This week I want to share with you an email I received a few weeks ago from Australian screenwriter PADDY MACRAE. Apologies if this is a little egocentric (it is) but this message reminded me why I love the work I do. It also triggered a few thoughts, more of which below.
I’m sure you won’t remember me, but you were incredibly generous with your time and craft a few years back when I was developing my TV concept for a project called The Island. You gave me a spot at your London Screenwriters workshop (2012…?), I did your “2 Phils” workshop and then we worked for a while on The Island. I’ve found the email trail, above!
I wanted to say two things.
Firstly, whenever your newsletter comes out, I make a cuppa and sit down to read. It’s a consistently fantastic resource, bravo.
Secondly, I’m just about to shoot my first TV series and I wanted to thank you. You wouldn’t realise it I’m sure, but your encouragement of emerging talent stays with people. I went and got my Masters in screenwriting back in my native Australia in 2014 after you had helped me develop my idea, got a job assisting an EP, worked my way up through development at a production company called Matchbox Pictures and next week I start pre-production in my first role as Creator/Producer on an original series I’m making for NBC and Netflix.
I hope this doesn’t come across as a brag, it really isn’t, I really just wanted to say thank you. The fundamental craft lessons you taught me and the care and thoroughness with which you delivered them has been something I’ve valued deeply and carried always. You won’t hear from most of the people that you’ve helped over the years, but we are all out there somewhere, and we all take your guidance into the world.
I hope you’re staying safe over there, and that your family are healthy and happy.
No need to respond, of course.
Wasn’t that a lovely message to receive? Here are a few thoughts that came to me after reading this –
As you can tell, Paddy is not only a very talented writer but a thoroughly nice guy. I remember his project THE ISLAND (from 9 or so years ago!) but more than that I remember him – how seriously he took his craft, his quiet studiousness and determination.
One of the things that is impressive about Paddy is that even in 2012 it was clear he was in this for the long haul – and it is a long haul. You need to stick at it and keep working away.
Another, slightly more difficult point! I hope Paddy won’t mind me saying (and I was reminded of this by going back over the trail of our email correspondence) that the development process between us didn’t always run smoothly. In one email I say,
‘I’m attaching my feedback on your new draft of THE ISLAND. You won’t like this much – sorry. There are still significant elements of the story-telling that aren’t working for me…’
NB I hope this will be reassuring to all of you to whom I have sent notes that weren’t glowingly positive, and that’s most people! The script development process rarely runs completely smoothly. Often one of the most important qualities you need a writer is perseverance – the determination to constantly hone and improve your work.
From his emails it’s clear Paddy really studies the craft of screenwriting – reads a lot of books, thinks deeply about how story works at its best.
Another Paddy email quote – ‘PS – I’ve just started watching The Returned on your recommendation, just brilliant. Really chilling. Utopia is next. Just finished Top of the Lake – have you seen it? Some quite weak points, but still completely captivating drama.’
Like pretty much all successful screenwriters, Paddy watches, loves and learns from other work.
Paddy again – ‘I’m not going to LSF no, in fact I’m moving home to Australia! Not sure for how long, but certainly for the duration of 2014. I’ve applied for a couple of post grad courses to extend my Film and TV Bachelor – Masters in Screenwriting and Film and TV (Hons).
It took a good lot of thinking but I’m getting tired of working in a job I don’t want to and writing around that. This will allow me to essentially write full time for a year and really develop a project fully and more quickly than I’m able to at the moment. A step back in terms of a professional occupation perhaps, but sometimes you have to take a bit of a leap of faith and go after what you really want.’
From this you can see how dedicated he is to his writing, how important it was to him back then even when there was no obvious prospect of being able to make a living at it.
I first met Paddy at the London Screenwriters Festival. This event in particular and other events like this are so important in helping you connect with the people who you may work with productively for years to come.
Another quote from one of Paddy’s emails – ‘I caught up with Robin last week (from the Two Phils course) and we’ve started swapping material, which is great. Anyway – he says g’day!’
ie Paddy came on one of the courses I used to run with Phil Gladwin and after the course continued to share his work with one of the writers he met on the course. Another example of the sort of thing you need to be doing to sustain your writing work and morale.
Anyway, I hope this is helpful and inspiring. Paddy’s email was certainly helpful and inspiring to me – it absolutely made my day.
The next newsletter will be on Friday October 15th,
October 1st 2021