In light of what I have learnt this semester, I want to now make sure I have enough experience in script development. Yet going forward, I have planned what I will continue to do in my two roles on graduate and postgraduate films.
Assistant Scriptwriter role
Inspired by speaking to those in the industry during lectures or whilst conducting my own research two tasks seemed key: to read scripts and to get feedback on your own. I have utilised resources such as BBC script library as well as scriptwriters’ personal websites to read scripts in an effort to improve my writing skills and knowledge. I will also continue to send scripts to fellow students as well as try and gain feedback from professionals and enter competitions. All of these tasks will be beneficial in my role of assistant scriptwriter. I will also continue to work with Andrew to create a fully realised and completed script.
Edit Assistant role
In terms of my role as edit assistant, production is complete and so now we must sync all the visuals and audio. I am also organising a mirrored project between Bea and myself on Avid. This was recommended by editing lecturer Eiko Emberlesn in order to conduct remote collaborative editing. Bea and I will set up identical Avid projects, with the same paths to files in order to easily send versions of projects to one another. Once the initial set up is completed, I will assist Bea with the edit. Bea emphasised that she wanted to learn Avid. I have worked on it in the past and so I feel that this is a good opportunity to refresh and develop further my skills. Going forward, I will complete tasks more in-line with the traditional edit assistant role in that there is an emphasis on the technical aspects. I will approach my relationship with Bea as similar to the editor/edit assistant role I have researched. I also intend to do a rough cut of certain moments of Bea’s film, once I have received feedback on my first attempt at a rough draft. These scenes will be:
First scene after operation
These scenes are almost the framework of the film and so I feel it is necessary to start with them. Understanding where the film starts and ends, as well as how the film will react to Jack’s operation, are the crucial elements in order for us to understand how we will edit a successful narrative.
By working through roles in pre-production and post-production and researching more about the industry, I have realised that script development is the area I would like to pursue. Over the semester, I have realised that gaining as much exposure and experience in writing and reading is vital to working in script development. To have discovered or fully realised the role of the script editor and interest in script development and writing has been a positive outcome to the semester. Going forward, I will continue to learn more about the script editor role and the entry-level roles required, finding experience where possible.
For Last One Out, I have thought through possible reasons for travelling that will help give background to the situation. I’ve also found that changing the reasons for travelling does change the character dynamic slightly.
Going home (just Martin and Alex)
There is a sense that Alex is staying at home for an indefinite amount of time. It also raises questions as to why Alex is moving back home and not staying with Josh. This changes their relationship. If they don’t speak in the car, there could be a suggestion that they will ultimately do so when they are back at home. Therefore, the ending must be considered to have some form of resolution or meaning. Whilst the character’s emotions change to create a dynamic narrative, these changes must be for a reason. When Alex arrives home, I have written it as Martin encourages Alex to go inside, with words that could have other meanings. For example, Martin states ‘take all the time you need’. This creates a more uplifting ending, suggesting that when Alex finally tells his parents he is in a relationship with Josh, we know it will be a positive outcome. In this sense, we don’t need to see this conversation itself, as the ending to the film has hinted what the outcome of the unseen conversation would be.
Going home (with Josh in car)
They could give a lift to Josh part of the way or to the bus stop. This includes Josh more in the film. Including Josh in the film is something Andrew Michael, the director/writer, wanted to do in a new draft. I feel that having Josh in the car for the entirety of the film could lead to father/son relationships not being able to be explored fully. I suggested giving Josh a lift somewhere such as to a bus stop or to the centre of town.
Could be multiple trips back and forth and pick up Josh at the end. Or could meet Josh at the other flat. It would lead to questions as to why they are moving flats and so would need some explanation and background.
Car breaks down
What if the film began in the car? Through the dialogue, Martin realises Alex is with Josh. Perhaps the film could finish driving up to Alex’s flat and seeing Josh there. The fact the car is fixed could be a signifier of their understanding of one another now more complete.
At a service station
Similar to the situation of the car breaking down. Yet this situation could occur if Martin and Alex were travelling home. It is a situation that insinuates a longer car journey.
Going to a funeral
The dialogue becomes too preoccupied with the funeral and explaining where they are going. It steers the narrative away from Martin and Alex’s relationship. It also brings up the question of the relationship with the deceased and why Alex’s mother isn’t there. If it was a maternal relative, the mother would be there. If it was a paternal relationship, I feel the situation is too sensitive and sincere to discuss Alex and Josh’s relationship. Whilst the aspect of a funeral could lead to conversations of life and reflection, as funerals are so overwhelming situations, it disturbs the balance of the narrative. Therefore, perhaps a more mundane reason for travelling would be more appropriate.
Going to a wedding
This could seem quite apt if talking about love and relationships. A different situation arises to if Alex was going back home or moving flats. Ultimately, Martin will return Alex back to his flat with Josh. This gesture could signify Martin’s acceptance as he leaves Alex and josh together. One element that could be slightly unbalanced in the narrative is that Andrew wants the film, apart from the opening scene, to take place during the car journey. Therefore, you either finish the film as they arrive at their destination. Or return to them once they begin their journey back. I am concerned this could lead to a feeling we are missing out as the audience and not having the same experiences as the characters or as involvement. It emphasises we are simply onlookers to their story. If they talk about the wedding, it could seem unsatisfying if we don’t actually see the wedding. This is a similar case for the funeral.
I have constructed diagrams for the structure that a scriptwriter and a editor could be included in. I have also attached a ScreenSkills diagram which discussed the role delegation and production process in both mainstream films, independent films and TV dramas.
I feel that assistant scriptwriter has been a good anchor point in understanding script development. It is a role that is not always required however some of the tasks I did can be found in other roles such as script editor. Entry-level roles to becoming a scriptwriter are quite flexible. I have tried to create a diagram for a possible career progression. It is also important to understand the roles around you in order to understand what your role includes. An entry-level role as a researcher or script reader could help you gain access to the development team, who work with the scriptwriter, and gain a reputation for working in that area.
Becoming an editor seems more structured. Yet the roles involved depends on the size of production. When considering the role of an editor, it is interesting to look at the roles they interact with regularly. Logging and syncing are tasks found in entry-level and junior roles, whilst editing a narrative and conversations with the director are tasks for the editor.I have structured a possible career progression to become an editor. You could begin at an entry-level role as a runner at a post-production house in order to gain a reputation for working in that area.
As part of my role as edit assistant, I wanted to explore a concern Bea had. There was a particular scene Bea wanted to include as the main themes and narrative in the film was discussed in an engaging and intriguing way. Jack is washing up whilst asking the four children why they’re going into hospital and what they’re going to come out as.
However, this scene was a single shot that Bea felt could become too static. Therefore, I tried to cut together this scene using other bits of footage in order to help Bea work through this issue. I decided to use the audio from the scene so we heard the important conversation, but intercut it with footage of the children playing with plasticine and climbing on Jack’s back. I wanted to create a thoughtful quality to this edit through steady cutting that always returned to Jack washing up in the ‘master’ shot.
I sent this to Bea. It was a process that was inspired by editor Anthea Harvey’s talk in which she stated she would send edited clips to the director to help them realise the narrative and to gain feedback. This is something I wanted to include in my role as edit assistant.
After the second set of filming, I was able to create a completed set of footage notes for Bea Goddard’s documentary M(OTHER)HOOD. With production complete, it gave a different perspective to watching the footage and I considered more how a narrative or certain scenes could be constructed out of the footage.
As my roles of assistant scriptwriter and edit assistant have been incorporating developing stories from an initial idea, I decided to read Robert McKee’s Story (2014), in order to better understand the construction of a narrative. I have attached the visualisation and consideration of narrative ideas for both Bea Goddard’s documentary and Andrew Michael’s script. I have also attached a selection of graphs by Robert McKee that inspired me the most. I have found a crossover between the two roles in that both are focused on narrative and developing a story. These are for different reasons however:
For my role as edit assistant, I am constructing a story out of the set amount of footage we have and am working within limitations to create a complete narrative.
For my role as assistant scriptwriter, there is no footage already filmed. Instead, our limitations are themes, meanings and an initial idea that are all flexible.
Therefore, I found that there was a different mindset to be in when completing both tasks and highlighted even further the different storytelling skills involved in pre-production and post-production. Whilst both roles include crafting a narrative, one is coming from a place of working with pre-existing material and the other is creating a narrative which footage will be made according to.
In looking into the scriptwriter role, I have discovered the role of the script editor and therefore researched the entry-level roles into this. I have found through speaking to Florence Watson (script editor at Sister Pictures), as well as looking at job applications for various TV channels and production companies, a researcher seems like the first step. It seems to be the pre-production equivalent to a runner.
I looked at BBC careers hub in which the role of a researcher for BBC radio Scotland was being advertised. Not with the intention of applying, I read the requirements to understand what is needed for this entry-level role. Also in this application was a pdf on the role of the researcher, which I have attached.
One element of Anthea Harvey’s talk that I found most useful was her clarifying the distinction between offline and online. It was terminology that I had always been unsure about. Offline consists of everything that happens once shooting has finished to when you picturelock. Spot effects can be put on during the edit (e.g. stock effects to get an idea of what the sound will be like. If you want specific thing you make a note for the sound editor). Online is colour grading and effects. It includes creating the tone and matching shots, captions, graphics, sound/dub and mix. There is therefore a technical bridge between online and offline. If you’ve been working offline, most likely as a low resolution version due to memory, ram, you must conform. This is where you, usually an edit assistant or tech assistant in a post-production facility, takes all the low-res shots and goes back to the original material and form in the best quality. It is to make sure that the grade has the best quality picture. Usually in the edit you’d have full quality audio as this does not take up too much space. It is called offline and online because in the tape environment, you would have a shelf of tapes that someone had to conform. It took a huge amount of technology to do this and if you had a base grade console, it would still take a lot of money. You would need to go to a specialist with knowledge. When working offline, you do not need this knowledge therefore the edit was called offline.
Anthea also described her career journey. She did an MA in Film and TV production in Bristol. After graduating, she worked with a person on her course as a part-time assistant editor. The editor on this project was a lecturer on the course. Anthea logged everything and put tapes int othe system. She had to watch everything and the editor let her get involved with the edit. Creative Scotland wanted an assembly editor for a BBC food/travel show and Anthea got this role. She would be sent rushes nad put them onto a timeline in Avid and then put them on a Drive, which she’d then transport to the editor in an edit suite. After a whole, when handing over the drives, Anthea would watch the editor. There were three edits going on at the same time so Anthea would ask how they wanted her to arrange the footage and to assemble it so she got an insight into their process. As Anthea was quite confident in what she thought, they asked her to cut two episodes which was nerve-raking. She would get in two hours before to work out what Anthea was doing before an executive producer was there as it was her first experience. This was her first broadcast credit which was extremely useful in her career. Anthea emphasised cutting in your spare time and to take any experience. Currently Anthea is helping edit a documentary that started out with no concrete plan and so Anthea is a key part of the creative process.
Also in the discussion, the duration expectation was discussed. Normally in a commercial Channel 4 or Discovery etc hour-long documentary, it will often be 43-44 minutes due to ad breaks. Usually, five weeks minimum is given to cut this. This is unless it’s a format where you have pre-existing knowledge such as if you’ve worked on a previous series. For a BBC full hour, 59 minutes with no ad breaks, and a single story often six weeks are given. This can run on and Anthea stated that she would not book another job straight after these six weeks, as she believes that more than likely it will run on. Therefore she’d give about eight weeks. If it is a high-end complicated story, the edit can last up to ten weeks with ten-hour days. On shorter films, it’s how long is a piece of string. On Bridging the Gap (Scottish Documentary Institute documentary scheme), they give 10 days to three weeks for a ten minute documentary. It is also worth remembering that the less experience the editor or director has, the longer things will take. With more experience, you’ll know whether something works or not more instinctually.
Furthermore, Anthea Harvey addressed the topic of working with others in mind. She stated that in post-production, you are working within a tight schedule with edit suites booked etc. It is the editor’s responsibility to stick to this. Also in the edit duration you have got to show producers or even a funder a viewing of the film. Therefore this can take a certain amount of time to export and create viewing, which will affect the edit duration. Quite often, when you have a viewing, the person may not know all the footage therefore could ask for difficult things that you may not agree with. However, you must do so and to the best of your ability to prove why you don’t think their suggestion will work.
Finally, Anthea Harvey discussed edit notes and the relationship between production and post-production. She stated that when shooting, do not anticipate the edit or the structure. Directors of Photography might cut when they think it is the end of the shot. But do not edit in camera or anticipate edit decisions. Even in drama, you’ve got to leave leeway for crafting. With notes, as a director you will give notes and share ideas. It’s important to be honest but respectful of why editor’s have chosen something as there will be a reason. In terms of notes, you should discuss what you liked, what you think did and didn’t work. Good notes include what the problem is and are specific.
Anthea Harvey’s talk made me consider my role as an edit assistant. Bea has asked me to give edit notes and to look over the footage, much like what Anthea had described as her role as an assistant editor. I will also be syncing audio and visual. We are not yet at the stage where assemblies can be done, however listening to Anthea Harvey has given a clearer view of what I am to expect of my role but also how the role is adapting and altering. In our talks, Bea is asking for my opinion on certain shots and possible narrative and structure suggestions. Therefore, I have found the role to be a lot more creative than simply technical.
I emailed Florence Watson, a script editor on a new TV series The Baby, produced by Sister Pictures. I wanted to get in touch with her as she was someone whose career I admired.
I have researched the role of the script editor through looking at job applications to understand what is required. They work with writers to develop stories and scripts as well as making sure the script is suitable for production. I feel that certain aspects of the role are similar to what I am doing as assistant scriptwriter on Andrew Michael’s film script and even edit assistant on Bea Goddard’s postgraduate film. For example, developing ideas and stories are akin to what a script editor does. They are also the element I am most enjoying out of the roles. Therefore, I was excited and intrigued to speak to Florence, and find out more about a possible career aspiration.
The talk confirmed that script development is an areas of film and TV I am most inspired by. Florence very kindly offered a phone call on 16/04/21, to discuss how she got where she was and if she had any advice for me with one year left of university. Florence did an internship at Greendoor Pictures in London, where she did administration work yet was able to attend writers rooms with the development team. In these meetings, Florence noticed a person whose role intrigued her and she plucked up the courage to speak to them to ask what their job was. This was the script editor. From this, Florence emphasised to me it was then that she knew she wanted to be a script editor.
After university, Florence was chosen to be part of the Channel 4 trainee scheme. She emphasised that she wanted to work in drama development and so began as a research on Hollyoaks at Lime Pictures. Due to someone going on maternity leave, Florence was able to step into the role of an assistant script editor role. A few months before her trainee scheme ended, a script editor was leaving and so Florence was encouraged to apply for the role. She got it and became a script editor for Hollyoaks, something she said she thoroughly enjoyed. Yet she wanted to move to London and experience different production companies and so after a few years she left. Like me, Florence is a Royal Television Society bursary recipient, and so got in touch with those who run the bursary if they could help her make contact with anyone who could give her a role as a script editor. She was able to speak to a series producer at All3 Media and became a script editor for Call The Midwife (2012-) Florence experienced 3 months of this before the Covid-19 pandemic caused a lockdown and production stopped. During this pause, Florence was contacted by a member of Sister Pictures, asking if she would like to be a script editor for their new series The Baby, to which Florence jumped at the chance. They are about to start filming and pre-production is almost complete.
Florence gave a very clear description of her route from university and in becoming a script editor. She also gave an overview of what her role entails which she described as ‘wearing a number of hats‘. She suggests storylines, checks continuity of scripts, checks consistency of tone, reports back to writers after development meetings, is on set on behalf of the writer during production. It seems to be a varied role that means speaking to a number of different roles and departments. Whilst she was describing what she does, I was only filled with awe and admiration and the talk only made me more keen to be involved in script development.
Also during our conversation, Florence mentioned the role of a script reader and what they do. Subsequently she has sent me examples of written reports which is incredibly useful in gauging what kind of work a script reader is expected to produce. She described that script reading was one route to be script editor and possible you’d move up to assisting the development team and then become part of it. In Florence’s case, you become a research, then assistant script editor and then script editor. Florence did emphasise that the speed of which she became a script editor, within a year, is quite unusual but this was due to the Channel 4 trainee scheme. Usually she suspected it could take around 3-5 years and therefore the trainee scheme was something she was extremely grateful for. She also recommended The Network was a great opportunity to make contacts and gain experience.
Overall, speaking to Florence Watson has been a wholly positive and educational experience. It allowed me to gain a better understanding of the path up to a script editor, as well as their relationship with other roles such as the writer. It has been a role that has intrigued me, therefore speaking to Florence has helped clarify what the role entails and possible routes in.
Chris Lang is a scriptwriter whose website gives an insight into the development of a script through production. Through my mentor I have been able to read one of Chris Lang’s treatments and therefore looking for more of his work, to understand how this treatment compared to the finished script in terms of style and the story itself.