Report: Write On
- No tardiness: a deadline is your friend.
- Study: know your show, know your broadcaster, know your audience, know yourself.
- Practice and study versatility: different types of writing and platforms always come back to the story. What does your character want? What obstacles will I put in their way?
- Enjoy and use your network: most of us want to pay the help we received forward to new voices.
The session began with a screening of ‘Why’ by Joshua Haith, an Under-16 Finalist in the PQATV / CMC One-Minute Film Competition, and moderator Sharna Jackson encouraged everyone to view he 15 finalists and vote fore winning film.
The conversation began with Adam Redfern of Red Furnace Productions discussing how to make the jump to freelance. Adam suggests prepping as much as possible before transitioning to freelance by networking, creating your website, editing a showreel, talking with agents, writing a spec script. This prep work helps make you visible from the beginning of the conversation. An industry-standard spec script should be no longer than fourteen pages in Final Draft. A good spec script can be original, which is more work up front but can showcase your voice; it can also be for a show that you watch as a fan. Even an imperfect script indicates that you’re ready to write. A spec script is also helpful when seeking an agent so you can show them what you can do, even if you don’t have credits yet.
A few writers schemes helping new voices include the BBC Writers’ Room and nickwriting.com. Lockdown has created opportunities in writing for BBC Education, so it’s worth knocking out a 45-second spec script for BBC Bitesize.
Adam’s tips include:
- ‘If in doubt, cut it out’ (cut it yourself instead of leaving it to the producer)
- Start your story ‘Star Wars’ style, i.e., bang in the middle of the battle.
- Notes are not personal they are for the health of your script.
Freelance script editor Lena Byrne provided a view from the other side of the table. She’s had the best working relationships with writers when it feels like the writer is committed to making the partnership work by being reliable and punctual even though they are juggling projects. Lena’s always looking for opportunities to get new voices into the room so that they can sprinkle their personality and experience into the show’s world.
Lena’s tips include:
- Flow with your ideas instead of strangling them with a tight grip
- Always have extra ideas in your pocket
- Take a risk when you pitch (easy to say, hard to do); you’re pitching yourself not an idea.
- Know and care about the needs of the broadcaster and the audience (cut the joke you love that is really for parents because you’re writing for kids).
Jasmine Richards, founder of Storymix, talked about how she Goldilocked her way into a writing career. When Jasmine thought about what a writer looked like as a young person, it wasn’t her, so she started as an editor. Every book she edited was like a writing course, and she realized that writers were just like her after all. She reached out to her network when she was looking to transition to writing, and one of those coffees led to TV writing. She founded Storymix because she didn’t see her oldest child in chapter books and wanted varied characters to tell stories.
Jasmine’s tips include:
- Reach out to and build your network in person and over social media (follow editors and agents, etc.)
- Know the trades and keep an eye out for call outs such as artsjobs.co.uk
- Pay it forward: karma is your friend.
David Varela, freelance writer and narrative designer, explained the skills he uses to navigate the gaming market, which does not have an active agency presence and is based on freelance contracts. The positive of this market is the demand for new voices and diverse backgrounds. Newcomers do well to keep an eye on Twitter #gamewriting, Facebooks groups, Kickstarter because indy game projects will need a writer, even if they don’t know that yet. The first game David worked on was an AR game that used his skills for building corporate websites combined with his skills in fiction. Versatility is his asset, and he continues to cultivate his skills, which helps him study and navigate the huge variety of structures used in gaming.
David’s insights include:
- Gaming needs sophisticated, diverse, adult stories for their market.
- Twinery.org can help you demonstrate your interactive storytelling skills, which demand not having complete control over your hero/ine.
- Don’t only play games, study them. (‘Extra Credits’ on YouTube and ‘Feminist Frequency’ expose game design well.)
- Look beyond console gaming. You don’t write a Hollywood tent pole your first time out; other formats of game are easier to break into.
Freelance Script Producer/Editor
Red Furnace Productions
Writer & Showrunner
Children’s Writer and Storymix Founder
Freelance Writer and Narrative Designer