She shared the pleasure and pain of writing drama with EastEnders boss John Yorke at this year’s RTS Student Programme Masterclasses.
Script editing “was an invaluable way to learn about television production and writing … Having that ‘production head’ gave me an advantage in writing [my] first episode [of Wolfblood) …but I was still very much learning the ropes.”
Petzal went on to write scripts for CBBC shows including Wolfblood, The Dumping Ground and Danger Mouse: “If you can turn stuff in on time, you tend to get dragged from one show to the next.”
Passion projects: “You’re not always going to get jobs that you love, but when you do love them, there’s nothing else like it.”
Critical misses: “[ITV series Jekyll and Hyde for which Petzal wrote an episode] had a small, loyal following but it didn’t get much love from critics or mass audiences … So, RIP mainstream fantasy for the time being.”
On being hired to write for the Saxon v Viking BBC Two series, The Last Kingdom: “I would be this show’s biggest fan [even] if I hadn’t been involved with it … [The episodes] are like hour-long plays, beautiful, textured, emotional pieces of writing … It was such a great experience.”
On her last-minute rewrite on Sky Atlantic thriller Riviera: “There wasn’t much time and so what I wrote pretty much had to be shot, for good or for ill … It was invigorating to do something that quick … These jobs are nice because if you do relatively well, everyone thinks you’ve saved the day; if you do terribly, people tell you it was doomed anyway.”
Writing her original series, Blood was “massively exposing, but it was an incredible experience and I’m deeply proud of it.”
Getting a break as a new writer is “undeniably tricky … Children’s drama is a really good place to start … Production jobs of any kind are never a waste of your time because the relationships that you’ll make are invaluable. Pretty much every [job] I’ve got until recently, began with, ‘I know her from blah and I know that she will turn it in on time.’ It’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve got offers for things from people who’ve never met me … If you write plays … that’s a good avenue.”
The Programme Drama Masterclass was an RTS afternoon event held at the IET Savoy Place London Tuesday 13th November, 2018 produced by Helen Scott. By Matthew Bell.