure, taking the show to Aberdeen Dance Live in October (local? Here’s the spiel!)

So, work goes on. And if you have funds for a writer who definitely hasn’t (ever) stopped, you know where to find me! (Through the Who page!)

And as if by magic, the story structure appeared

There are a million books on story structure, especially in the screenwriting world. You can leap from Joseph Campbell, through Christophers Vogler & Booker, to Robert Key, Syd Field, Viki King, Blake Snyder and most recently, the excellent Into The Woods by John Yorke (if you want a reading list, I refer you to the very excellent resource collection Lucy V Hay has put together at Bang2Write).

These books pretty much agree on the core analysis – as with symphonic structure in music (exposition – development – recapitulation) – a satisfying story has a basic form – deviate from this and you lose it.

Thing is, reading all these and using them as guiding stars to chart your way through a new script can be tough. This is very much well-charted territory, but your own journey is uncharted and this work is hard.

So you can imagine my merry glee when I found a way to (a) remember it all and (b) see it in a way that was simple enough for my little brain.  Welcome to my map:

Yes. Mr Benn. 1970s BBC kids’ TV. Only 12 ever made, I think. And every one of them beautifully, simply exemplifying the classical paradigm. Sigh.

OK – let’s see if I’m talking pants or not. Here’s the paradigm, cannily set out by Kelley Smoot Garrett at the Princess April blog – let’s compare this to a few Mr Benns (this is work!)


Act 1

1. Ordinary world – the joys of Festive Road, “which is very ordinary and happy”: playing kids, comfy chair, loud traffic. Something to pre-echo today’s theme

2. Call to adventure – Something is happening in Festive Road or at number 52. “Then he thought it was time to pay another visit to the special costume shop, where his adventures could start from.” Some might say that’s a bit “on the nose”, but heck…Image

3. Refusal of the call – Mr Benn never refuses the call; but not every hero does!

4. Meeting the mentor – “as if by magic, the shop-keeper appeared!” Need I say more?

5. Crossing the threshold – into the dressing room we go: “See if it fits,” says the shop-keeper, “and looked towards the door of the changing room.” Mr Benn never hesitates – he’s that kind of hero. Then through the door to…”what? wondered Mr Benn.”

Act 2

1. Tests, allies, enemies – the other world. Mr Benn often finds himself in a world where someone / a group is being treated unfairly (zoo animals, competitive balloonist, gladiators, a kindly dragon) by a meanie (thoughtless zoo-owners, Baron Bartram, the weedy Emperor and the match salesman, respectively). How can the unfairness be righted?, wonders Mr Benn, as the adventure begins.

If there are not obvious baddies, the baddy is human nature itself: a queen who wants to change how her husband looks; a space explorer who believes the grass is always greener…And as the conundrum or challenge grows increasingly insurmountable, we get special music, often this, if you skip to 2:59.

2. Innermost Cave/Threat – this is where Mr Benn and Co must face their most involved challenge: almost always clued up with what I call the “dastardly adventure and mayhem” music (you can hear it at 3:36 here!). As it’s wee kids’ TV, it’s not scary, but it is where he always gains a deeper understanding.

3. Ordeal – facing the ultimate test (and innermost fears). For Mr Benn, this links with the innermost cave. But he is always calm and uses his brains to find a way through: science, psychology, reason and humour. The gladiator episode is a great one for seeing Mr B as a folk hero with brains and wit, if you’re interested.

4. Reward – transformation! Wonderfully, in Mr Benn, sometimes, even the baddies are transformed (the hunter who becomes a wildlife photographer, for example).  “Their troubles were over…the crowd cheered loudly..” There’s often an unknowing crowd in Mr Benn. Hmm….

Act 3

1. Road back – the shop-keeper or an acolyte (a parrot in the zoo episode) pops up and discretely suggests that Mr Benn should come back, now. No-one notices him go; his work here is done.

2. Resurrection – in Vogler, this is about cleansing through one last challenge. For Mr Benn, it’s just his last look in the mirror before he changes back into his normal clothes again.

3. Return with the elixir – without exception, Mr Benn keeps a memento of his adventure, given by the shop-keeper: a stone age axe, a balloonist medal, a sheriff’s badge. He observes Festive Road with new eyes, his experience bringing a new understanding to the world (traffic is hazardous, whether it’s dinosaurs or cars; it’s better to play games together than wage war; cheaters never win).

ImageSo, this is how I concertina complex story structure into my crowded head. Mr Benn.

12 hours

I’ve just had an astonishing 12 hours.

Overnight, the talentbacker campaign for script development for the quantum script (see previous post) hit and then exceeded its target with 6 days still to go. It’s not like running a race, cheered on by friends. It’s like asking them to run for you, while you keep yelling from the sidelines.
Then, I got a mail saying I’ve won a place on Screen Yorkshire’s Triangle 2014!
Links and details will follow, but there are times for sharing and times for more info. After bombarding everyone I know to ask for cash for three weeks, now is definitely a time for just sharing.
And then shutting up.