Ian Pike shares scriptwriting tips and tricks in SAE Extra masterclass

26 Jan 2021

Last week SAE hosted a scriptwriting masterclass with Ian Pike, who has a wide range of experience having worked in soaps, children’s TV, children’s books, having adapted horror stories, and worked on comedy for the last few years. 

SAE Greece videographer Alex Varda said: “The presentation was EXCELLENT! Mr. Pike is brilliant! Thank you for giving us the opportunity to participate in such an easy to follow, easy to understand class!” 

In a comprehensive session, Ian ran attendees for his rules for scriptwriting. The first set of rules focused on narrative. Ian said: “When you pitch your story it needs to be pitched in one line - if you don’t, nobody will buy it.” 

As well as a succinct elevator pitch, you need to make sure that your viewer is going to be hooked from the get-go – don’t waste too much time on scene-setting. Ian said: “You need to get the reader’s attention straight away. Move the scene setting to the second scene, the first scene needs to be dramatic. Breaking Bad is a really good example."  

Throughout the talk, Ian stressed the importance of planning. He explained how he is a fan of ‘big paper’, using A3 to map out the structure of each episode of a series he is writing. He said attendees shouldn’t be afraid to plan as they go, using post-it notes to move scenes around. 

Talking about character, Ian said: “Are the stakes as high as they can be? Can you play with more jeopardy?” 

Ian’s tips for writing dialogue stressed that most people write too much dialogue – he recommended cutting words from either side of your sentence until the sentence no longer makes sense, and then adding one word back. This is closer to how people talk. Also, use subtext: it’s better to find out how characters are feeling by what they are doing than what they are saying – show don’t tell.  

Screenwriting books that Ian recommended include Save The Cat by Blake Snyder and The Writer’s Tale by Russell T Davies, and he also suggested taking a look at the BBC Writersroom

   
 

"ARE THE STAKES AS HIGH AS THEY CAN BE? CAN YOU PLAY WITH MORE JEOPARDY?"

- IAN PIKE, SCRIPTWRITER

   

 

The presentation was followed by a Q&A, where Ian said that there’s no such thing as writer’s block – just ideas that don’t work! If you get stuck, find a new idea. Ian also talked about whether writer’s should ever base characters on people they know in real life. He said: “It’s OK to write about people you know and things you’ve been through. Find a new setting, change the sex, age etc.” 

The session was packed full of useful insights, with extremely positive feedback from the attendees: SAE Liverpool Film student Brad Patisso said: “I really enjoyed the event. As someone who enjoys writing scripts I found Ian very insightful and picked up some great new tips and tricks.” 

Fellow Film student Sam Morphet said: “I found it insightful and really interesting as I learned tips that I'll be employing into my future scripts.” 

Colin Cromby said: “I did attend the event with Ian Pike and I thought he was absolutely fantastic, really helped to kickstart this trimester as far as an injection of inspiration is concerned. So inspired I was, I did not sleep due to writing through the night till morning. He was really insightful, full of fantastic advice and tips for aspiring screenwriters and I'd certainly sign up for another webinar with him given the chance.” 

Ambre Vanneste said: “I thought this session with Ian Pike was excellent. Ian was thorough and very clear in his explanations and he managed to resume the most important rules of screenwriting with his own real life examples in an hour. Very useful and student-focused.” 

Andrea Herrera said: “I found it really interesting and helpful for debutant screenwriters as well as for those who already have professional experience in this industry and whose goal is to improve their skills. It was a very enjoyable webinar even for people like me who do not necessarily work on this field but who feel curious and want to learn more about the subject.” 

Thanks so much to Ian for sharing so many of his tips and tricks with the attendees – it’s safe to say that everyone left the talk feeling very inspired! 

Find out more about Ian’s work via his website

See upcoming SAE Extra events here.

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