Speaker Q&A: Emma Reeves, Screenwriter
Emma Reeves is an award-winning writer working across screen and stage. Her TV credits include The Worst Witch (Lead Writer) Eve (Lead Writer and co-creator) The Dumping Ground, Young Dracula, The Story of Tracy Beaker, Belonging, The Murder of Princess Diana (Lifetime Channel), Spirit Warriors and Doctors.
How did you become a screenwriter and would you recommend a screenwriter course?
I became a screenwriter by attacking on several fronts at once - I wrote a stage adaptation and produced it with some friends; I did an MA in screenwriting; I did a lot of script reading and coverage for stage, TV and film companies and I also sent scripts to the BBC. There were many moments of seeming breakthrough, disappointments and dead ends before I found a niche in CBBC where I was offered a lot of work.
What do you start with scenes or structure?
I tend to start with structure, although ideas often arrive in flashes - you visualise a moment from a scene and it excites you so much that it helps power you through the endless outlining and rewriting required in TV. The brilliant moments which come to you in those glorious flashes of inspiration keep you going as a writer. They also almost inevitably get cut.
How much will the screenplay change during filming?
We have to keep to a very tight and demanding schedule at CBBC, so comparatively little changes during the filming process itself, apart from scenes being dropped (and you then have to figure out a way around that). A lot changes during production and during post-production. Some of it’s for practical reasons, some because of the multitude of creative voices which come into play when you’re making a show - script editors, producers, execs, broadcasters, directors, actors, HODs, DOP, editors to name but a few.
I’ve finished my script/screenplay, what do I now?
When you’ve finished a script or a screenplay you have the option to send it to companies whose work you like, or to try to make it yourself, which is becoming more and more common. The BBC writers’ room is always reading new material; you can send work there or simply look at the credits of shows you like and identify some companies and producers who you think will get your work.
What’s next for female screenwriters, how do we encourage more into TV & Film?
I don’t think we need to encourage new female screenwriters as much as we need to appreciate the abilities of those who are already working. Women of a certain age have always been discouraged from pushing themselves forwards, and there is serious untapped potential there. We should be looking at writers who are doing well in areas such as soap and Children’s, and bringing them into prestige drama, rather than believing we always need to find and train new talent from scratch.