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Q+A: Marc Pye, TV Writer

Regular Readers of the blog in its previous AOL incarnation should remember this post about Marc just before his episode of Jimmy McGovern’s The Street was broadcast last year. If you’ve never heard of him however, Marc is a veteran writer for UK TV drama and all-round top bloke. We met in reality for the first time this year at Adrian Mead’s Long Distance Screenwriter course in Edinburgh, but I first heard from Marc himself when I read his feature screenplay The Mole for him way back in 2005, though I had actually read his stuff before in 2002 through a literary agent! As I always say, those scripts get around! Enjoy…

What are you working on at the moment?
I’m on 3 eps of River City, each at different drafts. I’ve got an ep of Echo Beach shooting at the moment and am making tweaks to that as and when required. I’m half way through a commission called The Sisters, which is about witches, and I’m putting the finishing touches to a comedy drama treatment I’ve been developing with Max Kinnings for Granada before we go to script, then I’m doing a second draft of Act of Grace, a feature I’m co writing with Alan Field, who also wrote on The Street.

You’ve been very successful in TV, what’s your recipe for success?
Hard work I suppose. Being persistent and never giving up. Also enjoying the work. You’ve got to be passionate about and enjoy what you’re writing. This script I’m writing at the minute, The Sisters, really has me fired up and I’m dying to get back to it.

Tony Jordan is very vocal about people he calls “soap snobs” – those who say TV is beneath us as writers. What’s your take on this?
He’s absolutely right. They probably say that because they can’t do it or they lack the discipline. We’d all love to write features, but how many features get made compared to hours of TV? Yes, it must be a fantastic feeling to get a feature made and see your name on screen, but knowing that five and a half million watched my ep of Holby Blue, The Street or that eight million will be watching The Royal on Sunday night does it for me.

You’re a family man, how do you juggle family life and writing when this isn’t a 9-5 job?
It’s hard. I try and do as much as I can when the kids are at school. That’s like four and a half hours undisturbed work. Then I’ll usually work at night too, till around midnight, but I’m trying to cut back on the amount I do at night now, as I need a bit of a life.

How many programmes do you get commissioned on a year? How did you get these commissions? (not by sleeping with the dev execs presumably?? ; )
Last year I think I did about 10 River Cities, an ep of The Royal, an ep of Holby Blue and I wrote a play. The Royal is produced by Ken Horn, who produced The Street, so he asked me on to The Royal, which was great. Tony Jordan saw my ep of The Street, liked it and offered me a gig on Holby Blue, which was also great because it was a new show. It was an exciting time, being part of that.

Money or respect – which is more important to you as a writer?
I think if you just do your job well and enjoy what you do you find that you get the respect and the money along the way. I’d have to say respect – being known for a quality piece of work comes first. If you go into this business purely to make money I think that’s wrong. It can be quite an insecure industry – one minute you’re up, the next you’re down. I’ve found that out. If your motivation is to make money rather than put your heart into your work then you’ll be found out. You have to care about the stories you tell. The better you tell them the more respect you get as a storyteller.

Will we be seeing any of your own series on TV soon?
Hopefully. I’ve got 2 things aiming for the commissioning round in October. It’s been a lot of hard work, but hopefully it will pay off. Ironically, going back to your last question both these things, if they get made, aren’t going to bring in a lot of money, but will require my full attention for the next year. Also the feature, Act of Grace is hopefully on target to shoot early next year. We’ve got a trailer out and have had investors put quite a bit of money into the film so far, so that’s looking good. Again, it wasn’t about the money with the film, it was the idea we loved and we just had to tell the story. Everybody who’s involved feels the same way about it. We’ve got Leo Gregory, David Yip, Jody Latham and Jennifer Lim all commited to this because of the story. You can see the trailer on You Tube.

You’re dead. What’s written on your tombstone?
What a scary woman you are. No, not that – I’m just saying you’re giving me the fear. Probably ‘I told you I was stressed.’ Actually ‘what a scary woman you are’ would be a laugh, wouldn’t it?

Thanks Marc! If you want to see Marc’s work in action, watch The Royal this sunday (Sept 16th) on ITV1 at 8pm.

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