Script Development With Alison Crawford – writing for radio.
Radio 4’s Alison Crawford has produced and directed many outstanding, thought-provoking radio plays. Alison was nominated for the ‘Radio Academy Awards‘ in 2011 for producing and directing the ‘Recordist‘. She was also short-listed for Sony Radio Academy Award 2010 for ‘Best Single Drama’ for ‘Cavity‘.
Do you have a set requirement for genres?
Do you have opportunities for new writers?
I’m based in the Radio and Music department in Bristol and as we have a quite a small output guarantee (7 x 2.15pm drama slots and 2 x weeks of 15 minute drama slots for R4 per year) we’re not able to offer a lot of opportunity for new writers for drama but occasionally we’ll get a drama commissioned by a new writer. We also produce a number of short stories here for R4 and we often commission new writers to radio for those. For new writers I’d recommend contacting the Writer’s Room http://www.bbc.co.uk/writersroom/ or producers from a larger drama department.
What suggestions or tips could you give new writers?
Look at different ways of telling a story, ie; using a diary, letters etc as source material.
If you approach a producer about a drama idea, make sure that they’re right for the material / genre, and that you really like the type of drama they produce, don’t just send a number of producers the same idea /script. I know that this sounds obvious but I’ve known it happen and we talk to each other!
Are there themes in mind when you look for new writing? Or do you wait to be grabbed by something?
I don’t have any restrictions on themes / genres, although all of the dramas that I’ve made have a comedy edge to them but I’ve tackled a number of subjects. The main thing that I look for is a strong story and characters and originality.
Is there filtering process for reading plays? Does someone else read them and pass on the higher quality scripts for you to look at?
No, I’m not sure what the Radio Drama Dept in London do but we have such a small output guarantee that we don’t have a system like this in place.
Do you have a balance of new and old writers that you work with, or do you stick with a writer when you have found someone you like working with?
A mixture. I’ve made a lot of dramas with Sean Grundy but have just made one with Abigail Youngman who originally worked with me as a Script Editor and I’m offering a couple of ideas from two writers that I haven’t worked with before in the next commissioning round.
When you find a pitch or treatment that you like, how do you move forward developing the idea with the writer?
If I really like it then I work with the writer to produce a document for our drama commissioning round and then try to get it commissioned.
When you are happy with a treatment, do you expect the writer to complete the script on their own? Or do you check in with them and have regular input?
When a script is commissioned I agree a schedule for delivering drafts with the writer and give them notes on each draft. The number of drafts can vary from writer to writer but I’d generally look at 4 main drafts and a bit of tidying up for the final draft.
At what point do you move forward to work on a final script, recording with sound effects? Do you wait until all writing is completed, or do you record ‘drafts’?
When a drama is commissioned I’ll have some idea of when it’s likely to be broadcast and needs to be delivered to R4 so I work backwards from that. Once we’ve booked the studio and studio manager for recording I plan to send the final script out to the cast a week before that date, but I aim to have at least the third draft to start the casting process around a month before.
Here in Bristol we record an Afternoon Drama in 2 days and usually record the script with the cast and then put the sound effects and music on afterwards. We don’t rehearse, we just have a read-through and then start recording the scenes.