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!


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 »

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

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

The Power of Storytelling
A conversation with Adam Curtis

Adam Curtis is a documentary film-maker, whose work includes The Power of Nightmares, The Century of the Self, The Mayfair Set, Pandora’s Box, The Trap and The Living Dead.

Adam Curtis: People live in a bubble – they’ve got their routine and their beliefs that they’re used to. The question is: how do you break through that bubble? How to tell them about new things, new perspectives? The task is to make an unknown (what they consider boring) world familiar.

Freud’s nephew Edward Bernays used Freud’s theories and invented PR. It had a huge effect on advertising. He discovered a way to manage the masses – if you open the doors, people will follow [this is also discussed in Cutris’s documentary The Century of the Self]. After they’ve entered the new world, you take them to new areas. Read the rest of this entry »

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 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 »

This is part 1 of reports from the Cheltenham Screenwriters’ Festival (26-29 Oct). The event brought together hundreds of screenwriters, and agents, producers and film-makers.  Over the four busy exciting days there were talks and discussions, networking and mingling, and speed dating between writers and agents/producers. Among the speakers there were Simon Beaufoy, Armando Iannucci, Tony Grisoni, James Schamus, Jonathan Darby, Julian Friedmann, Simon van der Borgh, good people form the BBC, Channel 4, and many others.

First, the first speakers of the first day – Chris Jones and Doug Chamberlain.

Chris Jones

The Call to Adventure

The first day started with Chris Jones’s inspirational talk on why we write, how we’re the descendants of cavemen who gathered around the camp fire to tell others about their experience (we look like them as well, I should add, stooping over the desk, grunting, fiddling on the keyboard like looking for fleas…), and how big stories need courage and a brave storyteller (with a sledge hammer!). A while ago Chris Jones (the co-author of The Guerilla Film Makers Handbook) promised everyone that he’s going to make a film that would win an Oscar. And that’s what he did – he made a film Read the rest of this entry »