Gone are the days in which television was derided as the inferior cousin of film. When I first started writing I recall many of my colleagues pouring scorn on soaps, drama series and even serial dramas, especially when I was still at university: there was no “emotional truth” there apparently; all the writers doing it were hacks; it was one big sausage factory, end of.
Yet in the last five years — less, even — all this appears to have changed. Once my spec pile would have consisted solely of shorts and features — now I have spec television scripts coming out of my ears. Inevitably, top of the pile are spec returning drama series, with sitcom bringing up the rear and the occasional spec soap showing its face two or three times a year. In fact, the balance has tipped so much, some weeks I read ONLY TV scripts. That would have been unheard of pre-Red Planet Prize, yet now everyone wants a piece of the action.
This leads me to one BIG question:
Can you be both a TV and a Feature writer?
Now, of course anyone can write whatever they want… And certainly, I think it’s a great idea to have some variety in one’s portfolio. At any one time, I have at least three polished features, a TV series and a shedload of pitches in various states of development to send out. That’s just common sense.
So let me rephrase the question:
Can you ever be as good at BOTH as you can at ONE?
Are there really people who can switch between the two at will, *just like that*? After years of reading scripts, I wonder if it’s as easy as people like to make out. “Ah yes, I have a TV script and a feature script and they’re both as good as each other.” Are they? REALLY?
And I’m not sure every writer who wants to write for both is 50/50 — they must have their favourite, even if one is just 51%. When agonising over a problem with two projects recently, a friend of mine wisely asked:
“You have a gun to your head…. television or film?”
Without hesitation, I replied: “Film.”
Yes, with all its frustrations, problems, lack of money — that is the one I would choose. So maybe I should choose it for real. Invest in it for real. Forget my dreams of seeing my name at the end of Eastenders or my choice of music and mad costumes in Hollyoaks. Maybe I should go against all the advice and REALLY PUT MY EGGS IN ONE BASKET… Maybe that’s the only way I can excel at the one area I purport to love the most instead of making it fight for attention with something else?
What about you — a gun’s to your head: television or film??