That Was The Year That Was: 2014 (part1)

It’s been quite a year for me so (as I do every year) it’s time for a retrospective. This is a useful exercise for any writer as it helps you see what you’ve actually been doing with your time (apart from the writing of course)! So join me on the first leg of a journey back in time through the past year…

The year started with Mum’s funeral. I read a piece called The Tale of Custard the Dragon by Ogden Nash. I found it online and it perfectly summed up Mum’s love of animals and her amazing imagination – two things that very much defined her. It struck me then that this is why we write: to help people. All our stories have messages and themes, journeys and reversals. It is these that I believe is why people love stories so much; because they help people to make sense of their lives. And this realisation at that time reinvigorated my writing and hardened my resolution.
Early in Jan I also received my first invitation to a BBC writers’ room of the year. Tree Fu Tom‘s lovely and brilliant script editor, Richelle Wilder (she worked on Flushed Away for heaven’s sake!) emailed me inviting me up to Manchester for two days of brainstorming.
The dates were the 21st and 22nd and I had to tell her that I would need to leave early as I was off to the National Television Awards at the 02 that day. However, this was to before I contributed by giving a name to one of the new characters to be introduced in the new series.

On the red carpet at the NTAs!

I found the NTAs a little more impersonal than the BAFTAs but then I guess that isn’t strange seeing as the public are invited and greatly outweigh the industry pros. But it was fun to pose on the red carpet and get a slightly cool photo to act as a profile picture! Plus, it was my birthday so it was nice to sip free Champagne with my wife and play spot the celeb! 🙂
Another email arrived in Jan highlighting the vagaries of the TV production world. After a few months of development, I was contacted by Mind Candy to be told that the Moshi Monsters TV Show had been put on hiatus indefinitely. This was a shame as I thought the show would have been a lot of fun and working with kids TV legend Jocelyn Stevenson (Fraggle Rock!) had been a blast – not to mention Jack McCall and Steve Cleverley (who really does live up to his name being the man behind all the creativity of the Moshi characters)T
The month ended with my son’s Birthday for which we took him to tea at the Ritz! This was phenomenally expensive but he was very keen to do something posh and it was about the same price as taking a gaggle of his mates to the cinema (which we’d done the previous year). I had passed the Ritz Hotel on Piccadilly so often as a child and adult in London (usually on my way to Forbidden Planet on the number 9 bus!) that it was odd to realise I’d never been in. It didn’t disappoint. The sandwiches were scrumptious, the cream cakes were gorgeous and tea beautifully fresh. Well worth sticking a tie on for!

Scott, Gary, Derek, me and Phil at Universal Studios, LA!

In 2013 I had been furiously scribbling a supernatural story called Light & Shadows. Having picked the brines of the ever fantastic Lisa Gifford and Elisar Cabrera at Capital City Entertainment (you should watch their comedy 3some) we a reed it would be great as a web series, split into 12 five-minute segments. I had already assembled a cast and a director and duly went off to amend the script. I also realised I would need a production company so that would need to be set up as well. And so Dream Paladin Productions Ltd was born.
This happened just before I jetted off to the Gallifrey One Doctor Who convention in Los Angeles. I had been in two minds about attending this year because of Mum’s death. I suddenly felt I didn’t want to leave my family for a week in the US. They really had been my support system during this time. But Clare persuaded me that I should “just go and have fun”. So I did. I managed to catch the same flight as good friend Phil Ford, new friend Derek Ritchie and old acquaintance Scott Handcock. We sat in the last row (upstairs!) of a brand new Boeing 787 “dreamliner” and were basically like kids on the back seat of a bus!
Phil discovered that Wizards Vs Aliens was showing on the in-flight entertainment system, which he duly pointed out to the cabin crew.
I chatted to Scott and Derek for most of the flight and it was raucous! Such good, friendly, happy, amusing people. Thanks, guys!
Gally itself was wonderful. The weather was good and although I didn’t have time to go out much, the convention was the best it has ever been (well done, Shaun – quite an achievement given how awesome it is usually!) and it was brilliant to catch up and kick back with my American friends (especially Tim and Paul) as well as British mates Tony Lee, Gary Russell et al.
We managed to get to Universal studios on the Monday after the convention and it was a blast. The picture Scott took is one of my favourite ever as it encapsulates the camaraderie of the trip and the enormous feeling of goodwill I got from it. Just the tonic I needed after a pretty down couple of months.
I returned to my desk in late Feb tired but enthused and immediately wanted to bring an expert in to look at Light & Shadows.  I felt it needed a good script editor and so I asked Lucy V Hay (who is a script guru and has an excellent blog about screenwriting). We agreed that the initial script could be bolstered into something so much better and in such a very different direction. I decided I would get cracking on that as soon as I could…
I finally met up with the kids TV guru Greg Childs. We had lunch at BAFTA and I pitched him an idea for the Children’s Media Conference. He agreed and I was off!
Meanwhile the Creative Writing course I teach at a local school prepared for their entry into BBC Radio 2’s 500 words competition. And (for a different region) I was once more asked if I would act as a judge. A double honour!
Speaking of honours, I must thank fellow writer Eddie Robson who saved me by steeping in at the last minute as a speaker at a school event. I had been forced to cancel because an email had arrived form the BBC asking me to attend another TV show writers’ room…