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 – http://script-consultant.co.uk/one-day-introduction-to-screenwriting/

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

1 Day Screenwriting Course

Posted by admin  /   April 04, 2019  /   Posted in Uncategorized  /   Comments Off on 1 Day Screenwriting Course

Hi There,


An update on my two upcoming central London screenwriting courses. The 2 day screenwriting course on June 8-9 sold out within 10 hours of my sending out the last newsletter. Apologies to anyone who applied too late – I hope to run another of these courses in the autumn.

My new ‘1 DAY INTRODUCTION TO SCREENWRITING’ has had a lot of interest / bookings but, unlike my 2 day course is not limited to 20 people – so there are still places available. I’m very excited to be running this new course and particularly excited that writer VINAY PATEL – who was on the Channel 4 screenwriting course in 2015 and has since gone on to great success, in particular, winning the RTS Best Single Drama award for his first TV credit MURDERED BY MY FATHER (BBC) and writing on the most recent series of DOCTOR WHO (BBC) – will be analysing and discussing the script from an episode of one of my (and his) favourite TV series of recent years – BETTER CALL SAUL.

The course will not only be an introduction to screenwriting for less experienced screenwriters – with vital information about all the essential aspects (including for instance, screenwriting software, professional layout and formatting) – it will also be a celebration for more experienced screenwriters of why screenwriting is such an exciting form of dramatic writing. We will illustrate everything we discuss with inspiring clips from many different films and TV shows, covering all the essential elements of what makes for powerful, exciting screenwriting – Story, Character, Dialogue, Genre, Tone, Format, Structure, etc.

The aim of the course is not only to give you a good grounding in the essentials of screenwriting but to inspire you about the creative possibilities of the craft.

Towards the end of the day we will cover the more pragmatic side of screenwriting – how you can get your work noticed and make inroads as a professional screenwriter. I’m delighted to say that for this part of the course I have been able to add a 2nd guest speaker to the day –  ANNA SYMON, who was on the Channel 4 Screenwriting course in 2013 and has since gone onto great screenwriting success – most recently with her hit BBC serial MRS WILSON; and her new series DEEP WATER will be on ITV soon. Anna is the perfect writer to guide you through the steps you need to take to break into professional screenwriting.

And as a natural follow-up to this, the day will conclude with a social / networking event in a nearby pub where you, the writers can meet and interrogate me and other people whom I’ve invited from the screenwriting industry in a less formal setting. I will be paying for the first £100 of drinks in the pub (nothing like alcohol as an inducement!) I’m currently working on the line-up of industry people – it will be a combination of screenwriters who have done the Channel 4 screenwriting course and who are now having some success in the industry and script editors and development executives whose job it is to seek out and support new writing talent. Confirmed guests so far include  – development executives from BBC Films and Neal Street Productions, a script editor from Tiger Aspect Drama and four writers who have recently been on the Channel 4 Screenwriting course and who are now making significant strides in the industry – all of whom can give you invaluable screenwriting craft and career advice in a relaxed, informal setting. And I will be adding more of these industry guests over the coming weeks. For you writers and budding writers, it will also be a great opportunity to meet each other and share writing experiences.

This one day course & networking event costs a very reasonable £95 – http://script-consultant.co.uk/one-day-introduction-to-screenwriting/

I am also running a one day STORY, CHARACTER & IDEAS masterclass at the Indie Training Fund / Screen Skills in London on April 25th.


TRIBUTE Series 2 Update

Thank you so much to all 80 of you who submitted scripts for the 2nd series of my dramatic monologue podcasts. I am having a very enjoyable time working my way through the scripts – I am reading every word of all 80 submissions. I’ve currently read nearly half of them. The standard is very impressive and the choice of the scripts I’d like to develop further and record will be very difficult. It will take me a few more weeks to finish reading them all and make a decision about the short-listed scripts. I probably won’t be able to get a definitive response to writers until the end of April / start of May. Apologies for the delay but I want to do the scripts justice and not rush them.


There have been some cracking new TV shows recently. Like everyone else (it seems), my highlight at the moment is series 2 of the incomparably excellent FLEABAG. The writing is so original, fresh, subversive, touching and above all funny. What a talent Phoebe Waller-Bridge is! And what a brilliant cast.

The first episode of the new LINE OF DUTY series didn’t disappoint. I was very taken by Lucy Mangan’s Guardian review of it –

‘It’s ridiculous, unbearably tense and instantly addictive. As ever, nothing is wasted; not a scene, not a line, not a beat. It fits together flawlessly – you can imagine Mercurio sitting like a watchmaker at his table with the parts spread before him and fitting the loupe to his eye before assembling the whole thing and listening for its perfectly regulated tick.’

There is something ridiculous about it. (If you do twitter, there’s a brilliant spoof scene by @iron_madin). But it has such flair, pace and drama, and Jed Mercurio is a master story-teller, so I buy into the ridiculousness and just enjoy the ride. I particularly concur with Lucy Mangan’s view that ‘nothing is wasted; not a scene, not a line, not a beat.’ A real mark of quality story-telling.

Although general response seems to be less unanimous on this, I greatly enjoyed RUSSIAN DOLL on Netflix. It’s a slow burn so I’d urge you to stick with it if you find it slow going initially. It gets better and better and I loved its imagination and ambition. A show this adventurous and unique feels like a real antidote to some of the stodgier recent fare on UK terrestrial TV.

And there have been some brilliant, event-TV documentaries recently, Louis Theroux’s THE NIGHT IN QUESTION but in particular, Dan Reed’s Michael Jackson doc, LEAVING NEVERLAND. This was TV story-telling at its best. It absolutely justified its 4 hour running time. It was compelling and important – and had a lot of lessons for fiction storytellers and screenwriters about subject matter and story structure. The way key information was withheld and teased out was so well-judged.

If you’re looking for a good theatre show, can I recommend Kieran Hurley’s outstanding two-hander MOUTHPIECE, which has transferred from the Traverse Edinburgh to the Soho Theatre in London. And I have heard excellent things about Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson’s GHOSTS STORIES at the Lyric Hammersmith.

GHOST STORIES is featured in the most recent Nick Hern Books ‘The Playground’ blog about theatre writing. If you’re interested in any form of dramatic writing, ‘The Playground’ is consistently interesting and insightful.

A (late – excuse the pun) nod to two great screenwriters / film-makers who have died in the last few months – William Goldman & Nicholas Roeg.

Between them they were responsible for some of the most memorable films of the last 50 years. Goldman – Butch Cassidy, The Sting, Marathon Man, The Princess Bride, All The President’s Men, Misery. Roeg – Don’t Look Now, The Man Who Fell To Earth, Walkabout, Performance, Insignificance, Eureka.

An incredibly impressive list of  memorable, ground-breaking films.

They both also wrote brilliant books about screenwriting / film-making – Nicholas Roeg, ‘The World Is Ever Changing’ and William Goldman, ‘Adventures In the Screen Trade’ and ‘Which Lie Did I Tell?’

Finally a slightly cheeky request – please feel free to ignore this completely. On April 19 & 20 I have foolishly committed to cycle from Craven Cottage, Fulham FC’s ground to AFC Bournemouth – 140 miles over 2 days for a very worthwhile cause – raising money for FFC’s charity, the Fulham FC Foundation, that does great work in SW London – recently featured on Match Of The Day https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CBchfcwFlpQ

They run schemes for Disability (including one of London’s first Downs Syndrome football teams), Social inclusion (see the MOTD video about working with refugees and asylum seekers), Health and Education, engaging with more than 12,000 people each season. As I say, please feel free to ignore this but if you would like to make a donation to this very worthwhile cause, perhaps you can see it as a favour in return for all the screenwriting newsletters! Thank you!

Here is the link to my ‘justgiving’ page – https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/philip-shelley

The next newsletter will be on April 19th. Until then,

All the best






April 5th 2019


Posted by admin  /   March 22, 2019  /   Posted in Uncategorized  /   Comments Off on 2 NEW SCREENWRITING COURSES

Hi There,

I’m very pleased to announce that I will be running two courses in central London in the next few months.

A brand new one-day Introduction to – and Celebration of – the wonderful craft of SCREENWRITING on May 18 and my 2 day SCREENWRITING course – about Craft and Career – over the weekend of June 8 & 9.


This one-day course is designed for entry-level screenwriters. You don’t need to have any screenwriting experience to take this course BUT it is ALSO suitable for more experienced screenwriters – it will be an inspiring and re-energizing refresher – reminding you of everything that is exciting about screenwriting.

This will not be as interactive and participatory as my two-day course – but there will be an opportunity to ask questions of the speaker at the end of every session.

The 10 -5 day will be followed up by a relaxed, non-pressured networking event in a nearby pub – where you can meet and share experiences with each other and meet the guest speakers (and other specially invited industry professionals) in a more relaxed setting and ask any further questions that you have. Full details of this post-course event TBC. This one-day course costs £95.


10.00 INTRODUCTION TO THE COURSE – and a celebration of the best screenwriting.

10.30 WHAT IS SCREENWRITING? A nuts-and-bolts examination of how to write a screenplay – from outlines, treatments & pitches, script development – to formatting and laying out your script.

11.30 BREAK

11.45 – 1.00 SCREENWRITING PRINCIPLES & TIPS – how story-telling works on screen – with a series of clips to illustrate the principles discussed. Covering all the elements of a screenplay – story, character, dialogue, structure, genre / tone, stylistic devices, format, etc.

1 – 2    LUNCH


Screenwriter / playwright VINAY PATEL (DOCTOR WHO, MURDERED BY MY FATHER, THE GOOD KARMA HOSPITAL, TRUE BRITS) will undertake a SCRIPT-TO-SCREEN analysis and appreciation of an episode of TV show, BETTER CALL SAUL.

Vinay will also answer questions about his own work as a screenwriter.

3.30 BREAK


Peer support – Knowing the industry – Educational & Inspirational Opportunities — Showcasing your work – Networking.

4.30 – 5.00 Conclusion / Q & A session – your chance to ask any screenwriting question – either following up on issues raised during the day or any questions on issues not covered.

BUMPER COURSE HANDOUTS available on the day for each delegate.


This is a course I have run three times in the past (see the testimonials on the web page) but not for a year or so. I’m very pleased to be able to run this course again.

The course will be a mini-writers festival as we will have THREE different GUEST SPEAKER sessions over the two days –

On Day One, NATHANIEL PRICE – alumnus of the Channel 4 Screenwriting course 2017, with credits on TIN STAR, BBC3’s FIVE BY FIVE and THE BREAK – as well as a raft of other projects in active development. In a previous life Nathaniel was a professional footballer on Crystal Palace’s books, whose career was cut short by injury.

Nathaniel will be talking about CRAFT – his observations about story, crafting a screenplay and the process of screenwriting in general.

On Day Two –

Literary agent, JONATHAN KINNERSLEY, The Agency, will talk about how you get an agent, what an agent can do for you as a writer, what agents look for in screenwriters, and more generally about the TV and film industries, and where the work is for both new and more experienced writers.

And finally CAT JONES (Channel 4 screenwriting course 2012, credits on HARLOTS, WATERLOO ROAD, YOUNGERS, DOCTORS, EASTENDERS etc) will talk more broadly about both craft and career – about how she creates story and screenplays, about the writing jobs she has done, and lessons to be learnt from her experience.

And there will be time for a Q&A with all the guest speakers at the end of the 3 sessions so you can get answers to the particular questions you want to ask.


 DAY 1

Introduction to the Course & what it can do for you.

Creative Exercises – a series of creative exercises that will help you in creating and generating new story and character ideas.

NATHANIEL PRICE – Crafting A Screenplay.

Supplementing NATHANIEL’s CRAFT session, I will also do my own sessions on –

STORY – the elements that go into creating effective, exciting, dynamic story-telling on screen.

CHARACTER- the key to writing memorable, resonant characters. Including an interactive exercise in creating CHARACTERS, and genuinely character-driven stories.

DIALOGUE – what are the elements that make for effective screen dialogue? And…

TV SERIES. The keys to developing what every single drama-producing indie is looking for – an original, compelling, returnable one hour series.


Will cover…

PITCHING – with an interactive pitching exercise.

TREATMENTS, OUTLINES, WRITTEN PITCHES – looking at all these important pre-script documents – when you need them and how to write them.

JONATHAN KINNERSLEY, literary agent, THE AGENCY – talking about how you get an agent, what you should expect of an agent, and how to forge a career as a screenwriter.


Lessons to be learnt from successful screenwriters’ career paths.


What I’ve learnt from my experience of running the C4 course for the last 7 years – and what this means for you as professional writers.

CAT JONES – Cat will discuss her career – the writing work she has done across TV, theatre, radio, etc. She will discuss both the craft of dramatic writing, and give you tips on how to run your career.

CONCLUSION – Final session about what to take away from the course, and discuss where you go from here.

Places Are Strictly Limited at 20!

I have a strict limit on the number of delegates, because I want to make sure these are personal, in-depth seminars where you can get your questions answered and find out what you need to know without the sense of getting lost in the crowd.

Ten days before the course, I’ll send you full details of the course and membership of a special private Screenwriters Studio Facebook group that will continue indefinitely.

There is a FREE, recommended screenwriting book for everyone who signs up AND a bumper pack of invaluable HANDOUTS for all delegates on the course.


For the two days of the course, the cost is a very reasonable £195. Based on some of the successes and feedback of previous attendees of my courses, I’m happy to say I think this is excellent value for money, and I know this course can act as a powerful weapon in your aims to fulfil your potential as a professional screenwriter.

You can book on my website, and get more in-depth information (especially about the three guest speakers) – http://script-consultant.co.uk/2-days-screenwriting-course/


Saturday + Sunday June 8th & 9th 2019, 10.00- 5.00, Central London – And I’ll be available on both days in a nearby pub afterwards to carry on the conversation. (One of the most important parts of the course IMO!).

NB I already have a long waiting list of people who have expressed an interest in this course and the last few courses I’ve run have sold out well in advance. If you’re interested in doing this course, early booking is recommended!

PS As of 8am today there are now only 14 places still available on this 2 day course.


Finally this week please can I point you in the direction of a short but excellent screenwriting book that is published this week. I read an advance copy and I thoroughly recommend it –

The book is called THE WALL WILL TELL YOU by celebrated US screenwriter Hampton Fincher. It’s slim and pithy, full of wise, thought-provoking epithets.

The publisher’s blurb – ‘As a producer and screenwriter, Hampton is perhaps most famous for writing Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049. In this, his first non-fiction book, he shares his thoughts and experiences on script-writing in his own unique style. The Wall Will Tell You is written in short, considered paragraphs, his words of wisdom offering guidelines to aspiring script-writers while also giving a glimpse into his creative mind…’ – is accurate.


All the best






March 22 2019


Posted by admin  /   March 05, 2019  /   Posted in Uncategorized  /   Comments Off on CHANNEL 4 SCREENWRITING COURSE GUEST SPEAKER NOTES Part 2

Hi There,

This is Part 2 of the notes from the guest speakers talks at the 1st weekend of the Channel 4 screenwriting course in January.


If beat sheets don’t come naturally to you, then get used to faking it.

In your first draft you should aim to get it all out, get what it is on the page, the heart of it. This is the key responsibility of the writer and script editor. Your second draft will constitute the heavy-lifting of honing, re-shaping and improving. Subsequent drafts should be more about fiddling with the edges, with tweaks and amends.

Expensive adjectives often get cut in shooting scripts.

The process of TV writing starts publicly with pitching (which most writers hate and find difficult but is essential as it is the communication of a complex idea in its most simplified form). Then the process becomes intensely private and lonely. Before becoming extremely public again. These transitions are difficult as everyone has an opinion about what should happen in your work.

It’s important to learn structure, and then unlearn it.

Stories are about people. You have to find the beating heart and pull those threads into a wild brave form.

It’s a good idea to cut things that make it too easy for your characters.

I hate exposition. Can’t bear it. I try everything to strip it out in the edit. That’s my bugbear, when you’re telling people things, or the plot is overlaid instead of being derived from character. It can cause problems on set with actors if they don’t feel it is real, their instinct is to resist it and then you need to change things on the fly.

When characters are worn and flawed is when it really works. When plot is like a breath.

The thing that I’ve learnt from editing is that a lot of dialogue always gets cut, no matter how much you love it. I often encourage writers to cut unnecessary dialogue. Sometimes things work well on the page but don’t fit with the visual tone of a piece.

Be careful when taking a note. Don’t do so unquestioningly and lose the good stuff. Gauge whether you’re at the revolution or evolution stage.

There’s no such thing as a bad note. You don’t have to accept all notes though. You can challenge them, but you must have a reason why. Even if you don’t agree, they are signalling that something is wrong. If someone is asking a question of your script, listen to it, but you don’t have to agree with the answer.


In relationship-based shows, finding a hooky pitch is one of the hardest things in TV.

I suspect that long-form big story dramas told in shorter episodes will be a coming trend as telecommunication companies around the world are looking to commission new dramas.

There is so much demand for content now, that there is a lot of interest in new writers. There are many more places nowadays that want dramas for younger audiences. With the amount of drama out there, a good clear grabby concept that differentiates itself from the rest is vital.

There is no science to the commissioning process. Commissioning Editors develop relationships with writers and producers but usually they don’t know what they want until they see it. They then help develop it to suit their channel and lobby for it with the head of the channel – arguing both on grounds of commercial viability and taste. Once commissioned, the Commissioning Editor will work like an uncredited Executive Producer giving notes at every stage.


Meetings are very important – go with a) ideas and b) an open mind and see where the conversation takes you. Is there chemistry and rapport? It’s so important to be able to talk and communicate well to cement relationships.

At meetings have ideas ready, it would be weird as a new writer if you came to a meeting without ideas to pitch. Sometimes people don’t want you to pitch. If the production company likes you and resonates with you, they might invite you to pitch. If they don’t, it’s fine to ask if they want you to pitch or ask what kind of thing they are looking for and then follow it up after you’ve thought about it.

When meeting producers or broadcasters, it’s always helpful to have ideas. But not so fully-formed an idea that they don’t feel they could have any input.

Meetings in the UK tend to be more relaxed than those in the US, often it is just a general chat. But it’s good to clarify at the beginning if you have any ideas that you are working on. Don’t forget to ask about them – do your homework and discuss their shows. You’re both trying to work out if you’re the kind of people they want to work with! If they mention they are playing with an idea, you could offer to send them a short pitch doc as follow-up from the meeting.


Increasingly the UK is adopting the American writers’ room model. But the British version is still a work-in-progress. By comparison we do not pay as much and nor are our writers as empowered.

Writers’ rooms can be great, but in this country we’re still working out how to do them properly. Not all writers’ rooms are created equal. You have to judge where you are and what you can get out of it – is it a good opportunity for you? On the one hand, collaboration can be fun, on the other, you will have your ideas harvested for little pay or credit.


Choosing an agent is about chemistry, like finding a therapist. Go with your gut. It’s better to have an agent than not. But it’s awful to have one you don’t get on with. So be choosy and shop around. Do they get your work? Do they understand your ambition? Do they care about your well-being? It’s okay to ask other writers with an agent what they think of them.

I said ‘yes’ to the first agent that approached me. But the relationship just wasn’t productive and so I ended up moving agents which was horrible. Production companies read work from agents they respect and not from those they don’t. A good agent will do a lot of the work for you, but you also must put in the hours – at networking events and being prepared when you go in for meetings with producers.

Don’t waste your time chasing agents, put your energy into your craft and at the right time an agent will come to you. When that “right time” is, is different for every writer. Every writer has their own journey.

If you’re determined to approach an agent, then do your research – use Google, imdb, the agent’s website, even call the agent’s assistant and inquire about what kind of people they work with and the type of writers they might be looking for. If you approach an agent yourself, you should be respectful and knowledgeable – say you think you might be a good fit because they represent X, Y & Z. A little bit of research goes a long way.

The relationship with an agent can be intense – both lovely and horrible at times. It can be exhausting and amazing. Therefore you need to trust them.

Your agent is there to read first drafts before they are first drafts. To give an opinion on what it is or should be or if there’s already similar work out there.

As an agent you’ve got to show your writers all the opportunities open to them and advise them what to do. But, ultimately, it’s the writer’s decision how much work to take on or whether to say “no”.

If an agent thinks a production company does good work and will treat their clients well, that would drive the decision to try and match producer and talent to see if they can grow and develop from there.

The Writers Guild of Great Britain (WGGB) offer free advice for un-agented writers.

If you haven’t got an agent, don’t worry. Take your time and choose who’s right for you. You’re allowed to take your time and make a decision.

Agents are really, really important. The most common way a production company is introduced to new writers is through agents. You should put a lot of energy into work that will get you an agent.

If you write well, an agent will want you. If an agent rejects you, you might not be good enough yet. So keep writing.


Your spec script is really important. If possible have more than one so you can show off your range. If not, then write one that contains both comedy and drama.

It’s healthy to have more than one spec script and/or idea in development, because then you’ll be less heart-broken when one project founders.

If producers don’t see you as a particular type of writer, but you think they’re wrong, then it’s not a bad idea to write a spec script that puts you in the light you want to be seen in.

Your calling card script is probably the most important thing you will ever write – even if it never gets made.

If you can write funny, try and write funny. If you are a new writer who can make a reader laugh, they won’t care about your lack of experience.

Choose your spec script carefully. Don’t write a comedy script if you don’t want a career in comedy. The kind of show you want to make should be your calling card script.

A huge thank you to the excellent Ray McBride for writing up these notes!

Finally a brief reminder that the deadline for TRIBUTE podcast series 2 – a series of dramatic audio monologues under the umbrella title, ‘LOVE – FIRST CONNECTION’, is midnight on March 17th. I won’t be accepting any scripts after then. To all of you who have already submitted a script or who are going to – thank you so much.

The next newsletter will be on Friday March 22nd.

All the best






March 8th 2019


Posted by admin  /   February 17, 2019  /   Posted in Uncategorized  /   Comments Off on C4 SCREENWRITING COURSE 1ST WEEKEND FEEDBACK

Hi There,

Jan 26th & 27th was the 1st weekend of this year’s CHANNEL 4 SCREENWRITING COURSE and, as ever, we had some brilliant guest speakers coming into Channel 4 to impart their wisdom to this year’s 12 writers. We had a great mix of writers (mainly) but also a director, producers, script editors, literary agents. Here is a selection of some of the instructive and inspiring things they said –


It’s good to have time to think. But it’s also good to have tight deadlines that motivate you to get work done. Don’t be a perfectionist, it’s probably already better than you think it is.

Never believe it’s real until it’s being shot. Assume it’s never gonna happen.

When working on other people’s shows – watch the show, know its characters and tone, ask to see previous scripts, be collaborative in the room and share ideas, take the opportunity to be a chameleon by showing you can ape the style of the showrunner, and be ready to be over-written. Be generous, as you are serving their vision.

Sometimes it’s healthy to make it artificially hard for yourself during the writing process, so when the “bin fire” of production starts you’re acclimatized to the stress.

Insecurity and arrogance is the odd mixture of a writer, this can sometimes be hard to manage – both for themselves and others.

In TV, writers are still the primary creative unit. However, they are often badly treated.

Remember: It is no longer mandatory for artists to be tossers of any sort.

As a writer you have a responsibility to find yourself in every story you tell.

If you have a deadline, keep it. If you can’t keep it, then be honest with your editor before the deadline so that they can manage expectations around it.

Really choose your production company well – research it, find out who its people are and what they’ve done. This is your due diligence for every meeting. Find those people that get you and bring out the best in you – and then hang on to them. Almost all your work throughout your career will be generated by your relationships with people.

If you have a project in development with a production company and it becomes apparent that they don’t get it, then run down the clock and go find your people.

A script is not literature. If it doesn’t get made, it doesn’t exist.

Writing episodes for a continuing drama series can be a great way to hone your craft and acquire the same vocabulary as those whose job it is to provide notes on your work.

Just like working in a writers’ room, working on continuing drama is a collaborative experience that teaches you to write in a pre-existing tone or style, telling stories in a voice that is not your own.

It’s not uncommon to get “note rage”. You have to step away, take a breath, then go back. You never do all the notes as written, but you always address them in your own way. Even if you don’t agree with the specifics of a note, it is usually flagging something that isn’t working (even if it’s not for the reason the note-giver thinks). You should interrogate the notes you get and it’s good to push back. But choose your battles. It takes a while to learn to pitch your rage appropriately.

Writing doesn’t stop once production begins. Working in the edit to reshape an episode or find its rhythm was a revelation, sometimes small cuts can totally change the energy of a scene, sometimes new material needs to be written to smooth out these cuts.

Working on a continuing drama series can very quickly give you a grounding in screen storytelling and teach you how to work in a machine while retaining part of yourself. Finding the tone of that machine without losing your voice is a valuable skill.

All you can ever do is try to tell the kind of stories you would want to watch.

A lot of the best writers see the world in a slightly different way which is both recognizable and original. As a producer, your job is to harness that difference rather than bash a square peg into a round hole.

Working on something you’re not passionate about really does show on the page.

If you are lucky enough to have different production companies bidding over a script, ask yourself which company’s work do you like best? Who gets it? Who has the best ideas on where to take it?

It feels mad when you’re just starting out saying “no” to people. But it’s important to be aware of your time and think about what you can do realistically.

As a professional screenwriter there are so many different levels and varieties of experience out there – story rooms, writing episodes on series, developing your own projects.

As a writer-for-hire, you need to choose your shows carefully. With which one do you think you could have the most fun? Ensure you can buy into it, but at the same time it’s not your baby so you can be objective. But if you commit to too much, or shows you’re not passionate about, you might end up having to say “no” to better projects and more interesting opportunities.

Read as many scripts as you can, for example – pdfs on the BBC Writers Room or Simply Scripts.

SVODs and British broadcasters have different approaches – the SVODs are quicker, more business-like and less interested in development; the broadcasters are slower but more hands-on.

Working on any kind of show, you have to be flexible and able to address lots of notes and sometimes make significant story changes. This is true in prep, while shooting and in post. You are utilized all the way up to the end.

I like to read scripts from some of my favourite shows.

As you go into production, you need to learn not to be precious as things always change in shooting and edit. It can be a tricky time as you will need to be on-call for tweaks and amends.

I like to watch the rushes to see what works for the actors, what they have difficulties with. Sometimes you forget that the end goal is for your work to be read aloud.

It’s good to have writer friends with whom to share advice and commiserate. But keep your bad experiences off Twitter!

Life as a writer is hard. There are very few good screenwriters. A lot of the scripts I work on (as a producer) don’t end up being good enough and that’s why they don’t get made. But if you write something good, it’s not hard to break into the industry.

On average, I’d say the ratio is 1:10 in terms of shows in development to shows that get made.

Being collaborative is very important, but you do not have to agree with everything and it’s fine to push back on notes. People respect writers with strong feelings, but don’t push back as a knee-jerk reaction. Often your collaborators will be very experienced, and their opinions will be worth listening to. But if anyone tells you they have story rules you must follow, it’s bullshit.


Your script editor is possibly the most important person you work with. Be upfront about your insecurities, state how you like to work, be collaborative, take criticism and recognize a good idea when it is offered. In return they will offer a forensic knowledge of the script which is incredibly helpful for scheduling, continuity, and amends as production nears.

The relationship with your script editor is incredibly important. So, if it’s not working, get another one. But when it does work, you can form an intimate and creative unit – which can sometimes be thrilling but can sometimes risk losing objectivity. So, as a script editor, you need to remember you work for the show, rather than the writer. Your responsibility is to the work.

The skill of giving a note is that it should never be prescriptive. The skill of taking a note is listening to what is underneath it.


To get your head around the dynamics of an adaptation, it’s a good exercise to watch the finished adaptation alongside reading the source novel.

When adapting a novel, you have to be respectful of the source material, but you also bring your own agenda to it.

The next newsletter will be on March 8th and will be Part 2 of this feedback from the Channel 4 screenwriting course 1st weekend – with thoughts on literary agents, the writing process, the spec script, writers rooms & more!

All the best






February 22nd 2019


Posted by admin  /   February 07, 2019  /   Posted in Uncategorized  /   Comments Off on THE WAY, WAY BACK


Hi There,

A few evenings ago I was slumped on the sofa without anything obvious to watch until I saw that TWWB was on again on Film 4. From the very first scene I was transfixed and reminded of what an outstanding film this is.

Another reason why I gravitated back to it is because it came up in conversation recently – when a producer I’m working with referenced it as the sort of story / tone / quality that they aspire to. Interestingly, they also referenced THE DESCENDENTS, another wonderful film written by TWWB writers Nat Faxon & Jim Rash, adapted from the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings.

It got me thinking about WHY TWWB is such a good film and googling the writer / directors – Nat Faxon & Jim Rash (Faxon & Rash – memorable partnership name!).

One of the first things I came across was a press announcement about their next project THE HEART. Here’s the pitch / synopsis –

The Heart centers on Joe (Sam Rockwell) and Lucy (Octavia Spencer) who, while desperate for cash, take the job of delivering a human heart from New York to Florida in 24 hours. When they realize their delivery is destined for a black-market buyer who illegally skipped the donor list, they attempt to reroute it to its rightful recipient.’

As someone who hears and reads a LOT of pitches, that immediately struck me as an excellent one. Why is it so good? I recognise the idea as one that I’ve heard vaguely about in the past (I know someone who had a similar voluntary job couriering organs for transplants abroad). There is something fascinating about this – it’s essentially a simple (menial?) job but at the same time it’s incredibly important and the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Even in this two sentence pitch there are several highly dramatic and identifiable character dilemmas and issues – the lead characters are desperate for money and therefore open to temptation; there is a long journey involved – a staple of film narrative and immediately appealing; there is a ticking clock element – they need to get the heart from A to B in a set time before the heart is no longer usable; the stakes change for our protagonists when they discover the heart is destined for someone morally questionable; the ultimate dilemma seems to be their desire to make quick money against the need to do the right thing; and the inference that in doing the right thing they may be placing themselves in danger from the black-market buyer – there is no easy way out of this (That’s why it’s a ‘dilemma’!).

Yes – it’s a cracking pitch. It looks deceptively simple on the page but story ideas this good – and as clearly and economically expressed as this – are gold-dust.

Onto THE WAY, WAY BACK itself. (Incidentally one of the things I’m not sure about is the title! That comma is very deliberately placed and the title is, I suppose, interestingly open to many interpretations. But I don’t think it’s a memorable title – it’s not distinctive enough, and it’s not specific enough – there is also a film called THE WAY BACK.)

One of the great things about the film is that I’ve watched it enough times now to not only enjoy going along for the ride of the story but also to notice different brilliant things each time I watch it. Here are a few random observations –

Like so many of the best films, this film illustrates how character is everything. The characterisations in this film across the board are just wonderful – so many beautifully-observed human, flawed, highly believable, engaging characters. Quite a few of them are objectively unlikeable (in particular Steve Carrell’s character) but he’s still a wonderfully believable, relatable character.


The story is clearly told from 14 year old Duncan’s point of view. Even though there are so many characters who have their own unique stories in this film, you still are in no doubt whose story this is. All the other stories just add colour and texture to Duncan’s story (rather than clouding the focus of the story). Interestingly one of the few (only?) characters who has significant on-screen time who doesn’t have much of a story / agenda as a character is that played by writer / director Nat Faxon.

It also connects to the choices the writers make about what parts of the story we see and don’t see. Sharing Duncan’s POV we also share his prejudices about certain characters and try to read between the lines as he does, trying to work out what is going on in the unfathomable grown-up world and rushing to judgement.

There is such power in this particular POV. Who of us hasn’t spent time with a teenager who hates everyone and knows best about everything? In fact which of us hasn’t been a teenager who hates everyone and knows best about everything?

The Devil is in the detail –

Duncan’s trousers tucked into his socks when he’s riding his (pink, girl’s) bike; what he (and they all) wear – costume, make-up, hair, props, design feel so significant and well-judged. The moment Duncan pulls the pink tassles off his pink female bike. His taste in music.

Character arcs –

Character is story. (Script guru Kate Leys spoke at the C4 course the weekend before last – if you get a chance to listen to her speak, take it – she is a fount of story-telling wisdom and insights. And on this one ‘debate’ about whether the best stories are ‘plot-driven’ or ‘character-driven’ she comes down unequivocally on the side of character – all the best stories start from a place of character.

In this film there are so many excellent, conflicted three-dimensional characters – so many of whom have their own emotional arc and story – Jim Rash as Lewis, Toni Colette as Pam, Sam Rockwell as Owen, May Rudolph as Catlin, Steve Carrell as Trent, Alison Janney as Betty, Anna Sophia Robb as Susanna, Rob Corddry as Kip, River Alexander as Peter. ALL of these secondary characters have their own emotional arcs but this fact doesn’t take the focus away from Duncan as central character and story POV. This is a hugely impressive feat in a 1hr 43min film – and something that we should all aspire to – pretty much all your minor characters need to have their own agenda, their own personal story. These character sub-plots should not only NOT distract from the main character story – they should add to and inform the main character story.

Theme –

There are many different themes – including – divorce and the way the children of divorced parents cope with it emotionally; growing up (dramatized not just through the central character Duncan – but also through the Sam Rockwell and Toni Colette characters). Above all though the film’s main theme seems to me to be the focus on the teenage years, coping with adolescence. The film feels emotionally universal (or is it just me that identifies deeply with this painfully awkward 14 year old boy?).

The importance of place –

In fact a particular place at a particular time – it evokes that feeling of summer holidays. The specificity of the water park and of this East coast US town in the summer holidays. Again this feels utterly specific and distinctive but also somehow universal.

The same character operating in different worlds –

So allowing us to see different facets of the character. (Duncan moving between his house and his – secret – job at the water park).

Sub-text –

There is, for instance, one tremendous scene in which the family play an old board game. The dialogue is entirely about the rules and progress of the board game – but the scene is laden with tension and anger and is about something else altogether. DON’T write on the nose!

There are so many gaps in audience knowledge –

In what we know about the characters and their lives outside of this temporary holiday world. Duncan’s father for instance is hugely present as someone who is referred to and his importance to the story is clear – but we never meet him and we don’t need to. In many ways it’s more powerful being asked to imagine him and bring our own interpretation to fill in this on-screen absence in the story.

And connected to the above – Exposition –

Think very carefully about what back-story information is absolutely essential to the story – it is so often very much less than you think. As far as I can remember there is NO undramatised exposition in the dialogue in this film.

If you haven’t seen the film, I would highly recommend it (as you’ll have gathered).

The next newsletter will be on Friday 22nd.

All the best






February 8th 2019


Posted by admin  /   January 25, 2019  /   Posted in Uncategorized  /   Comments Off on BEST FILMS OF 2018

Hi There,

This week, script editor JOE WILLIAMS – in what is becoming an annual tradition for this newsletter – has very kindly written up a piece on his favourite films of 2018 –

Films of 2018

‘Happy New Year everyone! Firstly, thanks again to Philip for inviting me back again to chatter about my favourite films of the past year. Last time around, I wrote that the medium was in a state of flux, with auteur directors flocking to the small screen and Hollywood besieged by superhero films and reboots/remakes. Twelve months on, little seems to have changed! 

The main development, I think, this year has been the increasing presence of high-profile films funded by streaming services, most notably Netflix, to the point where debate has begun over where the line between ‘film’ and ‘TV film’ becomes blurred. To those who cherish seeing new titles on the big screen, it’s a potentially worrying development. I was (and still am) keen to see Alfonso Cuarón’s astonishing ROMA on the big screen but none of the dozen-or-so cinemas near me were screening it. It’s a double-edged sword though because, to Netflix’s credit, they have enabled some of the world’s most exciting directors (living and dead!) to produce and release films on their service. Last year, new films from the likes of Cuarón, Paul Greengrass, Gareth Evans, Alex Garland, the Coen Brothers, Duncan Jones, and even Orson Welles have debut on the platform. Still, as I said last year, in the midst of all this there have still been a fair few crackers released in UK cinemas 2018. 

At the top of the list is one of the very first films I saw in 2018: Paul Thomas Anderson’s PHANTOM THREAD. In spite of INHERENT VICE’s messiness (though I’m a big defender of the film, which perfectly captures its madcap source novel) and THE MASTER’s stately chill (having seen it three times, it’s easier to admire than to love) I went in with expectations pretty high. It surpassed all of them and I think it’s almost on a plain with his ‘holy trinity’ of BOOGIE NIGHTS, MAGNOLIA, and THERE WILL BE BLOOD. A deceptively simple story of the romance between a fashion designer (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his muse (an underrated Vicky Krieps), it’s subtle, beautifully shot, fascinating, and at times achingly moving. Not that he needs any more awards, but it’s a great pity that Day-Lewis was denied an Oscar to Gary Oldman playing Winston Churchill. Oldman (much as I love him) did an impersonation; with Day-Lewis, you are seeing a fully-fledged human being. I can’t wait to see what PTA has up his sleeve next.

In a close second is the aforementioned ROMA, a film that single-handedly justifies Netflix’s entry into the film world, even though it screams to be seen on the biggest screen possible. Clearly an incredibly personal film, it somehow manages to come across as quietly intimate and astonishingly epic, sometimes within the same shot. Like PHANTOM THREAD, you never feel like you’re eating your cultural sprouts while watching it. It’s left-of-centre for sure, but hits you in the gut with its credible and complex characters. It’s the work of a director at the height of his powers and, I think, Cuarón’s best film yet.

The start of the year also brought three top-notch awards contenders: THREE BILLBOARDS…, LADY BIRD, and THE SHAPE OF WATER. While debate perhaps still rages over the character arc centred on a bigoted police officer, McDonagh’s crime drama is still a fierce piece of cinema boosted by sizzling dialogue and two powerhouse performances from Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell. With LADY BIRD, Greta Gerwig delivered a charming and, at times, heart-breaking coming-of-age film full of life, wit, and warmth. It’ll be interesting to see her forthcoming take on LITTLE WOMEN. While I preferred both of these films to the eventual Best Picture Oscar-winner, THE SHAPE OF WATER, it’s still one of Guillermo Del Toro’s most poignant and imaginative films. A fairy tale with a modern sensibility.

Perhaps proving that highbrow American cinema isn’t completely dead, 2018 delivered a slew of offbeat and imaginative non-genre titles. My favourites in this realm included: the justly-praised and quietly compelling LEAVE NO TRACE; the utterly bonkers retro revenge thriller MANDY, featuring Nic Cage in his best and ‘Cagiest’ performance in years; the darkly comic and twisty THOROUGHBREDS; Paul Schrader’s tormented FIRST REFORMED; and the truly bizarre and unique MY FRIEND DAHMER, which frames the notorious serial killer’s teenage years in the style of a Wes Anderson film.

This year also delivered two superb and very different horror films. While I’m aware not everyone was on-board with Ari Aster’s supernatural breakthrough HEREDITARY, for me it was a genuinely unsettling and completely unpredictable chiller. I went into it cold and was hooked from start to finish. The same was also true of tremendously suspenseful A QUIET PLACE, a film much-lauded for its atmosphere and brilliantly simple premise (in which survivors have to stay silent to avoid monsters who prey on noise). Famously, people were warned against eating snacks in the cinema in order to preserve its tense ambience and in the screening I went to everyone was compliant. It was a true big-screen experience that I can’t imagine works as well at home. It also marks former OFFICE star John Krasinski as an unlikely director to watch for the future. 

Moving into more mainstream territory, I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: FALLOUT, by far the most fun I’ve had in the cinema all year long. It’s nearly two-and-a-half hours long yet never drags and is stuffed with seemingly dozens of terrific action set-pieces and eye-popping stunts. It’s all held together brilliantly by Cruise, now in his fourth decade as a Hollywood A-lister, delivering what could be his best action film yet. While on the action front, the acclaimed BLACK PANTHER proved to be one of the strongest entries in the Marvel canon, helped significantly by its charismatic and complex villain, Killmonger, played brilliantly by Michael B. Jordan. Two very different ‘guilty pleasures’ I’d also like to mention: READY PLAYER ONE and A STAR IS BORN. The former, a joyous retro romp from Spielberg (it’s my favourite of his since CATCH ME IF YOU CAN); the latter, an unexpected delight that is sure to do well in the forthcoming Oscars.

Three animated titles stood out for me this year: COCO, a glorious return-to-form from the increasingly-patchy Pixar featuring eye-popping animation and a touching coming-of-age story at its centre; Aardman’s EARLY MAN, which in spite of its traditional narrative is a frequently-funny and always charming work; and the unexpectedly brilliant SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE, a funny, imaginative, visually stunning, and post-modern take of the most covered of all superheroes that somehow manages to be the strongest instalment in its long-running and oft-rebooted saga.

Moving closer to these shores, there were plenty of intriguing British films – though not all of them were set in the UK. Alex Garland’s sophomore Netflix thriller ANNIHILATION was a confident and compelling step-forward for one of sci-fi’s most engaging voices. WIDOWS, while not as weighty as Steve McQueen’s previous films, was still a smart, layered, and suspenseful thriller. FUNNY COW, featuring a terrific lead performance from Maxine Peake as a struggling comedian in the 1970s, mixed hilarity and heartbreak convincingly; while the bleak drama BEAST marks its star Jessie Buckley and director Michael Pearce as big names to watch.

Sadly, I didn’t see as many foreign films as I would have liked to in 2018 (I missed out on THE SQUARE, LOVELESS, SHOPLIFTERS and A FANTASTIC WOMAN), I did manage to catch a few standout titles such as: THE GUILTY, an astonishingly suspenseful and unpredictable crime drama set entirely in a police despatch room; the lush and romantic COLD WAR from Polish auteur Pawel Pawlikowksi; and the predictably bonkers CLIMAX from French cinema’s greatest provocateur, Gaspar Noe.

Lastly, I’d like to tip my hat to a few film documentaries that caught my eye this year: MCQUEEN was a harrowing and affecting portrait of the famed and tragic fashion designer that never shied away from his faults; Peter Jackson’s THEY SHALL NOT GROW OLD utilised genuinely draw-dropping VFX to bring the real-life trenches of WWI to life in a way that has never been done before; FILMWORKER was a fascinating portrayal of Stanley Kubrick’s long-suffering right-hand man Leon Vitali and a must-see for fans of the master; and, finally, there was AFTER THE SCREAMING STOPS, the hilariously awkward Bros documentary that took the country by storm when it appeared on TV over Christmas. Much has been made (not unfairly) of its SPINAL TAP-like quirkiness yet beneath that there’s a strange sadness to its bizarre heroes that gives the film a strange sense of poignancy. And, yes, it is ridiculous you can’t play conkers in Britain anymore!’

Thank you so much Joe – I have a lot of films to catch up on!

The next newsletter will be on Friday February 8th.

All the best






Jan 25th 2019

TRIBUTE Dramatic Monologues SERIES 2

Posted by admin  /   January 09, 2019  /   Posted in New Scriptwriting  /   Comments Off on TRIBUTE Dramatic Monologues SERIES 2


Hi There and Happy New Year,

If you’ve been reading these newsletters for some time, you may know about the series of podcasts I put out a couple of years ago – 13 dramatic monologues about death.


I’ve finally got around to planning the 2nd series and I’ve decided to go in a different direction this time – LOVE rather than DEATH!

SO – here is an invitation to all of you dramatic writers out there – I am looking for 10 x approximately 10-minute (approx 2000 words max) audio dramatic monologues under the umbrella title LOVE – FIRST CONNECTION.

DEADLINE for entries: March 17th 2019. Please email the scripts as PDF attachments to – philip.shelley@script-consultant.co.uk

This starting point, the ‘first connection’ could be the whole story OR it could be just the catalyst to a story about a much longer relationship.

This could be the positive start of something that turns into something far less positive. Or it could be the very unpromising start of a long, deep, rich relationship. And the nature of the relationships could cover anything from lovers, siblings, parent and child, husband and wife, work colleagues, etc etc.

I’m looking for as much variety and diversity as possible in these stories – in terms of sexuality, age, gender, class, region, nationality, race, wealth etc etc.

And as much variety as possible in the range of stories told – highly unlikely combinations, stories that tackle taboos, but also some straightforwardly beautiful love stories.

Some thoughts about what makes (in my opinion) good dramatic monologues –

You need to think about the perspective of the person delivering the monologue. What is their perspective on the story they’re telling? What is their involvement? What attitude / agenda do they bring to the story they’re telling? What defines their distinctive voice and attitude?

What is the time structure of your story? Is this all told in one block? Or is this a story told over several different scenes and several different timeframes? (In this way you can helpfully keep much of the story alive in the present.)

Monologues aren’t easy. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that all the normal principles of dramatic story-telling don’t apply. But they do! There needs to be a particular and interesting relationship between the narrator and the story they’re telling. Often the ones that don’t quite work are where the POV of the narrator is too neutral and so the exposition is too straightforward and uninflected. We have to get an understanding of, and ask questions about, why the narrator is telling this story. And there needs to be a strong sense of the narrator living in the moment of the scene – rather than just relaying information.

The narrator shouldn’t necessarily be armed with all the information they need / want.

Monologues often work well if you break them up and tell a story over a period of time. Think about the chronology / time sequence of your story.

It’s important that you find a way to give the story and character distinctive lives of their own.

And it’s great if you can be surprising. The umbrella title offers a pretty broad brief – so it’s great if your script can approach the subject in odd, inventive and unexpected ways. I hope you enjoy the challenge. I’m very excited to read your scripts. And if you do submit one – THANK YOU!

As I say, I’m looking to find about 10 of these monologue scripts. Once I have them, I will start planning how to produce them. At this point I can’t guarantee that there will be any money in this project for the writers (or actors) – although I will work hard to see if I can secure some funding – but what I hope I can guarantee is some very useful exposure for the writers whose scripts I choose, and an enjoyable, fulfilling creative journey.

Here are some words from some of the writers who wrote the original TRIBUTE PODCASTS, which I hope will encourage you to want to submit a script for this 2nd series –

I so nearly didn’t send in my entry for the Tribute project.  I was struggling with confidence, and I convinced myself that what I had written was not what was being asked for.  The experience proved to be just so positive, in every way, from Phil’s perceptive and sensitive script editing to the experience in studio (and with the wonderful Sarah Thom, who brought it to life) and then hearing the range and emotional depth of the other pieces.  I am so glad I overcame that self-doubt and submitted my piece, which now sits amidst some extraordinary writing, and I feel really honoured to have been included.


Tribute was fun! A great chance to work on a project with super talented actors and Phil, of course, and see it produced in rapid time. It can be really tough working on long form projects which take an age (if ever) to see the light of day, so Tribute was a real highlight for me and I’d definitely recommend other writers to get involved.


It was a surprise and a major boost to be selected for the first series, particularly when I heard the other pieces of work. They were brilliant! (Listen if you haven’t already!).  It also gave me a much-needed broadcast credit and a way back in to get the conversation started again with people who have liked my work in the past. I think it’s most definitely contributed to interest in my work and certainly opened a few doors.


Having my monologue selected for the Tribute Podcast series came at a time when I was just beginning to doubt my writing ability and boosted my confidence immediately. Seeing the production process from beginning to end was simply a fantastic and valuable experience, giving me a great insight into the collaborative aspect of the creative process. Being part of Tribute knitted me into a wider writing network, helping me to make new friends and strengthening my ties in the industry. It was just fantastic to be involved in.


I’d thoroughly recommend submitting for the next series of TRIBUTE PODCASTS.  I loved it. Phil’s generosity in the way he works meant I felt really valued as a writer and learned a lot, from editing to a deadline, through being in the studio hearing an amazing actor bring my words to life, to the demands of post-production and publicity – and I got to know some awesome people too.  Phil put together a brilliant team and a cracking project and I’m very proud to be a part of it’.


I was a first-time writer on the first series. To have your work expertly edited by someone with a sensitive ear and clear eye is one thing but to then follow the process through to the performing, recording and production of the piece was an exceptional experience. As you can hear, the actors were all excellent and if you haven’t heard your work performed by a first class actor then you are missing half the fun!


My experience of writing and being involved in the recording of Tribute was wonderful from start to finish. My piece was adapted from the eulogy I wrote for my mother who had died only a year before and as such it could have been quite a raw and difficult process, but as ever Phil’s notes on the first draft were helpful and courteously conveyed and the emotional recording was brilliantly handled by himself and Will Mount. Phil is very good at connecting people with each other and building communities. He gathered together a very jolly family of Tributers and there were two or three great pub socials. From the subject of death he created something full of life and joy.


I was very proud to be part of the first series of Tribute. The podcasts were professionally produced with some very talented actors and I enjoyed being part of the community responsible for bringing them to life. As a writer, whenever you see or hear your work you learn something about it that you can’t get just reading the words on the page, and you also of course have the chance to have other people hear and respond to it. I would recommend writers submitting for series two.


From working on the script with top-notch collaborators, to being present at the recording with a terrific actor, the process of bringing the TRIBUTE PODCAST to life was an absolute pleasure. Without doubt, the most fulfilling part is being one of thirteen tributes written by and performed by a talented bunch of writers and performers. I am proud to be part of series one, which is a kaleidoscopic collection of fictionalised eulogies. I cannot wait to listen to the next series. I might be biased, but I think there is little else like it.


I would also like to point you in the direction of a series of interviews by one of the TRIBUTE writers, Robin Bell, with the other 12 writers about each of the scripts. I think these interviews are really good reads (especially if you’ve listened to the monologues under discussion) and will tell you more about the writing process – and what the writers all got out of this process.


The next newsletter will be on Friday Jan 25th,

Until then,

All the best






Jan 11th 2019



Posted by admin  /   December 10, 2018  /   Posted in TV Drama script editing  /   Comments Off on SCRIPT MENTORING

SCRIPT MENTORINGhttp://script-consultant.co.uk/script-mentoring/


Hi There,

This week I’m delighted to announce that I’m re-launching and expanding my SCRIPT MENTORING service through my script-consultant.co.uk website (link above).

Apologies to those of you have been enquiring about this part of my script feedback service in the last few weeks and apologies that I have been stalling you!

Before I launched this initiative I wanted to be clear about exactly what it is I am offering. AND in expanding the service, I am delighted to say that three outstanding industry professionals have agreed to be part of this new initiative – with the prospect of more additions in the next few months – so that we can work with more writers (see below for details).

SO – here is an outline of what this SCRIPT MENTORING service will be about –

Why ‘SCRIPT MENTORING’? Having a long-term relationship (rather than just getting one-off feedback on single scripts) will allow for a closer working partnership and will enable you as writer to get continuous feedback on one or more projects and help you to hone your scripts so that they are ready to go out to the industry.

The relationship will allow for a combination of written feedback and face-to-face meetings. It will also combine feedback on specific projects (whether pitches, outlines, scripts) with professional / career advice, according to your need, and as the working relationship evolves.

I hope working on a longer-term basis with someone who you trust and get to know (and who is speaking from a position of real industry knowledge, experience and expertise) will mean that we can go deeper into your projects and be more helpful, constructive and creative in the way we work with you.

Mentoring relationships will last 6 months – 12 months.

The mentorships will comprise of 7 hours of meetings + 10 hours reading and written feedback from your mentor.

In general, meetings should follow on ASAP after you receive written feedback.

All meetings are to be held in agreed public venues in central London – unless otherwise agreed between writer & mentor.

If mutually convenient, Skype meetings are also possible – but face-to-face meetings are preferable. (We are very happy to work with writers who don’t live in London and are happy to work via Skype, phone and email). And while we think face-to-face meetings are always preferable, logistics and cost of travel are up to you).

The exact make-up of the mentoring relationship will be discussed at the initial meeting and as part of the developing writer / mentor relationship (eg whether you work on already existing scripts or start on a brand-new project).

At the end of the mentorship, we hope to be able to connect you (if so desired) to development executives, producers and literary agents – but this cannot be guaranteed and is dependent on your mentor’s assessment of your project/s at the end of the mentoring period. This will be assessed on a project-by-project basis. We cannot give you a guarantee at the start of the process that we will be able to help you promote and market a project.

COST – £1900. (payment details on the website page)

The maximum period for the mentorships is 1 year. This will only be extended if, at any stage, the mentor takes more than three weeks to get feedback to you. The aim will always be to get feedback to you within 3 weeks, hopefully quicker.

SCRIPT MENTORSHIP places are limited. Interested writers need to submit a sample script and writing CV to apply for a mentorship to philip.shelley@script-consultant.co.uk. We will let you know either way within 3 weeks of receipt of application email, CV & script. Covering emails should explain why you want to take up one of the mentorships and what you want to gain from it. (NB We won’t charge for assessing your application). You don’t need to be an experienced screenwriter to be accepted onto the script mentoring – we aim to work with both new and more experienced writers. But we will assess your level of ability – we want to work with writers who we feel we can help.

Please state in your application which mentor you would like to work with.

I will be working as a script mentor but I am delighted that KITTY PERCY, JAMIE HEWITT and JOE WILLIAMS will also be mentoring writers. Here is a brief introduction to all 3 (there is a more in-depth biog of each of them on the website) –


I first met Kitty when she was on the 2015 Channel 4 Screenwriting Course. She wrote a brilliant script to get onto the course, a brilliant script on the course and has continued in that vein ever since. Without a doubt one of the most talented – and generous – emerging screenwriters in the UK at the moment.


I also met Joe though the C4 screenwriting course. He worked as development co-ordinator in the Channel 4 drama department and was a shadow script editor on 4screenwriting 2015 (and – I’m delighted to say – will be one of the 4 script editors on the 2019 Channel 4 Screenwriting Course). He has since gone onto become head of development at Vox Pictures. For Vox/BBC he script-edited the first series of smash-hit series, KEEPING FAITH and is currently working on KF series 2.


Jamie is someone else I met through the Channel 4 screenwriting course – as a script reader, shadow script editor and then as script editor, Jamie has been involved in the 4screenwriting course for several years and always seems to help the writers he works with to maximise their talents. As well as all his work on the Channel 4 course, Jamie has worked on some of the most intense, productive UK TV shows – DOCTORS, HOLBY (BBC), STRIKE BACK (Left Bank/ Sky).

Jamie and Joe have both worked with many new (as well as experienced) writers and (IMO) are two of the most talented, thoughtful script editors working in the UK today.

I have also been talking to other writers and script editors and we will be adding further names to the script-consultant SCRIPT MENTORING in 2019.

All the details – in more depth – are now on my website –




Please can I point you in the direction of screenwriter CHRIS LANG’s new website – https://www.chrislang.co.uk/

Chris is the Real Deal – successful writer of very many UK TV dramas including the perennially excellent UNFORGOTTEN. Chris’s website is a mine of useful information but the ‘Scripts’ section is particularly good. As well as the scripts, there are quite a few treatments and outlines – I think the UNFORGOTTEN series 3 outline is particularly good – a really good example of how to write these incredibly difficult documents. (Thank you Deborah Lewis for bringing this to my attention!)

And – a discussion between screenwriter HOSSEIN AMINI and screen/stage writer CONOR MCPHERSON – which is fascinating about the craft of dramatic story-telling. (Thank you Nigel Pilkington!)



And here’s a link to an excellent article on the Bruntwood Prize website by 4screenwriting alumna SOPHIE WOOLLEY thank you Sophie!




This is the last of my newsletters before Christmas. The next newsletter will be on Friday Jan 11th 2019, when I am excited to be telling you about my plans for series 2 of my TRIBUTE dramatic monologues podcast series.

I hope you have a great Christmas & New Year. I wish you the very best for all of your writing endeavours in 2019.

And I’d like to say a massive thank you to all of you for reading these fortnightly newsletters. And a particularly big thank you to all of you who, either by email or in person, have given me positive feedback about the newsletters. It’s very much appreciated and a great motivating factor for me to continue to write them. Thank you!

All the best






Dec 14th 2018





Posted by admin  /   November 25, 2018  /   Posted in Thoughts on Screenwriting  /   Comments Off on CHANNEL 4 SCREENWRITING COURSE 2019 : SCRIPT READER FEEDBACK



Hi There,

This week I’m indebted to my very excellent team of readers for the 2019 CHANNEL 4 SCREENWRITING COURSE for sharing their thoughts and responses about what has been an intense reading process that we’ve all just undergone in finalising the shortlist of 34 writers for interview.

I’m hugely impressed by my readers’ insights – I think their observations are highly perceptive and will be of great value to screenwriters.


Every reader reads 100+ scripts. Each script is only guaranteed a 20-page read. With 100+ scripts, finite hours in the day, and a dwindling lifeforce, a reader is only going to read beyond page 20 if a script has engaged them. There are several tips one could offer here. But I am going to focus on one: have a meaningful premise and then plot it in such a way that its dramatic question keeps evolving.

For example, let’s say my series is a romcom about two characters called, I dunno, “Ray” and “Philip”. As the writer, I have also decided two things: 1) By Episode 6, I want my randomly named characters to consummate their relationship; 2) At the start of Episode 1, they don’t know each other.

Many scripts submitted this year would write Episode 1 as a bunch of incidents and verbal exchanges in which characters are introduced and by the end of which Ray and Philip are aware of each other’s existence. What does this mean? It means the story for the whole episode is “Ray meets Philip”. Hardly a dynamic, dramatic or gripping premise – really, just one beat stretched over dozens of pages.

So, I need to break down the journey to Raylip’s consummation into interesting or meaningful staging posts. Perhaps a more useful story for Episode 1 is “Philip realises there is something special about Ray”. Well, it gives us something to play with. However, many of the scripts submitted this year would plot this story as: 1) Ray meets Philip; 2) They have a long conversation; 3) As Ray walks away, Philip realises there is something special about him. Again – hardly dynamic, dramatic or gripping.

Although the story of the episode (Philip realises there is something special about Ray) is one piece of the series arc (Ray and Philip Get It On), how that episode’s story is plotted can to an extent be self-contained and deploy all of the usual story-telling tools (e.g. inciting incident, turning point, complication, resolution, etc.) so that its beats take place in a plot that develops, has movement, and maybe surprise. Consequently, Episode 1 keeps you turning the page and is a satisfying narrative experience whilst also establishing the characters, tone, style, and premise of the overall series.

To illustrate: Philip turns up to the first Script Reading meeting late, apologising for the Nutella* fingerprints on his notes, he was throwing out an old jar that was past its best-before date; nervous before his master, sweet-tooth’d Ray can’t believe anyone would let a jar go out-of-date; Philip jokingly suggests Ray would drink a jar down in one go, Ray scoffs that of course he can, Philip thinks he’s lying, an argument escalates and Philip challenges Ray to prove it next week or else get thrown out of the Script Reading Members Club; despite counsel from fellow readers, Ray goes into training but can never manage a whole tub; meanwhile, Philip attends a Channel 4 H&S course and begins to regret his actions; Ray realises he will fail and be thrown out of the script reading circle, he weeps as he reads his last few scripts; at the next meeting, defiant Ray disgorges a tub of Nutella into his mouth, but dehydrates quickly and begins to struggle, H&S trained Philip springs into action and tips the undried tears from the scripts into Ray’s throat for lubrication; Ray thanks Philip, his status as script reader safe for now and… as Ray walks away, Philip realises there is something special about him.

Obviously, this is nonsense and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. But the point is: 1) You can plot a story a million different ways, but many of the submissions don’t plot they simply parse out a premise; 2) A pilot episode needs to introduce characters, its world and series questions, but a good way to do this is through the prism of a self-contained narrative serving a broader arc; 3) With the plot settled on, you can organise your script along a series of evolving questions that help propel the reader forward (e.g., will Philip get to the meeting on time? Will nervous Ray make an idiot of himself at the meeting? Will Ray get kicked out of the Script Reading Club? Can Philip stop Ray from doing something foolish? Will Ray die eating a jar of Nutella?) – thus maximising your chances of a reader reading beyond page 20.

*N.B. Yes, I am eating Nutella as I write this.

Ray McBride


How to write a winning script in 5 cliches

1) Write what you know

This doesn’t mean that if you run a bakery in Brighton, you can only write Brighton based bakery dramas. It means everyone knows something— grief, loss, shame— in a way that nobody else does, and that something-only-you-know is the magic ingredient to any script. The best scripts I read were the ones that were the most honest about this something, whether the setting was post-apocalypse England or a hospital or an office. If it’s real to you, it’s real to me, and if it’s real to me I’m going to care.

2) Get in late, leave early

Every line on the page is precious space, don’t waste it. If the point of the scene is that Annie is pregnant, I don’t need to see Annie going to the pharmacy, getting the test, finding a toilet, waiting for it to be free… just show me the test. Get in, get out, keep moving. A slow pace is the first thing to stop me reading on in a script.

3) Tell your story in the simplest way possible 

There’s a fine line between complex and complicated. There seems to be an urge for new writers to prove themselves by adding time jumps, multiple character threads and dream sequences, but this doesn’t actually prove you can write. Good stories generally know how they want to be told, and good writing is learning how to tap into that. If a story needs a flashback, it will tell you so.

4) First impressions count

Frankly, when I open a badly formatted script, I mark it down in my head. Good formatting not only makes the reading easier, but gives me a sense of the writer’s professionalism and commitment to their craft. Not everyone can afford Final Draft, but free alternatives like Celtx are easy to use and come out beautifully.

Good formatting also means giving me a maximum of five lines of action description per paragraph, labelling your time jumps, and proof reading to make sure you’ve put all the right character names in the dialogue. These kinds of mistakes slow down my reading of the script, and even if the story is good it’ll be hard to shake the negative first impression.

5) Trust your reader, have confidence

Cut your adverbs. Cut any line that starts with ‘he/she feels’. Cut any recapping of the plot so far, or reminding of the stakes. Don’t tell me what’s happening in the story, tell me your story. If it’s strong enough, I’ll get it, and I’ll like it all the more for trusting me to get it

Lily Shahmoon


Think really hard about who your characters are and why your reader or audience will want to spend time with them. Will they have seen a character of this description (eg, a disillusioned millennial stuck living with their parents, a lonely middle aged male detective) before, and if so, how is this version different? Perhaps they’re in a completely unfamiliar setting, or genre? The key is to be distinct without feeling contrived: if you’re having to work too hard to distinguish your character from their cinematic predecessors, it might be a sign that you need to choose someone else as a focus for your story.

Don’t neglect plot. Compelling characters and good dialogue alone won’t keep us hooked – or, crucially, suggest an aptitude for writing TV, which demands scope. And don’t let the plot fizzle out, either: structure your writing carefully to ensure that the characters’ circumstances need to keep evolving right until the end.

Finally: the submissions that stood out were those that left the strongest emotional impact. This doesn’t need to mean high drama, either: some of the most touching moments were in the quietest scripts. What those scripts shared, however, was a degree of focus in the writing that allowed us to become completely absorbed by the story and characters. Without this, it’s impossible to let your critical faculties relax enough to be really moved.

Nancy Napper Canter


Conversation vs. Dialogue:

Lots of dialogue fell into the trap of just being conversational. Of course you want your dialogue to give the illusion of two (or more) people talking naturally but it has to do more for your story than just that, because dialogue in drama (and comedy) is not just people talking. There was a trend in the scripts I read for lots of ‘banter’ (for want of a better word) between characters. The problem with a lot of this type was that there was a sense of fun in these scenes for the writer writing it but it wasn’t adding anything to the scene or the overall story. If you’re a fan of this style then go back to a TV show or film you admire that does it and analyse how it’s done within the context of the scene as a whole. Don’t take into account just the dialogue but all the elements of the scene in how this works.

For the purpose of making a point about dialogue, and this is a really basic example; think of a conversation between two people about a cup of tea and how they like it, which probably at face value isn’t going to be interesting or dramatic, but it could be depending on the characters, the situation, and your voice as a writer.

For example; A wife comes home to her husband and he hides his mistress under the bed and the unsuspecting spouse begins a conversation about if he wants a cup of tea, now there is dramatic impetus to what otherwise would be a mundane conversation. Then what if perhaps the unsuspecting spouse actually knows about the mistress under the bed but still starts this conversation, there are so many elements to play with. The situation informs how the characters act and speak, they’ve got motives, and you’ve got the opportunity for subtext, tension, and therefore; drama.

Or for comedy you only have to think about how well something like The Royle Family tackled seemingly mundane life and conversations and turned them into comedy gold – mainly through absolute clarity of character and their relationships and interactions with each other.

What’s it about?

The less successful scripts I read were unclear what they were about. When we write our reports for Philip we are asked to write a simple Logline or synopsis of what we’d read and there were quite a few occasions where this was difficult because there was a lack of clarity and purpose to the beginning of the scripts. Even if you’re dealing with a complex or surprising plot the premise, generally, should be clear in the opening pages. As a reader (and/or viewer) we want to know what we’re signing up for.

What’s the point?

As a side note to that there were quite a lot of scripts inspired by the politics of our time. If you’re tackling an issue you really need to be clear what your message is and if your plot is really the best vehicle to explore that issue. There were some writers that tackled issues such as #metoo and #timesup, and racism, and sexism, but although their intentions were sincere they missed the mark in actually communicating what I think they were trying to say. If you’re going to tackle anything like this you really have to be clear on what your message is and interrogate how you tell that as a dramatic story.


I’d say one of the main weaknesses in the unsuccessful scripts was plot. There could be a great premise and characters but the plot itself wasn’t engaging or told in an interesting or surprising way. Most writers could have afforded to push themselves harder in finding the best plot to tell their story in a more original way.

And from someone far more prolific and worth listening to than me….

A really useful and concise piece of advice on writing is David Mamet’s memo to the writers of The Unit. Read it, it’s really useful, and be honest with yourself about your own writing and where it could improve and if you’re doing these things.   https://gideonsway.wordpress.com/2010/04/06/david-mamets-letter-to-the-writers-of-the-unit/

Paul Williams


I will keep this brief, as the wise words of the other readers have covered much of our experience. The main thing to say is essentially:

Create characters that you care deeply for, and the reader will care too. This will root them in your plot, ensuring you make the right decisions for their story.

Slightly off topic but important, one pattern that it would be great not to see repeated:

Please treat your female characters with the same respect as you do male characters. If I have to read another character description along the lines of ‘she’s 40 but looks good for her age’, I may scratch my eyes out.

It was a pleasure reading so many inventive, moving scripts – please keep writing!

Amy Chappelhow


Thank you so much to Ray, Lily, Nancy, Paul and Amy for taking the trouble to share their insights – and for the brilliant work they have done as readers for the 2019 C4 screenwriting course. And thank you to all you writers who have had the courage and commitment to your craft for submitting your scripts and giving us the privilege of enjoying your stories.

The next newsletter will be on Friday Dec 14th – in which I will let you know about a new SCRIPT MENTORING initiative I’m starting through my website.

Until then

All the best






November 30th 2018