I was going to write something about how I spent a day (once) trying to swat a really annoying fly when I was really up to my armpits in alligators. But the thing you always forget when you’re up to your armpits in alligators is that you’re supposed to be draining the frigging swamp. So let’s drain the swamp, the swamp that is ‘what the hell is this all for and is this my life?’
This past week some pretty amazing and lovely and righteous things have happened. People coming out of the woodwork like you wouldn’t believe, or maybe you would. Maybe you live in the woodwork and I’m being unduly harsh on you. Well don’t take it so personal.
One thing that happened was I had a chat with one of the people I work for and he gave me that question, “Where do you see yourself in three years’ time? Or even five years’ time?” I’ve told people about him saying this and they are all like “What?” and “How do you answer that?” but I’ll tell you a thing. Once upon a time I went to a meeting of a Junior Chamber of Commerce — this was about ten years ago and there was this girl I wanted to go out with, yeah yeah, lame, but I went — and they asked that same question: “Where do you see yourself in three years time?” And you know what? I had an answer! It totally floored them because they were all clueless geeks and they had no answers to anything.
My answer back then was, I was going to be running a new television station that I was going to set up with a studio complex including continuous radio broadcasting and TV programmes every night and drama and documentaries and sports coverage and music and whatever. I’d have a staff of full-time committed people and the best training the industry could provide and we’d put 20 local people a year through a first-class training scheme at pretty much zero cost so they could make programmes and go on to get jobs. Wow. The unbelievable thing is that three years later I was doing it and it was all there. People just couldn’t believe their buggy eyes.
So how does that relate to now? What in the name of all that’s holy am I going to be doing in three years time this time? Directing a feature film. I have to just remind myself of that occasionally and I’d better believe it, buddy boy, “because otherwise you’re sitting on a big fat debt which was incurred with only one repayment option — success”. Or small chunks of servicing forever and ever amen.
And that means writing a feature length script because no one is going to hand over the option to their precious first novel to me with no major track record, are they? Well, one person might. Maybe. And another might be writing a script that they’ll let me have first dibs on and, of course, I’ll ask. But otherwise, writing a feature length script is what’s needed or the swamp stays full and I get eaten by the alligators, and never mind the flies buzzing around on the internet and what have you.
Okay. So, ever done this before? Once. And it’s no picnic. The thing about writing is there is no secret and no mystery. You know what the secret of great writing is? You write. That’s it. Just write. Do it or it doesn’t get done. Okay, so you edit afterwards and all that. But first and foremost is to just write and write and write some more.
Well, I’m verbose so I figure yep, I’ll write. What I need is a subject I feel passionately enough about to sustain my interest for five to seven years, though, because that’s what we’re talking about for a feature film. Phew. Okay, so I’m thinking. If anyone sees me pulling the soapbox out on a regular basis for certain things, those are the trigger issues I need to be aware of to focus on.
Now the other things that have happened this week are more those out of the woodwork reappearances by people.
Like here’s one: I was walking through the Underground yesterday evening and someone called out, “Hey Keith!” and I looked up and it was Shauna from salsa classes three years ago and she was beautiful and tall and blonde with these wonderful blue eyes and great smile and she remembered my name. She remembered my name. Wow. So we talked for a bit and now she does jive and why don’t I go along? It’s on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. And who knows? Maybe I will. But she remembered my name. Have you any idea how good that feels?
And then today I’m walking through the BBC studios in London and I look up and there’s Jon Tuck walking towards me and I haven’t seen him in like how long? A year? Something like that. Jon was one of those people we trained with those studios that I set up and he always wanted to be a TV cameraman but he was driving a forklift for some stupid warehouse and doing roofing and often doing other things that he just shouldn’t have been but who would give him a break coming from there with no experience? Well I would.
Jon is one of the nicest calmest people I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. Just his presence can relax a whole crew and I remember he used to describe himself as ‘the housewife’s choice’ and, yes, he was. A really lovely guy. Plus, he had a natural aptitude for camerawork. He used to wander into basketball when we covered that and pick up the camera and manage to track the action in sharp focused close-up for nearly two hours, making it look easy (and still managing to have a beer at the same time) all with this good-natured quiet smile.
So what’s he doing now? I knew last time I saw him he’d been pushing a crane around on a studio floor but was he doing any camera operating? Yes! He’s doing camerawork on the current series of Later With Jools Holland which is like THE live music programme on the BBC. In fact, it’s the best studio programme to work on there is, as far as I’m concerned. And I am so pleased for him, and proud of him too, even though his talent has got bugger all to do with me, that first break helped him get there. And well, what can you say?
Now I have to find all my old soapboxes and see which ones evoke a fiery pit of passion and somehow link that into a people focused thing that becomes drama. Well, if it was easy, everyone would be doing it, wouldn’t they? Yes. I just need to keep another online friend’s observation somewhere in mind too, though. She pointed out that formulas have a place in creative writing. Up ’til then I’d been afraid of them so everything I wrote ended up surreal. Now I know I need to get dirty in human drama and human emotion.
Three years time? I want to be playing in the mud at the bottom of the swamp and making people come to life out of the clay.
Small dreams, y’know.