On the Pleasure and the Pain of Collaboration…

This blog is written by one of BCre8ive’s Creative Champions, Leslie Stewart. Leslie Stewart has worked for the BBC, Channel 4 and ITV as a writer and director. His credits include the drama strands Play For Today, Screen Two (writer/director), Scene (writer/director), Casualty, Holby City, As If, Down To Earth and Monarch Of The Glen. His work for children includes Urpo and Turpo, and the animated feature film, Moomins On The Riviera (coming to UK in May 2015)

Leslie is an Ivor Novello Award winning songwriter, and also writes for radio and the stage – The Little Match Girl.

5 Points on Pleasure and Pain

1         Pleasure: I have someone to talk to. Writing can be a lonely job.  Collaboration offers company, and there’s someone to keep running with the thing when you’ve all but given up.

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2         Pain: I have to be prepared to stop watching Match of the Day when the phone rings and it’s him or her wanting a three hour conversation, more often than not with a new idea, an idea I’m really not prepared to deal with intelligently right now. I say ‘yes, great,’ because A/ it’s getting to stupid hour , B/ the phone’s cooking my ear, C/ my arm’s beginning to ache, D/ I’ve long given up making notes, E/ tomorrow’s another day and everything will be different in the morning.

3         Pleasure: I work on last night’s late night idea and it bloody works.

4         Pain: Why didn’t I think of it?

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5         Pleasure: It’s not just me against the world and I have someone to share the pain (or the pleasure) of the script editor’s/producer’s totally idiotic (or enlightened) notes.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

Distractions

All that may be a little light on the substance and the science of collaborating, but there is more that a splash of truth in it. Most writers I know (and most I’ve worked with) have to practice a form of self-discipline alien to the occassionally creative mind. How often has watching a football match, reading the papers (research) or a good book (more research), watching a film (very important research), sneaking off to the pub, whatever your bent, not been more tempting than the loneliness of sitting in front of a cold screen, tapping away at an unfeeling keyboard?

Collaboration v. Solitude

Set against the solitude of writing alone (the norm for most of us), collaborating brings with it a different and healthy dynamic. There’s the pleasure of sending off a scene (or more) to the other person, knowing you’re going to get the feedback of an ally. If you’ve chosen well, and choosing well is fundamental to a worthwhile collaboration, the energy generated by a sound collaborative relationship will drive the thing. The pressure from a fellow writer on you to perform is far greater, I find, than any other pressure in the fraught process of getting something from pitch to screen.

A digression of sorts:

Some years ago, I was driving regularly between my home in Essex and Pebble Mill in Birmingham, where I was editing a TV film I’d written and co-directed. Late one night, driving home, I hit thick, heavy fog on the M6. Up ahead of me was another car with comfortingly bright fog lights. I latched on to them, kept my distance, and felt pretty safe. About fifteen minutes later, the car ahead of me, my guide, indicated left and slowed. It was puzzling as there was no junction or turn off. I had no choice but to overtake. Looking in my rear-view mirror I saw that the car I had been following was now following me. It was my turn to take the lead. And so it went: every few miles we’d take turns at leading the other through the fog.

It was a good collaboration.

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