Working on Frankie has been an utter joy from start to finish. I came on board at the green light stage and Lucy Gannon had already written two brilliant episodes for which we got the commission. We had a really exciting concept for a new returning drama series and a fantastically rich character in Frankie. I couldn’t wait to get started.
The role of the Script Editor is to be an enabler; a bridge between the writer and production. A large part of this is problem solving, finding ways around research or production issues to make it possible to tell the story the writer wants to write. One of my main tasks initially was to conduct in depth research for our stories through my own research and by liaising with relevant advisors and then communicating this to the writers. We recruited an ex-District Nurse as our main advisor and she became an invaluable source to bounce off story ideas and to check medical accuracy in the scripts. After a bit of toing and froing, we always got there in the end. From the start we were committed to create a series that felt immersed in reality without in any way diminishing the dramatic impact of the stories.
A really exciting part of the job is creating the over-arching serial storylines with the editorial team led by lead writer Lucy Gannon. I always find it fascinating to plot out journeys for these characters that up until then had been figments of our imagination, but would soon enough be real life flesh and blood. The serial storylines were never cast in stone as they can shift slightly in the writing and development of the series but it’s important to have a clear plan to pass onto the other series writers. It was then my role to check for consistency of characters, continuity of storylines and examining each character’s arc as we went through the production process.
Lucy Catherine and Peter McKenna joined the writing team of Frankie and both of them picked up the distinctive voice that Lucy Gannon had set up extremely quickly which can often be more of a challenge. Each writer pitched a few stories of the week they would like to tell which we talked over and chose the ones we felt fitted the show best. We informed them of the serial beats they would need to address in each of their episodes and worked with them through a treatment, scene by scene and then onto the script, working through notes at each stage. It was always worth finessing the treatments and where necessary restructuring a story if something wasn’t working so the writer and the editorial team were 100 % happy before going to script, saving valuable time in the long run. As the shoot approached the number of voices to listen to when giving notes to writers increased, for example, locations might have to be shifted due to scheduling or budgeting constraints. However this challenge forces you to boil the story down to its bare essentials and it was often in adhering to a specific production note that a more successful scene was written.
The Script Editor/writer relationship is a very special one and grows with trust from both sides. You start afresh with each project and this relationship develops gradually to form a mutual respect of each other and each other’s work. It can be lonely for a writer, locked up in their garret, so it’s important to be in touch as much as you feel is needed, keeping writers informed of all production issues pertaining to their script and being available to talk through ideas at any part of the process. Ultimately you’re both on the same team, working towards the same end goal and when all the departments come together to create an episode and a series you’re truly proud of, you know that all your hard work has paid off.
Frankie arrives at work as her team prepare for their busy day ahead.
Hannah Nicholson is Assistant Script Editor on Frankie – a brand new six-part drama following set in the complex world of district nursing written by Lucy Gannon.
Watch episode 2 in the series tonight on BBC One at 9pm and explore preview clips and interviews with the cast on the Frankie programme page.
Read Lucy Gannon’s blog post on the BBC TV blog about crafting the character of Frankie.
Watch an interview we did with Lucy from last year’s TV Drama Writer’s Festival.