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.

Cardiff TAPS

This weekend, I shall mostly be on a TAPS Continuing Drama course in Cardiff.

TAPS is an industry training scheme for writers. For two-and-a-half days you get taught how to write a Continuing Drama (with particular emphasis on Emmerdale), and then you go away and write a short drama using the Emmerdale sets.

Some of these even get filmed and shown to Important People.

But that’s in the future. Or not, depending on how well I do.

More important, is this:

I’m going to be travelling up the night before, that’s this Thursday (the 28th). Should be arriving in Cardiff about 9:30pm – so if you’re on TAPS yourself, or are in Cardiff generally and fancy meeting up on the Thursday night, let me know.