Tuesday, 24 February 2015



This blog is by Louis Paxton whose work THE SPARE ROOM was featured in May 2014 as part of the TV Drama Writing. I think it is so important not just to share these writers work with the world but also their journey. 


I wish I could say I flirted with other careers… But rather uninterestingly, I’ve always known what I wanted to be: A writer/director for film and TV.  Over the years I’ve found employment in a number of odd jobs (Cinema Usher, Christmas Tree Logger, Edinburgh Ghost Tour ‘Jumper-Ooter’), but I was never any good because they weren’t directly contributing to what I wanted to do with my life – write and direct. I’ve never had a ‘back up’ and so you’d be hard pressed to find even one of my eggs outside the filmmaking basket. They’re all in there… those eggs of mine.

This is great in terms of giving me focus, but pretty crap when it comes to living in the world and paying for things… Like food and rent and stuff.

For the past ten years or so, through my BA in Glasgow and then an MA in London, I have made numerous short films as a writer/director. I learned that A LOT of other people want to be writer/directors, it’s definitely one of the most sought-after roles. There’s not that many jobs out there, and it almost goes without saying that there’s zero money in short filmmaking, so I looked around to see how others were making cash. I met various people with numerous strings to their bows. These multi-stringed directors seemed to be able to make money shooting other peoples’ films, moonlighting as First AD’s or taking corporate work. I was never very good at operating a camera and my style doesn’t exactly lend itself to the corporate world… So I had to find something else.

I adore writing, for me it’s the best part of the entire filmmaking process. It’s pure creation, everything is up for grabs and (at the risk of sounding like a LEGO ad) the only limitation is your own imagination. It seemed outlandish to assume I could make a living from something so creative and fulfilling, especially considering there are so many who have spent years concentrating solely on screenwriting.

I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by an incredibly supportive family and group of friends. They all inspire me hugely, and after watching a few of them develop projects for TV, I felt I’d like to give it a try. I had an idea for a Sci-Fi Comedy Drama that I’d been toying with, I knew it was a strong set-up that would play to my strengths, but I had never met with anyone regarding a television project. To the industry I was strictly FILM, and if I wanted to get in the room with the TV folk, I had to prove myself based on a script alone.

Around this time I came across BAFTA Rocliffe. I always work better with a deadline, and when I saw that the deadline for drama scripts was two weeks away I locked myself up in a room and pushed the script out like a 30-page newborn (Lovely image there).

Then I kind of forgot about the whole thing. I was glad to have finished the draft but assumed I’d never hear back from Rocliffe. I sent the script to various people through my agent but it was hard getting anyone to bite due to the fact that nobody in the TV sphere knew who I was.  A few months later I got a call and was told my script was to feature in the BAFTA Rocliffe TV Drama New Writing Forum. I was so surprised I think I may have initially told the bearer of good news to ‘F - Off’. [FARAH - He didn't]

The 2014 BAFTA Rocliffe New Writing Forum on TV Drama reading kicked off the best year of my professional career so far. The evening was fantastic; I had tremendous feedback and learned a huge amount. After the event - on Rocliffe’s advice - I contacted all the industry figures on the selection panel and asked for a meeting, within a few months my script had been optioned by the BBC and Hartswood had commissioned another original idea. Obviously I’m hugely grateful to Rocliffe for providing the springboard, but I’m also thankful that the process allowed me space to concentrate just on writing without directing a script.

I still direct (I made a short film last year through Film London and I’m currently developing a feature Doc with Creative Scotland) but the opportunity to focus on what I would argue is the most important aspect of the whole filmmaking process has been invaluable.

I think success is being able to make a living doing what you love. While I’m still not quite there yet, and the day jobs continue, (though thankfully I’m not getting paid to scare American tourists) I’m better off than I was last year and much better off than the year before that. I figure as long as you’re moving forward and not backwards, then things are going good. I’m supporting myself doing what I love, and I can now proudly say I am both a Writer and a Director.

~ Louis


Sunday, 15 February 2015


Nothing you write is ever a waste of time. Even if you don’t finish what you start, it may be of use to you later on. I started writing the Rocliffe Notes book in 2010 but put it aside. Then someone suggested I create a blog, so I used the book as the content. The book was then mooted and, bar interviews and quotes, a lot of it was already half written. So nothing is ever wasted – only abandoned until you need it.

Rocliffe Notes from creatives on finishing what you start

ALAN MCKENNA: I used to bowl straight in and fire up Final Draft with only a rough hint of a story, character or scene, foolishly believing that the rest would somehow magically come together once I started typing. Needless to say, it didn't. Some great scenes, sure, but no real story. I have a bunch of scripts that never got beyond here and those are the longer ones. More than anything, this ‘fools rush in’ process leads to half-finished scripts or scripts that remain destined never to leave the privacy and comfort of your hard drive. Luckily, my writing process has evolved somewhat and I’m a firm believer in the ‘treatment first’ method. Get it down, see if it works, know your beginning, middle and end. It's my way to ensure the story is worth telling and, if you have that, nothing will stop you finishing that draft.

REBECCA DALY: You always feel like you’re getting to the end before you get there, both in the writing and the editing process. You’re winding down and you’re checking along the way, ‘Am I really at the end?’ You just know. It just feels right.

PETER HARNESS: I always advise finishing things. Keep doing it and get it finished, even if it’s the most painful thing in the world. Drink a bottle of wine, sit and crack something out until it’s finished. Once you’ve finished, you can do something with it, edit it – you’ve got something there, rather than a trail of half-finished things. Writers finish things. People who aren’t writers don’t finish things. That’s the difference.

TINA GHARAVI: I finish all the scripts I start. I am lucky or unlucky in that I don’t know how to give up.

JAMES DORMER: I got a piece of advice from some crappy astrological book my mum gave to me to not give up – finish things. Actually it landed so hard I went and got a tattoo of my Chinese sign. A goat. Which is still with me – for better or worse.

GARETH EDWARDS: The phrase I come back to a lot about writing is ‘A thing is finished, not when there’s nothing left to add, but when there’s nothing left to take away’.

CLAIRE WILSON: I finish every script but not every idea. I have a folder of sparkling gems that never see the light of day. When I go back over them for inspiration I often understand why.

ALISON MILLAR: I’m never completely happy with the films I make. There are always bits that just needed a wee bit more work. You stop because you collapse, run out of money and time, or hit the transmission date. Afterwards, no matter how many awards they win, and even if critics write positive things, I often think to myself, ‘Oh, I feel that could have been a bit better.’ Having someone supportive and strong working with you, such as a great exec, will help encourage you to stop and may even utter the words, ‘Leave it now, Alison, it’s grand… it’s done… leave it… no more…’.

SIMON CHINN: The thing with filmmaking generally, and documentary-making specifically, is that you always feel, at the end of a project, that you are just walking away or being dragged away from it. A film is never quite finished. I’ve just been to Sundance with a film of ours. I sat through the screening wishing we could get back into the cutting room and change this and fiddle with that. I always feel like that. As it happens, Malik claims he spent 1,000 days cutting and editing Searching for Sugar Man. He literally had to be dragged away from the edit suite; we were screaming at him to stop. We felt there was a point where the film started to get worse, not better. That’s often the case. That process for him had become something other than making the film; it was like falling in love. Malik had fallen in love with the story and had spent four years of his life with it, suffering for it, loving it. The end of that process was painful for him and still is in a way. He gained so much from making that film (he won an Oscar, for Christ’s sake!) but he also lost something when it ended. I sometimes wonder whether he feels he may never find it again – which is really how I felt after Man on Wire.

POSTSCRIPT: My interview with Simon Chinn was conducted prior to Malik Bendjelloul's tragic death. 

Excerpt From: Farah Abushwesha: Rocliffe Notes: A Professional Approach for Screenwriters and Writer-Directors