Wednesday 7 November 2012

Easy Listening

I spend hours and hours alone with a laptop. I like it, but even I get a bit fed up with the solitude. So during my lunch hour I often wander around listening to a podcast. And at the moment, there's tons of stuff out there to enjoy and learn from.

I've been devouring the Nerdist Writers Panel podcast, which is lengthy, detailed, funny and here. There's also KCRW's The Business, which often has an interesting take on Hollywood more generally and regularly features stories of how people made films the hard way. Both of these podcasts are obviously American where the norm is to be a jobbing writer on someone else's show. In Britain, we always tend to think the grass is greener, but frequently I listen to the Nerdist Podcast and realise that the American table-writing system has serious drawbacks (mainly personal ones) as well as plus points (and more money).

For British podcasts, I've been loving Stuart Goldsmith's podcast, The Comedian's Comedian. Although it is primarily about stand-up comedy, it's ultimately about British funny people, the process of writing, breaking in, getting confidence and lots of anecdotes that reassure you that we're all making this up as we go along. What writers can learn from the craft of stand-up comedians is the skill of controlling an audience and being meticulous about how to take them on a journey. There's a brilliant back catalogue of names intereviewed in detail, including Alan Davies and Sarah Millican - but I especially enjoyed the ones with Adam Bloom, Alun Cochrane and Liam Mullone.

There's also the wonderfully infectious UK Scriptwriters podcast with Tim Clague and Danny Stack, who are full of down-to-earth practical advice. They don't always agree on everything, but it's always interesting and realistic - and they're full of information on writing competitions and what's coming up in the screenwriting calendar. All power to their microphone.

BAFTA have got some good content too. Here's a nice one on Comedy Writing with the lovely Kevin Cecil. One reflection on this podcast, though, having just listened to it:

There's lots of talk about 'breaking in to the industry' and how difficult it is. They talk about making youtube videos and all that. That's all fine and probably worth doing if you have the time and expertise. But the thing is, you already have the tools to break in. There's no special secret hammer and chisel or  key to a side-door where it's easier to find a way in. The tools you have are a computer and a word-processor. And with those tools you can write a script like any other screenwriter in the world. You can tell stories about anything in any time and any place. You can produce a script that looks the same as one written by William Goldman, Richard Curtis or Steven Moffat. They're both just pages of text - Scene. Setting. Action. Character. Dialogue. Character. Dialogue. Action. etc. What's yours going to say?

If you want to break into the industry, write a really good script. Send it to people who make things you like. Then start writing another script. There's no secret. Other than getting better.

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