Tuesday, 17 November 2009


So where were we? About two months ago I announced the DOUGH news. And it’s been full on ever since. As promised, I want to keep everyone informed of the development process. This is relatively new to me so as I go along, inevitably learning along the way, it may prove to be of some use to others too.

Me and my co-writer, Jonathan, delivered the first draft on the last day of October, bang on when our contract stipulated. I brazenly thought we’d get it in earlier, but things do have a habit of cropping up and in the end we were happy to have the extra time. Because when I say we delivered the first draft, what I actually mean is, it was the first draft for Viva Films. For me and Jonathan, it was about the third draft.

I had taken the first stab at it, then Jonathan had a look at it, then I workshopped it with my writing group, and then we both rewrote it again. Feedback, feedback, feedback. I’ve said about a thousand times on this blog that that really is the name of the game. And I’ll probably say it a thousand more.

And of course after we delivered the draft, we then got notes from John Goldschmidt and a couple of readers. This was invaluable because John, Jonathan and I all felt that it was important it was looked at by people who didn’t know the story. (My workshop group had already given feedback on the original four page outline, so although things evolve of course, the basic premise has remained the same.)

One reader totally got it. That’s not to say the report was just blowing us metaphorical kisses from screenwriting heaven. When I say they got, what I mean is, they engaged in the story, stated explicitly what they felt we were trying to do, and then went on to say how and why we perhaps weren’t quite there yet. (And they were right on both counts.) It’s extremely gratifying from an experienced reader to pick up your script cold, read it, and understand what you want it to do. It means that even now, at this relatively early stage, that much at least is coming across.

Having said that, the other reader wasn’t as keen. The story just didn’t grab them. And John, being the very nice chap that he is, tried to protect us a little bit from what he perceived as quite a critical report. I realised this, and the thing is, like I told John, I am perhaps a little thicker skinned than other writers of my age and experience. Having gone through two years on my MA course, workshopping all the time, and continuing to do that as much as possible even now, I am used to people criticizing my work. Because after all, we call it feedback, but what we mean is, criticism. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice and appropriate for a reader to mention the good bits and what is working. But it’s far more important and useful for them to talk about what isn’t. Otherwise it’s just an exercise in self-gratification. (And more crucially, the work won’t get any better.)

What’s more, this ‘harsher’ (for want of a better word) of the two reports also contained some very complimentary words about the writing – and more significantly, hit the nail on the head on a couple of really key points that have become central to the next rewrite. John wasn’t to know this but trust me, I have had a lot, lot worse feedback reports than this!

So yesterday John, Jonathan and I met up, three sets of notes in hand, to discuss where we go from here. I’ve had script meetings before but not on a project as exciting as this and although the meeting lasted around four hours, the other two had to almost crane me out of the room to get me to stop. The room is what it’s all about. Writing is a solitary business (albeit less so when co-writing.) But collaborating, meeting, discussing, throwing ideas around and beginning to think about the type of locations, the use of music, the role of montages and cuts etc, to achieve the visual look we want, really gets the juices going.

And that's where we are at the moment. What comes next? What do you think. Another draft of course. Pencilled in for delivery about a month from now. At which point we’ll do the whole process – notes from John, a couple of readers, and a meeting – where we’ll probably lay down the foundation for, you guessed it, another draft.

I don’t know why they call this development hell. Sounds like heaven if you ask me.

No comments: