Sorry for the silence on the blog for the last month. It’s been completely manic and I’ve spent most of it in London, where I headed to attend the London Screenwriters’ Festival. Yep, all the way from Melbourne, Australia, to the other side of the world for a screenwriters’ festival. One of the best in the world (although I’m biased as I haven’t been to any others as yet).
The main aim of the festival for me was to shop around a sitcom idea I’ve been working on with my writing partner, Anton. We’ve gotten it to a point where we were both happy enough to put the feelers out to gauge interest on the idea – if you think that’s hard enough when you’re one writer, it becomes even harder when there’s two of you!
One thing that I noticed was that a lot of other writers were fascinated that we wrote together. Some asked why we did it, most asked how we did it and I began to realise that a lot of newer writers wouldn’t even think of writing with someone else. It’s interesting to think about, actually, because I’m not sure that I would choose anyone else to write with – I’m perfectly content writing on my own. I think one of the things that really works between Anton and I is that we still have our own individual projects that we work on alongside our group projects. This helps us to keep our independence so that we don’t have to rely on each other to write.
As for why we did it – I don’t remember ever consciously making the decision to be ‘co-writers’. The two of us were so used to working alongside each other on other projects: shorts, sketches, feature spec scripts – that as we discussed the merits of a sitcom idea, it really began to blaze into life and suddenly we realised that we were writing it together. We fell into it, really, which might be the best way of finding a writing partner. There was no pressure to write something together, no panic about whether we would work well together – we both knew and respected each other’s work, loved each other’s style of writing (which is so important – you really need to be each other’s biggest fan) and knew each other well enough that we could pull each other up on weak writing or mistakes. We just started writing together and that was it!
We’re still figuring out how we do it. After spending the best part of two weeks in each other’s company, we’ve really broken the back of it. Along the way, we quizzed everyone we met who mentioned that they had a co-writer as to how they did it. We met the lovely Ry Russo-Young at Sundance London, who told us about her process writing with Lena Dunham on their film Nobody Walks. Their process complimented each other as Ry also works as a director and Lena as an actress. We also managed to catch up with Sally Phillips at the London Screenwriters’ Festival who was happy to chat about the way she writes with others. And Ralf Little didn’t mind telling us about writing with Michelle Terry on The Cafe.
From chatting to others about how they co-wrote, we started to feel our way into it. It’s a process that needs a bit of patience, especially at the beginning when you’re still getting used to each other. We have definitely found our rhythm as writers and now it’s a matter of getting the words on the page, which we are managing to do a lot faster than we used to. Now that we’ve got that equilibrium, it’s really starting to flow, which is filling each of us with more confidence. And because there are two people working on a comedy script, it really opens up the opportunities for more laughs.
I really recommend working with other writers to strengthen your own work. That doesn’t necessarily mean co-writing, but at least consulting on other writers’ projects. I can’t think of a single project I’ve written in the past two years that I haven’t had someone else read and the best part of having a co-writer is that you can send them your stuff and they have to read it! It also helps build a community of writers around you which is never a bad thing. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people who understand why you spend most of your day in front of your computer is one of the best decisions you could ever make.
And when you find someone who is the same level of crazy as you, it’s amazing the kind of stuff you can come up with.