This week the second in an occasional series of write-ups by the writers about the scripts they have generously allowed me to include in my SCRIPT LIBRARY.
This week, Laurence Tratalos on his excellent script, LIFE ACCORDING TO ME
‘I initially decided to write Life, According To Me when my younger sister told me about a girl at her school who’d pretended to be ill. I don’t know if she pretended to have cancer but it was a big lie about a big illness, and it got quickly out of hand.
This got me thinking about why someone would tell a lie of this magnitude. Lies are inherently compelling for drama, they automatically create issues, and if the lie is coming from the main character, it makes them active and gives them a goal: to maintain the lie. And if they have to keep lying and digging themselves deeper in trouble…
The script was already writing itself.
I’ve always loved coming of age stories: Donnie Darko, Rushmore, Welcome To The Dollhouse. This was a chance for me to write about my own high school experiences, through the lens of a teenage girl who was completely in over her head. It touches on lots of issues, such as bullying, that I’ve always wanted to write about. It’s about a struggling family, all dealing with their own problems, but somehow pulling together, even though they spend most of their time insulting each other.
I wrote the script in about four days. This is not normal but sometimes the best ideas are like this, whereas you might labour for weeks or months on something else and it still turns out to be average, great ideas occasionally come fully formed. You hear the characters in your head and it’s almost as if they’re writing the story for you.
Whenever I mention this script (a girl lies about having cancer to get school bullies off her back) people always assume it’s a drama. When a ten-page extract of the script was performed in a Soho theatre it seemed like everyone was laughing at every line. I think this goes to show that any topic can be funny, provided it feels authentic, and the characters are real.
Life, According To Me opened up a lot of doors. It landed me my agent and acted as a calling card for all the production companies I had generals with during my first year of being repped. I had lots of meetings because of the script and I’m still working with many producers who first read it and wanted to talk as a result. Although I never developed it further with a company, I think it’s still a great sample script and an indicator of the type of writing I like best; tragedy and comedy, all mixed together.
Just after Philip asked if I’d like to write something about Life, According To Me, I got a message off a producer who had read the script on Philip’s website and wanted to know if it was still available. This producer had been going through a life-changing disease over the last few years and I was really touched that the script spoke to him. The fact that someone is interested in the script six years after I first sent it out goes to show that no idea is ever dead in this industry, it’s merely hibernating.
About Laurence –
‘In 2015 I was chosen as one of the winners of the BBC Writersroom award. In 2021 I was mentored through the Channel 4 Screenwriting course, and in 2022 I was chosen for the Seriesmania Writers’ Campus in 2022 and shortlisted for the BBC Studios Writers Academy. I have recently written two short films that have gone to Oscar and Bafta qualifying festivals. My next short film is shooting in October.
Quick side-note from Philip – in the reading Laurence talks about, the lead part was played – brilliantly – by Karla Crome. Karla is herself an excellent screenwriter – she was part of the Channel 4 screenwriting course in 2015, wrote on season 1 of SCREWS (C4) and she can currently be seen on BBC i-player acting in the very excellent AM I BEING UNREASONABLE? written by Daisy May Cooper & Selin Hizli.
A massive thank you to Laurence for writing this – and I hope you will all enjoy his script as much as I did,
Friday November 4th 2022