Yesterday I posted my notes from Day 1 of the Script Factory’s TV Forum in London last week. In a move that should surprise nobody, today I bring you my notes from Day 2. The morning featured more from speaker Rob Ritchie, looking at Story of the Week dramas and the evolution in narrative comedy on TV. In the afternoon first speaker was Andy Harries, the outgoing controller of drama and comedy for Granada. He’s produced everything from Cold Feet to The Queen, covering both TV and film. Harries was very entertaining, but I found little about which to take notes.
Perhaps the biggest draw of the two days was the final session, an audience with three people from Kudos: joint MD Jane Featherstone [JF], executive producer Claire Parker [CP] and director of drama Simon Crawford Collins [SCC]. Kudos is best known for making such drama series as Spooks [renamed MI5 in America], Hustle and Life on Mars. The company’s recently been purchased for an eight-figure sum, but retained its creative autonomy as part of the deal. Here’s what the people from Kudos had to say…
JF: Joined Kudos in 2000 when there were two people in its drama department, including her. The company now has 37 fulltime staff in its drama department, while the factual section on which it was foundered has faded in importance.
SCC: A new TV series can happen very quickly, but it can take a long time too. The first episode of Spooks went through 35 drafts, the first Life on Mars had 37 drafts. Most Kudos scripts undergo extensive development work.
On series 6 of Spooks, none of the writers have any TV experience except Spooks. Before that they were novelists, wrote screenplays for films or were playwrights. They all come through their agents. Spec scripts come via agents, or sometimes from broadcasters – Sally Wainwright’s The Amazing Mrs Pritchard came via the BBC.
JF: We want writers to own their scripts. But they have to be very collaborative. There’ll be constant changes, but being open to that provides a wonderful energy.
SCC: We try to have a joint meeting with writers, the producer and EP, as a way of avoiding multiple notes on the same draft given at different times by different people. WE look for a strong premise. We want writers with a sense of visual style and pace. Bold writing, brilliant writing attracts great talent in front and behind the camera.
JF: We want over-ambitious people. We want to find a better way to do things through character, story and writing. Our TV is cinema-influenced. Hustle stemmed from Ocean’s 11, could we find a British take on the heist and caper genre.
CP: Life on Mars was always finite. It could never have been more than three series. The commissioning of Ashes To Ashes meant we could continue with some of the characters and concepts, but Sam’s journey is over.
Kudos is working on the double commission of a soap opera for ITV2 called Echo Beach [named after the Martha and the Muffins song], and Moving Wallpaper for ITV1. The latter is a comedy set behind the scenes at a soap called Echo Beach. Writers are working on one or the other. Those twinned projects need four producers in all.
JF: Kudos wants unique ideas, new ways of looking at the world.
SCC: Cast turnover helps keep Spooks fresh. On a series our directors will shoot two episodes each. They join a show four weeks before their episode starts shooting. Lead director on the first episode of a series will start 8-10 weeks out.
CP: I ask myself why does this show have to be made? Why should I want to fight for it? Why will an audience want to watch it? Most of our series have a single SE. We try to find people who are passionate about a series.
Kudos doesn’t look at unsolicited material. If you have an agent, get them to submit your best sample script to demonstrate the quality of your writing. Ideally submit two sample scripts, showing the range of your work. Kudos does make single dramas, but they tend to be very issue-based [e.g. Mark of Cain] or biopics.