screenwriting

Where are all the women?

There have been six female writers for Doctor Who in 50 years. Six. And that’s only if you count two people who may not have actually written much or any of the script.

I’ve never really thought about it before. At least, not until I glanced over the list of writers for Series 8. I was pleased to see some of the usual suspects. These are some great writers. Writers that I love. And all of them men.

Of course, the best writer should get the job. But then that would suggest that time and time again, women haven’t been up to the task. I refuse to believe that, so what is really happening here?

The truth is – I don’t know. What I do know is that networking and referrals is the way this industry works. So as a screenwriting student who is constantly thinking about how to break into the industry, it is a little daunting to see that my favourite show does not appear to employ female writers.

I’m sure this issue extends well beyond Doctor Who. I’m reluctant to look into this further though. Breaking into this industry is hard enough without having such a powerful shadow as ‘statistics’ hanging over me. Belief in failure can only have one outcome.

No, I’m just more determined. And on that note – back to writing my feature film!

 

Dammit, Ben!

Of the five graded assessments that I turned in for my uni course, I have received four “High Distinctions”. I am still waiting to find out how I did on my “Assess TV” presentation. The suspense is killing me.

I can’t help but be intrigued by my attitude towards my grades. I’ve never been a high-achiever – in high school or at the two inappropriate university courses I started and never finished. For that matter, I’ve never been able to stick with anything for long. I guess it just shows that I’m never going to do well at anything when my heart isn’t in it. It is therefore a pleasant surprise to be getting good grades. Leaves me with a warm and fuzzy feeling ;)

Prisoners of our own device

I’m zeroing in on the theme for my feature film project. And I can tell you, it’s been a headache.

That’s what happens when you naturally gravitate towards political ideas – at least for me. It means that I often come at a story with social commentary or a moral in mind. Unfortunately, deciding upon a theme in a story isn’t always what comes first. More often than not, a theme is discovered. It kind of pops out from somewhere in between the characters, the conflict and the setting. So what starts off as a clear idea about what I want to write, morphs into something entirely new.

There is a lot of letting go in this process. It hurts to have to put aside an idea and admit that perhaps this time, the story isn’t about x, y, z.

Originally, I started out wanting to write a story that said something about class-ism. While I haven’t deviated very far, I’m realising that the theme for this story is more about prisons – those that are imposed on us and those we devise for ourselves. It is about authority and how easily we hand our power over to others – often to our own detriment. And it is also about refusing to see the truth of our prison.

All of us live in prisons. There is no such thing as true freedom. It doesn’t exist. What do your prisons look like?

A New Direction

In one of life’s great twists, I have found myself accepted into the Advanced Diploma of Screenwriting program offered by RMIT. I applied perhaps a month ago, attended an interview last Thursday and received an offer later that evening.

Strangely enough, my emotional response has generally been one of anxiety rather than excitement. It is a part-time placement however my work circumstances are complicated at the moment. I need to work three days a week and due to circumstances that are out of my control, my hours have been reduced to one day a week. This doesn’t work for me financially so my options are to find another job or wait until February. It is then that I will find out if I’ll still have a job or whether I will be returned to working three days. Fingers crossed for the latter.

Assuming that I can find a solution to my work situation, I then have to concern myself with being able to afford the course. But let’s not dwell too closely to those darkened ponderings. I shall just have to make it work. Somehow.

In other news: Yesterday and I went and saw a cinema screening of the RSC’s Richard II. It was brilliant and I’m feeling called to write a completely separate blog about it. I will therefore refrain from pouring my thought out here at the end of this post – so until next time, I bid thee adieu.

My Brain Hurts

Really. It does.

You see, I have just finished listening to the audio version of Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee. And now my brain hurts.

Life experience and a talent for words does not a writer make. I knew this. Deep down I’ve always known that the act of writing is not only about honing an ability to turn a good phrase or write a vividly, poetic paragraph.

And there is only so much we can learn on our own. Mentorship, formal classes, informal groups and study are necessary if one is to take a born aptitude for writing and turn it into a craft. Listening to Story is like a slap in the face – a reality check and a reminder that storytelling is much more than being able to string words together. Storytelling is much more than regurgitating our personal experience of literature, television or film. It is having a story to tell and then telling that story well, as the saying goes.

It has given me a lot to think about. Perhaps most significant is that it has made me think about the way I work. I found myself reacting quite strongly and almost defensively to some of the statements made in this book. I am one of those people who dick around with ideas for weeks on end before ever putting pen to paper. I’m also one of those people who sits down and starts to bang out scenes that have caught my imagination without thinking about where the story is headed. It works sometimes. I have been able to produce stories this way. And yet the most successful story writing experience that I have had so far was after I’d forced myself to write an outline.

In hindsight, if I’d not had a deadline to meet (or if I’d been more diligent) I’d have gone back over my outline and worked and reworked it within an inch of its life before beginning my story.

Then there are all the intricacies of plot, substance, structure, rhythm, pace, characterisation, turning points, acts, rising and falling action, action/reaction, values, conflict, crisis, character revealed under pressure, inciting incidents, subplot, subtext, revelation, dialogue, the list goes on. Perhaps I might blog about a few of these things in the next little while. It might help me to marry my instinctual understanding of these aspects of story to what I am studying and practicing consciously. Like vocalisation, writing things down helps me to process. Yes, that sounds like a good idea. We’ll see how that goes.

A Giant Leap

Yesterday I participated in a brilliant workshop about alchemy facilitated by Ravyn Stanfield. Without going into a whole lot of detail, this at its most basic level was about learning some tools to help map change within our lives. Most interesting for me was discovering how I actively sabotage my own desires. Now I’m not going to pretend that I have a clear view of what I ultimately want to do with my life. I suspect that there are many threads in that particular tapestry. What I have learned however, is that I have an amazing ability to get in my own way.

Many of you will resonate with this, I’m sure. Like me, many of you will be well acquainted with that little voice in your head that tells you all the reasons why you can’t do something. For me it’s, “That idea isn’t good enough”, “You can’t write until you’ve had a shower/checked Facebook/done more research…” and most recently, “You can’t become a screen writer if you don’t even know what a Producer does.”

However I’m feeling much more open and positive about working with my inner-Saboteur since yesterday’s workshop. Among other things, I realised that it is okay to be a beginner. It is okay to be uncertain or to not always finish a project. Learning to be okay with that is going to be extremely difficult for me. But what I also have to remember is to not let those doubts and insecurities get in the way of my writing. It stifles my creativity.

So as a first step – as one way for me to get out of my own way and take a risk, I’ve enrolled myself in a one-day ‘Introduction to Television’ seminar.

And I’m thoroughly excited about it too! In some ways it might be a small step, but in others it is huge. You see, I’m sometimes afraid to start new things because I can never be sure whether it is right for me. This is made so much worse when there is a financial hurdle. Or if a course is run full time or during work hours. Some of these things simply make it impossible for me. So investing a lot of time and money in something that I can’t be sure I’ll stick with feels frightening and irresponsible. And the difficult part is distinguishing between the legitimate concerns I should have about that, and my inner-Saboteur who just leaps at the chance to stop me in my tracks.

For now I’m feeling good. It is a simple seminar that will give me the overview of the television industry that I so desperately need to understand before making any other decisions. And I’ll just keep my eye on that ten-week ‘Writing Sci-Fi for TV & Film’ course…