Wednesday, January 23, 2013


I find watching TV and films regularly is a must if you're a writer, even stuff you don't like. You have to know what works and what doesn't, and more importantly why it works or doesn't.

Somebody told me not long ago (sorry, can't remember who, but thank you anyway) that British TV producers hate it when writers reel off a list of their favorite programmes, only for all, or the majority of them to be from the US. It makes a lot of sense really, if you think about it.

When you're sat pitching your TV detective drama idea to a British producer and you're asked what other TV programmes in that genre you like, it's going to look odd if you reply with CSI, Hawaii Five-O and Murder She Wrote. It shows a total lack of interest in, and disrespect for, British TV. The producer is going to wonder why on earth you want to write for British TV when you obviously love US TV so much. It's like saying 'I love all these programmes and want to make something similar, because there's nothing of note on British TV.' You've probably just insulted someone who's made several critically acclaimed and successful detective TV dramas. It wouldn't be a great surprise then if you failed to get a commission. So the motto here is, 'If you want to write for British TV, then watch British TV.'

If you are working on a project in a specific genre then it's a great idea to watch as many films and TV programs in the same genre. It'll give you the chance to see how other writers have used their skills to a better or worse effect, how the shows or films are structured, the type of characters they are populated with and how the set pieces play out. This will help you in two ways; to become familiar with the genre and to avoid cliché and common pitfalls.

It's also worth mentioning that refreshing your skills by reading screenwriting books or articles is not a bad idea too, even for established writers. You never know when you will be reminded of something you have forgotten long ago, that will help you become a better writer.

Now go and watch as much British TV and features as you can over the next week and see how much you can learn from them.

See you next week.

1 comment:

JJ Cocker said...

And my favourite writer's for TV are Richard Curtis, Ronnie Barker and many more greats of the 60s, 70s and 80s Sitcom classics. I don't watch much TV these days and prefer to get my inspiration from the great outdoors, here in Great Britain!