Thinking Outside The Box

Fearlosophies | Thinking Outside The Box

I'm a screenwriter and a producer. I make TV drama and I write for the movies. You cannot be creative professionally and not be fearless. This doesn’t mean you can deny the fear you feel when you put your work Out There. Showing it to the producer, the actors, the audience, the bloody critics - it's as scary as hell. A degree of anxiety is not only natural it's essential. It means you care about the work. "Fearlessness" means accepting the fear and kicking it into touch.

When I and two other writers devised Life on Mars way back in 1999, we knew that sending a modern day cop back to the 1970's and having him question whether he was mad, in a coma or back in time, was utterly bloody crazy. I had never had any original work produced and I was working in a conservative age in television when "A Touch Of Frost" and "Pride And Prejudice" were the big shows. Sure enough, the BBC heard our pitch, smiled politely, glanced at their watches and bade us good day. So I went ahead and wrote it anyway. I remained fixed in my belief that it was a cool premise. I remained fearless.

Channel 4 picked it up some years later, developed it for a bit, then told me it was facile and ridiculous and if it were to be made it would kill my career stone dead. So I rewrote it and made it even crazier. I introduced the girl from the BBC test card. Test card girl would crawl out of the TV and torment my hero like a cathode ray harpy. I took it back to the BBC where a new regime was in place made up of hot-shot young producers who were as reckless and fearless as I was. They snapped it up: we made it and it was a huge hit.

I've had other shows since – some have succeeded and others have crashed and burned. But each one was made in a climate of fearlessness. It doesn't get any cushier for me. It could. I just don't let it. My next project is wildly ambitious, outrageously expensive and will see me step up to sit in the director's chair for the first time. The last time I directed, my parents starred and I was 13. I guess I'm still kicking fearlessness into touch.