Monday, 26 January 2015

Henry Roscoe: Detective, Sort of

At a recent writer’s event in London I was given two pieces of advice by Rob Thorogood, the creator of BBC 1’s Death in Paradise
1. Don’t be working on the same project after a year. 
2. If it doesn’t sell, don’t take it personally.  You delivered.  You completed your side of the arrangement.

By default, I’ve found myself breaking the first rule as I’ve been working on a Noir set in Belfast for the guts of 18 months and change but it was only last May when the project really started taking shape.  Originally, Henry Roscoe: Detective, Sort of was envisioned as a manuscript.  A novel, something that might actually stand a chance of selling (if you’ve seen my royalties you’d understand) but it wasn’t until I’d pushed out a first draft that I had a conversation with a filmmaker friend who was keen on the idea of moving a movie out of it.  Equally interested, I started on the tricky job of adapting the relatively short manuscript (60,000 words) into a spec film script.  The first draft came in at 210 pages/minutes… really?  How is it a slip of a book makes a 3 hour movie?  It’s the age-old trap of trying to edit your own work.

He moved on to another project, the movie idea cooled and I got to thinking maybe it would make a better TV series.  I write a film blog [here] but I’ve been hooked on the Third Golden Age of television since the early days of Tony Soprano, Jack Bauer and co.  I scripted a pilot episode and, on a whim, pitched it to Northern Ireland Screen (NI Screen) who offer Independent Writer Awards to projects they think are worthwhile and, most importantly, commercially viable.

Amazingly, Henry Roscoe – 1.01 “Pilot” made it through to the funding stage without any hitches.  The money hit the bank pretty promptly and since then I’ve been writing, re-writing, adapting, culling, experimenting with non-linear narrative while at the same time adhering to the codes and conventions of Noir (and in particular, the loyal lens).

What I’ve handed in today is, in my own modest opinion, infinitely better than what it had been at manuscript stage, film spec script stage, and the first television draft.  I’ve delivered.  Based on what Rob said I’ve succeeded, though that’s not to say I’m not hoping that my counterparts at NI Screen also make good on their end and line up a production company or channel to bring it to life.  I’d very much like that, but at the moment I’m just content that this challenging, exhausting experience, which has been nothing short of brilliant, has concluded and I haven’t fucked it up. 

I don’t often buy in for validation, praise, or positive reinforcement.  Like many, I tend to put more stock in the first star reviews (which I’ve thankfully avoided until now) than the five star reviews but there’s something undeniably reaffirming about someone giving you money (with a side order of faith).  It’s been a B-12 shot to the soul.

I’m going to take some time off now.  Not long, maybe a week or so, but it’s needed.  I’ve been living with these characters now for a year and a half in which time I’ve bought a house, got married in Las Vegas, and spent an uncountable number of man hours in front of the laptop trying to make the best six episodes of television I possibly can.  I’m not even sure why I’m blogging this.  I think it’s more for me than anyone else reading it.  At best, it’s closing the door on the first stage of development and worst -a goodbye to an unmade project that I might stumble upon in years to come and wonder how I could have forgotten it.

For anyone interested, here’s the show details and logline:

Henry Roscoe: Detective, Sort of

"Logline" In an effort to keep up with the mortgage, Henry O’Toole takes to the streets of Belfast as a gumshoe for hire. As he balances the demands of his new job, his ex-wife, his weekly pub quiz and alcohol addiction it doesn’t take long for him to learn, not all questions come with multiple choice answers.

If you're looking a screenwriter I can be found on Stage 32 or email [here] otherwise, I'll see you soon.

"Synopsis" Set in modern day Belfast, against the competitive world of Pub Quizzes, HR:DSO tells the tale of Henry Roscoe O'Toole, a high functioning alcoholic with acute self awareness and an unmanageable mortgage.  With a dead marriage and a lost job behind him, Henry sets himself up as a Private Detective (sort of) in order to pay the bills; but it's not long before he discovers that what lies in the chiaroscuro shadows of Belfast's streets can cost you more than money.