Tuesday, 24 February 2015

ROCLIFFE STORIES: A SCREENWRITER'S PASSAGE - LOUIS PAXTON

A SCREENWRITER'S PASSAGE - LOUIS PAXTON

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. 

THE ALL-IMPORTANT ‘AND’

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

READ WHO ELSE WAS FEATURED IN OUR TV DRAMA - BAFTA Rocliffe New Writing Forum

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