Monday, 2 February 2015

A Kick In The Teeth

Rejection. It’s the one thing you can be sure of in this job. It just comes with the territory. It’s part of the learning curve. It makes you a better writer in the long run. You just have to get used to it. That’s what everyone says.

And they’re right. Still, fifteen years into my writing career and it’s really not getting any easier. Every ‘no’ is still a hefty kick in the stomach. So, perhaps what we really learn from rejection is how to cover up how painful and demoralising a rejection can be. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. It’s a coping mechanism. And if we wailed and gnashed our teeth every time we got a ‘thanks, but no thanks’ then we’d have no teeth left.
We’re all so good at putting on our brave faces, but I want to let mine slip just for a few minutes. I want to acknowledge how it feels to have something you’ve worked so hard on put in the round file.

It starts with the phone call or the email. Your heart leaps when the phone rings or the inbox pings. This is the news you’ve been waiting for, even though you’ve been pretending otherwise. You’ve played it cool, tried get on with other things, tried not to get your hopes up. But, no news is good news, right? Wrong. You know it’s not good news from the opening sentence, the tone of voice, the opening apology. “Sorry it’s not better news”. 

Often there is an explanation, a few cursory notes about tone, timing or depth. A phrase that is used a lot is “We just couldn’t see it”. The thing is, I could. I could see it glorious Technicolor, breathtaking Cinemascope and Stereophonic sound. But, obviously, I couldn’t get you to see it.
So, the first feeling that floods over you after you put the phone down is a sting of shame. Yes, shame.

I love being a writer but I can’t shake the feeling that it’s a slightly ludicrous occupation. Partly because it is a bit crazy to spend your days getting imaginary people to talk to each other for a living. And partly because I can’t help feeling that waking up one morning and declaring myself a writer was an act of vainglorious self-delusion. Who the fuck did I think I was? And from the moment that you make that declaration you’re waiting to be found out. You’re waiting for someone to tap you on the shoulder and tell you to stop making such a damn fool of yourself and get a proper bloody job.
And that’s what every rejection feels like. Someone telling you to grow up and stop kidding yourself.

And then you have to compound the shame by telling other people about the rejection; your agent, your friends, your parents. You instantly regret telling them about having something in development. You wish you hadn’t told them that you ‘had a good feeling about this one’. Of course, you played it down and told everyone that the odds of getting it away were slim, but still… And they all smiled and did that little mime, the crossed fingers. And then they told you that it was ‘your turn’ and ‘about time’; except you know that it just does not work like that.
Still, after the shame comes the anger. Why can’t those bloody idiots see what’s under their noses? Don’t they know how much work you put into this? You listened to their notes, you did what they asked and it still wasn’t enough. That’s when you start coming up with the conspiracy theories.

 “They ruined my beautiful idea with their crap notes.” If they were so crap you should have said so. "They’re scared of my uncompromising tone and controversial subject matter.” Hmm, probably not. “They like the idea, they’re just going steal it and get someone else to write it.” Don’t be so bloody stupid. So, if you can’t blame the commissioners and development execs, who do you blame? Look in the mirror.
The truth is that it doesn’t just feel like your idea has been rejected, it’s feels like you’ve been rejected. My most recent knockback was a doozy. It unfortunately coincided with me attending a conference where lots of writers sat on panels talking about their big, successful shows. Usually, I find that sort of thing invigorating. Mostly writers love to hear about other writer’s successes. It means it’s possible. Every commissioning story is proof that if you build it, they will come.

But this time, it’s not how I felt. I looked at my colleagues and I felt jealous. Not the good, motivating kind of jealousy; the twisting, bitter kind. I started to list the things that were wrong with me. I was too fat to be taken seriously. I wear the wrong clothes. My haircut is wrong. My accent is too Northern, too coarse. I shoot my mouth off too easily.
By the time I went back to my hotel I had resolved to delete my blog. I was going to get liposuction, elocution lessons and a wig. I wanted to throw my jeans and baseball boots away and replace them with one of those great little black dresses that Nicola Shindler wears so well. I wanted sparkly, kick-ass boots like Hilary Martin was wearing.

I wanted to be someone else.
It’s not the first time I’ve felt that way, but it’s the first time that writing has made me feel that way. So, how did I get myself out of this shame spiral? I did what I should have done in the first place. I wrote my damn way out of it. I wrote this blog. I finished a pitch document that I’d been buggering about with for weeks and sent it off. I went to talk to a friend about us making a short film.

I cannot change who I am. And who I am is my writing. The moment I try to be something I am not, is the moment I should pack it in and call it a day.
And so, here I am coming out the other side. Like we all do, all the time. It’s fucking hard work. It knocks a bit of your stuffing out every time it happens. And I just wanted to acknowledge how hard it is for all of us. I missed out the most important stage of the rejection process, but it’s the most important one; telling other writers that you’ve had a knockback. Because other writers will be hurt for you, angry for you, they’ll tell you not to give up and they’ll mean every damn word. I know I do.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

For those about to write, we salute you.

And so, let us starts with the apologies. I write this in my cups, under the influence, one over the eight, pissed. This blog comes after the best of nights; a night on the lash with other writers. Very appropriate for the 23rd of April 2014, Shakespeare’s 450th birthday. Happy Birthday Bill!

And so I also think it is appropriate to sing the drunken praises of my fellow scribes, those other daughters and sons of the written word. The women and men who understand the human condition and bring it to life of on the page screen, stage and page. Those astronauts in the outer space of empathy and the search for truth. Ah, that’s pretentious babble but it’s not entirely off target.

You see the greatest thing about making a living from putting pen to paper, finger to keyboard, arse to chair is your fellow travellers. That’s what makes this odd choice of career sustainable. The realisation that you are not the only one with that skewed view of the world, that exposed heart, that need to chronicle. And it is a need, not a whim or a vague notion.

And so the best moments of this odd life is not spent at the desk but in the tavern, inn, pub or coffee shop. That moment when you realise it’s not just you! There are other freaks that obsess over the words, over the scenes, over the characters. The first time you squee over that episode, that scene, that minor character. They get it, the minutiae. More importantly, they get you.

It’s an extraordinary moment. A feeling of belonging that you never felt at school, at your first crappy job or even, whisper it, when amongst your family.

That is not to say that your nearest and dearest can’t be taken on the journey. The box set and the book becomes your gift to those you love. Never turn your nose up at a flat, rectangular gift from a writer. Our heart and soul comes in those oblong boxes. It means we love you. In return, buy us stationery. There is nothing more guaranteed to gladden a writer’s heart than an unsullied page and the unused pen.

And so on this holiest days, I salute you my sisters and brothers of the pen. I share your frustrations, your tears, your triumphs and your desire to be ‘got’. And I urge you to remember that there is strength in numbers. The Writers’ Guild is there for you, manned and guided by your fellow writers. Other writers are there for you. Reach out, we’ll be there.

Well, when we’ve got this draft in. You may need to be patient.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

They Say The Darndest Things...

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with some fellow TV writers. Well, I say a conversation; it was more a cathartic expulsion of bile and frustration. But then don’t all conversations between writers ultimately end up that way?

Anyway, the topic under discussion was “things that TV Development Producers say”. Or specifically, “things that Development Producers say that make you wish BBC & ITV buildings had functioning windows so that you could throw yourself out of them”. As I said, it was quite a cathartic discussion.

Many of the producer quotes were greeted with howls of painful recognition. We’d all heard them in meeting after meeting. Those little clichés or go-to questions that they trot out in every meeting with every writer. So much so, that they are now a trigger for involuntary violent fantasies. But were we being fair? Do the producers even realise that they’re doing it? Perhaps they have no idea that we’ve heard all their little sound bites before?

So, I’ve decide to give our colleagues the benefit of the doubt, but offer this as a friendly guide to things you shouldn’t say in development meetings. Especially if your windows are open.

I also provide a little guidance on how a writer should/should not react to these pearls of wisdom.

1. If you could sum this idea in one line…

What You Shouldn’t Say
If I could sum up my idea in one line I wouldn’t need to write a script? Why must everything be boiled down to the small paragraph that will appear in the Radio Times? It strikes me that if you can’t grasp a concept that requires more than ten words you’re in the wrong job.

What You Should Say
It’s Sherlock meets Breaking Bad.

2. This is a great start/first draft.

What You Shouldn’t Say
A great start? A great fucking start? Have you any idea how I’ve sweated over this? And do you really think I’d send you an actual first draft? Writing this ruined my marriage, you prick. I missed my kid’s Nativity play to get this to you.

What You Should Say
I can’t wait to take it to the next level.

3. Why should we tell this story now?

What You Shouldn’t Say
Because I've only just had the idea. And why does it matter anyway? By the time you’ve ummed and ahhed over it, we’ll be five years down the line. For fuck’s sake, aliens could have invaded and UKIP could be in government by the time you make a decision and it actually gets on the screen. And did you ask that question when you were doing your latest reboot/literary adaptation? Or did you just ask whether the material was out of copyright? Wow, do they actually give you a book of stupid, pointless questions to ask?

What You Should Say
I think we can draw a lot of parallels between the 16th century and Austerity Britain. And stories about the human spirit are ultimately timeless.

4. We really like what you’ve got here, but have you considered…

What You Shouldn’t Say
Of course I’ve considered it. I’ve been through every permutation of this story to get to this point. I didn’t just bash it out in an afternoon, you know? I’ve lived with this idea, working it through my mind, drawing on everything I know and have experienced. I’ve lived with these characters until I feel like I know every detail of their lives; things that won’t make it to the screen but will inform everything they do and say. I did all that before I could even consider showing this to you.

What You Should Say
That’s a really interesting idea.

5. Whose story is it?

What You Shouldn’t Say
It’s MINE! You can’t have it. You’re not worthy!

What You Should Say
Ultimately, it’s about a flawed and complicated protagonist. S/he’s an everyman/woman that the audience will fall in love with.

6. I’ll know what I want when I see it.

What You Shouldn’t Say
Well, any chance you could give us a clue what that might be? Start by telling us what you don’t want to see and we’ll go from there. And don’t give me that shit about your likes and dislikes being irrelevant and it being about ‘good writing’ when we all know it’s about who bought you a drink down at the Groucho Club last week. When I’m made to throw shit at the wall, I’d like to know there is an outside chance that some of it might stick.

What You Should Say
Wow, it’s great to have such a blank canvas. It’s like there are no wrong answers.

7. I gave your script to a friend/my kids/the girl who does my nails to get a second opinion.

What Not To Say
Why? Are you incapable of doing your job? Actually, I asked my postman what he thought of you and he called you an unprofessional dick. The woman in the chip shop agreed. I like to get a second opinion too.

What To Say
It’s always good to see things through a fresh pair of eyes.

But the ultimate annoying question and one that we’d all been asked….

8. But, if the main character does this will the audience like her/him?

What Not To Say
Perhaps not. Perhaps they’ll have a strong emotional reaction to the character instead of simply liking them. I like lots of people but I don’t want to give up an hour of my precious TV viewing time to watch them. Did you like Tony Soprano? Walter White? Nurse Jackie? Hamlet? I think you’re confusing liking a character with having sympathy for them, identifying with them, rooting for them, being outraged by them. The job of the screenwriter is to get us to feel something, not just to ‘like’ it.

What To Say
I was thinking we could cast Martin Freeman/Suranne Jones.

So, there you have it; all genuine things that are said repeatedly in development meetings. If you have ever said any of those things to a writer; shame on you. But it’s not too late to change your ways.

As ever comments are encouraged and welcomed.

Monday, 7 April 2014

The Writers' Blog Tour

Dearest Reader,

As you know I am somewhat erratic when it comes to blogging. I usually wait until I’m livid to write something career-threatening and possibly libellous.

And so, I’d like to thank Robin Bell ( for pressganging me into writing something slightly calmer. Basically this seems to be the blog equivalent of a chain letter. I answer the following four questions about my current writing and then get some other sucker to do it. Haven’t chosen the suckers yet, but watch this space.
1. What am I working on?
Currently I’m writing a new episode of Midsomer Murders, but that question never quite covers the reality of being a working TV writer. At any one time I have five to ten other projects in various states of completion from a full script to having a snappy title. Most of those projects I can’t talk about and most of them will never get past the various drama commissioners’ desk. By which point all the life and fun will have been sucked from them.
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
First off, I didn’t word that question. What genre? I write across several genres. I also think that people often confuse genre for form. I assume what is being asked is what sets my writing apart from others. I don’t think that’s for me to say. I hope my writing is warm, sparky and compelling. But then I should imagine everyone hopes that about their work. It’s often said that writers should develop their ‘voice’; I can’t remember when I wrote in anything other than my voice. Although that’s not to say that it is never influenced by the vast amount of TV I watch.
3. Why do I write what I do?
I suppose I should write something noble about being driven to write by a deep inner need to express humanity in all its glory and depravity. Honest answer? Sometimes it’s that. Sometimes there’s a story or character that’s just itching to get on the page. Sometimes I impress myself with a new idea so much that I need to get my ego stroked by getting other people to tell me it’s brilliant. And sometimes I write for the money like a cheap whore.
4. How does my writing process work?
Mainly, it doesn’t. It’s a soul-sucking, self-defeating routine of procrastination, distraction, self-delusion and twatting about on Twitter. However, after a few days of that and with the deadline looming, I kick into tunnel-vision mode where the only thing that matters if getting the fucking thing on the page. I write it like I’m possessed by it and I hate it. It’s a slog of early mornings, late nights, crap food and poor personal hygiene. And then the writing narcotic kicks in. I can never predict when but it’s never a moment too soon and so far it’s never too late. It’s that high you get when it’s finally flowing. When my fingers can’t fly across the keyboard fast enough to get the dialogue down. The characters are speaking and the stories are forming. It’s the closest I get to believing in the supernatural. And then I take a shower, clean the kitchen, phone my parents to tell them that I’m still alive and the next day it starts all over again.
And there you have it!

Wednesday, 5 February 2014


As regular visitors to this blog will know, I am not a stranger to fits of rage, fury and general kick-the-cat anger. I try to channel them into humour and not kicking cats. Before anyone calls the RSPCA; I don’t own a cat. And thank God for that, because something happened last week that would have had me firmly planting my boot up Chairman Meow’s fundament.
The Guardian newspaper has decided to take a break from the quinoa recipes and stories about Twitter to run their own film awards. You know, because what the UK film industry really needed was another evening spent in a London hotel function room eating cold food, slapping each other’s backs and listening to video speeches from actors who couldn’t be arsed to get on the plane from LA. Yeah, that’s just what a national film industry that is in decline requires.

But that’s not what put me in the bad mood. Have a look at the categories.

So, there’s the usual suspects; best director, best performance, best film etc. Hang on a minute, this looks like fun. There’s a category for ‘Best Scene’ and ‘Best Line of Dialogue’ instead of ‘Best Screenplay’. Okay, I think it’s difficult to ask people to judge those things out of context. Still, at least it’s recognition of the writer’s craft and how we use dialogue and scenes to build a story and characters…
Except it’s not, because those trendy wankers at The Guardian haven’t actually bothered to involve the writers in those categories. Indeed, in the Best Dialogue category, they’ve listed the actors that learned those lines, but not the writers that actually wrote them.
This is what incites my genuine and deep felt rage. This utter inability to understand how films are actually made coupled with such a spectacular lack of basic respect for my profession. The idea that months, often years, of work by a writer can be boiled down to a line of dialogue or a scene that looked good on the trailer is bad enough. However, not even bothering to credit the men and women who stared at a blank page or computer screen and then conjured those lines and those scenes from thin air, is unforgivable.
Because that is what screenwriters do, They create the characters you love; the dialogue that made you laugh; the scenes that broke your heart, FROM NOTHING. Before a DOP touches a camera, before a costume designer touches a sewing machine, before a producer touches a phone and before a director touches some poor unfortunate starlet on the casting couch. Before all that there is a writer and the blank page.
And that is certainly before anyone designs the fucking poster or edits a few clips over an Ed Sheeran track, but the Guardian hacks still think that the ‘Best Marketing Campaign’ is more worthy of an award than the writers.
I’m assuming that the bright spark that came up with these award categories was one of the imbeciles who couldn’t understand why the silent film The Artist received an Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay. The sort of imbecile who will never understand the tyranny of the blank page and the sheer hard work that goes into creating a credible script with a narrative structure and complex characters. To isolate just one line of dialogue or a scene shows an ignorance of film, not a love for it.
The very least that the Guardian could have done was credit the writers of the films from which they arbitrarily lifted scenes and dialogue, but they could not even be bothered to do that. So, I’ll do it for them.

Alan Partridge:Alpha Papa
Peter Baynham, Steve Coogan, Neil Gibbons, Rob Gibbons & Armando Iannucci

Alfonso & Jonas Cuaron

The Great Beauty
Paolo Sorrentino & Umberto Contarello   

12 Years A Slave
John Ridley (based on the book by Solomon Northup)

Blue Jasmine
Woody Allen

Inside Llewyn Davis
Joel & Ethan Coen

Before Midnight
Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke & Kim Krizan

Post Tenebras Lux
Carlos Reygadas

Blue is The Warmest Colour
Abdellatif Kechiche, Ghalia Lacroix (Based on the book by Julie Maroh)

The Wolf of Wall Street           
Terence Winter (based on the book by Jordan Belfort)

Behind the Candelabra
Richard LaGravenese (based on the book by Scott Thorson & Alex Thorleifson)

American Hustle
Eric Warren Singer & David O. Russell

Bob Nelson

Steve Coogan & Jeff Pope (based on the book "The Lost Child of Philomena Lee" by Martin Sixsmith)

Robot and Frank
Christopher D. Ford

Spike Jonze
That took me about 10 minutes to look up on IMDB. It shouldn’t really have been a stretch for a paper that apparently prides itself on the quality of its journalism. But then the journalists probably just, you know, throw a few ideas together. It will be their editor that whips it into shape. It’s actually all about the typeface and the pictures that he chooses, the words aren’t that important. Are they?
See what I did there?
It seems to The Guardian that we writers are not even worth ten minutes of their time. However, it is worth saying that other publications are equally dismissive.

I’m looking at you Empire; allegedly the World’s Biggest Film Magazine. Let’s not even talk about how your photo shoots of actors usually have them in sharp suits whilst the actresses always seem to have forgotten to put on their trousers. Perhaps you could take a break from turning into Loaded and actually list the writers on your film reviews? Perhaps interview them once in a while? Because without writers there is no film for you to actually write about and no reason for Jennifer Lawrence to be naked and covered in blue paint.
It’s not about money or credits or claiming ownership of films. It’s about respect.
No cats were harmed during the writing of this blog.



Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Santa Baby

Dear Father Christmas.
This year I’ve been a good little writer. I promise. I’ve hit all my deadlines (eventually), I’ve only sworn at producers and script editors AFTER I’ve put the phone down, I paid my BBC licence fee and my Writers’ Guild subs. I watched ALL of Dancing on the Edge (and didn’t ask for a damn rebate on said licence fee or the six wasted hours of my life back).  I’ve tweeted responsibly and I’ve supported British films at the box office. I even went to the theatre a couple of times, goddammit.

So, I think I deserve to get everything on my Christmas List.  Here goes…
Could you bring me a nice shiny coin? It’s not for me. It’s for the commissioners at a certain UK channel. It seems to me that the only way to get a decision out of them is to call heads or tails. The thing is, there is nothing more guaranteed to strip the passion (that they claim to want) out of a project than to have the powers that be umm and ahh over it for months on end.  I think someone should tell them that around the 7th draft of a treatment, you start to hope that your show/episode won’t actually get commissioned because you couldn’t stand to write the fucking thing. At draft 9 you lose the will to live. At draft 10 someone should call Amnesty International.

I’d like some sparkly new dramas that don’t rely on women being murdered, raped and menaced for plot and story. That means no more dead prostitutes (there must be a skip full of them at the back of Broadcasting House), no more terrified women who don’t call the police because that would fuck up the story and no more charismatic misogynists. It’s been done to the point of utter cliché.

I’d also like some new female characters to play with. Sparky, complicated, flawed, intelligent, powerful LEAD female characters (no  Barbie dolls). You might have to buy those from America or maybe Denmark, they seem to have loads. And could you put some of them on the telly on Saturday night? I’m a bit bored of the companions and damsels in distress that we already have.

Actually, scratch those last two items. I think I know what I really want; more women writing telly. Not just the soaps and stuff about pensioners falling in love. I want women writing stuff that has swords and time-travel and police officers and dinosaurs in it. I can’t be the only good little girl who wants to write a car chase for Christmas. I want to play with the boy’s toys but they don’t seem to know how to share.

Oh, by the way, can you not bring me any more bullshit books telling me how I should write? You know the ones written by people who have never written a damn script in their lives? I’ve got loads and I’ve never got past the third chapter in most of them. I’ve been too busy actually writing. I'd rather get socks. Or herpes.

Finally, this Christmas, I’d like some friends to play with. I’d like producers and script editors to stop keeping writers apart like we’d create a rift in the time/space continuum if we actually end up in the same room together. The thing is that when you put writers together we are combustible; brilliantly so.

Seriously Santa, this year I want to explode with creativity and ideas but it’s really hard to do alone. So, can you ask the nice people on all the shows and all the channels to get us around a table, try a story conference or even throw us a party? Can you also give nice presents to the nice telly people who did just that? But you should only put lumps of coal in the stockings of those producers who treat writers like mushrooms by keeping us in the dark and up to our necks in shit. Remember a writer is for life, not just for Christmas.

And I think that’s it. It’s all a girl could want and hope to find under the tree this year.

Although, without wishing to be ungrateful, there are still outstanding items from last year’s list. I am assuming that you’ll be delivering them this year, yes? Just to remind you, I’m still waiting for my working Iron Man suit and a snog off of the real Thor. If you don’t deliver this year, I’ll have to stop believing in you and send next year’s list to Amazon.

Yours With Jingle Bells
Aged 39 and five quarters.
PS: A very, very Merry Christmas and a happy, creative, successful 2014 to all the other boys and girls out there in Writer-land.

Monday, 2 September 2013

FInd The Lady

There’s a new game sweeping the internet. Have you played it yet? It’s not Candy Crush or Scrabble. It’s called ‘Count The Women in the BBC Drama Trailer’. Want to play? Here you go…


Now, I’ve had estimates on Twitter ranging from 3 to 20. There are bonus points to be earned. How many lines of moody dialogue were delivered in a female voice? I’ll give you a clue; it’s a number between zero and fuck all. How many of the shows featured have a female lead? How many of the male actors featured could you name? How many of the women? For the record, the programmes showcased in the trailer are Sherlock, Ripper Street, The Great Train Robbery, What Remains, The Musketeers, The Escape Artist and By Any Means. How many of those shows do you think have female protagonists?
Sidebar: I think the trailer is also distinctly lacking in racial diversity and I didn’t see any disabled characters either. But as I’m white and relatively able-bodied, I’ll talk about the lack of vaginas, not melanin and wheelchairs. Feel free to comment on any of those other issues, though.
Now, someone on Twitter pointed out that this is just a trailer. It’s an advert and is designed to sell. He rationalised that men sell action and drama. That they are men that other men want to be. Well, I don’t want to be a man. So what I supposed to aspire to? To be shagged by them? Or, if you look at British drama’s recent record, to be shagged by them and then killed in well-shot, soft focus ritual killing?
How long are we going to carry on reinforcing the idea that women are passive and men active? Apart from anything else, it’s dated bullshit. Women are in the police, fire service, the armed forces, politics and the frontline NHS. They are also criminals and prisoners (not just their wives). They win gold medals for us in the Olympics and Paralympics. I really thought this might be the year that was reflected on my TV screen.
Let’s take a look at one specific BBC TV slot in particular. The Saturday teatime drama slot. Where you’ll find/would have found Doctor Who, Merlin, Robin Hood and very soon Atlantis. That’s the coveted slot when families are supposed to sit down together to watch something exciting and inclusive. Something that will have kids running around wielding imaginary sonic screwdrivers or good old-fashioned swords pretending to be their favourite characters. But who are the little girls supposed to pretend to be? A Timelord’s companion? A chambermaid who marries into the Camelot Royal family? Where are the female role models? It won’t come as a huge shock to hear that the protagonist of Atlantis is called Jason, not Jessica.
Look, I’m not saying that women are invisible on telly. Thank the Goddess for Vera, The White Queen and Scott & Bailey. But it’s not an improving picture and this trailer made my heart sink. But I’m all about solutions, not problems. What can we do about this?
Easy-peasy. Employ more female writers and directors, because it’s not just actresses that are conspicuous by their absence from that trailer. None of the lead writers of those eight shows are women. Not one. That's just not good enough.
I was heartened to hear that Doctor Who is actively looking for female directors to work on the next series. But what about the writers?
At this year’s BBC TV Writers’ Festival, Steven Moffat was asked why the show hadn’t featured a female writer since 2008. His answer was (in my opinion) defensive and unsatisfactory. He claimed that female writers had been offered episodes and had turned them down. I have no reason to disbelieve him, but I do wonder exactly how many female writers have been approached.
He also claimed that not enough women write genre and was backed up by his interviewer Toby Whithouse in reference to his show Being Human. I assume they meant that not enough women are writing sci-fi, horror and fantasy. My follow-up question would be; if not enough women are writing genre TV, what are you doing to change it? How about looking beyond sci-fi and fantasy? How about just looking for really good writers? Because a working knowledge of the Tardis is useful for a Doctor Who writer; but isn’t a working knowledge of structure, great dialogue and character actually more important? In my opinion, Mr Moffat is robbing himself of some great writers by being so utterly limited in his search.

As I said in a previous blog, I don’t believe in positive discrimination on writing teams. I do, however, believe in the positive impact that a diverse writing team can have on a TV series. I think a diversity of experience can only be a good thing when developing original, surprising stories and characters. In fact, I believe it’s increasingly essential. I also believe it won’t happen without some actual action on the part of producers, showrunners and commissioners.
I’m throwing down the gauntlet to those people. The next time you're putting together your publicity package for the new season's drama, can we have a better ratio of women on screen. And can they not be murder victims or the protagonist's wife? Can we actually hear a woman's voice on the trailer? I don't think it's much to ask. You may disagree, feel free to comment.