Comedy writers Kaleigh and Matt recount the tale of how their fortunes changed one bleak July morning when they received a call from the BAFTA Rocliffe team...
I woke up on the morning of Friday 20 July 2012 feeling pretty gawd dang sorry for myself. I was life threateningly hungover, and a glance in the mirror revealed that I had morphed in to Worzel Gummidge's grottier twin sister over night. I attempted to log on to my online banking, only to find the image of a sobbing woman rocking back and forth screaming over and over, "WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS TO US, KAYLEIGH, WHY?!" - Basically, the outlook was bleak.
With the weight of the world pressing down on my poverty stricken, nauseous shoulders, I decided to log on to Twitter for a little light relief. The first post I saw at the top of my newsfeed was from one Mr Chris Addison, "Are you a budding comedy writer? Click here!" followed by a link to the BAFTA Rocliffe website outlining the competition. I'd never heard of the scheme before, but reading through the details my heart started to race as certain phrases leaped off the screen: NEW YORK CITY! INDUSTRY PANEL, INCLUDING JENNIFER SAUNDERS! BAFTA! BAFTA! BAFTA! ... The deadline was exactly 1 week from that point, on Friday 27th July. I'd never written a script before, and I was still currently struggling to keep last night's kebab down, but like a mad women possessed, I thought to myself "It's now or never!" I started trawling through the Rocliffe website and watching all of their video tips on how to write a treatment and a script (which incidentally, if like me, you need to take a crash course and learn it all in one morning, are really ruddy handy!). I sat there all day furiously taking notes. To the outside eye, I'd have looked exactly like Jessica Fletcher in the Murder She Wrote opening credits, in a typing frenzy montage - except instead of a typewriter, I had the back of gas bills, and a felt pen from my Nana's bingo.
I had a seed of an idea that I'd been stewing over for a while about a group of old women who go on a road trip around the UK. I started jotting down details about the different characters, their personalities, their flaws, their hopes, fears and secrets, their relationships with each other, what made them tick, what brought them joy, their backgrounds - anything I could dream up to flesh these women out and make them human. I then moved on to stories, what ridiculous situations could I plonk these women in to bring out the most comedy? By mid-afternoon, I thought I had the very barest of bones of the idea.
Then came my plea call. My best friend and life long confidante, Matthew Barry, as well as being a writer for Eastenders, amongst other shows, also happens to be the most driven and determined person I've ever met. And was therefore the perfect person to ask to collaborate with me to create a half decent script. I rocked up to his house and pitched my idea, and praise be to the heavens, he agreed to come on board... And then the real work started. We had a week to get everything in order, and it was also the hottest 7 days in London of the entire summer. At times, the heat was so unbearable, that we pulled the cushions from Matthew's sofa out in to his front garden and worked out there for hours in to the night.
We noted down all of the criteria for this specific competition; Treatment, Episode Outlines, Character Descriptions, 10 page script extract, loglines etc and worked through every task one at a time until we had a rather shoddy first draft. Honestly, it wouldn't have been worthy to wipe your bottom on, but it was a start. Then it was re-writing, and re-writing, and re-writing. Working through all of our initial ideas with a fine toothcomb to perfect every tiny detail, until the characters and their lives were as familiar to us as our own families. We slipped in to a place where we only conversed with each other in the dialect of elderly northern women , which is quite an odd sight from two Cardfiffian twenty-somethings. And then the 27th rolled around. We had redrafted so many times by this point, that we could have read it all aloud from memory. I walked up to BAFTA on my lunch break from work, and hand delivered this tiny package that contained so much of our blood, sweat (literally) and tears, catching a glimpse of the huge iconic golden BAFTA mask hanging from the wall before my package was snatched and the doors were closed. I assumed it was probably the first and last time I'd ever have cause to be there, and went on my merry way.
And really, the rest is history. We found out we were in the final 25 and patted ourselves on the back for just getting that far, and decided we'd try again next year. Then we were informed we were in the final 10… which seemed a little bit mental, really. This was followed by an interview in front of an extremely friendly, but certainly rather daunting, panel at BAFTA. This time, I was even there long enough to caress that great, big, golden visage as well - result! 3 days after the interview and I received a phone call from the lovely Farah Abushwesha informing us that we were one of the 3 winners - Incredible! Utterly indescribably incredible. I think both Matthew and I will now spend the rest of our lives chasing that overwhelming feeling of pride that comes from a group of people who are really bloody good at their job going, "Yeah. You're alright." The validation is just brilliant, and something that can be hard to come by in the creative arts.
If you've been promising yourself that you'll write that script just as soon as the time is right, THE TIME IS NOW! Life will never oblige you. Set yourself a deadline and go for it. Ignore the devil on your shoulder that keeps whispering "This is rubbish! This is rubbish! This is rubbish!" Pour all of the ideas out of your magnificent head and on to the page, and start organising them. Chances are, you'll create something a little bit wonderful.