Welcome to Writers in Various Stages of Development #025 with Atlanta Green.
With credits for stage and television, Atlanta isn’t somebody who sits back and waits for things to happen. She’s balancing writing with a day job and parenting but makes it work. Her writing continues to attract attention from the industry, with two projects in development and a spot on the BBC Comedy Room intake.
When did you start writing?
I started writing in primary school, I used to submit poetry and short stories to those children bookanthology competitions that schools used to get involved with. I was all over those competitions, my mum made me apply to them all.
My first writing credit under my legal name was probably at the age of 7; being published in a real actual hardback book in one of those anthologies. I thought I was a right little celebrity.
When did you sign with an agent and how did it happen?
I signed with my agent Julia Mills last February just before lockdown, it’s weird because although me and my agent are in contact loads; we’ve only actually met face to face once. Julia had contacted me a few months before hand via email and we’d had this date set to meet up, once we did eventually meet up, we clicked straight away and like they say ‘the rest ishistory’.
I knew at that time I needed an agent; ‘Oi Pussy’ was on BBC iplayer and all everyone was telling me was ‘strike whilst the irons hot’.
I was really keen to get stuck in to more screenwriting opportunities and I knew I’d benefit from representation to really get through the door.
What’s your relationship like with your agent?
Julia is great, we’re in contact often. It’s lovely to have someone just as passionate about my work and progress as I am, Julia has been great in introducing me to the right people and getting my work in front of production companies I previously could only dream of working with.
Are you a full-time writer or do you balance with other work? Either way, how do you make it work?
I work in human resources in the Education sector and I’m also mother to a 7-year-old boy so I’m juggling loads of hats at the minute.
I honestly don’t know how I make it work, everyone always asks me how I find enough hours in the day to get things done but I think when you’re really passionate about something you just get on with it. I do a lot of my writing at night when the world is sleeping, my son is really supportive of my ‘writing thing’ and with working from home it’s been much easier to fit in writing meetings around my 9-5 lunch breaks.
You’re currently being mentored by Kayode Ewumi. What does that involve and how important is it for writers to find a mentor?
I started being mentored by Kayode probably just around the time I signed with my agent.
It’s nice to have that person there that you can check in with when you have any ideas and need any advice or guidance. Having someone like Kayode who actively works in the industry and has made a name for himself is really useful as when we talk, he’s talking from a place of experience. I’ll hit Kayode up countless times just to ask what a certain word means or to explain something to me in language I understand. It makes the crazy world of tv much more accessible and less daunting.
There are lots of people and groups doing really good work to bring balance to the industry. Yet we still see data and hear experiences all the time that evidence how we still have a long way to go.
What’s your experience been like and are you seeing any change from the industry?
TV wise I’m quite new to this all, I’m aware there were gatekeeepers making sure only certain voices and stories are told but I do feel like from my recent experience the industry is sitting up and there is this real thirst for diversity right now.
People are yearning for something new and exciting. They want to hear from different voices. There seems to be a lot of opportunities and schemes at the momentwhere production companies and broadcasters are actively seeking new voices and stories and it’s a really exciting time to be a diverse writer.
There is definitely a long way to go but I am really hopeful.
You joined the BBC Writersroom Comedy Room last year. What was your submission and can you explain the process you went through from submitting to being told you were successful?
I wasn’t picked for Writersroom in the open submission script window. I was put on the Writersroom radar through other talent searches the BBC comedy team run throughout the year,
When I got the call to say I’d been chosen to take part in Writersroom I thought it was a prank, I can’t lie.
What’s it been like to be a part of the group through the pandemic?
Writersroom has been really good, we haven’t actually met up in person just yet, but we have a whatsapp group and regular zoom workshops together. It’s nice to network with people on the same page and roughly at the same stage career-wise, we’re all really passionate about comedy scriptwriting and have such unique voices.
You also write for the stage with a varied list of credits for short and full-length pieces. How did you start and why should others consider writing for theatre?
I started writing for a theatre in 2016, I fell in love after going to Theatre 503 and watching a show there and I knew straight away okay this is it, this is what I want to do. For now anyway.
I started off writing short sketches and submitting these to scratch nights, I would recommend this to anyone looking to gain playwriting experience. Seeing your work on stage for the first time being brought to life by amazing talent is an experience you never forget.
For my 25th birthday I decided I wanted to write my first full length piece ‘The Inmate Monologues’, I wrote, directed and produced this and had a 2-day run at The Hen & Chickens Theatre in April 2017. That was probably my biggest birthday present to myself to this day and it really set the tone for my writing career, if you can’t see the opportunities; make them for yourself.
I do love theatre and I feel that’s where I was able to really stretch my creative wings and find my voice, so I’d recommend it to any writer that wants to find their feet in writing.
Many years later in 2018 ‘The Inmate Monologues’ was renamed ‘Black Ice’ and I had a 1-week run at Theatre 503; the same theatre that staged my first ever short sketch, so that was cute and in a weird way it was a form of closure for me, theatre wise.
I was commissioned shortly after by BBC3 to create Oi Pussy and that took me in a whole new and exciting direction.
Oi Pussy was commissioned for BBC 3 in 2018. What was the project and how was the experience bringing it to life?
Oi Pussy was my first taste of television as a writer, it was a great experience and as a new screenwriter I was keen to take it all in. I worked with Big Deal Films to bring to life their idea and we worked closely with the BBC to develop a short story arc for these characters and their world.
The process really lit a fire in me, after taking part I knew straight away I wanted to continue working in TV and I had loads of ideas of my own I knew I just had to get in front of the right people.
Does the medium you’re working in change the way in which you approach the writing for a project?
Writing for theatre and tv is very different, I’d go as far as saying writing for theatre is harder (personal opinion, don’t shoot me). I think there’s something really special about writing for a world that doesn’t exist and having to convince your audience it does, whereas with TV your only constraints are your budget and even that isn’t really a consideration at script stage when you’re basically just word vomiting all over a page and trying to create magic.
How do you stay motivated in an industry filled with setbacks, rejections, and daunting odds?
I have to take time to pat myself on my back and give credit where its due, I learnt to be my biggest cheerleader and put things into perspective. Even if I’m not 100% where I want to be right now, I look at my progress and think back to the little Atlanta in secondary school filling up school notebooks with stories.
I’ve got so far to go but I’ve also come so far, it’s also really humbling when you begin to work and network in the industry and find out how hard things are and how tight the competition is, the rejection is A LOT but after a while the right people gravitate to you.
That’s a tip actually, don’t force it with people/companies just because of who they are, you are the ‘talent’ and no matter how big or small you think you are, you need people that want to work with you because they believe in you/your idea just as much as you do.
What’s your top tip on creating characters?
Think like your characters, I know that sounds hellabasic and obvious but honestly that’s the ways I’ve found it easiest to bring characters to life and make them as authentic as possible. Think to yourself ‘what would this character do/say in this situation and how is that different to what that other character would do/say’.
Take elements (at your own risk) from people you know in real life and humanise your characters, they don’t have to be perfect (unless you want them to be), they can be flawed, they can be unattractive, they can be mean shitty characters, and that’s okay… because that’s realistic.
Are there any books or scripts you recommend all writers such read?
I don’t actually have any staple books I’d say its imperative for a writer to read, I can only recommend reading scripts for shows that you love. I have read the pilot scripts for The Inbetweeners and Chewing Gum probably over a thousand times.
If you want to write in other genres then read scripts from those genres, make yourself familiar with the formatting and just what makes a good pilot script, so that when you write you can hit the ground running.
What projects are you currently working on?
I’m in development with Channel X and Fudge Park, we’re working on two separate original comedy ideas. It’s such a sick process seeing small little ideas I had bubbling in my head become actual projects that people believe in and want to see on screen.
I’m working with CBBC on a monologue project I wrote that has just wrapped filming and I also recently took part in my first writers’ room as part of a BBC scheme for Children’s TV.
I have short sketches coming out my ass at the moment, I’ve had a few recent commissions for short form content which is a really fun world and space to be in, the deadlines are always quite tight but honestly, it’s all really exciting and a nice way to flex your creative muscles whilst in between big projects.
What are your current goals?
I’d love for a broadcaster to pick up one of my shows and fall in love with it enough to give us loads of seasons. I also want to have work being shown by broadcasters in the states and really cement my name as a screenwriter overseas.
I also want to be rich, holiday homes in countries I can’t pronounce type rich. Birkin bags for every day of the week type rich, you get the picture.
Your website has inspirational quotes from famous writers scattered throughout. Do you have a favourite?
‘It’s not about who’s the best, it’s about who wants it the most’ or something like that, that quote is from Nicki Minaj.
I love it because it resonates with me so well, not saying that I’m a shit writer or anything, but it helps me put into perspective my own writing journey, you could have loads of talent and be the best writer in the world but if you don’t want ‘it’ enough or have the passion and the drive, then what does it count for?
Having the passion and drive will get you into a lot of rooms.
What’s the worst part of being a writer?
I would say the rejection but I honestly feel like after a while you develop a thick skin and get used to that.
I think for me the worst part is having writers block, when you’re being paid to actively think up ideas and create content it can be really jarring when you have a mental block and the ideas literally just won’t come.
What makes you laugh more than anything?
My friends, cliché answer but its true. Our language, our lingo, our world, our rules, and our non-negotiables always have me proper laughing.
And now an answer that would actually be useful for this interview; family sitcoms… that’s my thing right now. I’m binge watching Modern Family and Malcolm In The Middle, that’s my happy place TV-wise, light-hearted feel good shows I can watch with my son without having to cover his ears or eyes.
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