In September 2012 I finally went to University, 28 years later than I was meant to. 1984 was supposed to be the start of two years of Undergraduate study, but instead I devised and staged my first One Man Show, Dracula Revisited. The first performance took place ten days before my 18th Birthday.
The show was put on in the little studio theatre space of Cumbernauld Theatre, where I spent four of the happiest years of my life. As well as learning my stagecraft, this was when I first started taking writing seriously. You have to take it seriously if you expect people to pay money to come out and see you put on a show.
Hint: Professionalism is just as important as Talent & Ability. One without the other can often result in a very short career!
My experience of writing, directing and performing from those early theatre days stood me in good stead when I went to the Ayr campus of UWS, the University of the West of Scotland, in September 2012 to start my Contemporary Screen Acting course. It had taken a lot longer than I had expected it to but I’d finally got there – the long way round!
A chance encounter with a fellow student was all it took to set me off on the road to making what would be the most important thing I’d created since I wrote Sell Your Self! three years earlier. Writing that book was what led me to the going to University in the first place, and going to University was what led to the creation of Doctor Who – Project: Fifty, the fan film that would see me finally achieving my childhood acting dream of playing the Doctor…
The 18th of September 2012 was Day Two of the Induction and that was when I found myself sitting in a room talking to the fourth year students in the year above us, who had just done the BA course us third years were about to do.
There were only two of us who were about the same age as the tutors, everyone else in the class was a Twentysomething. (Take it from me, the reality of that is nowhere near as much fun as you’re probably thinking it is.)
The meet’n’greet was like a Speed Dating session, everyone moving on to the next person after a few minutes so that everyone met everyone else. The third or fourth person I talked to was a girl with the initials LK and as I sat down next to her she noticed the lapel pin badge I was wearing…
The design on the badge was The Seal Of Rassilon, and it was the same badge I would later wear in Project: Fifty. In fact, the outfit I wear for the majority of the episodes is the very outfit I was wearing at that initial meeting. The conversation went like this:
LK: What’s that?
Me: That’s the Seal of Rassilon
LK: Are you a Doctor Who Fan?
Me: Yeah, are you a Doctor Who Fan?
Me: Hey, we could make a Fan Film!
It was as simple as that because, as I was going home that day, the more I thought about it, the more I realised that, actually, you really could make a fan film.
The University campus had all the equipment you could possibly need, as well as two fully functional TV Studios with Green Screens. There were Broadcast Production students who could act as crew, and my fellow Screen Acting students could be the cast. Not only that, one of the Songwriting/Music Production students could do an original score for the soundtrack.
All of us undergraduate students, in our various disciplines, could gain valuable hands-on experience writing, acting, filming, editing and doing the post production. All I would have to do was come up with an idea, write a script, convince as many of my fellow students as possible to help out and we really could do it. Simple. Or so I thought.
Making a fan film was such an obvious thing to do that I couldn’t not do it! And the idea of finally fulfilling my long-held childhood ambition to play the Doctor for real instead of just in the privacy of my head… that was too good an opportunity to let go.
The more I thought about it, the more I realised that even if I failed I had to try. I just had to. It would be better to do it, crash and burn and regret doing it than to regret not doing it and wondering what might have been.
Hint: It’s better to regret the things you did that you wish you hadn’t done than to regret not doing the things you wish you had.
In a way, I’d been preparing for this since 1972, and it seemed my chance had come at last. Not only was the opportunity too good to miss, this was possibly my one and only chance to ever do something like this, a chance I might never get again. And as it turns out, I never did.
So it’s just as well that I created Project: Fifty, otherwise it would never have existed. And if it never existed then I wouldn’t have gone on to do my Postgrad at Glasgow or have the chance to try for a PhD [Work In Progress. Stay Tuned!].
This website certainly wouldn’t exist without it. And without the fan film, you certainly couldn’t write the Making Of book of the fan film. And without the idea for that book, I probably wouldn’t be setting out on the journey into Self Publishing.
Sometimes one thing really does lead to another…
Taken & Adapted from the Introduction to my upcoming book, A Fan Film Adventure In Space And Time.