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The Story Engine, Notes, Pt 2: Agents & Pitches

Here’s Helen’s excellent insights again – this time featuring the Blogosphere’s very own James Moran and some VERY interesting stuff about agents and pitching. Enjoy!

Writer James Moran gives a live commentary to his episode of the popular sci-fi series. Followed by Q+A.

Has carved out a niche in horror/sci fi

He wrote Severance but got pigeonholed after this. However then Dr Who was relaunched. He wrote the Fires of Pompeii episode. Sleeper for Torchwood as well as writing for Primeval, Spooks Code 9 and Spooks.

It’s cheaper to blow up a car than have several driving in a street (have to hire drivers etc.)

Exploding light bulb shards hard to do (dangerous!)

In Sleeper having Captain Jack ‘know’ who she is saved 5 pages. Burying exposition is necessary.

He wanted to blow a hole in the car for an aerial but it was too expensive.

Panel Discussion: Working With An Agent

Chair: Claire Malcolm

Panel: Amanda Davis, James Moran, Lisa Holdsworth

How does this crucial relationship work? When’s the right time to approach an agent? How do you find the right one? Followed by Q+A.

[If you’ve got your Adrian Mead stuff you have most of this already!]

Look at agency websites. Who do they represent? Where would you fit? Do they specialise in comedy? Drama?

Alternatively get a job in the industry and get some contacts.

Speed Pitching Workshop

with Lisa Holdsworth, David Lemon, James Moran, Ian Fenton

A practical opportunity for delegates to hone their skills in a lively speed-pitching session – just like speed-dating but without the romance.

Workshops To be booked at registration on day one on a first-come-first-served basis. Delegates choose from one of the following:

Make it Happen: DIY Filmmaking with James Harris

Bitesize Drama: Creating Narratives for Online with David Lemon

Sell The Sizzle: Creating Pitch Documents with Lisa Holdsworth

Spontaneous Combustion: Creative Thinking with Ian McLaughlin

Approaches to Adaptation with Steve Chambers

Please note I chose Lisa’s workshop, Sell the sizzle.

Lisa Holdsworth

40 episodes Emmerdale, Fat Friends, New Tricks, Robin Hood

Sell the Sizzle… not the steak.

For TV should be one or two pages.
Don’t have sub headings.
Don’t have reams of story
Make it very conversational
Sell yourself.

Don’t tell us:

The entire story in minute detail.
Be longer than 2 pages.
About every minor character.
Have clichéd characters: eg feisty single mum.
Emphasize characters – why would we want to spend 6 hours with them?
Don’t say where the show should be scheduled.
Don’t’ say how it will be shot.
Don’t say ‘a bit like The Wire’ No no no!
Don’t say who you intend to cast (unless someone attached)


Communicate how excited you are about your idea
Explain why this project right now (first question at Channel 4)
Make us love or hate your main characters.
Tell us why people will watch your show (perhaps should be top of list)
Pack a punch
Leave them wanting more
Hold back the ending (unless a one off)

Structure (the Holdsworth way)

1. A grabbing title
Heroes and Buffy the Vampire Slayer are great. Firefly is a great show but not a great title.

2. Logline to create intrigue

3. Summary paragraph that sells the central premise of the show

4. 1.5 pages of blistering prose that sets up the story/style, tone of show

Lisa writes 3 pages and edits down.

4. Final para explains why this is the show telly was made for.

Don’t include personal credits – it detracts from this idea (will be in CV or covering letter)


They are always looking for a reason to say no. Don’t give them one.

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