I hope you have all (like me) had the chance of a short summer break even if it wasn’t far from home (I haven’t left home at all!) with your batteries creatively recharged for September and the new academic year. Let’s hope the f***ing virus starts to recede and that we can all meet up again in person sometime soon.
CHANNEL 4 SCREENWRITING COURSE 2021 – ONLINE Q&A Sept 10th 1-2pm
I’ve been enjoying the positive response from Channel 4 Drama and the wider TV drama industry to the 12 excellent scripts that came off the 2020 Channel 4 Screenwriting course – and am now gearing up for the 2021course.
NB My website will be open for entries from Sept 14th to Oct 2nd. Everything you need to know about entry criteria and the course should be on the webpage. But I will be holding a one hour online Q&A on Microsoft teams this coming Thursday Sept 10th from 1-2. I haven’t quite finalised all the details yet – but will be posting the link on Twitter very soon – @PhilipShelley1 – so if this is of interest and you have questions you need to ask, you can ask me on Twitter in advance (or by email if you prefer) and then I will answer them in person on the day.
SCRIPTS + CAREERS
I’ve been thinking about this recently about what makes for a standout script and then what it takes to initiate and then sustain life as a working screenwriter.
I received a script through my script consultancy website recently by a first time writer – and from page one to page 40 (the end) I was pretty much blown way by it. It was charming, beautifully observed, funny, poignant, distinctive, utterly original and just one of the best things I’d read for some time.
I arranged to talk on the phone to the writer and offer to help, and to send it to some suitable potential employers. I discovered it was the first script this writer had ever attempted – which surprised me. But my enthusiasm for the script surprised him even more!
I know that people in the industry will read this script and enjoy it, will want to meet this writer, find out more and talk about working with him. So that was very exciting.
But it also made me think about where he goes from here. Writing one excellent script is fantastic – but capitalising on the script and then following up on it with more equally good scripts is another whole set of challenges.
We also had some very inexperienced writers on this year’s Channel 4 course – one exceptional writer who was still at uni while she was on the course, to whom the world of screenwriting is very new. Since the course ended a few short weeks ago, she has had offers for representation from a number of agents, which is obviously a great position to be in. But now the real work of making this count, starts.
It makes me think about writers at the other end of the scale in terms of experience – and how you need to constantly keep moving forward as a writer, challenging yourself and keeping in touch with the realities of the industry and the wider world around you.
You may have seen that the last Inspector Morse film – The Remorseful Day – was repeated on ITV recently, a show I script-edited. Watching it, I was reminded of some of the things I really liked about it, but also some of the things that I found creatively frustrating about it. Pretty much the whole creative production team from Colin Dexter down were white men of a certain age and a certain socio-political outlook. It’s a very monolithic drama that played successfully to the ITV audience of the time – but even by the end of the Morse era, the attitudes of the show seemed outdated and a little stale. In THE REMORSEFUL DAY, women are largely seen as sex objects and supporting characters, and most of the men they look up to are in their 50’s, 60’s – ie the same profile of much of the creative team on the show. The show really needed a shake-up.
So, even with the example of the success enjoyed by producers, writers, director of this show, it’s important that as creatives we don’t stand still, that we all keep moving forward, challenging ourselves, confronting and exploring the new political realities and attitudes of the day. The world changes rapidly and if, as writers, we don’t keep up, we become irrelevant. As a writer friend a while ago, in a maudlin bout of self-reflection said, the industry saw the likes of him as male, stale and pale.
It’s so important for writers at any stage of their careers that they don’t get culturally, politically, socially left behind; it’s tough as you get older but it’s important that whatever age you are, that you have a passion and excitement for what you’re saying and for the industry in which you’re working, and that you have something unique to say through your work.
This new writer who I referred to earlier has written something that is clearly deeply personal and meaningful to him – and this makes it universally relatable. But there’s something refreshing to me in the fact that he has no idea just how good his script is! Whether he will capatalise on the strength of this script remains to be seen, and whether he has more good scripts in him, whether he will be able to thrive within the collaborative and sometimes challenging environment that is TV comedy and drama. But all writers need to move forward, to be constantly pushing the boundaries of their work, looking outwards at what is happening in the outside world and how it sparks them as writers. The world doesn’t stand still and neither can you as writers.
Everyone can improve – you are never the finished article, you have to keep moving with the times. End of lecture.
The next newsletter will be on Friday Sept 18th.
All the best
Sept 4th 2020