18 January 2009

Screenwriting and all that

I'm currently reading the Dr Who tome (The Writer's Tale), in which Russell T Davies spills the beans on his working methods. It's fascinating - much more so than I expected, especially the bits where you get to see the script in progress. I'd never really gone in for much reading of scripts before (apart from a couple of volumes of The West Wing, the odd Shakespeare play, and those really dull things like An Inspector Calls that you have to look at for GCSE English), and it's been a revelation.

For the first time I've seen how the directions work (the stuff that isn't the dialogue), and enjoyed reading them. Often I've not necessarily seen the actual episode (my Dr Who viewing is best described as patchy), but the pace and drive of the directions is spooky - it enables you to run the scene in your head as if you were watching it in real time. Previously I'd thought much of the success of Davies' scripts was down to the dialogue, but now I'm not so sure - the forcefulness of the directions (and some of the most succinct useage of words I've seen in a long time) gets across the story amazingly. It'd be interesting to hear from the directors of the various episodes whether they feel they've got much room for manoeuvre with scripts like that - do they really get much artistic input into the final vision?

I suppose I should really get round to watching some of the episodes in question. I did catch the rather good Planet of the Ood while babysitting this week, but that's a rewritten rather than an original Davies.

All this is making me want to attend the Story Engine conference that's running in Darlington next month - especially as one of the speakers is James Moran, who's written a Dr Who episode. I'm just up to the point in the book where he's being rewritten...

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