Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Halting Footsteps

His stomach ached. He shivered a bit, but didn't particularly notice. As he walked down Ordnant Street, he was far more aware of the sound of his footfalls, which echoed around the empty porches of the Georgian townhouses as he passed them. His breath steamed ahead of him, and he dreamily watched the clouds as they puffed and spiralled on each exhale. He didn't hurry, he'd know what he was waiting for when he heard it. Passing the neon-framed window of a twenty-four hour grocery, he casually checked inside, through the squeaky-clean plate glass window. Only a sleepy-looking clerk, leaning heavily on the counter. Good.

He trudged on, turning left, away from the nearest tube station. A few hundred yards down the side street, he heard the sound he'd been waiting for.

Halting, clipping footsteps. He slowed a little, casually glancing left at the shadow thrown toward him by the lights on the corner behind. A long shadow, but that had more to do with the angle of the light than the height of the owner. And, if he wasn't mistaken, that fuzzy outline meant a fur coat. Topped with the outline of long, wavy hair, and he reckoned those sharp but tentative footsteps indicated an especially high pair of heels, perhaps even with a none-too-sober wearer. This was it.

He slowed a bit more, digging in his pocket and fishing out his phone, pretending to study the screen. The footsteps drew closer, and he allowed himself a small smile. The smile broadened when the footsteps drew nearer, but then the steps stopped, abruptly. Startled, he quickened his pace a little. It wouldn't do to be too obvious at this stage.  The footsteps began again and quickly found their rhythm, so he relaxed. Reaching another corner, he peered each way to make sure the intersection was deserted. He exaggerated the gesture a little, as though checking his course. The footsteps approached.

But then they stopped again. His jaw clenched. He waited at the corner; surely she must pass soon, must have somewhere to be this late on a weeknight. He held his nerve, an opportunity like this might not come again tonight. He exhaled slowly. He needed to get this one, he ached all the way to his fingertips with longing, wanted to wrap his hands around that slender throat so badly. Itching, he wondered how much cash he might find in the bag he was sure he'd heard clinking in time with her uneven paces. But that'd be a bonus - he'd be kidding himself if he didn't admit he got a queasy thrill from each one of these.

To his relief, the footsteps resumed, still about fifty yards back. The small smile returned to his lips. He shifted his weight onto his left leg, and raised his  phone for another counterfeit glance. The footsteps sped up a bit, gaining confidence, but still sounded a touch unsteady. So much the better. He waited for her to pass him so he could claim his advantage.

Closer the heels clipped, and his breath quickened. Closer still, and he tensed, ready for action, he was coiled and ready. Ten yards, five, two...

But the steps stopped again, and his breath caught in his throat. He froze, unsure of what to do. He thought he could feel breath on the back of his neck, but surely that couldn't be possible, those heels couldn't have been that high, could they? This was most irregular, and he found himself floundering, wondering what next. Then a voice purred right in his ear, as soft as moss and yet gravelly. 

"So, who's following who, chick?"

He turned around, just in time to see the glint of moonlight on long enamel as a gust of hot, dank breath enveloped him.

© Ellen Gallagher 2015

Thursday, 26 June 2014


I've been atrocious at keeping up with my blogging lately, so am reproducing my latest guest post over at Blake Friedmann in its entirety. More news to follow on the play I'm producing this year, will post about that very soon!

Ever wondered what screenwriters’ agents do all day? Ellen Gallagher is here to satisfy your curiosity…

A caveat from Ellen – this isn’t the way every day pans out, or even a complete picture of everything that goes on in the Media Department, not by a long stretch. No two days are quite the same in the world of agents, that’s partly why I enjoy my job so much!

8.30am – Begin checking emails on the way to work. I don’t want to miss anything, and am utterly obsessed with organising my emails into folders. I work across a number of clients and projects, and I want to make sure that any emails that have come in are filed correctly so they can be dealt with promptly. Organisation is King in the Land of the Agents!

9.25am – Arrive at the office. Make a giant pot of coffee; it’s always wise to endear oneself to one’s colleagues by providing caffeine-based sustenance. Similarly, cake is highly popular and should be procured and shared as frequently as possible.

9.30am – Right, it’s email-handling time. I respond to as much as I immediately can, and put the rest in a ‘to do’ folder to be worked on throughout the day. Emails range from rights enquiries or contract negotiation to new client scripts and treatments, and everything in between.

10am – I have a lovely phone chat with a client, and we cook up some ideas about what to do next with his work. I end the call excited to read the script he’s going to send me.

10.30am – Now we enter the Invoicing Zone. I keep track of invoices and payments to ensure that clients get paid when they should. Our finance manager Sian is an invaluable ally, as she is a font of fiscal fortitude.

11am – I spend an intense half hour arranging meetings; some for our department, and some on behalf of our clients. I am the master of the diary, no meeting shall escape my iron calendar. I have a pleasant jokey exchange with a producer’s assistant about the awesome efficiency with which we just arranged that last meeting.

11.30am – I roll up my sleeves to delve into some contract drafting. There are always deals to be done, and putting together a contract which protects the writer’s interests is a vital part of the agent’s job. Contract language may sound a bit like it was invented by aliens who had learned English from reading the instructions on a shampoo bottle, but it’s the best wording to make a document as legally watertight as possible.

1.30pm – Lunch! I head to the kitchen and assemble a sort of mad salad which mostly consists of whole tomatoes. I really like tomatoes at the moment.

2.30pm – I peruse the ‘to do’ email folder again. Some of the emails in here require research or looking back over existing documents to respond properly, so I do lots of that. It’s essential to be thorough to make sure nothing gets missed, especially when rights are involved.

3pm – A client has written a fab script, I’ve read it and told her I love it. There’s a producer whom I think would love it too; I get in touch with them and they’re keen to read it, so I send it across.

3.05pm – Ooh, an email has gone round saying somebody has returned from an overseas book fair and has brought some sort of food back for everyone. A mildly twisted ankle is sustained in the customary BFLA stampede for the kitchen.

3.10pm – The post has come in – we distribute contracts, financial statements and other documentation that needs handling on behalf of our clients. Lots of filing and record-keeping ensues. Organisation, once again, is the buzzword!

3.30pm – Time for a meeting. A producer has come in to tell us what they’re looking for, and to hear about our clients and what they’re up to. Cups of tea are enthusiastically quaffed.

4.30pm – I put some scripts on my eReader to look at this evening. I must prioritise existing clients’ work, but also I check out as many new submissions as I can from writers seeking representation.

4.45pm – I try to tie up as many loose ends as possible toward the end of the day. This includes logging script submissions (where we have sent clients’ work for consideration) and doing any last-minute email responding to keep the decks as clear as possible for the next day. I also use this time to read up on as much industry news as possible, in publications such as Broadcast, Screen International and online sources. It’s important to be aware of trends and developments in film and television so that information can be used to benefit our clients.

Around 5.30pm – I head out of the office with my eReader stocked up with scripts. There might also be a screening or play read-through in the evening that I’ve been invited to by a submitter or film school, but if not I’ll go home to read and eat dinner. Another action-packed day of agenting awaits me tomorrow, bring it on!

Friday, 7 March 2014

Guest Blog over at

I've done a guest post on the Blake Friedmann website. It's another advice piece, this time on making a good impression when submitting your screenplay to agents, and how to choose where you submit. Click here to read - cheers!

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Ask Ellen! Another Screenwriting Question Answered...

I'm back again, to answer another of your screenwriting questions! 

Speaking of which, do feel free to either post your questions in the comments here on my blog, or tweet them at me (@AudreyDeuxPink) - I'll do my best to answer them as thoroughly as I can. I'll keep doing this as long as the questions keep coming in, so ask away!

By the way, I also tweet all my short-form screenwriting tips through the Blake Friedmann Literary Agency Twitter account (@BFLAgency) - so that's worth a follow if you want snippets of advice from myself and my esteemed colleagues.

Today's question:

What's the best way to get a script sold/made? Agents or going straight to producers/companies?

Well, of course I'm going to say that going through an agent is the best way. Natch. But that's not just because I work for an agency - it's based on my experiences in production companies too.

Most production companies have a strict policy; that they don't accept unsolicited submissions. This means that they will only consider writers or projects that are pitched to them by trusted agents, with whom they will have frequent meetings to discuss their clients. If an individual writer ignores this policy and sends their scripts in, they won't be considered, or even looked at.

This isn't because production companies are staffed by mean-spirited river-dwelling trolls who despise and fear the bright light of new talent - it's because it saves them a LOT of time and protects them (and the writers) from a legal standpoint.

Consider it this way - if a writer has managed to get themselves a respected agent, this is a stamp of that agent's approval. Already, this writer has proven themselves a decent writer in the opinion of at least one seasoned industry professional. Even production companies that clearly state on their websites that they do not accept unsolicited submissions receive literally hundreds of unsolicited submissions every month. This is simply too many scripts for them to reasonably give proper attention and consideration to. By requiring the writer to have an agent first, it helps the production companies to sort out the talented businesslike writers from the hobbyists. Sounds simplistic, but needs must when the alternative is trying to find a way to fit in reading thousands of scripts a year.

Another point is that a writer is far better served in potentially entering into a working relationship with a production company if they have an agent, who is experienced in handling and drafting contracts. If you want to be sure any agreement in which you are participating is in your best interests, it's best if someone has your back who has read and negotiated literally hundreds of these agreements before. Don't be fooled into signing away rights that you don't need to give away in order to get a project off the ground. If a production company has faith in your work, they'll want to deal fairly. An agent helps to weed out those who are less than scrupulous, and ensuring that everyone is properly represented in a contractual agreement prevents complications and legal snafus further down the line - it benefits both sides.


Okay, here goes:

If you want, you can approach things in a more hands-on manner. There are options you can consider BEFORE getting an agent to get your work out there and in front of an audience, and maybe even some producers. You can even perhaps build a fan base for your work, which is the absolute top-of-the-tree golden fleece of fabulousness that all agents and production companies will be delighted by.

So, here's my favourite one.

Put on a play. Go on, I dare you. 

It's not as hard as it looks - if you live in London, there's the Camden Fringe Festival, which is set up specifically to nurture and welcome new writing and performing talent, giving them a platform to showcase their work relatively cheaply and easily. 

It's also cheap and easy (oo-er, sounds a bit rude) to get flyers and posters printed - this is my personal favourite low-price, fast turnaround printing company - and there are ALWAYS actors who are keen to get involved in London theatre. Advertise using a site such as CastingCallPro - though you MUST be upfront and honest if you can't afford to pay your actors, of course - some are happy to work for a share of any profits the show might take. Your main costs will be venue fees and the cost of hiring a decent tech person (this guy's good!) 

I've been producing plays for the Camden Fringe for the last few years (these ones, if you're interested), and it's been a lot of fun. If you don't live in London, find out if your local area has a similar thing (Brighton also has a Fringe Festival, and of course there's the Big One at Edinburgh). If not, are there any local drama groups you can approach to see if they're looking for material? If not, can you form one? Put up posters, advertise on, whatever you gotta do.

Sticking your neck out and making something happen for your work is more impressive than just writing it. It shows commitment, organization, drive - and has the hugely beneficial side-effect of allowing you to see if an audience actually enjoys and connects with your work. In comedy, you can test out gags to see which get big laughs and which fall flat. You never really know how a room full of people is going to react to your material until you've tried this out; crowds can be gloriously unpredictable. Seeing your work performed in front of a live audience can give you far more valuable lessons in writing craft than any academic course. Put simply, it shows you bluntly what works and what doesn't.

I've been to a few play performances here in London, and a few 'rehearsed readings' of scripts when an unsolicited submitter has contacted me to invite me. Of course, I can't feasibly go to all of them - but a performance does give you an 'event' to which you can try inviting agents. If your play manages to create enough of a 'buzz', you might even find production companies start to take an interest in you...

...BUT then they'll most likely insist that you get an agent before they'll be able to deal with you. Because you need an advocate who can skilfully negotiate the contract to avoid misunderstandings and complications further down the line.

So it does all tend to come back to the fact that it is best (for most people) to have an agent first. That way, the agent can worry about the nitty-gritty legal stuff, and you can save your time and energy for being brilliantly creative. And, because they're taking meetings and 'bigging you up' to the producers with the power to get you paid, you won't have your material automatically rejected for being 'unsolicited'. WIN.

PS - Getting a script sold and getting a script made are completely different matters.

A huge number of projects that are optioned and developed don't make it to the screen. In TV, it can be for reasons such as the broadcasters' commissioners not finding it quite to their taste, or the fact that they've already got a similar project on their slate. In film, it can be because the funding or co-production falls through, for example. 

There are many reasons why your script might make you some money and yet never get made - don't dwell on it. If you're getting paid to write, you're winning. Often, you can even get the rights to the project back later on, so can try it again in the future. Writing is the fun part - getting to see your work onscreen is kind of a huge, lovely bonus when it happens. So enjoy it when it does, but don't consider it the marker of success.

Right! One more done! The next one I'll answer, in a few days, will be:

Are writing competitions worthwhile? 

Looks like a short question, but I can already feel another long answer coming on... ;-)

Monday, 14 October 2013

Ask Aunt Ellen! Screenwriting Advice Column

This post has taken me a little longer than I had intended to put together - my apologies!
A while ago, I tweeted to ask for your screenwriting questions. Now that I work in the media department of a literary agency, and as I have a background in film production and development, I thought it would be fun to see what I could come up with in response to your queries.

You didn't disappoint me (thank you, Twitterers!), but because I'm rather slammed at the moment, I'm going to answer the questions one at a time over the next couple of weeks.

So here's the first one:

What comes first, the writer, the talent, the script, or the agent?

Personally, I don't think you can separate the writer from the talent. Unfortunately, without that spark of creative brilliance, one is an enthusiastic hobbyist rather than what I would define as a 'writer' - ie someone who can make writing into a solid career path rather than something one does for fun alone. 

That may be the agent in me talking - of course I don't mean that one must make all of one's income from writing in order to be deemed a 'writer'. It's more about PROMISE than achievement, to my mind. If I read a truly excellent script by someone who hasn't had their 'big break' yet, to me they are just as much a writer as a seasoned veteran of the industry.

So, you're a writer with talent, who has written a script. Great! Now write another one. And another one. And a few more. Now redraft the best ones a few times until they're honestly as good as they can be. Get feedback from other writers, from people you know who you can trust to be brutally honest. Writing is not the solitary vocation many take it for - if other people don't like your work, it doesn't really matter how much you like it - it won't get made, and thus you won't get paid - unless others like it too. 

You need several scripts in your 'arsenal', as an agent will want to feel that you're interested in a career, not just 'selling a script' as a one-off. The number of submissions I see that begin with 'I need your help to sell my script...' or 'I'm looking for an agent to represent my script...' - that's a red flag to agents. Since we're going to be building a professional relationship with YOU, not your script, we want to feel that you take your writing career seriously and want to do more in the future than just one project - we want to feel that you've got a career in mind rather than 15 minutes of fame.

So now you've got a few scripts you think are, as they say, 'da bomb'. You're ready to try sending them to agents, to see if they're interested in taking you on as a client.

And here's an important part. Probably THE MOST important part:


It makes sense, when you think about it - for example, if you write comedy, you'll want to have an agent who has lots of great contacts in the comedy production world. If you send it to an agent who mostly represents historical drama writers, they are far less likely to be interested in representing you, no matter how good your comedy script is. It's simply not their area of expertise, or enthusiasm. So do your homework, and submit to agencies that like your sort of work.

Another tip there - try to find out who the newest agent is at each agency. If your research suggests they seem to like your genre of work, submit to them as they're most likely to be taking on clients (much more so than the more established agents who already have lots of clients - there are only so many hours in a day and so there is a limit to the number of clients a single agent can realistically have on their books). 

The newbie agent gets the benefit of working alongside the heavy-hitters, and also has the clout of their agency's name behind them, so you get the best of both worlds - someone who'll have the time and enthusiasm to champion your work thoroughly, as well as some kudos to back it up.

So there's your answer - writer and talent come joint first, then script (and script, and script, etc) - then agent. 

If you try getting an agent with anything less than the best work you're capable of, you're selling yourself short and will either end up with a sub-par agent or a huge pile of rejections. So write your arse off first!

Thank you for your question! The next question I will answer (in a couple of days) is:

What's the best way to get a script sold/made? Agents or going straight to producers/companies?

Thursday, 13 June 2013

About Fifty Billion Bits of News


If you're reading this, my apologies for my lack of posting over the past year.

If you're not reading this, I'm not sorry at all because you clearly don't care. You swine.

I've had some lovely news - Blake Friedmann Literary Agency, with whom I've been working lately, are hiring me in their Media Department to assist the agents representing writers of Film, Television and Theatre. My intention is to soak up any and all info like a great big Northern sponge, until I'm able to progress to having my own clients one day. 

So I'll be launching myself enthusiastically into script notes, contract wording, rights investigating and much more. Heaven! 

Drop me a line if you have a proven script-writing track record, want representation and have written a top-notch, excellent, unique and fabulous script. I'm always happy to check scripts out, although it can take a while. Please read submissions guidelines here first.

I'm also doing some script reading for the London Screenwriters' Festival this year with Lucy V Hay, which is a fabulous learning-and-networking event. Check it out!

And one more bit of news; the eloquent and hilarious Steve Jordan and I are producing PILGRIM SHADOW, another Fringe comedy this year, on at the Tristan Bates 29th July-3rd August. Come and see! More info on that here.

Much love and pretentious air-kisses,


Sunday, 23 September 2012

My notes from the LFS 'Running the Show' TV Drama Series event

A little while ago, the London Film School ran a day-long event at which many respected UK television industry professionals led discussions on the future of British television writing methods, how different writing methods might affect commissioning and vice versa. I took some notes, and wrote them up to pass to one of the event's excellent organizers, Archie Tait. In case you're interested in what was said (and you should be, it was enlightening!) here are my notes:

Overview: The speakers focused mostly on lengthier series formats becoming more popular, and discussed the benefits of the US ‘showrunner’ writing system, using a writers’ room to produce story arcs and scripts. They also discussed what makes a show more likely to be commissioned, and what sells best globally, among other things.

The speakers and their credits:

Tony Garnett (Producer Cathy Come Home; Executive Producer Between the Lines, Ballykissangel, This Life)

Stephen Garrett (Executive Chairman Kudos Film & Television; Executive Producer Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes, Spook, Hustle)

Adrian Hodges (Creator and Executive Producer, Survivors, Primeval)

Francis Hopkinson (Producer Henry VIII, Murder City; Executive Producer Wallander, Married Single Other, DCI Banks)

Tony Marchant (Writer Holding On, The Kid in the Corner, Mark of Cain; Creator & Executive Producer The Whistleblowers, Garrow’s Law)

Gub Neal (Producer Cracker, The Fall; Executive Producer Hillsborough, Combat Hospital)

Frank Spotnitz (Writer & Co-Executive Producer The X-Files, Millenium. Creator & Executive Producer Hunted)

Sally Wainwright (Creator & Executive Producer At Home With the Braithwaites, Unforgiven, Scott and Bailey)

  Showrunners – not common in the UK because there’s more of an ethos of nurturing the writer rather than the quality of the project being ‘King’. Showrunners are there to make sure the end product is the best it can be, even if this means stepping in and completely rewriting a writer’s work, or even firing them from the project if they’re not working out.

  Passion over profits – trying to make programming that is similar to what has been before is, of course, the enemy of creativity and originality. However, executives/financiers/commissioners often want to hear that a project is ‘like’ something pre-existing and successful, as it makes it seem like a safer bet. So it’s often worth packaging a pitch in recognizable terms, ie a ‘precinct drama’ (one set in some sort of institution, ie police station, hospital, courtroom), but then almost subversively including quirkier ‘twists’ on the genre (such as something like HOUSE) – ‘Trojan Horse’ drama, smuggling in originality while making a project seem like something familiar.

  Group writing – getting individual different writers to each write an episode of a series can be problematic if their ‘voice’ is too strong and distinctive – their episode might not fit in with the others and series may feel disjointed. The ‘lead writer’ may have to rewrite their episode to make it fit tonally, but this can be taken badly if the writer feels slighted. Ideally they’ll lay aside ego for the good of the show – which is essential in the ‘writers’ room’ style of series writing. If a writer is re-written, and the show is better as a result, they still get credited as the writer and everyone wins – the show looks great and reflects well on that original writer. A different proportion of ego/sensitivity and ‘the greater good’ is required for this method than is traditional in UK writing.

  Series vs Serial – In the UK, series tend to be 6/8/10 episodes, serials 2/3/4. More scope for character development in series – they used to be viewed as less ‘worthy’ than serials, as serials were often concerned with moralizing and ‘state of the nation’ subject matter. They were considered more ‘literary’ – however, really tough to sell overseas as global market is more used to the North American model of much longer series – 22 hour-long episodes, typically. Therefore, the UK TV industry is beginning to lean toward longer series, of 13 episodes for example, as they’re an easier global sell and can generate revenue much more reliably. Co-funding from overseas is becoming the norm, and so US funding tends to insist on longer series so the end product will fit in with their schedules for screening over there. With a longer series, such as BREAKING BAD, it’s possible to ‘go on an adventure’, riffing on the moral ambiguities of the protagonist’s unusual situation, rather than having him caught and neatly morally resolved after four hours. There’s sometimes a dichotomy though, as a broadcaster such as ITV may only want to order 6 episodes, but the producer will know that they’ll need at least 10 to raise money from overseas entities. Then the producer has to try to persuade the broadcaster to order more, or perhaps run two series of 6 back-to-back so it can be sold as a single series globally.

  HUNTED – A new co-pro between BBC and HBO – there are two different cuts for broadcast on each (ie HBO has a lot more nudity!) It was written using a writers’ room, unusually for the UK. Series creator and showrunner Frank Spotnitz brought along his team of writers and explained how the process worked – he wrote the pilot solo, then met with his writers and they discussed where the characters & plot might go over the course of the series. Then they each took an episode and wrote it, with Frank rewriting all of them to varying degrees. It was a very collaborative process though. They treated the episodes like mini movies, deciding for each a particular movie that would serve as a ‘model’ for the tone and pace of the episode. During production, the writers were on set a lot, and also invited to be involved in the edit – they were involved at every stage.

  Writers’ rooms do cost quite a lot – not only does the writer have to be paid a writing fee, but also for the time spent in the room hammering out the arc together. It can really pay off in terms of the quality of the end product – but may not be the right approach for all UK TV.

  Using a writers’ room is almost imperative for creating longer US-style series formats – a single writer or small team would not be able to keep up the quality for a run of 22 episodes. Using writers’ rooms could be the way forward for UK series to really compete with US fare.

  Things are generally commissioned if they have potential to be sold globally – although it can be appealing to have a certain ‘Britishness’ about the characters and setting – there is a high global demand for English-language drama. But it needs to fit the format which is proven to sell worldwide for scheduling reasons, ie more episodes.

  Soaps already have a sort of writers’ room – it’s essential for keeping continuity and for everyone to be aware of where each character has been and where they’re heading. Soap writing has always been rather collaborative by necessity – this is further evidence that collaboration is the way into longer-running shows.

  Tax credits are making it more viable to produce programming in the UK rather than outsourcing production overseas. This is good! Since changes in 2002, it hasn’t been so financially viable to do so, but things are changing for the better once again.

 Information collected from Video on Demand-style TV viewing prove that there is a higher appetite for drama than previously thought – that’s why broadcasters don’t completely fill their schedules with cheaper programming such as Come Dine With Me! More and more revenue is being generated digitally from drama viewed this way [NOTE – this is supported by an article in Broadcast, re All3Media’s digital content], so it makes sense to commission more. It is easier for viewers to follow a longer drama series, or catch up on one that’s already started when word-of-mouth increases interest, with VOD viewing.