Comedy Scribe tells Budding Screenwriters how to get onto TV.
On Thursday 29th March, 7:30pm, Falmouth’s Courtyard Deli will host an informal talk with screenwriter James Henry through their Arts Cafe. With reference to his experiences writing for the Bafta winning Green Wing, Smack the Pony and a variety of children’s television, the evening will provide informative insight into the screenwriting industry.
James has always been interested in writing, but “never thought of doing scripts”. It was while studying at Derby University where he remembers “it finally clicked for me. I realised how simple it is to lay out a script. I find the format really freeing”. His career began after he “won a Channel 4 scriptwriting competition in ’99, which lead to five minute commissions and an episode of Bob The Builder”. After the success of the competition, James got an agent and whether it’s writing for children’s television or more adult audiences for sitcoms Green Wing, Smack The Pony and Campus he has become an established comedy writer.
James believes “it can be good to do a bit of fantasy casting” which allows the writer to “put a face to a main character, even though it doesn’t necessarily have to be them in the end”. He also recognises an emerging trend where children’s film and television are beginning to include adult comedy. Though “television is just starting to get their head around it”, this style of writing typified by American comedies, particularly film, results in successful shows where “adults will get an extra level of humour”.
As encouragement to aspiring writers he simply remarks, “write, just write”. He adds, “you have to go a fair distance on your own to prove you can do it before you can get an agent”. Though based in Cornwall now, James started his career in Canterbury. He believes it is definitely possible for writers to begin their careers in Cornwall, “it’s tough, but it can be done. You’ve got to be prepared to spend money and travel”.
As well as working in television James has also had experience within the film industry. In 2007 he wrote an original feature screenplay Hero Trip, which focuses on “a slightly cynical superhero that has to team up with his nemesis, a minor league super villain, they have to drive across America to save to world. It’s a road movie, but with all the typical characters of a superhero movie”.
After discussions with producers and script editors, arranged by his agent, James continued developing the script and resulted in it being picked up for production by the British Film Council. Unfortunately this was at the time where the film council was abolished and “the whole top level of the film council changed and things dissolved”. He adds, “I’m just leaving it in a drawer now. I’ll leave it and start something new, but it’s there, in the drawer, ready for when things come back around”.
With Hero Trip stored away James turned his attention towards other projects, including a Cornwall-set crime drama Bandit Country, which was optioned by ITV, and an adaptation of James Boswell’s London Journals, that has unfortunately been a victim of the BBC4 cuts. James will provide honest and detailed anecdotes from his career and valuable opportunity for aspiring writers to learn about screenwriting from an industry professional.