Are you UK based and wanting to start a screenwriting career?
When I say a screenwriting / scriptwriting career – you need to understand what a screenwriting career looks like in the UK.
Scriptwriting careers in UK TV and Film work in a particular way and it’s key to your success that you understand how it works – and accept the reality of the industry.
How scriptwriting careers work
So, as the leading UK script consultant and a scriptwriter myself with over 25+ years experience in the industry – including writing for every single UK broadcast network – I’ll give you heads up and the low down on how this REALLY works….
First you need a professional level scriptwriting sample (your spec script or showcase script). How do you know if its professional level? Easy – you hire ME to personally do a script report / script coverage – my reports are the most comprehensive reports / coverage on the market I’m told. With a page by page read with notes, advice and where possible suggestions to improve.
Also included in the reports as standard is loads of advice on the ‘business aspects’ of screenwriting (especially in the UK) – which you need to know if you want to get anywhere.
So, I’ll tell you if your stuff is up to snuff – and what to do if it isn’t.
Second – you then need to grab the attention of an agent – because, the majority of UK production companies (and broadcasters) won’t accept unsolicited material for very sound legal reasons.
Without an agent – you won’t get your work read. So, you need to grab the attention of an agent with a professional level script – and then you have to show the agent that you understand how the business works. What does this mean?
Your original script – be it a feature film or a TV serial or serials – or a sitcom – whatever script you’ve put your life and soul into – WON’T GET MADE – it’s a writing sample first and foremost – it won’t get made (until you’ve followed the other steps outlined here)– the agent will use YOUR SCRIPT to get YOU JOBS ON EXISITING SHOWS.
You have to work before your original stuff gets picked up.
So, you need to be ready and willing and GOOD enough to go to WORK as a scriptwriter on shows like EastEnders / Casualty / Doctors / Emmerdale / Hollyoaks – or children’s TV (often a good place to start a scriptwriting career) – did you know that Russell T Davies started his career writing Chucklevision? From me to you, that’s how this works.
Existing shows – how it works
What Russell T knew was that you HAVE TO WRITE EXISTING shows to build up your CV as a reliable scriptwriter on existing shows BEFORE your original scripts or ideas are even considered by anyone in broadcasting.
If you don’t like the sound of this – maybe go become a YouTuber – because THIS IS HOW the UK TV and FILM industry works (don’t blame me) if Dennis Potter rocked up to the BBC today with all his plays on a hard drive – they’d send him to work on EastEnders first – to see if he could cut it in a pressured environment – before they even consider anything else he’d written.
That’s right – if you don’t want to write existing shows, you won’t get an agent, and your original work won’t even be considered – you need to understand and accept this – if you want to have a scriptwriting career.
Listen, scriptwriting is very hard – but getting someone to pay you to do it, and building a career as a professional scriptwriter is even harder – you have to realise that scriptwriting is a highly competitive freelance role – only around 300 scriptwriters in the UK are actually making a full time living doing it – nearly all of those guys are writing existing shows. If you want to join that club – you need to be able to write well – and understand that it’s a business.
So what are the steps to get onto the merry-go-round?
- You write a great script
- You get professional feedback from a BAFTA shortlisted, Royal Television Society Nominated scriptwriter and script consultant – me – email here: firstname.lastname@example.org
- You then get an agent, and you need to show you understand the business – there’s a list of UK agents here with links:
- A BBC Writersroom placement or win will help (clue they get around 4,000 entries per window which are narrowed down to 6 writers).
- My UK Soap Opera Scriptwriting handbook might help too – it covers how to get work on existing shows.
You can’t be a naïve dreamer – it’s a business – this is how it works. I deal in fiction for a living – but the fiction doesn’t cross over into the business aspects of my profession (I don’t kid myself – or you)– and it is a Profession – the same as any other – my mortgage is paid off, and pension paid up because of my writing career.
Dreams are great – but if you want to WORK as a scriptwriter – you need to understand the industry.
Get in touch – send me your script – you’ll get an appraisal from a pro scriptwriter. I don’t bite and I’ll tell you the truth Ruth, about how to get work, build your career. – email me on email@example.com
Happy New Year – and Good Luck.
Matthew Cooper has been a script writer for hire and UK script consultant 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.
His directorial debut, the rubber reality horror thriller ‘Markham’ was released in 2020, his second feature film as director ‘At The Mountains Of Madness’ hit the screen in 2021 and his third horror feature film (and final part of The Sekurig Trilogy) When The Earth Gives Up The Dead (2022) was released on Halloween 2022. you can watch all three films for free on Mat’s YouTube Channel.
You can find some of his broadcast credits on the IMDb.