Wednesday, August 09, 2017

INTERVIEW - DANNY BROCKLEHURST

In September 2016, thanks to the London Screenwriters' Festival's TV Drama Writersroom, I was lucky enough to spend a whole day with legendary TV writer Danny Brocklehurst. You can read my blog report about it HERE! Danny was just brilliant, very patient with us and very giving with his knowledge and advice. It seems only fitting then to fire off a few questions for Danny, which he was more than happy to answer.

How did you get your first screenwriting job?

I'd been writing plays and scripts for years without success. I was working as a journalist for City Life magazine in Manchester and went to interview Paul Abbott for a feature. We ended up getting pissed together and I bravely told him I was a wannabe writer and would he read a script - he did and thankfully passed it onto Nicola Shindler at Red productions. She loved the writing and asked me to pitch for Clocking Off 2. I spent a week working up three stories and they bought two of them. I was staggered. But I have cut short here the many years of knocking on doors and being rejected.  It wasn't a quick process and took an enormous amount of will power to not give up.

Have you ever been fired from a job and what was the lesson you learned from it?

I'm pleased to say I haven't ever been fired. But people do and when they do they need to reflect on what went wrong and whether they were to blame. Sometimes it's just a bad fit, not everyone can write every kind of show. Doesn't mean they are crap.

Was there a specific rejection during your career that still hurts today?

Rejection hurts every time. Even now.  If you put your heart into a project and someone turns it down, it hurts. But I endlessly got rejected by channels for a Black Mirror type idea BEFORE Black Mirror, so that one is still painful.

What is a typical writing day and week for Danny Brocklehurst?

There is no typical.  But I write EVERY week day. I usually start out with coffee, perhaps in a cafe and then go home to work in my office.  Sometimes I'm just storylining and go for long walks and think out problems, other times it is nose to grind writing the script. But I always allow a little time for my mind to wander and reflect on the work - so that might be a swim or a walk or a beer!!!

What was it like working with legends Paul Abbott on Shameless and Jimmy McGovern on The Street and who were you the most intimidated by?

They were both amazing.  I worked with Paul for years - on four different shows (Exile, Shameless, Clocking Off and Linda Green) so I stopped being intimidated and just enjoyed the chaos.  Jimmy was a real hero of mine so that was more intimidating but he's a genuinely lovely man - and very collaborative so I enjoyed my time on The Street and Accused.  Even if he did cut out my jokes.  It has been a dream to work with them both.

What’s your favourite genre to write?

Social realism.  BUT I do also love high concept stuff.  I just don't write much of it.

Have you ever been tempted by Hollywood?

Yes. In fact, I'm currently working with Amblin. On a sci-fi show.

Of all the screenplays you’ve written which is your favourite and why - produced and unproduced?

Exile - such a hard show to get right. It's a thriller and a family drama and a show about Alzheimer's.  People wrote to me afterwards to say it moved them very deeply.

The last few shows you’ve written have been solo efforts, do you find it easier or prefer working on your own, or is that just the way it happened?

I like collaboration because I like talking out ideas BUT sometimes you need a singular vision.  It depends on the show.  It's good to jump between the two.

If you were to give new writers one piece of advice what would it be?

Keep going.  Keep writing.  Find your voice.  Read scripts.  That's four pieces of advice.

What's next that we should be keeping our eyes peeled for?

Come Home next year on BBC1 and Safe on Netflix with Michael C Hall.

Thanks, Danny.

Episode 1 of IN THE DARK is available on iPlayer until 22:00 10th August 2017. Catch it while you can.

Happy writing.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

YOUR NEXT SPEC

"How do you choose your next spec wisely, knowing how much of an investment of time it is?"@KoshaEngler on Twitter.
Great question! It's especially pertinent for me having been lucky enough to be commissioned for six features in a row. For a long time I didn't have much free time to work on my own ideas and when I did I had to make sure the screenplay I chose was the right one. So how do I choose the right idea?

Don't write what is current. Once you've written it, polished it and sent it out, the subject matter or genre will be yesterday's news and everyone else would have moved on to the next big thing.

Write what interests you. This is especially important if you have very little time. You're more likely to drag your heels if you're not 100% committed to what you're writing. There's nothing worse than finding yourself working on a new screenplay and you're not enjoying it. It doesn't motivate you and you're more likely to end up with something that isn't your best work. If it's a subject, genre or story that interests you, you will automatically work harder at it and it will show on the page.

Give it everything you've got. Don't write the screenplay with an eye to selling it. This sounds daft, right? Actually, it isn't. I know that if I deliberately try to write something commercial it tends to be watered down and the screenplay ends up being not as strong as it could be. Be bold with your writing. Forget budget restraints. Don't hold back. Give this screenplay everything you have. Why? That's simple.

I wrote my spec feature FAITH while I was going through a really tough time in my personal life. I poured all of my feelings, my angst, my anger, my dispair and my disillusionment with the world and people in general into the words I put on the page. FAITH won an award and it's still the screenplay that gets me all of my commissioned work. It's my calling card script and it does a fantastic job as an advert for what I can do. What I'm saying is, the screenplay might never sell, but if it's a shining example of your work people are going to read it and sit up and take notice of you. It'll get you work. It will lead to other opportunities. It will be that career boost you need.

Happy writing.