Sunday, 20 May 2012

Almost There

Do you know how often my work has almost made it to the screen! Too many times to mention , so here I am, mentioning them. I had two comedy series on Radio 2. Yeah, did you know I once thought I was going to be a comedy writer? My Mammy and Me had begun as a short story on radio and then just grew. I was so excited when it was commissioned for television. They talked about the cost of each episode, the sets, the cast. I had a script editor and everything, and then.....nothing. Never quite rejected, just put on a back burner. Never mind, I already had another commission for yet another comedy series. I had worked in a woollen mill when I came out of school, and used the experiences to write about two mill girls in the '60's, who thought they deserved a better life. We Gotta Get Outta This Place( I even had a ready made theme tune!) I sent it off to the producer of my favourite comedies at the time. Susan Belbin, who was producing Only Fools and Horse, One Foot in the Grave among others. She came up to Glasgow to meet me, loved it. She commissioned me for five episodes. I was up and down to London for casting auditions. Me! I was swanning around Television House along with Steven Moffat, before he became The Moff.  I sat in as actresses came in and read for the parts. Kelly McDonald was our favourtie, told me her mum just loved the script too. Susan, a producer with a lot of clout down at the BBC, refused to have a read through,( that's when the actors get together and read through the script. That had to be explained to me, in case you think I am being patronising.)  or even for a pilot to be made. ' You are getting a series,' she told me. ' BBC 2 for the first series, then it will move to BBC 1'  Can you blame me for thinking, nothing could go wrong now?
  So, what went wrong, I hear you ask.
  Susan Belbin became ill, and had to leave the BBC!
  The baton was picked up by her assistant, also a producer. Just as keen as Susan Belbin but with none of her clout. She too refused to have a read through of the script. What she did get was a stage pilot. The episode was to be acted out on stage, and filmed  in front of an audience. She did a fantastic job too.
What could go wrong this time?
Well, it was a very Scottish working class comedy set in the '60's. And it was filmed in front of a London audience, mostly BBC types.  I didn't get the series.
   And then there was Granny Nothing. Before it became a book, I sent it off to the BBC as an idea for a children's series. They loved it. I was commissioned for 18 storylines, for two series.  So, what happened to this one? Well, the controller of children's television was replaced and his successor had his own ideas of what would make a good series. I began writing Granny Nothing as a book, which then became four books.
Then, to my delight, Granny Nothing was picked up once more by the BBC. Once more I was commissioned. Surely, nothing could go wrong this time? They were talking about a scriptwriting team which I would head,  how long each episode would last, at what time it would be aired., even who they were considering to play Granny Nothing.
Fate vomited on my contract once again.
Another new controller appeared. This one thought Granny Nothing was too much like Madame Doubtfire.
I almost phoned him up screaming. ' It's nothing like Madame xxxxx Doubtfire.'  But what would have been the point?
  But you know, and this is especially for any aspiring writers out there, I got all of this without an agent.  I looked in the Radio Times for the names of the producers whose work I admired and then I simply sent off scripts or programme ideas to them. (It was Susan Belbin who suggested I get an agent, seeing as how I was going to be so famous and all that with We Gotta Get Outta This Place!)
 And now.... I am almost there again. This time it is the big screen.  The film rights for my book, Another Me, ( another one which began as a short story on radio) were bought a long time ago.  Last year however, everything began to snowball. I met the people in charge of production, Rebekah and Nicole, and was invited down to London to meet the woman who is going to direct and write the screen play for the film. Isobel Coixet. A Spanish director with a wonderful track record and reputation. They are all delightful, and so enthusiastic.
Isobel told me she is so looking forward to bringing my story to the screen. They have found the perfect location, (Cardiff) and Isobel is planning to make it a terrifying psychological thriller. Fox International will distribute it. It is going to be called Panda Eyes. ( No, I dont' know why either) It is going into production this the, no, it has now been rescheduled for September.
So, here's the cliffhanger.... it isn't September yet.....I'm holding my breath.....

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