SCRIPT-EDITING / DEVELOPMENT COURSES
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 Salford & Glasgow and Cardiff). The next one is in Salford July 1-2. More details, & how to book can be found on the TRAINING NEWS page of the Grand Scheme Media website
INDIE TRAINING FUND SCRIPT EDITING ESSENTIALS
A one day script editing / development course in London 10-5 on Thursday July 9th.
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
It’s been a pretty full-on but hugely enjoyable week – starting with the 2nd weekend of the Channel 4 course last weekend, the culmination of the course on Tuesday with a drinks evening at Channel 4 where we host about 150 industry people to meet the 12 course writers, and then a 2 day script editing course in Bristol on Wednesday and Thursday.
It’s something of a relief to be back at my desk today, with the first chance to take it all in.
CHANNEL 4 SCREENWRITING COURSE 2ND WEEKEND
The 12 course writers deliver their 2nd draft scripts a couple of weeks before this 2nd weekend. The first day consists of readings by actors of a 15 minute section of each script. This is usually the most fun and exciting day of the whole course – a first chance for everybody to get a flavour of all 12 scripts and a chance for the writers to hear their work come alive off the page. There’s always a great vibe of mutual appreciation between writers and actors – and actor Patrick Brennan always brings together a brilliant cast of actors. The scripts are always mind-bogglingly diverse – and the range of accents in the readings this year moved from Polish to Irish to Welsh to Asian to Suffolk – it’s a huge challenge for the actors that they really enjoy. The energy they bring to the scripts is inspiring; and they radiated a genuine excitement about the quality of the writing in the 12 scripts.
And on the Sunday, we invite 4 industry guests in to give feedback on the scripts to each group of 3 writers, script editor and trainee script editor. We also encourage each of the writers in the groups of 3 writers to give detailed constructive feedback to each other – it’s a rare opportunity for writers to work together, swap notes on the creative process and another chance for them to work with different script editors and take on board notes.
This part of the process (writers working with each other) reminds me of the importance and value of writers having their own independent support groups – if you can find some like-minded writers with whom you can meet on a regular basis – to read each other’s work, give feedback and support and to share experiences and knowledge about the industry – it’s invaluable.
It’s also great for us 4 script editors who work on the course to hear the views of another script editor or producer on the script on which we’ve been working – someone who gives a fresh perspective and overview of the project that we’ve been so close to for the preceding months. And we had some great guest script editors on Sunday – Tommy Bulfin from New Pictures, who has been working on THE MISSING and INDIAN SUMMERS, Gillian Clarke from Greeanacre Films / Wall To Wall, who has among her script-editing credits the first series of UTOPIA for Kudos / C4, Sam Hoyle, who was Chris Chibnall’s script executive on BROADCHURCH 1 & 2, and who is currently working with Chris on season 3 of the show, and Surian Fletcher-Jones, head of development for drama at Channel 4. The insights they all brought to the scripts, and their general enthusiasm for the scripts is really energising for the writers.
And then finally on Tuesday we had the drinks evening at Channel 4. This event has grown in scale with very year of the course. I try to stress to the writers that in many ways this is the most important part of the whole C4screenwriting course. From past experience, I’ve learnt that so much comes from this evening. The writers meet a load of potential employers – producers, script editors, development executives – and so many meetings follow on from these initial contacts. These meetings in turn lead to development projects and finally commissions. It’s an intense evening for the writers, trying to meet as many people as possible from different companies. But for budding writers, it’s a dream scenario – 150 industry employers who come to an event just to meet them. So it’s absolutely vital that the writers are organised, meet as many people as possible and, most importantly, follow up on these initial contacts. Although there are some obvious differences, the world of TV drama screenwriting is no different to any other industry in many ways – and, however good your script is, you are still far more likely to be employed by people whom you’ve already met.
The C4 course has taught me that it’s not enough to be a brilliant writer to do well – you also have to be ambitious, focused, organised and socially functional! Developing a new project from initial pitch through to production can be a long and arduous process – any producer or script editor is obviously going to prefer to go through this process with someone they get on with, someone whose company they enjoy.
Most of the writers on the C4 course absolutely make the most of the opportunity the course affords them. But it’s enormously frustrating to me when I hear back from script editors several months after the course that they had invited a writer at the drinks evening to send in their script, get in touch and set up a meeting – and they’ve never heard back from the writer – this happens rarely but when it does, it feels like such a wasted opportunity. As with every competitive industry, you need to make the most of every opportunity you’re offered.
For me, the drinks evening is a lot of fun – I’m really delighted that so many people recognise the course as somewhere they are likely to find very talented new screenwriters, but it’s also great to catch up with so many friends from the industry who I’ve met or worked with in the past.
SCRIPT EDITING / DEVELOPMENT COURSE BRISTOL
It’s now 5 down, 3 to go. I’ve seen some lovely parts of the UK in the last few weeks – and Bristol was definitely one of the highlights. I hadn’t been there for a good few years and I’d forgotten what a nice city it is.
These courses have been a great opportunity to talk about scripts and the script-writing process in depth and meet a load of different writers and script editors from all around the UK. Here are two of the things that came up in Bristol – the importance (and difficulty) of being able to write effective outlines, treatments, pitches, beatsheets, step outlines, scene-by-scenes – all of these sorts of pre-script documents, whatever you like to call them. In my experience, the labels you give them are very hard to be definitive about, because ‘treatment’ for instance seems to mean different things to different people. But the best outlines / treatments can be as enjoyable and exciting to read as the best scripts.
I think one of the keys to writing these story documents well is to write them filmically – so that it’s about character action, about what characters do, how they interact. In fact many of the same principles apply to these documents as scripts. Make them active and don’t explain character action. Let the reader judge the events for themselves – tell the story without getting bogged down in explanation and exposition. Enable the reader to visualise how the story will play on screen. Don’t make promises (‘this is a high-octane thriller that will also be laugh-out-loud funny’) – just deliver the story as actively and visually as possible – and let the reader make up their own minds!
It’s also been great to catch up with some of the best screenwriters from around the UK who have been guests on the courses and who have been uniformly excellent, talking about a particular script they worked on – in Bristol Caleb Ranson talking about ‘If I Had You’, in Brighton Stephen Churchett on ‘Lewis’, in London Anna Symon on ‘Blood Money’, in Belfast Tim Loane on ‘Teachers’ and in Newcastle Michael Chaplin on ‘Just Henry.’
Until next week
All the best
June 19th 2015