Welcome to Writers in Various Stages of Development with Conor O’Grady, Amber Phillips, Salim Allybokus, Clare Plested, Oliver Selby, Joanne Lau, Steve Blair, Sophie Dutton, Luke Beddows, Emma Boucher, Phil Davies, Lorna Woolfson, Alex MJ Smith, Emily Reader, Tom Worsley, Connie Kucani, Henrik Persson, Caitlin Magnall-Kearns, Dom Carter, Rebecca Bain, Alex-Garrick-Wright, Thara Popoola, Nat Saunders, Lucy Dwyer, Jeffrey Aidoo, Nadia Fenty, Ben Ellis, and some guy called Chris Douch.
I’ve brought the emergency chairs down from the attic and crammed a group of writers of interviews past into my virtual living room for the first ever Writers in Various Stages of Development Boxing Day Party!
So grab a Turkey sandwich, pop a tin of choccies, hit play on that Christmas CD that always skips, and get comfy as we discuss achievements, entertainment highlights, our goals for 2022, writing-related New Year’s resolutions, the things we’re not going to let bug us anymore, and an obligatory Secret Santa.
What was your biggest achievement of 2021?
Conor: Making an original web-series for Cartoon Network’s YouTube channels. It was the perfect way to marry up my role at WarnerMedia with my passion for comedy writing. Ten episodes and over one million views later and I’m happy to say our puppet sketch show ‘Sock TV’ has been a huge success! Still only available in Polish for now BUT the English version should be ready very soon and I can’t wait to share it.
Amber: I’ve continued producing my sketch podcast, The Amber Phillips Comedy Sketchbook (I’ve just released the Christmas special) and was lucky enough to be interviewed about my sketches on BBC Radio Essex, which has been exciting. I’m also really proud of keeping my stand-up going by performing at zoom gigs, and took part in this year’s So You Think You’re Funny? stand-up competition. The setup was a logistical nightmare (getting a stable internet connection anywhere in my house has been a challenge!) but it’s been an incredible experience. I got to do a lot more networking that way, as well as learning how to adapt my comedy from stage to screen.
Salim: No single achievement. Time moving too quickly and career moving slowly isn’t a great combination. I was invited to a few writers’ rooms and made some interesting new connections, while a film script that had been locked in my drawer was dusted off, reworked and optioned. But overall, the aim is to always write things that I’m personally pleased with, and I achieved that.
Clare: Getting a treatment commission, film option and agent were absolutely the highlight. They sort of came around the same time and it definitely signalled a shift in my development!
Oliver: Getting fairly constant work all year round and working with great people! If I had to pick something in particular, it would be probably be getting to write a 22-minute ecology special for Masha and the Bear.
Joanne: Leaving my lab job and going full-time with writing! And yes, I took my favourite pencil sharpener with me.
Steve: I’ve been fortunate enough to have had a really good year, and while there were a couple of slumps and confidence dips, I’ve had my most successful year as a writer and I feel really buoyed heading into 2022.
I had set a goal at the beginning of the year to gain a telly credit and that came in February with the Breaking the News Valentine’s Special, so that was a real boost. Then in March I scored a credit on The Skewer. Later on I managed my first NewsThump article, and then in late November I got to write on The Now Show. I find it hard to separate those because they all meant a great deal to me personally.
But I’d have to say The Now Show is the one I found most satisfying and the most enjoyable. In our interview this year I spoke about feeling that I don’t think I was at my best at a previous writers’ rooms because I was a bit overawed and swamped with imposter syndrome, so I made it my goal to just go into this one and enjoy myself and it really paid off. I had a blast and was made very welcome by the team. There’s really nothing like sitting amongst funny people who are all coming up with really funny ideas and being allowed to be part of it. Every second of it was a total joy.
I’m a long-term listener to the show and it’s always on in our house on a Friday, so it was the first thing that I’ve written for that my kids are really aware of. Usually when I tell them about my credits they’re like ‘oh, ok.’ but for this one, they were dead impressed, so that’s something I’m really proud of.
Sophie: I received a MAF award for my writing on Hey Duggee which I am thrilled about! I also made sure to hold some time back for my own creative pursuits this year – it was hard but I’m so pleased I did.
Luke: I think taking the plunge to leave teaching and return to working in television where I can put my creative ideas to good use and be in a better mindset for writing and further that career. I thought half terms would have been perfect for taking full weeks off to write and move my dream career forward. Unfortunately, the pull of sitting on the sofa in my pants was more attractive…although not in a visual and/or literal sense.
Emma: I landed my first head writer gig on a preschool show that I’ve written for previously. I’ve been working towards this for a while and I’ve loved stepping up from lead writer. I’ve really enjoyed being more involved with the writing process and reading all the team’s amazing ideas!
Phil: It’s been a funny year and I think just getting through it is an achievement. We tend to focus on achievements as being something material, whereas the best aren’t. This year has seen me make new connections, some of which have become good friends. It’s been a year of some major personal growth, revelation and acknowledgement for me and this couldn’t have happened without them.
Lorna: Getting my first commission felt like a pretty big deal.
Alex MJS: I received my first script commission this year — to write two episodes of an original kids’ show — but then the project fell apart for reasons beyond my control, and I never got to write them. Kinda gutting, but I wanted to mention it because I think it’s important to be transparent about how this industry so often goes, right? I’m still taking it as a win that a big production company believed in me and my work. But that’s not my final answer.
This year I wrote my first hour-long TV pilot, HIGH WATER, while on the BBC Writersroom Cornish Voices programme. It’s by far my most personal script so far and it tackles difficult themes, while also including some jokes and two sea monsters (which is objectively the correct number of sea monsters). I reckon it’s the best thing I’ve written, so that’s the biggest win of 2021 for me.
Emily: Getting into a healthier headspace. I hit a real low at the end of 2020 with the combination of lockdown, a crippled job market, and lots of writing rejections. I had to take a break from everything and focus on my wellbeing. It was a tough time but I’m really proud of all the progress I’ve made. It feels amazing to be able to properly enjoy everything again, especially writing, and I’ve definitely got a better routine now, as well as a more sustainable work ethic!
Tom: Signing with my agent. The gap between getting my first TV credit and getting representation was 13 years. Thirteen. You have to keep getting better and never stop trying.
Connie: Whenever I see people listing all their achievements, I like to quote a lyric written by my favourite singer, Jamie Cullum: “What things did you accomplish? Maybe we could stop counting.”
…Nevertheless I will now proceed to list some of my achievements this year anyway, because it’s been a bit of a mad one, and I’m a big hypocrite. I started the year with my first feature film credit for Dreamworks’ “Spirit Untamed”, I became the script coordinator for the animated series Pop Paper City, where I’m learning A LOT about animation writing, and I just managed to get my first paid writing gig for an IP I really love – so that’s all quite exciting!
Henrik: I got a commission for a radio show which made me very happy.
Caitlin: I wrote my first full length play which had a reading in October, and that was pretty cool. I also got my first radio commission which was really exciting, I hope I get to do more!
Dom: Being invited into the writers room for Late Night Mash. Proper bucket list achievement.
Rebecca: In Spring I had my first Trial Writer shift for The Now Show for BBC Radio4. This is a show that I have been listening to since I was a weird teenager who liked Radio4. On an iPod Classic, no less! Working with absolute icons like Steve Punt and Hugh Dennis and having my first real experience of a writer’s room (albeit virtually) has been a huge step for my writing career. It was a big challenge, but all my fellow writers and producer were supportive and help helpful both during and after. And Hugh Dennis likes the colour of my Living Room walls, it was all brilliant.
Alex GW: Either winning the Making A Scene Of It competition with Rebecca for our sitcom script, or being asked to be Lead Writers on the Breaking the News Children In Need Special. Both were amazing and very different!
Thara: I think my biggest achievement of 2021 was probably getting to work on season 4 of Sex Education. Being in the writers room was genuinely the highlight of my year and getting to write an episode is so exciting. It’s one of my favourite shows so the fact that it’s my first proper TV job is a dream come true.
Nat: Managing to survive, both financially and mentally. Just.
Lucy: Myself and writing partner Kirsty Smith sold an action-comedy feature to a big producer. Lots of excitement about it being made BUT it’s stalled for various reasons. Hoping this is a temporary delay and it certainly has been a lesson in the highs and lows of getting something made. I have also had an original TV drama optioned by Factual Fiction and I’ve really enjoyed working with them on it.
Jeffrey: I’ve been blessed with securing a few development deals in the UK and US for a couple of original ideas. So I’m really pleased about that. This year I’ve also had the opportunity to write episodes for a couple of really cool shows including a BAFTA award winning one. So I’m really grateful for having those experiences.
Nadia: Remember when I said I wanted to write for animation? Well, I’m delighted to say that I was invited to join a writing room on an existing pre-school animation series. I have written two episodes so far that are in development. It has been a fantastic learning experience. From story springboards to pitching premises, script drafts, and hitting deadlines. The production company is a joy to write for. Collaboration is wonderful and everyone is so lovely.
I am grateful to have had this opportunity and to be working with such a talented bunch who encourage and nurture talent. There is no greater joy or responsibility than writing for children and representing the world in which they live.
Ben: I think we’ve all done very well to have survived another mad year and to continue to adapt to life during the pandemic, so this in itself feels like an achievement!
Professionally, I think my biggest achievements have been my podcast series, ‘Life’s A Gas’ and the comedy project I’ve been developing with Sian Reeves.
Chris: I felt like I made genuine progress this year. My writing partner James Bishop and I worked with some big companies on exciting new shows and developed new creative relationships that we’re excited to expand on next year. I also achieved a lifelong ambition of writing for a Nickelodeon show!
What were your favourite shows/movies/plays in 2021? And what are you most looking forward to watching/listening to next year?
Conor: The YouTube algorithm has got to know me rather well over the years and my homepage is currently dominated by old clips of Norm MacDonald’s chat show appearances and clips from his podcast, which I remarkably never tire of watching. Outside of my millennial content consumption habits, I really enjoyed series 2 of Ladhood and Stephen Merchant’s new series Outlaws was great too.
Amber: My favourite TV show from this year has to be The Goes Wrong Show on BBC One. Mischief Theatre are doing brilliant things in comedy right now, and I love the show’s old-school, family-viewing vibes. Next year, I’m looking forward to watching… well, anything live and in person! I’ve tentatively started going back to the theatre, which has been absolutely joyous. You can’t beat the feeling of actually being in a room with an audience.
Salim: Squid Game, Inside No.9 (series 6), Oasis Knebworth 1996 and Arsene Wenger: Invincible were all great. I also really enjoyed Prano Bailey-Bond’s Censor. Although released in 2013 and 2014 respectively, I watched two of my favourite films of any year: Inside Llewyn Davis and Frank. Both brilliant stories about creativity and the loneliness of chasing dreams. I can’t really say that I’m looking forward to anything in particular, but I hope to stumble across something that I’ll be re-watching forever. It’s exciting to not know what that might be, whilst also knowing it will happen. The White Lotus. It’s really entertaining and very cleverly written, with great characters. The humour is quite subtle at times. Also, as it’s set on a beautiful holiday resort, it feels like genuine escapism – give it a go.
Clare: So many to choose from but probably Alma’s Not Normal, In My Skin, The Cockfields and of course, Succession.
Oliver: Taskmaster is without a doubt the funniest show on TV. Nothing makes me laugh quite like it. I also really enjoyed Stath Lets Flats, Starstruck, Sex Education and Never Have I Ever this year (as well as shows like Selling Sunset, Below Deck and Love Island, but I’m not sure this is the right place to profess my love for reality TV). I’m particularly looking forward to more Hilda next year!
Joanne: For 2021: The White Lotus, Resident Alien, Squid Game, and Nobody. For 2022: I can’t wait to see Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson’s new romcom Marry Me and I don’t care who knows it.
Steve: I enjoyed quite a lot of telly this year: Stath Lets Flats and Ghosts were brilliant, and I really enjoyed The Outlaws. But I think the one that I loved most was Back to Life. Daisy Haggard is fantastic, and I could watch Adeel Akhtar in anything. I need someone to tell me that he’s just as nice in real life as the characters he plays.
I saw the new Bond and Dune in the cinema, which were good but they were eclipsed by the fact we’d actually managed to get a babysitter and go out to the cinema. I wasn’t sure if the emotions experienced during the final scenes in Bond were as a result of the multi-million dollar creative extravaganza on the big screen or from tasting the delights of the stale, salty-sweet mix, cinema popcorn.
Unfortunately I didn’t manage the theatre at all this year. We did have a Christmas Eve panto booked but we’ve just been informed that it has now been cancelled due to Omicron. I was absolutely gutted by the news, but it’s behind me now.
For 2022: Paddington 3!
On radio I’m looking forward to more The Skewer, and on telly, another series of Ghosts has just been confirmed, so I’m looking forward to that. The Outlaws, I believe, is getting another run, so that’s quite exciting. And obviously, Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock!
Sophie: Is everyone going to say Squid Game? I loved it SO much. Jürgen and Guisseppe from this year’s Great British Bake Off gave me all the wholesomeness I ever needed. I’ve also really gotten into watching old episodes of ITV’s Gladiators on YouTube. I secretly want to be one of them. I think my Gladiator name would be SHREW.
Luke: There were two shows that made it into my top shows OF ALL TIME: Succession and Stath Lets Flats. I also saw the Book of Mormon which I’d say is the funniest thing I’ve seen in a theatre (and I’d include films in that too). Big claims but I’m sticking by them. Next year, is that Lord of the Rings prequel coming out? If so, that. And seeing Alan Partridge live.
Emma: I loved Schimagadoon. I grew up watching all the old musicals with my family and this series took me right back to those days of cosying up on the sofa together to watch them and singing along to the soundtracks in the car. It’s totally nostalgic, but full of laughs and it has lots of heart. The writing is spot on too.
Phil: I’ve watched some cracking shows this year. Particular highlights have been BBC’s Queers (an older show about the gay experience over the last 100 years). I found this profoundly moving. I’ve also discovered the Marvellous Mrs Maisel, which is fantastic. Beautiful sets, sublime cinematography (some of the long takes on the production’s establishing shots wouldn’t be out of place in a full Hollywood production). Brilliant characters and cracking dialogue. I’ve also been watching TransParent which is brilliant in the way it approached the LGBTQ+ community. There is no sensationalism, queer characters simply are. Another set of brilliant performances, but with scripts which are very low key and downbeat.
Lorna: I think it’s been a great year for TV. I loved The Great, Stath Lets Flats, The Morning Show, The White Lotus, The Shrink Next Door and loads of others that I’ll be annoyed I forgot about the minute I press send on this.
Alex MJS: Runners up in no particular order… Luca, Bo Burnham: Inside, Free Guy, No Time to Die, The Guilty, Succession, Ted Lasso, Inside Job, Arcane: League of Legends, and Kastanjemanden (shout out to my Danish girlfriend). But my top pick for 2021 has to be The World’s Most Amazing Vacation Rentals, in which three attractive people stay in fancy Airbnbs around the world and say things like “luxury is what you make it, whether you’re staying in a property that costs a thousand dollars a night, or two thousand dollars a night”. Bring on more seasons in 2022 and beyond, I say.
Emily: I’ve fallen head over heels for Ted Lasso. It’s the most big-hearted show I’ve seen in a long time. The combination of humour, depth, and exquisite characterisation is just what we need in such dark and scary times. I also just started The Outlaws and am loving it so far. It’s the kind of show I want to write.
Tom: Succession, because it’s the law to say that. Stath Lets Flats went to a new level in series 3. Funny and warm. It’s A Sin was electric television.
Connie: To be perfectly honest, I mostly re-watched old things in 2021. One standout however was Only Murders in The Building, a very delightful mystery that left me thinking, wow, Steve Martin and Martin Short are really something, who knew. As for next year, there’s a lot on the horizon for the Wizarding World: a new Fantastic Beasts movie, a new video game, a 20th anniversary reunion special, and I CANNOT WAIT!
Henrik: I saw one of those “over Zoom” plays but I can’t for the life of me remember the title. It was part of the Royal theatre’s online project, a two-hander involving time travel. Superb. I also saw the shortish classic La Jetée which I hadn’t seen before and that was great.
Caitlin: I really liked The White Lotus, I’m a wee bit obsessed with Mike White so it was pretty inevitable I’d love it. Loads of great returning series, Shrill, Back to Life, In My Skin. I also loved Alma’s Not Normal, funny, honest and warm, I’d love to see more shows like that on TV.
I can’t wait to watch the second half of Season 2 of PEN15, which is for my money the best comedy around at the minute, and Marriage, the new show by Stefan Golazewski, who I’m in total awe of. One film that has stuck with me was Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets, it’s a funny, moving, brilliant film that deserves to be seen by more people.
Dom: Season two of I Think You Should Leave and season three of Joe Pera Talks With You. Jo Firestone‘s Peacock special Good Timing. It’s an amazing feel-good special where she helps senior citizens take improv classes and develop a set. Find it online perfectly legally if you can. I also enjoyed WandaVision, especially the first two episodes which had more of a footing in sitcom land rather than Marvel land. Nothing against Marvel films, I’m just not especially familiar with them and was drawn to the series because of its pastiche of sitcoms.
My favourite film of the year was probably The Green Knight. Didn’t get to see any plays, although I wish I went to see Scream Phone by Swipe Right Theatre. I had tickets but had to cancel on the night.
Rebecca: Ted Lasso has been a revelation for me – perfectly written and cast characters, rollercoaster of emotions and just brilliantly blending US and UK humour and culture. It is so jam-packed with gags that you can’t catch all of them in one viewing. If someone asked me “What is the TV that shows the best female relationships?” I wouldn’t have said in a football sitcom. 11/10, would recommend to absolutely everyone.
Alex GW: Ted Lasso. A little late to the party on that one but God damn it’s so good. I’m not actually sure about 2022, there’s so much good stuff coming out right now, I think I’ll need to get recommendations. I’ve still stuff from this year to catch up on!
Thara: Oh gosh, so many! My favourite show this year was probably Maid, I never miss an opportunity to shout about how amazing I thought it was. I think we’re so used to seeing stories that are big and flashy and those stories are great, but Maid really showed that there’s so much value in smaller human stories too, that are grounded and carry emotional depth. I think it was such an all-rounder, amazing writing, brilliantly directed and incredible performances too. I can talk about it all day, but I’ll stop now!
My favourite film was probably Spider-Man No Way Home, which was very big and flashy, but I think they did such a great job executing it and dare say it’s my favourite MCU film to date. My favourite play was Is God is by Alesha Harris, and For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Hue Gets Too Heavy by Ryan Calais Cameron. Both plays are very different but were both filled with so much humour and sorrow and took me on an emotional rollercoaster, which I think is what you want when you watch a play.
Next year I’m really looking forward to This is us, Atlanta, and Euphoria. I’m also super excited about the next Dr Strange film!
Nat: Christ, so many. Succession, Titane, Pen15, Squid Game, The White Lotus, Maid, Mare of Easttown, It’s A Sin, I Think You Should Leave, The Other Two, Wandavision, Feel Good, Call My Agent, Sex Education, Minari, The Green Knight, Censor… and that’s just off the top of my head. As for next year, my brain hasn’t thought that far ahead yet. Succession season four?
Lucy: Off the top of my head the films I’ve really enjoyed are The Harder They Fall, Palm Springs, No Time To Die, The Mauritanian and Cruella.
TV: Lovecraft Country, Squid Game, The Chair, Only Murders In The Building, Mare of Easttown, Lupin, Wellington Paranormal, It’s A Sin, Ridley Road, Sweet Tooth, We Are Lady Parts, Pursuit of Love. This list isn’t exhaustive and there are lots of things I still haven’t seen because I have to also eat, sleep and breathe. Really looking forward to The Ballad of Renegade Nell, Extraordinary, and anything that Daisy May Cooper does.
Jeffrey: Maid was a great series. Such a simple but powerful style of storytelling. The Mare of Easttown and The White Lotus also got me hooked this year. Judas and the Black Messiah was an amazing film. Looking forward to Ozark and Raised by Wolves returning. I’ve also been missing my girl Mrs Maisel, she’s been gone for too long, so pleased to see she is coming back in 2022.
Nadia: So many gems to include…
Podcasts on BBC Sounds: Danny Robins, who is phenomenal and a must follow on Twitter, with The Battersea Poltergeist and Uncanny. Also, The Great Post Office Trial is a must listen.
TV: Ted Lasso, Mare of Easttown, Dopesick, Showtrial, Time.
Factual: JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass and Clarkson’s Farm.
Film: Palmer, The Mauritanian, The Unforgivable, Finch and Wrath of Man.
I cannot wait to see Death on the Nile next year. I think I mentioned previously, I am a huge Agatha Christie fan.
Ben: Favourite shows from 2021: I enjoyed The Shrink Next Door on Apple TV, and Curb Your Enthusiasm came back with a very strong 11th season. I also really enjoyed the second season of Special on Netflix, On the Verge – a new female led comedy drama (also on Netflix) and the Fran Lebowitz docu-series, Pretend It’s a City. I also really loved the third series of Motherland and the second series of Alma’s Not Normal, both on the BBC.
Movies: Disney released some brilliant movies this year; I really enjoyed Cruella and Soul (though this was released at the end of 2020 but I watched it in 2021). Netflix has also released some great original movies in 2021; such as Tick, Tick, Boom…, Love & Monsters, Thunder Force, The Starling, Run and Single All the Way.
Chris: I’m obviously going to say Stath Lets Flats, I Think You Should Leave, and Ted Lasso. I discovered Joe Pera Talks With You and it instantly became my nightly comfort food after evening writing sessions. Mitchells Vs The Machines was a perfect family movie. Spider-Man No Way Home was the best MCU thing yet, Bad Trip was a lot of fun. I love a road trip movie and this spoke to my teenage self who’s still not put his love of Jackass and Tom Green behind him. Palm Springs was exceptional. The Orange Years (a documentary about Nickelodeon), Mythic Quest, Starstruck, Cruel Summer, Mortimer and Whitehouse Gone Fishing, Bluey, Saturday Morning All Star Hits, and I got VERY obsessed with That Kevin Smith Club for a while and spent weeks watching nothing but his zoom Q&As. The Saved By The Bell reboot was way better than anyone thought it would be. Completely reframes the original, has a brilliant cast, and is genuinely very funny.
Stand-up picks: Chris Gethard Half My Life, Rory Scovel Live Without Fear (if nothing else please watch for the most insane story about a comedy club you’ve ever heard), James Acaster Cold Lasagne Hate Myself 1999, Bo Burnham Inside, and Patti Harrison (in real life at the SoHo Theatre). I’ve not listened to many podcasts or radio shows this year but Renegades: Born in the USA with Springsteen and Obama on Spotify and Keegan Michael-Key’s The History of Sketch Comedy on Audible are essential. While you’re at it, the Last Dance sketches from the SNL Keegan hosted were hilarious.
In terms of things I’m looking forward to… Around the Spider-Verse: Part One will 100% be the best movie of the year. Clerks 3 is going to be a fan-pleasing nostalgia trip and hopefully Kevin Smith will get to tour it. Pen15, although I’m not sure I’m ready for more old wounds to be opened. The After Party‘s cast and crew is HUGE and it looks really interesting. I’m guessing we’ll get Barry season three? Loads of animation to be excited for – Spider-Man Freshman Year (congrats Jeff!), Clone High, new Beavis and Butthead, Jodie (the Daria spinoff), Deadendia, Best and Bester, Supertato, and the Bob’s Burgers Movie.
Right, I’m getting some drinks in. Anything? Tea… coffee… snowball? Toilet’s upstairs, first on the right if you need it.
Back in a min… I’m just going to drop a link to my Ko-Fi here in case anyone’s feeling festive (also, I’m currently posting out free notebooks to anyone who donates £10+ because it’s Christmas and I love you all).
Okay, everyone sorted? Quality Street? Nah, sorry the purple one’s have all gone.
What are your writing goals for 2022?
Conor: That pesky TV credit still escapes me, but I get the feeling that it’s getting closer. Other than that, I would love to work on turning a few treatments into solid pilot scripts. Also, having had some success writing for theatre recently I would love to explore that avenue further and, who knows, maybe even get involved in an Edinburgh show of some kind. Oh, and more stand-up gigs – lots and lots of stand-up gigs.
Amber: I’m planning to produce more podcast episodes, as well as continuing to submit material to radio and panel shows. I’d also love to get back to performing stand-up gigs in person (circumstances permitting) as I’ve written some new material that I’m keen to try out.
Salim: It’s difficult to set goals. This is such a long game, that a script or an idea from years earlier could unexpectedly change the direction of a year. I always aim to write as much as possible, which may or may not lead to something tangible in 2022 and beyond.
Clare: To have two more spec scripts in my back pocket.
Oliver: In 2022 I’d like to get more TV credits across kids’ shows for UK channels. With that said, I’m just happy to be getting paid to write silly stories all day every day (or rather, from 9-5 Monday – Friday).
Steve: I feel like I’ve improved a lot as a writer this year and I just want to keep grafting and get better. I really love what I do so I just want to keep doing it and to keep improving. I’d definitely like more writers’ rooms as I really enjoy that process and working with talented people is such a joy. I’ve made some good progress on my Ealing comedy-style script – I’m writing a radio version and telly version and finishing those is a definite goal. And I’d really want to write something for children’s comedy in some way.
Sophie: Write my first pitch.
Luke: Being very honest, I’ve not done enough writing nor had many credits in 2021 so I really want to get something of substance next year. Always the hope of getting one of my animation scripts away. The desperate, desperate hope. Still, good news about the chocolate oranges…
Emma: I’d love to land another head writing gig. I want to find more time to keep working on my original ideas, and start pitching them.
Phil: I’m not sure I have any particular goals for 2022. If anything the last few years have taught me, it’s never expect too much. My mindset towards my writing has v much changed over the last 12 months. I’ve been really hung up on the ‘why’ of writing. Having had some success and scripts commissioned I found it all too easy to judge my scripts purely on their sale-ability and if they weren’t being picked up, then… well what was the point? I’ve always written, and previous to this I’ve always been happy with simply sharing what I’ve written with friends and contemporaries, so why was I judging my writing on a commercial basis? I’m learning to let go. To reconnect with the simple thrill of creating something, of putting words on paper. My aims are to entertain myself and my circle of friends and if my writing gains a wider audience, then that’s a bonus.
Lorna: To be offered Waller-Bridge sized deal for my scripts. To write an emmy winning series and to create a writing legacy that people will enjoy for years to come.
Alex MJS: I have an exciting comedy writers’ room job booked for early 2022, so my goal is to be extremely funny and not eat all the biscuits. That’s a lot of pressure on both counts. I also want to write on an animated kids’ show, and I hope 2022 is the year that I’ll find an agent. And…here we go, I hadn’t decided this until now…I aim to write at least three new scripts: one adult pilot, one kids’ pilot, one feature. Ugh. What have you made me do?
Emily: I’m currently doing a Script Writing MA at Goldsmiths so my writing goals are very much set by my tutor! If everything goes to plan, I should have a fully planned out and partially written TV show by August, as well as various essays, audio pieces and web series under my belt.
Tom: Get into a writer’s room. (I’d just like some friends really). Get a sitcom into development.
Connie: I have this animated feature film treatment I’ve been working on that I’d love to finish next year. I’m also hoping to snatch my first writing credit for an animated series. As always, I’m trying to keep my expectations low so I don’t crumble with self-doubt and desperation a year from now – fun fun fun!
Henrik: Keep doing it.
Caitlin: Get a shit hot spec together and write what I want to write, not what I think people want me to write.
Dom: Explore improv more. Become more familiar with opportunities, pick the ones that appeal and just go for them. Completely non-comedy related, but I’d also like to write and illustrate picture books.
Rebecca: I want to finish my first solo pilot and be in a position to pitch it. I also want to expand on my successes of this year with sketch work – both for other shows and being able to create my own content. I want to expand a portfolio that I can be proud of.
Alex GW: Get something into production, in some form. No point setting goals that are easy to achieve.
Thara: Broadly speaking it’s too keep doing more of what I’m doing now, more writers rooms, script commissions and hopefully a greenlight. This year is the first year I’ve been paid to write, so it actually feels like a proper job now, which still feels very bizarre considering where I was in my career this time last year.
I feel very grateful for the opportunities I’ve had this year, so the main goal is to maintain this and to keep having fun with it too. I know it sounds cringe, but I never want to lose that.
Nat: Keep writing. Try to get paid for at least a fraction of it.
Lucy: To be part of a writing room, get some more credits, have some more projects optioned, a script commission would be lovely, and to get that feature made. I’m aware of how super ambitious that sounds, but fuck it, putting it out there.
Jeffrey: My goal would be to get a series order on one of my development deals.
Nadia: I’m looking forward to my first screen credits and I hope this will lead to other writing projects. I’d love to have the opportunity to write more episodes of the show that I am currently writing for – if the writing God’s permit. There’s also a passion film project that’s been in my head for years. It has been sat on my laptop with about fifteen pages done. I think about it all the time and I don’t think I’ll rest until it’s written. I also want to be a bit more daring in terms of reaching out. Most of all, to keep writing and honing my craft.
Ben: I’m continuing to develop a new project I began working on a few months ago, and I’ll also be starting work soon on a brand new comedy project with Sara Starling, with whom I collaborated on my podcast series.
Chris: I wrote a picture book this year that I’d really like to see published. But it’s probably easier to get a sketch show commissioned on TV than get a one-off picture book published as an unknown author. So I guess a goal is to write more books so I have something worthwhile to approach with.
Main goal is always to improve on the previous year. A few more credits, a bit more money, maybe a head writer job – all steps towards going full-time as a writer.
What’s your writing-related New Year’s resolution?
Conor: To do it. My main problem with trying to write comedy is that I keep forgetting to do it. I really need to work on that… Aside from upping my productivity, I want to put myself out there a bit more and hopefully end up collaborating with some likeminded writers as a result.
Amber: To carve out more time to write on a regular basis – little and often seems to be the best way for me to get stuff done. The same goes for gigging – I really want to get back out to comedy clubs to hone my material and skills.
Salim: To carry a notepad while I’m running, so I don’t lose ideas and calories at the same time.
Clare: To prioritise writing over my ‘day job’.
Oliver: I want to network with people in the industry in person! I’m rubbish at online networking and can’t do it without getting crippling anxiety that I’m coming off as a right bore. Whereas in person, I can let loose a little.
Steve: Improve, gain more credits, have more fun. But I also need to allow myself to take a break. With work and kids and writing and performing I’m sometimes adding ends to candles and burning them too and I rarely have any sort of time off. But it’s needed and taking time to recharge is important.
Sophie: Write more of what I love (weird stuff).
Luke: Commit to writing at least ONE bit of script every. single. day. I realise that sounds a bit pathetic written down but, as many will know, it’s so difficult when you have a job. I sporadically went through periods of writing before work every morning and it was really satisfying to know in yourself that you’d done it.
Emma: It’s not quite writing related, but I’ve been terrible at taking enough holiday the last couple of years, and I want to make sure I take more time out next year! Which will ultimately make me a better writer, right?
Lorna: To be more realistic about my writing goals.
Alex MJS: Try stand up. Not stand up comedy — I mean the thing people do when they’re not sitting or lying down. I haven’t done enough of it since becoming a full-time writer, and now I’m a 28 year-old with a spine like fresh tagliatelle. Gotta stand up and move around more.
Emily: Little and often. Writing is always harder after a long break, so if I can keep up a regular stream of brainstorming, sketch-writing, planning, and drafting, it’ll make my life much easier.
Tom: Get up earlier and start the day sooner. I’d get more done if I did less faffing about in the morning eating toast reading about football.
Connie: TO WRITE MORE. Maybe I should try tattooing “WRITE MORE” on my forehead, that might work.
Caitlin: Write for the sake of writing.
Dom: To write recreationally and for myself more often.
Rebecca: I want to be able to make more time to write generally, as I am still balancing it with full-time work. If anyone has any tips on this, hit me up!
Alex GW: Write more, write different, write better.
Thara: Procrastinate less, although I like to think procrastination is part of my ✨process✨
Nat: Write faster and harder.
Lucy: I don’t really do New Year’s Resolutions (apart from, perhaps, bigger knickers). I feel if you want to do something new then why wait until a socially acceptable point of the year to do it? Do it now for no other reason than you want to (caveat: this does not include anything you could spend time in prison for).
But to actually answer the question, I need to learn to stop getting in my own way and not worry that the first draft isn’t going to be right. It’s never going to be right. It just needs to be written.
Nadia: Don’t attach to an outcome, only what’s in my control.
Ben: To just keep writing and to avoid distraction (though this is often easier said than done – haha!).
Chris: Write more sample scripts.
What are you not going to let bug you so much in 2022?
Conor: I’m trying to not compare myself to others as much. I try to remind myself that there isn’t a certain age that you need to have achieved certain milestones by; each person’s journey is unique. As Baz Luhrmann says ‘Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and in the end, it’s only with yourself.’
Amber: I’ll try to feel less guilty about making time to write, which is easier said than done when life gets busy! I’m also trying to not be so hard on myself about writing in general. I think anyone who’s managed to accomplish anything creative these last couple of years, however small, should be proud of themselves.
Salim: The long silences between my emails and everyone else’s.
Clare: If I get blocked. It happens and will change… eventually.
Oliver: Every time a new kids’ show gets announced there’s a little part of me that is disappointed I wasn’t asked to write on it. I have got a fairly short attention span though so I’m usually frustrated by something else within minutes.
Steve: Self-doubt. I had a crisis of confidence not so long ago and it’s energy zapping. But talking to other writers helps give you perspective. You realise you’re not alone and that we all go through little slumps but if you trust yourself and keep at it, it does come good and then out of nowhere you get on a little roll again.
Luke: Other people’s successes. Come on, we’ve all been there but it’s really not good for your own anxieties. Everybody is doing their thing, they are successful (or not) in their own right and us writers are all going through the same struggles and, once again, successes.
Emma: Imposter syndrome! I have done a lot of work this year to really kick imposter syndrome’s butt as it only wants to hold me back. I have to remind myself that I have been asked to work on shows for a reason and they haven’t muddled me up with someone else!
Lorna: Other people.
Alex MJS: Otters.
Emily: I call it my ‘bully brain.’ It’s the voice in my head that pushes me too hard and is never satisfied. It gets shit done, but in the long run, it only causes burn out, and stops me being kind to myself.
Tom: Playing the waiting game. We all have to do it.
Connie: Other people’s successes. I’m weak so I tend to compare myself to other people and their accomplishments, which is VERY BAD and no one should ever do it.
Henrik: The voices in my head that keep telling me to “kill, just kill”. Shut up, guys.
Dom: The feeling that I could be doing more.
Rebecca: Not hearing back at all from people I reach out to. I got used to ghosting in my personal life, I can do it in my professional life too.
Alex GW: People being unreliable. Next time 2 actors and a location cancel in the 24 hours before I need to film a sketch, I’m just going to let it wash over me. I mean, I’m not- I’m going to frantically call everyone and leverage every favour I’ve ever earned to get things back on track. But after that I’ll let it wash over me. After I stop weeping in the foetal position.
Nat: The same things about my industry will continue to bug me till the day I flounce off.
Lucy: That self-destructive feeling that everyone is doing better than you. Objectively I can see that it’s very silly – we all have our own challenges – but it’s very hard to shake when it hits. I think if we’re all honest most of us have it at one point or another.
Jeffrey: I try not to let anything bug me, so more of the same. If you look at whats happened in the world over the last couple of years we should all be grateful for every day we get to open our eyes in the morning. The quicker you realise there are things that are out of your control, the quicker things won’t bug you anymore!
Nadia: The scary S word – self-doubt – dun dun dun!
When you are in the room, you are there for a reason and that reason is you. Being confident in what you bring to the table is key to not holding back on ideas you may otherwise have kept inside your head. I have written a post-it in my writing room that says, “You’ve already got what it takes.” I affirm this every day.
Ben: The news. It’s just so depressing at the moment. I like to know what’s going on in the world but there comes a point where I have to limit how much of the news I watch / read, in order to maintain a positive mood.
Chris: People who don’t reply to emails. We all get it. It’s not good but it’s something that will always happen. I was once trusted with a producer’s laptop for half an hour and the email alerts were literally non-stop. People don’t mean to be rude, they’re just busy. Mostly.
Okay, time to… WRAP this up. The part you’ve been patiently sitting through all this chatting waiting for – the presents!
What’s the best/worst Secret Santa gift you’ve ever received?
Amber: I’ve been quite lucky with secret santa gifts, really. Elderly relatives tend to be more of a liability, though. My granny would often give us boxes of chocolates where, upon opening them, you’d discover that she’d already eaten half and then sellotaped the lid back down. The ultimate chocolate troll.
Salim: I don’t think I’ve ever received one. Probably because I don’t get invited to parties. I was going to Google a hilarious answer, but that probably wouldn’t be in the spirit of Christmas
Oliver: In school I received the most gigantic bar of chocolate I’d ever seen. I don’t think there could be a better present? It didn’t even make it home.
Joanne: One year at work my Secret Santa mistook my name for Joan Liu and bought her a present instead. To add insult to injury, Joan wasn’t even participating in Secret Santa that year. The happy twist is that I ended up getting the emergency back-up present of a bottle of prosecco, so I’m counting it as a win.
Steve: I once got an eye-patch and bow-tie combo. I didn’t even know that was a thing. It was clearly someone who knew me well, but I never found out. I’m wearing them both now. And my fez, obvs.
Sophie: A doughnut bauble, a chai chapstick and a John Bond picture book – thanks Jo ❤
Luke: Best – Sega Games. When I receive one of them, that person becomes my new best friend…for an hour. Worst – a Subbuteo football team set. Just the players. I don’t own Subbuteo. What the hell am I meant to do with that!?
Emma: I got given a set a fairy lights many moons ago and they’re on my tree again this year. Got to love a practical present. I never did find out who gave them to me!
Lorna: I received a bottle of VO5 volumizing shampoo once. I hadn’t been aware that my hair required volumizing (or washing for that matter)!
Alex MJS: This question has made me realise I’ve never received a Secret Santa?? I guess as a result of only ever working at tiny companies and then in recent years working as a self-employed writer. Oh, and let’s not forget the main reason: having no friends. So in many ways, this question is the worst gift I have ever received. Thanks Chris. Merry Christmas.
Emily: Both best and worst is a mug that looks like a llama’s face. That thing haunts me.
Tom: I once received a mug with Che Guevara on it. I think it was bought purely because I had long hair and a beard at the time. And I was a Marxist. That’s not true. My hair wasn’t that long.
Connie: I once got a Golden Snitch desk light – 10/10, A+, perfect gift. Happy Holidays and may you get your equivalent of a Golden Snitch desk light from your Secret Santa this year.
Henrik: Box of chocolates but only those booze-filled ones. Come on.
Caitlin: When I was 14 I got a battered Poundland deodorant set. Rude AND rubbish.
Dom: The best one was an incredible knitted vintage jumper from my friend Hattie.
Rebecca: Wooden jewellery. I like silver and I like an open fire, buy me one or the other.
Alex GW: Genuinely a pack of blank CDs wrapped in a poly bag. “You like music” the guy said. I had literally never once spoke to him about music. And CDs were already a bit old hat at this point, might as well have got me some Edison cylinders.
Thara: I have a pretty rubbish memory so I’m struggling to remember, but I got some Vinyls a few years ago as a Secret Santa gift. I think it was a Solange album and Tyler the creator one too. I’ve been slowly building up my record collection over the years, so I was very happy when I got these and if you know me you know I’m obsessed with Solange!
Nat: I genuinely don’t think I’ve ever been in a Secret Santa. Is that sad? Or admirable? Or both? Sadmirable!
Lucy: Mini dictionary of swears was both the best and worst Secret Santa I’ve ever received. Best because I love swearing and worst because everyone in the office had formed the correct opinion that I am a potty mouth.
Nadia: I can’t think of any secret Santa gifts that come to mind but memorable Santa gifts when I was a child…
When we were little, my older sisters and I would always get the same presents – to ensure no fighting over who had what – but they got the older kid version and that always annoyed me. I remember having a rubber key keeper that didn’t have a key function, just a rubber slot. The toy was designed for hiding things inside. But my sisters had a key keeper with a key, and I was jealous. I mean, just because I shoved a chocolate bar inside, and it melted everywhere was no indication that I could not be trusted with a key.
The best Santa gift I’ve NEVER had was a Snowman stationery set when I was about six. I wanted it so badly, I was obsessed with stationery sets and this one had it all. I secretly asked God if he really existed then he would let Santa gift it to me on Xmas day. Needless to say, it never came, and I decided that God or Santa probably wasn’t real. Profound, I hear you say. In fact, there’s probably a faith-based Christmas movie idea in this childhood trauma, maybe I’ll write it.
Ben: The best secret Santa gift I ever received was this very posh and sturdy steel bottle opener. As bottle openers go it’s lovely – a real bobby-dazzler of a bottle opener.
The worst secret Santa gift I ever received was socks. I mean, we all need socks, and I often appreciate socks, but I think secret Santa could have used his/her imagination a bit more that particular year. They weren’t even Christmas socks – Christmas socks would have been fun – but these were just plain black socks!
Chris: Almost every Secret Santa I’ve received has been terrible. That’s kinda the point. Although one year I did get a talking Mr T keyring, which was a legit incredible gift. My colleagues clearly knew how much I pitied fools.
Still trying to avoid getting back to that family gathering? Check out the full interview with each of the writers and follow them on Twitter:
Conor O’Grady | Follow
Caitlin Magnall-Kearns | Follow
Visit my new shop to pick up a Writers in Various Stages of Development notebook.
Still here? We’re going to get Twister out if you’re keen?
Want to receive the latest interview in your inbox each week? Sign up to the one-email-a-week (promise) newsletter here.
If you REALLY enjoyed this interview, please consider being awesome and buying me a coffee.