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‘Real people’s lives rarely fall into a three-act structure’: Writing biographical drama for British television

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This article combines primary material based on interviews with British screenwriters who have written prominent dramas based on real lives with biography theory and screenwriting praxis. It seeks to analyse some of the solutions screenwriters have found to the unique challenges of writing drama based on real lives, specifically by comparing it with the developing field of biography theory. These issues are analysed in the light of the recommendations of well-known screenwriting theorist/practitioners on the creation of character and its relationship with story. The article considers some of the specific challenges for British screenwriters in creating biographical drama, given the context of public service broadcasting and its associated pressure for accuracy and fairness.
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Keywords: British television drama; biography; public service broadcasting; research; screenwriting; television drama

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Edge Hill University

Publication date: 01 March 2018

More about this publication?
  • The Journal of Screenwriting aims to explore the nature of writing for the moving image in the broadest sense, highlighting current academic thinking around scriptwriting whilst also reflecting on this with a truly international perspective and outlook. The journal will encourage the investigation of a broad range of possible methodologies and approaches to studying the scriptwriting form, in particular: the history of the form, contextual analysis, the process of writing for the moving image, the relationship of scriptwriting to the production process and how the form can be considered in terms of culture and society. The journal also aims to encourage research in the field of screenwriting, the linking of scriptwriting practice to academic theory, and to support and promote conferences and networking events on this subject.
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