Lies We Tell (2017)

Lies We Tell was a project that is set fairly locally to me and I briefly worked on the script (alongside my wife Alison Pennells) long before the film was eventually shot and released.

Empire magazine has written a decent review of the film, which sums up the lost opportunity nicely.

As script writer for hire and UK script consultant I’ve worked on quite a few films (and TV shows) uncredited, some of them have been produced (there’s a couple of things I’ve written I haven’t even actually seen yet).

I thought it might be interesting to actually look at the work that my wife and I did on Mitu Misra’s debut feature.

I heard about the opportunity for a script writer on this project through word of mouth (this was before I was running this website). As it was a local project I went to see Mitu (who would be producing, and financing the film based on his idea – and partial script).

Mitu was (and I’m sure still is) a larger than life business man who had made his fortune and was now dead set on making a film.

We read Mitu’s first draft script (which is surprisingly close to the eventual film he directed and produced). We then started to go through the script with Mitu and restorylining what he’d done.  We then did two drafts of our version of his script (which contained elements from his script, his characters and the story he wanted to tell mixed with our ideas, and clearer storytelling.)

Our script is very different from the film Mitu ended up making, although some scenes in the eventually released film contain elements we introduced, and dialogue from our two drafts is heard every now and again.

At the time, I knew Mitu was also working with at least one other writer (a stalwart of BBC’s Casualty serial). I suspect there may have been other people working on the script too.

While Mitu was a gentleman to be around and had a good sense of humour, we often clashed over ideas, and both my wife and myself tried to challenge him on some elements of the script. Mitu (we felt) often over complicated plot elements, and it was a bit of a test of character to stand up to him (he didn’t back down and often wanted to discuss small points for hours on end). After all he was financing the film himself, from his own money and wanted it done his way.

So, it started to become clear that if you wanted to stay on the project you needed to agree with Mitu about what he wanted to do. While we felt the project had some potential, we didn’t really see eye-to-eye with the way Mitu wanted to do it.

We parted on good terms, and Mitu paid us the money we requested for the two drafts we did.

Years past and I was surprised when I heard he’d gone all the way and financed the film (and got it released in cinemas and distributed). You had to admire him.

When my wife and I watched the film (we spotted a few of our bits of dialogue, some of our ideas, and the ending we introduced). However, while some of Mitu’s original ideas had been dropped, the eventual film seemed very close to the first draft we read – complete with all the problems we tried to fix).

There had been more writers on the project, and two people are credited with the script (and Mitu with the story). I’ve commented online that it’s hard to see what they added to the project, beyond agreeing with Mitu and his ideas.

The film has received mostly negative reviews. Some (in major industry publications) have been hostile to say the least. Could it have been different? Could a better film have emerged? Yes, but it’s always a challenge when the person with the money is also the person with the idea – it can be hard to disagree with their ideas if you want to keep getting paid.

Someone did ask me if it felt strange seeing some of our ideas and bits of our dialogue used in something that we weren’t credited with – the answer is not at all, it happens all the time now. To be honest, Mitu has stuck so closely to his original (albeit flawed vision) that the whole of the film seems to be something that comes very much from him – warts and all.

And, of course, as a script writer for hire and UK script consultant my stuff ends up all over the place, often fixing a scene here or there in various films and productions, and often uncredited.

I’m sure Mitu has learned a great deal from the process of getting Lies We Tell made and distributed, and I hope he learns from the reaction to the film too.  Sometimes, filmmakers need to be challenged, especially if they hold all the money. Still, despite the film’s flaws you have to admire his single mindedness.

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 or hire him on Peopleperhour