Review: William Ivory’s ‘screen writing for television’ seminar

By January 13, 2015

Film, TV & Tech. Leeds.

[Image courtesy of The Stage, 2014]

Bio:Born William Ivory in Southwell, Notts, Billy Ivory is passionate about the East Midlands, and his writing is heavily influenced by living and working in the area where he was born and bred. Once working as a dustman on the streets, today he’s better known as one of Britain’s leading television and theatre writers.

On the 24th of November 2014 I attended a seminar by acclaimed screenwriter William Ivory at the University of Hull entitled ‘Screenwriting for television.’ William Ivory is best known for British shows such as Made in Dagenham (2010), Burton and Taylor, Truckers and Common as Muck. Ivory’s passion for writing drama resonated in his statement that TV drama is the most complex and sophisticated medium of all. He stated:

“How I define what great art is; is an idea, created and passed into a medium which gives it shape. Mediocre art stays in that medium.”

He said great art comes out of that medium and asks profound questions to the viewer. The story comes out of the screen at you through the relatable characters. He mentioned that there is still a stigma towards writing for TV. He explained that there is an idea that a TV cannot produce good art. There is so much trashy TV which makes some shows guilty by association. If a programme is very popular then there can be an issue about popularity being antipathetic to quality. Ivory quoted the film director Billy Wilder saying:

“If you are gonna tell people the truth, you’d better make them laugh or they’ll kill you.”

Ivory said that TV writing can help ease difficult subjects with humour. Humour is the cornerstone of TV which is non-threatening and can pull audiences in and push them away. He argued that effective films contain a simple story and a writer can feel limited to what they can explore within it whereas writers can achieve more and are less restricted with TV.

There is also a wider range of audience for TV than any cinema, ones who are likely to be looking for something to watch and can be hooked if the story is good enough. This increase in audience has really increased over the last ten years as more and more good quality TV programmes are hitting our screens. Shows such as Game of Thrones reportedly costs £4 million per episode and season five looks to have the biggest budget to date.

The small screen certainly punches above its weight as audience numbers show this to be true. I myself am very excited about the quality of TV shows coming to our screens in the future.


Joleen White


For more about William Ivory read his full biography on IMDB

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