This all started many years ago in fact. Jonathan knew I was a screenwriter and told me he had this idea for a movie. Now I don't know about you, but this happens fairly often when people hear about what I do. And a lot of the time you just want to extract yourself from the conversation as quickly and as politely as possible. Sometimes, the idea might even be really cool, but you still feel like saying okay then, go and write it. But I knew straight away Jonathan's idea was a bit special. We both went off to do other things, always promising to work on it together, but never getting round to it. Mentally I always kept returning to the idea though.
At the end of June I was in contact with John Goldschmidt about reading for him. He asked me to do a trial script report and I was bit put out! I was far too experienced for trials!! But I remained professional and calm and did the report. John really liked it and we met up for a chat. We got on well and during the meeting spent more time talking about his projects and mine, instead of script reading. He said he was actively looking for a new project and told me a bit about the sort of thing he was after. I couldn't believe it. It sounded exactly like Dough. So I pitched it to him then and there, and John liked what he heard.
He asked to see an outline, which of course we didn't have. So I rushed home, phoned Jonathan, and said we have to work on this right, now. We spent about a week or so writing a 4 page outline, which I then got notes on from my workshop group. We rewrote it and then sent it to John. For him it confirmed the potential he already felt the story had.
Next all 3 of us met up to discuss it in more detail, the upshot being that John asked for a treatment. My heart sank a little. Like most writers, I hate treatments. But both John and Jonathan agreed we needed one and I reluctantly admitted it was probably a good idea. John said to keep it to about 10 pages, with 1 page representing 10 minutes of screen time. I don't know about anyone else but I've heard so many things about how to write treatments, the optimum length and style etc, but had not actually heard this one. It's so simple but for some reason it just clicked. This was far more manageable and made sense both in my head and on the page. It seems to work and I will be doing all my treatments like this from now on.
Anyway, a few weeks later we handed in the treatment and John liked that as well. A lot of the ideas had evolved and fleshed out and where we were really lucky was that all three of us were in close contact throughout this time. Quick emails and text messages were exchanged with alarming regularity and it meant ideas could be banded about and got feedback on straight away. This is clearly not a usual situation. Projects don't often evolve like this and I personally really like the collaborative nature it took. John was convinced that this was the project he was looking for. And he wanted to option it.
I don't have an agent. And neither does Jonathan. And when the contract arrived, some of the jargon is mind boggling. We were all getting on extremely well but you have to remain professional. John is fantastic to work with but you cannot just sign anything that is put in front of you. So I asked an agent I know if they would do me a favour and look at it. They kindly agreed and certain things were highlighted that we wanted to review. I won't name the agent because I don't want them to be inundated with people asking for favours! But they know who they are and I am really grateful for their time.
So there was still some thrashing out to be done. It was a bit stressful but the important thing was that everyone ultimately wanted the same thing and remained on good terms, resolute in the desire to develop this project. Finally everything was agreed and we met up for dinner last night to sign the contract.
It was a great feeling, but none of us are under any illusions. The real work starts now as we write the first draft, which will inevitably be rubbish, but then commit to rewriting and rewriting until it's exactly what we want. The fact of the matter is that most films don't get made. But we are determined not to become just another statistic in the quagmire of the UK film industry and no matter how long it takes, to write and make a film we are all proud of.
I will keep you up to date on our progress as much as I can.
One final post script. My original meeting with John was the same week I got rejected from the Writers Academy. I was pretty glum and this opportunity came along at just the right time. Had I got in would I have had time to concentrate on Dough? Probably not. Having said that if John Yorke phones up tomorrow and says Jez, there's been a terrible mistake and there couldn't possibly be an Academy without you... would I turn it down? Of course not. But once again it just goes to show you've got to roll with the punches, keep plugging away, and be in contact with the industry as much as possible and in anyway you can. Because you never know when or where the next opportunity might come from.