No doubt the entire internet has been hanging on tenterhooks, on the edge of their seats and generally losing sleep over one question: “Did Christopher Magilton, Writer Ordinaire, Part-time Classical Dance Teacher and All-Round Good Guy complete the challenge he set himself, to write ten sketches in ten days despite his demanding work and home life?”
First let me answer your question with a question: If you’re simultaneously hanging on a tenterhook and sitting on the edge of your seat, are you at all surprised that you’re losing sleep? I mean that sounds uncomfortable. And difficult. And also, I don’t teach dance. But I digress. Let me now properly answer your question.
Yes. Yes I did.
I struggled some days to find the time. I had to do four and a half of them in the final weekend. But I got them done. There were one or two work related things that needed attention that I had to make myself put aside (not really an arm-twist, it’s not like I wanted to do them, I just have to) and I paid a bit of a price for that. But I got them done.
In total the sketches amount to about 52 script pages. For some perspective on that, a feature film would probably be somewhere from 90-120. So about half a film’s worth of material in 10 days. I can live with that.
And that’s not to say that it’s all gold. It’s first draft stuff. Finding my way through aspects of character and ideas and gags. There’s still work to be done. Changes and tightening. Comedy is tricky in this regard, because you want to make sure you work in as many jokes as possible, but sometimes if you have to stray too far from the essence of the story to work a gag in, even if it’s the funniest bit in the whole piece, it often has to go. There’s a line you have to walk.
But it was exactly what I needed. A short, targeted burst that moved me forward. Gave some substance to the series. Helped me find the dynamic between the characters that I hope will be compelling to watch. Got me a little bit invigorated.
So, what now? Well there’s about five weeks to go in the school term, so I’d like to find time to write some more material. One a week would be perfect, as that would bring the total number of written episodes up to 20. Then over the holidays I want to focus on second drafts and working out which episodes will be produced first so I can start some pre-production. The aim would then be to be ready to shoot over the summer break.
Of course, to imperfectly borrow a line from Paula Abdul and MC Skat Kat, when I take two steps forward, I take two steps back. Two days after completing my personal writing challenge, I sat down to start recording some demos for my partner’s audiobooks (another one of the projects on my list) only to find that my audio recorder had died. Completely failed to boot up, and none of the various troubleshooting or software reinstall attempts did more than vary the background while I stared at a spinning loading icon that was happy to continue spinning until the day of judgment.
Now this is not a minor thing. It’s the device that is going to be used for recording audio for my web series, Devin Madson’s audiobooks and her writing vlogs (and if we ever get back to it, our podcast). And while this isn’t high-end professional gear, it’s still the sort of thing that costs a pretty penny (and a number of its ugly mates) to replace.
After a bunch of online searching and emails the recorder went off in the post to the distributor of the brand in this country who will hopefully be able to fix it for about a fifth of the ugly pennies we would otherwise need to replace it. Fingers crossed.
Finally, a shout out to my partner Devin Madson. She is sitting next to me as I type this, working through the last ten or so pages of edits of the third and final novel in her Vengeance Trilogy. Finishing is tough, especially dealing with all the little last minute things that we all put off, and also the act of letting go of something out into the world. She is inspiring for how hard she works to get her story as near to perfect as human fallibility will allow and for not accepting anything less than her absolute best.