Scripts and advice at the BBC Writers’ Room



Some of you are going to be working on scripts for your coursework projects, and I’ve mentioned to a couple of people the BBC Writers’ Room, which should be your first port of call. For some, the easiest way to learn is by doing, but it’s also good to be able to read real-world examples before you start.

I’ve suggested to a couple of people that the TV Pilot would be a better option to do a trailer, and here’s why: You can download very recent scripts for both one-off dramas and drama series or serials (soaps). You can see scripts there for Survivors, Doctor Who, EastEnders, Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes, and many, many more.

There are also tips for writing various types of broadcast fiction.

As you’ll be aware, Apple Pages software includes a screenplay template which will allow you to format a movie script successfully. For those of you wanting to use Word, either on the Mac or on a (*hawk*)PC(*spit*), the BBC have a Word Macro script called ScriptSmart, which will plug into Word and be very helpful in auto formatting.

It’s a free download, but you have to make sure you download the correct version for your setup, and you will have to enable Macros within Word (the “feature” is usually switched off for security purposes). For this reason, I doubt we’d get it working on the school (*hawk*)PCs(*spit*).

In an ideal world, I’d get Final Draft, the professional scriptwriting software, but you can’t have everything. Anyway, with all this free stuff, there’s no need.

Those of you wanting to work on a news or current affairs programme, it’s not as easy to get hold of something, but you might look at this web page, which shows a sample TV news script. The trick here is to think of a news programme as a front end to a database. In the database, you have all your “VT” (videotape) reports (though it’s not on tape these days, of course), your audio clips, and your news anchor scripts, which then get played out in the correct sequence.

For example, the show might start with a one-minute “teaser”, in which the news anchor reads out the day’s headlines over the top of a one-minute segment of VT, edited together from the day’s main news stories. You’d then have the title sequence, followed by the more formal introduction from the anchor. What the anchor needs to know is when to go from the script on the autocue to the news reporter, or the video segment, and when it all returns to the studio. So each bit of VT needs to have an “in cue” and an “out cue”, so the news anchor can listen out for the moment the camera in the studio is back on.


2 thoughts on “Scripts and advice at the BBC Writers’ Room

    • Try here.

      It’s a word template (will open in Apple Pages) in the form of a simple table. Two columns. Just “video” and “audio” (voiceover text, music and FX), going down the page. And it will very rarely need to be longer than one page.

      Many writers would be tempted to overdirect (i.e. describe it in exhaustive detail), but usually that sort of thing is left to the director, not the writer.

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