Keeping producers and screenwriters in sync

I think Ross Lincoln's article 'How to Keep Screenwriters and Producers in Sync - Produced By' hits the nail right on the head. Some of the most fruitful and enjoyable conversations I've had with friends and colleagues about my own screen ideas have often been about the nuts and bolts of the story, how it is built and the practical problems with it.

Although I have meet a few film producers, I have not yet been in the position to work with a producer on an idea. When I do get the opportunity to do so, I would hope that they are as passionate about film as I am. That not only do they enjoy the creative process of developing a screen idea and bringing it to the screen, but that are "specific and knowledgeable" in the notes they offer, enabling us to be on the same storytelling page.

I particularly like the comparison between producer and writer being like that of director and actor. I think that sums it up nicely.



LINCOLN, Ross A. 2015. 'How to Keep Screenwriters and Producers in Sync - Produced By', Deadline [online].
Available at:
[Accessed 8 November 2021]

The short film

I make a point of watching short films quite regularly, from all over the world. I love the way they can express so much emotion within such a small space of time.

A short film isn’t simply a condensed version of a feature film, but a different narrative form altogether. It is an art form in its own right, with a much freer form of storytelling than feature length narratives. I think they have more strengths than weaknesses as a storytelling model. One of the differences between shorts and features is that the short may or may not have conflict between characters. Some of the best shorts I have seen have had no conflict, while others have had some degree of conflict. It is also a cinematic form that lends itself to wordless storytelling. As a form that does not necessarily need dialogue, character arcs or conflict, the short film is a non-standard narrative, open to a wide degree of variation and experimentation.

I think the short film offers a different storytelling experience for the viewer. Where the feature film feels like a full-on gaze, the short is a glance. A brief moment in time. A small window into the world.

Reflections on being a screenwriter

I guess I see the role of the screenwriter as storyteller. As the one who gets the ball rolling, as it were, generating and shaping ideas into something that looks and feels cinematic, that is compelling and solid enough to be made into a film.

Before starting the MA, I thought I knew what a screenplay was, but now I realise that it is so much more than text on a page. Screenwriting is about process rather than product. So I see my role as screenwriter as a collaborator, in whatever production scenario I might find myself. Sharing and responding to ideas as the story evolves.

I think I read somewhere that writing a screenplay is like sculpting in clay. Except, unlike the solitary sculptor working away at their block of clay, a film requires a team of 'sculptors' with a shared vision, drawing upon complementary skills, as they shape their work of art together. For me, that's where the fun is!

Deadwind, Season 1, Episode 1: 'The Widow' - Review

DEADWIND (2018) – Netflix Original Series Season 1, Episode 1: ‘The Widow’

A Nordic Noir television series in the same vein as Danish TV’s The Killing and The Bridge, the Finnish crime drama Deadwind follows the story of a gruesome crime and a troubled police officer who is put in charge of solving it.

Just months after the tragic loss of her husband, Detective Sofia Karppi returns to work in the Helsinki Police Department. On her first day back, she is assigned a new partner, Sakari Nurmi, who specialises in financial crimes. It’s not exactly a match made in heaven. Their first case begins as a routine disappearance. Following the discovery of women’s clothes near a lake, Sakari assumes the woman had simply gone for a swim and drowned, and suggests they call in the divers. Karppi is convinced there is something else at play and calls in the police dog team. Her hunch leads them to a body buried in a shallow grave with flowers in her hands. From there the case quickly escalates into a puzzling homicide.

Holding firmly to the principles of Nordic Noir, Deadwind is a character- and setting-driven story, in which we participate in the slow piecing together of a bigger picture. It’s a realistically grim portrayal of investigators trying to bring some semblance of order to a chaotic world. The subject matter is depressing, but the storytelling is good.

Much like her predecessors in the Nordic Noir genre, the main protagonist is a strong female character. Like Lund in The Killing and Saga in The Bridge, Sophia Karppi is portrayed as a smart detective with an obsessiveness in the cases she investigates. We are also introduced to Karppi’s complicated homelife, where she is struggling to cope with two children in her hours off. However, while there is enough intrigue to move the story forward, there were several inconsistencies within the episode that left me wondering how the police knew where they were meant to go.

One of the main weaknesses of the episode for me was the lack of sufficient attention to the procedures of the investigation. Unlike The Bridge, in which the detectives’ thought processes and the investigative connections they make are clearly shown, the narrative within Deadwind skips along without supplying sufficient procedural detail to support the actions the detectives are making. Which threatens to undermine the story’s plausibility and the procedural nature of the series.

Although the pilot episode of Deadwind closely resembles other crime dramas in the genre and the emphasis is upon the chase, rather than the protagonist’s emotional journey, I think there is plenty of potential in the story to justify greenlighting the full series.

Fitting into the writers room

I have always enjoyed the opportunity to collaborate with other people on creative projects. Whether as a drama teacher working with students on devised and scripted plays, as a theatre director, or as part of a camera crew on a TV drama, it has been an exhilarating experience. Collaboration for me has always been about the process of bringing an idea to fruition with a group of like-minded people.

I think one of my main strengths lies in my ability to remain flexible and open-minded, to be able to improvise and adapt my way throughout a project rather than become stuck rigid on an idea that may or may not be working. It's important to embrace all the ideas that come our way within a group - the more people, the bigger the brain. Another strength is my commitment. I'm always prepared to go above and beyond to complete a project. Once I'm onboard with something, I won't let go.

My weakness lies in my confidence. My self-doubt can undermine me at times.

Writing for television was not something I had considered before starting this module, and I have to admit to feeling a little out of my depth with this. While it is a challenge that I am very much looking forward to, it is a mode of storytelling that is outside my comfort zone.

Rebooting the X-Files

The simplicity of The X-Files format has to be its greatest strength. The FBI investigative procedural gives a credibility to the story world that adds a sense of realism to the paranormal stories. Other strengths include the dual-protagonist dynamic between skeptic and believer in their search for the truth, the element of surprise built into each episode, and the string of intriguing, sometimes enigmatic characters we encounter throughout the series.

I would find it difficult to discard any of these elements as they are so central to the success of the storytelling. The change might be less in terms of components and more in terms of refreshing the narrative structure of the series to suit today’s tv viewing habits. It might be possible to balance the ‘monster-of-the-week’ with an extended seasonal narrative.

In terms of what audiences would be looking for in an X-Files reboot, I think they would be looking for the same thrilling encounters with paranormal phenomena, character-focused storylines, and probably a nostalgic nod to the original series while being relevant to today’s world.

How I watch television

If it’s a good story and the characters grab me, then I’m easy about how I watch a show. Both season-binging and watching weekly episodes work for me. I rarely watch terrestrial TV anymore, so I will often binge watch two or three dramas at a time, watching several episodes of each, rather than an entire season in one sitting. I still like to spread the viewing experience out over a period of time.

I don’t have a preferred streaming platform. I dip into Amazon Prime, Netflix, Apple and NowTV in equal measure. Though I do gravitate towards MUBI for films. With platforms offering their own original content, I tend to flick between platforms in the same way I used to flick channels on TV. So, what I watch and the way in which I consume it has changed significantly over the past few years.

I don’t see a great difference between shows distributed seasonally or weekly. They both embrace similar long-form narrative models structured around an overall season arc. And they both feel more like 6 to 10 hour movies. The main difference seems to be in the method of distribution. What strikes me about today’s television dramas is that, for me, these extended narratives are far more satisfying than single, self-contained episodes. As such, they offer an exciting storytelling opportunity for screenwriters looking to explore deeper themes and ideas and challenge the viewers’ perception of both TV and the world in which we live.

Exciting stuff! I can’t wait to start exploring this aspect of screen storytelling.

Third draft

Working on the third draft of Night Shift this week has not only been very productive creatively, but it has also been revealing in what I have discovered about myself as a writer and the way in which I tell my stories for screen. In particular, my use of visual metaphor within the script to encourage metaphorical insight in the viewer.

Windows, mirrors, glass is a motif I have used before in my writing. Though up until now, I have not given much thought to how and why I might be using it in my screenwriting. The motif appears throughout the script, at key moments within the story:

    • a woman looks through an office window;
    • a woman sees her reflection in a mirror;
    • a woman stands in a shop doorway, framed by a large window;
    • a woman breaks a glass bottle;

An arrangement of recurring images, inserted subconsciously as I assembled the rough draft.

What strikes me about this is not so much the fact that I have, once again, drawn upon this motif in my writing, but the effect it appears to have within this particular screenplay. Deciding to redraft the script from a purely visual perspective enabled me to engage with the story at a cinematic level, to redraft it with my mind's eye, as it were.

Cumulatively, these images of the woman and windows, mirrors, glass, build up into a composite portrait of a young woman trapped, struggling to break free. The image develops over time (Carroll 2001: 352) through repetition and variation, leaving a subliminal impression upon the viewer's imagination. The motif of 'window, mirror, glass' is being used as a way of prompting insight within the viewer, rather than stating it in language (Carroll 2001: 365).

After pondering the windows, mirrors, glass motif within Night Shift, I have discovered a meaning within the story that hadn't occurred to me as I was drafting the script: that Lanya is confined, hermetically sealed within her own glass bubble. She may feel safe within her bubble. But in the end, she must break the glass and set herself free.



CARROL, Noel. 2001. Beyond Aesthetics: Philosophical Essays. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Making a pitch video

We were set the task of recording a three minute pitch video for our screen concept, using the premise, character development and writer's statement for our project.

This was a very challenging task. Recording myself explaining the film concept was so different from what I had imagined it would be. I had incorrectly assumed that I could take passages from the premise and writer's statement, and assemble them into a concise pitch. But this resulted in a weak and incoherent presentation. I found it difficult to gather my thoughts and express them verbally. This made me question whether my approach was the right one. The failure of the first recording helped me realise that I needed to better understand my screen idea. So I went back over my screenwriting documents and revised them for greater clarity.

The breakthrough came after watching a fellow student's pitch video, in which she mentioned her influences. This was something I had overlooked in my own pitch. I thought about Kelly Reichardt's Wendy and Lucy and how the film's meditative style was influential in my own writing. Thinking about this gave me a greater insight into my own screen concept. Not only do I now have a broader context within which to articulate my screen idea, but I have also found a more personal way of communicating the dramatic potential of the film's concept.



REICHARDT, Kelly. 2009. Wendy and Lucy [film].

Second draft

Although rewriting the rough draft was has been a very challenging experience, it was a time in the screenwriting process when I saw myself as a 'screen-wright', crafting and shaping a script. I began to see the story take on a life and form of its own. It was also a time when I had to be sure to keep an open mind, and let the ideas come to me unhindered, as I read and re-read what I had written.

I started by printing off the script and looking at it as a separate object. As a text that exists outside my computer, away from the ease and temptation to delete lines and change words on the screen. I took time to sit down and read it, first as if I was the audience, then again making notes on the script, as I identified issues within the scenes that I felt needed addressing, such as scene headers, scene descriptions, characterisation, dialogue, scene structure, cinematic qualities, and so on.

I went back over the key plot points, and adjusted the end of act climaxes and turning points to create a stronger framework for the story. John Finnegan's webinar on deep structure and the 'Story Structure Masterclass' handout were particularly helpful here.

There were times during redrafting when I couldn't find satisfactory solutions to the problems I had identified within the script. The first act seemed to set up the world and tone of the story, and introduce the protagonist and the initial problem effectively, but the second and thirds acts were patchy and incomplete. I have also spent a lot of time this week worrying about fitting the plot points to a rigid structure. What seemed to work in both the treatment and the step outline has proven difficult to achieve while writing the actual screenplay.