Welcome to Writers in Various Stages of Development #054 with Amy Spinks.
Amy is a writer who helped define her voice by performing sketch comedy live in front of an audience. With experience writing/performing with various groups for stage and web, she has various projects in the works. She has a natural passion for collaboration, a side-gig as a script reader, and plenty of insight for aspiring comedy writers.
When did you start writing and why?
To flirt with boys? Nah, I started writing whilst I was studying to be an actor. I loved watching new writing in theatres and decided to attempt my own play, which I’m sure would make me cringe hugely if I had to re-read it now!
You split your time between writing and performing. Is there one that you go more towards or do they go hand-in-hand for you?
I would say I lean more towards performing. Throw me a script and I’ll happily break into a character. Although they definitely do go hand-in-hand for me more these days, but it’s always nice to do an acting job where you can just turn up and play without thinking about the rest of it.
Are you a full-time writer/performer or do you balance with a day job?
I balance with a day job in TV. For a long time I worked multiple part time jobs alongside writing/performing. It was actually a #adulting decision to try to get a mortgage and so a salaried job was the only way. How dull but it was the best decision I could have made!
What advice do you have for anyone who is trying to balance writing with a day job?
Set yourself scheduled hours to fit around your working day. Maybe it’s two hours in the evenings or 8am-9am before work.
You’ve written various sketches for Pulped. How did you get involved in the team and what has the creative process been like?
I have and it’s been an absolute blast. A director friend of mine, Max Clendaniel was approached to work with them and as we’d previously collaborated on multiple comedy sketches, I managed to bribe him to let me be involved. (Paid him in sweet sticky cider and blackmailed his girlfriend)
What are your favourite sketch comedy shows?
I grew up watching Monty Python, which will always stick with me as absolute classics. But now there’s a whole range! I love Limmy’s show, Smack the Pony, I Think You Should Leave, Ellie & Natasha, the list goes on!
Do you have any advice on that classic problem – how do you end a sketch?
‘And scene’ – I joke, please don’t do this.
You’re a member of the sketch group BAB (Sketch Off! 2022 semi-finalists). What’s your live comedy origin story?
I was first in a sketch duo called Birds. Clearly I can only be in groups with singular names… We had a blast performing in London, Brighton and even Prague over 2016-2018 but sadly my sketch partner decided to become a serious successful writer and didn’t have the time.
I have written with multiple sketch groups creating online videos including Box Of Charms but am now returning to live comedy post covid with my excellent partner Lauren Soley in our duo BAB. We actually went to theatre school together back in the day in a magical place called the West Midlands, so we are thrilled to be returning to the stage together.
We have a few upcoming gigs and are due to do our debut show next year which is all very exciting. So long as Lauren doesn’t get another West End job (I have a habit of working with really successful comedy partners. Woe is me)
How does performing live help you as a writer for screen?
You definitely know when a gag goes on too long.
Your Short Film Park Police (co-written with Julie Grady Thomas) was shortlisted for the Funny Women Awards 2021. What was it like working on the project?
Brilliantly chaotic. We made this short during the height of covid and literally filmed the entire thing within 6 hours in an outdoor space. It was mad and brilliant fun.
You also co-wrote another web series (Tits Up) with Jamie Maule-Ffinch. What does it take to make web content that stands out?
I loved this project a lot. We wrote this as a concept pilot for a TV show we wanted to make. It’s so easy to make content these days that sadly I think a lot of it involves how you promote your work and your voice, how you bring the audience in and focusing on what stands out about it. It’s hard to stand out but if it’s good, it’ll happen.
You mentioned your voice. That’s something that comes up all the time, and I think sometimes it can be hard to understand what that means. How would you explain it?
It’s being as authentic to yourself as you can be. The type of comedy you write needs to have an angle, a point of view.
You work as an industry script reader. How did you get started in this?
I emailed a few TV production companies and basically begged them for a job. It’s a lovely thing to do on the side and great experience to see a wide range of scripts potentially up for development.
How quickly can you tell if you’re reading a “good” script or not?
Within 5-10 pages.
What common mistakes do you notice writers make in scripts?
Honestly a lot of the reason people get rejected is because it’s unoriginal or just not what that TV company is looking for at the time. It’s not always down to the writing. The most common mistake is probably formatting.
It can be quite difficult to know where and how to send your work when you’re starting out. How is the best way for people to get their work read when often companies won’t accept unsolicited submissions?
It’s annoyingly hard. Sadly it usually comes down to people you know. Talk to your writer friends and see if they know anyone within the company, getting a personal recommend is always the best way.
You were recently part of a TV pilot project with Stevie Martin and Kieran Hodgson. Are you able to say anything about this?
I actually don’t know? I don’t think I can as of yet but they’re both awful people and I’ll be damned if we work together again. I joke, they’re insanely talented and had me cracking up the entire shoot day. We were on a cold windy beach in November and I’m pretty sure Stevie’s lips are still blue…
What are you currently working on (that you can tell us about?)
I’m currently writing my first solo TV pilot, a comedy-drama based vaguely on a real experience. BAB will be performing live over the next few months so we are busy writing for that. I am also finishing up a pilot I’ve co-written with director Simon K Matthews, which is a comedy sci-fi-esque show.
I love collaborating on comedy projects, which is why I love a writers room, but I’m trying to push myself to focus on my own voice a little more for now.
What are your current goals as a writer/performer?
I would love to join a writers room and perform as some whacky character in a BBC3 or Channel 4 comedy. Plus I’d love to eventually create my own production company specifically based on comedy TV.
What tips do you have for dealing with rejection?
It never gets easier.
Exercise, endorphins are real. Treat yourself to a nice coffee and cake. Wine isn’t bad either.
What’s the worst part of being a writer?
Pretending you’ve written something.
What makes you laugh more than anything?
Terrible human beings.
You can follow Amy on Twitter, visit her website, and check out her British Comedy Guide profile.
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