Writing Comedy: My Process

Everyone writes differently. There are definitely no right or wrong ways to get words down on the page – there are certain standards and formats that you can use to your advantage, to present yourself as knowledgable and professional. The most important thing you can do is figure out what works for you – then stick to it. There’s no point in forcing yourself to write the way someone else does it, just because they do it that way. Try new ways to set up structure or pull out story, sure, but if it doesn’t work for you, don’t be afraid to say that it doesn’t work for you and go back to what you’ve always done.

I write comedy. It’s a bit of a beast, comedy, because there are so many different types. There’s romantic comedies, action comedies, balls out comedies, sitcoms, sketches, radio, television, film – it goes on and on and on. My style isn’t about having a huge belly laugh every minute, mine is about making people laugh with a touch of humanity – something to think about at the end.

As a result, my first drafts aren’t always so funny. I have to resist the urge to go back and tear everything apart in my early drafts – but this gets easier the more I write, as I know that I’ll probably tear it all apart in rewrites anyway. The first few drafts are all about getting the story right. The comedy comes later – there are always a handful of jokes in the early drafts but I’m more concerned about character arcs and plots instead of making people laugh. If jokes are there, it’s because they’ve happened naturally when I’ve written them.

The key thing I’ve found for me is to give myself permission for my work to not be bang on the first time around. It’s okay if it’s not perfect – that’s what multiple drafts are for. I can do a lot of work beforehand – outlines, scene by scene breakdowns – to make sure that the structure will do what it’s supposed to in the early drafts (and, I say ‘a lot of work’ but I know that I, personally, do less figuring out everything beforehand and let a lot of things happen on the page), but I need to remember that writing is a process, not a science. It’s part of the process to change, shape and mould things as you go along.

Another key thing I’ve learnt about myself as I write is that you have to trust yourself to be ruthless. You need to trust your instinct. Where does your script begin to soar? That’s most likely your strongest part. Where, when you re-read, do you feel like it’s still a bit of a slog? That’s likely a part that needs work. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge this. I find that looking back over my core idea for the scene and simplifying is a great way to cut extra weight. Likewise, getting out of scenes early and starting them late. The more scripts I read, the more I realise that this is really vital.

Once I’ve got the structure locked, the story strong, that’s when I start to do passes on the jokes. There will always be some in my early drafts – some I’ve worked out in an outline or a breakdown, some have happened on the page as I wrote. But they’re probably not the greatest jokes. Sometimes they are and they make me laugh like mad, so I’ll leave them in. Other times, they’re not working for the comedy as well as they should and so I analyse the scene, the character, the line and see what I can do to up the laughs and ramp up the hilarity.

I’m lucky in that I have a great co-writer who has a nose for comedy. That means that we can talk about scenes together and we’ll always end up throwing around new jokes, ideas, trying to keep the ball rolling until we hit the wall and then come up with a few more. Even on our individual projects, we work together in feedback on drafts, to try and bring the best out of the script.

Right now, I’m doing a first draft of our sitcom pilot. It’s been planned, written, torn apart, re-written. We’ve hit character problems, created new backstory, found new running jokes, developed new storylines. We’ve tried different structure formats to make the spine strong, started outlining and hit problems. Now, we’ve gotten to the point where we’ve an outline we feel good about and I’ve started the new first draft this week. And I just wanted to note this somewhere – that it’s okay for this draft not to be particularly hilarious; I trust Anton and I to enhance the comedy in later drafts. These early drafts are all about structure, story and character. Without those three, you’ve only got ink on a page or pixels on a computer screen. And that’s not all writing is. Writing is about emotion. Emotion comes out of characters you can relate to and a story you enjoy. And you can’t have either of those things without a solid story structure.

Right. Good little pep talk. Back to it.

Things I Learnt This Weekend: TV Writers’ Studio – Melbourne

Although not technically ‘this’ weekend, on the 23rd – 24th of February, I was lucky enough to attend Epiphany Artists’ TV Writers’ Studio. This took place in Melbourne and in Sydney and I headed off to the Melbourne one as Sydney is a little too far for me to commute. The wonderous gang at Epiphany Artists had pulled together some of the top consultants and writers in LA and dragged them Down Under to chat to a bunch of us Aussie writers – and it was an impressive bunch of people. Jen Grisanti, Steve Kaplan, Carole Kirschner, Ellen Sandler and Glen Mazzara all made the trek down to help inspire a bunch of writers to push themselves to find the best in their writing.

It was a crazy and intense weekend. The good kind of crazy and intense. It was split pretty evenly between a comedy strand and a drama strand, big chunks of the day dedicated to each. This was a great way to do it, I think, as then you could either be really selective about what you wanted to see and slip out during the sessions that didn’t attract you as much or go eagerly to all of them and make thousands of notes, like I did. There was also a third day which was set up to be like a mini writers’ room – again, split into drama and comedy – but I had to get back to work so unfortunately couldn’t go.

It was really fascinating to hear how the system works in LA. The structure of television – particularly in comedy – is so different from what I’m used to playing with in a more British or Australian model. But what I think I learnt the most is that there are so many different ways to approach writing something, so you have to feel really strong in the core elements of your story so that when different writers throw their own style of story at it, the core elements still shine through.

Another really interesting point that it threw up for me, was to really define for yourself as a writer the different core elements you’re working with. To take yourself through your idea and your story step by step to find out the functions of different characters and flagging to yourself something that you may have known subconsciously but bringing it to the forefront of your mind so you can work with it consciously. That was an incredibly useful tool for me to push myself to lock things in. I think that it’s easy as a writer to leave things up in the air and not define things, because sometimes when you define something it feels as though it can never be changed ever again.

But with definitions come creative limitations. And often it’s these limitations that make it a more creative place for you to work. If someone told you to write a short film script about anything you wanted, you’d find it hard to know where to start. But if someone told you to write a short script about absolutely anything, but set in the desert, that’s a creative limitation that allows your mind to work toward something.

By saying to yourself ‘My lead character is a 29 year old woman, who lives and works in a petrol station in the South Australian outback who wants to be free of her life and pursue her dream of becoming a singer, but is stuck there by her over-bearing, small town mother who can’t let go of her daughter and her best friend who is unhappily married and the only mechanic in town,’ you suddenly have a whole lot more possibilities to work with in every episode, story and arc you write than a blank page.

She’s 29 and feels like she’s achieved nothing with her life. Minefield of ideas for how she could try to seize the day. She wants to be a singer – very visual and occasionally musical. Can she actually sing? What if she’s awful? Maybe that’s a running joke – we never hear her sing so are never sure how good she is. The relationship between mother and daughter also holds endless possibilities for stories. Likewise, a potential romance in the best friend AND anyone else who comes through the servo on their way to/from the outback.

Creative limitation.

Define genre, character, protagonist, style and tone, locations and arena of the story, what your protagonist (or central character) wants – what gets them out of bed in the morning? What are they passionate about? Who is your target audience? This last one will usually define your character’s ages and personality. Not always – there are exceptions to every rule.

Mostly though, the weekend was a great way to think differently about my projects. It forced me to look at things from another perspective and I think that always really benefits you as a writer/filmmaker and your project. Even if it’s a completely different opinion to yours – you need to figure out how people made that leap to that space and work out how to guide them better to where you want them. It’s hard work to do, but incredibly beneficial.

Have a go at it. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to use it. That’s the beauty of writing – if something doesn’t work, throw it out. But it’s worth having a go to see what it might throw up.

Post Production Update!

Sorry for the delay on the blog post over the past fortnight. I could regale you with reasons why I haven’t managed to write anything but that would waste perfectly good time when I could be telling you about all sorts of fun stuff that’s been happening with the ‘With A Little Help From Our Friends’ edit!

We are getting much closer to a picture locked cut. We’ve got to a point where it’s cut to the script (and even cut a little shorter than that), but we’re concerned that the running time is too long (and, yes, you can call seven and a half minutes too long). So I’m waiting on feedback from a few more people and then really looking at what we can take out structurally that won’t hinder the overall story.

I’ve got a sound designer doing a mix on the sound – as we’re not putting anything back in and only taking things out from here on in, I don’t feel like this is a waste of time. I know that it sometimes can be, to send a sound designer an unlocked cut, but when he gets back to you and tells you he’s got two days to work his magic, you don’t say no.

The next step is colour grading, which I’m not one hundred percent sure how we’ll tackle yet and, obviously, getting the cut locked. It’s definitely not too far away at all and it’s been a fantastic learning curve – particularly in how hard comedy is to make! So much depends on timing and every single person in frame acting all the time (you’ll be surprised how often a joke falls flat because one extra in the background isn’t giving the right reaction. Luckily this didn’t happen for us as we couldn’t afford extras, but I have definitely seen it happen). And, of course, the timing of the jokes in the edit can effect it enormously.

In other news, I’ve been asked to read the entries for the London Screenwriters’ Festival’s free script and filmmaking competition: 50 Kisses. Write a two minute script or make a two minute film and you could have your film premiered in a London cinema on Valentine’s Day 2013!

Off to watch the edit again. What to cut?

The Countdown: Five Days Until We Shoot

It’s Monday already? Gosh, where did last week go? We’ve been busy in the ‘With A Little Help From Our Friends’ production office (and by that, I mean we’re all working out of our respective bedrooms) and suddenly we’re five days out from shooting.

This week is out last chance to get everything in place before Saturday morning. The list isn’t too formidable, but that’s ignoring anything that will go horribly wrong in the next few days. We’ve had a few hiccups but nothing disastrous as yet (touch wood) and we’ve managed to bounce back from that and keep the train moving.

So, where are we at?

We’ve currently raised $1771 toward our budget which is completely amazing considering we thought we’d struggle to hit $1000. Our budget is $2000, so if you’re still interested in helping us out, go and check out the campaign (it’s running for another two and a half weeks). We’re so stunned by the support so thank you so much to everyone who has helped out so far!

We had our second and final rehearsal yesterday which was pretty exciting. It was great to see how much the story and characters have developed since the first rehearsal a few weeks ago and the script is really starting to come into its own. The cast seemed to be having great fun, judging by the explosions of laughter that erupted after the end of each run through and I must admit that I lost it a few times during a scene and had to compose myself so that I could actually focus on the performances (see below for some ace photos!).

Now we’re all about the shoot. Craig is in charge of call sheets and schedules, Jack’s liasing with the locations and I’ve got to finalise shot lists as well as make sure we’ve got all the props and costume we need. This is the week to be organised, definitely, as this is the time when things’ll start to go wrong. But as I told Craig when he called me to tell me that the harddrives we were going to buy for the shoot had leapt up £200 in price because of the floods in Thailand – if nothing goes wrong, then you’ve forgotten something.

Bring on the shoot!

Lucy (Carolina Main) tells Abby (Victoria Smith) why dating Max is a bad idea.

Max (Markus Copeland) tells Des about how he met Abby.

Des (Danny Mahoney) tries to convince Max (Markus Copeland) he’s wrong.

Alli Parker (director) chats to Markus and Danny.

Abby (Victoria Smith), Lucy (Carolina Main), Max (Markus Copeland) and Des (Danny Mahoney).

Pre-Production: Auditions – Part 01

I am delighted to report that regardless of any qualms or nerves expressed in previous posts, the auditions for With A Little Help From Our Friends went mind-blowingly well.

I’ll break down the process during the week, but in summary (at the beginning, I know, it’s a bit weird) we had:

– Roughly 100 applications for roles
– I asked 20 people to audition
– 18 booked spots on the day
– 14 of those 18 showed up.

Of the four who didn’t show up, every single one of them sent apologetic text messages or emails.

The auditions themselves went great. I always get a little nervous that someone will come in and be a terrible actor and I’ll have to bluff my way through five minutes of awkwardly playing around with the material so that they don’t feel too shafted, but every single actor who came to meet Jack and I was really really great.

Which, of course, has made my job a lot harder to try and choose who my Max, Des, Abby and Lucy are.

It’s frustrating when auditions go well. I now wish I could write extra parts for other actors I saw so that they’re still included in the film, but with a short, that’s nearly impossible. It’s tough because each actor brings something different to the character and it’s all about figuring out if that dynamic will work with another actor’s dynamic and really bring out the best in the script and look arresting on screen.

The one thing I am pretty terrible at during auditions is my poker face. I remember having discussions about this at university when we would hold auditions for our student films. If you’re auditioning someone, should you give them the satisfaction of reacting favourably to their performance? I’m not sure, to be honest. I’ve never been ‘taught’ the ‘right’ way to hold auditions, so I just hold them how I think they should be done. A director I worked with once wouldn’t let me be the reader (read the cue lines of dialogue in a script for an audition) because I was ‘acting’ them too much. He was of the opinion that you should read them as flat as possible to test the actor’s ability. I tend to disagree with that – surely you want to get the best out of your actor so you give them the safest and most comfortable space to perform in?

With that mindset, I’m fairly positive that I had very little poker face-ing skills on Sunday. For one, actors were genuinely enjoying performing my dialogue which is more than enough to bring a smile to my face. But when the acting is spot on in a comedy, when the timing is right, keeping a straight face and resisting the urge to laugh is slightly tougher than you’d think.

Right, enough procrastination. I’m off to giggle at my dialogue and deliberate over my cast once again. Her and him? Do they make a believeable couple? Do those two look like best friends? Or maybe them. But he was a stronger actor.

Gah. Wish me luck!

You Know What You’re Trying To Say? Say The Opposite.

As Ronan Keating once put it ‘You say it best when you say nothing at all.’ Perhaps not the best way to start off a new blog post, but I’m going to stick with it. The flashback to the nineties aside, I went and saw Thor on Tuesday night. I was looking forward to it – I’m not a comic book girl, but I have a soft spot for Kenneth Branagh and Chris Hemsworth so was keen to see what magic the two of them could cook up together.

This is not going to be a review on Thor. No spoilers, nothing like that.
About thirty minutes from the end of the film, I started to get fidgety. The 3D glasses (which I’m still not sold on) had scratches on them and I was struggling to find a position to watch in that wasn’t annoying or blurred. I could hear two girls talking loudly about something – potentially Chris Hemsworth’s abs, I don’t know – but they were on the other side of the cinema. If I’d had popcorn, I would’ve thrown it at them.
If you’ve ever watched a movie or a television show with me – my siblings will back me up here – at a certain point I can often predict the next line of dialogue and proceed to annoy everyone by saying it aloud. Yes, I’m that person. But the thing about writing is that the audience isn’t supposed to be able to predict what the characters are going to say. Good writing is all about sleight of hand – leading the audience one way whilst you’re slipping the rabbit into your hat for later.
There were a few moments toward the end of Thor that I was mumbling the next line of dialogue under my breath. It was cheesy, it was clichéd and it annoyed me. Thinking about it as I walked home, I realised what was so frustrating about it.
The moment would’ve been so much more powerful if the characters had said nothing at all.
Subtext. What the characters don’t say is often far more powerful than what they do. One of the best examples of subtext I’ve ever read was a scene with a Man and his Wife in a bookstore and they bump into his Mistress. They have an innocent conversation about reading – how the Mistress is very fond of reading, as is the Man but the Wife rather snippily puts in that she doesn’t read much anymore which surprises the Mistress because the Man is such a fierce reader that the Mistress can’t believe that it hasn’t rubbed off on the Wife.
But they’re not talking about reading.
They’re talking about sex.
And it makes the moment brilliant. Because the audience knows what they’re really talking about and it heightens the tension – will they acknowledge what they’re actually talking about? Does the Wife know that they’re not just talking about reading? It was wonderful to read and it stuck with me.
It’s the same with dialogue and character action in films. Having a conversation about something seemingly innocent that is, in fact, about something else is a really great concept for a short film because it can be sustained for the duration of the short. It’s hard to maintain that over long periods of time. But the actors will be able to convey to the audience what the character actually means in their action – the action will intentionally contradict the dialogue.
Even better than using something else as a foil for what the characters are actually saying is saying nothing at all. To convey it in a gesture or a glance – an actor will fall over themselves to play a moment like that. The power is in the silence. Some of the best comic moments are physical – I’m not talking slapstick, a simple look, a blink, a cough can be enough to have an audience gasping for laughter. Some of the strongest dramatic moments are caught within an action – a stoic father, a stunned girl, a sobbing child. Think about the moment before a kiss. The charged energy in the air. Two people staring into each others’ eyes. Just before they give into temptation…
That moment is always more powerful than the actual kiss.
Really think about your dialogue. In a short, if the dialogue isn’t earning its place, it has to go. You don’t have time to be mucking around with irrelevant dialogue. Everything has to be essential otherwise it’s too random.
As for this moment in Thor, all the character needed to do was smile warmly and touch the other character’s shoulder. Instead, he said what he was thinking to spell it out for the audience. Sometimes you need to do this. Here, you didn’t.
Although it might’ve been handy for those girls who were distracted by Chris Hemsworth’s abs to know what was going on with the story…

Things I Learnt This Weekend – London Comedy Writers Festival 2011

If you follow me on Twitter, you probably already know that I went along to the London Comedy Writers’ Festival on the weekend to review the event for Step2InspireTV. If you don’t follow me on Twitter, this weekend I went along to the London Comedy Writers’ Festival on the weekend to review the event for Step2InspireTV. I’m not going to rehash that post at all (click here if you’d like to read it though) as that’s a general overview of the entire festival with a couple of tips from each session I went to. Here, I wanted to go over the best points for me (a la the Southern Script Festival post here).

I’m just going to get into it.

Top Ten Things I Learnt At The London Comedy Writers’ Festival This Weekend:
(in no particular order)

1. Sessions aren’t always the most important thing.
‘What’s that?’ I hear you ask. They aren’t?’ I’m not saying that you should buy your ticket and go to no sessions, because listening to Jessica Hynes and Stephen Mangan take deliberately opposing viewpoints on a question to get a roaring laugh out of the audience is always worth it. But if I hadn’t (accidently) skipped the 2pm sessions on Sunday, I wouldn’t have ended up finding myself chatting to a bunch of fledgling producers, newly inspired by the American Independents Day session running alongside the Festival and swapping business cards with people looking for low-budget scripts. I have no doubt that I would’ve learnt something brilliant if I went, but there’s no point in being brilliant if no-one wants to make your films.

2. Speak to as many people as you can.
This is a hard skill to learn. As I said in my Southern Script Festival post, I had a huge crash-course in ‘networking’ last year at the London Screenwriters’ Festival (running again in October this year and it will be phenomenal). This year, the sun was out and I was in a fantastic mood to see a bunch of familiar faces so it was incredibly easy to talk to new ones. I skipped around, joining circles, gently interrupting conversations, talking to strangers who were trying to eat their lunch in silence. There were all kinds of writers/directors/producers who were working in television/film/web/radio – it just opens your eyes to all the possibilities that are out there. For instance, I met a fellow Aussie who used to write gags and jokes for Rove: Live when it was on television. In that instant, I realised that there are all sorts of comedy ‘live’ shows like that on Aussie television that I hadn’t even considered I might be able to write for when I get home.

3. Actors can tell in the first 5 pages if your work is rubbish.
That’s coming straight from the mouths of Jessica Hynes and Stephen Mangan. To get good actors interested in your work, the key is clarity: of character, of location, of what’s going on. The most important part of luring actors in is your characters. I thought of it this way: write a character who you would like to play. Even if you’re not an actor, would you secretly want to play this on screen? If you were the best actor in the world, is this a character you would want to have on your IMDB page? If not, perhaps you should figure out why.

4. The funniest characters are deluded.
Not in a negative way. What this means is that the characters honestly believe that everything they do is for the best. They aren’t hamming it up, there’s no cheeky wink to camera to try and heighten the joke – the character is played as straight as they come. That way the humour arises from the way that the slightly more ‘normal’ characters react to them. Think about it. The funniest characters live in their own worlds, completely oblivious to what’s going on around them and how people perceive them. Borat, Barney (‘How I Met Your Mother’), Sheldon (‘Big Bang Theory’) – there are heaps more, but those three are example enough, really. That gap between actual reality and a character’s reality gives an actor a chance to play. And that’s what actors like to do best. Play.

5. Write/Make what you’re passionate about.
Forget the zombies, the Vampires, the current trends in cinema. Chances are that by the time your film is finished, the fad will have finished and you’ll be behind the times. Write what you’re interested in, what you’re passionate about. If you do that, you’ll write something strong and compelling and that’ll be enough to get the ball rolling.

6. Work out your story before you work out your jokes.
This nugget comes from the fabulous Robert Popper. In his session, he talked about story and character being more important than the jokes. Work that stuff out first, then move into writing the humour into it. Most humour arises from setting and character, so figure out who and where before you try to make the audience laugh so hard they fall off their chairs. If you start off with a joke and try to build a premise around it, it’s much harder to sustain for any longer than a sketch.

7. The best pitches contain…
This was a piece of advice from Jonathan Newman which I found valuable because pitching is often one of the hardest things to do.

The best pitches contain:
+ context
+ character
+ location
+ a sense of irony (the ‘and/but’ twist at the end of the pitch)


If you cover these four points in your one-liner, that’ll be enough to keep a producer hooked to tell them a little more about the story.

8. Don’t be afraid to write likeable characters.
As much fun as it is to write characters who are dark and violent, it becomes risky if they aren’t likeable. The audience wants to care about the characters, so you can make them dark and violent but don’t alienate the audience from connecting with them. There’s nothing worse than killing off a character in your script and having no reaction from your audience. You want them to be bawling their eyes out! Which leads me on to…

9. Make the comedic moments HILARIOUS; the dramatic moments HEARTFELT.
These two points come from the minds of co-writers Jamie Minoprio and Jonathan Stern. I thought it was a great point in any kind of writing – not just comedy. Push the moments to the best that they can be to really get a reaction from your audience.

10. It is never about us. It’s always about the audience.
This gem was from none other than Chris Jones, who I’ve talked about in previous posts. But this is something that I always think about when I write. Not necessarily during the first draft, but when it starts shaping up, I try and look at it from an audience’s point of view and then really push the material to get the right reaction. If I want them to gasp in this spot, I need to heighten this tension. That joke’s just a giggle, how can I make it a roar? Think about your audience – after all without an audience, you have no film.

There’s my top ten(ish – there’s some great other tips on my Step2Inspire post) tips from the London Comedy Writers’ Festival. It was a great weekend in all – capped off by the announcement that I was going to come on board as deputy moderator for Euro Scriptchat (a weekly event on Twitter for writers and filmmakers). For now though, I’m going to sort through my business cards, catch up on my sleep and wonder why the chicken did cross the road. It’s a toughie.

Links

London Comedy Writers’ Festival
Alli’s Step2Inspire Review

London Screenwriters’ Festival

Speakers
Jessica Hynes
Stephen Mangan
Robert Popper
Jonathan Newman
Jamie Minoprio
Jonathan Stern
Chris Jones

Comedy VS. Drama

Genre is a tricky beast to tackle. Each genre has its own pros and cons; its own rules and regulations. Genre writing is difficult enough for a 90 page feature film, let alone condensing those elements down into a 5 to 9 minute short film.

To be honest, when I write, I don’t think too much about genre. For me, it’s all about character. Story, genre, location – that all comes AFTER I have a character in my head who whispers their story into my ear.

However, genre in short film is something that I have thought about at length.

Writing a short film isn’t like writing a feature. There are similarities, of course, but there are a whole range of different conventions that I find useful when writing a short film. There will be a blog post on short film structure coming up soon, but I wanted to talk about genre in short film for now.

In 2008, I was watching the graduate screening for my university. All the films made by the graduate students of that year, up there on the screen, showing to a real audience for the first time. There were some fantastic films, there were some not so fantastic films. But you always get a mixed bag in collections of shorts like that – it’s part of the deal. One of the things I did notice that night was that almost all the films were deeply dramatic, dark and depressing. Guns were a regular fixture, intense loneliness in children, night shoots – the tone was so similar that they’ve blurred together in the past few years. Some that I do remember were really well made, my own, or comedies. It didn’t even matter if the comedy fell flat – the fact was it stuck out because it was different. The only relief in an oppressing flood of drama.

I went to another screening shortly after and EVERY SINGLE FILM was a dark drama or a gloomy abstract film. I’m not saying the films were badly made – on the contrary, some were incredibly well put together, but the fact remains that drama dominates short film.

I realised that to make my film memorable, I’d have to make it different.

So I decided to write a comedy for my graduate film in 2009.

It was one of the best experiences of my life. I’m not going to talk too much about that short film (called ‘Operation: Playstation’, if you were interested), but I learnt a lot from it. The script needed a lot more work than it got, but it was a fantastic experience and I loved doing it.

And it was the first comedic anything I’d written seriously.

I’ve been writing for most of my life. And I don’t say that lightly – I have memories of writing stories in my Grade 5 notebook. That makes me about 10 years old. I’ve been reading since I was 3. I’ve always loved stories. And even those half-written stories, scribbled in a primary school notebook, tell me something.

I’ve always written drama.

It makes sense. The market is so saturated with drama that it’s easy to pick up on it and channel it onto the page. From ‘real-life’ drama (I use the term ‘real-life’ very loosely), I moved on to fantasy drama. My first serious short film script was a police drama. Scribbled ideas in notebooks or scenes saved on to my computer were always dramatic.

So to challenge myself to write comedy was slightly daunting.

And writing comedy is hard. It is a really difficult thing. A person’s sense of humour is entirely relative. Whilst you’re crying with laughter at something you could find hilarious, the person sitting next to you can be impatiently waiting for the joke.

The single hardest part about writing comedy is getting the jokes to leap off the page and make the reader laugh.

I’m still working on it. I’m not pretending like I have all the answers, because I don’t. At the end of the day, I think that ‘With A Little Help From Our Friends’ is a funny script. It makes me giggle like mad. I sent it off to some writers for critical feedback and they commented on some parts positively and other parts they thought fell flat. But that was okay. I tweaked the jokes and tried again.

The easiest way to figure it out is to try. ‘With A Little Help From Our Friends’ isn’t a script filled with belly laughs (on the page. Once you bring actors into the equation, magic can happen). I wrote another drama/comedy script for a competition recently and the bit of feedback that made me grin the most was that the readers were coming back to me and consistently telling me that the same part of the script was funny. They were laughing aloud as they read it.

That’s no mean feat. It’s something I’m really proud of.

If you can make a reader laugh aloud from black words on a white page, you can get an audience to roar with laughter in the cinema.

And, at the end of the day, the audience is the most important part of the equation.