Work in progress

I’ve written briefly about what I’m working on at the moment, as a script writer for hire I get all kinds of jobs coming in, but this project is a real passion piece for me and it’s the most promising piece of work I’ve had in some time.

I’m currently adapting a trilogy of books into three feature films and work is continuing at pace.

Recently I got together with the producer and we worked our way through my scene by scene breakdown of the first book. The producer is a talented and hands on guy who is interested in finding themes, subtext and an overall controlling idea for the whole trilogy.

We worked together over the course of a day to breakdown scenes and look at key areas like:

  • Active questions
  • Subtext
  • Theme
  • Controlling ideas

People not familiar with the script writing process might wonder what some of these things are. An active question is simple to explain, it’s the thing that keeps the viewer interested from scene to scene, plot point to plot point, the basic question of what happens next.

Subtext is the thing that’s going on in the scene that’s not being said.

Theme is the wider almost mythical story that the film is selling to the audience. There are many classical themes.

A controlling idea is something that the writer/director uses to help make decisions about everything to do with the project. For example, the controlling idea behind Stanley Kubrick’s Doctor Strangelove is actually about sex. Watch the film again with that in mind, despite having no physical sex in the film; every scene has a sexual element.

As myself and the producer worked through this process things became clearer as to what story we wanted to tell, how we wanted to tell it and ideas also crystallised that will help us make decisions about the process of turning these books into films.

One thing we also did was to ‘get into the characters heads’ in many of the scenes, what are they thinking, what decisions are they making and why are they making them. What’s the motivation for each character in the story?

This has been a good way to work on this project, and it’s useful for writers who are sometimes solitary figures to learn to work closely with producers/directors in this way.

Keep checking back on the blog, in-between writing about films that I like, I’ll keep you updated on this process and tell you which books I’m actually working on.

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. Matthew was winner of the first ever Lloyds Bank Channel Four Film Challenge, the Oscar Moore Screenplay Prize and has been BAFTA shortlisted and Royal Television Society nominated as a script writer. You can find some of his broadcast credits on the IMDb. You can get in touch with Matthew on