Learn the mechanics of story structure and apply that practical understanding to High End TV drama script development
A new generation of UK High End TV (HETV) shows are transforming how TV drama is conceived and made – requiring story creators who think on a bigger scale in terms of ambition and story volume, and are able to work with large and complex teams. This course aims to equip participants with the skills needed to step up and thrive in the booming HETV drama arena.
On this course you’ll discover the underlying structure of all successful stories, learn why they work and practise applying this understanding to your work in script development.
APPROACH Over six sessions you’ll become familiar with the key components of story structure and how to put them together to create a successful story. You’ll work out what makes certain stories resonate with TV audiences in the UK and around the world. You’ll master story structure step by step, then apply those principles to diagnose and fix script problems within the context of an HETV production.
Along the way you’ll build up a range of creative, practical and critical skills required of a script editor within an HETV production. You’ll develop increased judgement and self-confidence in selecting and presenting story ideas, distilling a story to its essence, collating revisions on a script, pitching to a wider team, and giving and receiving notes.
Finally, you’ll submit a series/feature storyline and/or a set of notes on an HETV script and receive written feedback from John and his team.
WHO IS IT FOR? Anyone working in TV looking for opportunities in High End TV Drama including editors, development assistants, trainee script editors, researchers, storyliners and story assistants looking to learn the mechanics of story structure and apply that practical understanding to HETV drama.
You can join the course as an individual. We also offer block bookings for HETV production companies who wish to develop emerging script talent and develop a crew base around the UK.
LEVEL Appropriate for trainee script editors, researchers and story assistants – and for those with responsibility for making programmes such as editors and series producers. Also useful as a back-to-basics refresher for people with more experience or teams who want to unify their approach to the craft.
DURATION 6 sessions over 7 weeks.
DELIVERY The course is accessed through an Into the Woods virtual classroom, hosted by the Professional Writing Academy.
Hone your script-development skills
You’ll master story structure and apply those principles to diagnose and address problems with a script in a professional HETV production context.
As you work your way through the course you will develop:
- Knowledge of the underlying structure and generic components of successful TV storytelling within the constraints and specific opportunities of the HETV sector.
- The ability to identify and suggest resolutions to problems with a story at scene, episode and series level.
- Greater control over stories, including in use of suspense, deferral of gratification and crystallising the important elements of a story.
- A familiarity with the script-development process within HETV and the role of the script editor as well as other key team members.
- Increased awareness of the story expectations of HETV as well as the market and audience.
- Increasing judgment and self-confidence in the selection, development and realisation of story ideas and the ability to collate and present/pitch notes to the wider team.
- Professionalism in working with others, including writers, production teams, execs and creatives.
Throughout the course you’ll study real-world scripts that work – and some that don’t – to help you understand how thinking in story terms can help you identify and tackle problems, and make your note-giving more effective at all stages of the development process.
Session 1: Introduction to Storytelling
We start by thinking about the grammar of storytelling and the essential elements every story needs. We’ll look at the HETV script production process and the role of the script editor and other team members. This session is also about introducing yourself and your role in the script process. We will ask you to give notes on a HETV script, which you will revise at the end of the course.
Session 2: Basic Building Blocks
In the second session we build on the basic building blocks used in dramatic storytelling. By the end of the session you’ll be able to understand what makes a good HETV story – and what doesn’t. We’ll also look at the HETV market and audiences. You’ll introduce a script/storyline you’re currently working on or identify one to work on during the course.
At the end of Session 2 there is a Tutor Q&A.
Session 3: Mastering Act Structure
In this session we break down a story into first three and then five acts and look at why the midpoint and turning points are such important elements in a script. We’ll introduce the key ways to read a HETV script and look at story lining across different-length series. Practical exercises include breaking down your script into five parts and writing a story document for your script. You’ll also look at whether you’re thinking on a big-enough scale for high-end drama.
Session 4: Fixing Stories that Don’t Work
This session is about being able to see if a story works – or how to ‘break a story’. You’ll learn the 10 key questions to ask every story and by the end of the session you should be able to deconstruct a HETV story and understand what needs to be done to fix any problems. You’ll apply those principles to the script you brought to Session 2. You’ll also think about whether you have enough story for a series.
At the end of Session 4 there is a Q&A with John Yorke.
Session 5: Giving and Receiving Notes
In this session we work through the process of note giving – to make scripts better not just different. We’ll look at how to use notes in the right way for HETV and at the best ways to give notes to writers and the wider team. We’ll consider how to take notes yourself and interpret the feedback. Practical exercises include making notes on a bad script and giving notes to your peers on their scripts.
Session 6: The HETV Production Context
Finally, we step into the world of developing stories in the HETV production context and the specific opportunities and constraints the form presents. You’ll look at effective ways to develop new HETV story ideas, distilling a story to its essence before learning how to package it into a professional pitch. We’ll also highlight effective ways of presenting story revisions and ideas gathered from a number of sources as a coherent narrative, as well as laying down the do’s and don’ts of story development and pitching. You will also write new notes on the script you tackled in Session 1 – and see how far you’ve come.
At the end of this session, there will be a Q&A with a Script Development Executive.
At the end of the course you will submit a HETV series/feature storyline and/or a set of notes on a script and will receive written feedback from your tutors. This submission can be negotiated in line with a real-life project you are working on.
How we teach you
• The course lasts 7 weeks, and comprises 35-40 hours of learning.
• Each session runs over a week. You will need to put aside 5–7 hours work per week.
• All teaching, interaction with participants and tutor moderation takes place in the Professional Writing Academy online classroom, open 24/7.
• Sessions open on a Monday; assignments must be completed and uploaded by Saturday with critiquing of fellow participants’ work completed the following day.
The course is taught using the following:
- Short audio and video files from John Yorke.
- Short video clip examples (good and bad), scripts and notes from HETV drama.
- Online guidance notes and directed prompts and practical exercises, devised by John Yorke.
- Live chats and Q&A with John Yorke and a script development executive.
- Directed reading and viewing lists from John Yorke.
- Online peer critiquing and guided discussion with other group members
- Day-to-day tutor feedback.
- Online classroom and housekeeping moderation.The support of an online community and virtual classroom.
- A dedicated resources area updated by the course team.
After the course you will have the option to continue working with your peers in an online alumni area. This includes an archive of your course materials and forums that enable you to continue posting work for review from your peer group and others who have completed the course, and to network with former and future participants.
Story for Script has been made possible by the support of Creative Skillset, and has been approved as part of an informal or formal (CPD) programme.
I have learned invaluable lessons that I will remember and refer to throughout my career. This has really revitalised my faith in this industry and the people in it.
I never imaged story craft could be so involved and rigorous. The course has taught me the value of a deadline and the importance of simplicity, clarity, focus and depth. I have come away from the course so much better placed than when I started.
As someone relatively new to the industry I have found the course transformative. I see TV drama in a completely new way now, and look at stories in a new light. I’ll miss the weekly tasks.
I’ve been reworking a script I worked on earlier this year. Revising it with the five-act structure was really interesting. I saw connections I hadn’t seen before and learned how mirroring Acts 2 and 4 could help with momentum for the latter.