Three highly successful TV writers offered valuable advice on building a career in scriptwriting at an RTS Scotland event in mid-September.
Lorna Martin, who won the inaugural Writers Award at the RTS Scotland Awards in June, encouraged would-be writers in the audience to put pen to paper: “People want your story. There’s so many production companies and they want content.”
Martin – who adapted her best-selling book, Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, for UKTV channel W and RTÉ2 (Women on the Verge) – continued: “Look for the type of production company whose shows resonate with you or [make] shows you like – I think that’s crucial.”
She added: “And send them a nice email.”
Writer and actor Stuart Hepburn (BBC Scotland drama River City and ITV cop series Taggart), who is also a lecturer in screenwriting at the University of Stirling, offered advice on how to grab a producer’s attention: “You’ve got to be a storyteller who wants to tell a story – you’ve got to put your unique voice at the centre of that.
“You’re dealing with people who read a lot of stuff. So, it’s nothing to do with structure, its nothing to do with a character… Can you engage someone with a really interesting question, with your unique voice and say, ‘Do you want to hear more?’”
Responding to a request from an aspiring writer for advice, Martin said: “There are so many tips – read lots of scripts, watch loads of TV and keep writing, keep writing, keep writing.”
She added: “I would try and write an idea that’s quite small and that’s cheap to make, because it’s got a much, much better chance of being made.”
Kim Millar (CBBC series The Dumping Ground and long-running BBC One drama Casualty) said: “Say it out loud. Someone once said to me, ‘Speak the words and, if you don’t think someone would say them, then take it out.’ That’s a really valuable piece of advice.
“Keep it simple and learn to separate yourself from the actual work… I think you can take criticism on board, but I think you have to think that’s the script, that’s me and that’s the product.”
The event, “Let’s talk: writing for TV”, was chaired by RTS Scotland Chair April Chamberlain and held at the Glasgow Art Club.
All photography by Ben Gallacher