CREATIVITY FOR SCRIPTWRITERS 1 day course London Saturday Feb 21st

A course for scriptwriters in all media – TV, film, radio, theatre – designed to help you generate exciting ideas and characters, and give your creativity a boost with a day of fun, stimulating writing exercises. Run by TV drama script editor, producer and script consultant PHILIP SHELLEY with guest speaker writer REGINA MORIARTY.



Hi There,

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a good restful Christmas and that your creative batteries are fully re-charged for 2015. If the amount of scripts I’ve received this week is an indication, there was a lot of writing going on in the holiday period!

As above, I am delighted to let you know that screenwriter REGINA MORIARTY will be the guest speaker on my Feb 21st CREATIVITY FOR SCRIPTWRITERS course. Gina was on the 2012 Channel 4 screenwriting course. She wrote a wonderful screenplay to get on the course, and an even better script on the course, and was a delight to work with. I’m entirely unsurprised by the richly-deserved success she’s enjoyed since the course – the highlight being her extremely well-received and very powerful film for BBC3, MURDERED BY MY BOYFRIEND, which if you haven’t already seen, I highly recommend.

Gina did one of my 20 QUESTIONS interviews which is well worth a read


I’ve caught up with a lot of excellent shows over the holiday –


I watched the whole 1st series and I thought this was a delight. Created and (mostly) written by Jill Soloway, I was alerted to this by many of the writers who came to interviews for the 2015 C4 screenwriting course, and by this inspiring, fascinating talk by series creator JILL SOLOWAY. (Thank you Kitty Percy for sending me this link!)

Thanks to Netflix, I also caught up with her excellent debut feature AFTERNOON DELIGHT.

TRANSPARENT is the ultimate dysfunctional family comedy / drama. Although it doesn’t seem like there’s much story, it’s actually packed with events and changing relationships. Both this and AFTERNOON DELIGHT are very much about sexual and gender confusion and they’re both done with real humour, charm and a lightness of touch. The characters, while at times objectively unlikeable, are hugely empathetic and engaging, and the dialogue and performances are great.


I raced through this in a couple of evenings and thought it was an object-lesson in dramatic story-telling. Many of the sub-plots from the first series had been stripped away, and this 2nd series was very much about the dual between cop and killer. Allan Cubitt really is a master of his craft – he has a fantastic instinct for story; and I think another brilliant aspect of his writing (something confirmed by the talk he did at the 2013 London Screenwriters’ Festival) is his commitment to research. With the character of the serial killer, it really felt like he knew what he was writing about. There was an assurance and ambiguity to the characterisation of Paul Spector that I think had a lot to do with how deeply Cubitt had researched the whole area of serial killers, but then also how well and creatively he had used his research.

It was doubly impressive that Cubitt also directed the whole series – the direction was really outstanding.

I’m very often suggesting to writers that they reduce scene length – cut 4 page scenes to 1 or 2 pages at most, and to be aware of what is a realistic rhythm in films and TV drama nowadays – a scene over about 2 pages long is rare; and it’s very hard to sustain audience attention for more than 3 or so pages in a dialogue scene.

Which brings me to THE FALL series 2 ep 6 in the middle of which is a 17 minute, static, two-handed, dialogue scene! For me this is very much the exception that proves the rule. The previous 11 episodes over 2 series had been building up to this scene – the first face-to-face confrontation between protagonist and antagonist. And what a brilliant, gripping scene it was. A wonderful piece of screenwriting.

But before you all start trying to write 17 pages scenes, you should be aware how hard Allan Cubitt had worked to earn this scene. 11 and a half hours of gripping drama as Stella Gibson and Paul Spector duelled from a distance, all leading up to this climactic face-to-face scene.

And that’s what I say to writers – there is – occasionally – a place for long, two-handed, static dialogue scenes – but the story reason for these scenes has to be absolutely dramatically justified – and earned. This scene from THE FALL was an outstanding example of this.

And it’s very interesting to me that two of the best pieces of TV drama in 2014 – ep.4 of HAPPY VALLEY and the whole of series 2 of THE FALL were both directed by the writers. Series 1 of The Fall was good, but IMO series 2 had a self-confidence, an assurance and a boldness in its story-telling that stood out head and shoulders above most TV drama. I think the producers of both shows (Gub Neal and Nicola Shindler) should take much credit for empowering their writers in this way.


Adapted by JANE ANDERSON  from ELIZABETH STROUD’s 2008 novel, this was a really original, subtle, strange and compelling mini-series, with some wonderful performances, particularly from the magnetic Frances McDormand. What was so impressive about the writing was the layered complexity of the characterisation, particularly the eponymous Olive K. Superficially unsympathetic but absolutely compelling as a character. There were several wonderful scenes. I particularly liked a scene in a parked car between Olive K and an ex-pupil in his 20’s who had returned to the town. The scene was nominally teacher and one of her favourite ex-pupils catching up – but it was given a wonderfully intense, dark sub-text by the rifle poorly hidden on the back-seat of the car. This detail elevated the scene to a different level of intrigue and intensity.

What I also admired and enjoyed about this script was that it wasn’t afraid to take its time. It had such confidence in its characterisations and the dynamics of the relationships between them, that it felt able to withhold big plot moments – although the dark, powerful opening before the ’25 years previously’ caption, left you in no doubt that things were not going to end well!

Like TRANSPARENT, it had a real sense of confidence. In both, the characters were so vivid and memorable, and above all fascinatingly, deeply flawed – while remaining rooted in a recognisable reality – that you could sense the writers just revelling in allowing the audience to spend time with these characters. Inspiring.


Like this time last year, writer ALEX ORCHARD-LISLE has once again very kindly sent me his TV drama highlights of 2014. I think these annual ORCHARD-LISLE awards need to become a regular feature –

‘2014 was an amazing year for drama series (as opposed to serials and single dramas). My drama of the year was The Honourable Woman, an incredibly sophisticated and impartial story about Western/Israeli/Palestinian relationships. Hugo Blick is definitely British TV’s most ambitious screenwriter working today.

My character of the year (possibly decade?) was Line of Duty’s DCI Lindsay Denton. Heroic, lonely, very intelligent, sad, tragic, powerful, depressed and terrifying – Keeley Hawes was truly mesmerising to watch. I have noticed that Jed Mercurio is very clever at writing three-dimensional characters who we know very little about. He’s the master of withholding information.

I also hugely admire the ambition of Allan Cubitt’s vision in The Fall. He has a lot to say about gender and the darkness of human sexuality.

I’m still bowled out by how extraordinary Sally Wainwright was at directing Episode 4 of Happy Valley! That hour vibrated with profound intensity, authenticity and visual flair. Controversially, she proved that writers really know their material best. Very excited that she’s directing 3 eps of the next series!

Personally, I presently feel women characters are more progressive than their male counterparts. But we still had some absorbing characters: the adorable Neil Baldwin, the misunderstood Christopher Jefferies, the bigamist from From There to Here and the sexy serial killer from The Fall.

I loved the fact that the final two episodes of Rev were tonally drama. It didn’t give a shit that it transformed from sitcom into drama. I found that really reassuring in a modern world of labelled genres. Armstrong and Bain’s Babylon is also another fabulous example of this.

Disappointments of the year were Utopia (the first series had a big beating heart, this series felt hollow) and the bizarrely overrated Sherlock!

Thanks again for your fascinating weekly newsletters. They’re always a pleasure!


Alex Orchard-Lisle’


Drama Series: The Honourable Woman, Line of Duty, Happy Valley, The Fall

Mini Series: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, From There to Here, The Driver, Cilla

Single Drama: Marvellous, Common, Murdered by my Boyfriend, That Day We Sang

Drama Writer: Hugo Blick (The Honourable Woman), Jed Mercurio (Line of Duty), Sally Wainwright (Happy Valley), Allan Cubitt (The Fall)

Director: Hugo Blick (The Honourable Woman), Douglas Mackinnon, Daniel Nettheim (Line of Duty), David Blair (Common), Paul Whittington (Cilla)

Actor: Toby Jones (Marvellous), Jamie Dornan (The Fall), Jason Watkins (The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies), Philip Glenister (From There to Here)

Actress: Keeley Hawes (Line of Duty), Sarah Lancashire (Happy Valley), Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Honourable Woman), Gillian Anderson (The Fall)

Supporting Actor: Stephen Rea (The Honourable Woman), Joe Armstrong (Happy Valley), James Norton (Happy Valley), Jordan Stephens (Glue)

Supporting Actress: Maxine Peake (The Village), Vicky McClure (Line of Duty), Kerry Fox (The Crimson Field), Dame Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey)

Breakthrough Talent: Sally Wainwright as director (Happy Valley), Oliver Refson, Lilah Vandenburgh (Uncle), Regina Moriarty (Murdered by My Boyfriend), Sarah Solemani as writer (The Secrets)

Situation Comedy: Rev, W1A, Inside No 9, House of Fools

Comedy Sketch-Show: Harry and Paul’s History of the Two’s

Comedy Writer: James Wood, Sam Bain (Rev), John Morton (W1A), Bob Mortimer, Vic Reeves (House of Fools), Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton (Inside No 9)

Male Comedy: Tom Hollander (Rev), Jimmy Akingbola (Rev), Rufus Jones (W1A), Bob Mortimer (House of Fools)

Female Comedy: Morgana Robinson (House of Fools), Jessica Hynes (W1A), Catherine Tate (Catherine Tate’s Nan), Tamsin Greig (Friday Night Dinner)

Music: Keefus Ciancia, David Holmes (The Fall), Martin Phipps (The Honourable Woman), Carly Paradis (Line of Duty), Cristobal Tapia De Veer (Utopia)

Cinematography: Zac Nicholson, George Steel (The Honourable Woman), Lol Crawley (Utopia), Neus Olle-Soronellas (Endeavour), Urszula Pontikos, Stuart Bentley (Glue)

Production Design: Chris Roope (The Honourable Woman), Lisa Marie Hall (Cilla), Jenifer Kernke, Simon Rogers (Utopia), Arwel Jones (Sherlock)

Editing: Andrew McClelland (Line of Duty), Paul Knight (Prey), David Charap, Kim Gaster (Our World War), Robin Hill (W1A) ‘

Thank you so much Alex! Great list (much more interesting than today’s BAFTA nominations)

NB If YOU would like to share with us your produced screenplay highlights of 2014 (Film + TV), please do! You know where to find me.

Until next week

All the best




Jan 9th 2015