THE SOCIOPATH TEST

Posted by admin  /   May 27, 2020  /   Posted in Uncategorized  /   Comments Off on THE SOCIOPATH TEST

Hi There,

I’m really sorry that there is so little about screenwriting in this week’s blog. I’d meant for this to be a tiny footnote at the bottom of the blog, but…I got carried away. I do try to stick to screenwriting (and there are a couple of – hopefully – useful connections to screenwriting and storytelling in here). And I will be back to writing exclusively about screenwriting from next week. But I think this is important and it’s taken over my week and got in the way of work…

THE SOCIOPATH TEST

I couldn’t let this week’s blog go by without saying something about the huge and demoralising frustrations I’m (we’re?) feeling, having to live through Johnson and Cummings’s arrogance and dishonesty over the last week. I don’t know about you but I’ve been coping OK in lockdown up until recently – and then observing Johnson and Cummings and their utter contempt for us over the last week really knocked me back and demoralised me. Day after day we have been taken for mugs as they insult us with their lies. A 60 mile round trip to a local beauty spot on his wife’s birthday with both wife and son in the car, ‘to test his eyesight.’ If it took 60 miles of driving to decide whether his eyesight was up to driving, then it clearly wasn’t! And then suddenly the cabinet decided to agree that eyesight problems are a recognised covid symptom (which they’re not).

The fact is that his actions were exactly what the government advice was designed to stop – people from one area of the country with a high rate of infection (London) – who suspect they’re infected –  taking the disease to another area of the country with a low rate of infection (Durham). We all knew that if we were showing symptoms, the worst possible thing we could do was travel with those symptoms to another part of the country. To really put the cap on this, he even took his son to a hospital in Durham!

The idea that the most important government advisor, at a time when he potentially had even more responsibility because his sidekick, sorry boss, was ill, couldn’t get access to childcare in one of the biggest first-world cities on the planet is palpable crap.

And yet there was not one iota of remorse or apology from either him or the PM, despite the fact that millions of other people have brilliantly and quite rightly taken the rules as gospel and made no attempt to ‘interpret’ them to their own advantage. And the way other cabinet members are then wheeled out to support the party lines (lies) using exactly the same language as each other doesn’t even attempt to hide the transparency that this is propaganda rather than sincerely-held opinion.

When thinking about all the people who have suffered in silence and shown such forbearance, it really twists my guts in fury seeing their sociopathic behaviour. My own uncle died three weeks ago. I wasn’t close to him, but his three children and five grandchildren weren’t able to go to his funeral – just one example of many, many thousands who will be feeling hugely slighted by Johnson and Cummings’ complete lack of remorse or apology for Cummings’ crystal-clear flouting of the lockdown regulations at the time – however he (extraordinarily incompetently) tries to spin it.

As a matter of interest, I checked online the qualities that you need to be defined as a sociopath. They are –

1 Glibness and Superficial Charm.

2 Manipulative and Conning. They never recognize the rights of others and see their self-serving behaviours as permissible.

3 Grandiose Sense of Self.

4 Pathological Lying.

5 Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt.  

6 Shallow Emotions.

7 Incapacity for Love(?)

8 Need for Stimulation.’

From what I’ve seen of him, that list seems to pretty accurately sum up Cummings! (I’ve crossed out the only one that doesn’t seem to apply.)

It’s an important facet of screenwriting that one tiny image can get to the nub of a scene when pages of dialogue don’t quite do it. And so it was with Cummings, caught on Sky News cameras with a nasty little smirk on his face as he walked away from his press conference, that spoke volumes about his contempt for everyone who isn’t as ‘smart’ as he is.

I’ve taken this directly from a Twitter thread by @RussInCheshire which sums up the story clearly and excellently. (Twitter has been both a comfort and a curse this last week – a comfort for its brilliant writing and being able to share in the generalised outrage; but also a curse in that it has ratcheted up my fury even further).

 1. Dominic Cummings, one of the few men to have ever been found in contempt of Parliament, moved onto contempt for everything

2. When the story broke, and he was accused of doing things that look bad, he said he didn’t

3. Then ministers said press outrage meant nothing, only the opinion of the people mattered 

4. Then polls showed 52% of people wanted Cummings to resign

5. So Cummings decided to show the public some respect, by turning up 30 minutes late to make his explanation

6. He began by saying he wasn’t speaking for the govt, which must be why he was in the Rose Garden of 10 Downing Street 

7. Then the self-styled “enemy of the Islington media elite” said his wife, who works in the media, had been ill in their house in Islington

8. But she was only a bit ill, so he popped home, got himself nice and infected, then went back to Downing Street for meetings with lots of vitally important people in the middle of a national crisis

9. But then he got ill too, so then it was suddenly important

10. Sadly he couldn’t get childcare in London, even though 3 immediate relatives live within 3 miles of his London home

11. So because he was carrying a virus that can cross a 2 metre distance and kill, he immediately locked himself in a car with his wife and child for 5 hours

12. He then drove 264 miles without stopping in a Land Rover that gets maybe 25 MPG

13. Then the scourge of the metropolitan elites made himself extra-relatable by describing his family’s sprawling country estate, multiple houses and idyllic woodlands

14. He explained that he’d warned about a coronavirus years ago in his blog

15. Then it was revealed he actually secretly amended old blogs after he’d returned from Durham

16. And anyway, if he’d warned years ago, why was he so massively unprepared and slow to react?

17. Then he said he was too ill to move for a week

18. But in the middle of that week, presumably with “wonky eyes”, he drove his child to hospital

19. Then he said that to test his “wonky eyes” he put his wife and child in a car and drove 30 miles on public roads

20. Then it was revealed his wife drives, so there was no reason for the “eye test”, cos she could have driven them back to London

21. Then it was revealed the “eye test” trip to a local tourist spot took place on his wife’s birthday

22. Then cameras filmed as he threw a cup onto the table, smirked and left

23. And then it emerged his wife had written an article during the time in Dunham, describing their experience of being in lockdown in London, which you’d definitely do if you weren’t hiding anything

24. A govt scientific advisor said “more people will die” as a result of what Cummings had done.

25. Boris Johnson said he “wouldn’t mark Cummings ” down for what he’d done.

26. The Attorney General said it was ok to break the law if you were acting on instinct

27. The Health Minister said it was OK to endanger public health if you meant well

28. Johnson said Cummings’ “story rings true” because his own eyesight was fine before coronavirus, but now he needs glasses

29. But in an interview with The Telegraph 5 years ago, Johnson said he needed glasses cos he was “blind as a bat”

30. Michael Gove went on TV and said it was “wise” to drive 30 miles on public roads with your family in the car to test your eyesight

31. The DVLA tweeted that you should never, ever do this

32. Then ministers started claiming Cummings had to go to Durham because he feared crowds attacking his home. The streets were empty because we were observing the lockdown.

33. And then a minister finally resigned

34. Steve Baker, Richard Littlejohn, Isabel Oakeshott, Tim Montgomerie, Jan Moir, Ian Dale, Julia Hartley Brewer, 30 Tory MPs, half a dozen bishops and the actual Daily Mail said Cummings should go

35. The govt suggested we can ignore them, because they’re all left-wingers

36. Then a vicar asked Matt Hancock if other people who had been fined for doing exactly what Cummings did would get their fine dropped. Matt Hancock said he’d suggest it to the govt

37. The govt said no within an hour. Cummings’ statement had lasted longer than that

38. And if the guidelines were so clear, why were people being stopped and fined for driving to find childcare in the first place?

39. Then a new poll found people who wanted Cummings sacked had risen from 52% to 57%

40. Cummings is considered the smartest man in the govt

41. And in the middle of all this, in case we take our eye off it: we reached 60,000 deaths. One of the highest per capita death rates worldwide.

42. We still face Brexit under this lot.

43. It’s 4 years until an election

As I said, it’s back to screenwriting next week with a brilliant guest blog from director RICHARD LAXTON and screenwriter ANNA SYMON.

Until then, stay safe and positive,

All the best

Phil

PHILIP SHELLEY

www.script-consultant.co.uk

www.tributepodcasts.co.uk

Twitter: @PhilipShelley1

May 29th 2020

THE SOCIOPATH TEST

Posted by admin  /   May 27, 2020  /   Posted in Thoughts on Screenwriting, Uncategorized  /   Comments Off on THE SOCIOPATH TEST

Hi There,

I’m really sorry that there is so little about screenwriting in this week’s blog. I’d meant for this to be a tiny footnote at the bottom of the blog, but…I got carried away. I do try to stick to screenwriting (and there are a couple of – hopefully – useful connections to screenwriting and storytelling in here). And I will be back to writing exclusively about screenwriting from next week. But I think this is important and it’s taken over my week and got in the way of work…

THE SOCIOPATH TEST

I couldn’t let this week’s blog go by without saying something about the huge and demoralising frustrations I’m (we’re?) feeling, having to live through Johnson and Cummings’s arrogance and dishonesty over the last week. I don’t know about you but I’ve been coping OK in lockdown up until recently – and then observing Johnson and Cummings and their utter contempt for us over the last week really knocked me back and demoralised me. Day after day we have been taken for mugs as they insult us with their lies. A 60 mile round trip to a local beauty spot on his wife’s birthday with both wife and son in the car, ‘to test his eyesight.’ If it took 60 miles of driving to decide whether his eyesight was up to driving, then it clearly wasn’t! And then suddenly the cabinet decided to agree that eyesight problems are a recognised covid symptom (which they’re not).

The fact is that his actions were exactly what the government advice was designed to stop – people from one area of the country with a high rate of infection (London) – who suspect they’re infected –  taking the disease to another area of the country with a low rate of infection (Durham). We all knew that if we were showing symptoms, the worst possible thing we could do was travel with those symptoms to another part of the country. To really put the cap on this, he even took his son to a hospital in Durham!

The idea that the most important government advisor, at a time when he potentially had even more responsibility because his sidekick, sorry boss, was ill, couldn’t get access to childcare in one of the biggest first-world cities on the planet is palpable crap.

And yet there was not one iota of remorse or apology from either him or the PM, despite the fact that millions of other people have brilliantly and quite rightly taken the rules as gospel and made no attempt to ‘interpret’ them to their own advantage. And the way other cabinet members are then wheeled out to support the party lines (lies) using exactly the same language as each other doesn’t even attempt to hide the transparency that this is propaganda rather than sincerely-held opinion.

When thinking about all the people who have suffered in silence and shown such forbearance, it really twists my guts in fury seeing their sociopathic behaviour. My own uncle died three weeks ago. I wasn’t close to him, but his three children and five grandchildren weren’t able to go to his funeral – just one example of many, many thousands who will be feeling hugely slighted by Johnson and Cummings’ complete lack of remorse or apology for Cummings’ crystal-clear flouting of the lockdown regulations at the time – however he (extraordinarily incompetently) tries to spin it.

As a matter of interest, I checked online the qualities that you need to be defined as a sociopath. They are –

1 Glibness and Superficial Charm.

2 Manipulative and Conning. They never recognize the rights of others and see their self-serving behaviours as permissible.

3 Grandiose Sense of Self.

4 Pathological Lying.

5 Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt.  

6 Shallow Emotions.

7 Incapacity for Love(?)

8 Need for Stimulation.’

From what I’ve seen of him, that list seems to pretty accurately sum up Cummings! (I’ve crossed out the only one that doesn’t seem to apply.)

It’s an important facet of screenwriting that one tiny image can get to the nub of a scene when pages of dialogue don’t quite do it. And so it was with Cummings, caught on Sky News cameras with a nasty little smirk on his face as he walked away from his press conference, that spoke volumes about his contempt for everyone who isn’t as ‘smart’ as he is.

I’ve taken this directly from a Twitter thread by @RussInCheshire which sums up the story clearly and excellently. (Twitter has been both a comfort and a curse this last week – a comfort for its brilliant writing and being able to share in the generalised outrage; but also a curse in that it has ratcheted up my fury even further).

 1. Dominic Cummings, one of the few men to have ever been found in contempt of Parliament, moved onto contempt for everything

2. When the story broke, and he was accused of doing things that look bad, he said he didn’t

3. Then ministers said press outrage meant nothing, only the opinion of the people mattered 

4. Then polls showed 52% of people wanted Cummings to resign

5. So Cummings decided to show the public some respect, by turning up 30 minutes late to make his explanation

6. He began by saying he wasn’t speaking for the govt, which must be why he was in the Rose Garden of 10 Downing Street 

7. Then the self-styled “enemy of the Islington media elite” said his wife, who works in the media, had been ill in their house in Islington

8. But she was only a bit ill, so he popped home, got himself nice and infected, then went back to Downing Street for meetings with lots of vitally important people in the middle of a national crisis

9. But then he got ill too, so then it was suddenly important

10. Sadly he couldn’t get childcare in London, even though 3 immediate relatives live within 3 miles of his London home

11. So because he was carrying a virus that can cross a 2 metre distance and kill, he immediately locked himself in a car with his wife and child for 5 hours

12. He then drove 264 miles without stopping in a Land Rover that gets maybe 25 MPG

13. Then the scourge of the metropolitan elites made himself extra-relatable by describing his family’s sprawling country estate, multiple houses and idyllic woodlands

14. He explained that he’d warned about a coronavirus years ago in his blog

15. Then it was revealed he actually secretly amended old blogs after he’d returned from Durham

16. And anyway, if he’d warned years ago, why was he so massively unprepared and slow to react?

17. Then he said he was too ill to move for a week

18. But in the middle of that week, presumably with “wonky eyes”, he drove his child to hospital

19. Then he said that to test his “wonky eyes” he put his wife and child in a car and drove 30 miles on public roads

20. Then it was revealed his wife drives, so there was no reason for the “eye test”, cos she could have driven them back to London

21. Then it was revealed the “eye test” trip to a local tourist spot took place on his wife’s birthday

22. Then cameras filmed as he threw a cup onto the table, smirked and left

23. And then it emerged his wife had written an article during the time in Durham, describing their experience of being in lockdown in London, which you’d definitely do if you weren’t hiding anything

24. A govt scientific advisor said “more people will die” as a result of what Cummings had done.

25. Boris Johnson said he “wouldn’t mark Cummings ” down for what he’d done.

26. The Attorney General said it was ok to break the law if you were acting on instinct

27. The Health Minister said it was OK to endanger public health if you meant well

28. Johnson said Cummings’ “story rings true” because his own eyesight was fine before coronavirus, but now he needs glasses

29. But in an interview with The Telegraph 5 years ago, Johnson said he needed glasses cos he was “blind as a bat”

30. Michael Gove went on TV and said it was “wise” to drive 30 miles on public roads with your family in the car to test your eyesight

31. The DVLA tweeted that you should never, ever do this

32. Then ministers started claiming Cummings had to go to Durham because he feared crowds attacking his home. The streets were empty because we were observing the lockdown.

33. And then a minister finally resigned

34. Steve Baker, Richard Littlejohn, Isabel Oakeshott, Tim Montgomerie, Jan Moir, Ian Dale, Julia Hartley Brewer, 30 Tory MPs, half a dozen bishops and the actual Daily Mail said Cummings should go

35. The govt suggested we can ignore them, because they’re all left-wingers

36. Then a vicar asked Matt Hancock if other people who had been fined for doing exactly what Cummings did would get their fine dropped. Matt Hancock said he’d suggest it to the govt

37. The govt said no within an hour. Cummings’ statement had lasted longer than that

38. And if the guidelines were so clear, why were people being stopped and fined for driving to find childcare in the first place?

39. Then a new poll found people who wanted Cummings sacked had risen from 52% to 57%

40. Cummings is considered the smartest man in the govt

41. And in the middle of all this, in case we take our eye off it: we reached 60,000 deaths. One of the highest per capita death rates worldwide.

42. We still face Brexit under this lot.

43. It’s 4 years until an election

As I said, it’s back to screenwriting next week with a brilliant guest blog from director RICHARD LAXTON and screenwriter ANNA SYMON.

Until then, stay safe and positive,

All the best

Phil

PHILIP SHELLEY

www.script-consultant.co.uk

www.tributepodcasts.co.uk

Twitter: @PhilipShelley1

May 29th 2020

THE SOCIOPATH TEST

Posted by admin  /   May 27, 2020  /   Posted in Thoughts on Screenwriting  /   Comments Off on THE SOCIOPATH TEST

Hi There,

I’m really sorry that there is so little about screenwriting in this week’s blog. I’d meant for this to be a tiny footnote at the bottom of the blog, but…I got carried away. I do try to stick to screenwriting (and there are a couple of – hopefully – useful connections to screenwriting and storytelling in here). And I will be back to writing exclusively about screenwriting from next week. But I think this is important and it’s taken over my week and got in the way of work…

THE SOCIOPATH TEST

I couldn’t let this week’s blog go by without saying something about the huge and demoralising frustrations I’m (we’re?) feeling, having to live through Johnson and Cummings’s arrogance and dishonesty over the last week. I don’t know about you but I’ve been coping OK in lockdown up until recently – and then observing Johnson and Cummings and their utter contempt for us over the last week really knocked me back and demoralised me. Day after day we have been taken for mugs as they insult us with their lies. A 60 mile round trip to a local beauty spot on his wife’s birthday with both wife and son in the car, ‘to test his eyesight.’ If it took 60 miles of driving to decide whether his eyesight was up to driving, then it clearly wasn’t! And then suddenly the cabinet decided to agree that eyesight problems are a recognised covid symptom (which they’re not).

The fact is that his actions were exactly what the government advice was designed to stop – people from one area of the country with a high rate of infection (London) – who suspect they’re infected –  taking the disease to another area of the country with a low rate of infection (Durham). We all knew that if we were showing symptoms, the worst possible thing we could do was travel with those symptoms to another part of the country. To really put the cap on this, he even took his son to a hospital in Durham!

The idea that the most important government advisor, at a time when he potentially had even more responsibility because his sidekick, sorry boss, was ill, couldn’t get access to childcare in one of the biggest first-world cities on the planet is palpable crap.

And yet there was not one iota of remorse or apology from either him or the PM, despite the fact that millions of other people have brilliantly and quite rightly taken the rules as gospel and made no attempt to ‘interpret’ them to their own advantage. And the way other cabinet members are then wheeled out to support the party lines (lies) using exactly the same language as each other doesn’t even attempt to hide the transparency that this is propaganda rather than sincerely-held opinion.

When thinking about all the people who have suffered in silence and shown such forbearance, it really twists my guts in fury seeing their sociopathic behaviour. My own uncle died three weeks ago. I wasn’t close to him, but his three children and five grandchildren weren’t able to go to his funeral – just one example of many, many thousands who will be feeling hugely slighted by Johnson and Cummings’ complete lack of remorse or apology for Cummings’ crystal-clear flouting of the lockdown regulations at the time – however he (extraordinarily incompetently) tries to spin it.

As a matter of interest, I checked online the qualities that you need to be defined as a sociopath. They are –

1 Glibness and Superficial Charm.

2 Manipulative and Conning. They never recognize the rights of others and see their self-serving behaviours as permissible.

3 Grandiose Sense of Self.

4 Pathological Lying.

5 Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt.  

6 Shallow Emotions.

7 Incapacity for Love(?)

8 Need for Stimulation.’

From what I’ve seen of him, that list seems to pretty accurately sum up Cummings! (I’ve crossed out the only one that doesn’t seem to apply.)

It’s an important facet of screenwriting that one tiny image can get to the nub of a scene when pages of dialogue don’t quite do it. And so it was with Cummings, caught on Sky News cameras with a nasty little smirk on his face as he walked away from his press conference, that spoke volumes about his contempt for everyone who isn’t as ‘smart’ as he is.

I’ve taken this directly from a Twitter thread by @RussInCheshire which sums up the story clearly and excellently. (Twitter has been both a comfort and a curse this last week – a comfort for its brilliant writing and being able to share in the generalised outrage; but also a curse in that it has ratcheted up my fury even further).

 1. Dominic Cummings, one of the few men to have ever been found in contempt of Parliament, moved onto contempt for everything

2. When the story broke, and he was accused of doing things that look bad, he said he didn’t

3. Then ministers said press outrage meant nothing, only the opinion of the people mattered 

4. Then polls showed 52% of people wanted Cummings to resign

5. So Cummings decided to show the public some respect, by turning up 30 minutes late to make his explanation

6. He began by saying he wasn’t speaking for the govt, which must be why he was in the Rose Garden of 10 Downing Street 

7. Then the self-styled “enemy of the Islington media elite” said his wife, who works in the media, had been ill in their house in Islington

8. But she was only a bit ill, so he popped home, got himself nice and infected, then went back to Downing Street for meetings with lots of vitally important people in the middle of a national crisis

9. But then he got ill too, so then it was suddenly important

10. Sadly he couldn’t get childcare in London, even though 3 immediate relatives live within 3 miles of his London home

11. So because he was carrying a virus that can cross a 2 metre distance and kill, he immediately locked himself in a car with his wife and child for 5 hours

 

12. He then drove 264 miles without stopping in a Land Rover that gets maybe 25 MPG

13. Then the scourge of the metropolitan elites made himself extra-relatable by describing his family’s sprawling country estate, multiple houses and idyllic woodlands

14. He explained that he’d warned about a coronavirus years ago in his blog

15. Then it was revealed he actually secretly amended old blogs after he’d returned from Durham

16. And anyway, if he’d warned years ago, why was he so massively unprepared and slow to react?

17. Then he said he was too ill to move for a week

18. But in the middle of that week, presumably with “wonky eyes”, he drove his child to hospital

19. Then he said that to test his “wonky eyes” he put his wife and child in a car and drove 30 miles on public roads

20. Then it was revealed his wife drives, so there was no reason for the “eye test”, cos she could have driven them back to London

21. Then it was revealed the “eye test” trip to a local tourist spot took place on his wife’s birthday

22. Then cameras filmed as he threw a cup onto the table, smirked and left

23. And then it emerged his wife had written an article during the time in Durham, describing their experience of being in lockdown in London, which you’d definitely do if you weren’t hiding anything

24. A govt scientific advisor said “more people will die” as a result of what Cummings had done.

25. Boris Johnson said he “wouldn’t mark Cummings ” down for what he’d done.

26. The Attorney General said it was ok to break the law if you were acting on instinct

27. The Health Minister said it was OK to endanger public health if you meant well

28. Johnson said Cummings’ “story rings true” because his own eyesight was fine before coronavirus, but now he needs glasses

29. But in an interview with The Telegraph 5 years ago, Johnson said he needed glasses cos he was “blind as a bat”

30. Michael Gove went on TV and said it was “wise” to drive 30 miles on public roads with your family in the car to test your eyesight

31. The DVLA tweeted that you should never, ever do this

32. Then ministers started claiming Cummings had to go to Durham because he feared crowds attacking his home. The streets were empty because we were observing the lockdown.

33. And then a minister finally resigned

34. Steve Baker, Richard Littlejohn, Isabel Oakeshott, Tim Montgomerie, Jan Moir, Ian Dale, Julia Hartley Brewer, 30 Tory MPs, half a dozen bishops and the actual Daily Mail said Cummings should go

35. The govt suggested we can ignore them, because they’re all left-wingers

36. Then a vicar asked Matt Hancock if other people who had been fined for doing exactly what Cummings did would get their fine dropped. Matt Hancock said he’d suggest it to the govt

37. The govt said no within an hour. Cummings’ statement had lasted longer than that

38. And if the guidelines were so clear, why were people being stopped and fined for driving to find childcare in the first place?

39. Then a new poll found people who wanted Cummings sacked had risen from 52% to 57%

40. Cummings is considered the smartest man in the govt

41. And in the middle of all this, in case we take our eye off it: we reached 60,000 deaths. One of the highest per capita death rates worldwide.

42. We still face Brexit under this lot.

43. It’s 4 years until an election

As I said, it’s back to screenwriting next week with a brilliant guest blog from director RICHARD LAXTON and screenwriter ANNA SYMON.

Until then, stay safe and positive,

All the best

Phil

PHILIP SHELLEY

www.script-consultant.co.uk

www.tributepodcasts.co.uk

Twitter: @PhilipShelley1

May 29th 2020

PAUL WILLIAMS guest blog

Posted by admin  /   May 20, 2020  /   Posted in Screenwriters and Industry Interviews, Uncategorized  /   Comments Off on PAUL WILLIAMS guest blog

Hi There,

This week, the 2nd of my guest blogs, this one from screenwriter PAUL WILLIAMS.

Paul is a graduate of the Channel 4 Screenwriting course 2016; the script that he developed on the scheme was optioned by Bandit Television.  He is currently writing episodes of DOCTORS and developing original ideas with independent producers.  His feature film screenplay A CURE, is in development with Conker Films. Paul has an MA in TV Scriptwriting with Distinction from Leicester DeMontfort University.

“In these strange times….” Our current go-to catchphrase as we all fail to know what to say about the situation and times we’re in.

Surprisingly (or not) the 2011 film Contagion has suddenly resurfaced, re-entered film download charts, and has been shown on ITV2 during an actual pandemic. I watched it after lockdown had started, why? Some sort of morbid curiosity? To see what it got right? To try and understand our situation? Probably all of the above. It’s interesting we seek out a story similar to the situation we’re actually living right now.

That’s the power of stories. They can take us away from reality and/or give us a way to reflect on it. I’ve just binged VISIBLE: Out on TV (Apple TV+). It’s a docu-series that tracks the LGBTQ+ movement through representation on television. It’s brilliant. Watch it. It really hammered home to me how television is able to reflect the world we live in but also how through stories and characters we can enter hearts and minds, and help overcome prejudice and fear. It can make the unfamiliar familiar.

It reminded me of the films and TV shows that were a lifeline to me growing up gay in rural Leicestershire. The main things I knew about being gay were according to my Catholicism it was wrong, the newspapers told me I’d get HIV, and the school playground told me no-one would like me. Good times. But then one day in my year 10 form room some girls started talking about a TV drama they’d been watching that showed men having sex! They were scandalised! I joined in their joyful outrage ‘There’s men having sex!? What’s it called?’ Of course, it was the seminal Queer as Folk. Nonchalantly I continued ‘And… what channel and time is it on?’ Subtle Paul, really subtle.

I tuned in on the small TV in my bedroom and due to the useless aerial on top of it – maybe I am old?! – watched through the static. Squinting and cross eyed like viewing a magic eye picture, and despite the warning I couldn’t believe what I was actually seeing. It spoke to a part of me I wasn’t ready to acknowledge so I switched off. But it stayed with me.

Queer as Folk sent ripples through the country. It was divisive. Not just from the perspective of heteronormative society but also some gay people felt misrepresented. Which brings us to the dilemma of minority story-telling – the burden of responsibility. We crave these stories, we want to see people like us, living lives like us, facing issues like us, so we bring a lot of expectation to the table as an audience, and that pressure then lies on the storytellers.

Whatever group we find ourselves subcatergorised by gender, race, sexuality, class, disability, religion… we may have shared experience and commonality but also personal and individual experiences within that. Also taking into account intersectionality we have to realise that the experience of a gay white man can be very different to that of a gay man of colour, for example. So how can a drama possibly represent all of any of us? Can drama represent a whole community through one or a handful of stories? Should it even try to? We’re lucky to live in a time where more minority led dramas are happening, but this pressure still exists because we don’t get as many chances. We’re still viewed as ‘niche’.

When any of us feel we haven’t been represented correctly we worry what prejudices, misunderstandings, and negative perceptions it might either create or re-enforce. But are these always questions of representation or are they questions of drama?

I revisited Queer as Folk in my early 20s. I was now out to close friends but not my family, but my cousin had the DVDs and she insisted on lending them to me. OK, so in hindsight perhaps some of my family knew. I binged the entire first series alone in my bedroom but on DVD and a better TV. Ah, progress. But… I hated it. Don’t worry I’m also shouting at my 22 year old self – what an idiot he is – but I didn’t connect to it. I’d never been to a gay club, I’d never taken drugs and I was annoyed. Did everyone who’d watched this show now think this is exactly what all gay men were like? Was I not like other gay men? In reality it was just outside my direct experience at the time and having revisited again (on more than one occasion) I realise how brilliant it is, what it achieved, and it’s what I’d brought to the viewing experience that affected my opinion. Because despite the things I hadn’t known then, Russell T Davies had magnificently captured so much of the gay experience in a fun and unapologetic way.

Just recently I rediscovered the controversy around Sally Wainwright having killed off Kate in Last Tango in Halifax and also the uproar when Patsy’s girlfriend Celia was knocked off her bike in Call The Midwife. Lesbian viewers felt let down. Their hopes dashed at for once seeing a same-sex female relationship not end in tragedy. A trope that has been seen all too often.  But what is happening here? Is it just ingrained lazy tropes that continually reinforce this negative message of same-sex relationships being doomed? Or could it be that story-telling and narrative structure is to blame?

Different genres inform certain elements of story – in Shakespearean terms is it a comedy or a tragedy? Romeo and Juliet is considered the epitome of a tragic romance. They love each other so much that they are willing to die for it. And it could be argued that we as audiences respond more passionately to a tragic love story because their love is finite, it becomes eternal. What would the impact have been if Rose and Jack had made just a bit more effort to balance that damn door?! Would it have been as epic if they’d both made it to shore, had kids, and got divorced ten years later? OK, they could have lived happily ever after, but you get my point. Without that feeling of sacrifice, loss, and a cost, would it feel as monumental?

I’ll admit I’m a sucker for a tragic romance, that’s what you get for growing up on Gone With the Wind, Doctor Zhivago, and such. But, of course, love stories can feel just as powerful with a happy every after. Do I feel less for Elizabeth Bennet and Mr D’Arcy? No. I was as profoundly affected by Brokeback Mountain as I was Love Simon, or God’s Own Country. But it does seem that minority storytellers have to ask themselves some tougher questions about the impact their story choices could have compared to (for want of a better word) the “mainstream”. Especially as the mainstream has also been telling our stories to various levels of success.

Film is also a different beast to series television. Whatever the sexuality of your characters you have to ask what will you do with a relationship to keep it interesting once they do get together? Where will the drama come from? And personally I tend to think this is where most of these decisions have come from, to create drama but perhaps we do need to work harder…..

Minorities have often found themselves in strange times so we don’t always need reminding of the harsh reality of that. We sometimes need a message of hope to counter that and show our lives are not tragic or just one thing. But we also need drama to serve us in a way that explores our reality for us, exploring the good, the bad, and even the tragic. As much as I understand the unhappiness of viewers over the death of Kate in Last Tango I also can’t help but wonder if there was a woman who watched that who may have lost her partner and found comfort in seeing Caroline going through what she had.

What’s the answer? Is it impossible to have positive representation that also doesn’t trap us in to only being allowed to tell certain stories? Well, I do not profess to be any kind of oracle, or a spokesperson for any other minority let alone my own community, but what I think we need is the decision makers, the commissioners, and people in power to be aware of these things and to give space to all the different types of stories that we have to tell. And we need to write them! Also, other writers that include characters from any minority need to be aware of these tropes so they can consider the choices that they decide to make.

Representation across the board still has some way to go and show different people at the centre of a variety of stories.  Let’s see what tropes we can turn on their heads. I was listening to a Shonda Rhimes talk where she suggested purposefully playing with the expected gender or race or sexuality of a character and go against expectation to see how that changes things and makes a character feel more original but also authentic. I also listened to a David Mamet masterclass where he fervently states that our primary job as storytellers is solely to entertain, but, with the impact of storytelling surely we also have to be aware of our responsibility too. 

I’ll always remember how I felt when I first watched the film Beautiful Thing by Jonathan Harvey. I cried when Jamie came out to his mum and articulated the fears that were also mine, and I cried happy tears when Jamie and Ste dance with each other at the end. Here was a film that changed my world by simply speaking my truth and giving me hope.

So back to Contagion. People have proclaimed how accurately it predicted elements of this pandemic. But it didn’t really predict it spoke the truth of a situation. In the same way people have watched that and said ‘How did they know?’ It’s the same emotional truth we’re looking for in any drama. “How did they know that’s exactly how I feel?” That’s powerful and that also makes people who haven’t experienced it feel it too as it taps into something universal. And in the words of someone undoubtedly better to pay attention to than me:

“Things don’t change until you tell the truth about yourself, and television now has many more artists and creators willing to do that”

  • Armistad Maupin, Visible: Out on TV

Oh, and we should probably take heed of the great David Mamet too – ENTERTAIN!

A massive thank you to PAUL for this excellent piece.

The next newsletter will be out next Friday May 29th.

Until then, look after yourselves,

All the best

Phil

PHILIP SHELLEY

www.script-consultant.co.uk

www.tributepodcasts.co.uk

TWITTER: @PhilipShelley1

May 22nd 2020

BFI FILM ACADEMY Q&A PART 2

Posted by admin  /   May 14, 2020  /   Posted in Recommended Screenwriting, Uncategorized  /   Comments Off on BFI FILM ACADEMY Q&A PART 2

Hi There,

Last Saturday I did a zoom talk on screenwriting for the BFI Film Academy. The last 15 minutes of the session consisted of me answering questions from the attendees but there were so many questions that I could only answer a small selection, SO in this newsletter I will be attempting to answer a few more of the excellent questions that were posted.

Thank you to everyone who listened in and for taking the time to write these really interesting questions.

‘I am a journalism graduate – how might I apply my skills to screenwriting, do you know any scriptwriters who come from a similar background?’

Yes, I know of quite a few writers who have come from a journalism background and I think this is a great starting point for screenwriting. Screenwriting, whether your story is fictional or based on a true story, so often depends on or is greatly enhanced by a basis in research and a journalistic approach. As the writer of any story, it’s important that you take the time and trouble to immerse yourself in the world you’re writing about – so that you re writing from a position of authority and truth, rather than giving us received, second-hand perspectives of the story world. Research and how you use it and dramatise it is such an important part of good dramatic storytelling.

I think a journalistic background also gives you a strong instinct for and understanding of what makes a great story. Journalism is all about sourcing, presenting and writing stories in a compelling way – and so is screenwriting.

Some of the brilliant screenwriters we’ve had on the Channel 4 screenwriting course in the last 10 years who had a journalistic grounding – Audrey Gillan, Anna Symon (a background in documentary film-making), Jiwon Lee, Eva Wiseman, Polly Vernon.

How do you decide what scenes to cut from a screenplay?

There was actually a great ‘Scriptnotes’ podcast episode on exactly this subject very recently.

I’d say there is a basic rule of thumb to address this issue – 2 main questions – does the scene advance / change the story? Does the scene advance / change our knowledge / understanding of the character? If the answer to both of these questions is a clear ‘no’ then it may be a scene to cut – although there is one other important question – ‘is the scene funny?’ I think a funny scene is one instance that over-rides story considerations.

On a BBC script-editing course I was running quite a few years ago, I remember Ashley Pharoah talking about the first ever episode of his BBC series LIFE ON MARS, which was over-running so in the edit they did a cut that retained all the essential story-beats but cut out most of the humour. The result – an episode that simply didn’t work. It was only when all the humour was reinstated that the show regained its true (and brilliant) identity.

ON the SCRIPTNOTES podcast, there is discussion about why as a writer you can sometimes justify including the less interesting scenes.

But one of the keys to good storytelling on screen is the very simple idea of including the interesting scenes and leaving out the boring scenes. In every story, some of the key decisions you have to make as writer is what to show on screen and what to omit. I read too many scenes in which the real drama happens off-screen and is then discussed dispassionately by characters after the event. Don’t do this! The simple and much-quoted ‘SHOW DON’T TELL’ has become a script-editing cliché for a reason.

I can’t remember who first came up with, ‘A scene is a unit of change in a story’ but it’s a very useful guide. If a scene doesn’t change the status quo of your story, then you should question its reason for being in your story.

As a writer you are recommended to write something everyday, does this include things like treatments and planning documents, or focus on the creative?

This should absolutely include planning, writing treatments, outlines etc – and writing these documents should feel creative! This is a really important part of any screenwriter’s work. We all have our different modus operandi. In the much-imitated words of script editor-supreme Hilary Norrish, writers are either ‘vomiters or plotters.’ Whatever works for you in accessing your creativity and enabling your best work is fine – there is no one way to do it.

For some, the  more planning you do, the more work on outlining, planning and structuring your story, then the more creative and free-flowing your writing will be when you come to the writing of the script, free of the anxiety about not knowing where you’re going from scene to scene. And even if you plan your story meticulously in outline form before writing the script, it doesn’t mean you can’t / won’t then pleasantly surprise yourself with new, better ideas when you’re in the flow of writing the script.

But you shouldn’t also under-estimate the non-writing part of writing – dreaming, ruminating, toying with ideas, spending time in the outside world with positive writer’s intent – spying, eaves-dropping, day-dreaming, people-watching, making notes about ideas and characters, stories that spring to mind – all of this is invaluable, just as important as that time tapping away on the computer keyboard. So don’t be tyrannised by computer word-count as a measure of writing progress.

Are there any books you would recommend?

I still think STORY by Robert McKee is one of the best. There are so many brilliant ideas about what makes a brilliant story, so many of the important storytelling principles.

INTO THE WOODS by John Yorke is also great.

Of lesser-known screenwriting / storytelling books, I think THE ART OF SCREENPLAYS by Robin Mukherjee is very good; and Rib Davis’s two books on DIALOGUE and CHARACTER are also excellent.

Alexander Macendrick ON FILMAKING and DAVID MAMET on directing are two other craft books that have great insights about storytelling for the screen.

THE SCIENCE OF STORYTELLING by WILL STORR is an interesting analysis of how story works with many applications to screenwriting

Other interesting, lesser-known screenwriting books: The Story Book by DAVID BABOULENE; Difficult Men by BRETT MARTIN; And Here’s The Kicker by MIKE SACKS.

But there are so many fascinating books about screenwriting and dramatic writing that it’s hard to give a short list like this. For instance, a lot of the books about writing for theatre (eg David Edgar, Steve Waters, Stephen Jeffries) are also great for screenwriters.

And don’t forget the internet and podcasts eg ‘Scriptnotes’, mentioned above has a back-catalogue of over 450 episodes all about screenwriting from two hugely experienced, outstanding US screenwriters.

Apart from short films are there other mediums you would recommend writers using to get their work out there?

I touched on this in the talk, using my dramatic monologue podcast series www.tributepodcasts.co.uk as an example of how screenwriters / dramatic writers can get their work noticed. The podcast market is booming – but even now, there aren’t that many examples of podcasts that showcase dramatic writing. If you can find the right USP / format, I still think this can be a great (and cheap!) way to get your writing noticed.

The obvious alternative to short films is fringe theatre. There are so many different venues / companies who feature new writing in many different forms (eg one of the 5 mentee writers I talked to late on Saturday had written a ‘Rapid Response’ to a Theatre 503 play and got their work put on in this way).

Using script-readings as a showcase for your work – whether it’s live or online – is another great way to get your work noticed. Having actors perform your work is invaluable and will bring out so much more in your work than a cold read off the page.

You could also think about getting your work noticed in other forms as a way of segueing into screenwriting. If potential employers like your work as a poet, journalist, songwriter, blogger, stand-up comic, they will be more likely to be interested in your work as a screenwriter. If you have something you are burning to say, some writing you want to do, then set up your own blog and put it out there on the internet. Good writing is good writing wherever it’s about and in whatever form we find it. For instance, I first became a fan of Nick Hornby’s writing in a weekly column he had in The Independent (I think – or was it in ‘The Sunday Correspondent’?) a long time ago. His article was a highlight of my week – and I have looked out for his new work ever since then.

The next newsletter will be in a week’s time on Friday May 22nd – another (really excellent) guest blog, this time by screenwriter and 4screenwriting alumnus, PAUL WILLIAMS.

I hope you have a great week in the meantime and are managing to maintain morale and creativity despite everything that’s happening,

All the best

Phil

PHILIP SHELLEY

www.script-consultant.co.uk

www.tributepodcasts.co.uk

Twitter: @PhilipShelley1

May 15th 2020

LAURENCE TRATALOS guest blog

Posted by admin  /   May 06, 2020  /   Posted in Screenwriters and Industry Interviews  /   Comments Off on LAURENCE TRATALOS guest blog

Hi There,

This week, I’m absolutely delighted to share with you the first of several screenwriter guest blogs. I am so grateful to the brilliant, generous people who have written these guest blogs – and I hope you enjoy them as much as I have. SO for the next few weeks, the screenwriting newsletter will be going out weekly instead of fortnightly every Friday.

The first is by screenwriter LAURENCE TRATALOS. Laurence has been sending me his excellent scripts for quite a few years and it’s been great seeing his screenwriting career deservedly taking off.

Laurence Tratalos became interested in script writing during his time studying Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. Whilst living in Australia in 2015 he entered a script into the BBC Writersroom’s ‘Scriptroom 9’ competition. Out of 2200 scripts, he was selected as one of the ten writers to take part in a six-month development scheme with BBC Comedy. He still doesn’t know how that happened, but he enjoyed his time there.

Later, a drama script of his was chosen for Philip Shelley’s Script Showcase, an industry event where his script was performed by a cast of actors. As a result of these two experiences, he currently has a number of scripts in development with UK production companies and is represented by Independent Talent Group.

HI comedy pilot ‘EVE’ was filmed last summer https://www.imdb.com/title/tt9245214/?ref_=nm_knf_t and a short film he wrote ‘In A While, Crocodile’ can be viewed here: https://vimeo.com/409883652

When not writing, he works as a carer for a friend with autism, and at a local cinema. He looks forward to being able to go back to both when all this craziness is over.

How to (not) write during a crisis

‘Philip asked me to write something, anything, vaguely related to screenwriting. And I confess I didn’t really know where to start. My life hasn’t changed that dramatically during this crisis and I felt ill positioned to comment. I wasn’t feeling particularly productive or enthusiastic about my writing either.

There’s probably a million pieces on how you should be creating your masterpiece during these times. How you should be working like normal, using this time to be inspired… Inspired? Have you seen what’s going on in the world?

You do not need to be productive.

You can give yourself time off.

You can allow yourself to be lazy.

To watch shit TV.

To miss the football.

To enjoy the weather (god really gets irony).

There is no right way to do the apocalypse (Shaun of The Dead was pretty fun though).

For the first week I got nothing done. Literally nothing. I tried to write but kept on letting the endless news stories feed my anxiety, constantly refreshing Twitter and BBC news. It didn’t help that I’d subscribed to Disney Plus and was bingeing old Simpsons episodes. Our reality had changed, overnight. My attention span was near zero. I’d start writing and then I’d be on Youtube, or listening to a song, or reading Twitter. I felt emotional all of the time: I watched Ten Things I Hate About You the other week and was bawling my eyes out. We’re living in an unprecedented time. 

In catastrophic times we question the meaning and purpose of drama. Why create something that might never get made/seen/be relevant once this is over? When major historical events take place, many artists feel that contemporary modes of expression are insufficient to express their feelings, and that new modes have to be found to address the era. Why finish my script when no one might read it/make it/give a crap about it? What role does comedy play during a crisis? What role do the arts play? Do they help us cope with our fears or do they amplify them? I certainly didn’t want to write anything even vaguely related to the coronavirus, as producers kept telling me, ‘we’ll need an escape once all this is over’. 

An ‘escape’. My girlfriend is a student nurse. She does her job for no money and, until recently, very little recognition. She and her colleagues put their lives on the line: I stare at the wall and dream up stories that will help us ‘escape’. Coming up with storylines that are funny, interesting or engaging feels hollow. It’s what I do best, but it’s just not the same as before.

And how will television change once (if) we’re past this? The nation and indeed the world will have been through a shared trauma. Not since the epidemic of 1918 has an event on this global scale occurred. How do TV and media go back to normal? Does every contemporary drama need to address the coronavirus, or do they gloss over it? Do we just write 2020 off?

I’m procrastinating again, I’m meant to be writing about writing but instead I’m focusing on the coronavirus. As Kurt Vonnegut said: ‘Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why.’

So I decided I was going to do what I’ve done countless times before in the past, and try and write my way out of trouble. I’m lucky in that I actually enjoy writing. During times when I’ve been down in the dumps, I’ve turned to writing to get myself out of a funk. And because my other two part-time jobs aren’t possible at the minute, I can now pretend I’m a full-time writer. But if you have a demanding family/writer’s block/are struggling with profound existential angst in the face of a global pandemic, then don’t worry if you don’t feel like turning on Final Draft and staring at the blinking cursor.

I arranged Zoom and Skype meetings with producers (saving myself on train fares), set myself deadlines for competitions to enter, and edited a few projects that people wanted to read. I managed to write a new script (I’m not bragging, it’s probably crap) but it helped that I was writing something I really cared about. When you hit flow with writing and create something out of nothing there’s no other feeling like it, you leave the world – if only briefly. A quote from season one of True Detective comes to mind, it’s not about writing but it does the job: ‘…Most of the time I was convinced that I’d lost it. But there were other times, I thought I was main-lining the secret truth of the universe.’

Write/don’t write, do what helps you, do what you need to do to cope. Write for fun. For sheer escapism. Write that thing you know will never get made but makes your soul soar. Or don’t. Just lie in front of the telly, re-watching Simpson episodes and dream about hugging random people…

Stay safe,

Laurence’

Thank you so much Laurence.

I would really recommend IN A WHILE CROCODILE – it’s a cracking short film.

The next newsletter will be next Friday, May 15th.

Until then – look after yourselves,

All the best

Phil

PHILIP SHELLEY

www.script-consultant.co.uk

www.tributepodcasts.co.uk

TWITTER: @PhilipShelley1

May 8th 2020

INTERVIEWS & RECOMMENDATIONS

Posted by admin  /   April 28, 2020  /   Posted in Recommended Screenwriting, Uncategorized  /   Comments Off on INTERVIEWS & RECOMMENDATIONS

Hi There,

From this week onwards, for the next few weeks, I will be sending out this newsletter WEEKLY rather than fortnightly as I have some really excellent gust blogs that I’d like to share with you. So the next few editions will alternate from week to week between my musings and guests writing on various screenwriting-related subjects.

CHANNEL 4 SCREENWRITING COURSE INTERVIEWS – SOME OBSERVATIONS

Having undertaken 37 x 30’ interviews over three days (and having done this now for quite a few years), I hope you will find it interesting if I observe what makes for a good interview.

Here are a few thoughts (which I hope are applicable for job interviews in general not just for 4screenwriting in particular).

As with everything, do your homework and come prepared. I send the interviewees a list of 4 things that we will ask them about – ‘We’d like to talk to you about your submitted script, your other writing work, why you want to come on the 4screenwriting course, and ideas you may be considering for the script you would write on the course, if chosen.’  – but then usually try to ask them one extra thing that I haven’t alerted them to in advance (although usually it’s a question that writers in this position should have views about anyway – a question like – who are your favourite screenwriters? What are you watching on TV at the moment? ie nothing too left-field).

I would expect writers to have read all the information available on the internet (my website, the 4talent website) about what happens on the course, what is expected of the writers on the course. We don’t go into a long explanation of what happens on the course (mainly because doing this 37 times is not good for our sanity) but we give the writers the chance to ask any questions about the course; and this is an important element of the interview – sometimes if they ask you particularly searching or difficult questions, it can bring an energy to the conversation.

Obviously the interview can be quite nerve-racking and we try to make it as informal and relaxed as possible. This is easy for me to say and sometimes hard to achieve but it’s important that you find a way to manage your nerves so that it doesn’t inhibit you – the best way to do this is to be prepared and have done your homework.

One thing that nerves sometimes does is get in the way of the interviewee ‘reading’ the room. As an interviewee you need to try to make this into a conversation rather than a monologue. It’s important that as interviewers we do all we can to help you feel at ease; but part of the ‘contract’ is that you are aware of how that works in the other direction. Occasionally a pitch will go on too long and as interviewer it’s hard to find a way that doesn’t feel rude to move onto the next question or idea.

Nerves can also sometimes mean that a question like ‘What recent TV drama have you enjoyed and why?’ can generate a complete blank. This is very common and absolutely reasonable (I know I’ve experienced brain-freeze sometimes when this question is thrown back at me). Some interviewees bring along a notebook or written notes; and at this point will often say ’Do you mind if I refer to my notes?’ My personal response to this is very positive – I’m impressed that you’re well-prepared and have made notes and have brought them with you – to me it demonstrates conscientiousness and good preparation. If you want to refer to notes in an interview that’s a positive. The only caveat I’d give is that you don’t then just read responses from the notebook or read out your pitches – try to keep in mind that the interview should be a dynamic conversation with eye contact – not just you performing a monologue to the interviewers.

One of the things that is difficult is for writers is when we ask them what they love on TV and inevitably they often come up with the same show. This year it was SUCCESSION, last year it was FLEABAG. Clearly neither of these are the wrong answer! But if someone is the 25th person to tell you how wonderful SUCCESSION is, it’s not going to be as interesting as the 1st person to say this! So even if you love the big hit show, it can sometimes be a good idea to acknowledge that show with some rapid and insightful analysis of the script’s brilliance – before moving onto a show that is perhaps less obvious and more likely therefore to feel distinctive. And it’s not just what shows you like – but being able to analyse what is so effective in the writing of those shows that makes them work.

Above all though we’re looking for the passion and individuality behind your writing; and for your ability to articulate this – because alongside your writing, it’s such an important part of the TV drama industry. We want to see your enthusiasm and passion for your own ideas, a distinctive, informed and specific response to TV drama in general and Channel 4 drama in particular; and a curiosity about what the 4screenwriting can do for you.

One of the most important parts of the interview is the writers telling us about the ideas they would be interested in writing on the course. If these ideas are exciting, then it’s an exciting prospect for us to be able to work with the writers on those ideas. Two of the three writers I’m working with this year are developing the ideas they pitched in the interview – and it’s very exciting seeing these ideas blossom into life in discussion and then on the page.

Making sure it’s a dynamic, two-way conversation – eg turning the tables, asking the interviewers questions.

It’s also great if we feel that you’ve done your research and have thought about what the course can do for you and what you as a writer can bring to the course – so, for instance, if you’ve read the course information and testimonials, even looked into the work and scripts written by former alumni of the course (done easily with a few quick google searches) or even have spoken to writers who have been on the course in the past. We want to know that not only are you a good writer but that you’re pro-active and thoughtful.

The interview process in general is very exciting. It’s great being able to put a face to the scripts that we’ve really enjoyed reading, being able to tell the writers how much you enjoyed their scripts and hearing about what inspired those scripts and how the writers came to write them. And I always come away from the interviews with a long list of recommended TV shows that I haven’t watched and would like to.

Add something about CV’s. CV’s are selling documents – they are there to sell you, to make you sound interesting, ambitious, distinctive. Like one page pitches. BUT be honest. You need to work on CVs – they are part of your application, another creative document.

I’m resistant to personal mission statements that contain nothing meaningful. We look for people with impressive writing credits but also interesting, colourful life experience that shows ambition and a sense of adventure and imagination.

MORE RECOMMENDATIONS

In the absence of live theatre, there have been quite a few plays and other really interesting theatre-related stuff on the internet in the last few weeks. Here are a few of the things I have enjoyed –

LOLA ARIAS – and her way of working. I knew nothing about Lola Arias before I read about her play MINEFIELD, which was broadcast via the Royal Court Theatre website a few weeks ago for a limited period. This was a play performed by 6 Falklands War veterans – 3 British, 3 Argentine – about their experiences of the war and life since. Frustratingly I missed the live stream by a day but read a lot about the play and watched clips. It looked completely fascinating and alerted me to the journalist / theatre-maker LOLA ARIAS. I then watched her play, MY LIFE AFTER (available on youtube) ‘based on the biography of six performers who re-enact their parents’ youth during the dictatorship in Argentina.’ Which I thought was great. She comes from a journalistic background. This isn’t quite ‘verbatim’ theatre – but she seems like a really talented and very original dramatic storyteller

HAMPSTEAD THEATRE – are showing some of their archive of plays for a week each on youtube. Last week I watched TIGER COUNTRY written and directed by the excellent NINA RAINE. (She has written a number of really good plays, in particular, CONSENT and STORIES.) This was a warts-and-all examination of the stresses and strains placed on doctors and nurses working in one NHS hospital. Although originally produced back in 2011, the play feels particularly timely right now.

Two JAMES FRITZ links. James was on the Channel 4 screenwriting course in 2015 and is a really excellent dramatist and screenwriter. If you get the chance to see one of his plays, take it. You won’t regret it.

He has written this excellent blog on the Bruntwood Prize website – this is largely about form in storytelling and is hugely insightful.

And he has done an interview about his play LAVA as part of the Nick Hern Books PLAY GROUP podcast. Nick Hern books are making a play available to read for free on their website every week, then interviewing the writer about the play and their work in general. James’s interview is really interesting, as is ANNA JORDAN’s about her play, YEN. (Anna has since gone on to write on SUCCESSION).

I haven’t yet got to the 3rd interview with Winsome Pinnock; and the latest play to read, currently available on the Nick Hern website is ARLINGTON by ENDA WALSH, with more to come.

+ Anna Jordan interview https://www.nickhernbooks.co.uk/playgroup

A useful checklist of many of the theatre shows online at the moment –

https://www.standard.co.uk/go/london/theatre/how-to-watch-stream-theatre-dance-comedy-opera-online-a4396631.html

SCRIPTNOTES podcast has been particularly enjoyable recently, especially two zoom episodes, one in which John August and Craig Mazin talk to PHOEBE WALLER BRIDGE and RYAN REYNOLDS about their screenwriting – in particular the way both have made much use of direct address to camera in their writing.

And even more enjoyable to me was the subsequent THREE PAGE CHALLENGE episode, also on youtube – in which John, Craig and guest Dana Fox analyse the first three pages of 4 scripts, then talk to the writers about their scripts. This is such a great lesson in both how to analyse and read scripts but also an insight into writers’ working processes. An added bonus is that we can read the three pages as they’re being analysed – it’s invaluable hearing experienced, talented pro screenwriters like this respond to the detail of script pages.

Two rather wonderful examples of what is creatively possible in these restricted times. Thank you Laurence Tratalos, Adam Lavis and Tamzin Rafn for bringing a smile to my face. Some great comic writing in both of these short films –

LOCK ME UP, LOCK ME DOWN – Tamzin Rafn

IN A WHILE, CROCODILE – written by LAURENCE TRATALOS.

TELEVISION

There has been some wonderful TV drama in the last few weeks.

BETTER CALL SAUL S5 Ep8 – 10

I am a huge BREAKING BAD / BETTER CALL SAUL fan – and I think the last three episodes of Season 5 of BETTER CALL SAUL were just outstanding – gripping, intense, utterly distinctive. Dramatic storytelling at its very best, based on rich, textured characterisation, and beautifully directed. Shot after shot is a work of art. The show is loaded with visual references / call-backs which just add to the richness of watching the show (mint choc chip ice cream anyone?)

QUIZ on ITV by James Graham.

This was a very enjoyable romp. One of the things I admire about James Graham as a writer is that he has a great instinct for what makes a cracking story – he homes in on the BIG IDEAS that so many other writers shy away from. Everything he writes about is political in some sense and is often plucked from the headlines. The characterisation in QUIZ was good but what was best about it was the moral murk – the complications and unresolved mysteries at the heart of this story. It had a lot to say about Middle England and the political climate of the UK – but in a way that was entertaining and subtle.

NORMAL PEOPLE – adapted from her novel by SALLY ROONEY (and ALICE BIRCH). I think this series is beautifully written and made. It’s an object lesson in how (contrary to what I was just saying about Quiz / James Graham!) stories don’t always have to be big, bold, headline ideas. The best stories can, indeed, be about NORMAL PEOPLE. If they’re told with this much love for and attention to detail in the characterisations, then a simple love story told over 12 x 30 episodes can be just as gripping. The show is a great reminder of the primacy of CHARACTER. If you create characters who feel textured, complicated, flawed – but above all real and relatable – people will love to spend time with them.

And to have directed so brilliantly two projects as different as ROOM and NORMAL PEOPLE is a great reflection on the talent of Lenny Abrahamson as director.

Incidentally, I don’t know about you – but the fact that this was structured in half hour rather than in traditional BBC one hour episodes, made it even more appealing to me.

As mentioned above, the next newsletter will be in a one week’s time – on Friday May 8th.

Until then, look after yourself and stay safe,

All the best

Phil

PHILIP SHELLEY

www.script-consultant.co.uk

www.tributepodcasts.co.uk

TWITTER: @PhilipShelley1

May 1st 2020

SCREENWRITING INTERVIEW

Posted by admin  /   April 16, 2020  /   Posted in Screenwriters and Industry Interviews  /   Comments Off on SCREENWRITING INTERVIEW

Hi There,

I hope you are continuing to cope with the weirdness of social isolation and still managing to find the headspace for writing and creativity. Here is the text from an interview I did earlier this week about various aspects of screenwriting with Hanna Peretz, a Film & TV producer based in Sweden –

‘I had the pleasure of meeting Philip when I asked him to speak at a screenwriting and pitching workshop I ran in London, back in 2008. He is currently in the 10th year of running the annual Channel 4 Screenwriting course, which is an initiative to find twelve of the most talented new writers in the UK and working with them for 6 months to develop a pilot script, then introducing them to the industry.

He has a Script Consultancy (www.script-consultant.co.uk) where he works with both freelance writers and with production companies, covering reading, development and marketing of scripts.

At the moment, in these crazy times when nobody’s really leaving their house, he gets a lot of scripts to read from both brand new writers and some very experienced writers. I wanted to take this opportunity to get Philip to share his knowledge, some tips and get us all inspired to create some great stories!

It can be quite daunting to write a script. How do you get started?

I think it’s good to start writing short content. It’s not as daunting as thinking you’ve got to write a 90 minute screenplay. I would encourage people to start small and gradually work their way up to feature film scripts. Occasionally, I get feature film scripts from first time writers and I often wish that they’d talked to me when they were developing the idea rather than sending me the full script, because if there’s something problematic with the story then it’s much easier to flag that at the outline stage than when they’ve written a full script. It’s really hard for writers to unpick it and work backwards at that point whereas if it’s just an outline, you’re more free to make changes and feel less emotionally attached.

I would also encourage a lot of people-watching. I run a Creativity for Scriptwriters course (http://script-consultant.co.uk/training/ ) which is mainly about looking outside yourself and getting out into the world; observing people and reading newspapers. Trying to get ideas from external sources rather than relying on just you in front of the computer screen which is often the least productive creative place to be.

I think we can all relate to that.

One of my issues is that I have too many ideas and find it hard to stay on track..

Yes that is difficult. I feel the same way sometimes, often thinking of ideas – but executing them is the big challenge. It’s finishing your work that’s really important. Finishing your first draft and showing it to people. I think it’s really important to have a community of fellow writers around you, making those contacts and finding people you can trust to give you an honest but constructive opinion. Often you’re writing that first draft and realise that perhaps this isn’t the idea you want to pursue and you move on to something else. But it’s so much about finding the time and having that discipline and that regular writing time.

Exactly, often you think you have a great idea, start writing and realise it doesn’t hold up.

Yes which is another great reason for outlining before you write. The way the industry works is that producers will want as much evidence as they can get that your idea will be fantastic before they commission you to write a script. So they will commission outlines with several drafts and will be reluctant to pay you a script fee until they’ve got a really well worked out outline.

It’s quite demoralising when you get two thirds into a script before it all starts to fall apart so make sure you know what your ending is for that episode or feature film and do all that planning work, because it’s invaluable. Some writers don’t like to do that and just like to get a finished first draft before going back and start moving the furniture around, but the way the industry works, you’re very much encouraged to do your planning, write an outline and demonstrate that your story is going to work before you get to script stage.

What should you include in an outline and how detailed should you be?

It depends on what stage you’re at but it should be quite detailed because as a writer you need to visualise how it’s going to play out onscreen, how the cuts will go from scene to scene. Writers often don’t like writing those documents because usually they’re only getting about 10% of their script fee and they would argue – quite rightly – that it’s probably 80% of the work of creating the script in that outline. Once you know what every scene does and what every scene contains then it should be relatively easy to write the dialogue. It’s a really important and necessary part of the process whether you’re getting paid or not and it will make the chance of you finishing that script more likely because you have that map.

But I think the key to writing good outlines is just thinking visually and cinematically. Describing the action without explaining it. The things that you read and really enjoy in terms of outlines just tell you what happens on the screen, leaving you as the reader to interpret it.

It can be hard to convey everything that you pick up more easily visually. How much description should you write?

That’s something I think about so much when I read scripts and I’m so often giving notes on that to writers. My guiding principle in terms of reading a script and writing a script is that it should as accurately as possible reflect what we’re going to see on screen. When you read a script, the experience should be as close as possible to watching the film, so I would argue that generally you shouldn’t give privileged information to the reader that’s not accessible to the audience. When introducing a character you’re meeting for the first time, you shouldn’t give a lot of backstory about their background or wealth, for instance. I think as much as possible introductions to characters should be active, so when we meet the character they are doing something that characterises them and tells you something about them in a dynamic, interesting way (which isn’t always possible). I think what you should describe about the character is everything we’re going to be seeing on screen, like their age, gender and anything in particular about them, perhaps something about their manner or the way they behave. What I think people should try to avoid is saying something like “this is John 24, he’s never come to terms with the death of his father”, which is more like writing a novel. It’s interesting but it confuses the read and it’s not screenwriting.

Can you overdo scene directions?

Yes, you can look at a script and think: there are too many big blocks of directions here. It’s going to be a hard read. It’s about being economical and maintaining a good pace, making sure the cuts from scene to scene work really well, adding energy to the storytelling.

And I would say in principle, generally you concentrate on the people rather than the objects. And that’s a rough guide, but also make the directions as active and dynamic as possible. When you read a scene heading and it starts with a detailed description of the room, the table and the number of chairs, you just think: Do I need to know all that? Unless it’s absolutely vital to the story.

And what makes a good character?

That’s a really tricky question, it’s such an instinctive thing. The character is the most important thing, it’s the reason we care about stories. I think one of the keys to that is the tension between the surface of the character and what is actually going on underneath. The characters that often don’t work are the ones where everything about them is apparent the first time you meet them and the writer has nowhere to go from that point. There has to be that tension. I think flaws are the key to good characterisation, how characters cope with their flaws. Once a character is able to articulate their problems and flaws, they immediately start to become less interesting, there’s a lessening of that inner tension.

So much of good characterisation is in the visual detail of the character as well. In the way they behave, the way they talk, walk, relate and behave with other people, the way they wear their hair, all those things are what make people interesting. Also, it’s about building a backstory of a person: thinking about their politics, what their attitude to life is, what they like eating, what they’re like with their family. But at the end of the day, characters are interesting because of how damaged they are. Often stories are about how they resolve that inner damage over the course of the story. If the character has no issues, it’s really hard to make an interesting story and narrative. That relates to relationships as well, there have to be issues with people and frictions and conflicts to make stories interesting. I think good storytelling is often about revealing stories slowly and withholding from the audience. It’s a fine balance between doing that artificially and making it feel like it’s integral to the story. But making the audience ask questions is the key to good storytelling.

I think lies, secrets and denial are absolutely fundamental to characters and story.

It’s a tough balance though, to keep the audience from losing interest!

Yes, particularly if you’re withholding a lot and then the payoff at the end isn’t worth the wait. It’s a tricky balance. One of the things I get quite concerned about is structural principles of storytelling and for me, too often when writers start thinking like that in the early stages, their stories start to be less surprising, less interesting and I think it can be quite inhibiting. We all have an innate storytelling instinct and we don’t need to think about all those points when we’re writing the story initially because your instinct does that for you. If you start thinking too much about ticking all those boxes (eg end of act one, two, story mid-point) it can be quite damaging to your creativity.

I’m always saying to new writers – don’t worry about the budget. Try writing something as ambitious and distinctive as possible because the likelihood is that the script they’re writing isn’t going to get made but they are going to get a lot of work and meetings because people liked their scripts. When they’re not second guessing the industry but they actually write really original, distinctive scripts that give strong impressions of a unique voice.

When scripts don’t work it’s sometimes because the writers are thinking too much about whether it will get made, which broadcaster may commission it, how commercial it is etc. When they’re trying to break into the industry that’s the last thing they should be worried about because what people are looking for is something original and surprising.

Looking for further guidance or inspiration?

Philip has his own script consultancy, runs quite a few courses and writes a free fortnightly screenwriting newsletter to which you can subscribe, you can check them out here www.script-consultant.co.uk

He also produced this series of dramatic monologue podcasts – www.tributepodcasts.co.uk

The next newsletter will be on Friday May 1st,

Stay safe and look after yourself,

Phil

PHILIP SHELLEY

TWITTER: @PhilipShelley1

April 17th 2020

CREATIVITY IN LOCKDOWN

Posted by admin  /   April 01, 2020  /   Posted in Recommended Screenwriting Reading, Uncategorized  /   Comments Off on CREATIVITY IN LOCKDOWN

Hi There,

I hope you are all keeping well in these strange and severely restricted times. It seems we’re just going to have to be patient, be kind to ourselves and each other and try – although sometimes it’s not easy – to keep feeding our creativity, as things we were looking forward to disappear over the horizon.

Above all, I do think it’s important that we find ways to keep talking to each other at the moment when we’re all stuck inside. I’m lucky enough to be with wife and youngest daughter but my three elder children and their partners are in various parts of London. We’ve set up a weekly quiz on zoom, set by a different family member each week. It’s a fun way of formalising continued contact.

Here are a few recommendations that I hope will be help to brighten your lives a little in the next however many weeks –

BOOKS – using the extra time we all have to read is something that has given me real enjoyment in the last couple of weeks (although I’m lucky enough to still have plenty of excellent scripts to read in weekday working hours!). This is when a kindle (or other reading device!) really comes into its own.

I have chanced upon some brilliant books in the last couple of weeks –

English Monsters by James Scudamore.

If you were interested in my musings about boarding school a few months ago, then this is the book for you. It’s beautifully written – essentially about the damage that boarding school does to people, how that damage can run through your whole life. But it’s about much more than that. It’s about family, friends and surviving trauma. I found it powerful, moving and thought-provoking. The book made me (again) think about incidents from my own years at boarding school – not just the bad moments but the good as well.

But I think this book has a lot even for people who didn’t go through the boarding school experience – it’s just a great piece of writing.

James Scudamore also wrote this excellent article about the book and his own personal experiences (I would advise reading this article only after you’ve read the book)

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/education-and-careers/0/dark-side-of-boarding-school/

A Bit Of A Stretch by Chris Atkins

True account of the experiences of film-maker Chris Atkins, sentenced to 5 years imprisonment for the fraudulent tax avoidance scheme that he was encouraged to use by a dodgy accountant to fund one of his (BAFTA-nominated) films. The book covers the experience of his time in HMP Wandsworth. The book is by turns moving, shocking and very funny. Above all, it’s a powerful indictment of the dangerous and destructive chaos that is the English prison system. The book has apparently been optioned by a TV production company. If this project doesn’t get picked up double-quick by a broadcaster, I will be amazed – it’s wonderfully well-suited to dramatization and a story that needs as wide an airing as possible. It also has weird parallels for us in this age of enforced lockdown! Speaking of which…

Station Eleven – by Emily St John Mandel

You may think it’s not the best book to read right now in that it’s about a pandemic that kills 99.9% of the world’s population but in the same way as the current coronavirus is making us all reconsider so much about our lives and things we have taken for granted for so long, so does this book. The quality of the writing and the storytelling grabbed me from the first few pages. One of my favourite books of the last few years. While there are many bleak images and moments in the book, at the same time, there’s also something beautiful, profound and ultimately uplifting about it.

TV / FILM

I’ve been watching a lot of comedy as an antidote to the misery of the news. Here are some of the highlights. If you haven’t seen them, some of these may well give you a much-needed smile or two –

BREEDERS written by Simon Blackwell. (Sky, Now TV)

About the experience of coping with life, work, family and everything else when you have young kids. Refreshingly sweary and foul-mouthed – and to my mind a really well-observed, honest account of the messy reality of trying (and failing) to multi-task. I have found a lot of this laugh-out-loud-funny.

THE TRIP TO GREECE (Sky, Now TV)

Another in the very productive Michael Winterbottom / Steve Coogan creative relationship. (When you get the chance I also highly recommend their feature film GREED which I saw at the 2019 LFF). Like the previous ‘Trip’s this is stunning to look at; and the weird reality / fiction crossover of having Coogan and Rob Brydon playing fictionalised versions of themselves is really interesting and successful. A lot of it is really funny (particularly Brydon’s impersonations and the prickly, competitive relationship between the characters) and by the end the series becomes unexpectedly moving.

IN MY SKIN – written by Kayleigh Llewellyn, directed by Lucy Forbes.

All 5 episodes now on BBC iplayer, this is a superb 5 x 30’ comedy drama series. Lucy Forbes also directed THE END OF THE FUCKING WORLD series 2 and came into talk to the writers on this year’s C4 screenwriting course, which alerted me to this series. The writing, direction and performances are outstanding – highly recommended. This was released onto BBC iplayer on March 29th and my household had consumed it all by March 30th. It’s so great when brilliant new voices like Kayleigh Llewellyn deservedly get their shows made – this really stands out from the crowd. I can’t wait for series 2!

https://amp.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2020/mar/29/kayleigh-llewellyn-in-my-skin-interview-bipolar-disorder-mum

WORK – the last couple of weeks have made me really value and appreciate the work I do. Reading and analysing scripts feels like a wonderful privilege and escape at the moment. But it’s also made me value the other parts of my work that I’m missing – the company and camaraderie of so many writers, script editors etc.

(By the way my script consultancy is very much open for business. If you’d like feedback on a script, please get in touch.)

ANIMALS – Having two dogs and a cat has been a great boon in the last couple of weeks. Having two dogs who need regular walks gives you perspective on what’s happening and makes you value their constancy and the positives they bring to your life.

MUSIC, FAMILY, NATURE and the COUNTRYSIDE are other things that have had enhanced value recently. (I’m particularly loving new album La Vita Nuova by Maria McKee).

EXERCISE – having a bicycle ride or run as part of the day is really helping my morale.

TWITTER – (and social media in general) is a bit of a double-edged sword at the moment. Some of it is worrying and depressing. But I’m finding certain people / tweets can really add to a positive mental state at the moment. Her are a few twitter accounts that might bring a smile to your face –

@brian_bilston Brian Bilson’s wonderfully humane, funny, extremely clever poems are great.

@baddiel David Baddiel speaks a lot of sense, often very funnily.

@realbobmortimer – his ‘train guy’ creation is comedy genius.

@MrMichaelSpicer – a twitter phenomenon for good reason.

I hope some of the above brightens your days a little if you didn’t already know about them. It would be great if you’d like to respond and make some recommendations of your own that I could share in the next newsletter.

2 RANDOM SCREENWRITING OBSERVATIONS

1 I think sometimes over-adherence to structural ‘rules’ can screw you up as a writer. Above all, you need to trust your innate storytelling instinct – we all have one; rather than trying to tick off structural points on the map – inciting incident, mid-point, end of act 2 etc. Above all, the best stories are surprising. Concentration on structural rules can often do more harm than good.

2 At this time, I’m finding I don’t have much engagement with ideas unless they’re two things – escapist and funny OR more particularly if they’re ideas underpinned by passion and conviction, ideas that are driven by a writer’s fire for the idea. At the moment I’m turned off by ideas that feel cynical and ‘commercial’. (The truth is, I’m always turned off by these sorts of ideas but now even more strongly). What we are all looking for in writing is honesty and that writer’s own truths – even if they’re not our truths. A particular world view / attitude. I’m not interested in what they think might be commissioned – schedule filler.

The next newsletter will be on Friday April 17th.

Keep well and creative,

All the very best

Phil

PHILIP SHELLEY

www.script-consultant.co.uk

www.tributepodcasts.co.uk

TWITTER: @PhilipShelley1

April 3rd 2020

NEW SCREENWRITING COURSES + COURSE REVIEW

Posted by admin  /   March 17, 2020  /   Posted in Uncategorized  /   Comments Off on NEW SCREENWRITING COURSES + COURSE REVIEW

Hi There,

I hope very much that you’re keeping safe and well and, above all, managing to remain calm, upbeat and anxiety-free in these very troubled times. I won’t go into detail about my feelings about how the situation is being ‘managed’ by the UK authorities because I am writing this on Monday and I’m sure anything I write now will seem like very old news by Friday.

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FRANCE SCREENWRITING COURSE / RETREAT Sept 16-21 – Update

6/10 places on this course / retreat have now been taken. http://script-consultant.co.uk/france-screenwriting-course-retreat/

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Review of my three recent courses

I have now come to the end of an intense but hugely enjoyable period over Feb / March in which I ran three courses (glad I didn’t schedule them for March / April!). I wanted to write about the experience of running these courses.

1 DAY INTRODUCTION TO SCREENWRITING

The second time I have run this course and once again I really enjoyed it and it seemed to go down well with the 42 writers who came along for the day. It’s different from my other courses in that there isn’t an upper limit of 20 delegates and it’s less interactive. Having said that, both times I have run it, the whole day has felt more like a dynamic dialogue between myself, my two guest speakers and the writers than like a series of lectures. There was a really good energy in the room; and the course felt like a celebration and appreciation of what is exciting and great about screenwriting rather than just a basic introduction. Inevitably, talking about what a screenplay looks like on the page, going through all the elements that go into making up a script also leads into what constitutes good screenwriting. And I use lots of examples – both with clips and in pages from screenplays – of screenwriting at its very best.

The day is long – I arrived to set up the room at 9am and didn’t leave the pub until nearly 10pm – but a lot of fun. I’m particularly indebted to my industry friends who came along to the pub to have their brains picked by the course writers and were incredibly generous with their advice. I had lots of feedback from the course writers about swapped emails and industry people offering to put writers in touch with other people in the industry who might be able to help them. The pub networking event reminds me of how many nice, supportive people there are in this industry, of how this business is so reliant on personal contacts and recommendations and of how important it is to find a way of enjoying the social side of the business. (This pub networking event also inspired one of the scripts on my ‘writing a short film course’ – a comedy about industry networking-induced anxiety!).

From a selfish point of view, it’s great for me to catch up with these industry guests and hear what’s happening with them. At the end of the evening after all the course writers had gone home, I was left in the pub with a writer and script editor from different years of the Channel 4 screenwriting course, who had originally met when working together on the writer’s feature film script at an indie to whom I’d introduced them both at different times – that’s the way this industry works.

We had two two guest speakers – first, director Tim Fywell, whom I’ve known since he directed my wife in a play on the London fringe (30 years ago?). Our paths crossed again when we both worked at Granada (me as script editor on MEDICS, him as director on one of the very best CRACKER stories) and then when he was directing and I was script-editing WAKING THE DEAD at the BBC. Tim talked about the scripts on the last two eps of series 1 of HAPPY VALLEY which he directed. Having Tim speak about this show gave me (and the course writers) the motivation to watch / re-watch HAPPY VALLEY series one. And the universal response was – what a treat. This really is one of the very best examples of drama series writing in the last ten years. It stands up to repeated viewing because the writing has such fire, passion and craft brilliance. It’s a masterclass in story and character. A lot of the course writers had also read the scripts – an equally rewarding experience. I really think these two series of HV will stand out for decades to come as the pinnacle of TV screenwriting in what is such a rich age of TV drama.

Our 2nd guest speaker was ARCHIE MADDOCKS. Archie was on the 2018 Channel 4 screenwriting course and is a force of nature. He talked about his work and how he combines dramatic writing (he is also a playwright with a play on at the Park Theatre in London in May) with a lot of work in stand-up comedy. He came in to talk late on the Saturday afternoon and from there was due to drive to Darlington for a stand-up gig at 10pm and had promised someone a lift back from there to London after the gig. Alongside the three script deadlines he had for the coming week! Archie talked about all his current development projects – about how he manages a large slate of different ideas, about how thinking / planning time is just as important as writing time; and how he makes best use of his time; for instance he told me that he has a dictation app on his phone so that he can actually speak / write as he’s driving! What was most valuable about Archie for the less experienced writers on the course was when Archie talked about the ideas he’s pursuing and why these are the stores he wants to tell. Archie speaks so entertainingly and with such passion about the ideas he’s working on. He was the perfect example of one of the things I’d been talking about in the morning – how it’s not enough to be a brilliant writer with brilliant ideas – how it’s also important that you can articulate to other people who you are as a writer, why you want to tell the stories you want to tell, and how you have to convince / persuade employers that these are stories that need to be told and will find an audience.

For me, the whole day is incredibly mentally stimulating. By the end of the day my mind is racing with all the new, interesting, energising people I have met. I go home very happy that I do the job I do.

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WRITING A SHORT FILM COURSE

A response from a lot of the courses I’ve run is writers wanting to do a course that generates a script. This is a course for only 12 people. The first three hour session contained a short discussion of what makes the best short films followed by the 12 writers articulating the ideas they were interested in writing (each of the writers came with 2 or 3 ideas). The evening was inspiring – so many great ideas pitched with such clarity and enthusiasm – and I think the energy and generosity of spirit in the room from the writers to help each other and make constructive suggestions, really added to the process. On my way home on the tube I noted down each of the writers’ ideas – and it was a very exciting list of stories that I can’t wait to see come to fruition in the next couple of weeks of intense work!

Many of the writers said they wanted to do this course to force them into finishing their scripts, to give them the structure and framework to compel them to follow through on ideas in note and bullet form.

WEEK 2 – a packed three hour session in which the 12 writers got feedback on their outlines from myself and 2 other writers (I split the 12 writers into 4 groups of 3). So exciting to see the ideas from last week begin to take shape. There was so much to fit into this session – but the level of energy and invention was a delight.

This course made me realise how important outlines are. Week 1 was one page pitches, week 2 was scene by scene outlines. Even in the first week, from the one page pitch I could get a pretty clear idea of whether an idea was going to work. There were certain ideas that were extremely exciting as one page pitches – and remained exciting throughout the process. It’s very rare for a really exciting 1 page pitch not to become an exciting script.

WEEK 3 – this session was spent discussing the writers’ scripts. The diversity and overall quality of the scripts was exceptional. So many brilliant, original ideas so well executed. I look forward to seeing how these scripts develop further and I hope that the writers will find a way to get these films made.

Above all, this course felt really satisfying in the way it enabled (or forced!) writers to go from initial idea to completed first draft script within 14 days. I’m hugely impressed by and grateful to the 12 writers for their energy and commitment to this process – particularly because the results were so outstanding.

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CREATIVITY FOR SCRIPTWRITERS COURSE

This course took place the day before the final day of the ‘Writing A Short Film’ course and was another reminder of how artificial exercises and, most importantly, looking at the world outside of yourself rather than staring at your computer screen, can generate such great results. A few other takeaways from the day –

Having a great title is important; counter-intuitively it can also be a great place from which to start generating ideas. Here are a few of the memorable titles created on the day that generated really strong story ideas –

THE COST OF DYING – generated a 30’ comedy drama series about a funeral parlour.

JOANIE GOES WILD; LAST WOMAN STANDING; PICASSO’S MUSE; TALKING WITHOUT MOVING YOUR LIPS – it seems to me all of these titles (thought up out of nothing within 30 seconds) are instantly interesting and attention-grabbing. And more great ideas came from these and other titles.

Collaboration is key – working with other people in an unpressured, supportive environment can be incredibly creatively fertile.

The harder it has been to create an idea doesn’t equate to its quality. Conversely, in my experience, some of the strongest story and character ideas are the ones that come to you instantly and easily.

Detail is key. Beautifully-observed, visual, character detail is so effective in bringing characters alive off the page.

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Finally this week, JOHN YORKE has asked me to include this announcement about the next intake of the excellent and prestigious BBC WRITERS ACADEMY

BBC STUDIOS WRITERS’ ACADEMY 2020

Do you want a career writing TV Drama? The BBC Studios Writers’ Academy gives emerging writers the opportunity to learn from some of the biggest names in the industry, to develop their skills on the BBC’s flagship shows (EastEnders, Casualty, Holby City, Doctors, and River City), and work with some of the UK’s best television drama production companies.

For the first time, the Writers’ Academy will be open to applications from all writers, including those that have neither a professional credit, nor an agent. We’re looking for writers from any level of experience, who are passionate about television, bursting with ideas and a love of popular drama.

Eight writers will be given a year’s paid training, with guaranteed broadcast commissions on the BBC’s flagship shows as well as the chance to develop an original project with an independent production company. This is an opportunity to work not just on Continuing Drama series, but also with the makers of series like The End of The F***ing World, Gentleman Jack, Les Misérables, McMafia, Brexit: The Uncivil War, Curfew, and many more.

The Writers’ Academy is led by scriptwriting expert John Yorke, and over the year you will receive training and lectures from a range of leading industry practitioners. You’ll learn all about television production alongside mentoring from some of the best writers in the business. The 2019 Writers’ Academy featured guest lectures from Russell T. Davies, Jed Mercurio, Laurie Nunn, Jimmy McGovern, Anna Symon and Matt Charman, to name just a few.

Previous graduates of the Writers’ Academy have gone on to write over two thousand hours of TV.  Their work includes everything from The Man In The High Castle, Killing Eve, Pure, and Father Brown, to My Mad Fat Diary, Doctor Who, Grantchester, Shakespeare and Hathaway, Red Rock, The Victim and Deadwater Fell.

Applications open on 30th March 2020 and must be submitted by 19th April at 12 noon.

You’ll need to send in a original drama script in any medium, apart from short films, novels, poems, or short stories. You’ll also need to submit a story idea concerning a regular character on one of the Continuing Drama shows.

The course begins in September 2020.

Applications are via the BBC Writersroom E-Submissions System only.  More information and full details of how to apply can be found here:  https://www.bbcstudios.com/writersacademy/

The next newsletter will be on Friday April 3rd,

All the very best

Phil

PHILIP SHELLEY

www.script-consultant.co.uk

www.tributepodcasts.co.uk

@PhilipShelley1

March 20th 2020