Third installment from Simon Stratton on the recent Writer's Festival
Panel 3: Writer for Hire (Nicola Shindler, Sally Wainwright, Mark Catley)
Question: How prepaQuestion: How prepared should an idea be before it's given to Nicola?
Nicola: The big story should be there, not the fine detail - 2.5 pages max. Ideally:
- A fab logline
- Where's the passion and WHY do you want to write it
- Show your commitment to the idea
- Show knowledge of what it's about
Sally: It needs to be specific
Nicola: Can't help pigeonholing an idea for a particular channel.
Sally: Pitched ‘At Home with the Braithwaites’ as a sitcom and it took 5 years to get commissioned
Nicola: Channel controllers have more power now and they move around a lot more, so things get 'un-green lit' all the time.
Sally: Never give up on a job.
Nicola: Except when no-one else thinks it's a good idea
Everything is very London-centric again. You can't find a talented crew in Manchester they've all moved to London.
It's a lot harder to get your own series if you're not a big name writer. If you are on a regualar series, like Doctors, Eastenders or Holby, you will be noticed by Indie Prodcos, especially if your episodes are better than others.
Red Productions read everything that is sent to them. Things aren't that grim at the moment, ITV and BBC are taking more things that might not traditionally be thought to fit on their channels.
To summarise: The financial landscape is terrible, the creative landscape is good.
She's never had a spec script go through to development. They are always a calling card for future writers.
Writers are never pigeonholed by indies, but indies are pigeonholed by broadcasters.
The most important thing in a script is that it must have a story.
Sally: Is scared of story and prefers to have the characters first.
Nicola: TV writing is an art form and the story has to move on quickly. People who write for soaps are better at doing this than those that write for theatre.