In this post:

  • Launching a new series
  • Thriller – the Trojan horse
  • Adaptations (briefly)
  • a few words from Ben Stephenson on what to pitch

This is the last set of notes from BBC’s TV Drama Writers’ Festival 2011.


Chair: Ben Stephenson (BBC Controller of Drama Commissioning)
With: Bill Gallagher (Lark Rise to Candleford), Jane Featherstone (Creative Director at Kudos; Spooks), Ashley Pharoah (Life on Mars), Toby Whithouse (Being Human).

Pharoah: develop an instinct for conflict that will take years to unravel.
Gallagher: create a character you care about, want to know what happens to them, create an iconic character you love (as a writer)
Whithouse: character is fundamental. He writes pages of bios the audience never sees. You never run out of story.

Stephenson: what about premise and concept? Read the rest of this entry »


John Yorke
on the relationship between theory and practice in TV drama script development.

“First learn to be a craftsman; it won’t keep you from being a genius.” – Delacroix

Genre and following rigid screenwriting rules can make the story predictable, formulaic. A lot of people have turned against screenwriting theory. Charlie Kaufman has said that structure is useless. Guillermo del Toro gets very angry when people who throw Campbell and McKee at him.

Gurus demand blind faith to sell rigid rules. They refuse to take questions. It’s like a religious cult. They don’t want to explain anything, or ask why? (things should this or that way). It’s all demagogy.

Rules like ‘you have to have an inciting incident on page 11 and not on any other page!’ are ridiculous but there is a grain of truth in all the theories. Stories do have elements in common. We need to think why the rules are there. Read the rest of this entry »

Two sessions in this post:

  • Controversy and getting into hot water
  • Jimmy McGovern in conversation
  • related links


Chair: Jack Thorne. With Tony Marchant, Jeff Povey, Claire Powell (Chief Advisor, BBC)

JT: what is controversial TV? Do you know when your writing is controversial? Read the rest of this entry »

In this post, there are notes from two sessions:

  • Is it the writer’s responsibility to change the world?
  • The bio-pic: the fall-back position?
  • and related links on the speakers


Chair: Paula Milne.
With Tony Marchant, Hugo Blick, Jack Thorne, Roy Williams, Gwyneth Hughes

(this conversation was quite fast, so here are mostly snippets of what was said)

Writers should aspire to make a difference. (Milne)

Writers without politics are like soldiers without a country – mercenaries.  (John Clarke)

Morality explored through personality. Read the rest of this entry »

The Class: Life After is now available at ERR web store and ERR shop at Faehlmanni 12, Tallinn.

Subtitles: Estonian, English, Russian, Finnish

Price: 129 EEK / 8.25 EUR

They do deliver abroad and they will let you know the delivery charge when you email

I’ll post more information when the DVD becomes available from other sellers online.

Life After


Recently released theme song of The Class: Life After.
The first episode of the 7-part TV drama will air on Estonian TV on 6 November but starting from 29 October each episode will run at cinema Artis (Tallinn) for one week before it’s aired on TV.

The 7-part TV drama The Class: Life After (airing in Estonia on Nov 6) has been nominated for Prix Europa 2010 in the Television Fiction category.  The Prix Europa takes place 16-20 October 2010 in Berlin. The prize winners will be announced on 23 October during the Prize Giving Ceremony.

The continent’s largest competition was launched in 1987, based on the initiative of the Council of Europe and the European Cultural Foundation in Amsterdam. The PRIX EUROPA is awarded each year to the best European television, radio and emerging media productions with the aim of publicising them throughout Europe and supporting their distribution and use. The pan-European event is attended by well over 1,000 delegates from more than 40 countries.

Of the total of 543 submissions, 220 productions have been selected to compete in one of the 9 categories. As in production companies and broadcasters based in 31 European countries will compete for the respected awards as “Best European Production of the Year“.

See the list of TV Fiction category nominees here.


Updated October 26, 2010:

The Class: Life after did not win the main prize but we are very honoured to have been nominated. The Class: Life After  received 8th place out of 28 in the TV Fiction category which included both TV series and films, and 5th place amongst TV series.

The main prize Prix Europa in the TV Fiction category went to German war drama Ceasefire, Special Prix Europa to BBC’s Five Daughters and Sweden’s famous adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s novel The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo received a Special Commendation. Congratulations!


Notes from BBC’s TV Drama Writers Festival held in Leeds 30.06-01.07, 2010. The festival was organised by BBC Writersroom.

Masterclass with John Yorke
What exactly is a series?

What do successful series have in common?

  • Compelling characters
  • A self-contained story (the whole and/or underpinning spine)
  • A clear and renewable “story engine” (emotional jeopardy) (such as ‘crime of the week’)
  • Rigorous point of view (clear rules)
  • ‘One day’ time scheme
  • They are “about” something (not just cops but, for example, cops in Thatcher’s Britain, the changes in demographics, etc.)
  • Limited change (drama is change, things must move but drama series rely on not changing – which is a paradox) Characters don’t change but characters’ knowledge does. They learn new things (that will help catch the criminal, for example) Read the rest of this entry »

Notes from BBC’s TV Drama Writers Festival held in Leeds 30 June – 1 July, 2010. The festival was organised by BBC Writersroom.

In this post:

  • Writer for Hire: How do you get original work on screen?
  • ‘They Won’t Like That’: Do we all try to second guess the commissioners?
  • In Conversation: TV Drama Read the rest of this entry »

Series producer Gerda Kordemets and actor Margus Prangel receiving the awards.

I’m very pleased to announce that the TV drama series The Class: Life After has won two awards at the RomaFictionFest 2010. The awards were for Best Product in the TV Drama section and for Best Leading Actor in the TV Drama section which went to Margus Prangel for his lead role in episode 2 titled “I Won’t Die Despite You” (directed by Gerda Kordemets).

The IV edition of RomaFictionFest was held 5-10 July 2010 in Rome.
The Class: Life After is produced by Estonian Public Broadcasting and will air on ETV in autumn 2010.

Last year, The Class: Life After also won the main prize Reflet d’Or for Best Series at the Cinema Tous Ecrans 2009 Festival in Switzerland.


European Broadcasting Union news
“The jury for the International Competition of the RomaFictionFest, chaired by Irish-Canadian actor A.J. Buckley (X-Files, Millenium), was impressed by the quality of the production and the incredibly realistic script and acting. The International Jury chose to honour The Class, Life After with the Award for Best Drama for the awards following reasons:

  • For the use of a spare, unobtrusive and nevertheless incisive gaze upon its subjects;
  • For the masterly tonal handling of a powerful and delicate subject matter;
  • For the courage and human insight on display in the writing, directing and bringing to life of Klass: Elu Pärast;
  • And finally for the overall artistic quality of the product which brought an innovative and highly cinematic experience to European television drama.”


The Class: Life After on IMDB
RomaFictionFest press release

Variety: Estonian telepic at head of ‘Class’

Estonian press:
ERR Uudised