Thursday, February 01, 2007

False starts and setbacks

(For blog reasons no one is referred to by name.)

After the flurry of short film grants and the party years, came the long slog punctuated by false starts and setbacks. The metamorphosis from art filmmaker to screenwriter began.

I decided to do a screenwriting MA but after one term was accepted on a film school drama director's course and pursued that instead. One year later I dropped out.

The New Directors short had encouraged me to consider more 'mainstream' storytelling. I sent out ideas - widely - trying different places and schemes. Surprisingly people read them and weren't rude. Some called me for meetings. A script VIP recommended me for a 10 day residential screenwriting lab. A bunch of disparate screenwriters wrote, drank, bonded and were mentored by industry fundis. It was a turning point.

I came runner up in a newspaper script competition - the prize - a pitch meeting. Nothing came of my twitchy pitch but I developed the outline into a short treatment for submission to the ESF and was awarded 5000 euros to write the 'urban, coming-of age drama'. A later draft submitted to Media II was awarded a larger whack of development. By this time I had set up a company with a producer friend. I wrote and rewrote while "B" got on the phone and demanded finance from people. We had some meetings. We flew to Dinard and hobnobbed shamelessly. We held a reading. We made magic biscuits to entice prospective funders. Then it happened - a big VIP producer came on board, followed soon after by the biggest VIP producer in the world!*. We were hot. The script now had 3 producers! More development money came in. We held another reading for VIPs in Soho. We negotiated a spectacular soundtrack deal. Interest peaked. We cast. It seemed to be happening.

Except it wasn't really. There was a question ? mark over directing (there usually is for writer-directors.) I'd done 13 drafts. Development was going round in concentric circles. The script wasn't getting better or getting worse - it was getting stale. I was tired and it showed. By now, I'd been on it for 4 years.

Then the biggest VIP producer in the world* stepped off. I cried. "B" cried. Interest started to wane. The script drew comparisons to a film that just bombed (It was nothing like it). We began to despair. Unpaid bills piled up. The bailiffs came round. We borrowed money. The bailiffs came back. "B" found she was pregnant. We closed the office down. We tried to pretend it was ok for a while and kept on...

But it was a bit like on ER when they do defibrillation but it is already too late.

The script was dead. And I had to move on....

tbc.

*slight exaggeration

7 comments:

potdoll said...

Bloody hell what a ride. Was this while you were still in the UK?

far away said...

yes

Pillock said...

Wow.

Do you like Chumbawumba?

wcdixon said...

Sorry things went the way they did (though that's more common a tale than not)...but thanks for sharing

far away said...

Hey Jackson P

are they still around? I saw you have a penchant for chumbas (or should that be poncho) Ha!

I bounce back very quickly..

Optimistic_Reader said...

Fascinating reading far away.

Anonymous said...

can you say how you made the biscuits?

ST