The process of writing a script for a television drama, for me and my team, began with a fundamental stage; research! Through acknowledging different television series which we both enjoyed and admired, visually and in terms of content, we devised our idea; a patient who is trapped in a coma following a (near fatal) accident. Although they are aware of their surroundings, this is invisible to everyone else, and consequently they spend the episode, quite literally, fighting for their life as they try to express that they are still alive, before the life-support machines are turned off.
Stranger things (2016), the series by the Duffer Brothers was a major inspiration for me, in terms of visual style. The dark atmosphere of the room seemed to fit perfectly with the dark studio in which we had to work, and created the sense of isolation, and confusion which we would want to display in the character. The dark space felt like a way we could really represent the patient’s mind, carrying with it connotations of loneliness and fright, as well as drawing on the typical childhood fear of the dark that would resound with most people. I think that research was certainly the fundamental aspect of creating the idea for the drama, and by blending current trends with our own ideas, we were able to invent an original, yet relevant concept.
Multi-camera television programmes Shows that inspired our creative vision:
-The Vampire Diaries
Here is a mood-board I created, using images from Stranger Things, and a hospital image from the moody and immensely popular, teen-drama, The Vampire Diaries:
Upon reflection I think this to be an effective concept for a short television drama, both visually and in terms of narrative content. It has the potential to be engaging for an audience, despite the short timeframe in which the story has to develop. Perhaps the level of frustration in the characters encourages the audience to empathise with them, and perhaps even become a little frustrated with the situation themselves.
Target Audience: WHAT TO CONSIDER
Of course, when writing any kind of television content, one of, if not the most important aspects of consideration is who the content will be shown to. Whilst in the early stages of researching and planning the television drama, categorised different areas of target audience, and what we needed to consider. Age, gender, media habits and current trends were held within our priority, and after researching Netflix and modern, popular dramas, like Stranger Things (2016), decided that a younger audience whom tends access these sorts of shows would be our target. This also reinforced the importance of research into trends, and what young audiences of around 15-25 would prefer to watch. All of the shows we researched are generally considered popular within this age group, and we thought it may largely be to do with the nature of the characters.
We decided that we wanted the characters to be fairly young, following the trends we spotted of shows with younger characters gaining more popularity.
Max Miller is a 20 year old apprentice builder
Dr Jane Allen (voiceover):
Dr Jane Allen is a 45 year old neurosurgeon
Holly Miller is a 37 year old single mother
Open to Edit style of writing:
By using google docs to write our drama, we were able to continue working on the project when the team and I were apart. It also enabled us to leave honest feedback about each others work and contributions. I feel this was a useful and productive method of working on the script, and I will use this technique in future team-writing projects.
Writing the Script
Following the development of the characters, and concept of the drama, we began developing an outline, and then a script. In our team of three, we first created the different beats of the show, recognising and developing different turning points which would be necessary to move the narrative forward. Already we knew that we wanted the piece to begin with Max’s mind waking from his coma (his body still motionless), to the sounds of his mother’s voice arguing with a doctor about whether to turn off his life support. We thought that immediately this would create the sense of urgency and tension which we so desired for the drama, and by following Max as the protagonist, we could use him waking from the coma and figuring out what is happening as exposition in the piece.
Together we worked through the script, reading lines aloud to see if they sounded believable, and also to work out what should come next. I found this a useful technique; it helped to illuminate dialogue that wasn’t necessary, and work out areas which needed more finesse. In addition, the fact that we read the script as a team meant that we had more opinions to work with which definitely helped to refine the script.
In retrospect, I think that the ages of the characters would have worked well had we gone on to create the show. Considering we were aiming the show at a younger audience, it was important that the protagonist (Max), and his mother whom we also encouraged to vouch for were at an age similar (enough so that the viewers could relate and empathise more directly with the characters), perhaps by focusing on age group, we were able to touch on subjects with more relevance to our audience, and therefore create a drama with more potential to be received well.
Tom Sawyer (2016) Stranger things – Russian spy. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31i47MR56Dw (Accessed: 15 April 2017).