‘Rachel doesn’t let me cycle,” laughs writer Jack Thorne as I am leaving his north London home following our interview. Rachel is his wife, a comedy agent and keen cyclist herself, who laughs back: “Yes, he’d just be cycling along and have a script idea and that would be that.”
You could be forgiven for thinking that Jeff Pope was obsessed by the macabre. Why else would he be drawn to such odious topics as the Moors murders, serial killer Fred West or Britain’s last hangman, Albert Pierrepoint?
He puts it like this: “If drama is about conflict, which it is, you’re looking for the extremes of conflict. Those areas are love, fate and, I would argue, crime.
“I am not a depressive person or ghoulish but it’s the old journalist in me: there’s a good story in it.”
Led by former BBC and Channel 4 Head of Drama John Yorke, the Writers’ Academy will offer writers in the early stage of their careers the chance to develop their skills on some of the BBC’s long-running drama series.
The paid scheme will see successful applicants complete an intensive 13-week classroom period, followed by three months scripting episodes of Casualty, Holby City and EastEnders.
Participants will graduate with up to four scripts to their name, and will have their services optioned by BBC Studios for the next two years.
Peek around the corner of Badgers Bar in Derry and you’ll see the larger-than-life faces of Erin, Clare, Michelle, Orla and James plastered over the wall. As far as signs of a show’s success go, they don’t get much bigger than a five-metre-high mural.
From the moment the profane and brilliant Derry Girls burst on to our screens last year in a haze of teenage escapades, nostalgic music and 1990s artefacts – such as pastel printed wallpaper, Baby-G watches and armed soldiers on the streets – it captivated its audience.
Journalist and presenter, BBC News
In an era of widespread concern about fake news, trusted and experienced correspondents such as the BBC’s award-winning Clive Myrie are more important than ever.
Theatre playwrights and TV screenwriters tend to be different animals who spend most of their time in one cage. Sir David Hare occasionally takes a break between National Theatre commissions to write a TV series, such as BBC Two’s recent Collateral, and Dennis Potter did a single theatre play, Sufficient Carbohydrate, but these were recognisably excursions from their main creative space.
Showrunner Chris Chibnall commented, “Hailing from a range of backgrounds, tastes and styles, here’s what unites them: they are awesome people as well as brilliant at their job. (It matters!) They love Doctor Who. And they’ve all worked above and beyond the call of duty in an effort to bring audiences something special, later this year.”
Past notable writers have included Neil Gaiman, Douglas Adams and Richard Curtis.
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.
Matthew Bell takes notes as top screenwriters explain how to pen a hit 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.