CREATIVITY FOR SCRIPTWRITERS 1 day course London Saturday Feb 7th 2016

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 PHIL SHELLEY with guest speaker REGINA MORIARTY writer of the award-winning MURDERED BY MY BOYFRIEND (BBC).

NB Places have now SOLD OUT on our 2 Phils Screenwriting Course March 19-20



Hi There,

And a belated HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Following on from my ‘BEST SCRIPTS of 2015’ list in my last newsletter pre-Christmas, thank you very much to those of you who emailed me their thoughts –

‘Hi Philip,

Ex Machina is my favourite.

For presenting complex philosophical stuff clearly and dramatically, for making us feel for a robot, for the massive reversals of fortune.

Reading the script it is so clear compared to many produced screenplays. Every line does something, there’s no fat. It’s like it’s subject – absolutely machine-like in its focus.

Best wishes for Christmas and the new year.

Olly Wyatt’

PS: Yes – agreed – it’s a cracking film. And Olly makes a really good point about clarity – it seems to me that narrative clarity is something the best screenplays have.

‘Hangmen. Saw it at The Royal Court and am going again with my family on Monday. Pure genius. And The Legacy on Skyarts. Loved it.

Louise Monaghan’

PS: ‘Hangmen’ is one of those shows that I just didn’t get personally – but I know I’m very much in the minority. Several people have raved to me about it. Which just goes to show how subjective and mysterious this whole business is.

‘My favourite TV script of the year would have to be Fargo again. Season One was incredible and the second season just as good. I’d recommend a watch.’

Laurence Tratalos

‘My favorite scripts of 2015:

I loved reading the first episode of London Spy – unfortunately the show didn’t translate as well for me.

Although these aren’t 2015 films, I read them for the first time this year and fell in love with their style of story telling. 🙂 Martha Marcy May Marlene, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Boogie Nights, All Is Lost and A Most Violent Year.’

Theo Krekis



Battlestar Galactic (2009)
The Shield

All the best. Happy Xmas

Steve Manwaring’

And here’s one 2015 TV addition from me –


I loved the multi-stranded structure. The layered meaning of the title was reflected in the multi-faceted nature of the story-telling. I haven’t yet read the book – although the TV show has made me want to – but even before doing so, I can see that Peter Bowker has crafted an excellent adaptation. Because it had so much ground to cover, the story-telling had to be economical – there was a lot of use of really effective images and visuals to tell the story. So many powerful images that struck an emotional chord without the use of dialogue.

And I’ve been on a bit of a viewing splurge – one of the treats of the Christmas period. Above all, I’ve seen a lot of outstanding feature films –

I loved the flair of the story-telling in David O Russell’s film. So much to enjoy in every aspect of the film – including the writing. Particularly in the creation of character and relationship. Wonderful cast of complex dysfunctional family members. Not only distinctive, idiosyncratic and engaging but a very complex web of relationships laid out for the audience with such clarity – via voiceover, flashback and imagery. Based on a true story. Great American Dream story of commercial success, of triumph over adversity – but it was the characterisations, family relationships, the use of stylistic devices that stood out for me. Eg the mother of the central Jennifer Lawrence / Joy character, who spends her life in bed watching bad soaps. First scene of the film a recreation of a black and white soap scene – with deliberately wooden acting and writing – but such a great character note; and the soap motif informed the ‘real’ world of the characters and took the curse off the messy soapiness of their lives.

Adapted by Nick Hornby from the novel by Colm Toibin, this is a beautiful, affecting, subtle piece of story-telling. I watched another excellent Nick Hornby adaptation a few months ago – WILD – adapted from a memoir / true story by Cheryl Strayed about her epic walk along the Pacific Crest Trail in the Rockies. He’s written so many brilliant books, but he really is the master of film adaptation (and I love his books / articles about the books he’s reading as well – The Polyphonic Spree).

Another dramatization of an extraordinary true story. Initially conceived and pitched, and with a script by relatively inexperienced British screenwriter MATT CHARMAN, this is another very strong, at times compelling story. A great central role for Tom Hanks, and in a smaller role, a brilliantly written characterisation, and even better performance, by Mark Rylance. Again, I enjoyed this immensely – although in some ways (like LADY IN THE VAN) there’s something very old-fashioned about it (not least the fact that the cast is almost entirely male, white and 40+).

There are things that could have been improved about this movie – it’s 30 mins too long, with some over-written Spielbergian exposition scenes that don’t really earn their place. But there’s also some great writing and film-making, some fantastic scenes. The main thing I took from it, for my script consultancy work, was the clarity and focus of the story-telling in terms of character POV. Some of the less successful scripts I read don’t appreciate the importance of this – knowing from whose POV you’re telling your story. This story was so clearly told from Jack Donovan’s (Tom Hanks) POV. The big moral questions about the story we saw from his POV. In parts of the story, his situation wasn’t necessarily the most dramatic, but we saw every aspect of the story through the prism of his character and his take on the world. This gave the story a focus and a clarity that brought a power to the story, and made it relatable. One of the few flaws in the film to me was the inclusion of a whole US military strand that didn’t include Hanks’ character, and I think the film would have been stronger if this strand had been greatly reduced.

So the film was inspiring but also instructive (because, good though it was, it was clear to see areas where it could have been improved!).

Another adaptation – by Alan Bennett. A strange hybrid – initially from his own short ‘story’, based on an experience from his own life, which then became stage play, and now a film. One of the themes this explores is the nature of story-telling itself, of what is ‘true’, and what’s invented. The film works on a number of levels – as an extraordinary story in its own right, but also as an essay on adaptation and fact / fiction. The big stylistic device is having two ‘Alan Bennett’s (both played by Alex Jennings) which enables the film to explore these questions of fact and fiction through dialogue between these two different ‘sides’ to his character – the AB who exists as an active participant in the story, and the writer AB who observes, and adapts the ‘facts’ into a story. This intellectual introspection is emphasized at the end of the film when the ‘real’ Alan Bennett turns up at his own house to watch the filming of his two fictional alter-egos. It is very well-written, very watchable, with cracking Bennett comic dialogue – although personally I found it all a bit too self-consciously knowing and writerly at the expense of genuine emotional connection.


I couldn’t not mention David Bowie in this newsletter. Like so many million others, his musical genius has been part of my life for 40+ years, and I was really saddened by his death, and have been revisiting his back catalogue for the last few days.

So I thought I’d come up with a playlist of some of his more obscure but wonderful songs. If you don’t know these songs, you’re in for a treat.

Fantastic Voyage (Lodger)
There Is A Happy Land (David Bowie)
Maid Of Bond Street (David Bowie)
Time (Aladdin Sane)
Lady Grinning Soul (Aladdin Sane)
Sorrow (Pin-Ups)
Word On A Wing (Station To Station)
God Only Knows (Tonight)
Loving The Alien (Tonight)
Time Will Crawl (Never Let me Down)
Little Wonder (Earthling)
Thursday’s Child (Hours)
Everyone Says Hi (Heathen)
A Better Future (Heathen)
Conversation Piece (Heathen)
Never Get Old (Reality)
Days (Reality)

Until next week

All the best




Jan 15th 2016