Having now officially become ‘a writer’ it felt like I had the dream job, but it was probably no more than the fulfilment of a long held ambition. I doubt that many writers would describe scriptwriting as ‘a job’ anyway. Essential elements are missing… regular pay and security to name but two, and of course the work itself is anything but guaranteed. If I was to try and make it as a writer I really needed to be represented, to have someone pitching my work to producers.
For my first Bill episode I’m pretty sure I was still unrepresented and the general advice was that I ought to try and secure the services of an agent. This was no easy feat. I’m not sure what the protocol is now but a few years ago most agents, at least those who represented screenwriters, wanted to read an original piece of work before deciding whether to take you on.
I had, at the time, started to write a rough first draft of a novel, one in fact which would ultimately turn into ‘Dead Gorgeous’ which will be my second fiction release. I used the base narrative as a template for a two-part tv drama… the first part of which, a script of some eighty pages or so, would be the opening section.
Like many a writer I’m sure, I delved into the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook to suss out which agents to send my work to, and preparing a short-list would prove vital. At the time I was concentrating on tv scriptwriting so needed an agent who specialised in representing writers for tv and film, rather than say novelists. I also wanted someone who liked crime based stories and if possible legal or courtroom stories too.
‘Dead Gorgeous’ is part courtroom drama part thriller, and one laced with a discernible thread of black humour. In fact I always thought it had the ‘marmite’ factor, and of course wanted someone to love it rather than hate it.
As it transpired two of the agents I wrote to offered to represent me. One was Valerie Hoskins Associates, though for the life of me I can’t now remember the other! Anyway I recall meeting Rebecca there in a rather cramped Charlotte Street office. The mood was upbeat and I was hopeful of being pitched to a number of ongoing tv drama series.
I soon realised what a competitive environment it was. Not so much due to the nature of writers, more so because at the time the number of broadcast drama hours were decreasing on terrestrial tv. There were only four channels back then, with CH5 about to come into existence. Drama is usually the most expensive in terms of tv production and there were already musings that some slots would make way for cheaper light entertainment.
Nevertheless with patience, determination and a thick skin [all prerequisites for writers] I eventually found myself writing for a number of tv dramas. London’s Burning came along as did Bad Girls and other shows like Night and Day and Sky’s Dreamteam, which followed the ups and downs of a fictional premiership football team.
Another show I had considerable involvement in was CH5’s Family Affairs. I was there right at the beginning and on and off through its various incarnations. The show finally ended around 2005 and I’ve often thought it a shame that it did. It was just reaching its peak but alas CH5 decided to sell the slot and replace it with cheaper imported drama… a decision many were saddened by as the show had just won its first drama awards the very same year. Had the show been on one of the more established channels I think it would still be going now.
Whilst all this had been happening I was also dovetailing a career in advertising copywriting. I had always been fascinated by the more creative side of advertising and was forever coming up with my own versions of slogans and straplines. I joined a freelance agency in London and will blog about that side of things a little more in due course…
TJCooke’s debut novel ‘Kiss and Tell’ out this autumn.