Thursday, March 13, 2008

Stepping Stones pt 1

Stepping Stones was a Student Soap Opera Produced by OnMeJack Productions and Bournemouth Media School for Nerve TV

It ran for five episodes each approx 10 minutes long and won the NASTA for best title sequence, but lost out on best student drama, in a controversial decision by Paul Cornell.

This is Episode 1, although it was originally written and produced as Episode 2, for reasons I will explain later.

I originally pitched the concept of a Student Soap Opera to Iain Smith, in 2002 after I had successfully failed in a previous student TV endeavour. Iain however took the idea in his stride and gave his support pretty much as soon as I finished pitching it.

The Bournemouth Media School was understandably initially resistant to the idea, I had devised a scheme to produce the series over the summer break between the second and third years and that it would count towards the work placement requirement of the degree. The project never would have succeed however without the support of Roger Laughton, Paul Inman and John Foster.

And I must make sure to thank again, the above the duty work of Vicky Edmonds and Naomi Gayler, without whom the project never would have been completed. It got very tense on more then one occasion.

Not lets be honest, Stepping Stones isn’t great, though it has great moments and the fact that it exists at all is great, even if at one stage I fell into depression that I had successfully reset Hollyoaks in Bournemouth.

Laurence Topham came to direct Stepping Stones because, well at the time I’m not entirely sure, for a start I thought his name was Lance, and whilst we didn’t know each other that well in the beginning, we soon fell out by the end. A situation, which wasn’t truly resolved till we worked together on a couple of years later on Young But Not Carefree and Chop Chop Liz. I can clearly remember the moment when I approached Laurence to direct the series, but can’t remember before that. I was fairly determined that course members would work in roles suitable to their courses. However Laurence was a Interactive Media degree student, and maybe that was a strong factor, the lack of politics that could be involved on the BA TV production course was huge, I myself was a scriptwriting student, which was part of the initial resistance to me leading the project. I don’t mean to imply that Lance shouldn’t have been directing, though I certainly felt that way during the shoot, especially thinking that maybe having more then one director as much for himself as for the project. He certainly had enthusiasm and talent and a capacity to ruin some moments in the scripts that I know I certainly was looking forward to. I love him and wouldn’t be without him.

The script writing team were all students and eventual graduates of the Scriptwriting course, and consisted of Matt Handrahan, Anna Karlsdottir, Noah Payne-Frank, Amy Harrison, Richard Kearney, Sam Guest, Tom Lane, Amy Flannigan, Nina Bailey, George Wielgus and Dom Lawson.

What was exciting for me was we were able to have a writers room weekend, something not covered on the course, to create the show. On the first day we established the characters and the second the individual plot lines of each episode, incorporating specific elements I wanted covered. Matt Handrahan’s contribution was especially clear to the extend that he gained a story credit throughout the series.

The writers then teamed up to take on a specific episode. Something that with hindsight I wish I had done at the time, was give Matt a role as Script Editor for the series, to ensure that the series had a consistent feel and also to maintain a barrier between me and my peers, as I was for all intents their boss on the production, which could create some weirdness.

Episode 1 was written by Amy Harrison and Richard Kearney. Richard was in the year below us, I don’t remember having read any of his work, and I think we just got along, which just goes to show. Story elements that had to be covered specific to this episode, was the arrival of Kara, arguably the main character’s family. It’s a relatively straightforward episode in relation to the rest of the series. But did have a final image for Laurence to muck up.

The guest stars of the episode were David Hepple, a main stay of Bournemouth Productions and Sonia Doubell, and both veterans of the never properly finished earlier project a Family Story. The family’s contrast of accents was due to our inability to decide were the family came from, lets just say they moved around a lot. And lets not forget a special message for Sian Fever, gamely taking one for the team in the opening scenes.

The series was filled with scenes of a sexual or forceful nature. Laurence it turned out had quite a delicate nature, much to my constant annoyance. Episode 2 was meant to finish with Hepple’s father character catching his elder daughter, played Doubell performing a sexual act on one of the housemates. Not that you can tell.

To be continued…

Be Seeing You.


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