Thursday, 29 August 2013

Every Journey...

So based on a small number of tweets it seems a certain percentage of you may be interested in hearing how the script for Writing Space came to exist. If the existence of such a thing is news to you and you are now squinting at your computer screen in confusion trying to understand, I recommend reading this blog post in order to catch up. Or you can move forward under the rather sensible assumption that it's a project I'm working on, for which a script is complete. If you're not one of those interested in the process, then feel free to click that small x in the top corner of the window. I won't mind, honest. I'm barely interested in it myself and I lived it.

First of all it's worth noting that the process I'm about to describe works exceptionally well for me and my writing partner Chris, but by no means by posting it here am I suggesting anyone should approach anything using the same method we use. It may very well be suitable for a certain percentage of you, but writing in a team can be challenging and I think an important part of developing into a team that functions well is developing a writing method that works for both members. I feel it's better to find something that works for you than adopt a system someone else uses.

For Chris and I, we prefer something Judd Apatow describes as the 'Vomit Draft' approach. The idea consists of riffling through the first draft of any script as quickly as possible to ensure you do not second guess anything. The goal is to simply push past the barrier of doubt and get the idea on the page in as pure a form as possible. That way you're working from something more than the daunting blank canvas. This draft is usually about as far from perfect as it gets, but you are left with a slab of marble to shape into the script you envisioned.

The reason I prefer this approach is because I find it incredibly frustrating to spend hours and hours perfecting a scene only to discover that it needs to be cut for structural reasons once I reach the end and realise it was redundant to start with. Also, if I'm honest I like getting to the end of that first draft knowing how much work the piece still needs. I find it oddly comforting to know that I'm not completely at a loss for how to make it better. I'm terrified that one day I'm going to reach the end of a draft fully aware how broken it is but not having a single idea about how to fix it. So being full of idea's and notions about what I need to correct on the next go around is strangely and powerfully encouraging.

The problem we found is that both Chris and I subscribe to this writing method, yet the very notion of writing in a team is diametrically opposed to the 'Vomit Draft' approach, because the entire point is to question one another as you go. This mean's it's practically impossible to write a first draft as a team using that method. So Chris and I have taken to writing the first and second drafts solo. We develop the characters, plots and ideas as a team, but then one of us tackles the first draft while the other writes the second, before we ultimately sit down and start working on the drafts together. This allows us to just get the idea on the page without the other over our shoulder questioning the positioning of a comma. (I'll be honest here, that's usually me.)

Interestingly, or possibly ironically, 'Writing Space' was born out of procrastination. Chris and I had met up to break the story for another project we were writing and during a period in which we had hit a bit of a wall our conversation drifted and gave birth to a very vague but simple idea. An idea that practically oozed with fun, an odd but accurate statement. We noted down several bullet points summing up the concept before we caught ourselves and forced our minds back to the task at hand, although like the petulant school children we are, we did resist for a little while longer first in order to play 20 questions or something equally time wasting. We were clearly fond of the new idea, but I'm not sure we seriously discussed perusing it during that meeting at all.

But it would not die, that same evening the idea would not leave me to sleep in peace, only now it came to me with a new element attached when it swam through my mind. I suddenly understood it needed to be a mockumentary. It's a conclusion Chris and I would have come to eventually regardless of whether it had occurred to me that evening or not. The significance of realising it in that particular moment is that it caused me to become more excited about the project and was immediately inspired to write a couple of sample pages there and then to demonstrate to myself how it would work in that format. One of those sample pages ended up being the first page of the finished script.

As a mockumentary it was suddenly very produceable, which to two writers working on several projects on spec with no sign of progress is a very enticing prospect. Chris had already been assigned the task of writing the first draft of the project we had actually met up to develop that weekend, we did end up breaking the story as we set out to. This left me to write the first draft of Writing Space, which had a different title at this stage. This was in late December of 2012 and we agreed to finish our respective first drafts by the first week of February 2013.

This is actually one of the reasons we didn't record any new episodes of our podcast Nothing But Static in January, as we were both highly focused on finishing our first drafts.

Seems I've rambled enough for now, my next post will pick up where this left off.

Thanks for reading.
-- Dan

Monday, 26 August 2013

Nothing But Static Site Relaunch

Nothing But Static is a podcast.
More specifically Nothing But Static is a podcast I co-host.
More specifically Nothing But Static is a TV podcast I co-host. 
Even more specifically Nothing But Static is a TV podcast I co-host which just relaunched its website. 

Now you have the specifics, the purpose of this post is to let you know I'd like to ask you to check it out. If you're interested in that sort of thing that is. We don't expect anyone who doesn't watch TV to listen, if you don't know Son's of Anarchy from Breaking Bad, I expect you'd be utterly baffled. It would sound like Chris and I were speaking in tongues. 

But for those of you as obsessed with TV as Chris and I, (Fuck it, we'd take mildly interested. It's not that exclusive a club.) I'd encourage you to not only check out the podcast itself, but keep your eye on the website as well. Our intention with this relaunch is to keep the site updated with TV related news and Articles that may be of interest also. These may be loftier ambitious than our time will permit, but that's never stopped us before. I'm be posting links to some of the articles on my twitter also, so I'm sure you'll here more about the content as I tweet. 

With the site relaunch came a brand new episode of the podcast. This week we discussed the new shows that most excite us from the upcoming TV Season. As well as the four US shows Channel 4 have picked up and news about Danny Boyle returning to TV. Also, in our previous episode Chris had challenged me to watch a British TV classic I had only ever seen in passing; Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. So this week, having watched the first six episodes I gave some thoughts on it.

If you're interested in our website it can be found at nothingbutstatic.co.uk

If you'd rather just skip to podcast itself, you can listen via the player below, iTunes or right click on the link below and select 'Save As' to download the mp3. 

Direct Download.



Thursday, 15 August 2013

Shall we try that again?

So a brand new design and a brand new attempt to reinvigorate this blog. Which, as an endeavour, the realist inside all of us has already probably dismissed as hopeless. Not that I'm giving up at the start line, just acknowledging the fact that I've spoken of bringing this blog back in the past and to put it mildly, I don't have a great track record of success. So there is a chance I may become distracted again and the consistency of postings may falter, but in the meantime I'm going to try and enjoy it while it lasts rather than beat myself up about my inability to post regularly.

Those few among you who follow me on twitter may already be aware, but it's worth repeated for the purpose of this post that my writing partner Chris Billingham and I have completed the final draft of a script for a new web-series. And we are very pleased to announce that production on this particular project is currently scheduled to commence on the first week of November 2013. We are producing this one ourselves on the rather indulgent budget of zero pounds and zero pence. Calling in an obscene number of favours from friends to do so.

The script we currently hold is a massive source of excitement for both of us and will likely change in small ways between now and when we ultimately shoot the project; this won't help me memorise my lines, but will help make it better. With that said the script we currently hold is pretty much what we set out to make all those months ago.
'All those months ago?' you probably aren't thinking, 'this is entirely new information to me the reader'. Well, as I just hinted, this particular script has technically been in development since December.

That of course doesn't mean we've been working on it non-stop for nine months. Which I'm grateful for, because while Chris often displays an abundance of seemingly infinite patience, I think nine straight months of working with this maladjusted and picky perfectionist would have most certainly caused him to snap and stage an 'Accident' involving myself. I suspect something involving stairs, and me 'falling' down them, that seems like Chris's style. Or perhaps a long swim in a shallow grave after one of our famous romantic walks along Bournemouth pier.

Theoretical murder aside, it was actually a fairly quick and smooth experience that suffered from frequent and lengthy periods of interruption due to scheduling conflicts. So there would be months where Chris and I would simply find ourselves too busy with other work and our podcast Nothing But Static to be able to develop this script further. Not that we see ourselves as important jet-setter types who are above the notion of fitting stuff in, we just had enough stuff going on to make it more challenging to schedule than our lazy nature would permit. But it never once left our minds, which is mildly remarkable considering how easily distracted we often are. No matter what, we always found the time to come back to it eventually.

I feel that this script, more than anything else we have ever worked on, truly reflects our writing voices, and that fact is in itself immensely exciting. Although this may have something to do with how close the subject matter is to home. A lot of my satisfaction stems from knowing the execution of the concept is almost exactly what we had originally envisioned those nine long months ago. And now we are facing the daunting and arduous task of taking this forty five page script and organising a production that will turn it into six viable episodes of a web-series.

Despite the obvious challenges that lie ahead as a result of trying to produce a fairly sizeable production with less money than the value of a freddo. But we think we have something really special on our hands and cannot wait to show everyone. More details will be posted on this blog as we go forward regarding the content of the scripts as well as updates on exactly how badly our production has fallen apart.

And then, someday... if we're lucky... I'll be typing the words 'Introducing our new web series... Writing Space'.

Thanks for reading.
-- Dan


Edit: Since this post I have written another two part piece describing the writing process for this project. Part one can be found here and part two can be found here.