No-one knows where I can get an actual bucket of plastic spiders, do they? Just in case I want to do an epic LOTR-style battle sequence for toy-fu at any point. I'm sure I saw such a thing once, but have had no luck on the internet. I told Matt of my pain and he looked at me sadly and said 'You have my my sympathy. Many a fine project has failed due to a lack of a bucket of plastic spiders'. Which was a thoughtful thing to say.
I've been working on outlines and templates this weekend, which has a pleasantly architectural, almost masonic feel to it. Being self-employed, I only realised yesterday that May 2nd was a Bank Holiday, which doesn't have much impact on me, apart from lots of the shops are closed. But not any of the ones my friends work in, which they're all very pleased about. I always thought it was illegal to expect people to work on a bank holiday, but a few years in retail swiftly disabused me of that notion.
Anyway, back to templates and outlines. Something that mightily confused me when Agent Ginny first started getting me meetings was that they'd go something like this:
MEETEE: So I loved your spec script.
MEETEE: Loved the dialogue, loved the structure, loved the setting. Love, love, love.
ME: Well that's good to hear.
MEETEE: I showed to Sally over there, she doesn't like anything, and she loved your script. Didn't you Sally?
SALLY: Don't talk to me. I hate you.
MEETEE: So all round loving, enthusiasm and warmth. And love.
ME: Well that's great! I've some ideas for casting, and I've burnt a CD of-
MEETEE: So if you want to come up with some outlines for more scripts, we'd love to see them.
Which confused me for a bit. And still does. But, once you've got an in with the right guys, they don't need to see a full script before, in theory, they start giving you development cash. Which comes in useful, although in the future a new kind of writer may evolve who thrives purely on herbal tea and actors' stories. And then look out, quite frankly.
I still prefer to write a full script, and then try and get it out there, which I've had to accept is a bigger risk: there could be some problem with it that makes it impractical to film (which in kids TV includes: characters who are too young and therefore will be kept out of school for filming, characters who are too old and therefore are likely to alter over a the course of a few short weeks in terms of skin, height, voice and for all I know, number of limbs), scripts depicting violence against kids (boo - and see here ) and many many more), or the script might just turn out to be, you know, rubbish. On the plus side, having committed yourself to writing a full script without any real likelihood of pay shocks many development execs to the point of tears ''seriously, he wrote this without being paid!' 'Ooh, imagine what else he'd do...'. I think it puts them in mind of medieval monks ruining their eyesight in guttering candlelight, completing the last few lines of an illuminated bible before being led quietly back to their cell for some broth. Ooh, salty.
So you need to do a bit of both. It gives Agent Ginny a bit more to work with anyway, which keeps her off the streets and out of trouble. Pleasingly, my shortsighted devotion to writing actual scripts means development people have some solid samples of work to look at, ranging from kids animation to pilot sitcoms to full screenplays.
And I'm being unfair to development people, most of whom will quietly tell you over a glass of whisky at two in the morning that they're not paid quite as much as you think, and they spend their every day looking for a script they can get enthusiastic about, and, most days, not finding one. In fact my last meeting with a development person went like this:
DP: So we loved your script.
ME: (sulkily) Well give me a million pounds then.
DP: (laughs politely) Well it's not quite the area we're looking for. So if you fancy coming up with-
ME: God, 'whatever'.
DP: I'm sorry I can't give you a million pounds.
ME: You do know I came up from Cornwall for this?
DP: Yes I'm sorry.
ME: I mean I'd try and talk to you about what I want to write, but you won't have a clue what I'm talking about, will you? There's no passion in the your jejune little world, is there? You're not a fan. You've never queued for the new Buffy boxed set, or heard of Neil Gaiman, or-
PD: Actually I'm a huge Sandman fan.
ME: Oh. Really?
PD: We've actually been developing a project with (names not very well-known but very talented and certainly up-and-coming British comics writer)
ME: Oh. Can I send you some outlines for stuff then?
ME: Can I have some herbal tea?
ME: I like meetings.