Danny Brocklehurst at MPS – a screenwriter”s view

Danny Brocklehurst at MPS – a screenwriter”s view

BAFTA-nominated and International Emmy-winning screenwriter Danny Brocklehurst has been writing for television for two decades, including some of the biggest dramas of recent years.

Among his many credits are Come Home, Safe, Ordinary Lies, In the Dark, Exile, The Driver, The Accused, The Street and Shameless.

Brocklehurst will be speaking at the Screenwriters” Masterclass on 12 June – Day One of this year”s Media Production Show at Olympia London.

He spoke to The Knowledge to share some of the insight and opinion that will be on display at the leading industry event.

What makes a good screenwriter?

Brocklehurst began by pinpointing some of the key attributes that make a successful screenwriter.

He stressed the importance of an interest in the world and the psychology of human relationships and patience “because everything in this business takes forever”. Also on Brocklehurst”s checklist were “the ability to take on board notes and embrace rewriting (no matter how irritating this can be sometimes) and a decent sense of humour.”

Come Home

The showrunning model and co-productions

Drama in the UK has traditionally seen one main writer working on a production, who isn”t necessarily very involved with creative and casting decisions.

With an increasing number of drama projects adopting the US model of showrunning and the huge impact on the creative industries from international co-productions, we were keen to know Brocklehurst”s thoughts on both.

“The UK has always been writer-led,” he says. “We still tend towards authored work over team writers but I think the showrunner model is being accepted a little more.

“Co-productions inevitably mean your work needs to travel but as long as your writing deals in universal themes I don’t see why that should affect the way you tell stories. People are people and like to see shows that are well told.”

The main challenges of screenwriting

Brocklehurst was emphatic in his response when we asked him about the challenges faced by screenwriters as he stated that “getting work over the line” is always the main one.

“No matter how successful you are, it’s always a battle. Given that no-one really knows what will be a hit show or a critical darling, a little less hand-wringing at [the] decision stage would be amazing.

“I worry for the future of working-class dramas and shows about ordinary people because they are more and more difficult to get made. For newer writers, there are fewer opportunities to write on team shows, which is a shame.”

In The DarkIn The Dark

Discipline and balance

Writing is clearly a pretty solitary job much of the time. How does Brocklehurst stay motivated and disciplined?

“I write every weekday and sometimes crazy hours, but do try and have a life as well. I hear some writers say they write seven days a week and that makes me a bit sad for them.

“Have a life! It’s very important for your writing to live a little. I stay motivated by choosing projects I like. It’s never a chore that way.”

Future projects

To date, the writer has twice penned roles for specific actors: The Driver for David Morrissey and Exile for John Simm. He explained it actually made the process simpler: “It’s much easier because you imagine a great actor doing the part and feel emboldened to push the character further.”

The DriverThe Driver

For his next project, Brocklehurst will also be writing for a particular actor – Joe Gilgun – and he is developing a drama about the rise of [the drug] ecstasy in the UK for BBC2.

Many thanks to Danny Brocklehurst for his help in compiling this article. To hear more from him at the Media Production Show, register here.

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