Novelist and Screenwriter
‘We want it to be an authored piece’. This is one of those bits of TV jargon that becomes more mysterious the more you hear it. All drama is, after all, authored. What it seems to mean, as far as I can tell, is that you will be the sole writer, and that anyone familiar with your work up to now, watching the end product, would be able to identify it as being written by you. But what does that mean?
Life in Squares: Maynard Keynes (Edmund Kingsley), Lytton Strachey (Ed Birch), Vanessa Bell (Phoebe Fox), Duncan Grant (James Norton), Virginia Woolf (Lydia Leonard), David ‘Bunny’ Garnett (Ben Lloyd Hughes), Leonard Woolf (Al Weaver), Supporting Artist, Clive Bell (Sam Hoare)(Photo: Robert Viglasky/BBC/Ecosse Films)
‘Life in Squares’ is a 3-part drama about the Bloomsbury group, centering on painter Vanessa Bell and her sister Virginia Woolf. Given that they were not only real people, but very articulate and prolific real people who have had countless books and articles written about them, they were bound to be strong voices in the room themselves as I started to develop the scripts. In fact, sometimes I wonder if I chose Vanessa as the central character precisely because out of the entire group – whose core included painter Duncan Grant, critic Clive Bell, biographer Lytton Strachey and...
On-screen the camera is tight on Ripley, gleaming with sweat and righteous fury as she faces off against the alien Queen.
‘Is there a reason why they’re getting you to watch all these eighties action flicks?’ my boyfriend asks, rummaging in the popcorn bowl. ‘Not that I’m complaining.’
From behind a cushion I mumble something about structure, and we both turn back to the TV, chewing in sync.
Fast-forward a week, and there are no cushions to hide behind. Sat around the table at BBC Drama HQ are a bunch of intimidatingly smart and successful writers – and me. When our lovely mentors, Ros and Rachelle, ask us to introduce ourselves, I struggle not to feel like the class dunce. After all, my cohorts have written for theatre, radio, soaps; they’re developing projects with everyone from CBeebies to Sky. Luckily they’re also warm, funny, irreverent and thoughtful – like a stand-out Doctors episode, in fact.
But before we get to daytime drama, there’s the small matter of those big-budget...
Don't Take My Baby - Anna Watson (Ruth Madeley), Dani (Florrie Rudd), Tom Spencer (Adam Long) (Photo: Emilie Sandy/BBC Pictures)
At the BBC Writersroom festival a few years ago I had the good fortune to interview Lars Lundström, creator and writer of Real Humans – the show which has now become Humans on Channel 4, and very good it is too. My main question was what do Scandi drama heads do that we don’t? The thing I discovered was that the directors were very much part of the Writers' Room and made to think the show was theirs. In fact, Lars told me often the DOP would even be in there – discussing story – discussing character. This shared ownership is one of the crucial things that has made so many hit dramas over there – The Killing, Borgen, The Bridge and Real Humans. And I don’t think it’s something we do enough of over here.
When I did my first shows as a writer (I’m just coming up to ten years since that first show) everything for me was about whether my words remained untouched from script to screen, the thing on Skins was always ‘I don’t want Bryan Elsley (the showrunner) to overwrite me’ not because...
Sadie also talks about the struggle she experienced getting started as a writer and shares some advice.
Beth Pattinson explains how scripts get into development and why BBC Writersroom is the best starting point.
Listen to the interview now or download it.
Writer and Journalist
Ext. Forest. Day.
Lily, 9, crashes through the undergrowth, the key to Utopian World of Endless Adventure held tightly in her hand. She reaches the portal and plunges the key into the lock. The door yawns open. She’s bathed in pulsating light. She steps forward. Johnny, 9, touches her shoulder.
No, Lily. You wait here and look after the rucksacks. I’ll go and have all the fun….
If you’re a girl and a TV viewer the anti-climax of this scenario might be familiar. As a woman who is now writing for TV, I started to wonder how I could help Lily shoulder-butt Johnny out of the way so she’s...
A Song for Jenny: Julie Nicholson (Emily Watson) (Image: BBC/Robert Viglasky)
What was the first thing that struck you about Julie’s book?
I was really struck by how well written it was. She’s a magnificent writer, but what I thought was extremely impressive was the detail that she could recall of every part of every day, in the search for Jenny’s body and then the discovery of Jenny’s body. But even more crucial was the way that it was not in the slightest overwritten;...
It was 10.30am and Dave had been typing the number seven into Excel for the past three hours. He was wondering if his fingers or the keyboard would be the first to break, when an email arrived: “Thank you for sending us your script. We appreciate the time it took you to write it and contact us. Unfortunately, we are not in a position to take your work any further.”
Dave felt the familiar thud in his chest. He didn’t need to read the rest. He knew what was coming from the word “unfortunately”. At first he was angry. Why did no one appreciate his office-based sitcom ‘Dave Goes to Work’ quite...
As a writer of short films, I’m used to finding audiences at film festivals – people who have to get off their bums and go buy a ticket to see your film. So when I heard through BBC Writersroom about the BBC iPlayer Original Drama Shorts I knew this was a unique and exciting opportunity – the chance to write something which had no set slot, length or channel, but which had the ability to reach such a wide audience.
I was invited to attend a workshop at the BBC with about 30 or so other writers and we spent the day watching and discussing short films and TV dramas, meeting the 2014 Drama...
Actor, Writer, Director and Co-founder of TriForce
Editor's Note: Fraser Ayres co-founded The Triforce Creative Network with best friend Jimmy Akingbola in 2004. TriForce was founded to open the doors to the entertainment industry to people from all walks of life, as well as provide a trusted and viable avenue for the industry to discover diverse talent.
Finalist Michael Wiafe at the first WriterSlam.
My Jihad: Nazir (Hamza Jeetooa), (Photo by Colin Hutton, Copyright BBC)
It is March 2014. The first three BBC iPlayer shorts have just been officially launched and I am sat with the producer. She tells me that the BBC wants to make a sequel to 'My Jihad'. And the first thought that goes through my head is; "Why?"
In the moment that Fahmida turned around and gave Nazir the look he had wanted, I was certain that my time with these characters was done. This was the...