Gentleman Jack wowed critics and audiences alike when it aired on BBC One earlier this year. This was a Sunday-night period drama with a difference – based on the diaries of early 19th-century landowner, industrialist and traveller Anne Lister, it revealed a woman determined to explore her lesbian sexuality.
Wainwright was joined on stage by series consultant Anne Choma and folk duo O’Hooley & Tidow, the creators of the drama’s closing song, who also played a live set.
Some 20 years in the making, Sally’s Wainwright’s new television drama, Gentleman Jack, was originally rejected by every broadcaster she took it to. The story of an openly gay woman who farmed in 19th-century rural Yorkshire was considered a non-starter by TV networks. Starting this month, the topic is getting eight hours of BBC One Sunday-night primetime.
It’s common for writers to describe their latest work as a “passion project” – often industry-accepted shorthand for what they hope is infectious enthusiasm for their new offering.
Jones stars as remarkable Regency landowner Anne Lister in the BBC One drama, which will hit screens in 2019.
Speaking to the RTS in 2017, Wainwright spoke of her attraction to the project. “[She was] this extraordinary woman who lived in Halifax in the 1820-30s. She did some extraordinary things at a time when women just weren’t allowed to do anything really.”
Now's a great time to get into writing for TV. There have never been more opportunities for scripted programming. To stand out from the crowd, an idea should seem original and distinctive.
While the breadth of programming has increased, the traditional formats have remained dominant. Your writing should fit the standard models for a mini-series, a serial or an episodic series; 30 minutes for comedy, 60 minutes for drama.
Although still early in his career himself, Brown has been making waves, having won the Bafta New Writing Prize of Drama in 2016, and been runner up in an Idris Elba-fronted writing competition, 'Write to Greenlight'.
Competitions are now key to breaking into the industry as a young writer, he believes. While in the past it was possible to get your break with a killer script and the right opportunity, now young writers need an ‘in’. Competitions, he believes, are the key.
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The screenwriter received the Judges’ Award among others at the RTS Programme Awards 2017 for her “outstanding contribution to the UK’s television and media industry.”
“I feel very lucky that I have been able to achieve my ambitions and been able to do the things that I want to do,” she says humbly.
She is humble too about her past achievements: Baftas, RTS Awards, TV Choice Awards, Broadcast awards and more litter the shelves of her study in her Cotswold home.
“It’s nice to be recognised,” she says.
The eight-part series follows the story of landowner Anne Lister who returns from years of travel to re-establish her faded ancestral home Shibden Hall, Halifax.
Society dictates that she should re-open her coal mines and marry well, yet the charming and single-minded Anne has no intention of marrying a man and instead seeks a wealthy female suitor.
Shibden Hall is a love story based on historical facts, taken from the diary entries of Anne Lister which contained the intimate details of her life.