Funded by Grand Scheme Media & Creative Skillset, I’m running a series of very affordable 2 day script-editing workshops, with some excellent, experienced guest screenwriters, around the UK between now & July 16th (in Bristol, Salford & Glasgow). The next one is in Cardiff June 9-10, with guest screenwriter RUSSELL GASCOIGNE. More details, & how to book can be found on the TRAINING NEWS page of the Grand Scheme Media website
GUARDIAN MASTERCLASS / LONDON WRITERS WEEK
As part of LONDON WRITERS WEEK at Central St Martins / The Drama Centre / University of the Arts London, I’m running a three hour Guardian Masterclass on ‘SCREENWRITING & SCRIPT-EDITING’ on Thursday July 9th 6.30 – 9.30.
There are quite a few really interesting-looking sessions on dramatic writing in this first London Writers Week – including John Yorke on ‘The Secrets Of Screenwriting’, Fin Kennedy leading a panel on ‘The Future of Verbatim Theatre’, ‘Writing for Theatre’ with Ola Animashawun and ‘Exploring Gender in Writing’ with Lucy Kerbel
This week, notes from another panel discussion at January’s TOTALLY SERIALIZED event.
CREATING A EUROPEAN TV SHOW
Gub Neal, Artists Studio, Executive producer, The Fall; Greg Brenman, CEO Drama Republic, executive producer, The Honourable Woman; Pascal Breton, President, Federation Entertainement; Florence Dormoy, Managing Director, Scarlett Productions
GN: One of the unique elements of The Fall, was that ‘we ran the story incredibly slowly’. Unusually bold story-telling. Artists Studio philosophy is about totality of authorship. Giving writers the reins, empowering them. The individual, unique approach produces stories of international, universal appeal.
GB: ‘The Honourable Woman.’ ‘I’d been stalking Hugo Blick for about ten years.’ THW was very different to The Fall – whereas The Fall was a contained story, set in a very specific, quite narrow setting (Belfast), THW was a big international story about some huge international, cross-border, political questions, about one of the biggest debates in present times, broad appeal, to a big international community. Because of its scale and ambition, it needed a bigger budget than one UK broadcaster could bring. Co-financed by Sundance. International cast. But everything driven by the quality of the content.
PB: agreed that it was key everything was driven by content. You only need one producer, one main talent. Producing ‘Marseille’ funded by Netflix. He was very excited when Netflix said they wanted a French show. ‘Marseille’ is a political show – France obsessed with politics. In a way the French answer to ‘House Of Cards.’ But it’s a very violent show – because in France politics are violent. Not in a bloody way but in the way politicians clash in the reality of French politics.
FD: It’s about being universal through the local.
GN: Ideas are ten-a-penny – but it’s all about the execution, the writing. The shortage is not in the ideas, it’s in the talent – the writing.
GB:… but you need both. Without a great writer, a great idea doesn’t come to anything.
FD: In France it’s very hard to innovate. We have the writers but the choice is do I go to Arte or Canal+. In France it’s easier to produce classical (period?) TV shows.
PB: The French market is very narrow at the moment. But Canal+ will expand, as will the influence of Netflix.
GB: In UK there is now more demand for drama content, more channels making drama.
GN: Distinctiveness and remarkability has to win through. Big-name actors are attracted by serial TV because they see a breadth of development in the character roles they’re offered that doesn’t exist in feature films. Every channel now needs a branding drama show eg ‘Fortitude’ for Sky, which has been given a big marketing campaign. This is good news for everyone in the drama community.
There needs to be a durability to what you’re making. A need for drama to outlive the 1-broadcast slot, as it used to be. The story-telling and quality needs to be rich and powerful enough for the show to continue to exist and be re-viewed (eg The Fall – BBC2 but then a life on VoD, Netflix) – like the best feature films.
GB: agreed. There are now several different marketplaces. ‘The Honourable Woman’ – its 1st marketplace was on BBC2, then Sundance TV, then in other territories around the world, then Netflix.
GN: There is now more flexibility on formats than there used to be. It used to be that from an international POV, it was hard to work out how to sell shows of varying lengths.
GB: My sense is that it will swing back towards more series, with ‘stories of the week.’
GN: A lot of the best European shows have broken through because of their uniqueness of place. The shift towards co-productions can be a steep learning curve for both commissioner and producers.
GB: It’s a really exciting time to be a producer – and a viewer. Eg ‘The Missing’ a new BBC1 series set entirely in France (shot in Belgium!) – would never have been commissioned a few years ago. He said ITV will have to look at the shows they commission.
GN: International barriers are being lifted. BBC3 going online can’t be all bad – hopefully it will allow for even more innovation.
PB: The business model is key. Advertising as a source of funding is still important – but it’s becoming less so. More income now coming from subscription + pay TV, video on demand platforms.
Until next week
All the best
June 5th 2015