When I was 25 and starting out doing what I am doing now but not sure how to go about it, I would have really appreciated it if someone had taken me by my silver Puffa Jacket, pushed my Big Hair out of the way and given me a run down on what I should avoid doing, what I should actively do, and what to ultimately expect when working in Television.
So here, silver puffa jackets aside, are my 5 Truths about writing for Television.
- 1. WRITING AND TALKING ABOUT WRITING IS A GOOD THING:
When you have a great idea for a television drama, you need to start talking. Talk to those around you, (not in the business) about what you are writing and why you want to write this particular story. This is a great way of honing the essence of your drama; finding out what this thing is really about. And when someone says that they don’t like the sound of a certain character or tells you that they don’t ‘get it’; listen to them. Even if it’s your Aunty Jean who’s experience of television stops at her obsession with the X Factor, or your annoying cousin Oliver who seems to know everything about everything. They will have a solid and pertinent opinion that is personal to them. They could be your future audience. So talk. Don’t keep it bottled up. Then you need to be alone and focussed and plot, scheme, plan and shape.
2. TRACK YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS WITH THE RIGHT DOCUMENT:
Your thought processes; your creative journey, needs to be supported by clear, readable and relevant documents. Don’t dive in without a plan. Get your artistry organised:
i/ Talk the idea out to yourself; to a mirror. To the cat.
ii/ Then write a short, succinct, pithy pitch. No more than a page. For yourself now, but ultimately for someone who could help get this thing made.
iii/ Now write the treatment to support the world you have created. 8 pages max.
iv/ Next the series outline so you can prove the storylines are strong.
v/ Now the first episode outline.
vi/ Now the script.
Here’s my recent blog about the documents you need to sell your tv idea:
3. STRIKE WHEN AND IF THE IRON IS HOT:
Make sure you don’t fling your work out there before it’s ready to fly. You can not retract the bad impression of a bad script. You can build a relationship with a Producer or a Script Development Exec on a script that needs work, but not one that shows you in a bad light. When you are in a meet with someone who could make your work happen on screen, it may be better to hold your tongue and leave your ‘killer’ pitch for another occasion. Your iron is not hot enough. Your instinct will tell you this. Often a general chat about ideas is the beginning of a specific chat about specific ideas. Let the air move between you for a bit.
4. THE DRAMA YOU STARTED OUT WRITING, WILL EVOLVE INTO THE DRAMA THAT IS TRANSMITTED:
If you are fortunate enough to get a commission to write your television drama, the story you want to tell, the world you envisage and the characters you create will change and evolve and develop. You need to be prepared to re-write and re-write and allow your drama to be shaped to fit.
5. HAVE FAITH. IN YOURSELF AND IN YOUR VOICE.
Because if you don’t; let’s face it, who will? Give out to everyone you meet in the industry and on the periphery of it, the impression that you are happy in your skin and keen to get working. You may not feel confident; no-one does all the time – but under no circumstances show this in a script development meeting or general meet up chat. At all times, give off an air of relaxed industry. There is nothing more potent than a busy, talented writer clearly enjoying their life.
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Get in touch. Happy Writing! firstname.lastname@example.org