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In Development: Script Editing Evening With Andrew Ellard & Paula Hines by Eleanor Ball

If you don’t yet stalk the In Development bunch, get stalkin’! In Development is a frequent meet-up of friendly professionals who work in drama and comedy development. It’s hosted by Sarah Olley and Hannah Billingham, who very kindly let me bound along to this month’s get-together.

Despite random strangers giving me contrary directions (damn random strangers with their sabotage), I eventually made it to the cracking BFI Benugo bar, where I met lots of charming people with lovely complexions. The discussion of the evening was script editing comedy.

This is a topic I’ve always found fascinating, not only because I’d love to be a script editor myself, but because editing comedy has a whole time-consuming extra level to it. Joke control. Ensuring that the beginning of the episode is as funny as the end, nailing the consistency of comedy tone, and generally lending the all-important editor’s angle to the terrifying subjective area of jokes.

But what I learned at In Development is that it’s actually more the serious stuff that the comedy script editor has to deal with it. Making sure the funny bits actually contribute to the plot, or don’t harm the structure, and encouraging the writers to put in that little bit of sincerity that keeps people coming back. There’s nothing I love more than a subtle, quiet bit of seriousness in a very funny comedy. Remember in Black Books when Bernard throws his trench coat over a sleeping Fran?

The guests at Tuesday evening’s event were Paula Hines and Andrew Ellard, both of whom were extremely friendly and approachable. I didn’t get to spend much time with Paula, marvellous script editor of The Smoking Room and After You’ve Gone, but I did shamelessly monopolise Andrew Ellard for a while, such a funny fella that it’s no wonder Red Dwarf and The IT Crowd are so good. I got to geek out about Red Dwarf, which was great fun. I was born on the day the very first episode was broadcast, ya know.

Andrew is very keen to see more funny female characters in TV, a beautifully Bang2write agenda. Let’s get it done. A female character saying funny things doesn’t mean those things are JUST for female ears.

Very enjoyable and informative evening, and unique in that In Development is aimed not at writers but at those working in, and interested in, TV and film development. Check out the blog and don’t forget to stalk.
Eleanor is on the MA Scriptwriting degree at Goldsmith’s, specialising in comedy drama. Join her on Facebook here and read her own blog, here.

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