Going Again: Creating and Developing Returnable Drama Series
Duration: 9 weekdays scheduled across approx. 2 months
Capacity: Max 8 participants
Like jazz, the returnable drama series is one of the great creations of the 20th century. It is a fluid and addictive format which allows the audience a ‘story of the week’ fix but is also able to accommodate the most complex of serial strands spanning many seasons. For broadcasters, the TV drama series is the mainstay of the schedules; it is their Holy Grail. And every time a major established series comes to an end, there is a frenzy to find the next SPOOKS, or the next HEARTBEAT, or the next WAKING THE DEAD.
In this series of workshops we will be working with professional television writers, on developing original drama series Bibles for shows that can then be pitched to the British networks.
Each writer will arrive with a treatment for a returnable drama series and each project will be workshopped and brainstormed in a series of Writers Room style meetings, chaired by established film and TV writer and SF novelist Philip Palmer.
The final draft Bibles will then be critiqued in one to one sessions with Philip Palmer and an experienced industry figure (TBC) with commissioning experience or authority.
The aim is to create original series which are truly original – which have a unique style or take, with characters who are vivid and complex and who have the potential to evolve over many seasons. These could be cop shows or medical dramas; or they might be high concept shows. But each treatment will tell enough of the episode stories to serve as a compelling pitch for broadcasters eager for new series ideas.
The copyright in each series will remain with the originating writer; but each writer in the group will be expected to contribute ideas and inspiration towards the work of his or her fellow writers, in the collaborative spirit of the Writers Room.
There will also be three masterclasses run by major TV dramatists with a wealth of experience in the art of the returnable series: Lucy Gannon, Stephen Gallagher and Ashley Pharoah.
Each masterclass will consist of a morning session in which the ‘masterclasser’ will present a talk on an area of drama, or a general theme; followed by a full discussion.
Each afternoon session will consist of practical exercises, to be defined in a written brief a week or so before each masterclass. So each writer on the workshop might, for instance, write a storyline for an existing show created by the masterclasser; or, alternatively, each writer might come up with a character who is quirky and original enough to act as the lead of a long running series – a Sipowitz or a Fitz.
Day One: Wednesday 6 November 2013
BIG IDEAS: BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER AND BATTLESTAR GALACTICA.
This is an introduction to big ideas about what makes a great series drama.
Philip Palmer will lead with a talk on two of the most influential long running drama series which happen to be in the SF/F genres – Joss Whedon’s kick ass fantasy action show BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, and Ronald D. Moore’s reboot of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. Both are ensemble shows, to some degree. Both are stylised, and stylish. And both shows skilfully riff off genre tropes while also rooting their fantastical stories in a world that audiences can empathise with, populated by complex characters we care about - even if we hate them. There’ll also be some comparisons with the atmospheric French SF series THE RETURNED, broadcast on Channel 4.
Day One (continued) & Day Two: Wednesday 6 & Thursday 7 November 2013
LANDMARK TV SERIES
This introductory talk will lead into a general discussion about what makes a ‘landmark’ TV series; and what are the secrets to success when writing these shows. (The key ‘secret’ being – it’s all about a writer’s vision.)
That discussion will be interpolated with formal presentations (which may include Powerpoint images or clips) by each of the writers participating in the workshop, giving an account of his or her landmark TV series.
This will not be a series of lectures; it will be a brainstorming session in which writers who know and love television will be challenging each other to think longer and harder about how to create work of memorable excellence in the returnable drama series format.
Day Three: Friday 8th November 2013
MASTERCLASS 1: LUCY GANNON
Lucy Gannon is the creator of the iconic British TV drama series SOLDIER SOLDIER, an exploration of life for the modern soldier and their families, which drew on her own personal experiences as a military policewoman. She went on to write fifteen episodes of PEAK PRACTICE, twenty-one episodes of her period medical drama BRAMWELL, as well as many episodes of CORONATION STREET and EASTENDERS. As well as being one of UK TV’s all-time best and most prolific TV series writers, Lucy has produced some mesmerising original single films and serials for television, including TRIP TRAP and THE GIFT. She has won numerous awards and in 2006 received the MBE for services to drama.
Days Four and Five: Thursday 14th & Friday 15th November 2013
These will be brainstorming and critique days based on the revised treatments submitted by each writer.
As well as general story discussions, these sessions will include a ‘hot-seat’ session for each writer, who will role-play a character from their drama in a Q & A session.
Day Six: Friday 29th November 2013
MASTERCLASS 2: ASHLEY PHAROAH
Ashley Pharoah is one of the co-creators of LIFE ON MARS, the time-travelling cop show which changed the face of British drama and brought high concept brilliance to the BBC. He began his career as a regular writer on EAST ENDERS then moved to CASUALTY, and has created and written for some of the best TV series on the box – including the under-rated LIFE SUPPORT, and the justly acclaimed WHERE THE HEART IS. He is also the creator of WILD AT HEART, which brought safaris to mainstream television and was a unique blend of kids show and adult drama. Recent credits include adapting Kate Atkinson's CASE HISTORIES for the BBC and creating ETERNAL LAW for ITV. His adaptation of MOONFLEET, starring Ray Winstone, will be shown on SKY this winter. Ashley has also written original single films and is currently working on a major period adaptation for HBO.
Day Seven: Monday 2nd December 2013
MASTERCLASS 3: STEPHEN GALLAGHER
Stephen Gallagher is a multiple hyphenate with parallel careers writing dazzling and scary horror and fantasy novels and bold and original TV dramas. He also has considerable experience as a showrunner in American network TV. Beginning his career in the Tom Baker era, he wrote eight episodes of DR WHO and went on to create and write the highly original SF thrillers CHIMERA and OKTOBER for ITV, based on his own novels. British series work includes anthology show CHILLERS, period detective drama MURDER ROOMS, and ten episodes of BBC1 technothriller BUGS, on which he was series consultant for three seasons. He created the Patrick Stewart-starring series ELEVENTH HOUR in the UK and then went with it to America, where the Rufus Sewell/Marley Shelton remake paired with CSI in the CBS network Thursday night schedule. He was also showrunner and writer on NBC's CRUSOE and joined the Bruckheimer TV series THE FORGOTTEN, starring Christian Slater, as writer and co-executive producer. His most recent credit is on the BBC flagship drama SILENT WITNESS.
Days Eight and Nine: Friday 13th & Monday 16th December 2013
SERIES DEVELOPMENT: PITCHING SESSIONS
The culmination of the workshops will be a pitching/critique session on every developed series Treatment on an individual basis, with each writer presenting to and discussing with Philip Palmer, and also an experienced industry professional. Notes on the work in progress will be given; but this will also be a chance for each writer to state their vision for the series and the reasons it would work, with passion and clarity, to an experienced producer/commissioner.
Thursday 30th January
At the end of this short but intense series of workshops and masterclasses, there will be a structured networking event at which GOING AGAIN participants will meet and be introduced to commissioners and broadcasters, producers and executive producers, including participants of the LFS SHOWRUNNER programme.
NB. Broadcast TV credits might be an advantage. This course is for writers with some experience of writing for TV drama series. Nevertheless, in exceptional submissions, account may be taken of other professional writing work.