Hi There,

The way the media industry is developing and changing so rapidly has a major impact on screenwriters – on how and where they’re going to get hired, and where their work will be shown. The recent BBC i-player shorts are an interesting case-in-point.

2012 Channel 4 screenwriting alumnus CAT JONES wrote the excellent FLEA; and the other two, written by SHAKEEL AHMED and KATHERINE CHANDLER are also really worth catching.

This was a new BBC initiative and with the way things are going, online showcases like this are increasingly going to become the norm.

Having said this, the BBC’s decision to move BBC3 to be an exclusively online presence is bad news (and seems like a strange decision to me). This article by Steve Hewlett (my old boss at Carlton TV) struck a chord –

To quote –

‘In short, the overall contribution of closing BBC3 TV to the BBC’s stressed finances is pretty modest.’

‘…in view of the strategic difficulties the BBC faces in connecting with younger viewers and people from ethnic minority backgrounds – both areas where BBC3 has proved uniquely effective – longer term issues surely beckon.’

‘By opting to make a stand at this point, when by the corporation’s own admission it still has very significant internal efficiency failings – which are potentially worth far more in terms of savings if remedied than switching BBC3 online – the BBC has opened a vulnerable flank to attack. Cutting content and services when there really is nothing else to be done is one thing; doing it when you know the organisation is nowhere near as efficient as it can and should be, surely runs the risk of rebounding rather nastily.’

This issue of ‘very significant internal efficiency falings’ echoed my recent dealings with BBC bureaucracy – trying to get a measly £200 expenses out of them for the BBC screenwriting course I ran in Abu Dhabi became a Kafka-esque experience which involved several different BBC staff and systems! All money that could instead go on making programmes!

If you want an insight into the workings of the BBC, look no further than the excellent new JOHN MORTON comedy W1A!


This is a fascinating account of RICHARD CURTIS’s speech at this year’s Cambridge International Film Festival.

Notable insights from this article –

‘work with people who produce work like the kind you want to create’

‘Curtis credits much of his success to writing about what he knows, and from the heart.’

‘Even for an established comic like Curtis, the jokes are hard to come by. He takes notice of what makes him laugh as he writes, and underlines it for good measure – if he doesn’t have a chuckle himself, he cannot envisage how anyone else will find it funny.’

He also made note of the value of always working with a trusted script editor (his wife Emma Freud).


Many thanks to JULIE ZHENG, one of my students from the Dramatic Writing MA at Central St Martins \ Drama Centre for sharing this link –

This is a list of the new pilots just commissioned by the US TV networks – and the loglines in particular provide a really helpful insight into the sort of shows that are getting made – and the sort of ideas that have attracted broadcaster interest.

The initial log-line for a project is so important. If you have a really smart, original, attention-grabbing log-line, it will attract so much interest. This, after all, is the basis of the story you’re telling.

From a long list, here are a few of the log-lines that appealed to me –

AMERICAN CRIME – ‘A drama series set in California’s Central Valley that centers on a racially charged murder and the subsequent trial, which are examined through the personal lives of the victims, the accused and their families.’

WARRIORS – ‘A drama that follows the best and brightest of active duty military doctors and nurses as they practice trailblazing medicine on critically wounded warriors returning home from Afghanistan, on military families and veterans, as well as administering to Washington’s government elite.’

SAVE THE DATE – ‘A hybrid comedy series that centers on Kate, 35 and newly single, who drunkenly books a wedding venue and is now faced with the task of meeting the right man in time.’

CABOT COLLEGE – ‘A multi-camera comedy set at a women’s college that, for the first time in its history, begins accepting men.’

ONE BIG HAPPY – ‘A multi-camera comedy that centers on gay and straight best friends who decide to have a baby together but things get complicated when the man finds the love of their life.’


A very old article by Rebecca Swift from the Literary Consultancy about Writers Groups – some Cons but mostly Pros. In particular I was taken by this –

‘…Esther Freud took a new chapter to the group every few months and found that reading aloud was “a really good way of editing your own work. You can hear if it’s not working almost immediately.”

Despite being written nealy 20 years ago (!) this article interestingly takes up the debate started a few weeks ago by Hanif Kureishi.


Many thanks to writer Steve Manwaring for pointing me in the direction of this excellent article ‘What British Drama Can Learn From TRUE DETECTIVE’ from the Daily Telegraph. Steve says:

Great article about UK and US drama and a quote in it regarding what you taught me about my own culture and place… enjoy…’ –

“Many dramas have brilliantly realised the link between geography and community”

To quote further from the article –

In True Detective, there is a fully realised sense of place through its characters; from the muscular proselytizing of its evangelists to the insularity of its bayou-dwellers, you are given a complete picture of a very precise world.’

This is one of the many things TRUE DETECTIVE does brilliantly. In the case of Steve’s script, I suggested he moved his very strong, original crime drama from a generic US setting to the world of London and Essex that he knows so well – hence a memorable sequence of burying a body in indeterminate New Jersey marshes has become Epping Forest! And the script is all the stronger for it.

This is a note I often give to writers – root your stories in a specific, recognizable geographical context, a context that should be a key element of your story.

In the case of TRUE DETECTIVE, the claustrophobic, superstitious nature of community life is such a strong element of the story-telling.


Coming Up 2014

After a slight pause for a re-think, COMING UP is back! This will be an unbelievable opportunity for one writer to really make a name for themselves. Good luck!


A very good piece by Mark Lawson on why LINE OF DUTY series 2 became the TV ‘event’ of the year so far.

He is spot-on in highlighting that this is very much a ‘writer’s’ show – all 6 episodes written and produced by JED MERCURIO. It’s really worth noting that two of the best drama series of the last year – LINE OF DUTY and BROADCHURCH – were essentially both run by a single writer. Executive producers take note! The article goes on to detail Jed Mercurio’s pedigree as a TV dramatist – with the excellence of both CARDIAC ARREST  and BODIES, two of the best TV medical dramas of all time.

As he says, ‘Mercurio is a genius of procedural drama, whose work is rooted in realistic detail.’

He goes on to talk about the brilliance of the interrogation scenes – a staple of crime drama, the key interrogation scenes in LOD were a master-class in how to write these scenes.

And the characterization – ‘The eventual revelation that DI Denton was a baddie acting with a goodie’s motives was typical of the unusually nuanced people Mercurio creates.’

Lawson observes how the characters are compelling because of their flaws and contradictions – ‘In Line of Duty, everyone had a point of plausible vulnerability that could be probed.’

Until next week,

All the best



Twitter: @philipshelley1

March 28th 2014