Writing Biopics and Docudramas for Film & TV

Places Available

Writing Biopics and Docudramas for Film & TV

Sat, 7 Oct 2017 to Sun, 8 Oct 2017

Duration: 2 days
Capacity: Max. 15-20 participants
Fee: £220  10% Early Bird discount available until 13th Aug.

In 2011 the two main candidates for best picture Oscar were The King’s Speech and The Social Network. In 2013 the Oscar went to Argo. And in the last few months, following on from Suffragette and Bridge of Spies we have seen the astonishing success at the box-office of Dunkirk. All were docudramas - films based on real people. They were continuing a trend that has become increasingly significant. If you want your film to be popular, base it on reality.

This 2-day workshop with Alan Rosenthal is designed to show you how to write, create and produce docudramas and biopics, or reality based films for the cinema or TV.

The docudrama and biopic is a different form entirely from the usual drama. It necessitates different techniques and a different mind set to the standard screenplay. Writing it presents a totally different challenge.

This very practical, down to earth course shows you how to cope with that challenge. It shows you how to develop and find ideas, how to research them, create saleable and attractive proposals and  treatments, how to write dialogue and continue to the finished screenplay. It also deals with adaptations, budgets, marketing, legal issues, ethics and privacy.

The course is suitable both for absolute beginners and those who already have some experience of script writing.


The course will consist include basic framework lectures, the analysis  of  docudrama extracts, and interactive participation. Participants are encouraged to bring along one basic biopic or docudrama idea which can be discussed and developed in class.

Topics to be discussed include:

  • Choosing and developing  a subject
  • Differences English and  US approaches to docudrama
  • Hybrid forms
  • Research problems
  • Writing the proposal
  • Limitations of the form
  • Developing a treatment
  • Alternative approaches to a story
  • Character – conflict – and structure
  • Marketing  your story
  • Ethics and legal problems

A number of film extracts will be analyzed in detail to illustrate their basic script problems. They include:

  • Death of a Princess
  • Bridge of Spies
  • The Lost City of Z
  • Holocaust on Trial
  • Florence Foster Jenkins
  • The Iron Lady
  • Barbarians at the Gates
  • The Texas Murdering Mum

Alan will also take the participants in detail through two of his recent docudramas (The First Fagin and The Unknown Life of Lawrence of Arabia) showing how the films were developed and how they went  from idea to full screenplay.

Tutor profile: Alan Rosenthal, Scriptwriter-Director

Alan Rosenthal's workshops at LFS

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Alan Rosenthal turned to film after working as Solicitor handling film finance and distribution. His main areas are documentary and docudrama, and he has made over forty films for the BBC, Channel Four, PBS, Arte ZDF and Australian TV. He has taught at many of the world’s top film schools and has written eight books on film.

He was awarded a Peabody Prize for Journalism and in 2014 was awarded the American Universities prize for distinction in documentary. His recent docudrama The First Fagin was a featured presentation at the Melbourne International Film Festival in 2014.