Posts Tagged ‘Lindsay J Sedgwick’

SCRIPTORIUM: LINDSAY J SEDGWICK

26th March 2020 by admin

An award-winning screenwriter working in film, TV and games, Lindsay created the ground-breaking animation series PUNKY and published Ireland’s first comprehensive guide to screenwriting, WRITE THAT SCRIPT in 2018. www.lindsayjsedgwick.com

Clíona Ruiséil: How are you managing during this crisis?

Lindsay J Sedgwick: It’s very strange. Although I mostly write on my own, I do like taking scenes or sequences or chapters to coffee shops for a change of scene and having the hum of people around me! I’m trying to see it as an opportunity to get less distracted and focus on pushing a few projects through.

CR: What are you working on at the moment?

LS: A couple of projects. One is the script for an information video, another is helping a director develop an idea into a treatment, but I’m also adapting my first novel DAD’S RED DRESS into a ten x 30 min TV series for Lunar Pictures. It’s the first of a trilogy so the series will have legs.

I also have a couple of books at different stages, including the second of a series (WULFIE) that will be launched at the end of the year by Little Island. It is based on an animation series that was optioned but never got made.

CR: Tell me about DAD’S RED DRESS – what inspired you to write the novel and how did the adaptation come about?

LS: When I was about 13, (the age Jessie is in the book and the series) the son of my father’s boss transitioned. I was aware of snippets of conversations I wasn’t meant to hear and there was one double spread I remember seeing in an evening paper. It was whipped away but not before I’d read enough to intrigue me. This was the 80s, it wasn’t that progressive a time but I can clearly remember that, despite what I was hearing, I knew transitioning was not a choice. It’s something you have to do and it’s difficult on so many levels, for everyone involved. But what really fascinated me about the whole story was that she stayed with her wife and young children. I wondered how those children coped.

So that was the germ of it.

The adaptation came about because the daughter of the producer, (Niamh Holmes), read the book and loved it. Niamh and I had been trying to find a project on which to work together for years and it just hadn’t happened. At the time the book came out, we were both busy but when I sent her daughter a proof of the sequel to read, she asked me if I was interested in developing it with her. We sat down and it was clear she wanted what I wanted from the adaptation and it has proven to be a great, positive experience.

CR: In practical terms, how did you approach the adaptation? What steps did you take to get to a first draft of the script?

LS: Because the book already existed, the overall structure of the narrative was there; the central characters’ arcs were clear. I sat down and listed what I remembered were the main events, rather than rely on the prose narrative. I needed to see what were the key events that moved the central story along, to make sure the momentum would work on screen.
I did this for each of the characters, so I could make sure that all the stories developed.

Once I’d pulled these points into episode outlines, I fleshed them out, dipping in and out of the book. Initially it was going to be a six-parter, then eight and we finally settled on ten.

We sat down and went through the outlines line by line, with Niamh feeding back regarding the development of the story, whether some characters needed to be brought out more than in the book etc. I love constructive feedback. It pushes you to be creative and sometimes that’s all you need – to know that something isn’t strong enough or that there’s a jump in the timeline (emotional or physical) and you brainstorm and find something far stronger.

To make sure each episode moves the story on, I did a logline highlighting what would happen in each episode.

I was writing the first script in tandem with this process. The first script flowed out; pure joy. She was there, waiting to be brought to life! We changed certain things. It’s contemporary, while the book is set in 2008; it’s in Galway, not Dublin; they come from Canada not LA. And it opens quite differently. I had certain scenes and beats I needed to hit. I find it’s easier to have a rough script to rewrite than to agonise over decisions mid-script.

Jessie’s voice is very strong, so we decided to use voiceover. I haven’t used that in a script since 1998! It was only when I had the first script that we could read it through and work out what we wanted the voiceover to achieve. That’s the thing with developing a series, you need to establish the ‘dead body paradigm’, the rules that will hold throughout the series. When and why and how voiceover would be used. That episodes would go from home to school but end up home again, possibly in Jessie’s room. That all central characters will have stories in each episode. That it has to keep the heart-warming, funny and truthful tone of the original book.

Dad’s Red Dress is easier than other projects because I know the characters so well. The difficulty with that is that I assume other people know them that well too and that’s where Niamh comes in!

CR: What advice could you give other writers in terms of how to handle the business (contract, money, etc.) aspects of their work?

On contracts, on fee, look for an ‘or % of the above the line budget, whichever is the highest’ clause and turnaround. From script meetings, email the points you agreed back to the producer so there is no ambiguity re what they’ve asked you or you’ve agreed to do.

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