All About Archetypes

The difference between archetypes and stereotypes is subtle, but crucial. Archetypes are frequently mistaken for stereotypes and vice versa … Not just by writers, but audiences and critics too.

This is never more obvious than with comedy. This genre sometimes DOES use stereotype for comedic effect, in shows like The Simpsons. Homer is ‘The American Dream gone wrong’. He is a cliché of white, middle-class male entitlement. It doesn’t matter how he screws up, he will fall on his feet (usually because someone else will clear up his mess).  It is the point of his character and why we love him.

So stereotypes are simplifications, not the whole story. Sometimes this is useful or even desirable, as outlined above. Other times, this simplification creates a short-cut to a character that is dated, boring or even offensive.

In comparison, archetypes are a ‘typical example of a person or thing’. This means they are the foundations of a character, not the character itself. They are PROTOTYPES, not the finished article.

Put simply, archetypes are a starting point for characters. You may start with archetypes like hero or villain, but HOW you write them will differentiate them. For more on archetypes, CLICK HERE.

Character Bios in Friends

It always makes me laugh when I hear writers posit the writing on Friends is ‘crap’ or even ‘bland’. It was – and remains – a beloved show for a very good reason. The hard fact for writers to swallow is, the writing on Friends MAKES characterisation look easy.

Every member of the cast of characters on Friends makes use of archetypes.  As you may recall from my previous post on the Friends pilot episode, the original character bios look like the below. What’s surprising to most people is how ‘dead-on’ the character bios are … and how they remained so, throughout the ten series and the decade the show was on the air.

With these in mind then, I am going to reverse engineer each character down to her or his principal archetypes. Let’s go!

The Women

1) Rachel: The Creator

It’s no accident Rachel works in fashion. Creators are inspired and artistic, with vision and imagination. She had only one thing she was good at – shopping! – and yet made a whole career out of it. She walked away from her old life; she had nothing when we met her … But by the time the show ends, she has a whole new life.

2) Monica: The Ruler

Monica HAS to be in charge … It is not just a state of mind, it is her identity. Small or large, she has to have a say in it. This is all based on neuroses … She was the overlooked child at home; at school, she was the ‘fat friend’. So now she revels in her status as ‘the hostess’, or Ruler. Everyone has to revolve around her and she will do ANYTHING to ensure this is the case (mostly baking and food-related).

3) Phoebe: The Outlaw

Phoebe might be considered the original Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but the reality is she is far more than this. She has a stupendously dark back story, but far from a tragic figure, she is presented as a warrior. The little things that bother Monica and Rachel just don’t connect with her. She knows real life can go south at any moment, so instead does what SHE wants. She is not bound by societal norms and values.

The Men

4) Ross: The (Wannabe) Hero

Ross is the star of his own mind-movie. He might be clever and accomplished, but holy crap does he know it! His self-importance and arrogance know no bounds. He was his parents’ little prince, so now he thinks he is a hero. This means he now thinks everyone should do what HE wants. He also thinks he knows everything … which he does NOT. When life fails to go his way then, he never reacts well.

5) Chandler: The Sage

Chandler is outspoken and clever with it. Crucially though, being accomplished does not matter to him (at least until he finds his dream job). He speaks the truth constantly, nearly always to his own detriment … And often everyone else’s too. If he just let go of his neuroses – like Monica – he would be happier.

6) Joey: The Magician

Joey does what Joey wants, but in a crucially different way to Phoebe. He is a positive thinker like her though, nearly always able to see the bright side. He might be slow on the up-take, but once he gets there he will stay by your side. Unfortunately it takes ages for him to even notice, let alone get there (wherever that is!).

All Of Them

Being a comedy, obviously all of them need to perform the Jester archetype as well.  Much of the comedy comes from not only their unreasonable behaviour, but their rigid worldviews. After all …

  • If Rachel wasn’t so high on herself, she wouldn’t miss so much. Rachel has lead a life of privilege, which means she doesn’t always see what is right front of her face. Sometimes literally, such as the time she accuses her would-be Boss of trying to kiss her. (In reality, he was pointing to ink on her lip). She will also do pretty much anything to save face … Which in turn leads her into bigger problems.
  • Monica, minus her neuroses, would enjoy better relationships with other people. Whether it is her friends, boyfriends or co-workers, Monica is in a constant battle to be liked. This also crosses over with her need to be ‘the best’. If she forgot about all this, she would be easier to be around and a better friend.
  • Phoebe is so fiercely independent, she forgets other people care about her. Phoebe has always had to fend for herself, which means she can be an outlier in the group. She is almost a lone wolf to a fault! Also, if the group is in conflict, she will always defect to the winning side.
  • If Ross actually thought about the impact of his behaviour and opinion on others, he would literally have a better life. He wouldn’t have got divorced so many times. Plus he would have been with Rachel throughout all the series. He would be closer to his son, Carol and Susan. In addition, he wouldn’t have lost his job at the museum. He wouldn’t have alienated Joey and Chandler when he moved in with them. And so the list goes on.
  • Chandler has so many hang-ups, it’s no surprise he is a mess. He worries so much about his flaws and insecurities, he draws attention to them constantly. It’s no wonder people can see them, then! But this creates a vicious circle … Which in turn makes him both endearing AND annoying at the same time. Like Ross, he is thinking mostly of himself.
  • Joey is like the antithesis of both the other guys … he literally doesn’t care! But this ends up meaning he ends up with the same problem. He would have a better life if he thought less about himself and more about others.

But of course … If the characters DID reject these things above there would be no comedy! This is why Friends’ characterisation is so good … It makes use of the archetypes available exceptionally well and builds on top of them effectively. As the headline says, it makes it look easy.

The Group And Secondary Characters

With the exception of cliffhangers, a lot of Friends was filmed in front of a live studio audience. This meant they frequently had guest stars as secondary characters who were popular at that time (and who still are, in some cases). Often these appearances are marked with the appreciative cat-calls and ‘wooooooohs!’ of said audience.

Sometimes, these guests would appear for just one episode. An obvious example of this would be the ER-Friends ‘crossover’ starring George Clooney and Noah Wylie. Though it was not quite the same, both actors reprised their roles as doctors *like* the ones they played back then in ER.

The purpose was to present Clooney and Wylie as potential love interest archetypes. This might be an obvious choice, but in a series about friends looking for new relationships, it is authentic. Other times, an uber-famous star would appear in a secondary role, often to create a love interest for one of the group. Richard, played by Tom Selleck, was Monica’s on-off boyfriend for nine episodes, for example.

Other times, these secondary characters played stars created a problem for one of the group … A kind of ‘antagonist of the week’. Will Colbett, played by Brad Pitt, appears in Thanksgiving Episode ‘The One With The Rumour’. (In this episode, it is revealed he hates Rachel and has since high school).

Sometimes said stars are BOTH love interest and antagonist archetypes, such as ‘The One With The Jam’. In this episode, David Arquette stalks Phoebe’s twin Ursula and ends up going out with Phoebe.

Who Is The ‘Real’ Main Character in Friends?

By the way … As an ensemble, Friends is fairly unusual in that there is not a clear (aka ‘obvious’) lead character. This makes sense, because the show is principally about the friendship group as a whole. It is called Friends, after all!

There were obvious elements that ‘stick out’ more – Ross and Rachel’s ‘will they, won’t they?’ relationship comes top. Another would be Chandler and Monica’s relationship. This means Phoebe and then Joey come somewhat ‘lower’ down the pecking order. We can get all this instinctively though, rather than sitting down and counting individual scenes.

That said, being the internet, obviously someone sat down and worked out who the ‘real’ lead is! The answer? Surprisingly, it’s Ross … IF we count individual screen-time appearances. If we count mentions by other characters, it’s Rachel. You’re welcome!

More on Friends 

Whether you love or loathe the show, there’s plenty to learn here … Friends lasted ten series and a whopping 236 episodes. Read my previous case study on Friends’ pilot episode, HERE. Enjoy!

Want MORE Script Reading Secrets?

My annual course with LondonSWF, BREAKING INTO SCRIPT READING is perfect not only for wannabe script readers, but savvy writers who want to know how script readers work. Can you afford to miss out?? Join us on June 23-22nd, 2019 at historic Ealing Studios!

CLICK HERE for full details of the course (or on the pic on the right), including feedback from past delegates. We expect it to sell out again, so act now to avoid disappointment. See you there!!!

For B2W offers and free stuff first, join my EMAIL LIST

Share this:

Break Story – A Definition

I love the term ‘break story’ to describe the process of testing a new idea. (It’s borrowed from the building world, where you ‘break ground’ to lay the foundations of a building). Though I learned this in the screenwriting world, I discovered it works with all ideas. Now it does not matter if I am writing a script, novel or short story … I always break story.

Whilst every writer has their own individual process, most do it to check the story ‘stands up’ at concept level … Such as:

… And so on. Sometimes you may hear industry people saying a story ‘has legs’, too. Whatever you want to call it though, basically writers are road-testing their concepts.

The B2W Model To Break Story

Back in the day, I trained as a journalist. I soon found I preferred fiction to fact, but one thing that stuck in my mind were the ‘5 Ws’ … WHO – WHAT – WHERE – WHEN – WHY. As I started working as a script editor, I discovered very early their application to story works really well. Here you go:

What I love about The 5 Ws is they are …

… Short, so provide a useful framework. This keeps us focused, without going off at mad tangents.

… Obvious, so HOW they can be applied is intuitive. We can adapt to the story we want to tell easily.

… Clear, so if we CAN’T answer one of the questions, we know there is a gap somewhere in our thinking.

Why All Writers SHOULD Break Story

As far as B2W is concerned, ALL writers should break story first. Yes, this means professional to seasoned writers, right down to those wet-behind-the-ears newbies. Why?

i) Professional writers have limited time

If you break story, your drafts are MUCH easier to write and don’t take as much time. FACT. Plus in the industry, pro writers will be asked all sorts of questions about their material at meetings and pitches. Most of these questions will cover or cross-over with the WHO-WHAT-WHERE- WHEN-WHY? questions posed by the B2w Model above. For example, a lot of producers and publishers – especially in the UK – are obsessed with finding  writers with ‘something to say’. This is adequately covered by ‘Why this story?’. So by breaking story, the pro writer not only has an answer ready, s/he LOOKS like a professional too. In an industry where first impressions count, this can be priceless.

ii) It makes seasoned writers level up  

Seasoned writers are those who have been writing some time, but are yet to make a sale. The best thing that can do is learn how to break story because it gives them the laser focus they need to proceed to the next level. Honest guv! I have seen it happen again and again.

iii) Newbie writers can get tied up in knots easily

I get it. Some new writers need to SPLURGE a draft and then carve a story out of the mess they land on the page. But it literally takes three times as long, plus it’s not a luxury anyone will be afforded in the actual industry. It can also be hugely dispiriting for a new writer to try and untie all those story knots … I have seen many simply give up on whole drafts that COULD have worked, had they just done the foundation work of breaking story FIRST. (I have even seen more than a few  give up writing altogether, convinced it was not for them. Eeek!!).


It is in every writer’s interest to break story. Doing so accelerates the writing process and avoids what I call ‘The Story Swamp’, which is soooooooo hard to get out of! Breaking story also helps us get to grips with the craft and depends our knowledge. Plus it also ensures we look like what we know what we’re doing in pitches and meetings. What’s not to like? Get going! Good luck!

Want MORE Script Reading Secrets?

My annual course with LondonSWF, BREAKING INTO SCRIPT READING is perfect not only for wannabe script readers, but savvy writers who want to know how script readers work. Can you afford to miss out?? Join us on June 23-22nd, 2019 at historic Ealing Studios!

CLICK HERE for full details of the course (or on the pic on the right), including feedback from past delegates. We expect it to sell out again, so act now to avoid disappointment. See you there!!!

For B2W offers and free stuff first, join my EMAIL LIST

Share this:

All About Writing Scenes

In my new book, The Craft of Scene Writing: Beat by Beat to a Better Script, I complement the overwhelming amount of material on story and structure for screenwriters by focusing on craft. In fact, avoid these common 5 Scene Mistakes and improve your script today!

1) Scenes That Ignore The Story’s Concept

A scene that doesn’t link its surprise to the concept is a non-sequitur. It’s generic. Avoid scenes that could work in other films. Dance with the one that brought you: your concept. Stay true to it and reap many rewards. The main conceit of your concept by alone almost guarantees idiosyncrasy.

For instance, in Her, Theodore gets dumped by Samantha, an operating system, because she is in love with 641 other people. And how many films other than Memento can have a character in the middle of a chase scene forget if he is chasing or being chased? MORE: 5 Concept Mistakes Writers Make 

2) Scenes That Are Too Vague

Writing my book, I discovered a way to use my favourite word twice in the same sentence:

Specificity breeds specificity.

Being specific helps you in many ways. Here’s one … When your characters are calling each other on their, ah, crap, if they are on-point and specific, they help the audience to understand them.

In Philadelphia Story thenDexter says of Tracy: ‘She’s a girl who’s generous to a fault . . . But not of other people’s faults.’

Vincent sums up Jerome in Gattaca with, ‘He is burdened with perfection’.  He calls Irene, ‘The Queen of Can’t.’ (In Gattaca, the pithy summations also touch on theme).

3) Action Scenes With Only Action

Don’t get me wrong. Spectacle is fun. But don’t settle for just that. Here are some ideas on what else you can throw into the mix.

Cleverly draw from the environment. Think of the home field advantage for the kids in Jurassic Park in the kitchen against the velociraptors. Another of my favorite action scenes is from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, when Legolas singlehandedly kills an Oliphaunt. Notice how the main conceit is to use the physical details of the environment.

In Casino Royale’s opening, James Bond chases Mollaka, who is played by a practitioner of parkour, or ‘free running’. This is a discipline that specialises in gracefully circumventing physical obstacles. Mollaka deftly dodges obstacles that Bond, sometimes literally, crashes right through. The contrast reveals the nature of his character, which M clarifies when she refers to him as a ‘blunt instrument.’

Sometimes, you might even be able to fit in some theme. In the murder scene in the kitchen of Torn Curtain, the way Hitchcock makes it so difficult for them to kill the Nazi. This suggests killing isn’t as easy as it (usually) looks.

What else can you sneak into your action scenes? MORE: 3 Important Tips About Theme And Story

4) Scenes That Don’t Have Enough Set Up

A scene dances back and forth between expectation and surprise. Think of a surprise as a frustrated expectation. It gains its unity and inevitability by its relationship to a very specific set up. A big push toward the opposite of the surprise, the expectation, accentuates and, in some way, creates the power of your reversal.

In a recent class, everyone seemed to remember the inciting incident (pages 13 and 14) from The Hangover. The crew wakes up from the previous night’s party and their suite is a chaotic wreck. They have to piece together the previous evening so they can find their missing friend.

Maybe my students were hungover … they couldn’t seem to remember the obvious (in retrospect) line that perfectly sets up this twist. We went searching for the long lost line.

The essence of the moment and the surprise in The Hangover is ‘forgetting.’ I asked the students, what do you do at fun parties? They quickly got to ‘make a toast.’ So, what sort of things do you say at toasts that are the opposite of forgetting? One or two blurted out: ‘To a night we’ll always remember.’ A quick rewrite created the actual line in the movie out of thin air: ‘To a night we’ll never forget!’

Right before a climactic twist, shift toward expectation — as far away as you can get from the surprise. This sudden contrast sets up the power of a scene’s climax.

5) Scenes With Not Enough Importance

‘Importance’ is a specific term borrowed from the language of actors that represents a resonant connection to the character. You need to make sure to align external situations and events with the character’s inner life.

In My Best Friend’s Wedding, Julia Roberts’s character Julianne sets up a metaphor. She puts herself as Jell-O and Cameron Diaz’s character Kimmy as crème brûlée.

When Kimmy claims, ‘I can be Jell-O,’ it feels like life or death. It means, ‘I will fight, I will do anything, even change myself and my nature to get the love of the man I love.’ Julianne snaps back, ‘Crème brûlée can never be Jell-O!’ with an equal amount of importance. Desperation and competitiveness drive these over the top yet psychologically-grounded reactions.

In a scene (pages 20-21) from The Departed, a real estate agent shows Colin (Matt Damon) an apartment. In less than a page this agent questions Colin’s entire sense of self … His profession, his net worth, his self-worth, his power as a man, and his sexual identity.

Challenge yourself to find importance where you least expect it. MORE: Are You Making Any Of These Killer Errors In Your Screenplay’s Scenes?

One Last Thing

Incorporate the above principles into your writing, and you can make good scenes great … and great scenes better. If you want 300+ pages of more ideas on how to improve your writing today, check out my book The Craft of Scene Writing.

BIO: Jim Mercurio is a writer, author, screenwriter, and filmmaker. His book The Craft of Scene Writing is the first-ever screenwriting book that focuses solely on scenes. He has directed or produced five feature films and has helped countless writers as a teacher, story analyst, and script doctor. He directed more than 40 DVDs on screenwriting, including his own 6-disc set, Complete Screenwriting. One of the country’s top story consultants, Jim works with Oscar-nominated and A-List writers as well as beginners. Check out his next webinar, Writing In Your Personal Voice.

For B2W offers and free stuff first, join my EMAIL LIST

Share this:

All About Acts

People have been writing about story structure since the days of Aristotle’s tragedies. Though some of us resist structure in life, for writing screenplays it really serves an important purpose. More often than not, The Three Acts is the one most screenwriters choose to employ in creating the roadmap of their narrative so the reader doesn’t get lost. How does it work and what do these three acts need? Let’s start putting the pieces of the puzzle together.

All About Act 1

SHORT VERSION: This sets up the story and hits the who, what, where, why and when’s of the narrative.

  • An attention-grabbing opening! It doesn’t matter what genre the script is; we want to be engaged right away. Give us action, emotion or drama and do it off the bat so we want to keep reading.
  • Introductions are probably the most important things to make clear in this act. WHO are your main characters, WHAT are they doing and what do they do for a living? WHERE are they? WHY is there a story being written about them and WHEN does this story take place? The first act establishes the ORDINARY WORLD of the characters so when things get shook up, we can refer to their past. Give us their details and develop the characters enough so we know them and are in for their journey.
  • INCITING INCIDENTS are the shake up referred to above. They come about halfway through this act and hint at what the main conflict or action is going to be for our trusty or un-trusty protagonist. In Star Wars the inciting incident is when Luke Skywalker finds his family has been killed and seeks out Obi Wan Kenobi so he can become a Jedi.

All About Act 2

THE SHORT VERSION: Action, Action, we want Action … This act is where Movie Trailers are born!

  • This act is about taking on the conflict raised by the inciting incident. This is the meat of the narrative where the writer gets to throw everything they can at their protagonist. Confrontation, movement, and character and narrative development should constantly be in the mix, in this, the longest act of the script.
  • Subplots happen here. This is a good place to bring in a subplot as well so we’re not completely focused on the main characters all the time.
  • The ever important midpoint comes – you guessed it – about halfway through the script. Here, the tone shifts, either improving life or making things worse. Sometimes, it’s a big event such as when the T-Rex attacks in Jurassic Park. Mind, if your script doesn’t have a T-Rex it’s OK. Just make sure there is a big shift in the story’s tone, which makes the characters have to literally or figuratively run for their lives into the resolution.

All About Act 3


  • The final, and shortest act. This is where the tension ramps up and the protagonist overcomes odds to a happy or tragic conclusion.
  • This act in inexorably tied to Act One! If things aren’t working in this act it’s because they weren’t built up enough in the beginning of the script. Good script notes will point out what is missing so there is a feeling of closure and all the arcs initiated are ended.
  • All is lost? About halfway through this act (give or take) is the LOW POINT of the script. This is where the mentor figure or romantic partner dies or goes away and the goal the writer set out for the protagonist seems to be impossible to achieve! Remember when Obi Wan Kenobi died in Star Wars, Episode Four? That’s a big low point for the story and for Luke’s development. The rest of the act after this point is where the protagonist gets back on his proverbial horse or dies trying.

By The Way …

One more note about three act structure for good measure. No, not all scripts have to have three acts! Some have four and some really follow little structure, which can work if you can write like Quentin Tarantino or David Lynch.

However, more often than not, the three acts are there for a reason. Feel free to allow the action, drama and emotion to spill all over the place no matter what the genre … But if you follow the basics of these three acts your script will read smoothly, hit the rhythmic story beats and likely be more appealing to those all-important execs!

Happy Writing!

BIO: Jenny Frankfurt is a former literary manager and the founder of The Finish Line Script Competition where we offer 6+ pages of story notes so you can rewrite and resubmit new drafts (as many as you like) for NO EXTRA COST. We help writers follow a studio or network development process to get your script in the best shape possible — and that includes nailing that structure! Check us out at

For B2W offers and free stuff first, join my EMAIL LIST

Share this:

Lack of Structure

NEWSFLASH: lack of structure kills your characterisation. The reason for this is simple.  At fundamental level, audiences don’t watch movies or TV or read books just ‘about characters’. Instead …

We watch movies and TV or read novels about characters who DO SOMETHING for some reason

Character behaviour must inform the plot and vice versa. They are inextricably linked. Story is the sum of ALL its parts – character and structure. One cannot be more important than the other.

We all know the writing adage ‘characters are what they do’.  As consumers of storytelling, we want to invest in characters’ journeys. Those journeys may be transformative for the characters, or they may not. But at base level, if characters do not do anything, they become dull. Even a passive protagonist must be enabled to make some sort of decision by the end of the story (usually by another character’s actions!).

Writers must not concentrate ‘too much’ on characters. Yet this is precisely what they do, as standard. They underestimate the importance of plotting. This means they end up writing their stories into a corner (at best) and have a lack of story in their scripts or novels (at worst). There is JUST NOT ENOUGH there by way of character behaviour.

But what can we do about this? More, next.

Draw The Story

I get it. It’s hard to get a grip on the intangible. That’s why I am a big fan of ‘drawing the story’ and why I love visual representations of structure. If you’ve ever had notes from me or been on one of my courses, you will know the B2W model looked something like this …

I like to break down story as a ‘problem’ that needs to be solved by the protagonist. I find this approach centres me and my writers … There is a PURPOSE to both the plot and characterisation and reminds us the two are linked. When we lose sight of this, issues with our storytelling can occur.

It also helps us pinpoint where that ‘lack of story’ is most likely to happen. Over the years, I’ve noted about 80% of writers have problems with Act 2, for instance. This makes sense, because writers often concentrate most on stuff like Set Up and Pay Off. What’s BETWEEN that beginning and ending may get forgotten, or glossed over, even when outlining.

In the past year I have been mentoring more Bang2writers than ever before on various initiatives, schemes and courses. This has lead me to revise and add to my original B2W model. The new version below is based on their feedback on what they need to get a handle on the ‘lack of story’ problem.

New B2W Model

As before, the Bang2writers’ work that helped inform this new pictogram was not just spec screenplays, but novels too. The idea is only that structure and plotting means ‘beginning – middle – end’ (and not necessarily in that order). At base level, it also follows the same notion of ‘protagonist has problem’ as well.

You will notice a number of changes however, not least fact the story is ‘slanted upwards’ now. This is to reflect the idea of escalation or forwards momentum in the story. The protagonist’s actions are matched by the antagonist’s, to give us a sense of the character behaviour I mentioned earlier.

I like to call the beginning or Set Up ‘The Kick Off’. It reminds us we need to hit the ground running, even if we do use slow burn techniques. The Showdown may be literal too, or it may not … But it still needs to be the the PINNACLE of your story.

Dramatic Context is what takes us from Set Up to Pay Off … In other words from where a character starts, to where they end. As I have written before, in Horror and Thriller the Dramatic context takes our protagonist ‘flight to fight’ for example.

B2W Model With Added Tips

Remember, structure is NOT a formula, it is a framework. You can literally do whatever you like with the below! But don’t hope for the best, or pretend that structure and plot does not matter. Instead …

  • Download the structural worksheet below.
  • Plot your protagonist’s journey and how the antagonist gets in his/her way in the current draft.
  • IDENTIFY where there is that ‘lack of story’.
  • Think about the ACTIONS (behaviour) your characters can do to fill the void(s).
  • Think about how your story ESCALATES.

If you truly want your great characters to resonate, we need to be able to invest in their journeys. Don’t forget to download your new, FREE B2W structural worksheet. Enjoy!

Get Your Free Resource Now

Download Your Free B2W Structural Worksheet by clicking on the icon below.

You can also download this worksheet from The B2W Resources Page. Good luck with your projects!

Want MORE Script Reading Secrets?

My annual course with LondonSWF, BREAKING INTO SCRIPT READING is perfect not only for wannabe script readers, but savvy writers who want to know how script readers work. Can you afford to miss out?? Join us on June 23-22nd, 2019 at historic Ealing Studios!

CLICK HERE for full details of the course (or on the pic on the right), including feedback from past delegates. We expect it to sell out again, so act now to avoid disappointment. See you there!!!

For B2W offers and free stuff first, join my EMAIL LIST

Share this:

Wanted: Diverse Characters

Diverse Characters were in demand in my latest experts panel … Producers, Agents, Publishers, Script Editors and Script readers all said they wanted more of them in the year to come. This is no real surprise, since ‘more diverse characters’ has been on the the industry’s wish list for a good while now.

I am pleased to say most Bang2writers have picked up the mantle on diverse characters. Whilst there is a contingent of writers who believe diverse characters are a ‘fad’, they are mostly confined to ranting on Facebook. In the past two years in particular, I am seeing more and more diverse characters … Not only in produced content, but filtering through the spec pile. Yay!

But we’re not out of the woods yet. Where there are changing minds, there are inevitable mistakes. But that’s okay … Fromn mistakes, we learn! Here’s the Top 5 mistakes writers make with diverse characters …

1) Kick-Ass Hotties

Let me say first I have zero problem with the so-called ‘Kick-ass Hottie’ trope. This can be a fun character, plus many of my favourite movies have featured her. What’s more there have indeed been some great Kick-ass hotties who are also BRILLIANT characters. The issue is only that she turns up TOO MUCH … Not only in produced and published content.

Too often, female leads are in their teens to late twenties (occasionally their thirties and beyond). They’re also usually white, heterosexual, able-bodied and kick-ass. In other words, they’re just like their male counterparts, especially in the action genre. Time for a change!

HOW TO TWIST IT: What if she wasn’t white, heterosexual, able-bodied and/or kick-ass? Just a few small changes on this tried-and-tested trope could mean all the difference. MORE: How NOT To Write Female Characters

2) ‘Sad Trans’

In the past few years, many writers have become fascinated by transgender people. Unfortunately, those same writers seem to have become fixated on the notion that a character is automatically in emotional crisis by virtue of being trans.

Now, it’s definitely true that drama is conflict (and that drama = STRUGGLE). That said, writers are viewing the notion of being transgender as being *the problem*, usually because it is outside the scope of their personal experience. The reality is, it’s society that is more THE PROBLEM. We need only take a look at the transphobic British Press and the accusations trans people have to deal with daily to get a hint of what they go through.

The sad irony to all this is, transitioning is often a source of immense joy and self-acceptance for trans people. Finally, they get to be their authentic selves! How wonderful. So why not look at that instead.

HOW TO TWIST IT: What obstacles might a transgender person may have to face from OTHER people, instead of themselves? What if their story wasn’t a transition tale? Also, whilst we have seen quite a lot of stories about trans women now, what about trans men? What about non binary people?

3) Wise Gay Best Friends

We are at a stage in society now when most writers appear to recognise there is a difference between gender identity and sexuality. However, there are ‘classic’ character tropes that writers keep writing and just won’t go away, especially in certain genres … And none are more obvious than the Wise Gay Best Friend, AKA ‘the magical queer’.

Secondary characters help or hinder the main characters. Again, there have been some great, nuanced characters of this ilk: George in My Best Friend’s Wedding  immediately springs to mind … But so does the outrageous Tommy in Friends With Benefits (which intriguingly, assigns a mentor function to ALL the secondary characters. This neatly sidesteps the notion it’s ONLY Tommy who knows where it’s at).

This character usually performs some kind of mentor function in the romantic comedy. I’m not sure why being gay would make a character automatically wise. But writers are obsessed with this notion and it’s time to bring something new to this character.

HOW TO TWIST IT: What if your ‘Gay Best Friend’ was not wise, but a hindrance *for some reason*? Or what if s/he was wise in some OTHER way – ie. not about love or relationships? What if s/he was not in a Rom Com or comedy, but another genre, like Horror (only they don’t die!!!)? Better still, what if your gay character was the protagonist, instead of the secondary? What if their sexuality was not the driving force for the story, too? (For once!).

4) Stereotypical BAME Characters

Whether you are a person of colour or not, most writers can recognise the ridiculous assumption that black characters are ‘either’ gang members or police captains in stories. They also realise that Muslim characters are not all jihadists, or that East Asian characters are all ninjas. It’s boring, it’s lazy, it’s racist. Simple as.

But of course it’s possible to write stories with the above … They just can’t be steroetypes! They need to be nuanced and to feel 100% authentic, such as …

  • Captain Holt in Brooklyn 99 is a black, gay police officer in charge of his first precinct of officers. . He is no stereotype … Because he defies stereotype on every single level of his characterisation, rejecting all the ‘usual’ tropes audiences have come to expect.
  • In the novel The Silence Between Breaths by Cath Staincliffe, she wrote about an attack on a train that was similar to London 7/7. Whilst a young jihadist committed the atrocity, she did not present him as ‘evil’ like the tabloids. Staincliffe not only humanised him, but his family too and what happened to them afterwards. She also presented a young Asian hero who tried to stop him and saved many lives. What’s more, she contrasted the jihadist with a white man whose inherent racism and xenophobia essentially helped facilitate the attack.
  • In Pacific Rim, female lead Mako Mori has essential fighting skills – she needs them, she is in the military! But we see her fight with a staff in just one scene. Like Captain Holt, she defies the ‘usual’ stereotypes: she is neither submissive, nor sexualised.

HOW TO TWIST IT: Consider the issues characters *like* yours too often run into … Then do the exact opposite. Yes, it’s a lot of work in terms in research. But it’s the only way forwards. Start with my book on Diverse Characters, I’ve done a lot of it for you! There’s also tips on how to do your own research >> Writing Diverse Characters For Fiction, TV Or Film.

5) Missing Characters

Where are all the disabled characters (who aren’t evil or suicidal)? What about the BAME characters in historical dramas (because they were here!). How about the MALE ‘unreliable narrators’ (because 9/10 they’re female!)? Where are all the FEMALE ‘everywomen’ (because usually it’s ‘everyman)? And all  the men who need rescuing (because they do, from time to time … And for good reasons, like natural disasters – The Day After Tomorrow did this and that was back in 2004)!

The above is just for starters. There’s loads more. So where are they all? Well, hopefully in your screenplay or novel!

HOW TO TWIST IT: Research your genre, tone, or ‘type’ of story thoroughly. Watch and read everything. Consider the types of character that NORMALLY appear. Is there room for a diverse character? Why/why not? If there is, what type?

Good Luck!

Don’t Forget To Grab Your Free Book!

Grab your free book on how NOT to write female characters … CLICK HERE or on the pic. I’ve rounded up all the ‘classic’ mistakes writers make with female characters, plus what to do instead. Enjoy!

For B2W offers and free stuff first, join my EMAIL LIST

Share this:

The Comedy Awards

Earlier this week the best movie, TV and radio writers came together for The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain Awards 2019. You don’t often see writers at televised awards ceremonies. We’re an unloved category on most glitzy nights. Our natural inclination to introversion and perceived lack of dress sense define us as bad telly.

The awards aren’t televised but they do attract some of the biggest names in the business, while reminding producers, agents and commissioners how great stories and the people who tell them remain at the heart of our creative industries.

There are now three categories for best comedy. Who won? Who almost won? And what clues do these awards offer to new writers hoping to make 2019 the year of writing comedy? Let’s see …

1) Script Is (Almost) Everything

For the second year running, Sarah Kendall and her one-woman storytelling series Australian Trilogy won the award for best radio show. I was one of the judges when she won in 2018. She was the clear winner then and that was also the case this year at the awards. (That’s an astonishing achievement for a category that has in recent years rewarded some of our greatest comedy writers and performers including John Finnemore, Susan Calman, Marcus Brigstocke and Mark Steel).

Sarah’s stories are intensely personal, plus  she is the only performer in the show. As writers you may think there’s not a lot you can learn from her awards win. But I can’t recommend these stories highly enough. Listen closely! They are not just funny and moving, they’re beautifully constructed. Everything you need to know about how to write funny, gripping stories for an audience to laugh at can be heard.

KEY TAKEAWAY: Comedy can get you so far – even the funniest scripts need to make your audience desperate to find out what’s going to happen next.

2) Intentional Inclusion WORKS

The other nominations in this category were Deadlines by Jessica Hynes, and Ability by Lee Ridley and Katherine Jakeways. Lee is better known as ‘Lost Voice Guy’, the comedian with cerebral palsy who won Britain’s Got Talent.

You may notice that of the four writers nominated here, three are women and one is a male writer with disability. For many years, beginning with Jane Berthoud’s tenure as Head of Comedy around ten years ago, BBC Radio have been working hard to bring alternative voices to the station. This short list is a strong riposte to anyone who complains at the idea of positive discrimination towards unrepresented women and minorities. The judges chose these as the best three comedy shows for the awards on quality of script alone.

We still have a long way to go. BAME writers and working-class voices remain under-represented. but with a cross-party committee at Westminster looking into “how to break the class ceiling” that’s where the political energy is about to focus.

KEY TAKEAWAY: Commissioners are looking for untold stories. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from … Your best stories come from that part of the world that’s uniquely yours.

3) Don’t Hang Around – Do It Yourself

The winning entry for online comedy was the simple and effective Where Are You From? by Hannah George and Tasha Dhanraj, and the other nominees were Spokke, written and performed by Tim Grewcock and Sean Lothian, and Three Cool Days, from Arnab Chanda and Chris Hayward.

These are all short, snappy, easily accessible online videos that you should watch. Apart from being funny, they tell you what’s happening away from the incredibly shrinking universe of TV and radio commissions. They all articulate the story of comedy creators looking beyond the traditional ways of making a career in the profession and doing it for themselves.

KEY TAKEAWAY: There’s never been a better time to bring your own writing to the airwaves or the screen.

 4) Don’t Write An Audience Sitcom …

In a tight contest in the TV section Mackenzie Crook’s Detectorists beat the strong contenders Lisa McGee’s Derry Girls and Inside Number 9 by Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton.

That short list offers a pretty good range of the kind of comedy we’re seeing commissioned across the main TV channels – Crook’s warm and gentle narrative character comedy, McGee’s hilarious coming-of-age sitcom set against the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and another series of darkly original one-off tales from the League of Gentlemen alumni.

As ever in recent years, sadly there’s not an audience sitcom in sight, although Upstart Crow was a strong contender.

KEY TAKEAWAY: Look at what’s being made. Don’t copy it, but get a sense of what is making commissioners excited. BUT…

5) … Write An Audience Sitcom!

That doesn’t mean you should give up entirely on writing an audience show. All the commissioning editors say they’re still looking for them, and pressed on this at last year’s BBC Writersroom Conference, they said that wasn’t just a platitude. Honest, they really mean it.

The trouble is, audience sitcom is expensive to make, and criticism from journalism and social media is harsher than for any other form of TV. You need a thick skin and, if you’re a successful comedy performer, you can live without the hassle. On the other hand, commissioners don’t tend to get sent that many audience scripts, so even if yours isn’t selected the odds are not stacked quite so heavily against it. Spoiler Alert – it won’t get selected, but it could get you involved in working on other people’s shows.

KEY TAKEAWAY: Sure, look at what’s being made. But also study the odds. A big funny audience show script will make your submission stand out.

6) Ignore Bloody Performers

i) First the bad news

Apologies, no way round it, there’s lots of it. Look at that list of names nominated for comedy awards, 14 in all and I’m sorry to point out that 13 of them are writer-performers. In fact a better description of most of them is performer-writer, which makes it all the more galling when you consider these awards are primarily for writers.

Ever since The Young Ones exploded onto our TV screens in 1982, the writer-performer has become the default first call for producers and commissioners, who spend far more time nowadays going to gigs than reading scripts. Yes, it’s annoying that for decades we were happy to celebrate the genius of Galton & Simpson, Carla Lane, John Sullivan, Eddie Braben, David Renwick, Clement & Le Frenais and Croft & Perry on the strength of their writing alone. But now you’re going to have to do more than create your perfect sitcom and send it off to a couple of producers in the hope of instant success.

ii) But now the good news

The good news is that the do-it-yourself alternative, which was always a high-risk, high-cost way of producing something that looked like an inferior version of the real thing, is now a viable option. And thanks to the Writers’ Guild online award you can raise your profile quite quickly.

You can write your own podcasts, online sitcoms or single sketches, and get them made. You will need to get out and meet people – being a writer, that could be the hardest part – but there is an army out there of performers, camera crew, editors and marketing gurus who need you. There are millions of them, but there are only a few really good writers. Your script still needs to be brilliant of course.

KEY TAKEAWAY: The internet is awash with well-made, well-performed, poorly written comedy. You can be the difference.

Finally …

 7) Don’t Be Afraid Of Drama

Finally, let’s look at that monstrous hybrid that commissioners and producers say they’re looking for: the great comedy-drama. Almost every session at that Writersroom conference talked about the search for this as their brave new quest. Writers, understandably, were keen to understand what was meant by the phrase. Commissioners, also understandably, were keen not to pin down narrow definitions. Honestly it’s an easier question to ask, “what kind of Brexit do you want?”

i) It’s not dramedy or comedy-drama, but ‘drama WITH comedy’

It’s hard enough to get comedy right, making an audience laugh and cry at the same time is an even harder skill, and when it works it makes your show soar. Frasier, Friends, The Simpsons, that great trio of American sitcoms from the 90s, didn’t just add drama to the comedy, it was built into those shows’ DNA. Who can forget the powerful pilot episode Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire?, which re-imagined the classic Christmas movie It’s A Wonderful Life.

Again this news is not a source of immediate comfort to comedy writers. No, not comedy-drama. The winning shows are ‘drama WITH comedy’.  That matters, because they were all made by drama departments. Drama is more glamorous, it has bigger stars and bigger budgets. And critics are always far more excited by dramas that manage to be funny than comedy that also tells a story.

ii) Know your genre – and where your favourites started

What’s especially relevant for comedy writers is that the winning writers in the drama section – Phoebe Waller-Bridge for Best Long Form Drama with Killing Eve; Russell T Daviesfor A Very British Scandal (Short Form); plus Jonathan Harvey for his work on Coronation Street (Long Running) – have all spent many hours at the comedy coal-face.

You probably know that Waller-Bridge enjoyed great accolades for Fleabag on BBC3 already. You may be less aware of the comedy backgrounds of Harvey … He wrote the hugely successful sitcom Gimme Gimme Gimme. Also Davies, best known for Doctor Who and Queer As Folk, began his career writing comedy scripts for Childrens’ TV.

iii) Think NARRATIVE

The solution I think is to take the comedy commissioners at their word. We need to find ways of incorporating stronger narratives into our comedy shows … We also need to explore in greater detail what else we need to do to grab their attention! So throughout this year, I’ll be blogging about ways to make your comedy more dramatic and your drama funnier. This will be useful to anyone planning to enter the BBC Writersroom comedy submission period.

KEY TAKEAWAY: If you can write jokes, great. Now it’s time to learn how to tell stories. 

BIO: Dave Cohen has been writing and performing comedy for 35 years. His credits include Not Going Out, Have I Got News For You, Spitting Image and My Family. He writes most of the songs for Horrible Histories, including for the movie which is out this summer. His book The Complete Comedy Writer is out now. He’s also running classes in March about creating sitcom and comedy drama, and bringing out the best of both. Details HERE.

For B2W offers and free stuff first, join my EMAIL LIST

Share this:

Comedy Heavyweights

If you want to learn, ask the masters … and wow, does Bang2write have some real comedy heavyweights on the site today! I’m delighted to welcome Paula Finn to B2W, who has interviewed the comedy greats and compiled their comedy mastery in her book, which you can find on Amazon. For a taste of what you can find there, check out these nuggets of wisdom from the masters below. Don’t forget to check out Paula’s book either. Enjoy!

Learning From The Masters

Over the last few years, I’ve enjoyed in-depth conversations with over 50 successful comedy TV writers. Here for me, are the most important takeaways:

1) Get real

Carl Reiner believes the truth of the material and the actors is critical to any show’s success. In his words, “Once in a while you get a fanciful idea for a show and sometimes that carries it for a time … but really, there’s nothing better than the truth.”

Phil Rosenthal makes the same point: “… As long as you stay in the real world, in the world that’s believable and relatable — then you really can’t go wrong.”

Janet Leahy suggests that writers do research to get to what’s real:

“If you’re stuck for a story or if you’re stuck in the middle of a story and you don’t know how to get yourself out of it— ask yourself what would really happen in this situation. A lot of times writers will make things up, and that’s why they feel a little awkward, because they haven’t done enough research. Even in comedy you can do research. And the more truth you find, the more creative your storytelling becomes…go out and do research, meet people, read books, whatever you need to do —but the truth always helps you.”

2) Know your characters

Hal Kanter illustrates the importance of knowing your characters with one of his favorite anecdotes. The story is from the Amos ‘n’ Andy radio show, but it applies equally to screenwriting:

“All of the writers were sitting in the room with the actors putting together the final script. And we were trying to get a line for the Kingfish; nobody was happy with the line that we had. Everybody was throwing lines back and forth, back and forth. It was a large group of writers, all of whom were excellent, and nobody came up with a line.

I finally turned to Freeman Gosden who was the headman and also played the part of the Kingfish. I said, “If the Kingfish himself were to come into this room right now, and you were to explain to him what the problem was, what do you think he would say?” And Freeman immediately shifted into the character and he said, “Well, boy” — whatever the line was — and we all fell down laughing. That was the perfect line! Even Freeman himself was startled by the fact that that character had come out of nowhere.

That was a lesson we all learned; you have to know your characters before you sit down and write. And he knew his so well that the Kingfish actually came alive.”

3) You gotta have heart: the power of drama in comedy.

When attempting to explain the success of The Simpsons, Mike Reiss feels “The key thing on The Simpsons is you’ve always got to have some heart in there. But not too much … If you throw in 25 seconds of emotion right at the end. If Homer can be a goof the whole show and then suddenly realise he’s been bad — that will be very powerful to people.”

Phil Rosenthal thinks the poignancy of something beautiful expressed by two people “grounds them as characters; it grounds them as believable. Because we’re not just ha-ha funny all the time.”

Currently teaching at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, Ken Estin says, “I tell my students that if the show has heart, if it has a soul, if it has those human elements that are so precious to us — it’ll be a better episode. I always thought about finding a really human moment, a really touching moment.”    

And how do writers integrate the drama or emotion with the humour?

In David Isaacs’ view, it depends on “whether or not the characters and story have a capacity to deal with real issues and real humanity.”

He uses Frasier as an example:

“The show Frasier was able to do that because the feelings between Martin and Frasier were so strong, and they were such opposites in who they were that their clashes and conflicts could come down to very real father-son attitudes. You could actually have a moment that was fairly dramatic — not for long — but you wouldn’t worry about getting a laugh.”

4) Even great writers get blocked

James L. Brooks described his struggles while writing Terms of Endearment:

“… I was stuck. I was stuck in my script, and I couldn’t go backwards and I couldn’t go forwards. And I spent every day blushing. I’d literally be blushing … It was just intolerable. I went out one night, and there was a concert pianist there who did pretty well all over the country, but he had never played New York. He had a fear of what that would be if he played New York. I described what was happening to me, the blushing and stuff. He said, “Oh, that’s a state of shame.”

It helped me enormously that there was a name for it, which meant I wasn’t the only one in the world who ever experienced it. I don’t know what happened from there; I know I went to Hawaii and had a small room at a friend’s house, and I had the illusion that I had cracked the whole thing. And I had one of the most euphoric moments in my life. It turned out I hadn’tcracked the whole thing. But the feeling that I had cracked the whole thing released me from all the tentacles of that writer’s block.”

I asked the writers for their strategies in overcoming a block:

Hal Kanter said he’d call a friend to see if they could help “prime the pump” for him. David Isaacs’s advice is “Just keep moving forward.”

Sol Saks believed writer’s block is usually a lack of conflict, which is the basis of drama:

“If you’re writing a scene and you don’t know what to write, the answer to it is, you have no conflict.” And Leonard Stern gives his prescription: “Actually, I don’t know a writer who hasn’t suffered from writer’s block, and the cure is always the same: patience, patience, and then, if necessary … more patience.”

5) The rules aren’t for them: these writers trust their instincts 

When I asked Carl Reiner if he uses any rules or formulas for joke construction, he responded, “No, I think the seat of your pants. If you’re a real writer, you don’t worry about the technique of it; you go by the seat of your pants.”

Leonard Stern spoke of ‘the undefinable’:

“There’s a formularization for many jokes, but it’s very hard to explain. Suddenly you have that humorous insight into something. I’ve discussed this very often with Larry Gelbart, who is probably the most gifted writer and satirist by nature. He’s extremely articulate, and he couldn’t stop the flow of humor. He often said, “I wish I could just write this straight, I’d like to see how I think” — because his writing always had that surprising twist. And he himself was surprised by the direction his thoughts took him.So it’s always been hard to define that. . . that odd perception or perspective of life . . . the capturing of a moment of absurdity. I never could define it; I just knew it existed.”

Ken Estin agrees:

“I’ve read rules but I never worked that way, and I’ve never known anyone who did. We all just go by what our gut tells us. I don’t think you can do it by mechanical means. You have to do it by instinct, and experience, and intuition — and all those kinds of vague feelings you have as a human being. When I write a scene, I have to put myself in the situation. And although I won’t laugh out loud, I can feel the difference between something that’s funny and something that doesn’t sound quite right. The formulas don’t really work because comedy is based so much on rhythms. Sometimes just the right word is funny, and you’re not sure why.”

But Arnie Kogen surprised with this comment:

“The set-up comes before the punchline. That’s the rule I use. And you can take that to the bank … whatever banks are left!”

BIO: Sitcom Writers Talk Shop: Behind the Scenes with Carl Reiner, Norman Lear, and Other Geniuses of TV Comedy is a collection of conversations with the writers responsible for some of the most memorable shows in television comedy.  Paula Finn —the daughter of Honeymooners writer Herbert Finn—has authored ten gift books including Believe in Yourself, When Love Isn’t Easy, and Make This Your Day.

The Masters Themselves

Cast of characters (in alphabetical order):

  1. James L. Brooks: Room 222 (Creator), Mary Tyler Moore (Co-Creator), Taxi (Co-Creator), The Tracey Ullman Show (Co-Creator), The Simpsons (Co-Developer)
  2. Tom Caltabiano: Everybody Loves Raymond
  3. Ken Estin: Taxi, Cheers, The Tortellis (Creator), The Tracey Ullman Show (Creator), Almost Perfect
  4. David Isaacs: M*A*S*H, Mary (Co-Creator), The Simpsons, Wings, Cheers, Almost Perfect (Co-Creator), Becker, Frasier
  5. Hal Kanter: (1918-2011)The Ed Wynn Show, The George Gobel Show, The Milton Berle Show, Valentine’s Day, Julia (Creator),All in the Family
  6. Arnie Kogen: The Dean Martin Show, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The Bob Newhart Show, The Carol Burnett Show, Newhart, Empty Nest
  7. Janet Leahy: Newhart, Major Dad, The Cosby Show, Roseanne, Boston Legal, Mad Men
  8. Bill Masters: Seinfeld, Grace Under Fire, Caroline in the City, Murphy Brown
  9. Carl Reiner: Your Show of Shows, Caesar’s Hour, The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show (Creator), The New Dick Van Dyke Show (Creator),Lotsa Luck(Co-Creator)
  10. Mike Reiss: Sledge Hammer!, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, ALF, It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, The Simpsons, The Critic (Co-Creator)
  11. Phil Rosenthal: Coach, Everybody Loves Raymond (Creator)
  12. Sol Saks: (1910–2011): My Favorite Husband, Mr. Adams and Eve, Bewitched (Creator)
  13. Steve Skrovan: Seinfeld, Everybody Loves Raymond, ‘Til Death, Hot in Cleveland
  14. Leonard Stern: (1923–2011): The Jackie Gleason Show, The Honeymooners, The Phil Silvers Show, I’m Dickens, He’s Fenster (Creator), He & She (Creator), Get Smart, The Governor & J.J. (Co-Creator), McMillan & Wife (Creator)

For B2W offers and free stuff first, join my EMAIL LIST

Share this:

Rise of the Spec TV Pilot

Every screenwriter alive wants to write a great pilot episode of their own, if the spec pile is anything go by. When I started B2W back in the day, I hardly ever saw spec TV pilot episodes of any kind. Fast-forward fifteen years and I would venture I read more spec TV pilot episodes than anything else! It also means THE most popular article on this entire site is How To Write TV Series Bibles – over 130K+ unique hits now. Wow!

That said, spec TV pilot episodes are notoriously difficult to write. Whilst many in the spec pile are pretty good, they’re rarely a great example of a FIRST episode. With this in mind then, I am going to look at the Friends pilot as a case study, plus what it can teach us about writing episode 1 of our own series. Enjoy!

The Friends Phenomenon

We hear a lot online about how dated (or not!) Friends has become, but that’s the nature of comedy and time. The fact is, regardless of how you feel about the jokes, the show actually holds up very well on a craft level. As a result Friends remains a classic, especially considering so many screenwriters want to write a ‘flat share comedy’. This is one of the best examples of making it work, plus producers are always interested in good sitcoms. When so few in the spec pile are good, it’s a great idea to work why successful and iconic ones WORKED.

In addition, people all over the world still love this show, waaaaaay after the fact. Check out instagram and other social media for pics and accounts, there is an INSANE amount! What’s more, Friends still brings Warner Brothers a reported $1 BILLION YEAR. That’s also an INSANE amount of money, so it’s no wonder producers love the idea of finding more like it.

Do Your Research

So, love it or loathe Friends (or maybe you are a youngster and can take it or leave it!),itcan teach us A LOT as writers. The show has made it back to Netflix in its entirety, which means it’s easy to find and watch again. You may have been a Friends-holic back in the day, but TRUST ME … You won’t remember it exactly as it was, so DO be sure to check out and watch the pilot in conjunction to this post.

Also, one other thing: make sure you read the original, first draft pilot script as a PDF, HERE. You will see there are some significant differences, starting with the title (‘Friends like us’?? Seriously?). But whatever … Research people! Can I *be* any more clear?? (Couldn’t resist).

Anatomy Of An Awesome Pilot

The Basics

As described by Wikipedia, a pilot episode is a standalone episode of a television series that is used to sell the show to a television network. Put simply, the pilot is meant to be the testing ground to gauge whether a series will be successful. Some people believe the pilot is dead now streaming services like Netflix and Amazon are changing the television landscape. Whatever the case, if you are writing a spec TV drama, you need a first episode (whether we call it a pilot or not).

Literally everyone wants a ‘good story, well told’ from their entertainment. What that means can depend on who is reading/watching it, of course. But at craft level, there’s just two things EVERY spec script needs, pilot or not …

  • Great Characters
  • Great plotting/ structure

In the case of a sitcom pilot like Friends, the pilot also needs to be FUNNY. Note this doesn’t mean just funny dialogue (though it is a big part of it). Being funny is about …

  1. The tone the show sets, right from the offset
  2. Character-specific ‘funny’ – no one character is funny the SAME way
  3. Characters still need to be authentic and holistic
  4. Sitcom is HIGHLY STRUCTURED – got to pack a lot into just 20-30 minutes!
  5. There needs to be a lot going on plot-wise too. Characters can’t just sit around, ‘being funny’ endlessly.

This all means that even if you’re not writing a sitcom yourself, studying them can really help you get to grips with characterisation and structure. With the five pointers above in mind then, I am going to look at characters and structure in the Friends pilot, plus what we can learn. Note that I am going by the produced version we all know, NOT the first draft screenplay (beyond the character descriptions). Are you ready? Let’s go …

The Characters

Everyone has a favourite Friends character. Back in the day, mine was always Chandler. (I know, I know, BIG surprise given I definitely play snarky hands right out of The Bing-A-Ling’s handbook). Anyway, here are the original character descriptions of each character:

As you can see from the PDF, the pilot might have changed drastically from script to screen, but the characters haven’t really. Chandler’s snack-tastic habits ended up as Joey’s, plus I would add ‘self-pitying’ to Ross’ bio. Phoebe also has a stupendously sad back story. Otherwise, the bios are pretty much on point.

Fans of the show all have a favourite Friends character. Though it’s by no means a diverse cast by modern standards, each of them is highly differentiated from one another. There’s a strong contrast between each of them, not just in terms of jobs but personal outlook and experience. Even Monica and Ross as siblings have different outlooks on life.

What’s more, the bonds of the group are strengthened by a shared personal history. Ross and Chandler were room-mates in college; Monica and Rachel were best friends in school, who then lost touch. . Even Joey and Phoebe, the ‘outsiders’ in the group, are bonded to the rest of them by living with the others. Ross being Monica’s brother brings a new dynamic to the group, too.

What Can Writers Learn?

We need to write highly differentiated characters that will bring viewers in, investing in their favourite. We also need to write great roles for actors, who will give their all to that character. Characterisation is the foundation of great TV writing, especially sitcoms. One of the conventions of sitcoms is that they ‘reset to zero’ (more or less) each episode. So it’s those characters bring viewers back, week in, week out (or make them binge-watch series on Netflix and Amazon!).

All About Structure And Plotting

The Friends Pilot is called ‘The One Where Monica Gets A Room-mate’. The Netflix listing for it says:

Rachel runs from her wedding and meets the friends in the coffee place. Ross is depressed about his divorce but he still has a crush on Rachel (22 mins). 

Remember, I am looking to the produced version of the pilot. At twenty two minutes, I’d argue there’s roughly 4 ‘blocks’ of story (or Acts!), of approximately 5 minutes each. (This makes sense, based on the notion of ad breaks on 1990s networks, so 2 Acts per half with an ad break in the middle. Whether this type of will remain in the age of streaming remains to be seen).  So here we go …

Introducing The Friends

We start at Central Perk, the coffee place – Monica, Chandler, Joey and Phoebe are there (no Ross or Rachel). Monica is talking about her date that is NOT a date. We get the feeling she is a dating disaster (character-specific from her bio!). Joey makes a comedic remark about her going out with losers (NOT character-specific, but setting the tone – ‘this is a comedy’). Chandler then makes another comedic remark about losers, that is also character-specific. Phoebe then makes it clear what a space cadet she is.

From there, we get more character-specific stuff. As a comedy, the pilot can get away with a significant amount more dialogue than average. (Plus Chandler leads this scene, whose comedy is primarily dialogue-based). Then Ross turns up, depressed. There are more jokes, plus Joey’s characterisation comes more into focus here. Monica is introduced as Ross’ sister, though crucially no one mentions this. Instead it’s made obvious by the way she is maternal towards him, plus she seems to know a lot more than the others about his life (‘Carol moved her stuff out today’).

Ross declares, ‘I just want to be married again’ … Rachel appears, dressed in a wedding dress! More jokes, primarily from Chandler and Joey. It becomes clear Rachel was specifically looking for Monica. Her characterisation as a spoiled princess comes into play straight away, with Ross having to put sugar in her coffee FOR her.

What’s more, Rachel’s appearance utilises the age-old plotting technique of what I call ‘the intro scene’. This means bringing a new character into an established group and literally introducing them to everyone. Lots of Bang2writers resist using this in their spec TV pilots (whether sitcom or drama series) because they think it is ‘lazy writing’ or ‘too blatant’. It is not. It is necessary exposition.

What Can Writers Learn?

Even though the friends don’t physically DO anything particularly dynamic in the first five minutes of the show, there’s still a lot HAPPENING. They are not just sitting around, telling jokes. Very quickly, Act 1 establishes what the story is in terms of tone and genre. It also establishes who the characters are, what they are like, plus what their problems are … Monica is nervous about her date. Ross is depressed about his divorce. Rachel has jilted Barry at the altar. Crucially, this all happens HAND IN HAND. The Friends pilot also uses the ‘intro scene’ technique – because this is NOT ‘lazy writing’, it’s needed!

Story Strands In Friends

So, as established by Act 1, there are essentially 3 ‘story strands’ to Friends, which it continued through the series in most, if not all, its episodes. Before this, more often the traditional sitcom structural method was two strands like in The Simpsons. The popularity of Friends changed this. We’re now far more likely to see three, especially in US sitcoms (and drama series, too).

  • Monica’s date with Paul The Wine Guy (which obviously ends in disaster, after he ‘plays’ her)
  • Rachel on the run from her wedding and what she’s going to do about it (she ends up cutting up her credit cards and getting a job downstairs at Central Perk)
  • Ross is depressed about his divorce, but rekindles his high school crush for Rachel

Story Strands in the Acts

These strands are ‘woven’ together in the course of the episode. As mentioned, each of the four Acts (five with a ‘tag scene’ at the end) are approximately 5 minutes and worked out something like this:

  • Act 2 – Takes place entirely in Monica’s apartment. The Friends watch television as Rachel argues with her father on the phone. Monica’s date arrives. They go out, the boys and Phoebe prepare to leave. Rachel insists to Monica that she will be fine alone.
  • Act 3 – Ross’ apartment. He is still depressed about Carol. He makes furniture with Joey and Chandler, who try and give him advice to ‘get back on the horse’. at a Japanese restaurant, Monica eats out with Paul the wine guy who tells her about *his* divorce. Back at Monica’s, Rachel is on the phone again, this time to Barry’s answer machine.
  • Act 4 – At Monica’s, Rachel makes coffee for Joey and Chandler, does a terrible job. We hear about their jobs. We see Monica at work; turns out Paul the wine Guy is a rat. At Central Perk, Rachel has to realise she can’t live on her Dad’s credit cards. They all cut them up at Monica’s apartment and this is where we hear about Phoebe’s tragic backstory. Ends with Ross and Rachel sharing a cookie.
  • Tag Scene – that last credits scene that Friends was so famous for … In this first one, Rachel appears serving coffee at Central Perk. She has a job!  From episode 2, there will be a pre-credits sequence too. Sometimes these will be teasers, setting up the episode. Other times there will be ‘cold opens’, which are disconnected, comedic and character-specific sequences to get a laugh.

BTW – you’ll note Phoebe doesn’t *do* a lot in this pilot episode! This is a clever move, because she is a free spirit. When the guys ask her to assemble furniture with them, she says ‘Oh I can’t … because I don’t wanna.‘ That, combined with cleansing auras, singing randomly and announcing her tragic back story, does enough to establish her in the group. Anything else might have been overkill.

What Can Writers Learn?

The Friends pilot makes all this look easy, but it’s damn hard writing. Good structure and plotting is about starting as you mean to go on … Introduce your characters and story TOGETHER. Identify the ‘story strands’ and weave them together across your pilot episode. If it helps, write each strand out individually into separate beats, colour coding them as Story Strand 1, 2, or 3. Then cut them up or write on index cards. Physically move each colour-coded card around until they are in the ‘right’ place in your plot. (There’s software that help you can do this too, if you prefer – Final Draft has this feature).

Good Luck!

My annual course with LondonSWF, BREAKING INTO SCRIPT READING is perfect not only for wannabe script readers, but savvy writers who want to know how script readers work. Can you afford to miss out?? Join us on June 22-23rd, 2019 at historic Ealing Studios!

CLICK HERE for full details of the course (or on the pic on the right), including feedback from past delegates. We expect it to sell out again, so act now to avoid disappointment. See you there!!!

For B2W offers and free stuff first, join my EMAIL LIST

Share this:

Wanted: Great Stories & Fresh Voices

What we all want is a ‘good story, well told’. That’s a given. But what does this really mean? In part 2 of my expert panel this week, I asked the industry pros a second question …

What types of stories, tropes, characters, genres, story worlds (etc) would you like to see MORE of in 2019?

Here’s what they replied with, below. Again, as you will no doubt see, these are not the prescriptive demands many writers believe they need to ‘sell out’ to. As with the previous post, diversity, new takes on genre and fresh perspectives are all top of their wish lists.

It’s also worth remembering what we’re talking about is GOOD RESEARCH and a proper submissions strategy. There’s no point submitting your fantastic novel or script to someone who doesn’t ‘dig’ that kind of story! Don’t forget to check out the submissions checklist in the PDF gallery on the B2W Resource page, too. Here we go …

1) ‘Surprises and humour’ – Kate Leys

What I’d love to see more of are stories that surprise me with their awkward characters and awkward truths (even huge budget action movies).  Scripts with big, punchy stories (even if they’re set in one tiny location).  And stories that are genuinely funny.

BIO: Kate Leys is a story editor (this year Pin cushion, American Animals and Benjamin), and can be found at

 2) ‘Surprising genre’ – Annabel Wigoder

More interesting, original horror – where’s the British Get Out? Smart ideas like The Guilty (a Danish thriller set entirely in a police emergency call centre) or I, Tonya, a female-led biopic executed in a really unexpected, blackly comic way.

BIO: Annabel Wigoder is Head of Development for Salon Pictures, working across film and TV. She has projects in development with Channel 4 and the BFI, and just produced her first feature documentary.

 3) ‘More proactive diversity, including class’ – Hattie Grunewald

I’d love more class and income-diversity in protagonists. Fiction is becoming so filled with affluent middle-class characters, across all genres, while readers are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet. I’d like more love stories – I worry we’re losing in touch with the great epic romances readers always connect with. And I’d like to see more proactive diversity in the characters in stories – people of colour, disabled people, LGBT people… Fiction reflecting the wide variety of experiences in life.

BIO: Hattie is an agent at Blake Friedmann agency, representing women’s fiction, crime and thriller, YA and Middle grade, and non-fiction. Read more about what she’s looking for, HERE.

4) ‘Grounded and gritty’ – Justine Owens

At Shore Scripts, we work closely with our amazing roster of 100+ Industry professionals. For 2019 I think it’s time for the resurgence of grounded, gritty dramas, female-driven sci-fi, and somewhat surprisingly, true stories.

BIO: Justine Owens is the Director of Contests at Shore Scripts. For six years, Shore Scripts has been working to open industry doors for a greater number of screenwriters; developing their writing skills, providing professional consultation, and most importantly, connecting them with industry professionals. In that time, we’ve helped 50+ writers gain representation, sell, and have their screenplays produced. You can follow Shore Scripts on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

5) ‘New And Distinct Voices’ – Erick Kwashie

What would be good is to just hear new and distinct voices. At the moment there seems to be a lot of bandwagony ‘diverse’ and ‘female-led’ stories that aren’t necessarily providing the POVs of their ‘lead’ characters. It’s more of a ‘let’s tell the same old stories but sprinkle some ‘diversity’ on them.’ So it would be good just to see some characterisation/storytelling that feels authentic, unique and fearless. Teach us or at least show us something new!

BIO: Erick Kwashie is a script reader and recent NFTS graduate with a background in film and TV production. He is aiming for a future in script editing and development.

6) ‘Characters that surprise and challenge us’ – Michelle Goode-Smith

I’d like to see more stories that aren’t reliant upon outdated or non-challenging environments or defined by stereotyped characters/behaviours. I’d like to see characters and stories that surprise us and challenge us to see things differently. I love stories that completely draw us into the authenticity of the characters regardless of their type or environment. I’d like to see more crime stories from unusual perspectives and character studies that are fresh and compelling. Think Killing Eve.

BIO: Michelle Goode-Smith (@Sofluid) offers help with feedback, development, proofreading and editing via her Writesofluid website, which you can find HERE.

7) ‘More contained stories’ – Tom Chucas

I’d love to see more stories that aren’t based on a source material e.g. a book. While I understand the intent behind it, I miss shows like Breaking Badthat felt completely new. What I love most is when so much is done with so little, so I think I would like to see more contained stories which have to rely on the fundamentals of drama.

BIO:Tom Chucas is a graduate of Bournemouth University’s Scriptwriting for Film and Television course. Currently working in script reading and copywriting.

8) ‘Dark Horror’ – Betsy Reavley

‘I would like to see a return to darker stories. Although cosy crime is extremely popular currently, particularly among eBook readers, I would like to find work that has a little more horror injected into the narrative. In 2018 Hollywood stood up and gave horror films the attention they deserve, with movies such as A Quiet Place and Hereditary … I think and hope that the publishing industry can find a way to embrace that also. I believe there is a demand for psychological horror that is not yet being met.’

BIO: Betsy Reavley is an author of eight novels, two collections of poetry and is the publishing director and co-founder of Bloodhound Books. She lives in Cambridge where she works side by side with her husband doing what she loves best bringing stories to market, while trying to juggle being a mother.

9) ‘Stories that resonate’ – Annelie Widholm

Open-minded, character-driven and politically-aware story-telling always appeals, but there are a thousand ways to tell your story. You should find the reason you want to tell it – the resonating answer to your thematic question – and write what moves and inspires you. Genre doesn’t matter, as long as you believe in what you want your movie to say. Two hours of blast-away escapism? Go for it! But to stand out in the crowd find what makes the escapism resonate with an audience.

BIO:Annelie Widholm has earned her reader stripes working with well-established production companies in London, where she also lives and writes on her own screenplays, usually with a cup of coffee nearby. And woolly socks on her feet. And sometimes there’s chocolate. (there’s almost always chocolate).

10) ‘Texture and BITE!’ – Katie McCullough

We need more fully-rounded narratives FULL STOP! I’ve watched so many trite and flimsy characters & worlds that it’s tiresome. Give me texture any day and give it bite.

BIO:Katie McCullough is founder of Festival Formula, a consultancy company that helps filmmakers navigate the worldwide festival circuit. She’s a graduate of Bournemouth Media School and Royal Court London.

11) ‘Varied female characters and more original takes’ – Alizée Musson

  • More female protagonists that aren’t Damsels in Distress, Femme Fatales or Manic Pixie Dream Girls: Although I have read many scripts with females protagonists this year, most of these characters often fall within the above 3 categories. As a woman, I find it difficult to identify with these three character types. I’d like to meet a relatable female protagonist in 2019 that takes me on an unexpected journey through her story.
  • Rom Coms with an original take: I’ve read too many young adult boy meets young adult girl stories this year, it would be nice to see a story that explores the complexity of relationships with characters of different ages at different stages of a relationship.
  •  Stories not set in a Western Culture with characters that aren’t Westerners: This mainly applies to stories set in the real world as opposed to science fiction or fantasy ones. Off the top of my head, I can only recall reading two scripts set outside of Europe or North America this year. These two scripts really stood out to me as the stories they told explored local cultures or issues that I knew nothing about and rarely saw onscreen. I’d like to see more of these stories in films that make me travel and learn about a different part of the world.

BIO: Alizée Musson is a script reader/editor and translator working in French and English in the film, animation, and web content sectors. She also writes both screenplays and prose fiction and has previously been long-listed for the “Borders” Short Story Competition organised by Penguin Random House. Follow @beyondiimagine.

12) ‘More genre with something to say’ – Hayley McKenzie

I’d love to see more genre scripts (especially thriller, horror and action) with something to say, in the way that Get Out or the Amazon Studios recent adaptation of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan did.

BIO: Hayley McKenzie is the founder of Script Angeland an experienced film and television drama executive. You can find Script Angel on Twitter @scriptangel1 and on their blog.

13) ‘Morally ambiguous characters & strong writer voices’ – Tim Berry

The screenplays that stand out the most to me are those with characters that have a strong internal conflict and those who behave in morally ambiguous ways. Whatever the genre, I’d like to see more ‘good’ characters doing bad things, or even antagonists doing the wrong thing for the right reasons; morality is rarely black and white but some of the least engaging screenplays I’ve read often make a clear distinction between heroes and villains. People are complex and I would personally like to see more characters who reflect this – sometimes people we like do things that we don’t.

As writers it’s important to develop a voice but that’s not to be confused with giving each character ‘your’ voice. Writers must allow themselves to disagree with their protagonists, to try to see a situation through their perspective and, when not writing, to listen to other people. Eavesdrop on conversations in public, in cafes, on the bus, learn to recognise the ways in which individuals use language in unique ways and try to understand the ways they think and try to capture this. A story which follows a familiar narrative feels new when told through fresh and complex characters.

BIO:Tim Berry is a writer and director, who has developed projects for both stage and screen. After spending seven years working in independent film distribution, he trained as a script editor with NFTS and has most recently worked with Shore Scripts, for their short film fund and their TV/feature contests.

14) ‘Diverse youth in the past’ – Abel Diaz

More youth-based historical drama. As we into move a more diverse, as well as younger, landscape of media, can we get more content about the challenges and experiences of youth in the past? How did they deal with issues that still face teens today (sexuality, work, faith, maturity and independence, politics) and how did that society view these issues? What was, say, being gay like in Roman or Medieval times? How did young girls find self-worth and value in Victorian society?

BIO:Abel Diaz worked as a reader for Lime Pictures (Hollyoaks) and Big Light (Medici) after securing an MA in Screenwriting from Met Film School. I have also written for the award-winning CBeebies series PABLO. Follow my Facebook for more updates and news, as well as well as my blog Abel’s Magic Lantern, for all sorts of writing tips and tricks, including my ‘Screenwriting Advice for BA Students… From a Masters Grad’ series. 

15) ‘A new direction for your genre’ – Karen Sullivan

What we look for are books that push a genre in a new direction and present an entirely new take on it; in fact, I’d go so far as to say that books that weave through numerous genres are increasingly popular (i.e., in the case of Susi Holliday’s The Lingering or Matt Wesolowski’s Changeling, which encompasses bits of horror, domestic noir, even supernatural and some gothic); rather than alienate readers, I think they open the doors to new reading habits.

I love books that have strong social messages, that unpick the fabric of society, poke its underbelly. These are the books that people will remember, that will provoke thought, perhaps open minds. While everyone enjoys a comfort read, literature plays a key role in educating and enlightening, while providing first-class entertainment, and I’d like to see more of that. A good example of this is Will Carver’s Good Samaritans, which manages to turn the mirror back on the reader and provide some genuine moments of discomfort. I love a first-class action thriller, like Steph Broadribb’s Lori Anderson series, an often discounted, under-represented and poorly executed genre; in the right hands, it can be fabulous! I will always, always want to see great-quality books in translation, too.

BIO: Karen Sullivan is founder and publisher of Orenda Books, a small independent publishing company focussing on literary fiction, with a heavy emphasis on crime/thrillers, and about half in translation. She was a Bookseller Rising Star in 2016, and Orenda Books has been shortlisted twice for the IPG Best Newcomer Award.

16) ‘Romances that actually stay the course’ – Jenny Kane

It would be great to see films/series where a couple are happy together- and remain that way despite the rigours of the storyline. Shocking I know – but some people stay in love.

BIO: Jenny Kane is the co-manager of Imagine Creative Writing. An experienced writing tutor, Jenny mentors future novelists, short story authors and audio scriptwriters in the South West of England. Follow @imagine_writingand @JennyKaneAuthor.

17) ‘Write what YOU love’ – Andrew Oldbury

Be honest. Write about the characters & worlds that you love, not the ones you think people want to hear about. If you try to chase trends they’ll be gone before your script is ever made.

BIO: Andrew is a Script Editor and BIFA & RTS nominated Producer, whose credits include: Agatha Raisin, Endeavour, Holby City & Coronation Street. He trained at the National Film & Television School. Twitter: @AndrewOldbury.

18) ‘Engaging drama about political divisions’ – Rosalie Faithfull

I’d like to read something that tackles the current divisive political situation in the UK in an engaging and interesting way. It’s so important and yet so dry at the same time, a good drama might help us engage healthily.

BIO: Rosalie Faithfull is a former short film producer, now a freelance script reader and script editor working in both television and film.

19) ‘Smart genre that twists expectations & has something to say’ – Jim Cirile

It’s all about understanding the expectations/tropes and going in the opposite direction. Just need to throw “WTF?” moments at viewers constantly. Just check out the brilliant Breaking Bad pilot for example. Readers and executives had ADHD. You need to anticipate they have the attention span of gnats and write in a way that grabs them and does not let go. If you do that, you can re-invert any of the “DOA” genres I mentioned in the last post and attract attention.

Apart from that, there is definitely a clamouring for smart thrillers; acerbic, character-driven comedy; crime; fresh action (in other words, it cannot feel like something from 1996); certain kinds of sci-fi; and things that speak to the human condition. WHY are you telling this story? Does the theme have something to say? Does it give us food for thought? As well, horror is an evergreen, especially supernatural horror.

Lastly, be smart about budget — whatever you write, remember, you do not have a blank check. Those huge budget Marvel movies — yeah, not you. You can have some big set pieces, sure, but showing that you can rein in costs will show producers you are a savvy writer.

BIO: Jim Cirile is the founder and CEO of Coverage Ink, LLC, the screenplay analysis and development experts since 2002. He writes regularly about the biz for The Wrap and is also a writer/producer/musician. His animated horror film TO YOUR LAST DEATH, starring Morena Baccarin, Ray Wise and William Shatner, premieres in 2019.

20) ‘The REAL and the revolutionary’ – Barry Ryan

Revolutions of the mind, soul or body. Revolutionary change. Factual biographies – spectacular people or situations. Ordinary people propelled to excel.
Where is the real? Whats the reaction to the right? Whats the reaction to the growth in homophobia.
Trans. Whats the next level? BAME – what’s your story? Fuck this silencing assimilation into mainstream ‘other people’s stories’.

BIO: Barry Ryan, Leader of team at Free@Last TV. Showrunner of the Agatha Raisin TV show.

21) ‘Moral complications and hopefulness’ – Juliet Mushens

More hopeful narratives, more ghost stories, more historical fiction. I also love speculative fiction and am super-in trigued by narratives which deal with the moral complications of futuristic tech.

BIO: Juliet Mushens is co-founder of Caskie Mushens Ltd. Her client list includes NYT and Sunday Times bestsellers of fiction and non-fiction. You can find more info at

22) ‘More stories for niche markets’ – Ashley Scott Meyers

I feel the divisive nature of the World in general could present opportunities to serve an under-served market. I’ve seen this over the years with the Christian family film. Since most people who go into the arts aren’t conservative Christians, there always seems to be producers struggling to find good material for this large audience. And as the liberal / conservative divide deepens, my guess is there will be opportunities to serve both sides of the aisle. These won’t be big Disney / Marvel films which must struggle to serve both sides of the divide. Instead, there will be smaller films that clearly target a specific political-leaning group. And again, most people who go into the arts usually lean liberal. This means there will probably be more opportunities on the conservative side.

BIO: Ashley Scott Meyers is a screenwriter and blogger/podcaster at has optioned and sold dozens of spec screenplays and had numerous writing assignments from a large array of producers and can be found on IMDb HERE.

Good Luck! Want to know what these guys DON’T want? Click HERE.

Want MORE Script Reading Secrets?

My annual course with LondonSWF, BREAKING INTO SCRIPT READING is perfect not only for wannabe script readers, but savvy writers who want to know how script readers work. Can you afford to miss out?? Join us on June 22-23rd, 2019 at historic Ealing Studios!

CLICK HERE for full details of the course (or on the pic on the right), including feedback from past delegates. We expect it to sell out again, so act now to avoid disappointment. See you there!!!

For B2W offers and free stuff first, join my EMAIL LIST

Share this: