Writing For TV: How To Become A TV Script Writer
Have you ever watched an episode of Eastenders, Coronation Street, Casualty, Spooks, Hollyoaks or even an old classic like The Good Life and thought…. I could do something like that?
I have to be honest, writing for TV probably isn’t the easiest way of making money from writing…. but there are a lot more opportunities than you might think. I know for a fact that TV is absolutely desperate for talented new writers with original ideas. It seems like a lot of fun too.
The rewards from writing for TV can be excellent. All from just coming up with a good idea. Did you know that even fairly average TV scriptwriters can earn anything from £5,000 to £15,000…. for writing just one single episode of a TV drama or soap?
I think you can see that at those sort of rates you wouldn’t need to write that many scripts in a year to make a very lucrative full time income from writing.
So this week I thought it would be a good idea to look at how you could get into TV scriptwriting:
* You can come up with your own idea for a TV programme or write for an existing one. It’s probably easier to start by writing for an existing one. Popular TV programmes often have teams of dozens of writers writing for them.
TV is a mass market media so your idea needs to be fairly mass market. So look at ever-popular, mass-market topics to write on. For example: Crime. Mystery. Comedy. Popular history. Sci-fi…. there’s a reason Doctor Who has lasted so long. Real life stories. Romance. Look for modern twists on these new ideas.
It’s not just fiction either. You can write a documentary or investigation. Or write some kind of factual programme…. such as cookery, gardening, travel or a children’s TV programme.
* Take some time to study the craft of scriptwriting. Look for any short courses your local writers’ groups might offer. Or read some books on the subject – you can find a selection of scriptwriting books on Amazon.
* You’ll need an example of your work to get started. This is known as a ‘calling card’ or ‘shop window’ script. Don’t write an entire series of programmes. A script for 10-20 minutes of your programme idea would probably be enough.
Your script must be: Well structured, have a good plot and strong characters. Keep it fairly simple – say a conversation between 2/3/4 characters in the pub. (Tip. Don’t write a script that needs a massive cast list or an exotic location. Thinking of the cost puts buyers off before you’ve started!)
Your script needs to be written in dialogue.
* Next you need to market your script. The person you need to get in touch with is the Script Editor for the TV programme or TV company you want to write for. Script Editors are responsible for commissioning writers.
It’s a long shot…. but it’s worth a try. Try phoning and asking to speak to the Script Editor. Ask if they’d be interested in reading your sample script. Assuming you don’t get to speak to them (which is most likely) send a letter outlining your idea. Don’t send them your sample script unless they say they are interested.
There are several places you can try to sell your TV writing. Here are a few ideas:
* The BBC. The BBC is not only one of the biggest buyers of TV writing but most open to new writing talent. So OK, they’re going to have a very stretched budget over the next few years but that’s actually good news for new writers not bad news. As successful writers get poached by commercial companies they’re going to need lots of new writers to replace them.
Most new opportunities to write for the BBC are handled through their centralised service called Writersroom: http://www.bbc.co.uk/writersroom
* ITV. The ITV Network is made up of 15 regional licences, 11 of the licences in England and Wales are owned by ITV Plc. You’ll need to find the right department to send your idea to – have a look on their website. This is probably not the easiest way to get started though.
* Independent production companies. These are private companies who make TV programmes for the BBC, ITV and other TV stations…. all Channel 4 programmes are made by independent production companies for example. They’re a pretty good bet for new writers, although you’ll probably be expected to do some work on your idea and only get paid for it if they can still it to a TV channel.
Most independent production companies specialise in one or a small number of subjects so you’ll need to find those who are most likely to be interested in your type of idea. The trade association PACT has an online directory of members. Or better still just watch lots of TV and note down the name of the production company at the end!
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