If you want to develop a career as a script writer in the UK you need to know all about the reality of how film and TV works in this country. Industrial Scripts are one of the things you’ll need to know about.
Soap episodes are often likened to linked sausage – how soaps work, is that most of the time each individual episode (or sausage) is written by a different writer. But all the episodes must be linked in a chain, following a continuing story line.
On shows like Emmerdale and Coronation Street, these episodes must be taken from commissioning through first and second draft to sign off (often within three weeks). Indeed from commissioning to the time that the episodes are actually shown on TV can be as short as a couple of months – does the phrase Industrial Scripts make more sense now? Basically, the writer is working in a sausage factory, or a TV content factory, which is eagerly eating up scripts on an industrial scale.
I’ve blogged before about screenwriters who have thrived in this environment and gone onto have great careers after they’ve proved that they’ve got the chops to handle quick turnarounds, script edits and notes from producers and directors – which have to be completed in very short timescale.
As a UK script consultant I often get approached by new writers who think, they’ll make a living in the industry working on original material alone. It is possible, but unlikely unless the script writer has proved themselves after along stint writing for a show like Coronation Street or Eastenders.
Agents, when they look to take new script writers on are pretty upfront that the writer must be willing to have a crack at shows like Casulaty, Eastenders, Emmerdale and even Hollyoaks.
The agent knows that the new script writer will learn vital skills, and it’s also a good test of the character of the writer – it’s sink or swim in this industry. And throwing writers onto a soap is good way to test if the writer can handle the water.
Matthew Cooper has been a script writer for hire for over 20 years. He’s written for most of the UK soaps, including writing award winning episodes of Emmerdale, EastEnders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs and has been BAFTA shortlisted and Royal Television Society nominated as a script writer. He’s also a leading UK script consultant. You can find some of his broadcast credits on the IMDb. You can get in touch with Matthew on firstname.lastname@example.org or hire him on Peopleperhour