This week a bit of a jumble of –
RANDOM SCREENWRITING THOUGHTS
First off I’d like to make a Guardian-style CORRECTION. Two weeks ago I credited Levi David Addai as creator of the Big Talk \ E4 series YOUNGERS. I failed to credit the show’s co-creator BENJAMIN RUFFOUR. Apologies Ben – and many thanks to Laura Poliakoff for pointing out my error!
I’ve recently acquired a kindle and have been delighted to discover a whole host of new books on writing and screenwriting, only available as e-books (or at a fraction of their cost as hard copy books!). Here are a few that I’ve discovered recently and would recommend –
THE STORY BOOK by David Baboulene
A lot of really interesting insights into how story works, and excellent interviews with Bob Gale (Back To The Future), John Sullivan (Only Fools & Horses), Willy Russell (Shirley Valentine, Educating Rita) and others.
THE LIFE AND WRITING OF NORA EPHRON
Articles by and about the great Nora Ephron from the New York Times
THE COMPLETE SCRIPTBULLY SCREENWRITING COLLECTION by Michael Rogan
A lot of useful and interesting screenwriting tips.
AND HERE’S THE KICKER – Conversations with 21 Top Humor Writers on Their Craft – Mike Sacks.
Recommended to me by Mob Dar at Baby Cow Productions – thanks Mob. A great insight into comic storytelling for the screen.
MY SEINFELD YEAR by Fred Stoller
A ‘Kindle Single’ about Stoller’s experiences as a writer on ‘Seinfeld.’
HOW TO WRITE GROUNDHOG DAY by Danny Rubin
The writer of the Groundhog Day screenplay on the conception, writing and shooting of the film – a fascinating account of the working realities for a jobbing US screenwriter.
THE WORLD IS EVER CHANGING by Nicolas Roeg
Memoir by one of the great UK film directors – director of PERFORMANCE, WALKABOUT and DON’T LOOK NOW among others. Lots about writing and generating ideas.
And those few books are just the tip of the iceberg!
I’ve been running a number of courses over the last few weeks, since the first weekend of the 2014 Channel 4 screenwriting course. These have given me some really interesting insights into the workings of the screenwriting industry in the UK.
Baby Cow Productions.
A day at Baby Cow productions – one of the leading TV comedy producers in the UK. Run by Steve Coogan and writer Henry Normal, they are very much a writer \ performer-led company. And this ethos – of the creators of the shows running the shows – has produced brilliant results over the years. It was interesting to me to compare their ways of working with most drama production companies where the hierarchy is very different – and made me think about how most of the best US TV drama series are made more on the Baby Cow model than the conventional UK model – perhaps it’s time that more of the UK drama-producing indies – and broadcasters – empowered their writers in the same way Baby Cow does.
INSPECTOR GEORGE GENTLY
This interview in the Radio Times is quite revealing about how unsatisfactory the writing process can be at times in UK TV drama. There are some telling quotes here, not least, ‘They (the scripts) all require work on set and one never knows if it’s the fault of the writers, or later adjustments.’
Unsurprisingly this was picked up and commented on (not positively!) on Twitter last week by some of the UK’s top drama screenwriters – people who know how a good script is written – and it’s not by actors committee on set an hour before shooting!
Having said this, I do think UK TV drama is in pretty rude health at the moment as illustarted by two other new shows this week –
New Channel 4 comedy drama pilot – ostensibly a police show, this was a hugely imaginative, ambitious subversion of a familiar genre – brilliant, edgy, thought-provoking and very, very good. In my opinion as ambitious and exciting as the best HBO \ AMC US series drama. Written by Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain, directed by Danny Boyle.
LINE OF DUTY Series 2
I caught up with this opening episode of the 2nd series last night. A more conventional police drama than BABYLON, this is nonetheless excellent. A cracking piece of story-telling – it had real pace and tension. As the story developed it became increasingly gripping and exciting – and the ending of this first episode was brilliant. Jed Mercurio is one of the best screenwriters working in the UK today – but it seems to me significant that he was both writer and producer of the show.
This is an excellent interview with JED MERCURIO from last week’s Guardian.
(not to mention the new Channel 5 \ Fremantle 10 part crime drama series SUSPECTS, run by Paul Marquess, giving the actors storylines to improvise around – a really interesting new production model – for a drama series at least – which I haven’t yet caught up with.)
Looking at these new TV drama shows (and another script-editing course I was running) made me think about the number of excellent screenwriters there are now working in UK TV drama – writers who have built up a body of outstanding work over the years – the sort of writers we should be celebrating (as writers like Dennis Potter and Alan Bleasdale were looked up to in the past). Writers like the afore-mentioned JED MERCURIO and SAM BAIN & JESSE ARMSTRONG.
It’s interesting with writers like this to look back over all the work they’ve done, and to take note of just how many excellent shows \ scripts they’ve been responsible for –
JED MERCURIO – Cardiac Arrest, Bodies, Line Of Duty.
JESSE ARMSTRONG & SAM BAIN – Peep Show, Four Lions, Fresh Meat, Babylon, Black Mirror (Jesse Armstrong by himself).
And then other writers like –
CHARLIE BROOKER – Dead Set, Black Mirror, A Touch Of Cloth, Nathan Barley.
STEPHEN BUTCHARD – Good Cop, House Of Saddam, Five Daughters, Vincent.
ABI MORGAN – Human Traffic, The Hour, My Fragile Heart etc.
SALLY WAINWRIGHT – Last Tango In Halifax, Scott & Bailey, Unforgiven, At Home With The Braithewaites.
RUSSELL T DAVIES – The Second Coming, Queer As Folk, Doctor Who, Bob & Rose.
PAUL ABBOTT – Cracker, Shameless, Clocking Off, State Of Play, Reckless.
JIMMY MCGOVERN- Cracker, Hillsborough, The Lakes, The Street, Accused
ALLAN CUBITT – The Fall, The Boys Are Back, Prime Suspect
STEVEN MOFFAT – Coupling, Doctor Who, Sherlock
PETER MOFFAT – North Square, Kavanagh QC, Cambridge Spies, Criminal Justice, Silk, The Village
ASHLEY PHAROAH – Life On Mars, Ashes To Ashes, Where The Heart Is, Wild At Heart, Case Histories, Paradise Heights
LUCY GANNON – The Best Of Men, Peak Practice, Soldier Soldier, Frankie, The Children, Hope & Glory, Bramwell.
JACK THORNE – Skins, Cast-Offs, This Is England, The Fades.
TONY GROUNDS – Our Girl, Family Business, Bodily Harm, Births, Marriages & Deaths.
Clearly this is my very incomplete and highly subjective list of the outstanding writers in UK TV drama who have built up a formidable list of credits –
WHO HAVE I MISSED?? Please let me know!
Until next week
All the best
Feb 14th 2014