I’m really excited about this “Jump!” script. It was one thing back in the day to write half of the pilot episode and talk about the idea at length with a couple of other people, but now it’s a different, re-energised animal. There are a whole load of influences in there, from Back To the Future II to 24, Lost, and Doctor Who. I’ve tried to take what worked in great pilot episodes like that of Alias in terms of building up the world, layering in the story elements and then sucker-punching the audience with the reversals. In terms of tone it bounces around between comedy drama, straight comedy and straight drama, and in that sense I’m trying to emulate the likes of Buffy/Angel/Firefly mastermind Joss Whedon by switching from funny to heartbreaking to terrifying in short order. I’m influenced by what I most enjoy watching myself, basically.
That’s the theory, of course. That’s what “Jump!” is in my head. In practice the script could well turn out to be a confusing, inconsistent, incoherent mess. I’m deliberately trying to keep it within the realms of a relatively cheap show, budget-wise, although if by some unfathomable miracle I won the Red Planet Prize, it’s very, very unlikely that the script would ever see the light of day, given that “Jump!” is designed as a returning show and not a one-off. This exercise is therefore more of a “hey, I can write original episodic television!” calling card. New writers never get their own returning shows, for the same reason that you wouldn’t put a toddler who’s only ever driven a plastic truck behind the wheel of a Mercedes.
But that’s the dream, I suppose. You write spec scripts in the hope that as well as attracting attention for your writing skills (which will maybe give you one shot at a make-or-break assignment for the likes of Doctors or Casualty – seemingly the standard route “in” to the industry these days), one of them might eventually get made. Your one-off screenplays have slightly more chance of making it to the screen (another way in is to write a cheapie feature script that a young producer or director gets excited by), while the pilot episode for your multi-series epic needs to be left in the cupboard for the mythical day when you might have the clout to look at it again. Or when there’s a competition to be entered, of course.
Anyway, ten polished pages down, twenty five already written from before but in need of serious touching up and tearing apart, and twenty five more on top of that to start. I can’t wait to get stuck in.