Continuing and Serial TV Drama: How It Works and How to Write It

New dates TBC

Continuing and Serial TV Drama: How It Works and How to Write It

Date: (awaiting dates)

Format: 10-session evening course
Times: 6.30pm - 9pm
Capacity: Max. 8 participants
Fee: £750

Many of our best screenwriters learned their craft in serial drama. It is a world which is highly competitive, and it can also be highly rewarding – which is why plenty of the best stay working there. It’s also one of the reasons why it’s a difficult world to break into. This course with writer Neil Arksey aims to boost your chances.

It is for experienced writers in theatre, prose, radio, comedy, advertising, or related fields, who wish to discover how TV serial drama works.

Over ten evening sessions in Covent Garden, nine participants will gain a thorough understanding of how soaps and serial dramas operate. The group will be taken though a step by step introduction to the various techniques and methods employed to put together and maintain a continuing drama.

The course will be delivered from the point of view of a writer, with an emphasis on three main areas:

  • Story liners and script editors (i.e. the specialist in-house positions for writers on continuing and serial dramas which few people outside understand or are aware exist).
  • What is required of screenwriters who are contracted to write for continuing and serial dramas.
  • How to pitch and develop your own original serial idea.

Participants will leave the course much better equipped to understand and work in the script and story offices of a continuing/serial drama. In addition to group projects, each writer will fully develop their own serial drama package, complete with pilot episode, all ready to pitch.

"The short courses currently being offered by The London Film School are hot property...They fill a really important training gap, targeting already skilled filmmakers moving on and up." John Whiston, Creative Director, Serial Dramas, ITV Studios. Read full testimonial.


Course Outline

Themes for the classes include:

  • Serial versus Series, Continuing versus Returning
  • Team Story Development
  • Original Drama Ideas
  • Character, Setting and Story
  • Pitching
  • Storylines
  • Scene by Scenes
  • Script Editing, Revising and Redrafting
  • Script Reports
  • Industry insights

The course will examine the development of a continuing serial drama in depth and trace each step of how productions are managed in-house, from initial idea to full concept, storylines, block outlines, futures and scripts. Each participant will also be given the opportunity to develop an original serial drama idea of their own.

Applicants will be expected to have had some (not necessarily professional) writing experience. They will be required to complete substantial homework assignments to achieve full benefit. Email access and sharing email contact are essential.

By the final week, each writer will have developed their own serial drama idea all the way to a pilot script and received one-to-one feedback on their project from Neil.

Please notice that the 'Table Read' sessions in Weeks 9 and 10 are extended to three hours and will finish at 9.30pm.

Course Schedule

Week 1

  • Introductions. Series vs. Serial. Production context etc.
  • And each participant will be developing their individual original serial drama to pilot.
  • Homework: Ideas for Group Project: Continuing Serial.

Week 2

  • Group Project: Pitch Group Project ideas. Choose. Discuss setting; core characters etc.
  • Homework: Key Character Outlines (in preparation for Week 4).

Week 3

  • Individual Project (IP): Idea Pitch. First pitch of serial drama idea.
  • Homework: Revise & complete full story outline (in preparation for week 7).

Week 4

  • Group Project: Characters, Setting – Stories.
  • Homework: Ideas for pilot story.

Week 5

  • Group Project: Pitch pilot stories. Storylining.
  • Homework: Brainstorm story beats for designated story strand.

Week 6

  • Group Project: Storylines and scenes-by-scenes.
  • Turning strands into episode scene-by-scenes.
  • Homework: make sure Individual Project outlines are ready for next week’s pitch session.

Week 7

  • Individual Project: Pitch revised outlines.
  • Homework: write scene-by-scene for IP pilot episode.

Week 8

  • Group Project: Final session – script editing, revising drafts. A last look at the in-house team and working methods of a continuing drama production office; and also the relationship of this to freelance writers.
  • Individual Project: participants’ feedback on how they got on with their Scene-by-Scenes.
  • Homework: write first 20 minutes of 1 hour Individual Project pilot script.

There is a 1-week break from classes between sessions 8 and 9. Participants may use this week for their writing.

Week 9: 6.30pm – 9.30pm*

  • Individual Project: Table Read (first half of group).
  • Homework: revise and complete pilot script & serial outline, to deliver by early June.

*Please notice that the 'Table Read' sessions in Weeks 9 and 10 are extended to three hours and will finish at 9.30pm.

Week 10: 6.30pm – 9.30pm*

  • Individual Project: Table read (second half of group).
  • Homework: revise and complete pilot script & serial outline, to deliver by email before individual session.

*Please notice that the 'Table Read' sessions in Weeks 9 and 10 are extended to three hours and will finish at 9.30pm.

Individual Report Sessions - (dates to be arranged with each participant individually)

  • Individual Project: Series of one-to-one, 30 minute meetings with each writer will receive a verbal script report on their First Draft and Serial Outline, and notes for further development.

Tutor profile: Neil Arksey, Screenwriter and Series Story Producer


Neil Arksey's workshops at LFS

Further information:

Social links

As screenwriter, story editor and consultant, head writer and series producer Neil Arksey has been responsible for over a thousand episodes of serial drama at home and abroad. In the UK, he has worked on shows such as CROSSROADS, FAMILY AFFAIRS, DOCTORS, MILE HIGH, and RIVER CITY. And abroad, amongst other projects, he was head writer on Salatut Elämät, a 5-day-a-week soap in Finland, and series story producer on Jobán Rosszban, a continuing hospital drama set and based in Budapest.

In addition to working as a writer and producer, Neil has taught writing at several universities, colleges and film schools. He is the author of a number of popular books for children, teenagers and young adults, published by Penguin and Random House, including Playing on the Edge, Brooksie and Flint.