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Building advanced drama writing skills

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11 August 2017

Sitting in a large white room just off Carnaby Street, I am listening to 15 writers interact with some of the most accomplished professionals of the British Television industry. It is an experience that fills me with hope for the continued role of the UK industry in the global phenomenon of ‘the Golden age of Drama’.

 

Those 15 participants are certainly aspiring writers but not in the sense that they are eager to break into the UK television industry. They have already done that and their writing credits include, for example, Shameless, Mr Selfridge, Secret Diary of a Callgirl, No Offence, The Coroner, My Mad Fat Diary, Father Brown and Murdered by my Boyfriend. Titles that would grace any TV channel schedule, whatever the platform.

     

However like all good writers they aspire to be the best they can be. The best to create and deliver high quality drama, with the ability to surprise, and deserving of the investment necessary to satisfy an ever more demanding audience.  Fortunately, the UK TV Drama industry recognises the importance of talent development and so Creative Skillset and MediaXchange have come together, with the support of High End TV Levy funds, to create something new, something aimed at building  significant players in the TV drama marketplace. Thus, until 2018, 15 already proven writers have signed up to the inaugural Advanced Writing for TV Drama programme.

 

Sally Haynes, MD of Mainstreet Pictures commented in her session, Pitching Yourself as a Writer, that Americans in the television industry constantly try to educate themselves – this is the ethos that our participants have brought to Advanced Writing for TV Drama. These are writers whose voice will echo through the industry in the years ahead and the task of MediaXchange and Creative Skillset, in this programme, is to amplify the process.

 

The British industry has a tradition of generosity in supporting the development of fellow professionals, and this was no different. Over the week the group was joined by high profile writers, producers and broadcasters such as Paul Abbott, No Offence; Jed Mercurio, Line of Duty; Bryan Elsley, Clique; Peter Bowker, The A-Word; Julie Gearey, Cuffs; Danny Brocklehurst, In the Dark; Sally Abbott, The Coroner; Polly Hill, ITV Drama; Lizzie Gray, SKY Drama; Tony Jordan, Red Planet Pictures; Tom Winchester, DNA Films; Jane Featherstone, Sister Pictures; Roanna Benn, Drama Republic; Tony Wood, Buccaneer Media and  Tatjana Andersson of Palladium Fiction.

 

Module 1 was a challenging and hard working week reflecting the programme’s 8 months ahead. There are 2 more modules to come [in October and January] with ongoing work in between. Factoring in the specific strength and weaknesses of each participant this module’s focus was to prepare the groundwork of the wider programme providing skills and knowledge required which will serve as the foundation for the programmes further objectives.

 

The module 1 syllabus include:

An Overview of the UK Industry (Broadcaster and Prodco Landscape)

What Commissioners are looking for in writers and Projects

The Fundamentals of Strong Script Writing

Pitching Yourself and Your Project

Writing a Strong Treatment

Requirements of a Head writer in a Team

How to Work as a Diligent and Effective Staff Writer

Business Principals of TV Writing

 

The programme’s philosophy is rooted in application of skills, and as such participants have been teamed up with a script editor who will work with each individual to apply what they learn to the development of their own project. It is our ambition that, on completion of the programme, each participant will have a treatment and 2nd draft of a pilot script to pitch, with the connections made during the programme providing a useful head start. In module 1 script editors laid out a development programme and schedule specific to each writer, to be worked on through the summer until the start of the Module 2 this Autumn.

 

However the week was not all study. This is after all, and as we are always told, a ‘people business’.  So we strive to help participants make as many connections as possible within the industry. Module 1 concluded with a networking event on the Friday evening attended by production company Development executives and HETV Council and Creative Skillset members. It was an enjoyable and, I am sure, productive end to an inspiring week.

 

Our participants have a busy summer ahead of them and I look forward to reconvening, in that white room off Carnaby Street, in October to listen to more stimulating ideas and passionate conversations and to watch this generation of TV writers continue their progress onto the international stage.

 

The participants were:

Karen Brown, award winning writer for stage, radio and TV

Melissa Bubnic, London based Australian TV scriptwriter

Ishy Din, from Middlesborough with credits in TV and for the Stage

Jimmy Dowdall, from Chester who works closely with TV legend Paul Abbott  

Brendan Foley, former journalist from County Antrim, now an award winning author and scriptwriter

Alastair Galbraith, former actor and director turned scriptwriter, originally from Scotland and now based in Ipswich

Vivienne Harvey, also from Scotland, writes for both TV and radio

Kit Lambert, from Cardiff, with a host of TV and theatre writing credits

Jane Marlow, former writer for Broadcast Magazine, who has been writing for continuous drama and other formats for several years

Regina Moriarty, a former photographer and probation service tutor turned RTS Award winning scriptwriter

Ben Morris, who has a raft of script executive credits to his name

Laura Neal, a 2012 Broadcast Magazine Hot Shot with a strong list of theatre and TV writing credits

Carol Russell, with a portfolio that includes radio, TV and films

Tracy Spottiswoode, Cardiff based award winning writer, director and animator

Sumerah Srivastav, a law graduate with a background in film production and commercial radio

 

Katrina Wood is the CEO of MediaXchange. Advanced Writing for TV Drama is a MediaXchange Creative Vision programme, supported by the High End TV Levy managed by Creative Skillset.

 

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