Hi There,


As I mentioned in my last newsletter, my 2 day screenwriting course on March 3 & 4 is now sold out.

 SO I am running this course again in London over the weekend of May 12 & 13. And I’m delighted to say I have three new, equally exciting guest speakers for the May course – screenwriters REGINA MORIARTY, who will be talking about the craft of screenwriting, and VINAY PATEL, talking about the business / career side of screenwriting. Gina and Vinay are both alumni of the Channel 4 screenwriting course and both made stellar TV writing debuts – with MURDERED BY MY BOYFRIEND and MURDERED BY MY FATHER respectively. Both have gone onto more success since, and they both have a real insight into working successfully as screenwriters in the UK.

The literary agent on this course will be MATTHEW BATES of the Sayle Screen agency. Matthew is a very experienced and highly-regarded agent with a hugely impressive list of writer and director clients. Matthew has spoken on my courses before, and he is always really instructive and generous with his advice.

I’m delighted to have all three of these guest speakers on board and I know their sessions will be fascinating and hugely helpful for screenwriters.

Running this course in October was a lot of fun and we had some great feedback from the 20 writers who came on that October course, all of which you can find on the web page –


In October this course sold out within 24 hours of the newsletter going out so, if you’re interested, I’d recommend you book ASAP.



I got a fair amount of feedback after my observations about the script submissions to the Channel 4 screenwriting course two weeks ago. Without wanting to come across as defensive (!) I’d like to emphasise the necessarily subjective aspect of assessing the scripts, of having to compare the quality and ‘value’ of so many wildly different scripts. AND the simple fact that we received 2040 writer submissions – but only have 12 places on the course.

It may be worth mentioning some of the other elements we think about when choosing the writers for interview – their potential suitability to writing specifically for Channel 4 and E4 drama; and the desire to get as broad and diverse a mix of writers as possible, that reflect the range of voices across writers and communities in the UK – whether that be in terms of gender, ethnicity, regionality, agenda, age, etc. But what we absolutely do look for is the strength, originality and distinctiveness of the writer’s voice.

Director Zoe McCarthy made a short film about the CHANNEL 4 SCREENWRITING COURSE 2017, which may be of interest – I’m sorry this wasn’t available before the application process



C21 Drama Summit

I spent a couple of days this week at this conference about TV drama and I gained some really interesting insights into the world of TV drama –


I went to a session aboutt his forthcoming BBC drama serial. A Euston Films production for the BBC, written by LUTHER creator Neil Cross. The show is a thriller about an establishment conspiracy / cover-up of the fact that the world is going to end in 5 years. Neil Cross talked about being inspired by the David Bowie song ‘Five Years’ – an interesting example of a screenwriter taking inspiration from another form of story-telling.

Elizabeth Kilgarriff, the BBC executive producer on the show, talked about what a brilliant pitch Neil Cross gave for the show at the outset of the project.

Jessica Scott from Hulu talked about Hulu’s involvement with / investment into the show. They were attracted by the fact this was a Neil Cross project and backed it on the strength of the episode one script which she described as, ‘a noir-ish cop show, grounded but with a sci-fi twist – a script that stood out in a crowded marketplace.’

NC was asked if he had the whole plot mapped out when he started writing episode one, to which he answered, ‘I think the trick is to pretend you do’. (!)

Producer Kate Harwood (this is the first production for her newly re-formed Euston Films) talked about the strength of NC’s writing of characters. ‘The characters come fully formed with Neil. But once cast Neil writes to the actors’ strengths…he’s very organic in that way.’

Actor Jim Sturgess: ‘Neil writes these incredibly complicated, damaged characters.’

Actor Nikki Amuka-Bird: ‘What is lovely is that Neil loves his characters – whatever they’re like, you get a sense of their humanity.’

NC: The writing process allowed the series to become more and more character-oriented as the story progresses. I find that intensely satisfying. Watching dailies from the first block of filming, to see what the actors do with the characters, gives you the ingredients to inhabit and steal so that you can use what the actors bring when writing the subsequent episodes….Apocalyptic stories like this aren’t so much about death – they’re transformational stories, stripping away the quotidian, everyday aspects of life – it’s just the characters being allowed to express who they really are, and to express love and the urge to survive.’

EK: ‘Actually an incredibly life-affirming story. About the lengths people will go to, to protect what and who they care about. It’s very moving.’

NC: ‘It’s complex but not complicated.’

Jessica Scott, Hulu: ‘We want shows to be noisy and gripping right from the start.’

NC: What the show’s about – ‘At the moment it’s becoming hard for optimists like me to not be blanching with fear at our immediate future. There is a general sense of anxiety and unease bordering on outright fear’ – this is partly what the show is about / taps into.


Interestingly, like HARD SUN, this is another SVOD / UK broadcaster / UK indie co-pro – this time between Netflix, Channel 4, Kindle Entertainment and Balloon Entertainment.

Adapted from the novel by Lottie Moggach, the adaptation has substituted the internet chat rooms of the novel for a virtual reality / parallel world, so that the story cuts between the live action characters and their animated, avatar equivalents.

Writer Brian Elsley: ‘My main inspiration was MARY POPPINS. I loved it when I first saw it, the way it took you into another world.’

Producer Melanie Stokes: Channel 4 took the project into development initially, with Brian as writer. Brian was in LA, talking to Netflix, who had bought and screened his C4 show SKINS. Netflix were interested in the combination of the book and Brian as writer, partly based on the success of SKINS for Netflix.


A Norwegian co-production. A 5 part series (5 hours) that follows in real time a couple meeting for the first time on a blind date. Writer / director Oystein Karlsen talked about the creation and production of the show – the USP of the show is that it plays out in real time, that you never cut away from the couple on the blind date. They made sure that the actor and actress hadn’t met at all before they started shooting; and they weren’t allowed to talk to each other between takes – so that the sense of the awkwardness of the first date was as real as possible. It was shot in very long takes – as long as 11 minutes, again, to replicate the reality and awkwardness of the situation. There was a lot of use of Steadicam – Karlsen described it as a ‘walking road movie.’

It was an attempt to shoot something small, with limited budget – but to somehow make it big. In the story-telling there is no foreshadowing, no flashbacks – we stay on the two actors the whole time. One of the reasons the show was commissioned was to try to attract the 28-35 year old age group back to linear TV.

To make things even more challenging it was shot in both English and Norwegian. The actress was the same for both shoots but the actor was different.

(All the above three shows looked really interesting and definitely worth watching when they hit our screens.)

More from the C21 drama summit – including a fascinating interview by Jane Featherstone of Netflix VP, Elizabeth Bradley, in two weeks time,

Until then,

All the best






Dec 1st 2017