Hi There,

This week Part 1 (of 2) of your answers to the final question I asked in my survey from last year –

What do you consider the most important element for a (creatively) successful screenplay?

‘I think the most important element for a creatively successful screenplay is a sense that the characters’ lives will continue off-screen.’

‘Realism and imagination in both character and plot.’

‘A successful screenplay needs just one thing. Wit. Wit and economy. That’s two things. Wit, economy, and a great story. And distinctive characters. And joke ideas lifted from Monty Python.’

‘How to work with an Act II that will have people in the movie theater not getting up for popcorn.’

‘Theme, an ill defined theme turns great writing into the mundane.’

‘I think it’s originality. This is after all a creative endeavour so if you’re not going to be creative why bother. We’re probably not far off the days when a computer algorithm will be able to churn out the latest Vampire Romance smash or an episode of everyone’s favourite ‘Odd Couple Crime Procedural’ so if writers are to survive we must evolve. It’s all the more important that our scripts are imbued with our passion, our cause, our voice, our humour, our loves, our fears; all of it!’

‘Paradoxically I don’t think it is of the craft but of the writer. It would be vulnerability. Only if you are prepared to be vulnerable can you be open. Then, because you are open, experience will follow because openness makes persistence possible and that builds experience. It will also defeat the ogre of criticism that can kill your writer’s heart. So, if you begin with deliberate vulnerability the law of contention will keep the oxygen of ideas and good people always to hand. Just be open to them and let them in.’

‘The idea has to be fresh and original. You need to tune out what is commercially successful, no matter how tempting. No one can see the world the way you do. Share that view and delight us!’

‘An original idea. No…good dialogue. No..be funny…no, it is an original idea, or rather an original spin on the seven, three, or one plot(s), whatever it’s supposed to be now. But all that is pointless without snappy dialogue, free of tedious and patronising exposition. So, in short, I don’t know.’

‘Characters. Without good characters nothing else matters. A good story is pointless if the audience doesn’t care about the characters involved. An elaborate action set piece is irrelevant if the audience doesn’t care whether the hero lives or not.’

‘Intuition, knowledge and the possibility to communicate.’

‘Emotion. You don’t notice blemishes as much when you love something.’

‘Characterisation. I used to think that the plot was the most important thing, but it’s the characters that draw you in and keep you reading/watching. And don’t discount the value of brevity.’

‘Tricky question this one, but I’d have to say the most important thing is making the audience CARE about what happens to your characters. I think it’s the hardest thing to get right but it pays off when you achieve it. Dramatic situations, labyrinthine plots and witty dialogue are great but if you don’t care what happens next, it’s only a matter of time before you tune out of the story. Also, I don’t think caring necessarily has anything to do with liking or being sympathetic to a character. It just means you are engaged by them, fascinated by them, curious about figuring them out.’

‘Characters – it’s all well and good having whizz-bang action and super-duper special effects and a break-neck pace in your story – if people don’t like or cannot identify with any aspects of your characters, they won’t want to see the story, no matter how spectacular.’

‘Truthfulness, no matter if you’re in outer space or a manor house kitchen. Wonderful things should all start from that point.’

‘Credibility of character and theme, even in fantastic, surreal or high-concept works.’

‘Original storyline.’

‘Remember the characters are living it, don’t interfere too much and they will lead the way.’

‘Tell your story with enthusiasm! Show your passion for your world, characters and plots.’

‘Most important element for a creatively successful screenplay? So many! I’ll save giving the characters room to breathe, to come alive, to be real – even in the most fantastical narrative.’

‘Creating a story that is truthful and honest which reflects your take on the world.’

‘Suspense – not just in the Hitchcockian sense, but making the audience want to know what a character’s going to do next.’

‘Pace – if there’s no pace then people won’t read. However I’m writing (comedy, drama, thriller) I always try to make sure there’s a flow to the script that will keep people reading.’

‘People have to connect or understand the characters, even if it is an anti-hero.’

Thank you again very much for these insightful and excellent answers.


Finally this week, I wanted to tell you about a FREE WRITING EVENT in London that I’m involved in next Thursday July 3rd at the rather lovely Central Saint Martins campus, Granary Square, N1. My session is 1.00 – 1.45 and it would be great to see you there!

You are invited to the following event:

The Year of Experimentation

Thursday, 3 July 2014 from 10:00 to 21:00 (BST)

Platform Theatre
Central Saint Martins
Granary Square
United Kingdom

Drama Centre London and Central Saint Martins invite you to The Year of Experimentation, a new writing festival taking place at The Platform Theatre at Central Saint Martins from July 3rd – July 4th.

The festival is the culmination of the first year of Drama Centre London’s and Central Saint Martins’ new MA Dramatic Writing, and plans for the permanent model of the course, which will offer a new model for training dramatic writers in the UK, will be announced as part of the festival.

Day One of the festival will be The Year of Experimentation which will take place on July 3rd and is a one day festival on dramatic writing training, offering free Masterclasses for writers, students, the public and the industry on writing for theatre, television, film, radio and digital media.

The Masterclasses will be led by the ten Masters who have helped develop the MA Dramatic Writing at Drama Centre London and who are ten leading industry professionals who have led the way in training dramatic writers in the UK.

The Masters are:

Ola Animashawun, who founded the Royal Court Theatre’s Young Writers Programme

Stephen Jeffreys, Literary Associate at the Royal Court Theatre for eleven years and creator of Masterclasses which have led the way in Playwriting teaching in the UK

Caroline Jester, dramaturg and creator of REPwrite, the new online dramatic writing programme, who has led on international and national collaborative writing models.

Fin Kennedy, winner of the first Fringe First ever awarded for a schools production and co-Artistic Director of Tamasha Theatre Company

Kate Rowland, founder of BBC Writersroom and the Creative Director of New Writing at the BBC

Philip Shelley, who runs the Channel Four screenwriting course

Nina Steiger, Associate Director at the Soho Theatre

Jennifer Tuckett, Course Leader for Drama Centre London and Central Saint Martin’s new MA Dramatic Writing, who previously founded the UK’s first formally industry partnered MA in Playwriting, ran industry partnered projects on training writers for writing for theatre, radio drama and digital media with the BBC and developed Guardian Masterclasses Manchester.

Steve Winter, Programme Director of the Kevin Spacey Foundation co-creator of the Old Vic New Voices 24 Hour Plays and TS Eliot US/UK Exchange.

John Yorke, creator of the BBC Writers Academy and Managing Director of Company Pictures.

The festival will conclude on July 4th with In Battalions, a one day conference being run by Fin Kennedy and the students on the MA Dramatic Writing course which will be stage three of Fin Kennedy’s In Battalions new writing campaign.

Central Saint Martins is also delighted to be hosting the 2014 BBC TV Drama Writers’ Festival, chaired by Tony Jordan, which will take place on July 2nd.

For further information on The Year of Experimentation festival please see:www.theyearofexperimentationfestival.wordpress.com. To book free tickets for the Masterclasses please go to www.theyearofexperimentation.eventbrite.co.uk

We hope you can make it!

Best wishes,
MA Dramatic Writing, Drama Centre London, Central Saint Martins

Until next week,

All the best




Twitter: @PhilipShelley1

June 27th 2014