Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Face 2 Face with Russell T Davies
Yesterday evening students, professionals and aspiring writers piled into Screen 1 of the Corner House to hear from award winning screen writer Russell T Davies. The event kicked off with a brief intro from Kate Rowland, Creative Director for New Writing at the BBC. She drew our attention to the wealth of information currently available on the BBC writersroom website. Then the house lights dimmed and we watched a 4 minute film of some of Russell’s writing achievements over the last few years. His multi-award winning work includes 'Doctor Who', 'Torchwood', 'The Sarah Jane Adventures', 'Casanova', 'The Second Coming', 'Queer as Folk', 'Bob and Rose' and 'Children’s Ward'.
The house lights came up again, Russell waved a cheery hello to the audience and Kate Rowland began the interview. Rather than a structured question and answer session, a discussion with lots of banter and laughs ensued. Russell was clearly at home and the audience took to him straight away.
He talked about his early career in television and of working in children’s television with Paul Abbott and Kay Mellor, who he refers to as ‘The Queen’. He chatted about some of technicalities of screen writing, of working in TV and how he got his first lucky break. When asked what inspires him, he answered that his interest lies in real life. He likes the banter and the everyday situations of soap operas and TV. He also admitted to preferring a night in front of the television rather than at the theatre.
Next it was the turn of the audience and there was no shortage of questions. Russell wasn’t fazed by any of them and answered honestly and with humour. When someone mentioned that ‘Queer as Folk’ was the seventh most complained about show in British History, his answer was, “Hurrah.” When probed further about ‘Queer as Folk’ and asked whether when writing it he felt a responsibility to the gay community, he answered that his responsibility was to himself as a writer. He went onto explain that a writer should be seen as writing, rather than leading.
A woman from the audience posed a question from her son and asked, “How do you feel when you write?” Russell replied, “Miserable.” He went onto say that it was extremely hard work and that it gets harder as you go on but at the end of the process he feels exhilarated.
The questions went on and eventually we ran out of time. It struck me that if you’re a writer in Manchester, things have never been better. We have the Manchester Literature Festival, of course, which provides a unique forum to interact with writers like Russell and people in the industry, we have the Blog Awards (on Wednesday), the Manchester Poetry / Fiction Prize and new initiatives starting all the time, such as Rainy City Stories. In fact, we’ve never had it so good. Before the end of the event a student, I think, asked Russell what advice he would give to aspiring screen writers. He replied, “Go and write. Stop moaning. Stop it. Shut up. Work.”
‘Doctor Who: The Writer's Tale’ by Russell T Davies and Benjamin Cook is on sale now.
Jenny Hudson also blogs at www.indiequarter.com and www.ladylevenshulme.co.uk.