Miranda: The making of a sitcom
So, hello blog readers. Does that make you blogees? I like that, I'm going with that whether it's a word or not. The peeps at the BBC website thought you might want to know what goes in the making of a sitcom, so here goes it - an insight in to how my year pans out when making Miranda.
The writing is a long and arduous process and the least favourite part of it for me. It's not something I leap out of bed in the morning for. It requires patience (which I lack), discipline (which I lack), nerves of steel (which I lack), unending energy (which I lack) and hard core tea drinking and biscuit eating (this is where I excel).
The first couple of months I spend storylining. I present my ideas to my storyliners who help with the bones of the stories. We discuss them and get the episodes in to some kind of logical structure.
This is the hardest part. Often a sitcom storyline is like a very complicated jigsaw and we will be surrounded by large A3 pieces of paper with various jottings. And I get a little anxious and stressed thinking it will never come together.
When the storylines eventually work themselves out I go away and write them in to a script. It can take me as little as five days to write a first draft.
But then it will take a further three to four weeks to really hone that draft, making sense of the story, cutting it down to the essential bones (I always over write massively on my first drafts) and of course making it as funny as possible.
The key, and hardest part with writing a studio audience sitcom, is having as many laugh out loud jokes and funny moments on the page as possible. Which is why I also have a gag writer to help me punch up the scripts and suggest specific jokes that I might be struggling with.
I think ideally one needs about eight months to write six episodes of a sitcom. Two months to pace about for ideas and then structuring the storylines and then a month on each episode to really hone it.
You don't always get the luxury of that amount of time, and it is of course quicker if you write with others, but writing solo it needs that long.
Once the scripts are handed in, the fun starts - pre-production. Suddenly you find yourself having meetings with costume designers about characters you have written, or the props department about how exactly you saw that 'grapefruit you wanted to have befriended'.
"Well obviously two eyes, a mouth, a comb-over and bowtie drawn on to it."
It's always a thrill to see your silly imaginings really happening and other people (in my case, a truly fantastic team) help bring what you wrote to life.
Then it's the first read through. Absolutely terrifying! We will have cast the show and everyone will be reading it for the first time in front of all the producers and heads of every department.
All I want to know is 'do people find it funny, will they laugh?' It's daunting reading the first few lines and I need a pathetic amount of reassurance that the scripts really are OK before I am convinced enough not to change my career path and go and set up a tea shop.
We do six days location filming - all the things we can't do on the main sets in front of an audience like parks, churches, streets, etc. And then we rehearse Wednesday to Saturday and do the show on a Sunday night in front of a live studio audience. Six episodes, six weeks.
I am very nervous all day on the Sunday and then when I hear that first laugh I start to relax and truly enjoy it - hearing your words get an immediate reaction from an audience is an amazing thing.
And then you just hope the 300 people in that room are right, it is funny, and the audience at home will like it. There is always something to worry about.
So from writing it until filming then editing it, the whole process is about 10 months. And then I tend to collapse in a heap and remain horizontal for as much as I can of the remaining two months of the year.
It is a dream come true having my own comedy show on the BBC, but, by golly, it is hard work and lots of pressure. Here's hoping it's worth it and you enjoy the second series. (No pressure on you!)
Bye blogees. Thanks for reading.
Miranda Hart is the writer, creator and star of Miranda.
Comments made by writers on the TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.