When I was first asked whether I would like to write a UK based lesbian drama, I didn't immediately jump at the chance. The L Word had just run for five seasons in America and was about to go in to its sixth. Many people I knew had seen it and its characters had taken on an almost mythic status. Did I want to try and follow in its footsteps? I ummed and ahhed for a while and then I thought - of course I do. If George Lucas had worried about that kind of thing, then the Star Wars trilogy would never have got off the ground. Clearly there was room for another lesbian drama; the more the merrier.
With a commission for a treatment from the BBC in place it was simply a matter of what to write. Staring at a blank page is always intimidating but even more so when you know there will be lots of expectations from a community that is very under represented. However, I soon realised that to be able to do this I had to put all such concerns aside and simply get on with my job, which is to write a good story.
The first idea to pop into my head was of a woman crying in an inappropriate place after finding out her ex is seeing someone else. The scene was loosely based on something that happened to me, which just goes to show for a writer there are up sides to embarrassment and humiliation. I knew I wanted to include a love story, so next up was someone returning from New York and throwing her ex into a state of panic. And so I had my three leads; Tess
. The friendships between gay/bi women and straight men is something I've rarely seen on TV and fancied exploring; enter Ed
stage left. Having gathered the characters together I always knew I wanted the show to be as comic as it is dramatic, both because I like writing comedy and also because, in my experience, life tends to be like that.
Fast forward to a year and half later. We'd been given the green light by an enthusiastic BBC and I was on set in Glasgow where alongside writing I was working as one of the producers on the show. It was the beginning of the shoot. I knew that before filming started in earnest, there were going to be some test shots of the three leads. I headed off across the Merchant City's cobbled streets and was directed towards the café where Ruta, Laura and Fiona, dressed as Frankie
were waiting to start. It's a surreal experience walking into somewhere and seeing characters that started off in your imagination chatting, drinking tea and reading the newspaper. It's rude to stare but I couldn't stop. It totally blew me away.
I have a lot of memories of that time: the buzz of being on set, late nights and early mornings at the computer, how very, very cold your feet can get on location in Glasgow coming up to Christmas, and consequently discovering something new to me and fairly magic. It was nearing the end of the shoot and we were on a rooftop terrace filming a romantic scene. It had been written to take place on a mild evening but was actually being shot in rain, wind and snow. What can take five minutes on screen can take hours to film and I suddenly became aware that my feet, which formerly felt much like feet, now felt like two painful ice blocks. Then someone tipped me off about foot warmers, gel packs that you slip inside your shoes and function as a hot water bottle for the foot; a genius invention that is now up there in my estimation alongside sliced bread and the internet. As I felt the glorious sensation of warmth permeate my toes, I pondered the exciting thought that, what had started with a single image of a woman crying over her ex, was now a whole series that was nearly in the can. I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed being a part of it.
Harriet Braun is the writer and creator of Lip Service which starts at 10.30pm Tuesday 12th October on BBC Three.
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