On 17 November 2014, students in the Department of English were treated to a talk, ‘The Craft of Screenwriting’, by Bill Gallagher. The event was organised by Dr Graham Atkin.
Bill’s television credits include: The Paradise (BBC1); The Prisoner (ITV); Love Life (ITV); Lark Rise to Candleford (BBC); Conviction (BBC; winner, Monte Carlo, Best European Drama Series); and Clocking Off (BBC; BAFTA nominated). His films include: The Partner (forthcoming); Blood (2012); and Hero Hour (2000). Bill has also had plays produced in theatres around the country.
At the talk, Bill stressed the need for writers to approach their work as a bricklayer might approach building a wall. Structure, he claimed, was the most important thing to get right. It is essential, in becoming a good writer, to be interested in your craft, said Bill. Though writing for the screen is not a science, but an art, it is an art with certain principles. Bill encouraged the writers present to interrogate their own work and always be asking themselves: How can I become a better writer? He encouraged his audience to find out who the writers are who work on the TV series or films they admire, and to study the work of those writers. One useful piece of advice was to start small and another was not to be afraid to show your work to others. Give yourself permission to write badly – after all, all writing is rewriting. Bill inverted the normal Q&A structure by asking members of the audience questions, such as: ‘What is plot?’ Through this strategy he delivered an inspiring account of the principles underpinning effective screenwriting. At the end of his talk there were some questions from the audience about the TV and film industries in which Bill works so successfully.