I was interviewed for Rocliffe Notes by Farah Abushwesha. Below is my donation.
Or you can buy the book here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Books-Rocliffe-Notes-Professional-Approach-Essentials/dp/1843444275
WRITER vs SCRIPT DOCTOR. EXPLAIN.
Writing is the art of rewriting. Oh sure, there may be the odd genius who manages to barf out a perfect first draft, but there isn’t an executive brave enough to greenlight it anyhow. So genius or not, you will rewrite. As a writer, I build into my schedule time to sleep on my own work and look at it with fresh eyes later. The more sleep the better. Most important, I always re-read my own material as if I’m a complete moron, which I find very easy to do! If I’m confused at any point, or bored I scribble all over it with a red pen. So in a way, I try to act as my own script doctor.
Now, due to my dubious super power of being able to read material as a complete moron, I’m often hired as your script doctor. I am then your fresh pair of eyes; red pen at the ready. I don’t scribble ‘criticisms’, I tend to scribble questions (because I’m a complete moron, remember?) such as ‘How did he get here?’ and ‘Why would she feel that way?’ and ‘How can they know that information?’ It isn’t just about continuity – although that’s important – but tends to be about flow of information, logic of the story, and me as a fresh-eyed-moron ‘getting it’. Then I go back with a diagnosis and how I think it can be fixed.
DO YOU PREFER WRITING AS PART OF A TEAM OR ON YOUR OWN?
My agent prefers me to work alone, but tennis is more fun with a partner, so is sex I’m told. Having someone to bounce off is far more fun than putting the material to one side and ‘sleeping on it’ to get perspective. Like tennis, I prefer the fast paced exchange of ideas, which can be like a brilliant volley. And like sex, I find that working with a partner means we finish a whole lot faster! Wait, can I rethink that last analogy?
WHAT IS YOUR PROCESS?
Essentially I pretend writing is a real job. I wake up. I dress as though I’m going to work. I walk the dog as my make-believe commute to work. Coffee. Emails. Start writing. Procrastinate on Facebook. Back to work. Lunch. Skype. Ooh look some emails just came in. Write more. Get stuck on a problem. Walk the dog. Get back to writing. Get interrupted by the phone. More writing. Dinner, crash, repeat every day until I die.
PROCESS OF CO-WRITING – HOW DOES THAT WORK?
It’s different every time. As a rule, there are no rules. I’ve written with the other person pacing in the room and written by swapping drafts and notes via email. Mostly I find it’s best to block things out together in the same room and then both go to your corners and Skype from time to time. The more you agree at outline, the less you argue at scripting. In fact, if the outline is really nailed together beat by beat, one of you can get eaten by a hippo and the other will be fine to finish alone, take all the credit and cash. Physically I only have one rule, and that is you MUST take turns travelling to the other person’s house. It’s only fair.
WHAT YOU’VE LEARNED WORKS IN COMEDY WRITING & WHAT DOESN’T?
Thanks to the internet I’ve learned that a puppy fetching a lit firework is funnier than anything anyone will ever write… so our work is more challenging than ever. Bottom line, if it’s funny it flies. If it’s funny and helps the story, bonus. If it’s funny but pointless and by cutting it, something else just got funny-er, then it’s gone. Lastly, farts may always be funny, but not randomly. Fart jokes need to ‘earn their place’.
WHAT TERRIFIES YOU ABOUT THE BUSINESS & WHAT DO YOU DO TO OVER COME THAT?
I know what frustrates me. But thankfully no terror… yet. I have worked with a few unique people who are notoriously ‘terrifying’ but at the end of the day, when they’re finished shouting, it’s just a job and shouting is just how they talk.
WHAT MISCONCEPTIONS OR SURPRISES ABOUT THE INDUSTRY AND HOW IT WORKS?
Nobody hands over the ‘rich and famous’ contract like in the Muppet Movie.
WHO GAVE YOU THE BEST ADVICE YOU’VE STUCK TO AND WHAT WAS IT?
Emma Thompson said ‘Never stiff your agent. Your agent works for you. They don’t TAKE 10%. You pay them 10%.’
WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU CAN PASS ON?
Love what you make, but never fall ‘in love’ with it. I’ve made that mistake once. Never again.