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- October 2009
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Worked on my own questionable sitcom for a year or two 'Rules of Life' - can see it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eu6EfnsgVUk
I am now trying to work on some new projects and would be really keen to work with people, or at least have some conversations with people in comedy so that I can learn more about the craft!
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My name is Steve Whyley and I am 26 years old. And without making this sound like a poor X factor audition tape I have loved comedy all of my life.
My dad sorted out some of my Primary School work for me the other day. There was a comment from Mr Turner, my year 6 teacher, he said that I should avoid using the word "cushti" in my work moving forward. From around the age of 7 I was obsessed with Only Fools and Horses, and I mean obsessed! I know every line, and almost every secret from the show. Birthday's and Christmas's were boxset after boxset, as well as the weekly magazine that my mum used to buy for me. Only Fools, and the great John Sullivan (my hero), started my obsession of classic sitcoms.
I also had an unhealthy obsession, and watched religiously, Friends, Frasier, Porridge, Dad's Army, Fawlty Towers, Seinfeld, Everybody Loves Raymond and Scrubs. I own every boxset and much to the delight of my fiancé I am that sad individual who has watched every episode with the audio commentary on. I am fascinated by how these writers came up with their ideas, put a script together, and cast a certain person for a particular role and what they considered to be their best gags. I used to hand write my own scene from Friends, Scrubs or Only Fools and hoped that one day I'd be on the staff!
I do try and lead a normal life as well! I have played football all my life and muck around with creating my own websites (such as getinspired365.com) and last year I managed to raise ??£25,500 for charity by running the entire London Underground in my pyjama bottoms, without training and pretty much on a diet of Maryland Cookies.
However, writing is the passion but, annoyingly, working in IT for a large bank is the career. I'd love to turn that around. In fact I doubt my passion would be IT for a large bank but I'd love a career in writing! Specifically writing my own show where someone can one day go to a shop and buy my DVD or writing a book and popping to Waterstones and buying a copy. I'm one of these people who quite likes learning by doing - so I never went on a course, I never went to Uni to study writing but I did watch comedy. I watched it every single day. And I did write. I loved to write little scenes, blog posts, ideas for comedic films. Just silly stuff really. But when I hit my early 20's I decided I'd attempt to write a full sitcom. Following my hero's advice, I'd write about what I knew. Working for a large corporate company you meet some amazing people and you learn of these peculiar, unwritten, unspoken Rules.
I decided to create a blog called "thenewsandme.com" where I'd write about these rules under the fictional name of "Stan". Other than an A Level in English I had no real idea how to write but to my amazement people seemed to quite enjoy Stan and these rules that I was describing. The more audio commentaries I was watching the more I realised that I could write a sitcom. Sure, it might not be much good but I felt as though I knew what I wanted to write about and despite not attending courses I felt as though I'd almost served an apprenticeship as Sullivan, Lawrence, Gervais, Seinfeld, David, Romano, Kauffman and Crane had stepped me through how they'd created their masterpieces. Yes I didn't know where things were meant to go on a page but I did know what was funny. I did know what subjects were funny, what audiences seemed to like and how the character was everything. I learnt from them how to create a much loved character. So I thought I'd give it a go, what did I have to lose?
So I wrote my first script - "the news and me". It wasn't great but I showed it to some friends and family and they told me to keep developing it. So I did. For starters I changed the name of the script - the news and me was pretty terrible! I'd spend all my spare time on my script, I'd got the writing bug big time. So I began writing a book about this character called Stan - 50,000 words later and I am close to completing the first draft! I would love nothing more than to have the chance of sharing my writing with a bigger audience.
However further development of the book was to take a back seat as what happened next in my life was to turn a bit of a wild dream into reality. I had a chance reunion with some primary school mates who owned their own local Production Company. I told them about Rules of Life, as it was now called, and they really enjoyed what I was telling them. I sent them my script the next day and they replied saying they were up for making it, if I could fund it. Me, Steve Whyley, had the chance of actually getting my words on paper to screen! So I started to save my money and began developing my script further. 17 drafts later the script was good to go! And once I had around ??£2000 saved we just went for it. We held proper auditions at RADA and had identified around 5 people for each role that was written. I remembered the audio commentaries and how you know when you have your lead. I had always wondered what that feeling must be like. We'd seen four Stan's, they were getting progressively worse. Then this guy, Rich Keeble, walked in, flustered and a bit down trodden. It was amazing - he didn't even have to say a word. I was looking at Stan. For a brief moment I felt like I was Bill Lawrence or Larry David.
From the outset I said I would only pay actors expenses and I begged and borrowed locations for us to film. I used pretty much all my Annual Leave so I could attend shoots and over the course of about a year we made a 30 minute pilot. It was the best, and most challenging, period of my life to date. I learnt an awful lot and realised just how difficult putting a sitcom together is. Continuity, all the different camera angles required, how unbelievably difficult a process editing is. I sat in on every stage as I wanted to learn how it all worked. I also appeared as an extra and nailed the "man sitting at table" part, whilst eating one of 20 pizzas my mum had cooked for the "lunchtime restaurant scene".
Around 3 months later we decided to do a screening at a cinema to friends and family and it was without doubt the greatest thirty minutes of my life. People were laughing where they were meant to laugh but even better, they were laughing where I didn't think they would. The rush, the adrenaline. It was incredible. I'd sacrificed quite a lot to make a dream come a reality and the feeling it gave me was just indescribable.
Not content with leaving it there I approached Catherine Bailey Productions as I'd really enjoyed the things that they'd produced and thought I'd send off an email. Amazingly I got a reply and held a meeting with Catherine. Six months later and my dream is still very much alive! I've received some really great advice and this has helped me improve my writing immeasurably. I feel a lot more confident about writing and I have returned to the book and the experiences of the last year have helped me no end.
I'd fallen in love with comedy when I was 7 because of John Sullivan's genius and no matter what happens from here on in; Comedy, and writing comedy, will always be the passion. I just hope one day it can also be my job.