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 »

Notes from the BBC’s TV Drama Writers Festival held in Leeds 6-7 July, 2011 will be posted in several parts.
Look at previous blog entries to find notes from the 2010 event.

Sessions you will find notes from:

Is it the writer’s responsibility to change the world?
The bio-pic: the fall-back position?
Controversy and getting into hot water
Jimmy McGovern in conversation with Kate Rowland

The curse of the scriptwriting guru (John Yorke)
Launching a new series
Thriller – the Trojan horse
Burning questions (with Ben Stephenson)



Listen to excepts from the the workshop ‘Team writing US style’ with The X-Files writer Frank Spotnitz on the BBC Writersroom Blog

Read Bill Grundy’s report on the event on the BBC Writersroom Blog

Read Hannah Billingham’s notes from the festival: Day 1, Day 2, Jimmy McGovern

Short reviews of films seen during the weekend. Karoly Makk’s Love (1971) and Joanna Hogg’s Archipelago (2010) were the most enjoyable ones.

TAKE OUT (2004) – about a take out delivery guy, a very simple story with a feel of Italian neorealism, an unusual American film for being solely from the point of view of Chinese immigrants.

LOVE (1971) – a very impressive and bold Hungarian film by Karoly Makk about the wife of a political prisoner waiting to hear about her husband while tending to her ailing mother-in-law and making her believe her son is a successful film director in America. Beautiful visuals and the most imaginative use of flashbacks I’ve seen in a while.
My guess is that had it not been a Hungarian film it would be one of the well-known world cinema classics, and it’s not probably because of Hungary’s politics at the time and because world classics are usually picked from countries with a greater number of cinematic output (read: bigger countries)).
Guardian review of Love
Read the rest of this entry »

The Class: Life After got parodied in the New Year’s Eve entertainment programme, although it refers more to the feature film The Class preceding the series than the series itself. But we’re flattered anyway. :)

For non-Estonian speakers: the actor presenting the show is disappointed that he wasn’t invited to play in the new TV drama and decided to create one on his own – The Class: Life Before.

Happy holidays!


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.

Mini reviews of 31 feature films (and one short) seen at the Leeds International Film Festival 2010. Reviews were first posted on Facebook during the festival. Read the rest of this entry »