“Well you’ve nailed the title”: surviving script editing

It was the funniest thing … I’d been so looking forward to my script editing session with industry heavyweight Kate Leys (Churchill, Lady Macbeth) that I’d completely failed to consider …  what if she thinks my script sucks???


So there I was, pootling along Piccadilly on my way to BAFTA HQ to meet her, now absolutely terrified.  Like going to the Headmaster’s office when you’ve broken a window.

I’d met Kate before, she’d been with me on stage at BAFTA when I’d won the Rocliffe award.  At that time – many, many drafts ago – she’d spelt out exactly what was wrong with the early draft script (“not enough goes wrong, Claire!”) and I’d built in her criticism but … what was now in store for me?

Well, truth be told, it was fantastic.  She didn’t talk scenes or dialogue or pace, she went right to the heart of story and everything came out from there.  The producers, Kate and I refined exactly what’s at the heart of the story (and thank God I’ve nailed the title!) and all the work from now on – and there’s plenty – should come out of that.

The session highlighted for me the fact that the initial stage of script development, that thinking, considering, developing of the idea is crucial to the success of the finished piece.  If you haven’t thought through your concept well enough at the first hurdle then you’re setting yourself up for all  kinds of trouble later on.  And that’s a stage I do find hard because often there’s hardly anything to show for it.  A few post-it notes, scribbled notepad pages, much desk research.  Far better to be typing away furiously at a script.  But It’s definitely encouraged me to slow down and make that first stage count.