Saturday, June 24, 2006

At a Crossroads

Listen to this.

I was at the Birmingham Rep theatre today for a masterclass on writing television and one of the speakers talked about how you get sacked from shows and how it feels like a knife wound but is actually routine. And she gave reasons, explained certain things and it was all interesting but the key thing was that she was precisely, I mean precisely, recounting my own Crossroads experience.

I've always been quite flip about Crossroads before, always being sure to say that I plainly wasn't good enough, always being very fair about what the show did to me. But the first truth is that it was a knife wound. I couldn't keep my first TV writing gig and, yes, 90% or more of the script that aired was word-for-word what I'd delivered but that just means I can't see the improvements. I am blind to how to write television, or at least soaps.

The second truth is that this cut me far, far more than I ever admitted to anyone.

And the third truth is that it cut me far, far more than I ever admitted to myself. I mean, this is five years ago now and yet this afternoon I felt a weight lifting off me.

More, this speaker's subsequent advice about how to handle it was almost precisely how I did: I know we would all hope to be professional about things all the time but this situation warranted a hissy fit yet I was pretty fantastically professional. It's the only thing I've been proud about in the whole exercise. And now I think I know I was right.

But there was more. The day wasn't all about soap but it was an important part and discussing the complex demands of a soap (for instance how you structure five stories, how you handle 30 speaking characters in 28 minutes, how you try to pace and build) I kept on hearing things I had instinctively done on Crossroads.

Now, it was hardly a bill of health: I did lose the gig, after all. But it means I should have been able to move on to another show, it wasn't the arterial slice I'd believed. And of course since I didn't even try to move on then, I did truly blow it all.

It's five years ago now and that's a lot of time to have wasted. But I do know that, whatever one might think of my writing, it genuinely is better now than it was.

So I am invigorated and do you know what my sole remaining regret about this entire issue is?

That I didn't hit delete on this blog posting. Forgive any arrogance about how I plainly think I can write television: you know I'll write again when I've got even the slightest evidence to show you.

William "Unusually Confident of his Writing Ability" Gallagher

1 comment:

LFCC said...

When this same thing happened to me I didn't do ANY of the right things. I begged, pleaded, ranted, even cried real tears. In the end, I packed all my stuff into a cardboard box and left ignominiously without even saying goodbye or telling anyone I was going.

Since then my life has been a series of cardboard boxes. I need to shake that off. Your words are most helpful ...