script-consultant review 0f 2010

Posted by admin  /   February 07, 2011  /   Posted in Thoughts on Screenwriting  /   2 Comments

A bit late in the day, some thoughts about activities generated through the website in 2010:-

The main work I did last year was unquestionably writing \ script-consulting work on Nigerian TV drama series, ‘Bloodties’. I was first approached about this a couple of years ago and after initially working as script consultant on some very preliminary storylines and incomplete scripts, last year I took the project on fully, working with the excellent writer Jacqui Canham, a graduate of the De Montfort university Leicester TV scriptwriting MA, whom I’d originally met through the website. We are just coming to the end of co-writing 26 x 1 hour episodes of the series – the brief for the series was to create something like ‘Dallas’, about the hugely affluent oil barons of Lagos and their families, lovers and enemies.

As you can imagine 26 hours of drama is quite an undertaking. But made a lot easier by the preparation work we did – several drafts of an 80+ page series bible \ treatment. Although for a series of that length the amount of detailed preparation work you can do on structuring the stories across the series as a whole is infinite, we were lucky to have a producer who wanted things done quickly – at times we have been each writing a script a week. In some ways this is a good thing – there’s no time for self-critical doubts to set in as you write – you just have to get the words on the page! And while the initial response has been positive, the detailed producer \ director notes should be interesting!

Other than that, script traffic into the website has been as busy as ever and at times, it’s been quite a challenge trying to stick to my self-imposed three week turnaround.

Particularly in the last couple of months when I have also been responsible for organising and running the Channel 4 screenwriting course for 2011. As you can see from my ‘mission statement’ one of the motivating factors for starting this website was my desire to find talented new writers and give them a helping hand. The C4 course provides a fantastic opportunity to do this. We received 650 scripts – all from writers with no broadcast credit – and selected the ‘best’ 12. This proved enormously difficult – not least because the quality of the scripts was really high. I read so many scripts that I really enjoyed; the process reminded me of the wealth of  screenwriting talent there is in this country; not enough of which is currently making it to our screens (or stages for that matter); and really brought home for me the absolute necessity for all writers – but particularly new writers – to make your script as good as you can possibly make it before launching it into the wider world – because let me tell you the competition is intense, so you really need to do everything you can to make your script stand out.

It has also reminded me of the importance of STORY. A story that really grabs you, that keeps you turning the pages, on the edge of your seat (and all those other clichés) is so rare but so invaluable. At the heart of every one of the good scripts I have read for the course is a wonderful, involving story – which more often than not can be distilled down into a compelling one sentence pitch \ premise.

This year I also ran a course for writers and script-editors in Edinburgh with writer Adrian Mead, which was a really positive experience (see testimonials feedback section of the website and blog ‘Screenwriting and script editing course feedback’) and I was on a panel of the first London Screenwriters festival. Hideously expensive though this event is, there were a lot of really interesting sessions and talks – I was only there for one day but I hugely enjoyed both the live link to US screenwriter John August (check out his excellent website www.johnaugust.com ) and the talk from Peter Buckingham, Head of Distribution & Exhibition at the UK Film Council. Peter Buckingham really brings home for writers the importance of knowing your audience (and your genre), and the (fairly stark) realities of the UK feature film market. If you have an interest in writing feature films for the UK market and you ever get the opportunity to hear him talk, don’t on any account miss it. Both these sessions (almost) justified the exorbitant cost.

Philip Shelley

Script-consultant

Feb 7th 2011

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