What to do when you get stuck and don’t know what to write?
Writer’s block is not unusual, and it doesn’t have to be a script you’re stuck with. It can be a report, a proposal, an email, even a tweet.
So what do you do when you get stuck writing?
This is what I use to do when I got stuck in the middle of writing a script….
Give yourself permission to “come up with the answer”, then go and do something completely different without thinking of the block… The answer will come
Life is too short to work with difficult people…
That was the advice I was given by one of the BBC’s top drama directors. But what she said after wasn’t exactly what I was expecting.
The full phrase went like this
Life is too short to work with difficult people, so don’t be a difficult person!
I’m really glad she didn’t say “Life’s too short to work with difficult people, so don’t be a short person” otherwise I wold have been stuffed!
Have fun, and the camera will capture that positive energy. Be stressed and the camera will capture that negative energy
They say “never work with children”!
But I disagree, I loved working in BBC Children’s and Schools television because I used to meet, talk and film young people.
What I loved about working with kids was their honesty. Ask them a question and you’d get a straight answer… not always the answer you’d want, but certainly an answer that is true to them and that results in some very amusing interactions.
Children are the most fun to work with, so I am always happy to work with them
Even talented, professional TV presenters get star struck.
When I got into the BBC, but before I started in telly, I used to spend every other Saturday morning answering the telephones on the live Saturday morning kids TV show Live and Kicking. I did this extra work to give me more opportunities to see how Children’s television programmes were made.
During this time I got to know Phillip Scofield quite well. We used to chat some mornings. I’m not sure why he decided to chat with me, maybe it was because I was one of the few male telephonists, or maybe it was because he was just a lovely guy and wanted to connect with everyone working on the programme, including us lowly telephone answering individuals… I think it was both actually.
Now Phillip was quite a celebrity, he had launched the Broom Cupboard and was now a rising star in BBC Children’s, but on one Saturday morning I saw Phillip being totally and utterly Star Struck.
Celebrities are people too, and even them get star struck. Treat people as you see them and you can’t go wrong
No matter how hard it was to get that shot, sometimes you need to let it go
When I got into the BBC in their IT department, but before I started working in telly, I took a week’s leave and trailed a producer on Blue Peter called Richard Simpkin. Richard was a lovely guy and looked after me well. I remember sitting in edits with him, attending studio production meetings, watching him direct voice over sessions and of course, being in the studio and sitting in the gallery as the programme was going out live.
It was on the Thursday show that I learnt about “letting go”. Richard had directed a three and half minute film all about canal boats, where Yvette Fielding (one of the presenters) was doing a barge trip and talking a bit about the history of narrow boats, and it was this film that I saw him finishing off the edit and doing the voice recording for.
In those days Blue Peter used to transmit live, but they would always have an “as live” rehearsal in the afternoon. It was during that rehearsal that they realised the programme was 3 minutes too long and something had to go.
And what had to go was Richard’s film.
Lewis Bronze, the then editor of the show, went through the running order and very matter of factually said “we’re going to lose the canal story and add 30 seconds to the interview before”. And that was it… Two weeks work gone in an instant.
When asking Richard if he was upset, he said “No, it’s the best thing for the programme”.
Sometimes you need to let go of something that has taken you a lot of effort to create, because that is the best thing for the final product.
Directing Joanna Lumley and Hugh Laurie on the same day was “interesting”
I am very lucky that I have had the opportunity to meet and direct many “celebrities” in my time.
One day that particularly stands out was the day I was recording voices for some animations, and I got to direct Joanna Lumley in the morning, and Hugh Laurie in the afternoon.
Both were tremendously talented performers (they still are!) and lovely people, but were very different to work with.
Don’t judge the person’s ability by their personality. Joanna was outgoing, gregarious and a real darling, Hugh was quiet, focused and slightly cold, and both gave absolutely perfect performances
And just to let you know, my dad is doing fine after the surgery all those years ago.
Not everything is as it seems in the world of television.
If you ever have the opportunity to walk round The Eastenders “lot”, go up to one of the buildings and give it a bit of a bang with your fist. You’ll be surprised. Rather than scratching your knuckles on the bricks, the rough looking facade will feel smooth and give out a very different sound (when banging) than you’d expect.
The buildings are not built of bricks as you’d expect, but are in fact made out of a combination of wood, fiberglass and decorated by very talented set painter to make it look real.
Keep your eyes open
Nothing is as it seems, so keep your eyes open and see what you spot
Lily Savage was great even if she hadn’t learnt her lines
In the mid 90s I directed an English programme on Love Poetry staring Lily Savage. All was great, I thought, until I found Lily’s agent hadn’t passed her the script and she turned up to the studio with no idea what we were doing.
So, while her alter-ego got changed, we had an hour to sort out a solution. Autocue
But in the end, even that wasn’t necessary. Lily was such a great improvisor that we got the perfect performance from her with just a few cue cards and a bit of directing before each take.
It only goes to prove that there are always solutions to difficult situations. And, knowing the skills and abilities of the person you are working with, before you start working with them, is always a good idea.