This week a continuation of the notes from the guest speakers on the 2015 CHANNEL 4 SCREENWRITING COURSE 1st weekend.
PETRA FRIED (Executive Producer at indie Clerkenwell Films, her crdits include E4 hit show MISFITS, and she is currently exec producing a new E4 show ALIENS)
There are very few good writers in the U.K which means if you’re good, you will be spotted
Getting in with the Indies is CRUCIAL.
Getting an agent is CRUCIAL.
Most new writers come to her via agents.
A high percentage of writers start writing on other people’s shows.
Very good to have a sample TV script.
Your sample script is one of the most important scripts you’ll ever write but also the least likely to ever get made.
If you have a favourite genre you’d like to work in then do the sample script in that genre.
Series TV is where most of the work is.
If you can write an hour of TV which makes people think you understand series TV then you’re in a good place to pick up work.
The most important thing in a series is CHARACTER.
People return because they care about the people they’re watching.
Something doesn’t necessarily have to be autobiographical but if you know it to be truthful then it will connect with an audience.
Characters don’t have to be good but they have to be engaging.
It’s always good to introduce characters in a way which subtly gives the audience personal information.
Also, THE UNEXPECTED. It’s good to be able to sit within expectations and then turn them on their head, to surprise and feel different.
Even the best single drama in the world, something like MARVELLOUS (by Peter Bowker), may not be the best sample script if you want to write on series TV.
On Misfits they spent much more time story lining an episode than actually writing the script.
They would create storyline docs of about 5 pages.
Writers can sometimes get A.P. and Exec’ Producer credits which means having an input on casting, locations and in post.
Writers have to strike the right balance between listening and taking notes, and fighting their corner.
If you don’t think something will make your work better SAY something, agreeing all the time is not good and will not get you respected.
The best writers can see how individual notes will affect everything else in the script and the ramifications of every change.
The writer on Misfits, Howard Overman, would make Execs think about why they gave notes in order to get to the root of the problem… “I don’t agree with the note but tell me why you gave it”.
ESTHER SPRINGER (Esther is a hugely experienced and excellent script editor who has worked with many of the best TV dramatists working in the UK. She is currently Head of Development for BBC TV Drama)
A good Script-Editor will read scripts as QUICKLY as possible and be as HONEST as possible.
A good Script-Editor makes the writer feel like they have somebody on their side, fighting for their vision.
A good Script-Editor will make the writer feel as brave and bold and safe as possible so they can jump off the cliff.
Even if you don’t totally believe in a project you will always find yourself trying to make something the best it can be.
The beating heart of a TV series is probably more the writer than director.
She mainly finds writers through agents but her contacts with agents are a result of personal relationships and building networks.
Watch the BAFTA interview with Jack Thorne to get an understanding of the development process on The Fades There are more and more dramas being written by just one writer meaning fewer chances for new writers to get experience by writing on series.
She sometimes finds writers through fringe theatre.
It can be a very good thing to have an agent who’s like a barracuda, who will fight your corner for you aggressively.
Writers should treat the treatment like a novella to give a sense of the style and voice of the show.
A huge thank you to Petra and Esther, and to Toby Bruce for writing these notes.
Until next week
All the best
Sept 18th 2015