Thursday, 18 December 2008

To hop or not

Last night I workshopped with my writers group. Four of us attended and it was as productive as ever. I was pleased with the reception my new short film script got, but I was equally pleased to see the evolution of two other outstanding projects in the group, and the beginnings of another one being written with the mentoring of a production company.

The evening evolved into a discussion of how far we had all come since the three years of completing our MA. It's not my place to talk for the others, but for me personally, it's fair to say this has been my most successful year. Shortlisted for the Red Planet Prize and winning the Ustinov were amazing experiences. Part of the process is becoming a better writer, year on year, script on script. That is normal, or should be at least. But in trying to analyse what I had done differently this year from the previous two, one key thing came up. This year there was no project hopping. I wrote two scripts whilst promoting the one I had written on my MA (and seemingly spent two years polishing!)

I should say that I am referring exclusively here to writing on spec. Working in the industry, juggling commissions etc, project hopping is I dare say not only necessary, but it will be your flexibility and adaptability skills that sees you get more work. But when you are developing your own projects, hopping from one to the other may be seriously detrimental to creating a portfolio of polished scripts.

This is not the case for everyone. Some writers can move around quite freely from one script to another. Or from a script to a new outline to something else. But there was a general feeling amongst the group last night that once you start developing a project, once you have committed to it, you should stick at it and see it through. Starting something new is exciting and fresh. Plugging away on something for six months can be grindingly tough. It's enormously tempting to get to a point with a script, get fed up with it and think oh I've got this much better idea, I'll leave this one and do a new outline etc.

I'm not sure this is the best philosophy. I acknowledge everyone is different. Just look again at all the writers on Screenwipe and the different methods they have. But I feel that comes with experience too, and when you are still relatively new, and building a slate of scripts, it's important to focus and concentrate on something to develop it and rewrite it to its fullest potential.

I'm not big on new year's resolutions, but if I was going to plump for something it would be to continue working in this way (is continuing something a new year resolution??) to believe and commit to the ideas I choose to develop, and in the words of Russell Davies, when working on something, "finish it. It’s not a script until it’s finished. You’re not a writer unless it’s done."

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