Written by Victoria Howell
In October of 2020 an ad kept appearing on my Facebook feed… [pic] It said ‘WANTED – Creative Writer’ to write ‘a variety of content’. Hmmm, thought I… what are they looking for? Experience in screenwriting required – tick; fluent in English – tick; able to meet deadlines – tick… mostly… Hoho! Well I am most definitely qualified, and it looks interesting, so let’s file it in the potential jobs folder and forget all about it!
And that would usually be the end of that.
That ad was tenacious and it kept popping up, and every time it did I thought ‘oh yeah, that thing… I should apply for that!’ but it was lockdown and furlough was about to end, so the little brain was elsewhere.
For whatever reason though, this ad lurked in the dusty corners of that little brain – at the risk of sounding wanky, it felt a bit destiny-ish if I’m honest – so when the memory of it popped up again a few weeks later I dug it out, feeling sure I must have missed the deadline, but no! Not quite out of time…
Soooooo… one sample scene and an interview later, and come the end of November I’m part of a team of writers working on what is a stonkingly brilliant concept – woohoo!
WRITERS’ ROOM LIFE
I’d been part of a writers’ room before – very briefly and many moons ago. It was for a cheesily cheerful sitcom – about a family of taxi drivers if I remember right? – which is way out of my wheelhouse as I generally kill people or strand them in nightmare scenarios. (Horror and sci-fi/fantasy genre stuff, before you call the cops…!) There’s humour, but it’s not a laugh a minute. So that writers’ room didn’t last very long. (It was also populated by very opinionated white men who each thought they were comedy gods, so it was tough to get a word in, but that’s a blog post for another day…)
This one is very different.
This writers’ room is roughly equal 50/50 women and men. And although the creator, Anne, has a strong vision of where she wants the project to go, she is also completely open to the ideas of the rest of us. After all, no point in bringing together a bunch of creative brains if you’re not going to make full use of them! And all the writers on the team are very respectful of everyone’s ideas, no one’s trying to talk over everyone and take control. Sweet!
There are various strands to HOOD – TV series, novel, podcasts, audio dramas, wiki pages. Everyone is not writing on everything, but some have their metaphorical pens in more pies than others – and my pen’s all over the place… I have FOMO, it’s a problem.
Of course it’s not all idyllic – we have disagreements and sometimes full out rows, but there are no grudges, no egos, no cliques have formed, and those disagreements grow out of everyone on the team being genuinely passionate about the project and wanting what’s best for it.
It’s really quite refreshing…
WHO’S THE BOSS…?
Not gonna lie, I’m used to being in charge of a project. I’ve been writing and producing with my own company for a while now, so it’s always an interesting switch to write for someone else. I do also have experience with that, but previously I’ve always been in at the beginning. This time, I’m coming into a project which has been worked on for over a year already, with an established core team – much longer for Anne! [link to Anne’s post] – and most of the foundations of character, story and theme had already been laid.
Could have been tricky…!
But I wasn’t the only newbie – they took on four writers that November, so I had company. And the existing team had done a storming job of setting everything up, we just needed to play catch up. Something that helped a lot is that, in those early meetings, we would spend a day each week working on worldbuilding, asking questions to help define the storyworld. This gave the newbies a chance to get to know each other and allowed us to contribute to moving the project forward without feeling we were out of our depth. (You can find out more about that worldbuilding from both Anne [link] and Stephen [link] in previous posts.)
After a few weeks, we were asked to decide which elements we wanted to work on. We were all working on the series, but there was a podcast and novel to create as well. Hmmmm, which to choose… 🤔
I went podcast.
AUDIO HIGHWAY TO TARTARUS
I like a bit of history and The Clash of the Cousins podcast was an in-world historical deep dive into the 12th century origins of this alternate reality. [link to trailer] Which may not sound like fun to you, but it sounded like a box of kittens to me!
Turns out those kittens had claws…
One of the problems when you’re creating a project is that you know everything about it and you forget that the rest of the world doesn’t. Which, if you’re not careful, can lead to dense storytelling that makes no sense to folks coming in cold, while you obsess over tiny details the audience neither knows nor cares about! If they’re even listening in the first place… which they mostly weren’t, as it turns out most people don’t find 12th century history as entertaining as I do. Who’da thunk it?!
Plus, we thought a podcast would be nice and easy to put together…
Wrong again! No point depressing you with the details, but suffice to say by the end we were tearing each other’s hair out and collectively weeping into our midnight caffeine as we wrestled those last episodes into some form of submission.
But I did get to show off a bit as one of the characters, albeit having to do it twice as the first time was terrible…
And the end result turned out pretty decent after all that, so why not go have a listen [link]
SO WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED FROM ALL THIS?
Don’t create an in-world historical podcast, no matter how many kittens it pretends to be!!
BUT WHAT HAVE WE REALLY LEARNED?
Don’t create an in-world historical podca…
Ok. You get it – that bit wasn’t so much fun. For us, at least. You now have the benefit of our mistakes, so yours might be a genuine box of fluffy bunnies! Send us a link if you make one 😁
I am now wondering how many other awesome opportunities I’ve missed through forgetting about things I’ve filed for later…! But maybe all those other things were missed so that I could be involved with this one. Who knows.
And it’s super tricky juggling rent jobs with creative work – ‘cos no one’s buying islands off this yet!
But two years in, we’re at an exciting point in the journey. A completed pilot is on the horizon, we have lots of content online for people to rabbit hole with [link] and we have big plans for the rest of the year.
So if you’re not following us already, you should do it now… Or why not check out the whole Quivalon team?