Moving From Long Running Series To Taking The Next Step

... this was the title of the recent Writers' Guild event, held at the Guild itself in Kings Cross, London. I should start by saying that this isn't really a full report as previously advertised - at least not in the sense of detailed notes being scribbled in a notepad. Sorry about that. I'm bad and must be punished with steel.

This event saw John Yorke, the BBC's Controller Of Drama Production, making a presentation, before letting an impressive panel give brief individual talks about themselves and their remits. The panelists were Hilary Salmon (Exec Producer, Drama Production), Claire Armspach (Producer, Waking The Dead), Ellen Taylor (Development Executive, Drama Production), Ben Evans (Exec Producer with special responsibility for BBC4), Ceri Meyrick (Producer, who also runs the BBC Drama Writers Academy).

I had never seen John Yorke before, and was very taken with his good humour, clarity of thought, obvious love of writers and the sheer amount of wisdom which he exuded. Couple this very positive impression of John with Ceri Meyrick's diligence and dedication to hunting new talent (she admitted to being annually terrified that she'll miss gifted writers, among the hundreds of Academy applicants - reading the better entries several times as a result) and I'm now 100% positive that the Academy is something worth going for - I so want to spend three months in a classroom with John Yorke.

All of the guests spoke well about their jobs and how they go about finding new writers. The overriding impression was this: these people are absolutely open to new writers. In fact, they crave that kind of new blood. Even an established, super-classy show like Waking The Dead, producer Claire reminded us, ushers in a real variety of writers each year, in terms of experience.

This all adds to my growing impression of what writers need to do, in order to "break in" to TV. Relatively speaking, the "breaking in" bit, in terms of opportunities and willingness on the part of producers, is easy enough. Commissioners want us and there are a dizzying array of opportunities out there. So, no - the hard part is the discipline to sit down and write ourselves a portfolio of brilliant, shiny scripts. Any talk of how it's "who you know, not what you know", in my view, is just an excuse for not having reached the right level of excellence, discipline and/or attitude.

My belief in the power of the writer's blog was cemented tonight when Ceri Meyrick knew who I was. There I was, internally working out oh-so-subtle ways to impress my achievements to date upon the good lady, and she'd already seen the blog. If that's not a fine reason to start a blog today, then what else can I tell you?

Tonight also saw an intriguing mention of a new Writers' Academy which is in the works: intended for the more advanced writer, it will aim to propel graduates towards shows such as Silent Witness. Which sounds tremendous. And this was a truly tremendous evening. Why, I might even join the Guild!


Lucy said...

Sounds wick. Wish I could have gone! And if Ceri Meyrick's read your blog, maybe she's read mine?? I hope so, my application for the Academy went in for the third year running this year... Third time lucky???

Lucy said...

BTW, your email notification thing for this blog is bouncing back to MY email. Which is weird. And possibly part of some kind of convoluted plan to take over the world. Not sure how, but don't think I'm not onto you Arnopp because I am.

Paul Campbell said...

What about me? I was there too. Seven paragraphs of blogginess and not a single mention of the fact that you met me.

Just cos Ceri's your new best friend! I knew her first, you know? And I'm on first name terms with John.

So, ner!

Jason Arnopp said...

Lucy: Curses, foiled!

Paul: I'm sorry, but I have literally no idea who you are.

Lucy said...

There's no getting past me!

And by the way, did you get my email thanking yooooo for your lovely words of encouragement AND attempting to exploit your knowledge of such matters journo-related

Dan said...

I wasn't there and you didn't mention I wasn't...there.

Yes, join the Guild. The revolution needs you.

Piers said...

Just think of the pension.

And the big fat-ass bag of money that they negotiate for you every year.