Monday, June 08, 2009

Writing by committee

Further to the discussions on this blog (also here) about whether TV writers in the UK are, as Stephen Fry suggested, "treated like dirt" (still time to vote in the poll, right), on the WGGB website I've put up the article Guild TV Committee Chair, Gail Renard, wrote in the most recent issue of UK Writer.
Speaking with experienced writers, all agree that writing an episode for a series today means roughly nine or ten times more work than ten years ago; often for worse results.

Doing an episode for a telly series used to involve delivering your script to the producer or, if there was one, the series’ script editor, who would usually be a writer with an impressive track record, if not the actual creator of the series. Believe it or not, these highly experienced professionals would give you one set of notes for each draft. It was rare that a writer would have to go beyond three drafts; the third of which would be tweaking.

Today we have countless layers of management who, in the past, never existed and weren’t needed. The job of script editor is often seen as a way into production as opposed to being a career end in itself. Many production personnel are no longer staff, and are on short term contracts without the experience or continuity that staffers often ensured. Aside from needlessly bumping up the cost of series, suddenly more people have a say in the script than ever before.
As Gail explains, the Guild will soon be publishing a TV Good Practice Guide that will be circulated to broadcasters and production companies across the industry. I'll post a link when it's online.


  1. From early in my career I recall a quote from one of the industry's veterans, to the effect that "everything after the third draft is damage".

  2. Anonymous8:51 pm

    I'd go along with that. There is something about the third draft, when everything gels and you still have the freshness of the first draft, but the pacing is better and the structure is tighter. I almost always use the third draft as a writing sample, rather than the production draft.

    Edel Brosnan


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