Hi There,

TITLES blog – 2 excellent responses

‘Great to have a post about this because I’ve always agonised over titles! I went through a phase a few years ago of loving really simple show names like “Girls” and “Friends” but now I’ve gone the opposite way – I struggle to remember names due to how generic they all are and interchangeable. The amount of times I’ve heard people mixing up “back to life” and “afterlife” alone is unbelievable!

Show titles I think are strong/memorable :


Gentleman Jack

Desperate Housewives

Stath lets flats 


Breaking Bad 

The Assassination of Gianni Versace

A mixture of all the things you said makes a good title.

None of them can be mistaken for anything else!’

‘One of the (few) advantages of being a poet is that we do spend ages workshopping titles, which almost lead a different life to the poem itself. The title changes our entire approach to the poem as well as our understanding of its meaning.

Of the football club takeover titles, I really like ‘You Don’t Know What You’re Doing!’ because it does absolutely speak to the target audience. 

I agree ‘Normal People’ must be ironic in a gentle Irish ribbing kind of way.

Another I really liked in recent years was ‘A Very English Scandal’.’


Every couple of years or so, a seminal show comes along and IMDY is it. Absolutely stunning. The series was at times not easy viewing – disturbing, challenging, the characters’ actions sometimes alienating. But it felt so real, raw, so full of integrity and heart. The way it built over the series, some of the story twists and in particular the wonderful last episode which was a brilliant illustration of the intricacies of storytelling (if you haven’t watched it, I don’t wish to spoil it for you so will say no more).

One of the things that really struck a chord with me was the lack of an easy or clear resolution. It felt like the whole series was a struggle by Michaela Coel to find answers to some very difficult questions. But the fact that she didn’t find clear, easy answers didn’t spoil the show – on the contrary, it gave it added depth, complexity and value.

If any were needed it was the most emphatic statement of the value of diverse storytelling, of the importance of voices from all corners and cultures of the UK and beyond. This felt fresh, challenging and exciting in a way so little TV drama does; but it was also accessible. To this aging white middle class man, it felt absolutely inclusive and was speaking to me, giving me powerful, important and emotionally resonant messages.


This week we finally came to an end of this year’s course, with the 12 wonderful scripts going out to the industry (the annual drinks evening, usually scheduled for late June normally marks the end of the course but this year, sadly, this very enjoyable get-together couldn’t happen for obvious reasons). For the writers, it’s been tough focusing their creative energies in these strange and unsettling times – particularly to those two writers locked down at home with young children. So the fact that all the writers have managed to deliver their scripts, and to such a high standard is a real compliment to their professionalism and determination. I know this will pay off hugely in their dealings with producers, literary agents, etc.

Strangely, in some ways, I have enjoyed this year’s course more than any other year. The fact that we have all been physically separated since the first weekend back in the different era that was January has concentrated our minds on how to make the course work for everyone. And the fact that everyone in the industry has been stuck at home has meant that the course writers have been able to enjoy a number of zoom meetings / seminars with producers, literary agents and writers who have previously been on the course, that will prove invaluable – so a huge thanks to the likes of writers Anna Symon, Karen Cogan, Archie Maddocks, literary agents Nish Panchal, Sam Greenwood, Jessi Stewart, Jonathan Kinnersley and Frances Arnold, script editors / producers Hilary Norrish and Ben Hough (and others who I apologise for forgetting) for so generously giving their time and wisdom to this year’s writers and script editors.

The culture of social distancing has also focused the energies of us script editors on keeping the communication lines open with the writers we have been working with. Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams – or whatever other means we have been using – are clearly not the same as face to face meetings but they have worked – the work writers have done with the support of their script editors has been superb. And the current restrictions have been weirdly bonding. I feel very emotionally invested in all this year’s course writers but in particular the three with whom I’ve been working. I hope we will be able to look back with some perverse fondness in a year or two’s time at this weird time and the scripts and working relationships that came out of it.

For me, the whole process was topped off with an evening of ‘virtual’ drinks and a silly but very enjoyable quiz game with my three writers and shadow script editor on zoom. When we eventually are able to hold it, the annual drinks evening will have added meaning for all of us, I think.


I’d also like to thank Gemma Boswell, Caroline Hollick and everyone in the drama department and at Channel 4 who understand particularly at this time how important it is to support new talent trying to break into the industry, with their continued encouragement and support of the course.

All the dates for the 2021 course are now up on my website and the 4talent website –

Entries for the 2021 course will open on Sept 24th and close on Oct 2nd. There is an FAQ section that should provide an answer to any question you may have about entries and the course in general. Obviously what we don’t know at this point is how much of the course will be in person and how much online.

One thing we have decided to waive for the 2021 entrants is the stipulation that the script you enter has to be a different script to the one you have submitted previously. It’s probably still in your best interests to enter a new or different script if you have one; but with the year we’ve all had, it seemed overly harsh to demand that you entered a new script.


Thank you so much to all of you that have contributed to this newsletter over the last few months and for the nice feedback – it’s really appreciated and helps me find the mental energy to keep this going. I’m going to take a (very short) August break so there will be no newsletter now until Friday Sept 4th.

Stay safe,

All the best



Twitter: @PhilipShelley1

August 7th 2020