collaborative writing

#TalentCampus a life changing experience

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London Screenwriters Festival – First EVER Talent Campus 2015

As I boarded the 6am train from Manchester to Stockport last weekend, I was still in shock after being selected to participate in the 2015 London Screenwriters Festival (LSF) ‘Talent Campus. Having received the phone call confirming my place on the Monday I only had a few days to find myself transport and accommodation for the ‘Ignition’ weekend.

On the train ride to London I was riddled with nerves, not only as it was going to be my first experience using AirBnB, my imagination being rife with serial killers, but also sharing the same space as the incredible talent that awaited me in the form of the other delegates.

Entering Ealing Studios increased the anticipation and nerves. Luckily through the fantastic LSF network that I was active in I recognised a couple of people and felt slightly more at ease. We were rounded up and taken to our base for the next couple of days and typical me headed straight to the back of the room. Chris Jones gave us a number of messages throughout the morning about the structure of the Talent Campus which involves ten days of intense screenwriting experiences plus writing weeks with a mentor.

Discussing fears was a common theme during day one and it was a clear indication of why so many of us writers feel stuck in our writing careers. Positivity and belief was something which Chris kept referring to and ended up with me walking on glass at the end of the day. Crazy I know, given that I was more scared about having to stand up and introduce myself in the afternoon than walking barefoot on glass. But strangely telling everyone that most of the time I feel like a fraud and that one day soon I will be found out was scarier than potentially slitting my feet open. Talent Campus has certainly ignited!

Stephen Follows gave a fascinating insight into the types of movies that receive investment and patterns which have emerged in recent years. The stats are not great for sports movies which is my current project, but for comedy is slightly better. Even so, my project will be more of a calling card. It’s a story I feel passionately about and that I want to write which is something that echoed throughout the weekend – write where your passion is.

12015069_10153497299290091_5261957336951402956_oJohn Yorke’s session on structure was like a breath of fresh air. He took the complicated structures that we read so much about in Robert McKee, Syd Field and Blake Snyder to an extent and explained in such simple terms that I felt like I had a lightbulb moment listening to him. It was also so valuable to hear about the structure of television which is something that is discussed less than the screenplay. I even spoke to him in the break and complimented his approach which is something I rarely climb out of my introvert self to do.

The session on social media was insightful – led by expert Lucy V Hay who holds no punches when delivering her talks. It certainly made me re-think how I use facebook as a tool. Lucy was joined by actress/writer and filmmaker Vanessa Bailey who opened up the world of Instagram to me. Now I thought I was quite an expert at social media without really appreciating how much Instagram is used today. Vanessa opened my eyes up to this visual medium and how I could use it to promote myself as a writer. Gone are the days of just taking photographs of my tea or my cats – thanks to Vanessa I see this area in a whole new light and something to work on in the future.

12052508_10153497621425091_8732243746859876171_oThe amazingly, super-talented and extremely patient Kate Leys delivered an inspiring day where she took us all back to basics with story. She dissected each of the twenty-eight campus members story ideas in front of everyone including the mentors. She treated each of us the same, and every comment or observation was thoroughly appreciated by us. When it came to my project Kate offered advice, research and told me that she would go and see the film if it was ever made which was the biggest compliment ever.

The Talent Campus was a lot of hard work, but we had time for some fun games which really brought out people’s personalities as we had to work as a team to get our hands on an Oscar winning script. Not for the faint-hearted and really did show us all that perhaps collaboration is a way forward when needed.12080249_10153497621415091_6478357696794230199_o

Going forward and with our mentors on board, there is now a three week writing period to put as much preparation into the LSF week as possible. I’ll be having weekly skype meetings with my mentor Karol Griffiths to get my project to the stage where I can pitch it comfortably at the festival. A lot of hard work will be endured between now and festival week but that is what the appeal of Talent Campus is – strict deadlines amongst a sea of supportive peers.

Finally, I left the first campus weekend feeling confident, assertive and privileged to be going through such an incredible journey with my fellow campers. These people really are uber-talented, supportive and hopefully will remain friends at the end of the ten weeks.

Welcome to Station Road

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This week has seen the premiere broadcast of the radio soap that I’ve been co-writing for the past fourteen months.image

Station Road is a continuing radio drama about life in a fictitious and gritty Manchester street. Not only do the characters work and live on Station Road but there is also a public house, café, urban farm and a corner shop.

Hearing the scripts come alive for the first time on Saturday was quite simply marvellous. A couple of the writers, myself included were interviewed live in the studio at ALL FM prior to the episode being aired.

The episode was played mid-interview, and it was pretty special not imageonly hearing our scripts come to life but we also have a theme tune. An actual catchy theme tune that we’ve since been humming in our script meetings.

A surreal moment yesterday as I left work to drive to the weekly Station Road writers meeting, the pilot was played out again during ALL FM’s Drivetime show and as I sat in traffic, I felt such pride listening to the scene that I wrote

Check out our blog which is all about the show and tune in at 17:30 every Monday, Wednesday and Friday on ALL FM 96.9 www.allfm.org

Writing as a team

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Collaborative Writing

It’s been a while since I wrote about how I am finding being part of the writers group for the radio soap.

Twelve months on and we are a core of six writers, meeting weekly and we have currently written 168 scenes on our brand new community radio soap opera.

It has been an organic process to get to where we are. Twelve months ago there were fifteen writers at the very first session and to be honest it would have been chaos if it had continued to be that number, and I’m not sure that I would have been in it for the long haul either.

As the initial weeks passed by a writer would stop coming to the meetings until we found it to be the same six writers that would turn up each week.

This was a good number of people to have involved in the process. It meant that we were able to really get to grips with the characters that we created, the world that the soap is set in and without a large number of people to get their point across meant that storylining is more of less a discussion rather than a battle.

Within the team there are various expert areas. A stand-up comedian, a short story professional, an actor, a novice and a radio writer/presenter. With our diverse backgrounds I think we get the best from our characters and we all more or less write our scenes with the same tone, and voice.

Our weekly meetings consist of reading through the previous weeks scenes. This is my favourite part as it’s enjoyable hearing the characters come to life and from something that we’d discussed briefly during story lining to actually having full scenes which feed into the overall soap feels like an accomplishment.

The writer of the scene to be read aloud has to talk briefly about the scene, where the conflict is and what is the change from the beginning to the end of the scene. Some scenes are harder than others to do this.

After the read throughs, we then look into the stories for the next week. Where our characters are up to in terms of their story lines and which characters are needed to assist in developing the story further.

We’ve been a writing group for a year now and it has passed really quickly. The actors were cast before Christmas and recordings are made each week. It’ll be really good to finally hear it on air though, something that I am looking forward to.

A number of things that I have learned from my experience of being part of a collaborative group of writers.
• Discussions amongst more than one person can generate a raft of ideas.
• If a character hasn’t got a solid back-story and biog then writers can really struggle when it comes to putting that character under conflict. It’s important that this is nailed down at the very start of introducing this character otherwise it never seems believable.
• Drop-box is a valuable tool for sharing ideas and scripts.
• Being part of a writing team keeps you motivated. We meet on a Monday night and on several occasions when I’ve had a really tough day at work, what I’ve really wanted to do is go home to rest. Knowing that there are five people relying on you means that you have to attend. I’ve never been to a meeting and not come away feeling motivated again.
• Being taught to listen to others and let go of your own great ideas if the group decide that something else works better.
• Learning to compromise and not feel precious about an idea.

I’m sure there will be more to blog about as the year progresses.

Once I get the official airtime date I will ensure I update this site.

 

Radio Soap Writing Group

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My last post about Collaborative Writing was over 14 weeks ago, and I’m happy to report that I’m still part of the writing team for a new radio continuing drama series for a Manchester community radio station.

We started out five months ago as a team of fourteen writers, of all writing ability and over the weeks have now dwindled down to a regular writing team of six.

We have a full cast of characters with their back stories, storylines, real life actors have now been cast to start recording the series in two weeks time and we the writers are all frantically scribbling at an amazing speed to ensure that the scripts are ahead of each recording.

There is finally a name for the radio soap too although not sure if that is being officially launched in the upcoming weeks. Maybe not the best of ideas to publicise it on here in case there is going to be a big PR campaign planned for it in a few weeks time.

It’s great to be part of a writing team. I experienced it as part of my Masters degree in Scriptwriting for the Radio Drama module, but nothing is better than experiencing it in real life.

The best thing about the weekly writers meeting is that we all have our own ideas about how a character should react to a situation etc. However, the collaborative process means that we get to bounce ideas off each other and just having those discussions (sometimes heated) means that what could start off as a good idea can be bounced around and with a few heads getting together can come out as a great idea.

It’s certainly made me think about my future writing and the possibility of trying to find a writing partner to collaborate with.

I’m going to London Screenwriters Festival later in the month so maybe I should be on the look out for a collaborator.

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Collaborative Writing – Week 2

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As expected the group of extremely keen writers in week one had dwindled slightly in week two.

Perhaps it wasn’t what they thought it would be, or maybe they didn’t realise it would be a weekly writers meeting. Anyway our large group of writers in week one was reduced by a third in week two.

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Not only was it nicer to work in a smaller, more intimate group setting but it also meant that I managed to take a larger share of the Jaffa cakes during the three hour meeting.

The aim of the meeting was to recap what we had covered in week one, come up with more characters for our project and start looking at potential conflicts and stories between the characters.

In week one it was apparent when we shared our characters that our project wasn’t culturally representative of Manchester.

This gave me all the ammunition I needed to create my next character who is of black origin and is the local councillor for the area.

In the next exercise which involved us writing with a partner myself and another writer who had created an MP decided to lock horns and have a bit of fun with our characters and their dialogue.

I really enjoyed this exercise as the gentleman that I was partnered with was very quiet within the session, but once we began writing together he produced some great one-liners and comedic moments.

We really bounced off each other, and it has made me think of finding a writing partner in the future. Having another set of ideas is refreshing and means that the partner may suggest something that leads to me coming up with a different angle on a story. I wouldn’t excuse it in the future.

The lesson of this week for me is never judge a book by it’s cover.

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Joining a writing team

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Get out of your comfort zone and do something that terrifies you. That’s a healthy motto – right?

One of the aspects of my MA which challenged me the most was the collaborative group project in semester two.

An eight part radio drama where I worked with seven other writers and devised a radio serial with a forty-five minute episode written by each member of the team.

It was a challenge to say the least. Not only a divide in age and gender, but also in sense of humour. We spent most of the semester arguing about the serial storyline and at the last meeting still hadn’t nailed it down fully.

Not one to learn by my mistakes I’ve gone and done it again and joined a writing team for a soap opera at a community radio station.Collaborative working

Firstly it’ll be great to get my writing on the radio again, secondly it will be good for the CV if I can show that I’ve worked as part of a writing team in a professional context,  and thirdly if I don’t have someone giving me strict deadlines I fear that my writing will only occur when meeting competition deadlines.

This project is at the very beginning of becoming a radio soap opera, and with a team of twelve writers we won’t all get commissioned to write an episode. Which mirrors real life on a television soap opera too.

Last night was the first get together of this new writing team, and I thought I would blog about the journey from inception to writing that first episode.

The writing team is a diverse group of local people from Manchester who are a mix of volunteers at the radio station, writers and others who just want to get involved in this thrilling project.

We began the session by reading aloud a couple of short radio scripts. When asked for volunteers there was an uncomfortable silence so I put my hand up. Reading scripts out loud doesn’t phase me anymore as I’ve had two and a half years of doing this week in week out.

We were then given a large selection of photographs of people which had been cut out from newspapers and magazines. A range of ages, gender and ethnicity were covered and each of us chose one picture. Mine was a woman in her mid-twenties in a yoga pose. I thought I could have a lot of fun in creating her character as she looked quite chilled and peaceful.

My aim is to make my character the least stereotype for that particular image which is what I did when writing her character biography.

Other groups worked together on each of the characters, but the group that I was put in we worked solo and then shared our ideas. I found this approach better as the least conflict at the early stages the better.

Briefly we then came up with a long list of places that would be featured in our make shift soap opera world. Pub, café, library, bridge, park and pound shop were just a few of the suggested places that would feature in our community.

We also need to name our community in the upcoming weeks.

It’s certainly exciting to be part of something new creatively, and of course getting to know new people in this context is something that I find beneficial. Who knows, today community radio – tomorrow the writing team on House of Cards!