Song Contest

So I got this request from Dom.

“Find a song that sums up what you think it means to be a writer and post the lyrics on your blog and why you’ve chosen it. NB: It doesn’t have to be your favourite song, it just has to express how you feel about writing and/or being a writer. It can be literal, metaphorical, about a particular form or aspect of writing – whatever you want.”


Having had a wee think about this, I’ve been unable to come up with a song that captures how I feel about writing. And I think that’s because of this:

I don’t see writing as a vocation. I think it’s a job.

It’s an interesting job, a great job, one of the most wonderful jobs in the world. But at the end of the day, it’s still a job.

You might as well ask an accountant “What songs, to you, are all about accounting?”

I don’t know. Perhaps if you asked the greatest accountants in the world, maybe they would be able to wax poetical about what accounting means to them, expressed through the medium of their favourite pop song.

Sadly, I just couldn’t think of any songs in which the singer expresses how much they enjoy their work.

So. Nothing from me on this one.

Letters From America: Things I Have Learned In California

Originally posted 22nd Jan 2004

– An undrinkable beer exists, and its name is Bud Dry
– A kerb painted red is the US equivalent of a double yellow line
– Everyone in Los Angeles is working on a screenplay or is in a band
– Parking on a red-painted kerb will cost you sixty-five dollars
– A microwave is considered essential kitchen equipment; a refrigerator is not
– You need a minimum of two completed screenplays to get an agent
– If you are caught in an earthquake, stand in a doorway
– The light on a cloudless day here is more beautiful than you can imagine
– The English accent trick doesn’t work – they’re used to it
– Equipping an apartment from scratch is more expensive than you think
– Installing Mandrake 9.2 on your computer can destroy a cheap CD drive
– Dell computers have excellent customer service, and cheap CD drives
– An RF lead in your apartment is not necessarily connected to an aerial on the roof
– Redcurrant bagels work surprisingly well for mopping up savoury sauce
– Don’t get a haircut from someone who doesn’t speak English very well
– Mullets are back in
– C&C Music Factory’s “Things that make you go hmmm” was recorded before the advent of DNA testing
– Big Refrigerators Are Good
– Few people in California can spell. When a bank can’t spell “Withdrawals”, that’s a warning sign
– Mess is the equivalent of an animal pissing against a wall. It marks your territory


As far as I can tell I’m the third blogger to go on a TAPS Continuing Drama course, following in the steps of Lucy in 2006 and David in 2007. Perhaps they only let one of us in each year lest we contaminate the other talent and they all start blogging too.

Anyhow, here’s what we got up to:

Beforehand, you had to write a one-page pitch of an original drama which would be shootable on the Emmerdale sets (you get a list and pictures) with no more than six characters.

Friday is getting-to-know-you: introductions, a go-through with a script editor of your pitch document, and a glass or few of free wine.

The course itself started properly on the Saturday with Bill Lyons, a 46-year-veteran of the TV industry telling you about how storylining on a soap works, from story document through to filmed episode, all of which we got to look at. He’s entertaining and full of useful information, and it’s fascinating to see something go from beginning to end.

Main helpful hint: spend at least 25% of your time doing the breakdown. Even if you’ve only got two days, spend the first morning doing the outline.

After lunch, we had an hour to rewrite one of the produced scenes, only without one of the driving characters. They got handed in for later, and the next day, Bill took us through each of the scenes we’d written as they were performed.

Here’s where I fucked up:

I knew that the set we were using wasn’t in fact a set at all, but the interior of a location, and that the exterior of the fictional location was, in fact, the actual exterior of the real building. So I split the scene in two, with a third of it set just outside the front door, thinking that it would be a move of just a few feet.

I was told in no uncertain terms that had this been a real soap, the moment Bill saw EXT. HOUSE, the script would have been binned.

What I’d forgotten is setup time. The entire crew would have had to move outdoors. And all their equipment. And everything would have had to be re-lit. Assuming that the weather’s acceptable.

And, bear in mind, the reason that I’m rewriting this scene at the last minute is because they’ve just lost one of their lead actors and are running behind. So they don’t have time to do that.

Bin. Lesson learned.

It’s more important to be on time and shootable than to be good. A scene can be as brilliant as you bloody like, but if they can’t shoot it, it’s a failure.

At the end of the day we also had to pitch our one-page story in under thirty seconds. It’s a good idea to get a bunch of the other writers together in the bar the night before and practice on each other. Just a couple of go-rounds with live targets makes a huge difference.

Now I’ve got until the 22nd to write up my pitch as a 23-minute script. With an ad break at 11’30”. So that should keep me busy for a while.

I’ve only one real regret about the weekend: I didn’t have anyone with me to take a picture while I stood on the invisible lift in Cardiff Bay.

Ah well.