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Posted by admin  /   September 04, 2019  /   Posted in screenwriting & script-editing courses, Uncategorized  /   Comments Off on CHANNEL 4 SCREENWRITING COURSE 2020

Hi There,


After a very enjoyable summer break I’m delighted to say that the 10th CHANNEL 4 SCREENWRITING COURSE 2020 will be accepting script entries from Tuesday Sept 10th – up until Friday Sept 27th.

All the information you need about the course and submitting your entry can be found on my website –

But there are a few things I’d like to add –

There is one big change for this year – we will NOT be accepting the same script that you have submitted in previous years. If you have entered in the past, the script you submit this year needs to be entirely different.

The information / FAQs on the web page have been re-written and developed over the years – so I hope pretty much all potential enquiries will be covered if you read all of this information. Please only get in touch if you have a question that genuinely isn’t covered. I tend to receive a lot of questions / queries either via email or social media and if I answered all of them it would be prohibitively time-consuming. I’d far rather be reading your scripts than answering unnecessary questions. So (as stated in the information on the web page) I will not be answering any entry enquiries unless they are about something that is not covered in the information.

Please try to enter as early as possible during the entry period and PLEASE TRY TO AVOID SUBMITTING YOUR SCRIPT ON SEPT 27TH. In the past couple of years we have received more than 50% of the submitted scripts on the last entry day – and the website has crashed due to the weight of traffic. If you enter on the last day and the website crashes, the process will be stressful! (Both for you and me). We won’t be extending the entry deadline beyond 5pm on Sept 27th. SO I would please urge you to submit your entry as early as possible in the 17 day period.

As ever, we are looking for exciting, distinctive, original and ambitious writing voices. Passionate writers who have something to say – and are saying it in unexpected, striking ways. We are looking for as broad a range of voices as possible in our selected 12 – in terms of gender, age, class, regionality, ethnicity, sexuality, subject matter.

Good luck and, in advance, thank you for entering!


I have finally managed to read all of the 80+ scripts submitted for this project and have now responded to everyone who sent me a script. Many apologies for taking so much longer than I initially said to get through all of the scripts. Reading all of the scripts was a great pleasure. There was a mind-boggling range of stories and the standard was remarkably good. I decided to limit this 2nd series to a maximum of 8 scripts which made the final choice even harder. But I’m delighted with the 8 scripts that I’ve chosen and excited to start working with these 8 writers on their brilliant stories.


One of the books I read and very much enjoyed on my break was THE GOLDFINCH by DONNA TARTT. Reading it on my kindle, I was some way into it before I realised it was a whopping 784 pages! But I loved its scale and ambition – and it reminded me that two of my favourite recent stage plays were also big, international epics – SMALL ISLAND by Helen Edmundson, adapted from the book by Andrea Levy; and THE LEHMAN TRILOGY by Stefano Massini, adapted by Ben Power. Both weighed in at considerably over 3 hours – but in both the time flew by because the story-telling was so strong.

There is a lot to be said for really BIG, epic, ambitious stories.

The Goldfinch – epic story-telling is something more writers should aim for. The universal in the specific.

Seeing that there is shortly to be a Hollywood film adaptation of THE GOLDFINCH made me think about the differences between how you read a book and watch a film and why watching the film after you’ve read the book is so often disappointing. When reading the book, we fill in the pictures and gaps for ourselves, take possession of it in a way that’s not so easy with a film. But this idea of imaginative gaps and empowering the reader to fill them in for themselves is equally important in screenwriting. You need to trust and invest in the imagination and intelligence of your audience / reader.

First person narrative is another important element in the way the story is told in THE GOLDFINCH. The narrator’s perspective – how reliable / artful are they in what they give you? Lines in the book like ‘…and it would be a long long time before I heard anything from Boris again’ are few and far between but vital moments in piquing our intrigue and maintaining narrative tension.


Definitely the two TV viewing highlights for me over the last few weeks. SUCCESSION  maintains the brilliant levels of series 1 – it’s funny, shocking and the characters, although objectively hateful, are so engaging. EUPHORIA is not an easy watch – the way the story is told is challenging and disturbing but the characters and their stories grow on you with every episode; there is such visual flair and the series has some really important, difficult things to say about what it is to be a teenager growing up in our current over-saturated world of social media and sexualisation.

All writing is political – SUCCESSION and EUPHORIA in their different ways are brilliant examples of really politically-engaged, committed, impassioned writing. How is your writing political?

Other observations – there is so much narrative inspiration for your fictional work in the real world. For anyone into cricket, the last few hours of the Headingley Test Match were the most exquisite narrative roller-coaster (and another piece of epic story-telling – in that the tension was all the greater in that it had taken five days to build to that brilliant last hour).

And watching events unfold in the House of Commons on Tuesday was also brilliant theatre. There were so many compelling character moments – Theresa May very deliberately sat next to Ken Clarke, looking like an entirely different, more relaxed person than when she was prime minister; the arrogant, patronising verbal and body language of the vile Rees-Mogg, and the fury he generated; Rory Stewart finding out by text that he had been sacked by his own party while at the GQ awards to receive his prize as ‘politician of the year’! So many extraordinary, rich character moments. TV drama has a hard job in coming up with anything as compelling.

One final thought for this week – Indulge yourself. It’s so important to find that time to read, to plan, to dream, to strategise.

The next newsletter will be on Friday September 20th

All the best




Sept 6th 2019


Posted by admin  /   July 25, 2019  /   Posted in Uncategorized  /   Comments Off on NEW SCREENWRITING COURSES

Hi There,


I am very pleased to announce that I will be running my 2 DAY WEEKEND SCREENWRITING COURSE in London twice this autumn.

As before these two-day courses will focus on both craft and career and will each include three guest speakers.

On October 12-13 the three guest speakers are screenwriters NATHANIEL PRICE and ANNA SYMON and literary agent JULIA TYRRELL. Nathaniel and Anna are both alumni of the Channel 4 screenwriting course. Nathaniel has written on TIN STAR, the BBC’s forthcoming NOUGHTS & CROSSES and has loads of projects in development; Anna is another of the rising stars of UK TV drama screenwriting. She wrote the critically-acclaimed and BAFTA-nominated MRS WILSON and has her own series DEEP WATER debuting on ITV in August. Julia runs her own very excellent boutique literary agency, Julia Tyrrell Management, and will be able to offer an in-depth insight into the industry and where the opportunities are for screenwriters.

On November 16-17, the guest writers are also 4screenwriting alumni – ARCHIE MADDOCKS and CHANDNI LAKHANI. Archie is hugely in demand as both a stand-up comic as well as a screenwriter and theatre writer. He has written on Sky’s forthcoming sci-fi series, INTERGALCTIC and has a number of really interesting projects in development with some of the top UK production companies. Chandni has written on the forthcoming THE DUBLIN MURDERS (BBC/RTE) and formerly worked as script editor for Charlie Brooker’s company, House Of Tomorrow – where she worked on BLACK MIRROR. The agent for the November weekend is still TBC.

All the details about both courses are on my website, as well as testimonials from my previous 2-day course from June. This last course sold out within a day of the newsletter being sent out. I had a long waiting list from the June course so, as of 11am on Thursday, I had already sold 15 of the 40 places on these two courses. Each course is limited to a maximum of 20 people – so that the courses can be as inter-active as possible – so EARLY BOOKING is advised. Based on past form, these two courses will sell out very quickly.

I don’t normally wander into politics BUT – the horror and outpouring of collective grief on social media in the last few days has been hard to ignore. How the f**k did we as a country get to a point where we are represented by this public school charlatan? Troubled times. I refuse to believe that this is who we are as a country – but we have to do something about it because the horrific mess created by the Etonian scumbags should not be what this country is about. End of sermon.

Film and tv drama has a lot to live up to. I was lucky enough to be at the cricket World Cup final at Lords on July 14. The one thing all those around me agreed at the end was that there has never been another cricket match like it and there will never be. Not in the World Cup final, the ultimate high stakes game. The narrative development of the game was so well plotted. Brilliant tension that just kept ratcheting up. Several of the events in the last half hour of the game were beyond the imagination of the most fantastical script. One more example of the wonderful dramatic complexities of the narrative of sport.

I’ve been reading a lot of scripts recently trying to clear the decks for my summer break and wrestling with trying to help writers improve their work.

We all need inspiration and my inspiration came from the film YESTERDAY. Discussing the film with a group of budding script editors in a course this week at Fremantle we were forced to observe / acknowledge the defensiveness and reluctance with which people in the world of TV praise a Richard Curtis script. Lots of sentences beginning ‘Well I have to say….’ ‘I know it’s very silly but…’

But whatever you say about him (yes I’m doing it too) he is a brilliant story teller who has written several films which – despite what the critics might say – have become movie staples, modern classics, the sort of films we return to for viewing after viewing – 4 Weddings, Notting Hill, About Time – and now Yesterday. His films are funny, charming, sentimental (and I mean that very much as a compliment) and they have an underlying humanity and optimism which – in the current desperate political climate – is so welcome. But above all, they are beautifully-crafted examples of story-telling.

His films have life-affirming messages. Yesterday seemed to be saying that the world would be an infinitely poorer place without The Beatles and other great artists who are so deeply embedded in our daily lives that we take them for granted – which IMO is true of Richard Curtis. His back catalogue is deeply impressive and his TV shows and films (not to mention his charitable work through Comic Relief) are a brilliant achievement- but he tends to be looked down on because his films are comedies (and because he and his films are posh?). Richard Curtis and Boris Johnson represent the two very different ends of the scale on the spectrum of posh!

I was also lucky enough to get a ticket for Helen Edmundson’s adaptation of Andrea Levy’s SMALL ISLAND at the National Theatre. At 3 hours 20 mins, this started slowly but grew and grew and by the end I was absolutely riveted. It was a beautiful, epic but intimate piece of story-telling that had a real resonance for today. The scenes in which the newly-arrived, optimistic immigrants arrive in London and are told by their work colleagues to fuck off back home were chilling – and doubly so in the light of recent events. (It was a story that inspired you to continue the fight against the racists and fascists.)

This and THE LEHMAN TRILOGY (another 3 hour+ National Theatre epic) are by some way my two favourite theatre show of the last few months. It’s strange how 3+ hours can pass in a flash whereas I’ve been to a few 90-minute plays in the last few months that have felt never-ending.

HIGH TIDE THEATRE FESTIVAL Aldeburgh, Suffolk Sept 10-15

I have once again booked to see a whole host of shows at the always excellent High Tide Theatre festival – a brilliant showcase for new theatre writing in the UK. The line-up for this year once again looks outstanding. BUT sadly Walthamstow Council pulled the plug on their part of the festival at very short notice so the week in Aldeburgh is the only chance to take in High Tide this year. I highly recommend it.

Vinay Patel – Patelograms. I have recently subscribed to Vinay’s weekly musings – and it’s always a cracking read. A couple of weeks ago, for instance, one of the things he talked about was the writing of treatments and outlines for TV – which was fascinating and really helpful.

This will be my last newsletter until Friday September 6th – I am giving myself a summer break and also cutting back on my script-reading until September. I hope you all have a relaxing summer and I’ll be back in September!

One of the things I am aiming to do over the next month is finish the TRIBUTE series 2 submissions. Apologies it’s taken me so long to read them but it’s been a very busy few months,

All the best



Twitter: @PhilipShelley1

July 26th 2019


Posted by admin  /   July 11, 2019  /   Posted in Uncategorized  /   Comments Off on SCREENWRITING CONNECTIONS

Hi There,

It’s been a busy and enjoyable last couple of working weeks. We finished this year’s CHANNEL 4 SCREENWRITING COURSE with the annual drinks evening at Channel 4 where we invite people from the industry – literary agents, producers, development executives, script editors – to meet the year’s 12 writers.

The following morning it was up to Manchester for Sky Drama’s 2nd Script Editor’s Forum – a chance to meet and swap notes with fellow script editors and listen to a load of excellent guest speakers. Along with their monthly table reads, this is another brilliant initiative from Sky Drama – and just the sort of thing that all the broadcasters and leading drama-producing indies should be doing to encourage new talent and get drama practitioners together to discuss how working practices, creativity and the quality of ideas hitting our screens can be improved.

With these two events straight after each other, it felt like about a year’s worth of networking was crammed into 36 hours!

It’s been very exciting seeing this year’s 4screenwriting alumni already starting to have some significant successes – the morning after the drinks evening one of the writers told me she’d got a gig in a writing room on a prestigious new Sky Atlantic Show; another has had her course script optioned by a leading drama indie and has also been asked to write an episode on one of their series. Several of the unrepresented writers have had offers from literary agents. The end of the course and the annual drinks evening reminds me every year just how hungry the TV drama industry is for new writing talent (even though it may not look like that from the outside!).

BBC Writers Room Scottish Writers Festival, May 31st

This was a really enjoyable day spent in Glasgow. There was a fantastic turnout – several hundred screenwriters. I did a talk and a filmed interview for BBC writers room (now available on their website!)

One of the things that we have discussed about the Channel 4 Screenwriting course is the need to try to work with more writers from outside of London – something we haven’t done very well on in the last few years, despite our best intentions. And the importance of doing so was brought home to me by the huge sea of faces that confronted me in Glasgow!

The TV drama industry in the UK has gone on an odd and circular, dysfunctional journey in this regard over the last few years. When I first started working at Granada TV drama, then at London Weekend Television and Carlton, there was at that time (late 90’s, early 2000’s) a relatively thriving diversity in terms of the regions and nations. When I joined Granada, all their drama was produced in and around Manchester – I worked on an excellent long-running medical drama series, MEDICS, on which many of the writers (eg Neil McKay, Paul Abbott) were based in the North. The show’s production office was in Manchester and that’s where the show was shot. The shot had a definite and distinctive Northern flavour. The same was true of other, more high-profile Granada / ITV shows of the time – CRACKER, PRIME SUSPECT, BAND OF GOLD.

And when I first joined Carlton, which had grown out of Central TV, it still clung onto a strong regional identity in the Midlands. Crossroads was revived and run out of Nottingham while I was at Carlton; and, for example, I was on the judging panel for the excellent annual Eileen Anderson award (long since defunct)  – a substantial prize for the writer of the best new play performed at a Midlands theatre, a prize that helped launch the career of writers like Lucy Gannon.

But once ITV had become one big company operating out of London, so much of the industry became centralised around London.

Things are slowly beginning to turn back in the other direction – it’s to the credit of the BBC writers rooms that they now have hubs and writer initiatives in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and the North. There are now ever-growing production bases in Cardiff and Belfast. And Channel 4 has committed to moving much of their operation to Leeds, with other creative hubs in Bristol and Glasgow.

Distinctive regional and national voices need to be an important element in the increasing diversity of TV drama – as it was in the past.

I met up with legendary producer Ruth Caleb last week (If you don’t know about her, look her up – the quality of her work over 60 years is extraordinary – and she still has a hugely exciting list of projects in development). She was talking about how, with the increased budgets and enhanced production values of all TV drama now, there seem to be great opportunities (as ever) for the A-List writers – who are generally booked-up and busy for months / years ahead AND for the new, exciting writers breaking into the industry (and my experience with writers from the Channel 4 course reflects this). But where things are tricky for writers is with that 80% of writers who are not ‘star’ / A-List writers but who are also not brand new. At the moment there don’t seem to be the same opportunities for this large group of writers in the middle. There are fewer series like THE BILL, fewer mid-range, long-running series like NEW TRICKS or WAKING THE DEAD, where proven writers can tell their own stories within established formats, and make a decent living on episodes on other people’s shows while simultaneously developing their own distinctive, ‘passion’ projects. And this is particularly true for these mid-level writers who live out of London. The industry has become more and more London-centric over the last 20 years – but the tide does seem to be turning, slowly, back the other way.

Some other quotes / observations form the last couple of weeks –

The Sky script editor’s forum reminded me of just how important / helpful the energy a script editor brings into the room can be.

Whether you’re a writer or script editor, make sure you read for pleasure every day.

Ego is often the enemy of creativity – make sure it doesn’t get in the way.

The most important of the whole production process is what happens in the development of  the script ie tackle problems at script stage.

Producer Nicola Larder gave an excellent talk – and talked about how, whether we’re producers, script editors or writers – we are all trying to find a way to express ourselves through story telling. 

As mentioned above, Sky Drama has also been running, for the last couple of years, a series of monthly table reads of new screenplays by BAME writers, each reading organised by the production company backing and working with these particular writers. I have been to a few of them – and they have been without exception outstanding – and a brilliant opportunity for these writers to showcase their work to a wider audience, in the hope that this will eventually lead to production.

As writers, this sort of table read, whether it’s for a broader industry audience or if it’s just for you the writer and selected friends, getting a group of actors to come together to bring your script alive off the page, is enormously powerful and affirming – and it will also teach you a lot about what works in your script, what doesn’t and what work you need to do on the script.

The most exciting and enjoyable day on the Channel 4 screenwriting course is the day in June when we get a group of 10 actors together to perform / read 15 minute sections of each of the 12 course scripts. We get outstanding actors every year (largely thanks to the brilliant brains and connections of actors Joe Sims and Patrick Brennan). There is nothing more exciting and vindicating than hearing actors bring scripts alive and realising that what you thought was brilliant on the page is indeed brilliant in the flesh.

The next newsletter will be on Friday July 26th.

All the best



July 12th 2019


Posted by admin  /   June 27, 2019  /   Posted in Uncategorized  /   Comments Off on 10 SCREENWRITING QUESTIONS – TIM ATACK

Hi There,

This week the first of the responses to my TEN SCREENWRITING QUESTIONS – answered by the excellent TIM ATACK.

Tim was on the Channel 4 screenwriting course in 2015. He is a brilliantly original writer. He wrote the environmental thriller FOREST 404 for BBC Sounds and is part of a team adapting the sci-fi series HUMANS for Chinese TV. His play HEARTWORM won the 2017 Bruntwood Prize for playwriting and he’s currently developing TV projects with Echo Lake in the US and Bryncoed in the UK.

Over to Tim…

1 Why do you write?

You hope to find a door in the room that no-one’s noticed before. I’m also a musician and the motivation’s kind of the same there: to transport people somewhere new, to show different possible worlds, variations on what we could be.

I never thought I’d end up writing for screen because the collaborative act is so profound, and I’m an awkward bastard when making music. But I was surprised to discover I can work really well as a problem-solving writer in a way that just doesn’t interest me when I’m composing. So there’s an act of balance, too.

2 A book you’ve enjoyed that you’d like to tell us about.

THE BOOK OF STRANGE NEW THINGS, a novel by Michel Faber about a Christian missionary who travels to an alien world – a human colony – to preach to the dominant non-human native species. It’s a luminous and deeply moving story about grief for things still living, about distance between lovers. It was adapted as a pilot for Amazon a couple of years back and I got very excited, imagining a great existential TV sci-fi with echoes of UNDER THE SKIN or INTERSTELLAR – but the production changed one fundamental aspect of the book’s proposition that meant it told a totally different story to the novel…

3 The best TV / film (screenplay) of the last year and why.

Joint 1st place films – ROMA and SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE, which sounds like I’m being ‘woah, look at my range’. But thinking about it, they had loads in common. As soon as both began I thought “This is going to annoy me” then was proved wrong pretty much instantly. And I think they’re both about finding out who you are in situations where it looks like you don’t have much of a choice.

4, 5 Which (2) writers / scripts inspire you and why?

debbie tucker green, for the heart and depth and sheer electric potential of her writing.

And I can’t stop going back to THE WIRE, time after time. I think I’m on the 7th or 8th viewing of the entire series. The 5th time I could see that a huge amount of the structure simply involves showing a scene where one group of people are dealing with something, then following it with a scene of the equivalent problem happening to their adversaries. I’ve been mercilessly nicking that technique ever since.

6 What are the best internet resources / podcasts for writers?

I’ve started using Workflowy to organise my thoughts around future projects. It’s served me really, really well – a kind of responsive organic list I can chop and change and re-frame whenever I need to. I use it pretty much exclusively for pitches at the moment, and tap through it before any meetings I have, to get my brain in gear.

7 What are the best books for screenwriters?

THE WRITER’S TALE by Russell T Davies and Benjamin Cook (showrunning, dealing with pressure, redrafting, staying true to a vision vs pragmatic realism.)

HOPE IN THE DARK by Rebecca Solnit (not about writing per se, but deeply wonderful on how new ideas take hold – and on how to feel empowered in the margins, especially when you’re despairing at ever being ‘successful’.)

HAUNTED WEATHER by David Toop (full of brilliant tangential ideas on how to describe sound and hearing.)

8,9 2 pieces of advice for writers

Know your lines in the sand. What might you be asked to alter in your script that would instantly change its heart and soul? Saying it clearly to yourself makes compromise so much easier. Knowing the non-negotiable implies you also know what you can negotiate if it becomes really important to your collaborators.

The second suggestion is a blood-pressure one: never get angry or frustrated if partners and collaborators don’t seem to have as open an imagination as you for what something could be. Because it’s your job to have that scope, that reach. Making a clear case for what I really, really want to write has made me a better writer… I hope…

10 When and where do you write?

Pretty much anywhere. I’ve had to, in recent years, for all kinds of reasons, and found I’m particularly fond of writing on trains. But I’m also really lucky: I’ve got a desk at home in an office shared with my partner, and space at a studio in Bristol surrounded by people doing amazing things in the world of creative tech. The rules are you have to be interruptible and interact whenever you’re able to… and, against instinct, it’s put my productivity through the roof. Writing doesn’t feel like a solitary pursuit at all.

But when I have a looming deadline I usually lock myself away at home…

Thank you very much Tim – I will be sharing more of these excellent writer interviews in the coming months. Can I say a big thank you to everyone who has contributed – and to all of you writers out there, if you would like to submit your answers, it’s not too late.

Tim also writes brilliantly about writing on his blog –

…and elsewhere –


Sadly the 2019 course is now over. I’m immensely proud of the 12 writers we had on the course this year and it’s very gratifying to see the positive response that the writers are already receiving from people in the industry. I’m now planning for the 2020 course and we’ve decided that there will be one notable difference in script submission rules. For 2020 we will not be accepting the same script that you have submitted in the past. Ie if you enter for 2020 it will need to be with a script that you have not entered before. I wanted to flag this up ASAP. We will be open for submissions via my website for two weeks from mid-September. I will confirm all of the dates in the next few weeks.

The next newsletter will be on Friday July 12th.

All the best




June 28th 2019


Posted by admin  /   June 13, 2019  /   Posted in Uncategorized  /   Comments Off on THE POWER OF STORY

Hi There,

The following story was put out on twitter last week by @sixthformpoet and quickly went viral – it’s even made its way onto The Sun website! I have to confess I knew nothing about @sixthformpoet before last week but she/he seems to be a rather wonderful story-teller.

I read the following story thread on twitter during the lunch break on my two day screenwriting course at the weekend and then read it aloud to the 20 writers on my course and it got the engaged, animated response I expected. Here it is –

‘My dad died. Classic start to a funny story. He was buried in a small village in Sussex. I was really close to my dad so I visited his grave a lot. I still do. [DON’T WORRY, IT GETS FUNNIER.]

I always took flowers and my mum visited a lot and she always took flowers and my grandparents were still alive then and they always took flowers. My dad’s grave frequently resembled a solid third place at the Chelsea Flower Show.

Nice but I felt bad for the guy buried next to my dad. He NEVER had flowers. Died on Christmas Day aged 37, no one left him flowers and now there’s a pop-up florist in the grave next door. So I started buying him flowers. I STARTED BUYING FLOWERS FOR A DECEASED MAN I’D NEVER MET.

I did this for quite some time, but I never mentioned it to anyone. It was a little private joke with myself, I was making the world a better place one bunch of flowers at a time. I know it sounds weird but I came to think of him as a friend.

I wondered if there was a hidden connection between us, something secretly drawing me to him. Maybe we went to the same school, played for the same football club or whatever. So I googled his name, and ten seconds later I found him.

His wife didn’t leave him flowers BECAUSE HE’D MURDERED HER. ON CHRISTMAS DAY. After he murdered his wife, he murdered her parents too. And after that he jumped in front of the only train going through Balcombe tunnel that Christmas night.

THAT was why no one ever left him flowers. No one except me, of course. I left him flowers. I left him flowers every couple of weeks. Every couple of weeks FOR TWO AND A HALF YEARS.

I felt terrible for his wife and her parents. Now, I wasn’t going to leave them flowers every couple of weeks for two and a half years but I did feel like I owed them some sort of apology.

 I found out where they were buried, bought flowers and drove to the cemetery. As I was standing at their graves mumbling apologies, a woman appeared behind me. She wanted to know who I was and why I was leaving flowers for her aunt and grandparents. AWKWARD.

I explained and she said ok that’s weird but quite sweet. I said thanks, yes it is a bit weird and oh god I ASKED HER OUT FOR A DRINK. Incredibly, she said yes. Two years later she said yes again when I asked her to marry me because that is how I met my wife. [END]’

What is your response to this story? What is it that makes this a brilliant piece of storytelling?

‘Every scene needs to change the story’ is something I’m often banging on about. And in this story almost every sentence seems to send it in a different, unexpected direction.

Tonally it’s very distinctive – in particular, there’s a very clear sense of humour / humanity to the story. It’s essentially a serious, highly dramatic story but it’s lit up by brilliant shafts of humour. Much of it is genuinely funny.

Point of View – you get a clear sense of the personality / sensibility of the person telling the story. Their surprise / shock becomes our surprise / shock.

The story hits the ground running. You’re immediately hooked into the story by the unlikely, wry juxtaposition of the first two sentences.

And sentence 3, 4 & 5 cause you to engage with the narrator and feel you are in the hands of an accomplished, confident story-teller.

Rhythm – the rhythm of the story is distinctive – short, snappy sentences that give this a dynamic feel, the sense of a rapidly-developing, escalating story. And the use of capitals adds to the nuances of the story-telling. I’ve broken the story up into paragraphs as it appeared as separate tweets in a thread. This structure also helps to make it more enthralling and digestible as a story.

I have no idea whether nor not this has any basis in truth – but the important thing is that it feels real. Details like the Balcombe tunnel lend it an air of authenticity.

It’s got a great twist at the end. The last sentence brings the story to a brilliantly unexpected and resolved conclusion.


Two quotes from a Q&A with Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones that appeared in a recent Guardian supplement –

Whose TV writing do you admire?

Charlie Brooker: Recently, anyone and everyone who hammered out words for Succession, Catastrophe, Inside No 9, Fleabag, Better Call Saul, Russian Doll, I Think You Should Leave, Derry Girls, Back To Life, Blood, A Vewry English Scandal … I mean I could go on. I bet Years and Years is really good too; I’ll probably be too jealous to watch it.

Annabel Jones: I’d add Mum to that list. The writing is small, beautiful, funny and painfully poignant.

PS: A reminder of the screenwriting riches on TV at the moment and recently.

What do you think is most important to think about when writing and developing a character?

CB: I honestly don’t know. You just kind of picture someone and start imagining what they’d do. This sounds unbelievably trite, but coming up with a name is an important first step. Somehow, the moment I’d thought of the names “Yorkie” or “Colin Ritman”, I had a sense of who they were. I really can’t explain why. Get a name that fits and you start hearing how they might speak. Then you cast an actor in your mind’s eye and start describing the film you’re imagining they’re in. And don’t just write dialogue – spend a lot of time describing what they’re looking at, how they’re reacting non-verbally to things.

PS: I really like this. And I think the same is often true of titles. Get a brilliantly memorable, quirky title and sometimes it will spark an equally quirky, interesting story.


SCRIPTNOTES podcast – Please can I draw your attention to ep.399 which is all about the tricky business of NOTES – mainly from the POV of writers receiving notes, what works and what doesn’t work, but it’s also really helpful for those who give notes to writers. One of the best, most useful episodes.


The next newsletter will be on Friday June 28th

All the best



TWITTER: @PhilipShelley1

June 14th 2019


Posted by admin  /   May 29, 2019  /   Posted in Uncategorized  /   Comments Off on CHARACTERISATION

Hi There,

With the various scripts I have been reading / working on / watching recently, I have been thinking a lot about what makes for successful, compelling characterisations. There is so much wonderful stuff on TV at the moment and three of the characters that have stood out for me in my viewing over the last few weeks have been – Suranne Jones as Ann Lister in Gentleman Jack by Sally Wainwright; Daisy Haggard as Miri in Back To Life by Daisy Haggard & Laura Solon; and Stephen Graham as Joseph in The Virtues by Shane Meadows and Jack Thorne. All three characters feel unique, charismatic, hugely conflicted and absolutely compelling.

Here is the description of a character who came out of a ‘Creativity’ course I ran recently – created out of an observation of a real person in the concourse of Euston station!

‘Isaac – an orthodox Jewish man in his mid-40’s. Dresses in traditional Jewish clothes. On the day in question he was walking around carrying more boxes than he could manage, in a sweaty, anxious state. Isaac works in his father’s longstanding, traditional hat shop in Golders Green and hates it. His father looks down on him and has always chipped away at Isaac’s self-esteem. Isaac is not good at the job and has no real interest in it. Isaac is single and very private. He is not happy. But what Isaac is good at it is gambling. He is obsessed with gambling and has a real flair for it. It is an addiction but it’s one he is in control of – and over the last few years he has made a very decent income from his secret gambling that has supplemented the paltry income he makes in his father’s milliners.’

I’m very interested in this character too – his secrets and inner conflicts are instantly engaging.

It seems to me that we can never do enough thinking about our characters and how we define them. I have compiled two slightly different lists below – of questions you can ask about your characters. In the first list, none of these qualities are absolute – but I hope all are useful in helping you assess the particular proclivities and qualities of the characters you’re creating. Above all, it seems to me that the really compelling characters are often those who are going through the knottiest internal (and external) struggles. So if your character is an introvert, force them to make an important public speech; if they’re rich, force them into a world of poverty; if they’re urban, transport them to the countryside! Etc etc


Introvert – extrovert 

Active – passive 

Gentle – aggressive

Covetous / bitter – philosophical/ accepting

Open / secretive

Rich /poor

Materialistic / thrifty

Honest / dishonest

Cruel / kind

Solitary / gregarious 

Indulgent/ self-denying

Knowledgeable / ignorant

Scared / bold

Urban / rural

Articulate / tongue-tied

Snob / person of the people

Anxious / relaxed

Self-assured / full of doubt

Religious / sceptical 

Carnivore / vegan

Drinker / teetotaller 

Fashionable / dowdy

Graceful / clumsy

Athletic / out of shape

Beautiful / ugly

Humorous / serious 

Funny / no sense of humour

Conservative / socialist

Patriot / internationalist

Royalist / republican

Sporty / studious 

Old / young

Greedy / charitable 

Fast / slow (mentally & physically)

Loving / hateful 

Animal lover / animal hater

Neat / a mess

Superficial / deep

Sly / open

Conventional / unconventional 

Slim / obese

Tall / short

Smiley / grim-faced

Short fuse / calm

Over-sexed / asexual 

Heterosexual / gay

High-status / low status

Hirsute / bald

Penetrating stare / avoids eye contact 

Energetic / sloth- like

Ambitious / unambitious 

Bully / victim

Employer / employed

Employed / unemployed 

Corporate / freelance

Brazen / discreet

Wind-up merchant / tactful 

Superstitious / rational

Challenging / conciliatory 

Meticulous / spontaneous 

Organised / chaotic

Sociable / unfriendly 

Academic / pragmatic 

Predictable / mercurial 

Ordinary / eccentric 

Vain / unselfish-conscious 

Healthy / ill

Carer / cared for

Patient / impatient

Tolerant / intolerant 

Original / derivative 

Happy / sad

Arrogant / humble


Where are they from?

Where do they live?

House/ flat / caravan / barge etc  + details of their home

Is their house cluttered or minimalist?

What is their job?

What is their height/size?

Who do they live with?

Who do they love?

Who do they hate?

Do they have pet/s?

Do they vote? Who for?

What do they eat/drink?

Where do they shop?

What newspaper do they read?

What is their sexual orientation / proclivities?

What do they wear?

What colours do they wear?

What shoes do they wear?

How do they wear their hair?

Who are they close to?

Who are their friends?

What are their interests/hobbies?

What / Who are they afraid of?

What makes them laugh?

What makes them happy / sad?

What do they watch on TV?

What mode of transport do they use?

Do they have a car? What sort?

What is their religion?

What is their ethnicity?

What public figures do they most admire / hate?

Who would be their 4 dream dinner party guests?

What are their secrets?

What secret habits do they have? Who do they tell their secrets to?

What accent do they have?

What is their significant family history?

TRIBUTE Series 2

I’m still working my way through the many excellent scripts – sorry it’s taking me longer than I expected but I haven’t forgotten about this and will get back to you once I’ve finished all the scripts – which won’t be for a few more weeks, I’m afraid.

The next newsletter will be on Friday June 14th,

All the best



Twitter: @PhilipShelley1

May 31st 2019


Posted by admin  /   May 16, 2019  /   Posted in Uncategorized  /   Comments Off on ROBIN BELL

Hi There,

This week, very sadly, the blog is dedicated to the life of writer ROBIN BELL. Robin was writer of one of the 13 ‘Tribute’ dramatic monologues. He was a brilliant writer, as you can hear for yourself, from his ‘Tribute’ monologue. He was passionate about film and story-telling and was hugely generous with his time. He died at the horribly young age of 37. To remember Robin, this week’s blog is the interview Katy Walker did with him about his TRIBUTE podcast, BOOKMARK. Robin himself interviewed the other 12 writers and the interviews are a testament to his perceptiveness and generosity. Robin asked all of us other 12 writers searching, thoughtful questions that made us think about our work and the process and purpose of dramatic writing. They are a brilliant companion piece to the monologues and a mark of Robin as a person. They were his idea and they are an act of kindness and intelligence.

So here is the interview Katy did with Robin –

‘How weird is this? I’m being interviewed on my own blog. I’ll hand over to Katy Walker who interviewed me straight away so we don’t get too bogged down in the oddness.

This week the tables are turned, as the featured Tribute writer is Robin himself, with the intriguing and evocative ‘Bookmark’, voiced by Broadchurch’s own Joe Sims. He could hardly interview himself, could he (well, maybe – he’d probably do a very good job of it, but I volunteered, with a few excellent questions from Will Mount). Here’s what we learned.

 What inspired you to write Bookmark?

I thought Tribute was a great idea. One of my all-time favourite TV shows was Six Feet Under, I loved how it faced death head on. I instantly knew who I would like to pay Tribute to. It was my Nan, who died 10 years ago. I have a note on my phone when this idea was coming together which has words to signify the stories I wanted to tell. It reads “Salad, flying rat, Gifts, long walks, fancying Darren Gough.” I didn’t find room for the last two.
I knew it was becoming a good fit when I felt my idea started exploring what a Tribute actually is, what memories are and the importance of them remaining in the past.

It seems rooted in a bygone era – of deckchairs, ‘salads’ and people called Beryl. And your description of the cat that brings ‘gifts’ is very relatable. How much is this based on your own memories of childhood?

A lot of it is based on my childhood and I wanted it to feel like a memory of childhood, so it has a storybook type feel to it. I’m sure my childhood wasn’t all deckchairs, Beryls and feasts but they are the elements which form lasting memories. I guess you highlight the elements of the past which don’t feel part of the present more because it’s distinctive to that time. The ‘gifts’ part was bigger in the first draft and had a slapstick comedy scene of a rabbit running around a bedroom, but it had to go to stay on plot.

The grandmother ignites in her grandson a great love of reading. How much of Bookmark is a tribute to books/the written word?

I’m not sure if it’s a direct tribute to books and the written word, but that element is in there to highlight how memories are the stories we tell ourselves about our lives – like the salad story that goes from disappointment to greatness or the flying rat punchline. I wanted to make that link between memories and stories. I also wanted the childhood remembered in the Tribute to be heightened and feel like it’s from a book. Kids’ books often feel like an idealised version of what childhood was like. Roald Dahl books often do this, before he throws the darkness in.

Have you ever used a peperami as a bookmark?! What else do you use?

Unfortunately, even though I’ve banged on about the truthful aspects of the Tribute, the peperami is complete comedic artifice. Can you imagine what it’d do to the pages of the book – grease stains, meat smells, urgh shudder, it doesn’t bear thinking about. I have used envelopes and football stickers as mentioned in the Tribute, also cinema ticket stubs, leaflets, bits of fallen plaster and a sock. I’d rather go with what is to hand rather than fold a corner.

Food seems to be a great comfort in this piece. Was this an intentional ‘device’? 

I wouldn’t say it was an intentional device, it was one of the true story elements I started with. I wrote the description of it before I had the story actually, and the structure it eventually gave me the answer and the ending to the piece. I love the initial disappointment of being served a salad as a kid, and then it building up to become a veritable feast. I absolutely love the verve and excitement Joe injects as he describes the food, it’s paced perfectly and really gives that moment great character.

The changes of tone and viewpoint are beautifully done. You switch between reminiscence, philosophy and eulogy and we don’t notice the joins – how conscious was this subtle movement through these transitions?

Thank you for saying that. Having written it I think you’re always more aware of the joins, but I think a lot of the reason they’re covered is in Joe’s performance. He paces the story so well, modulating his performance perfectly to deliver maximum emotion and carry the listener through at the right pace during every step of the way. I was blown away when I first heard it. From a writing point of view, the transitions weren’t something I focused on – with Twisted Showcase we move from domestic to uncanny within a heartbeat, even adding layers of ridiculous comedy on top sometimes so hopefully it is something I am used to.

Your protagonist’s invention is a fascinating idea. How did that come about?

After I had the parts which formed the memories I came up with the invention to tie the story together. As I thought of these memories it got me thinking about what memories really are, how much truth is in them, are they rose tinted, can they be corrupted, things like that. The more I thought about it, the more I began to think about where memories take place, they feel very real and powerful, but obviously, it’s all in your head. That’s when I had the idea of an invention which could take people back to their memories, and make what is in their head physically real. Once I had that idea I realised, if it existed, that there would be a high demand for that. Plenty of different uses as well, but for the purposes of the Tribute I thought I’d just focus on it being used to cope with bereavement. Basically, this is just a long-winded way of saying that I didn’t view the story as being about technology, the focus for me was it was more about memory.

The narrator doesn’t want to be transported back to the sacred memories which he describes? Would you if you could? What one memory would you choose?

After writing Bookmark I’d have to say memories should stay where they are and that I wouldn’t revisit them, but that is a boring answer. Also, I think we’d all love to go back and relive certain parts of our lives so we appreciate them more. I was just watching a Manic Street Preachers documentary on Sky Arts which follows them making the album Everything Must Go after the disappearance of Richey Edwards. It’s a great documentary, and it ends at their first stadium gig at what was then called the NYNEX, Manchester. I was there, and yes it was brilliant, but at the time I didn’t realise the importance and significance of that gig to the band and to their story. So maybe today I’d choose to go back to that gig, knowing more regarding the context with hindsight. But really memory is so powerful that we have the ability to take ourselves back: you can smell a certain fragrance which can take you back to childhood, or hear a certain song which takes you back to your early twenties etc. That’s what I wanted to explore in my Tribute.

You’re the brains behind the Twisted Showcase – is this Tribute a departure in terms of genre? 

If any people who have watched my Twisted Showcase episodes then listen to my Tribute they will probably see it as a departure. It shares the oddness in some respects, and it shares a twist in the tale in that it transpires this warm, cosy story about a bygone era is set in the future and based on an unbelievable piece of tech. Maybe it is more in line with my kids’ TV specs or an amalgamation of those two styles.

What’s your next project?

I’d love to have the clarity to answer this one succinctly. It always seems like I have too many plates spinning at any one time. I’ve been trying to write a feature this year but keep getting pulled in different directions with spec script rewrites on two kids’ TV scripts and an adult crime drama. I’m also working on a stage adaptation of Twisted Showcase, and a few new one page pitches. Finally, there’s a sitcom I’m co-writing with the co-creator of Twisted Showcase, Rhys Jones.

What have you learned from interviewing the other writers?

Oh wow, so much. From the many different ways that ideas come together, to how in control of what messages are told in different writers’ stories, and how they view their own work, and how different writers view the importance of death as a theme. It’s been enlightening.

Which of the other Tributes have stood out for you, and why?

They’re all great and really different from each other. Philip did a great job selecting this bunch to form the series. It’s really tough to select ones out, but I’ll be brutal and just chose one – Eulogy for Tricia Slater by Sarah Penrose. I loved how it extracted humour from the subject of death.

What would you want your tribute to be?

I’m not sure, but make sure there’s a cracking buffet afterwards that people talk about with the same glow Joe Sims gave that salad. Whenever I ask my Mum how a funeral she’s visited went she’ll always mention the buffet first – “They put on a great spread.” That’ll do me.


Thank you Katy and in particular, thank you Robin for the warmth and creativity you brought to so many people. RIP.

This should be a reminder to all of us – to write, write, write. Our time is finite and we all have a lot to say and limited time in which to say it.

This last link is to an article Robin wrote post-diagnosis about what his illness did to his perception and enjoyment of films – it’s a brilliant, profound piece of writing. about what films and stories mean to us on a personal, emotional level

As I was reading it took me back to distant memory of a film experience of my own – it was the last day of the school holidays. As usual I was dreading going back to my boarding school, counting down the holi-days at home. To treat / distract me my mother took me to see THE ALAMO a John Wayne film. I must have been 8 or 9, I remember little about the specifics of the film but a lot about the experience – the anticipation, the excitement that the film induced in me; something stirring and exotic about the scale and drama of the film and something about the whole experience of a trip to a big cinema in a big town (Canterbury I think). Also that it summons up (thanks to the thoughtful and honest trigger of Robin’s writing) a valuable affirming memory of my (now dead) mother’s love and kindness, the thoughtfulness of her act (and I think it was also a treat for her) and the deep emotional, communal power of story and the cinema experience.

The next newsletter will be on Friday May 31st (when I will be at the BBC Writersroom Scottish Writers Festival in Glasgow – if you’re there, please say hello).

All the best



May 17th 2019


Posted by admin  /   May 02, 2019  /   Posted in Uncategorized  /   Comments Off on STEALING CHARACTERS

Hi There,

A few things to recap / catch up on with you this week –

First – thank you very much indeed to all of you who have responded so insightfully and entertainingly to my 10 SCREENWRITING QUESTIONS from two weeks ago. These mini-questionnaires will appear at irregular intervals in this newsletter over the next few months. If you’d like to submit your own answers to these questions, IT’S NOT TOO LATE and your submissions will be accepted very gratefully.

Here are those 10 QUESTIONS again –

1Why do you write?

2 A book you’ve enjoyed that you’d like to tell us about.

3 The best TV / film (screenplay) of the last year and why.

4, 5 Which (2) writers / scripts inspire you and why?

6 What are the best internet resources / podcasts for writers?

7 What are the best books for screenwriters?

8,9 2 pieces of advice for writers

10 When and where do you write?


I would also like to say a massive thank you to all 56 of you who so kindly sponsored me on my cycle ride on behalf of the Fulham FC Foundation from Fulham to Bournemouth two weeks ago. I raised £1,065 (the original target being £500). I really appreciate your generosity. It went to a very good cause, it was a great experience in beautiful weather and the icing on my personal cake was having my photo appear on the homepage of the Fulham FC website! –


I would also like to remind and update you about the 1 DAY INTRODUCTION TO SCREENWRITING COURSE that I’m running in London on Saturday May 18th. We now have 43 people signed up for this course, which is great – but there is room for more! I’m delighted at the line-up of industry guests we have for the networking / drinks event at the end of the day.

Even if I say it myself, this networking evening is alone worth the cost of the course (£95). (As well as the invaluable opportunity to meet these industry guests, it’s also a great chance for the writers on the course to meet and talk to each other – meeting and sharing experiences with other writers is such an important part of sustaining yourself as a writer). And a packed one day course including sessions with two of the outstanding, up-and-coming screenwriters in the UK as well as this networking evening is more than a bargain (it will certainly be a lot more expensive next time I run this course!)

To remind you about the two screenwriting guests, they are VINAY PATEL and ANNA SYMON. Vinay started in theatre and now moves between theatre and TV. He wrote the outstanding, epic, AN ADVENTURE, that was on at the Bush Theatre late last year. His BBC single film, MURDERED BY MY FATHER won the RTS best single drama award and was nominated for 3 BAFTA’s. And he wrote an episode in the most recent DOCTOR WHO series. Anna has a background in documentary film-making. She has written episodes on C4’s INDIAN SUMMERS. Her first ‘authored’ TV drama serial, MRS WILSON, has been nominated for a BAFTA for best mini-series; and her ITV series, DEEP WATER, is now in post-production. Both are alumni of the Channel 4 Screenwriting Course.

Guests for the networking evening have been added over the last couple of weeks; and confirmed attendees who have very kindly agreed to come along on the Saturday evening now include – seven writers who have been on the Channel 4 screenwriting course in the last few years, all of whom have had significant industry successes; and development executives / producers / script editors from these companies – BBC Films, BBC Studios, Tiger Aspect, Leopard Films, Unigram, Shiny Button Productions, Bryncoed Productions, Neal Street Productions, Big Light Productions, Firebird Pictures, Conker Films. As well as the insights and information these people can give you, it will also be really helpful for course delegates to make these industry contacts.


Last week I ran one of my regular Story, Character, Ideas masterclasses at the Indie Training Fund / ScreenSkills in London. For the most part this course consists of a series of exercises / games designed to help writers generate story ideas and create characters. I’m always delighted and amazed with some of the character creations that come out of these exercises. Here are a couple of examples of the characters who came into being through the invention of the course delegates –

Isaac – an orthodox Jewish man in his mid-40’s. Dresses in traditional Jewish clothes. On the day in question he was walking around carrying more boxes than he could manage, in a sweaty, anxious state. Isaac works in his father’s longstanding, traditional hat shop in Golders Green and hates it. His father looks down on him and has always chipped away at Isaac’s self-esteem. Isaac is not good at the job and has no real interest in it. Isaac is single and very private. He is not happy. But what Isaac is good at it is gambling. He is obsessed with gambling and has a real flair for it. It is an addiction but it’s one he is in control of – and over the last few years he has made a very decent income from his secret gambling that has supplemented the paltry income he makes in his father’s milliners.

Maud – is an unexceptional woman in her mid-50’s She lives alone. She divorced 15 years ago and has no desire to enter into a new romantic relationship. She is emotionally self-contained but at the same time dependent on having people who will listen to her – Maud talks A LOT and doesn’t really care to listen. Her current interest is bee-keeping which she has been into for the last few years. She will talk endlessly about it to anyone who will listen. Mostly this is to her resentful work colleagues – she is an administrator for an addiction charity. She used to be a regular member of an all-female book club but reading has had to take a backseat to beekeeping. She’s from the Midlands originally but now lives in the suburbs of Oxford.

Both these characters grew out of initial observation and eavesdropping of a real person on Euston station forecourt. They are a demonstration of how creativity can be opened up and facilitated by looking outwards at people / stories in the real world – as opposed to staring at a computer screen until your brain bleeds.

The next newsletter will be on Friday May 17th

All the best




May 3rd 2019


Posted by admin  /   April 18, 2019  /   Posted in Uncategorized  /   Comments Off on 10 SCREENWRITING QUESTIONS – AN INVITATION


Thank you to everyone who has already signed up for this course. I have booked a BIG room so there are still some places available. To recap – it will work both as an introduction for newer screenwriters but also as an inspiring refresher and kick-start for more experienced writers. We have two fantastic – both BAFTA-nominated! – screenwriters as guest speakers – VINAY PATEL (Murdered By My Father, Doctor Who) and ANNA SYMON (Mrs Wilson, Indian Summers). And the day concludes with a more informal networking event, which will be attended by several screenwriters who have graduated from the Channel 4 screenwriting course and are already making an impact in the industry; and script editors / development executives from some of the top UK productions companies (eg Tiger Aspect, BBC Films) – all of whom are there for you to meet and ask questions of. All the course details are on my website –

Hi There,

This week, I have set myself – and answered – 10 QUESTIONS ABOUT SCREENWRITING. The point of this is to inspire YOU to do the same. Please view this newsletter as an invitation. However experienced / seasoned / knowledgeable you are (or not), I would love to receive your answers to these same 10 questions so that I can include them as a regular feature in these newsletters in the future. Thank you very much!

Here are those 10 QUESTIONS –

1Why do you write?

2 A book you’ve enjoyed that you’d like to tell us about.

3 The best TV / film (screenplay) of the last year and why.

4, 5 Which (2) writers / scripts inspire you and why?

6 What are the best internet resources / podcasts for writers?

7 What are the best books for screenwriters?

8,9 2 pieces of advice for writers

10 When and where do you write?

And here are MY answers to the questions –

1Why do you write?

Hmm, well I don’t write nearly enough and I keep meaning to find the time to do more of it because when I do, I find it hugely fulfilling. Most of the (little) writing I have done in the past year or so has been on my phone on a tube train returning home from watching a show that has inspired me to write! I write when I feel inspired to, when I am in a heightened emotional state. But I understand that real writers don’t / can’t wait for that to happen – writing needs to be a daily habit!

2 A book you’ve enjoyed that you’d like to tell us about.

Two books recently that I have really connected with – Middle England by Jonathan Coe. I think Jonathan Coe is a fantastic writer. This is an ambitious book about England in the grip of Brexit paralysis – but, like all his books, is rooted in engaging, brilliantly observed characters and relationships. The other book is an autobiography A Life Of My Own by biographer Claire Tomalin. It’s beautifully written and – while quite under-stated – describes a life of huge emotional peaks and troughs. Both these books have great heart and humanity.

3 The best TV / film (screenplay) of the last year and why.

I could say any of the episodes of FLEABAG, series 2, which IMO, has been a work of screenwriting genius – but I fear that is a bit too easy / predictable. So I’m going to cheat here and break my own rules by mentioning 4 other projects! On TV – PATRICK MELROSE and SUCCESSION, both of which in their different ways were absolutely outstanding. And in the cinema, two little-publicised films, THE FIGHT, written, directed by and starring the wonderful Jessica Hynes; and HAPPY NEW YEAR COLIN BURSTEAD, written and directed by Ben Wheatley, with a fantastic ensemble cast – a vicious, funny and very engaging dissection of a horribly dysfunctional family get-together – still available to watch on BBC iplayer!

4, 5 Which (2) writers / scripts inspire you and why?

Two random choices out of God knows how many I could have plumped for – King Of Comedy, a Scorsese film written by Paul D Zimmerman. Probably my favourite Scorsese film. I love the unsettling, warped tone and it’s a brilliant critique of celebrity / stalking that is still hugely relevant today; and one of Michael Frayn’s lesser known plays, MAKE AND BREAK, that I saw several times in the West End a very long time ago starring Leonard Rossiter and Prunella Scales. A study of a very mundane UK company that makes doors and partitions, it’s all about the wonderful characterisation and relationships. These were two of the (many) formative scripts that made me want to work in the world of dramatic writing.

6 What are the best internet resources / podcasts for writers?

John August and Craig Mazin’s scriptnotes podcast is constantly inspiring and entertaining. And the BAFTA guru website is packed full of invaluable stuff. And as I was writing this, I received another excellent email from ‘The Play Ground’ from Nick Hern books – this time advice from playwright Stephen Jeffreys (who very sadly recently died) about playwriting and his forthcoming book which I’m sure will be great – Playwriting: Structure, Character, How and What to Write by Stephen Jeffreys.

7 What are the best books for screenwriters?

One I came across relatively recently that I have a lot of time for is THE ART OF SCREENPLAYS by Robin Mukherjee – an excellent combo of story-telling principles and practical advice from a writer who has extensive and recent industry experience; and two books by Rib Davis that keep getting reprinted for very good reason, ‘Writing Dialogue For Scripts’ and ‘Developing Characters For Script Writing.’

8,9 2 pieces of advice for writers

Don’t second guess the market – write exactly what you want to write – ie be distinctive and be yourself.

Go out into the big, bad world to find your characters and your stories. There is so much in the world that is inspiring and infuriating – be outward-looking. Your writing needs to reflect the world you live in.

10 When and where do you write?

As above, I seem to mainly write on tube trains on my telephone!

I hope very much that my answers will inspire / spur you into writing up and sending me your own answers to these questions. Thank you very much and I will look forward very much to hearing from you.

Finally this week, a gentle reminder that as you read this, I am (hopefully) sat on my bike churning out the miles from Fulham to Bournemouth, raising sponsorship money for the Fulham FC Foundation. I want to say a massive thank you to so many of you who have sponsored me. It is very kind of you and will be a great motivating factor to get me through the pain barrier! If you’d still like to sponsor me, for a very good cause, it’s not too late!

The next newsletter will be on Friday May 3rd.

All the best



Twitter: @PhilipShelley1

April 19th 2019