This past week I’ve been reading Nicholas Gibbs’ new book “Writing Television Drama”, a comprehensive guide to writing your television script and the process the script will then go through in order to reach our telly boxes.
Teach Yourself guides are always very comprehensive, covering all the basics and then moving into more depth on topics (check out my review of Zoe Fairbairns’ Write Short Stories and Get Them Published). Having recently read The Insider’s Guide To Writing For Television, which offered a unique insight into the business side of the career, I wondered what the Teach Yourself guide would offer as its unique selling point…
Amidst many redeemable qualities, one area stood out for me whilst reading… Interviews. This book is packed with fascinating interviews with industry people from script readers and editors to successful writers, producers and commissioners. Writing Television Drama not only gives you a step-by-step guide to writing a TV script and making it the best it can be, but offers a unique insight at every stage which will illuminate areas of the industry you may not have been aware of.
Nicholas also gives a breakdown of the different types of television output, including a chart of running/script times for different channels and formats and advice on how to structure TV scripts. If you’re only currently familiar with feature formats, this advise is invaluable.
Whereas most books talk about the craft, Nicholas Gibbs’ book offers the best of both worlds; a guide to the craft and how to get your foot in the door. One thing Writing Television Drama has in common with the Insider’s Guide is that it doesn’t shy away from the truth. The guide to the craft will help you gain confidence in your writing, but the interviews and breakdown of the industry will equip you with some harsh but not insurmountable truths about the difficulty of getting into the industry.
Preparation is key to a career in scriptwriting. Not only do you need to have good and well-written stories, you also need to know about the industry; who the gatekeepers are, why your work may get rejected and ways to make sure that your scripts stand the best chance of getting read and taken on board by agents, producers and broadcasters at large.
This book doesn’t disappoint and caters for all levels. Whilst I felt like I was going over some basic ground in the early stages of the book, I was constantly surprised by the nuggets of useful information included and the depth of analysis of story elements. I would certainly advise any intermediate or advanced screenwriter to read the whole book through cover to cover. If you’re a beginner, you’ll get a fantastic grounding in the art of scriptwriting. The more in-depth industry information may feel a bit overwhelming, but the interviews will inspire you and the knowledge you will gain about the industry will put you in a good position to pursue a career.
Gibbs has a way of providing memorable advice that really sticks. An example includes:
“All dialogue is lies”
– summarising the fact that characters in television drama should never be seen to say what they mean. It’s all about subtext and how dialogue is shaped by personality and context. Explanations are always clear and backed up by examples and quotes. Together with the interviews and additional supporting data, this book shines through as a very well-researched and well-put-together text containing a wealth of vital information to help you succeed in the industry.
Highly recommended. You can buy the book here!