At the beginning of the week I mentioned I would be spending a week workshopping a television concept with a writing and producing mentor as part of a ScreenWest initiative. Actually, did I even go into that much detail? Anyway, that’s what the week was. And it was awesome. And hardcore. And a bit terrifying. But really fun.
SO. Who were my mentors? Only the completely inspiring Samantha Strauss, creator and head writer of Dance Academy and Helen Bowden, producer of such shows as The Slap and The Devils Playground. To say I was a bit scared to speak in their presence at first would not be hyperbole. Watching these two women work – and on my idea! – was staggering. But I got over it (eventually), and working with them was such an educational, rewarding experience.
It was just so cool. And my producer and I felt cooler for it.
So what was our idea? My producer and I had applied for and been accepted into the program with a high school teen show, but after Helen Bowden googled me (ME!) and found my book’s reviews (shameless plug), she asked me to tell her about Emma’s story. And apparently, the passion my producer and I felt for The Edge of the Woods and the story we sold impressed them so much they suggested we take a stab at adapting the book into a TV series instead.
What ensued was both my first experience running a writers room (which I didn’t actually do properly until day three, for I am shy in the presence of immense talent and also in general), my first experience with adapting source material (let alone my own, and my first experience with working on my own idea with a group.
I have had a lot of emotions this week.
What we came out with, eventually, was a concept that I feel balances the themes and characters of the book while taking a much more television friendly – and much more visually interesting – path. The book has a really simple narrative, and is told from 1st person POV. The show follows several characters, and the world has had to be fleshed out much further in order to fill an entire season. And due to the nature of what you can achieve with prose versus how an audience engages with television, we’ve had to start our heroine in a completely different situation in order to follow her journey more fully.
Like I said. Lots of emotions! But these changes are necessary in adaptation, and once you remind yourself that the book exists and no amount of changes will effect that, it’s easier to step back and work towards what will make for the best television possible.
Anyway, don’t get too excited for the television show! Or do, but be prepared to wait. This week was purely about learning to develop television from some of the best in the country, and while responses to our concept were incredibly positive, we have to apply for development funding, write a pilot, workshop a series, sell it, get the green light, etc etc. There’s an extremely good chance this show will make it to a sample script which will live in my drawer.
But whatever happens with the concept, I’ve had an amazing week. I’ve cried a bit, laughed a lot, and stared at a lot of great people in awe. But most of all, I’ve learned so much and have gained confidence in who I am as a writer.
And that is worth an awful lot.