16,March
2014

Writing for Octonauts

I wrote a couple of Octonauts two years ago, actually nearly THREE years ago now. I’ve been dying to see them – Octonauts is a great show – and in a neat twist of luck, they’re both on this week, Tuesday 18th and Thursday 20th March, maybe you’d like to check them out. On Tuesday it’s The Red Rock Crabs, and on Thursday it’s The Immortal Jellyfish (which was the first script I wrote).

Instead of just a quick blog promo of upcoming work, I thought I’d share some interesting snippets of how I got to write for Octonauts, and what was happening around that time. I’ll probably blog about this period a bit more at a later date as it was a challenging time for me. I had made Origin in 2010 but was struggling to get it around the festival circuit, and industry reaction to the feature script was polite but there were no real takers. My delight at writing for EastEnders came to an unexpected end, as a new producer came on board with his own preferred list of writers he wanted to work with (that’s the way it goes sometimes). There were other setbacks, still too raw to mention.

Up until this point, I was on the crest of a wave of productivity, positivity and optimism. Then it all started to come crumbling down. Origin sucked up my time and focus, so much so that I botched a job and I got replaced (first time that happened, I don’t plan on it happening again). I started to wobble. Everything now felt a massive push up hill. I felt alone, vulnerable and insecure. I even felt alienated from my friends and the social media hotspots where I liked to hang out. Then, I got asked to come in to pitch for a new kids’ show. This perked me up and I was determined to take the opportunity. Even attending the writers’ room was a treat, and seemed to boost my energy. But all my ideas were rejected. Now all my bustling negative thoughts overran my brain. My outlook took a real dip. I started making errors of judgement, and almost jeopardised an important working relationship with one slip of an email.

However, just when I thought everyone hated me and my work, one of the execs from the new kids’ show emailed me to say ‘hey, sorry it didn’t work out, but we really liked you, how would you feel about writing for Octonauts instead?’ I mean, WUH?! Whoa. This business is bonkers sometimes. You don’t read this kind of stuff in any screenwriting manual; nothing prepares you for some of the funky realities of what’s actually happening on the production frontline of the biz. This one took me by surprise but I couldn’t say no. My confidence was an issue, though, and I wasn’t sure if I could do it. So I tried to slap myself around a bit, gee myself up, and I dived into the material they sent over about the show (and believe me, the material is GOOD, so that was an extra intimidation factor).

Luckily, I managed to do a good job (I really got into the characters and spirit of the show, and had great fun writing it, and that helps, I think), and they quickly commissioned a second episode. Suddenly, things didn’t feel as bleak as before in terms of the quality of my work and what I could achieve. So, by the end of 2011 going into 2012, I dug myself out of my rut, and started to build my confidence again. And hey, Origin won Best Horror at the London Independent Film Festival, which helped to break my dam of tears.

I share this anecdote not as a ‘look at me’ tale but as a way to highlight the ups and down of what you might experience as you make your own writing path. Any blog advice I give is always based on my own experience, and encourages me to follow my own key mantra: if something’s not working out, always look to yourself and take responsibility. Over the last two years, I’ve shaken up my routine and applied different objectives and approaches to my work. I’ve since written for the new Thunderbirds (amazing!) and am really enjoying my spell of work at the moment, so thank you Octonauts for the timely opportunity, and for helping me to snap out of my funk. Captain Barnacles says it best: “OCTONAUTS, LET’S DO THIS!” 🙂

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    Hannykha said:

    thank you for such an honest blog – its rare writers share the dark bits but we’ve all got em

    thank you for such an honest blog – its rare writers share the dark bits but we’ve all got em

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