I’m about a third of the way through a treatment. There’s no doubt about it, the older you get the harder it becomes – mainly because you’ve written so many treatments in the past and the last thing I want to do is rehash something or just do a copy of something that’s already out there. So it takes more time. You have to be more inventive. When you start writing it’s a clean sheet. Anything you do seems pretty original. And that’s how it should be – the world is your oyster and in those days I could write a treatment in a day and a script in 3 days or even less.
To my conscious knowledge there was just the one time I tried to rehash something. It was in an EastEnders script. I had these two young characters, they were 13 or 14, I forget their names, having an old-fashioned snog and just before their lips engaged, the girl turned to the boy and said, “No tongues.” It seemed funny to me, maybe not a belly laugh, but at least a smirk. And obviously the producer thought so as well, yeah – they had producers in those days, because after the episode was shot and it was over length, that scene was the first to go. Getting humour into EastEnders was no easy feat. You had to be very adept at imbedding it into the main story, so they couldn’t cut it. However, on this particular occasion they were able to just snip it out.
Weeks later I saw an opportunity to put the scene into another episode. In it went, the episode was shot, and the scene was again cut. This went on a further two times, with exactly the same result. Eventually on my fifth attempt in went the scene, the scene was shot, it survived the edit and there we were on a Tuesday or Thursday night ready to witness the fruits of my labour. The scene came on the screen and it was … a pile of crap. Bloody rubbish. It just didn’t work. It wasn’t funny and it felt stuck on, where in its original form it was humorous and felt organic – basically it fit. That evening I learnt a valuable lesson – never recycle … recycling is for household waste, not for scripts.