As a children’s producer, writes Diana Hinshelwood, I often write scripts but I wasn’t a scriptwriter – despite ambitions to be the next Sally Wainwright. As a parent, the holy grail is working from home. I can write, I thought. All I need to do is find an agent. If only it were that simple.
Most agents were kind but weren’t looking for children’s writers. But one agent said he enjoyed my writing and if I ever tried writing for mainstream, he’d happily take a look.
Encouraged by this, I booked onto John Yorke’s Screenwriters’ Course. I was ridiculously excited and nervous about doing something new. The course is on-line, and broken into modules to do in your own time but to a deadline. We posted exercises for others to comment on, which is nerve wracking but the comments were mostly encouraging. And there was no shortage of imagination amongst our group. What a creative lot we were!
The best bit was watching classic films for ‘homework’. Thelma and Louise, The Godfather, Million Dollar Baby. I didn’t mind putting in the hours for that. But the exercises that followed were hard, and answers by no means obvious. Who is the protagonist? Antagonist? What do they want? Obstacles? etc . And did these films follow all the rules? Well, no. We’re told the protagonist must appear very early on with a clear goal. So, in “The Godfather” Michael Corleone doesn’t appear until two thirds in. The exercise prompted fierce discussion and in most cases we disagreed on interpretations.
We also had different tastes. I thought “Million Dollar Baby” was brilliant, but others were critical of Clint Eastwood and his directing. Another film I loved was the Disney animation “Cars” – loathed by everyone else. Perhaps as a children’s producer I have a different perspective.
We had to rewrite treatments for existing soaps – which was difficult even when you’re familiar with the characters. And ultimately we were building up to writing our own treatments using the structures and techniques we’d been taught. However, it is one thing to know the rules but quite another to apply them in your own writing. Ultimately, I loved it! The feedback I got was amazing. (Quote from David Roden: “This is a cracking piece of writing, and you should be very proud of yourself. Do not stop working on this.”) and with tweaks and advice from David and John, I’ve been encouraged to turn my treatment into a script.
I’m so pleased I did this course. It’s given me new skills and confidence – and another challenge. But that’s what being a working parent is all about.