The Crown

Top scriptwriters offer advice on writing for TV drama

The panel (l-r) Sophie Petzal, Rachel Flowerday, John Jackson, Daisy Goodwin, David Hancock and Rachelle Constant (Credit: RTS/Paul Hampartsoumian)

“It’s important for me to have something to say. We’ve all written stuff that’s competent and empty,” said Sophie Petzal, whose television breakthrough came on CBBC dramas such as Wolfblood and Dangermouse. More recently she has written episodes for Sky Atlantic’s Riviera and BBC Two’s The Last Kingdom, and has original scripts in development with Company Pictures.

Watch highlights from the RTS Cambridge Convention 2017

James Murdoch in conversation with Sarah Sands (Credit: RTS/Paul Hampartsoumian)

The three-day Convention featured keynotes from James Murdoch, Ofcom chief Sharon White and the Secretary of State Karen Bradley MP, as well as some lively panel discussions.

Watch highlights from the event below, or scroll down to watch the sessions in full. You can read more about this year's RTS Cambridge in the October issue of Television magazine.

Video: Show Me The Money! Andy Harries and Andy Wilman discuss working on the new frontier of broadcasting

It’s the dream scenario for a producer: to be handed a huge budget and the creative freedom to create compelling content for a new platform.  Producers Andy Harries and Andy Wilman, in conversation with Peter Fincham, discuss the origins and production of The Crown and The Grand Tour respectively. How did it work, how sustainable is it and where do they go from here?

Andy Harries on how The Crown changed Left Bank Pictures

When Andy Harries was planning what became drama specialist Left Bank Pictures, around a decade ago, experienced TV executives told him that he was backing the wrong horse. They said that drama – expensive, time-consuming and hard to get right – was in decline. Reality shows were the future.

Today, drama is booming as never before and, by some reckonings, Left Bank is responsible for a fifth of all the TV drama produced in the UK.

Reframing the documentary: how Amazon and Netflix are changing factual television

All or Nothing: A Season with the Arizona Cardinals (Credit: Amazon Prime)

In February of this year, Netflix won its first Oscar and its first Bafta. Surprisingly, the awards were not for any of its high-profile drama series, but for two documentaries. The Academy Award went to The White Helmets, a film about a group of Syria Civil Defence volunteer rescue workers. The Bafta winner was 13th, Ava DuVernay’s film about race in the US criminal justice system.

Event Report: The Crown: Deconstructing the coronation

When the history of TV in the early 21st Century is written, The Crown, Netflix’s ravishing period drama recounting the reign of Elizabeth II, is likely to be regarded as a watershed moment.

The reasoning might go something like this: The Crown was the first genuinely cinematic, long-form TV show that audiences could watch how and when they wanted to, and it gave crucial impetus to Netflix’s international ambitions. Critics loved it and awards juries kept voting for the drama.

Watch: The Crown - Deconstructing the Coronation

Journalist Andrew Billen was joined by the team behind Netflix's award-winning series The Crown to discuss how they brought the story of Queen Elizabeth II's coronation to the streaming service.

Billen was joined by writer Peter Morgan, actor Alex Jennings who plays the Duke of Windsor, Production Designer Martin Childs, Executive Producer Suzanne Mackie and Director and Executive Producer Philip Martin.

The Crown: how the Netflix series became event television

This is according to the screenwriter behind The Crown, Peter Morgan, whose lavish retelling of the early years of the reign of Elizabeth II, commissioned by Netflix, has won widespread acclaim.    

Morgan, speaking at an RTS early evening event, The Crown: Deconstructing The Coronation, predicted a paradigm shift as streaming, rather than broadcasting becomes the norm.    

“It really isn’t like television anymore. It’s absolutely overwhelming. It’s partly the way in which we make it is not like television.

Story first: how to edit for television

Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II (Credit: Netflix)

For scripted projects such as dramas and comedies, an editor will have a script to work to, choosing the best combination of shots to tell the story.

“The script is like a blueprint,” explains The Crown editor Una Ni Dhonghaile,

A documentary is a rather different beast. “You may be faced with 400 hours of footage shot across many years in a sprawling way. The people making the film don't know what's going to happen next,” says editor Ben Stark whose credits include Dispatches, Baby P: The Untold Story and 9/11: The Falling Man.