I attended this workshop a few weekends ago as part of the New Writing North professional development programme. The session was run by Danielle Jawando and Chris Neil and I thought my review of this informative event may be useful to my followers.
All attendees were given two script extracts, one from the first episode of Happy Valley and one from The West Wing and we were shown the relevant clips from them. We then discussed what we learned from the clips, including what we thought worked well.
The scripts were helpful with layout and content, such a reversals in plot, humanity and subtext, setting and the wants/needs of the characters. Writers need to work out what the obstacles are to that goal and the stakes need to be quite high - jeopardy. Little drops of information work well and it is best to think about the theme that you are setting up/exploring. You want to create intrigue and think about what the hook is of your script in a way that's quite different, for example a different POV to something that actually happened. The hook = the new way and the new voice. More Northern voices are wanted and the hook can come in many numbers and forms - character, story etc.
It is interesting in that the session leaders informed us that Sally Wainwright worked on Coronation Street, she is an expert at the hook to get you in and the hook to keep you there. As Jimmy McGovern said, 'Arrive late, get out early.' Start the scene where you are creating intrigue and then get out early so that the viewer wants to know what happens next.
Being on the telephone is a no-no on TV and good drama is about one person doing one thing.
We were then given a couple of slips of paper with a scenario and a character and we were given a period of time to write a short script using these ingredients (mine was a 66 year old corporate executive with a panic disorder who is trying to hide their attraction to someone). We had to write a scene where they pursue their goal and give them one or two obstacles to overcome. A couple of the attendees read out their pieces and we discussed how we felt about the exercise.
In an exercise where we had to raise the stakes for the character to heighten and increase the drama, Danielle said they would be looking for natural ability to write dialogue, structure and layout could be shown. The writing should reveal character to move the scene/story forward but dialogue has to sound natural and if possible, contain subtext.
The session leaders, Danielle Jawando and Chris Neilan, then informed attendees about the development programme which supports writers for television from groups currently under-represented in the industry. The programme is based in Bradford and following the taster sessions, applications were invited to the Significant Ink Professional Development programme, which will take place in City Library during May and June. The programme will be led by screenwriters-in-residence Danielle and Chris and the sessions will focus on developing character, dramatic action, dialogue, plot and structure, and by the end of the course attendees will have written a 30-minute script for television. There will also be guest speakers from the industry. She suggested taking a character and splitting a page down the middle with what the character wants to say and what the character is able to say. Also, she thinks it is good to eavesdrop and watch body language when people interact.
The programme is free to take part in and writers do not need to have had any experience, but they do need to show potential. Writing believable dialogue is key to good television writing, so they are looking for people with this ability. Applicants needed to submit 2-5 pages of dialogue, a paragraph which contextualises the script and a paragraph explaining how they fit within a group whose voice is currently under-represented in television. Anyone could apply as long as they come from one of the underrepresented groups and could make all the sessions and the deadline was Friday 7 April. Successful applicants should hear by 12 April NB this has now been extended to 24 April.
Attendees were told to expect a copy of the PowerPoint about Goals and Obstacles and the book Three Uses of the Knife by David Mamet.
The protagonist of a main storyline will have a clear single goal underpinning the story, driving it forward to a dramatic climax and each subplot will have the same with a goal and an obstacle to overcome to achieve it. The resolution pushes the story into the next scene.
We were then given a scenario, two people sat in a hospital waiting room who have to talk but not about hospitals, illness or death and write 2-5 pages of dialogue. One of the attendees then read out her piece and there was just time for a few questions before the session came to a close. I shared my piece with Danielle and she laughed in the right places and said that I should enter it as my submission, which I duly did. Fingers crossed.
Update - I am pleased to let my followers know that I have since received an email confirming that I have a place on the programme.