Monday, July 05, 2010

TV Writers' Festival: EastEnders to Life on Mars

Tony Jordan [TJ]: The first thing you see at the end of EastEnders is the writer’s name – I love that. Gets you a lot of attention. CDS [Continuing Drama Series] doesn’t stifle creativity. It exposes you to other worlds, helps you build relationships.

John Yorke [JY]: You can have your voice on CDS shgows, but you need to have talent. CDS will teach you craft skills. All you have to do is make the audience wonder what happens next. CDS distils your narrative techniques.

Matthew Graham [MG]: There’s no shame in writing great TV for 15 million people. EE gave MG a taste for writing mass audience TV drama.

TJ: There’s no route map out of CDS to original drama. It’s about holding on to your integrity. You see your stuff on screen quicker in CDS. It’s the fastest way to learn your craft, almost real time. Be a proper writer, don’t be a hack. Talent will out.

MG: I decided when given an incident-lite serial, such as Ricky continues looking for a job, that I would engineer it so I could write almost a standalone play as my ep.

JY: The best, most creative writers on CDS will carve out a space for themselves.

MG: Writers oppress themselves. You should see CDS as a fantastic opportunity to fly. There’s no plan to oppress you.

TJ: The most valuable thing I ever did was finding my own space to learn. I could experiment. There’s no necessary step. But you have to learn somewhere.

MG: Character shouldn’t just walk into a scene, they should land – they should arrive. You have to write fast. You become a writer/producer in effect when things go wrong. Actors go AWOL, it’s up to to create a solution. You have to scramble.

JY: CDS can be like the Beatles playing Hamburg. You build up your flying hours. You earn freedom by pushing the boundaries. There’s a lot of failure on the way.

MG: After EastEnders I had a lot of failures for various reasons. But you get a taste for being punched in the nose. The first script of Life On Mars took 35 drafts, seven years to get on screen. You can tie yourself in knots trying to avoid repeating failures. I like to tell loads of people a story, I’m a campfire storyteller. For me it’s about telling the story, not so much the message. CDS can be a war of attrition.

JY: You can tell when a writer is phoning it in. They stop making notes into something better, they just write the notes directly into the dialogue. CDS can be a launch pad for writers’ careers - it can also be a coffin.

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