Hi, I’m Mark Renshaw (pictured below), a limey from the north-west of the land formally known as the United Kingdom, before Brexit screwed everything up.
I won Filmmatic’s inaugural Inroads Screenwriting Fellowship, and was approached to write an article. I thought I’d start with a few of the differences between writing TV shows in the UK compared to the US…
As far as I understand it, in the US you have Managers, Agents and Writer’s Rooms. Typically a TV network will seek to retain writers exclusively for an entire season. The UK is a vast wilderness. Managers were hunted to extinction in 1907. Writers wander for decades in search of the promised agent’s-land, but when they do encounter this mythical place, they are given a quest before ‘The Signing’ can occur. The quest is to seek patronage from a producer. Easy enough you say, but upon approaching a producer, they too demand a quest – to seek patronage from an agent!
And thus the quandary sends most writer’s insane. I have no idea why I slipped into ‘proper’ ye olde English then but it seemed suitable. Anyway, you get the idea. It’s tough to get representation here (UK). Those that do somehow solve this paradox face further uphill struggles. In general, there are no writer’s rooms (although that concept is starting to catch on), it costs too much to retain a writer for long periods, never mind a team. Writing is, therefore, more of a freelancing affair. A signed writer may be lucky enough to get two or three episodes of major UK TV drama a year but will then have to supplement their income with other work.
Armed with a decent agent, a writer can chance their arm and attempt to sell an original TV show idea to a network. This involves the writer pitching the idea to lots of production companies. If one of them likes it, they will then be expected to repackage the concept and pitch it again with them to networks, like the BBC. The trick, the Holy Grail, is not just to get the project the green lit, but to convince the network that you should also be the one to write it, or at least the pilot. That’s when the good things happen; Cha-ching (dollar signs). I suppose the US equivalent is a TV series show runner.
SVOD’s are changing the landscape. The demand for new content has never been higher. Budgets are increasing exponentially. Writers are sought from all across the lands, but gaining access to these echelons is even more shrouded in mystery. I believe you have to find ‘special’ producers who have ways into the inner SVOD circle. Maybe I will find out one day…
So if you are the type of writer who writes because they are a bit of an introvert and have deep-seated fears about engaging in personal discourse with other human beings and therefore write as an escape mechanism, then all of this is really, really bad news. I get that. I just described most writers (myself included) to the core. However, I write because I have to. I believe I was born to do this. I also have this irresistible urge that drives me insane to share my stories with the world. I promote my work, enter competitions, network, pitch to groups of scary strangers and will do whatever it takes to get my work produced or published. I don’t have a choice. I’m a writer.
If you are reading this and nodding your head, I figure you are too. So I know you are not ever going to stop writing, that’s a given; it’s in your genetics. What you need is something to help get yourself out there to promote you and your work. You need a secret weapon. So here’s how you activate it. What I want you to do is, strike a superhero pose. Seriously, go find somewhere you can be on your own, stick your chest and chin out, hands on hips and be a superhero. Hold the pose for two minutes, then go out there and take on the rest of the day. At first, you will feel silly, weird, embarrassed, but by the end of the two minutes, you’ll get a little tingle of confidence. You will feel different (see HuffPost article). There’s actual science behind this. Google it and you’ll see all about the hormone production and the brain’s testosterone-cortisol balance. The thing is, it works. I love doing this with an epic score playing in the background! So anytime you are about to do something scary, like pitch your idea, go to a networking event or even if you are trying to get the courage up to send out that script, strike the pose and activate the superhero in you!