Seven Years of Screenwriting

It’s been seven years since I first decided to stop dreaming about being a TV writer and start doing something about it. I thought it would be utterly soul-crushing instructive to do a bit of an audit – a look back at what I’ve written and where I’m at.

It’s hard to write a script, even harder to finish one, even harder to let other people read it. Digging through my files I find I’ve finished quite a few of the buggers, which I’m pleased about. I’m not one for pride (it’s a sin, after all) – but I can, I think, allow myself a little pat on the back for having reached FADE OUT so many times.

I started off knowing nothing, and writing awful crap. I know more now – thanks to many books, mentors, patient friends, and a lot of reading of other people’s much better scripts – and can confidently say that my work is now definitely a bit less crap. The journey continues.

(Note: all of these are hour-long TV drama specs. Includes shout-outs to the fantastic people who helped turn nonsense into… well, less nonsense).

2013: Doggerland

My first completed script, inspired by my obsession with the hauntological myths of Orford Ness and the story of Doggerland. The script was an incredibly convoluted, multi-genre, era-spanning epic – the sort of nonsense you write when you don’t know what you’re doing. Entered into the BBC Writersroom competition: got nowhere.

2013: Kill Screen

A sort of Silicon Valley-meets-Occupy Wall Street mash-up that has the kernel of a good idea in it (genius girl coder is forced to work for her VC father who’s secretly creating tech for an evil regime, possibly North Korea, I hadn’t really thought it through tbh). Lots of fun to write, mostly dogshit (I would learn that those two things usually go together).

2014 / 2015: Hitmakers

Ah, the passion project. There’s actually two entirely different drafts so I’m counting them both. The first one was (guess!) crap. The second one was okay. Hitmakers is the story of the pop managers of the Sixties – Epstein, Oldham, Lambert etc. My idea was: let’s tell this story from the viewpoint of the puppet-masters. It’s Mad Men goes pop. I’d still love to get this made, although Vinyl (and the immediate demise of Vinyl) rather killed its potential. Entered into the BBC Writersroom competition: LONG LISTED! (Read the first 10 pages).

(I worked with the amazing Hayley McKenzie at Script Angel on this one).

2015: The Ruby Revolution

Inspired by a friend who ran as an independent in Stoke Newington in the 2010 election, this was a kind of House of Cards comedy drama about what would happen if a radical feminist reached Westminster. I just re-read it and it’s a mess, but the characters work and I think it still has potential.

(Again, I worked with the amazing Hayley McKenzie at Script Angel on this one).

2016: Running London

Running London is a crime drama, in which a tech-savvy kid from a small-time London gang takes on a powerful old school drugs boss, in a bid to run the city’s drugs business. It was my attempt to imagine a gangster show for the Uber era. I pitched it to Sky, who said they had something similar in the works – which I guess was Gangs of London (I dunno, I haven’t watched it – like whevs). Entered into the BBC Writersroom competition: LONG LISTED AGAIN! (Read the first 10 pages).

(I worked with the marvellous Karol Griffiths on this one, and also had input from the wonderful Yvonne Grace and a thumbs-up from Ashley Pharaoh.)

2020: Left Bank

Whoa! Hold on! That’s a big gap between scripts. Yeah, I had two kids alright? Makes this writing lark a little harder. Anyway, Left Bank was another passion project: an attempt to dramatise the lives of the existentialists Sartre, Camus, De Beauvoir etc. I know – commercial gold right!!? I worked my arse off on this one, trying to find the right approach. I finally found a way to write it as a thriller, following the struggles of a character based on Richard Wright as he navigates the Communists, the nascent CIA, and a gang of mad French monarchists in 1940s Paris. Entered into the BBC Writersroom competition: GOT NOWHERE FFS!

(Since completing, have received incredible notes from the wonderful Yvonne Grace – a rewrite will happen at some point.)

What’s next? Well, I’m on to the next one. What else can I do? I love it.

Here’s a teaser…

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