Wednesday, August 01, 2007


Long rambly post ahead.
What is the point of having a blog if you don't use it occasionally to blow your own trumpet - albeit anonymously (and even for minor successes)? Well my first radio play didn't win anything but was very highly commended in the BBC International Radio Playwriting Contest (reached the top 50 out of 1200 entries worldwide - the names are now up here for a short time). So a pat on the back there. I kind of knew my play was 'busking it' with way too many characters (after a massive culling from the original film script). You were supposed to have only 6 and I think I had 8 and a half.

Plus certain elements had to be completely re-worked for radio. Sex and death probably work better on film. But as a re-writing and craft exercise - turning a
film script into a radio play was fairly illuminating - particularly in regard to writing and 'preciousness' (more of which later).

So would I do another radio play? Yes probably but only for a ready opening like another contest - as it seems for Beeb radio drama you have to submit via a dedicated producer. They did re-launch radio drama over here a year or so ago but all seems to have gone quiet in the interim. Anyway there's another
half hour radio competition deadline at the end of the year (though it's for 'Africans living in Africa' and I'm unsure whether I fit the criteria - will have to confer with Barbee there - tee he)

So what did I learn from this exercise? That I prefer writing for film and I think visually rather than aurally.
But I settled on a better title for the play. That stays. Thinking about making a story work for radio as opposed to film was a good exercise to hone the story. Now I'll take all the improved story things back to the film script. The key character was originally an artist. This didn't work for radio and was changed. But now I'm going back to the artist. One big plus for radio is that you can convey thoughts. Plus radio has to pack a punch from page 1. The film script has a kind of 'slow burner' opening which I'm going to have to work on.

In the film script there was a key scene where 'a pitched battle ensued' (where did I read that line on a blog recently?). Anyway mine was kind of inspired by that scene in 'Once Were Warriors' when the Maori mentor delivers a Haka and twirls a sword (and the whole audience flinch in expectation.) I wanted to capture that strange energy and the sense of not knowing whether what is happening (on screen) is true or not. Anyway of course this 'pitched battle' - being totally visual had to be severely curtailed for radio.

The main thing I learned from the whole exercise was about 'preciousness'. One key issue for many writers (me included) is a lack of ability to dispassionately assess what you've written after you've written it. We become precious. We hold on to things that should go and are unable to see what doesn't work well which is why we need to hand it out; get it read, do PO3 or whatever.

When I was at art college in Leeds (across the road from the Merrion Centre), we used to do life drawing once a week - our easels arranged in a circle around a large, lardy, naked woman who had perfected the art of smoking without ever dropping the ash from the end of her cigarette.
One day after we'd been busy with the charcoal for about half an hour, the tutor stopped us all. He told us to each take our drawing and hand it to the person on our left. We were then supposed to carry on sketching the life model - working with someone else's drawing. Everyone was stumped. Some were horrified. One girl cried. Most thought 'what can I do with this pile of *?'

Then we just had to stop being precious and get on with it.


potdoll said...

I went to a workshop once where we did a similar thing. create a character, fold down the paper and then pass it on, write an inciting incident, pass it on etc. then at the end of it you had to go away and try and write a story from it. i'm sure there was a similar game when i was a kid but i can't remember it.

well done for doing so well in the radio play comp!

Far away said...

Ta Pot.

Maybe it was like 'heads, bodies and legs' drawing game? My mum used to play that with us when I was little

Pillock said...

Coolness on the radio play!

potdoll said...

Oh yes I think it was! Loved that game!

far away said...

Ta Pill

& me too Pot