ONE PAGE PITCHES
These are among the most difficult documents to get right and one of the aspects of screenwriting that writers seem to agonise over most but they are also really important – very often the way to start a conversation with potential employers. I have read a huge amount of these documents over the years – but still struggle to find definitive examples to give to writers on my courses, which shows how difficult they are to get ‘right’.
SO I am setting you a challenge / request. I think it might be helpful and instructive if I gave feedback on a / some one-page pitches within this newsletter in the future. Are YOU willing to share your one-page pitch documents with me and the readership of this newsletter? The upside of this will be that you get my FREE – and I can guarantee constructive – feedback on your pitch. I hope some of you may be up for this – I think it could be a valuable learning experience for us all! If so, please email me your one page pitch/es to consider – thank you!
MORE SCRIPT READER FEEDBACK
A big thank you to another of my script readers on 4Screenwriting 2020, Ollie Grieve, for this impassioned and perceptive feedback on the scripts he read –
‘Just to really feel emotion: jealousy; devotion
And really feel the part… If [they] only had a heart.
- The Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz
This, or something like it, was how I felt after barrelling through 200 scripts in little over a month for 4Screenwriting. Don’t get me wrong: there were a number of scripts that were enjoyable, of which all demonstrated imagination, many humour, and some irrepressible pacing – often in splendid combination.
But the ones that really made me sit up in delight? They were those that had all these things, and had something else too – something that everything requires to truly give it life: a heart. This heart would emotionally entrap me, and make me fall just a little bit in love with the characters and their world. It allowed me to truly lose myself in the story and at its end, find myself craving more.
The lack of heart amongst this year’s entries seemed attributable to two factors that share a common origin. The first was the pronounced tendency for people to choose to write narratives they clearly felt were within the C4 wheelhouse – perhaps in preference to those they themselves were naturally drawn to. Think dystopia, odd sexual shenanigans (a.k.a Fleabag-adjacent), gender-bending, coming-of-age and so forth. It would be true to say in this case that they did not have especially strong feelings about their subject matter. Big mistake.
One of the first rules of writing drama is – or should be – to tackle subjects that you really care about, and have a great interest in. Doing so will guarantee that your work – your words, your characters, the whole design of your piece – will be imbued with feeling. Passion shows and is infectious, to the point that it can even – sometimes! – carry a story that in other respects is a bit messy. (Pose, I’m looking at you.) Use it, harness it – have the courage of your convictions and convince everyone else too!
Tied to this of course is our second factor: tone. A bit of quick word association with the categories mentioned above provides, for example: edgy, quirky, thought-provoking, controversial. These are not words that allow much room for sentimentality – which in any case is a quality often looked down upon. Foolishly, in my opinion: it’s true to say that a little goes a long way, but equally, that dash can lend a story much needed emotional depth and keep your audience caring. She may not always be quintessential C4, but there’s a reason for Shonda’s success.
So please, embrace the heart. Think of a moment, for example, where someone had made you care so much about the characters you were watching that what happened to them left you inconsolable. For me, it’s things like the parting of Rose and the Doctor at the end of Series 2 of Doctor Who. That’s the feeling you’re trying to recreate in your audience. Channel it into your script. You don’t want a single perfect tear rolling down their cheek, à la Olivia Coleman’s Queen. You’re aiming for full on bawling, red-faced and snotty.
Manage that, and your show will, with all its heart, have incontrovertibly moved its audience. And manage that, and, well, the world’s your oyster.
I DAY INTRODUCTION TO SCREENWRITING Feb 8th 2020
Places are selling well for this course but I have booked a LARGE room so there are still spaces if you’re interested.
Guest speaker TIM FYWELL will be talking about the scripts for episodes 5 & 6 of HAPPY VALLEY, series one, which he directed – this should be a fascinating insight into some of the very best UK TV drama screenwriting by SALLY WAINWRIGHT.
Screenwriter ARCHIE MADDOCKS will talk about his career as a screenwriter and the craft of telling stories for the screen.
Straight after the course there will be a networking event exclusively for the course delegates. At this event will be guests from the industry, there to answer any questions you have about screenwriting and work opportunities in the industry. The guests will include – BBC Holby City script editor, BBC Drama commissioning executive, BBC Films development executive, BBC Casualty writer; script editors from – Mammoth Screen, Leopard Drama, Three Tables TV, Silverprint Pictures, New Pictures, Silver Reel; an agent’s assistant from The Agency, and two other screenwriter alumni from the Channel 4 screenwriting course (one of whom has just written 7 eps of DOCTORS). I will send the course delegates a full list of names & companies in the course handouts a week before the course so that they can research / think about how who they would like to meet / talk to. But as well, this networking event should be a great opportunity for the writers on the course to meet and share experiences with each other.
CREATIVITY FOR SCRIPTWRITERS March 8th.
There are now only six places left on this course. All the details here
WRITING A SHORT FILM SCRIPT. Feb 24th, March 2nd, March 9th
There are now only 2 places left on this course.
RESPONSE TO MY ‘BEST DRAMA’ LIST OF 2019
Thank you very much for your responses to my list from a fortnight ago –
‘Undone (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8101850/ ) by the Bojack Horseman team was amazing considering both its completely different genre/format and its central character and a deaf and psychotic woman who tries to bring her father back to life, who is in hindsight probably the antagonist, which considering he’s dead, is extremely clever. Plus the rotoscope format was fresh, better than I’d seen it done before and allowed a natural shift into the dreamlike/time travel segments.
In terms of comic book adaptations: Watchmen, Legion and Preacher were all excellent and had satisfying conclusions. A skill not always seen elsewhere e.g. Sherlock, Dracula. I’d say Watchmen matched the complexity of the original book and had one of the nastiest villains I’ve ever seen. I’d also recommend Mr Robot, another show that finished well and during the episodes that revealed the ultimate secret, Shakespearean in their portrayal.’
‘Of your choices, Chernobyl and Russian Doll were highlights for me too. And your point about that character disjuncture in the Prince Andrew interview is a very good one — it’s a perfect, skin-crawling example.
I must say I struggle to get into the more discomforting series. I know it’s rich coming from someone who’s made most of his career peddling horror, but I find shows like TEOTFW and Euphoria depressing, unsettling and anxiety-provoking and at this particular anxious time, they mess with my mind in an unwelcome way. Ladhood also brought nightmares about what awaits my children, even though it’s supposed to be funny. So when it comes to comedy, as a consumer, I’m preferring the lighter things, where people are humane and kind and optimistic, like The Young Offenders and Derry Girls. Ghosts was funny light relief too.
I have tried Fleabag several times, but can’t. It feels smug and nasty, like an exclusive in-joke I just don’t get. I loved Killing Eve, though, so it’s probably just those particular characters I don’t get along with.
I wanted to like Marriage Story, but I felt removed. The main characters were going to be okay, whatever happened, and there weren’t really any stakes. And I found some of the scenes overlong and stagey. Which married couple argues with such clarity, taking neat turns? I know when I argue with my wife, I can barely stutter out what point I’m trying to make, and have lost faith in my argument before I’ve even got into it. The best part for me were the wonderful lawyer cameos (acting as a family-values advert against divorce). Again, I’m glad those lucky creatives can afford all that, but it didn’t grab my emotions. I’ll be interested to hear why you liked it. Maybe I’m missing some formal subtext.
Some other highlights from last year for me were
Giri/Haji — I liked the cross-cultural feel, the styistic interludes which they prodded at perhaps a little too tentatively. It felt both like a BBC series and something broader. It blended interestingly with Spiral S7 and The Wailing which I watched at the same time. I had a good internationalist couple of weeks then, something that’s a priority for me in these political times.
Guilt was focussed and funny and tense and compelling.
Catch-22 was stylish and unusual and very entertaining.
This year, as I start on a new novel, I’m thinking about that stylistic flair that you highlight — a sort of innate-feeling confidence. I’m going to try to write with that sort of confidence rather than desperately making it sound like something else I think might be successful.’
‘Regarding your list, I agreed with all of your choices, and would suggest ‘Giri/Haji’ which I thought was outstanding and also the Netflix show ‘Unbelievable’, especially in light of what has just happened in Cyprus.’
The next newsletter will be on Friday Feb 7th
All the best
January 24th 2020