1/ Believing you, the writer, are bigger than the sum of the show’s parts.
If you are part of a writing team on a series or serial, you are an essential, but expendable element of the scripting process. The script is essential but the writer of that script is not. Without the script, there is no drama but a budget and time strapped Producer can and will make the changes necessary to get the script camera ready within the time and budget restrictions.
2/ Viewing your script edit sessions as a potential battle ground.
Your script edits with your script editor should be mutually respectful areas of time in the scripting schedule where you have the right to defend notes given but do not have the ultimate sign off on any decision.
3/ Hiding behind your agent.
Everyone needs a solid professional to fight their corner should a problem with contract, fee, delivery dates, or a personal issue arise during your commission period on a tv show. But be visible and approachable during these times as the production team want to feel they have a champion of their show in you, not an adversary.
4/ Straying too far off the script document pertaining to your script.
On most long running shows, the script document has been painstakingly produced via a series of Story Conferences and meetings with the Producer and the script team. It is the skeleton, the blueprint and the reference document that the production follows to keep the episodes coherent and cohesive. Keeping to the brief this sets out when writing your script, ensures an easy, and enjoyable writing experience on the show.
5/ Being a slave to the script document.
This sounds unfair I know, but the other mistake is often made to the detriment of the writer’s time on the show and to the show in general. A slavish adherence to the drama beats outlined by the storyliners in your script document will make a rather dull and predictable episode. The Producer hired you for your voice – so do, please, use it!
6/ Bringing the party to the table.
Believe it or not, there’s many a Series Story Conference been ruined by too much fun and games in the lunch breaks! Keep a sober and level head – even, as the adage goes, when those about you are losing theirs.
7/ Not listening to fellow writers.
Story Conferences are sometimes rather political elements of the story production process. An oft made mistake is when writers (maybe through their own enthusiasm and keeness to impress) do not listen or take on board the input of fellow writers when discussing storylines.
8/ Consistently missing deadlines.
It’s hard, being expected time and again to deliver to a time deadline. But on a long running drama series it is essential that the script arrives when the schedule demands and if you consistently miss this date, it puts huge pressure on every member of the production team.
9/ Once you’ve delivered, then you are done.
On a series that is often not the case! On a show like Eastenders for example, you will be expected to be available for notes and for consultation with a member of the script team about your script, right up to the point of shooting and in some cases be expected to attend the actual day’s shoot.
10/ Giving storylines away.
An absolute no no but sometimes, this still happens. Sometimes the Production might welcome a leak, for publicity purposes, but in the main, the writer should most definitely leave any story give aways to those that make the show.
Yvonne Grace is an award-winning television drama producer who specialises in helping writers write better scripts for television and the bigger screen.
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