Form of an Ass

October 16, 2009 at 2:05 pm (Writing) (, , , , , , , , , )

I got today’s blog title from an exclamation made by a writer I follow on Twitter. I thought it was funny and it contains the word “form”, which is what I’m talking about today…

So!

Yesterday I promised I’d fill you in on some of the points from the Writersroom roadshow event that stood out to me on Wednesday. The main part of the talk was delivered by Paul Ashton of the BBC Writersroom, and he gave a rundown of ten things that they look for in a script.

Much of this stuff you can also find in other writing courses or in books on writing for tv/film, but it was still good to have it re-iterated and there were a few things Paul explained in a fresh way that I think will really help in some of our up-coming projects.

Today, I’ll just write about the first point…

FORM

Television shows always fit into a specific format, for example, half-hour sitcoms, serial dramas (two/three hour-long episodes, like jane austen), one-off sixty-minute documentaries, etc. So when you’re sending in a script to the BBC (or any other channel), you have to make sure you know what kind of show it is that you’ve written, and that the format is appropriate. Don’t send in a two-hour long episode of what is clearly half-hour sitcom material.

You also need to look at other shows in the same style as yours. Although you want to tell your own original story, people are used to a specific form when it comes to certain types of programme. If you’re doing a crime drama series, you should be watching other programmes of a similar nature, and figuring out how they work – how they tell their story.

When you’re writing the script, you need to always be clear about what you mean, what you’re trying to say. Script readers don’t necessarily have all the background information that you’re aware of, or all of the painstaking notes you’ve taken as you’ve worked on your story. If you don’t make sure all the important info is there, the chances are that they’re not going to “get it”.

Finally, it’s important that you don’t “direct”. Just get the dialogue and action onto the page. Leave all the camera moves and things up to the director. An example of this could be where you write about how a character gets a shock of realisation. In the script, you simply have to say something like, “We see a look of realisation on Kevin’s face.” It’s up to the director/actor how this is then shown on-screen. The script is the blueprint. The starting point that everything else is built from.

Alrighty. That’s all for today, but hopefully there was some interesting stuff in there for ya. Lots of it seems like common sense, but apparently the Writersroom gets inundated with a plethora (I love that word) of scripts that haven’t thought about these kinds of things. If you can make sure you bear them in mind, you’ll definitely stand out as someone who knows what they’re doing.

Adios for now!

L.

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