From Script to Screen: The director/writer collaboration

A good script is the bottom line of any film project. Without it you don't get the commission, the best actors, the desired result. Film and television are collaborative media, so how should a director and a writer collaborate to achieve the best outcome?

Tim Fywell, tutor at the London Film School and director of the forthcoming Showtime TV series 'Masters of Sex', lays down three key elements for the best ways that directors and writers can work together:

The first read

When reading a script for the first time, consider how much you should know in advance - about the writer, the source material, the background to the project. All of those things will affect your first crucial reading. Keep your reactions fresh and open.

The first meeting

Usually the first meeting with the writer takes place with the producer and script editor present. But is this necessarily a good thing? Perhaps you should you try to meet the writer on your own first. You need to handle the complex producer/writer/script editor relationship in a creative and harmonious way.

Develop the script

All scripts, however good, need some work. TV and film are collaborative media between writer/director/producer/actor/director of photography/designer etc., and the director needs to find an overall vision for the piece to realise it most thoroughly. This can be best achieved in conjunction with the writer.

Think about the following:

  • Are you bringing the characters to 3-dimensional life?
  • Dialogue - when is it necessary? Too much or too little dialogue can hugely affect the final product.
  • Are you bringing out the dramatic arc of a scene?
  • How have you shaped the whole story? Make sure you use story beats and outlines, to help the writer and the director realise a common goal.

If you're a director and/or writer and want to up your game, Tim Fywell is doing an in-depth course covering the above in more detail at the London Film School on Sat 28 - Sun 29 September - click here if you're interested and want to find out more.