Scriptwriting: A Talk From Paul Abbot

On Tuesday 3rd November, Bafta Award Winning scriptwriter Paul Abbot gave a speech entitled ‘TV’s Shakespeare’ in Coventry. As I am interested in the field of scriptwriting I attended this talk and found it extremely entertaining. The speech itself is available for download on itunes as a podcast under ‘Coventry Conversations’ or on the link provided HERE.

Paul Abbott

He has been nominated and won several Writer’s Awards and The Dennis Potter Award for Outstanding Writing in Television in 2004. In July of the same year Radio Times magazine placed him at No. 5 in a poll of industry professionals to find The Most Powerful People in Television Drama.

Abbot has produced and written several successful Dramas on British television, most obviously ‘Shameless’ (2004-Present), which he said the characters were based on his own experiences and family life growing up in Burnley. The action of the programme itself was changed to Manchester in the present day.

Shamless DVD

He stated how “the first draft you produce should be completely different from the final piece”. I found that from this, it is vital that you develop and expand past your usual boundaries when scriptwriting; don’t write something you haven’t thought carefully about.

He mentioned many important things which I thought I would add to my blog. He said “surround yourself with excellence”, which would of course take time, but through a life in the media industry, it is always good to create alliances and friendships with people from all aspects of production.

He also mentioned how before you show a script to a production company, show it to at least five different people and absorb their feedback and often critical responses. It is those negative responses which help you improve and learn from your mistakes. He announced how there was an extremely important need to understand the story you are writing before the plot, and also that when you are writing, you must become your characters in order to fully develop them.

The secret of scriptwriting according to Abbot is “instinct” and “emotional honesty”. He made a point that “if you wouldn’t watch it, don’t write it!”

From his talk I have decided to take on board his advice and to read scripts every now and then, analyse and note down what I like, but also find critical points to make. I am also now reading films as well as watching them; breaking down the narrative codes and decoding the storyline.


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