Whatever happened to Dylan Ogden?

As a Script Consultant I’ve had some great jobs down the years. Prior to 2006 I was working as a script writer for hire on Emmerdale, Eastenders, and Hollyoaks. I’ve already written about why I gave up writing for the soaps. But something else happened in 2007 – that was Dylan Ogden.

You can watch Dylan Ogden below it’s a ten part (3 minute episode) series aimed at teenagers and designed to be shown online. Below the video I’ll write about how we made it.

Okay, it was 2007 and while writing for Hollyoaks I’d become a bit obsessed with YouTube and the possibilities that it held for writers and filmmakers. It seems I wasn’t the only one as out of the blue I got a call from Ian Bevitt. I’d never met Ian, but knew him by his reputation as the most talented director working in the soaps (he still is).

Ian had been asking around for storyliners to work on a show aimed at teenagers to be broadcast online.  It sounded right up my street. So Ian invited me to meet the producer Martyn Smith one of the very bright guys behind Dragons’ Den – a big hit for the BBC.

Martyn was evangelical about the change coming to TV (this was a long time before Netflix). We talked about various YouTube videos and serials that had become big hits. Ian, Martyn and I got along well and I agreed to help storyline their idea (all set around a bus stop – where four teenagers meet each morning to go to school). And I agreed to write the scripts which would be a starting point for the actors.

We met back up and set about storylining the comedy/drama into ten three minute episodes. It was a fun couple of days – we were all big fans of The Likely Lads and we wanted a modern take on this.  We also referenced classic TV from the past like Grange Hill (in the 80s) and American teen movies of the 80s I think got a mention too.

After these sessions I went off to write the scripts and I delivered these to Martyn and Ian a few weeks later. I was pleased they both liked the scripts and after a few changes which set about looking for a suitable cast.

Ian knew about an initiative at the West Yorkshire Playhouse for young actors. There we met Dean Smith then aged about 15, and his mate Tom Gibbons who were close friends in real life. They had a real rapport.  We also met with Jess Bell – who seemed perfect for the female heartbreaker.

The second girl, I wasn’t involved in the casting – and her name escapes me. But when I met her on set she was perfect – I don’t think she’s acted since – but is now probably married to a millionaire!

We needed a school bully too – I think Ian found Sean Ward who went onto have a big career on Coronation Street and featured (with Dean Smith) in the cult football hooligan drama Away Days (in 2009).

So, we had one week, on a low budget to shoot 10 episodes of the series. Ian marshalled the shoot brilliantly, the kids soon settled into their roles, my scripts worked, and gradually as their confidence grew the kids started ad-libbing as well (which is what we wanted). It was a great week on set and everything went smoothly.

After the edit, the series went on a worldwide tour – MySpace (then a big deal) wanted to buy it – it went to major media companies in the USA – I think it was even with Simon Fuller at one point.

Finally we decided to build our own website and host it on there when none of the offers seemed good enough. A nice looking website was built. And we just put it out there.  Then, nothing really happened.  We tried the show on YouTube too, but it didn’t find an audience.

It was at this point I became interested in things like online marketing, social media marketing and search engine optimisation, and indeed YouTube optimisation. The internet is world of noise, and I took a job that would help to teach me how to cut through the noise and rise up the rankings.  Social Media wasn’t really a massive thing in 2007/2008 – it is now.

Eventually, I just hosted the show on my YouTube channel and use it as a writing sample. I’m pleased that the cast have gone onto do some amazing things (it’s a testament to Ian and Martyn’s eye for casting) and myself, Ian and Martyn remain good friends to this day.

We still occasionally chat about Dylan Ogden and about what became of him, and it’s been discussed that we could use the old series in a new series about the boys (and girls) now.

I did write a second series (during the time we were having the website built). And it’s one of the funniest bits of writing I ever did (but it’s gone now, never to be filmed…)

In 2008 a series called The Inbetweeners debuted on the BBC. It was a big hit, and it was very similar to Dylan Ogden in some ways.

But that’s just the business we’ve chosen…

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 matcoop23@yahoo.co.uk or hire him on Peopleperhour