With my soon to be ex-wife seemingly requiring large quantities of mullah my four month sabbatical from writing for more than one show at a time must come to an end.
It's been a very pleasurable experience excercising writing muscles that have been dormant for some time. I've put together bibles for two new projects, written a new spec, am half way through a second and have outlines for two more new projects.
But school fees and maintenance beckon, so it's back to the grind. Time to get on the phone to the senior editors of some of the long runners and say 'Hey, I'm back!'
Times have changed. On most long running dramas now the core writers are on blocks and guarantees. That takes out the majority of available episodes for non-core freelancers. Factor in the new BBC writers academy where the participants get priority on available episodes of Doctors, Holby, EastEnders and Casualty - and there ain't a whole lot left for little old me! Cheers for that Mr Yorke!
If you thought it was hard breaking in before, man, it sure ain't any easier now.
But.......persevere. It's always been tough and always will. Keep writing those specs, but remember those specs serve equally well with indie companies where quite frankly I think you have a better chance of breaking in anyway. It's where the majority of non-soap drama is being made for a start.
Anyway, back to my bank balance. So what do I do? I've been out of the loop for a few months. I've got a spec out there but haven't had any meaningful feedback in what....6 weeks? Unfortunately that is not a lot of time in this business. If any work were to be generated from that [or even a sale] you are talking potentially months down the line. It's just that kind of business. And it's why core writers on a series tend to hang on to that series like grim death. It's a cold tough world out there in the spec game.
So why do we do it?
It has to be down to love or stupidity. Probably a bit of both. But here's a cheering thought that keeps me going. All it takes is ONE person to say yes to your project. It's kinda like in 'Goodfellas', you become a made man. You jump off the recurring drama merry-go-round and get to do the stuff you really want to do. That is a huge bonus in itself, but as a kicker you also get the green stuff too.
My last 'quote' for an hour of short run drama was 17k. Let's say my last project gets optioned for 3k and my quote is now 20k [probably not but it makes the maths easier]. So If I write 3 episodes of the six that's 63k.
Only it's a bit more than that because I would get 115% of the writing fee again on principal photography with most producers. So that's another 69k.
Only it's a bit more because I'd get a format fee of around 10% of every other writer's fee on the project. So that's another 12k
Only it's a bit more because I'd also get a format fee on all foreign sales.
Only it's a bit more because I'd also get repeat fees.
Only it's a bit more because I'd also get 5.something % of DVD sales.
Only it's a bit more because.........well you get the picture. The bottom line is that my idea and 3 episodes is worth a minimum of 150k if ONE person says yes. It's pretty hard to earn that kind of money per annum on recurring drama. Not impossible. But pretty damn hard.
So compared to recurring drama the money is better. The creative input and satisfaction is considerably more, and you're not stuck with the same people and politics year in year out.
I guess that's why we want to do it.
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3 years ago