Carrying on with the marathon to complete a first draft in 5 days.

On Friday and Monday I was working on separating the treatment into scenes (or beats) which looked like this:

screenplay outline

It feels like I’ve done one day’s work during those first two days because of the holiday season. I’ve done a marathon a couple of times before and then I did it all in one go. This time I’ve been interrupted by a weekend trip and the New Year’s Eve, and I took the New Year’s Day off. It might look like it’s good to take a day off between days of intense writing but I can now say that it’s definitely better to do the marathon straight in one go without interruptions because it’s harder to start again after a break when you need to keep a good flow and a sense of urgency.


What I had by Monday afternoon was a Final Draft document with scene headings and short descriptions of the scenes or beats. In other words, the outline you see on the desk was typed up to start off the screenplay itself.

Today I’ve gone through an older version of the treatment to pick out any details I want to keep, and I’ve now started adding more details into the script, starting from the the first scene. At the moment I’ve got 55 scenes, this number usually goes up as I start separating locations more precisely and add details to events. I’ve also got a piece of paper next to be with a row of numbers to keep track of progress – I tick off each one as I finish writing a scene. Now I’ve got until Friday evening to get all those scenes written (daunting!).

Happy New Year!


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

Transcribed on day 1 of BBC’s TV Drama Writers’ Festival on 30th June 2010.

Poacher Turned Gamekeeper
Showrunners, the balancing act.

With Toby Whithouse, Tony Jordan, Alice Nutter and Stephen Butchard

Why is it important to be a showrunner?

They used to call them executive producers or creative producers but that title caused a lot of confusion because people didn’t understand it. It didn’t make it clear whether they’re writers or producers.

Tony Jordan: You’ve got one vision – it should remain with the creator, not hand it over to an ‘accountant’. Also, you’ve got no one else to blame if the script is not good.

Toby Whithouse: It’s important to know when to delegate. You leave the directing to a director who is a professional but the writer can have a say and make decisions about costume and other details. It’ll help keep the whole thing following the concept, one vision. That’s encouraging for writers.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Dialogue: Learning from the Masters
An Interview with Screenwriter Sheldon Turner

The Dialogue series offers 70-90 minute interviews with 27 successful screenwriters working today.


There’s something very comforting to hear other screenwriters talk about how they work and their experience in the film industry. Sitting by yourself in a room day in day out and only communicating with your editor/producer/director/agent you can never be sure if anyone else is going through what you’re going through. Yes, in each office similar to yours, there’s a writer thinking about the same issues – how shall I write this scene, where do I go with this character, how shall I pitch it… With its straightforward and in-depth discussions about the craft and the industry, The Dialogue series has something to offer both the aspiring screenwriter as well as the experienced pro. Even if you haven’t seen the films these people have written, it doesn’t matter – it’s the craft and business that’s under the magnifying glass.

The Dialogue: Learning from the Masters is a series of interview DVDs that offers a peek into the lives of some of the most successful screenwriters in Hollywood today. Each DVD contains a 70-90 minute in-depth interview hosted by Mike De Luca who, you can be sure, knows what he’s talking about: Mike is a film fanatic with two decades of experience as an executive and the President of Production at several major studios. Mike has interviewed more than two dozen writers for the series and the topics range from inspiration and writing methods to rewriting, pitching and dealing with the industry, you name it. Other screenwriters interviewed for the series are Paul Haggis (Crash), David Goyer (Batman Begins), Jim Uhls (Fight Club), Jose Rivera (The Motorcycle Diaries), Callie Khouri (Thelma & Louise), Paul Attanasio (Quiz Show) to name a few. Read the rest of this entry »


Simon Beaufoy, the screenwriter of The Full Monty (1997) and Slumdog Millionaire (2008) and Peter Bloore – an academic, consultant, screenwriter and director – talked about the relationship between the screenwriter and “the others” (director, producer, financiers, etc.) during the development of a screenplay.

Going to a script meeting?

In the earlier stages of his career, Beaufoy often lost control over his screenplay, which went on to go through smaller and bigger changes in the hands of whoever and often with dire consequences. Such as Blow Dry (2001) with Alan Rickman – a film reported to be terrible – that Beaufoy has never seen. Beaufoy found himself constantly being defensive, “protecting” his work, so that it wouldn’t get “ruined” by the others, it was like always wearing a helmet to a meeting, but he started becoming more flexible over time and learned to get over the anger.

Read the rest of this entry »

This is part 3 of the Cheltenham Screenwriters’ Festival series.

Writer-director Armando Iannucci and producer/Festival Chairman Kevin Loader talk about the script development and filming process of In the Loop.

In the Loop is written by:
Armando Iannucci
Jesse Armstrong
Simon Blackwell
Tony Roche
Ian Martin (the swearing consultant)

“Well, his briefing notes were written in alphabetti spaghetti. When I left, I nearly tripped up over his fucking umbilical cord.”  (Malcolm Tucker)

The story was born out of the real-life dysfunction that haunts politicians and government offices on both sides of the pond. The middle-management type of life behind the scenes where everything is done in silence and without questions, the serious flaws in internal communication, or the incident with Jack Straw who said in an interview that the invasion of Iran is “inconceivable”, or how politicians return from a big international meeting to deal with something trivial (like a wall). Iannucci spent time in Washington and in the White House, where he sneaked in with a random ID card pretending to attend a meeting. He met politicians and journalists, asking “boring” questions like what Read the rest of this entry »

Notes from the Cheltenham Screenwriters’ Festival 2009.

In this post:
Janice Day – Making a Living as a Writer
Janice Day and Caroline Ferguson – Networking
Rob Kraitt and Kate Leys – How To Be Better



Janice Day

Janice Day

with Janice Day

What stops you from becoming a successful writer? You don’t have an Agent? Your lack self-discipline? Talent? Writer’s block? Fear of failure? Janice Day says it could be fear of success. For example, you might be afraid of stalkers or people recognising you in the street… Whatever it is, you need to get over your negative thinking. Read the rest of this entry »