CREATIVITY FOR SCRIPTWRITERS 1 day course London Saturday Nov 15th

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 PHILIP SHELLEY with guest speaker writer CAT JONES.



Hi There,

Earlier this week I ran a script editing course at the Indie Training Fund in uber-trendy Hoxton Square and spent a very enjoyable day sounding off about screenwriting. Talking about the craft of screenwriting reminded me how much you can learn and be inspired by story-telling in other media too – journalism, novels, poetry, etc.

I’ve read and watched so many good things in the last few weeks / months and here are some of the highlights.

Disappointed that I missed all but one of the BBC’s recent series of connected half hour films THE SECRETS (I did catch Nick Payne’s very good one) I read Sarah Solemani’s THE CONVERSATION  script in the BBC Writersroom script library


– it’s a really good read, a cracking piece of writing. It was a delight to read a script that had such a light touch, and was such a page-turner. Great characters, a really strong story premise, and very good dialogue.


From the novel THE MEMORY OF RUNNING which I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, this paragraph –

Bethany’s marriage to Jeff Greene was a smooth example of how a wedding ought to be. Nothing went wrong…..When Bethany walked down the aisle with my pop, I thought the Ides might burst. Sharon Thibodeau and her maids of honor were positively angelic. On the steps of Grace Episcopal after the ceremony, Byron Lapont from Lapont Photogrphy Studios in Barrington, took about two hundred shots. Bethany and Jeff. Bethany and Jeff and Dave and Sharon. Bethany and her maids. Jeff and his ushers. Me and Pop and Mom and Bethany and Jeff. They were wonderful pictures and we would put them everywhere, and later Pop would spread them out and look for clues.’

I loved this whole book but this paragraph somehow stood out to me. A beautiful, evocative description of a normal family wedding, paid off with the killer line ‘They were wonderful pictures and we would put them everywhere, and later Pop would spread them out and look for clues’ – which alerts you, poignantly and subtly, to the fact that something has gone horribly wrong. Not sure technically how this is transferable to screenwriting – but it’s absolutely top-draw story-telling.


An interview with novelist ALICE SEBOLD (The Lovely Bones, The Almost Moon):

The thing that I would say to the aspiring twenty-year-old writers is, don’t judge your process so harshly. I know that for a very long time, I was stymied by what I felt I should be as opposed to who I actually was in terms of what I was driven to write about, but also in the way I was driven to write.

You know, we’re all products of our times in various ways, and one of the ways is that there are certain writers who get a lot of attention when we’re coming of age and so we feel that we should write like them. They may not be at all who we are as writers. I spent years trying to write like writers that I don’t actually write like. So a huge breakthrough for me was when I stopped judging my own process and just did it..’

This is so wise. Before worrying about pleasing anyone else, make sure your writing and the way you write is true to you. And you have to be able to disengage from the critical voice inside your head and just do it.


From US magazine FILMMAKER –

Late year saw the successful release of STORIES WE TELL  and THE ACT OF KILLING, in which significant quantities of staged footage became part of both movies’ active concerns…the two films represent the tip of an iceberg from a circuit of formally ambitious hybrid documentaries.’

Harking back to what I wrote about documentaries a few months ago, this article was a really interesting look at new forms of story-telling – hybrids of fiction and documentary. (and there are connections here to MARVELLOUS and Julian Farino’s directing work – see below)

Unlike any other moment in history it is now possible to reach large audiences for little cost. There is a window of opportunity to do things differently – chance to shape stories that are reflective of our times, not only in subject but also in form and function.’

I don’t think there are too many movies. It’s just that not all of them have to be consumed by a broad audience…You have to look at what is the best way to connect filmmakers to audience. It’s not always a theatrical release. In most cases it isn’t…Too many filmmakers don’t realise that there are multiple marketplaces where films.’


Nick Cave from 20,000 DAYS ON EARTH –

Songwriting is all about counterpoint.’ To which I would add – so is screenwriting.


After my rant about multiplexes in general and LUCY in particular, rather embarrassingly, I’m going to have to do a bit of back-tracking. Since I last visited my local Vue multiplex in North Finchley, they’ve done a bit of rebuilding. Apart from their sparkling new toilets (!), there’s a new screen #10 – a dinky little 50-seat cinema at which, to my amazement, they were recently showing tiny US indie film THE OBVIOUS CHILD. Let’s hope that this new screen will from now on be reserved for off-beat independent feature films, and that this wasn’t a one-off. But I found it immensely cheering that a supposedly uncommercial film like this has made its way into the multiplex system. Mind you there were only about 5 of us in the cinema.

Particularly pleasing because it’s a lovely, excellent film. Great script and story, beautifully made and spot-on performances – especially the outstanding JENNY SLATE in the lead role. I really recommend it.


Another excellent novel – the very funny, touching and perceptive THE ROSIE PROJECT by new Australian writer Graeme Simsion.

Two things interested me in particular about the writing of this novel. 1. This started life as a screenplay – and its rom-com genre roots are interestingly visible.

Simsion’s screenplay has been optioned by Sony Pictures. The original story was developed during screenwriting studies at RMIT university in Melbourne. In his acknowledgements, Simsion writes, ‘The Faculty at RMIT taught me the principles of storytelling.’ He also says, ‘I am fortunate to belong to a talented and hardworking writers’ group.’ And 2. What is also very interesting to me is that Grame Simsion ‘is a former IT consultant who decided  AT THE AGE OF FIFTY  to turn his hand to fiction.’ To have such huge success as a novelist and screenwriter at this point in his life should be a huge inspiration to us all, young and old!


And here’s a really interesting blog Graeme Simsion wrote about the value of Creative Writing Courses.



Really interesting looking at this US ‘Fall’ TV preview to see the most high-profile featured network show is a new comedy ‘Black-ish’ predicated on the idea of an affluent black dad worrying that his kids are too ‘assimilated’.


It’s particularly interesting in reference to UK TV where there seems to be a big and overdue push to hire more BAME writers so that on-screen drama more accurately reflects the reality of life in contemporary mixed-race UK – a world in which Asians don’t just run corner shops, Chinese run takeaways, Black people sell drugs and Albanians are gangsters. It’s time UK TV moved on from these very tired and insultingly reductive clichés and reflected the reality of how life really is in the UK. As with so many cultural / TV issues, the US leads the way and we follow on some years later.


Last night’s MARVELLOUS on BBC2 was a lovely story, beautifully crafted and written by Peter Bowker, excellently directed by Julian Farino, produced by Patrick Spence – the first show for his new Fifty Fathoms Production co – and what a great start. (Look out for Fifty Fathoms’ new series FORTITUDE on Sky soon).

What was great about MARVELLOUS  was the non-naturalistic approach, with a lot of cameos by the real people that central character Neil Baldwin had met in his extraordinary life – as well as some lovely moments of dialogue between the man himself (Neil Baldwin) and his fictional self (played brilliantly by Toby Jones).

Julian Farino is an outstanding director – it’s interesting that alongside all the drama work he has done, he is also the director of the new (very excellent) incarnation of the documentary 21 UP. Some of these documentary influences came through in this dramatisation of the real story of Neil Baldwin – but as with all of his work, there was a real humanity and empathy to the story – as well as great originality. If you didn’t see it, catch it on BBC i-player – it was inspiring.


Finally – if you’re going to the LONDON SCREENWRITERS FESTIVAL, I’m running a SCRIPT LAB there, on CREATING DRAMA SERIES. If this sounds of interest, then applications close TODAY! I hope to see you there,



Until next week

All the best




Twitter: @PhilipShelley1

Sept 26th 2014