Monday, 6 June 2016

'Very Strange Things' - The 'Odd' Summer That Never Was (6/6/2016)

Now while business is a little slow on the pitching front,I figured it's time to delve back into some development history and talk about some of the behind the scenes with regards to the first major push for production, back in summer 2014 when CBBC were casting their net out for new children's series pitches. Back then, as longtime followers will know, VST was called The Oddities Bureau, and the pilot was The Black Bells, a story about a cursed abbey and a demonic monk.

Okay, so slight retreading there, but it's simply to ground the following: as it was being evaluated by the higher ups at the Beeb, I decided in my youthful hubris to begin assembling a rough writing team of colleagues and friends to start developing scripts for the series.They were all writers and I believed, for some peculiar reason, that it would save time later if I developed some more episodes in advance. Whether I saw this as security or perhaps a means of extra leverage if I ever got a chance to pitch or even contest the ultimate verdict, I can't recall but I called up four friends, two from University and two acquaintances from my Youtubing and got to work.

The basic plan was simple enough: I would write Episodes 1 and 2, opening the first half of the then series, while my team would write the other four leading up to the twist halfway through concerning Dan's real origins. I won't disclose their names publicly, but I allocated a general summary of the story for them to expand on, based on their prior strengths:
  • Episode 3, Judge Death, would've gone to someone who had a strong taste for comic books as I felt the story had a very comic book-y premise, as well as someone who had an understanding of striking imagery given his love of animation.
  • Episode 4, Beast From Ha-Des, went to the youngest writer of the group, someone who had a strong taste for kaiju and mecha, and so would be a perfect fit for a story about a stolen giant military cyborg.
  • Episode 5, The Fourth Pyramid, would've gone to the oldest of the four, himself an avid fantasy adventure fan with a mutual interest in Doctor Who whom i felt got the kind of story I was aiming for.
  • Episode 6, Sins of  A Father, would've gone to the only female in the group as I felt she was very much about character drama/emotion, and was the least fantastical story of the bunch, easing her in a little bit more to the show.

So, as stated before, while the judging was going on I left for Spain to enjoy some time off. Cut to a few weeks later, and not only has the project been rejected, but  out of the four, only one was working on the episode I had allocated them. This is not intended as any sort of smearing or insult against them, rather I'm just stating what happened: the writer for 6 responded late and said she was interested but busy with other projects, and a similar deal happened with the writer of 3. Then, 5's writer had also got caught up in personal business and voiced some issues he had with the pitch, and 4's was the only one who delivered a near complete first draft and, to be quite frank and he agreed with me, it wasn't very good. It was tonally all over the map, too ambitious for the likely budget, had some very awkward commentary on the Middle East shoved in and felt more American than British in flavour.

Ultimately, what had happened was a combination of poor communication between myself and everyone else, as well as being a little bigheaded and counting my chickens before they hatched, especially with an organization like the BBC. I was too impatient and didn't really try to sit down as much as I should've with my writers to really accommodate them with what I was asking them for. This is a critical element of team work, especially when it is both unpaid and speculative, and I felt I hadn't respected that enough. It was, ultimately, a humbling experience.

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