My Life, Student Life

Stage & Screen – The World of Television

I am nearly finished studying for my Master of Arts degree, in Professional Creative Writing at Coventry University. The fifth module in the course is Writing for Stage & Screen. Writing a screenplay is something I haven’t considered, as I am a prose writer, but have always wanted to write novels or short stories and see them turn into a film. So creating a screenplay is something I have always wanted to put into practice and now I have my chance.

Straight away, I decided I would adapt my crime-thriller prose, ‘Imogen’s Dark Secret’ into a screenplay. My options were either to write the first 30-pages of a feature film or the first 30-pages of a TV series. I considered the options and decided that a TV series would be a better way to adapt the stories instead of a feature film, as I believe the film wouldn’t be able to explore the significance of this theme. My crime-thriller novel was still in its early stages so I had the initial idea and strong foundation of characters to use but I also had a wide scoop to continue to develop the story and screenplay. Creating a screenplay surrounding the lives of vulnerable young girls trapped in a ring of human trafficking is going to be a challenge as it’s a delicate issue with the repercussions it has. Then adapting it into a screenplay presented another challenge since it is a more visual medium. I sifted through the content I had already for prose and carefully chose from the scenes which would hook an audience. From there, I began to free-write around these specific scenes, adjusting them as I went on to suit the screen more. I now have strong content for my script, isolating significant points from the original story. 

My two main characters for my screenplay are 14-year-old Imogen, who is newly introduced to the trafficking ring, and Terri, 16. The significance of having Terri older shows the impact of how detached a person can come from reality, as she has been suffering longer at the hands of these men than other girls. I considered alternatives for the screenplay, either writing it from where my prose is planned to end, which is the lead-up and going to court, or writing it from a potential escape of either Imogen or Terri and running for help and their determination to save the other protagonist. My predominant idea is to show the repercussions the ring can have, and its lasting effects on young vulnerable girls but to also showcase the bond between the girls actively involved.

Creating and developing a pilot episode for this TV series was a challenge, as I needed to be careful about what to include and what to reveal in this single episode. As it is a pilot episode, I would usually create a pitch deck, which is an outline of each episode in the series, but for this assignment, only the pilot was required. However, for my own reference,  I have created a pitch deck of all of the episodes, firstly to have it so I know what to include, and then have it for the possibility of how I would take the script forward.    

Without going into full detail about the whole synopsis for each episode, my idea is to have Imogen escape the van with the help of Terri on the way from London to Dover. Imogen runs to the nearest police station after escaping and asks for the Police
Officer Jo, who was investigating her case back in Birmingham, and Imogen’s godmother, Ellen rush to her aid. Imogen has been deemed missing from Birmingham for a number of months and Ellen and her son, Luke, have been looking for her everywhere. The pilot moves from the present day, unveiling a number of flashbacks as Imogen deals with those that haunt her while trying to adjust to a stable life again. Meanwhile, the script features Terri who is still trapped in the trafficking ring and the determination Imogen has to rescue her closest friend. Within the pilot and series, we see the friendship between the two girls, and the strengthening friendship being more revealed through a series of flashbacks in the episodes, along with present-day events. The story thickens as there is limited time as Imogen realises that the van is going on to Devon to take the girls abroad. The series will also feature Imogen and Alessandro’s relationship, the man she first fell in love with who turned into her abuser and made her into a victim. Within the series, there will be the relationship with her family coming back to normalcy and her trust growing with Jo with the police investigation developing.

One expectation of the assignment is to write the screenplay on Final Draft software and to industry standards. Something I realised is that a screenplay doesn’t need as much detail as prose, and instead, it needs more direction and dialogue. The idea is to guide the actors on how to perform and the crew. As it’s more of a visual medium than prose, I was sure to write everything in the present time including featured flashbacks to draw people in, first on the page and then on screen. I think I will try to write more screenplays, choosing specific ideas and storylines that I think would be more suitable for the screen, and then keep other ideas and genres such as fantasy, which need careful articulation and scrutinising detail, to prose writing. 

Having already had the premises for my screenplay made the script much easier to write. I was able to write both the prose and the screenplay alongside each other, chopping and changing ideas according to what I thought suited either the prose or the screenplay. The screenplay gave me the chance to start from a different point to what my prose has and actually, I prefer the opening scene in the script and may have to write this as the beginning scene in my prose version. With creative ideas constantly turning around in my head, I made sure to always have my script and notes page for my prose open, to make sure I didn’t miss a single idea.  I feel upbeat about the choice of plot and the pilot I have created and even will continue to write the rest of the first series. Must admit, I have thought about a second series, the lead-up to appearing in court and then the court scenes themselves. Imogen Mendez is a strong protagonist and I hope to show this in both my screenplay and prose version.

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