If you ask me to name some of the best British drama I would probably say Cracker, Happy Valley, Queer as Folk. The latter of these shows have come from the production slate of RED Productions in Salford which Nicola Shindler began in 1998, and the former is where she cut her teeth as a script editor for Granada.
This week I had the very great privilege to see Shindler interviewed by Boyd Hilton at the BFI. She spoke about her career, examining it in relation to a few key writers she’s worked with on numerous occasions:
* Jimmy McGovern
* Russell T Davis
* Paul Abbott
* Sally Wainwright
* Danny Brocklehurst
All four of these writers are up there as some of the most accomplished in British television, and certainly behind the television which had the greatest influence on me. Nicola spoke about their singular visions, about making sure that projects go ahead with the right creative teams, about being brave enough to let the writers’ voice shine through (McGovern, in particular, delights in causing offence, it seems). What I took away from this evening was the importance of having your own voice, of being bold in your writing. This, I think, is about experience. About writing a lot. Even Jimmy McGovern had to learn how to become Jimmy McGovern. This is a thing I can work on, and I am excited to do so.
In relation to commissioning new writers, Shindler said there’s a gap between hugely in demand, accomplished writers, and the new writers coming through. She attributed this to the demise of daytime drama serials, which used to work as training grounds for new writers. Many of the writers she spoke about have worked in soaps. She considers this to be where they learnt how to use drama, and how to structure episodes of television. Without these shows, new writers prove more of a risk, they need closer mentorship.
An audience member asked about the recent letter from female writers to commissioners and Nicola applauded their actions. She said that at any one time they probably had an equal number of projects in development written by men and women but it was really difficult to get projects written by women made.