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 »

Notes from BBC’s TV Drama Writers’ Festival held in Leeds 30.06-01.07.2010.

Writers – a force for change?

With Jed Mercurio, Mark Catley, Nicola Shindler and Tony Marchant

Tony Marchant: Have writers lost the initiative? Do we just write for producers, commissioners and actors, what they want us to write?

Nicola Shindler: The saying „you’re only as good as your last project“ doesn’t apply. You’re only as good as your next project. Your history as a writer is not important, you’re not as good as your last thing but you’re as good as the project you’re working on now, the project you’re sending to the producers and commissioners. It also means that having a successful project in the past won’t guarantee you a commission. Great stories are more likely to reach the screens even if it doesn’t follow the latest brief from the commissioner.

Jed Mercurio: It’s harder to sell something to a producer if they haven’t asked for it. When the commissioner is looking for something specific, by the time the script has been developed and ready, they already want something different or there’s a new person on the top who wants other things. Therefore you need to write material that you’d like to see on screen, material that interests you and will therefore have better quality. You should write what you like (just bearing in mind the type of channel you want to offer it to).

Read the rest of this entry »