Job title: Scriptwriter
Industries: High-end TV | Film
Kit Lambert was born and educated in England with family in Wales, where he relocated after university. He studied English at Exeter University. After graduating, he got a job and “spent the next five years writing in my spare time, evenings and at weekends, trying to get my work out there. I wrote mostly for theatre as I had a better understanding of it and I enjoyed the medium.”
In 2005, he won the Script Slam writing competition with his play The Customs House which was performed at the Sherman Theatre in Cardiff. The play was seen by some people from BBC Wales and led to Kit being offered some radio work. When Tony Jordan’s company Red Planet Pictures came to Wales to produce the TV series Crash, Kit was offered the chance to write an episode. It was his first TV experience.
“A brilliant opportunity arose to take part in the BBC’s Continuing Drama Series Writers’ Academy,” Kit explains. “It doesn’t exist anymore but it was great. It gave me three months’ intensive training on continuing drama, helped me build relationships with script editors and producers, and delivered guaranteed commissions on EastEnders, Holby City, Casualty and Doctors.” Since then Kit has worked on various detective drama series for BBC Birmingham including The Coroner, Father Brown, and more recently Shakespeare and Hathaway Private Investigators, where he took over as lead writer for its first series.
“There is a general perception that if you’re a writer you’re struggling but I’ve been very fortunate and it’s proved a stable career,” he says. Living in Cardiff, there is a smaller pool of writers but fewer local opportunities. Kit feels that “so long as your work is good enough to stand up against the competition, being regionally based isn’t a hindrance. I work from home and travel to production meetings across the UK. It’s only two hours to London.”
Kit has worked continuously in television for ten years, bouncing from commission to commission. He has also been developing his own original projects but finds it impossible to ring-fence the time to develop his drama and take it to independent production companies and commissioners. Broadcasters seem to draw from a narrow pool of top writing talent and Kit felt he needed to boost his career profile to be included.
“I was told about the MediaXchange Advanced Writing for TV Drama scheme by a producer at Hat Trick Productions with whom I’d previously developed projects,” says Kit, “Hat Trick‘s involved with the High-end TV levy and supports the scheme and she thought I’d be a suitable candidate.” Kit applied and was selected.
MediaXchange’s Advanced Writing for TV Drama gave Kit the opportunity to take time out to work on his own project within a supportive environment and learn more about the role of the lead writer in the writers’ room in the UK and abroad.
“The course provided a structured way of supporting me to develop an original project that I could pitch to commissioners, through to treatment and script stage,” Kit explains. It also included feedback sessions with a script editor and masterclasses with different industry professionals to support him in moving from a mid-level writer to take on the responsibility of a lead writer on a larger scale drama.
Located in London, the programme was structured into three week-long residential blocks taking place between July and October 2017 and January 2018. Travel, accommodation and subsistence costs were met through funding from the High-end TV levy and the participants lived and worked together as a group.
The course modules covered the writing and creative process for returning episodic drama and limited series. There were masterclasses and workshops on character development and story structure, and sessions on the collaborative writing process. Experts came from across the high-end TV production genre, including Jane Featherstone (Sister Pictures) and Polly Hill (ITV Head of Drama) as well as the writers Paul Abbott, Tony Jordan, Jed Mercurio and Tony Grisoni. “It was great,’ Kit says, “because we had all sorts of people coming to talk to us. It gave us a better understanding of what it is to be working at that high level within the industry. It opened up for us the different perspectives on how the writers’ room can function and the role of the lead writer, comparing practices in the USA and UK. We even had someone talking to us about how it works in Denmark.”
The scheme provided advice about how the participants should promote themselves and their projects to keep their careers moving forward. “I think there’s a feeling that in the UK we need to learn to present ourselves better as business professionals.”
The opportunity to develop his own project with his allocated script editor, Sophie Andrea Mitchell, was a wonderful break. “During each week-long block, I would learn things that I would then go on to apply to my own project,” Kit remembers. “Between the residential sessions, my project developed, first as a one-pager, then into a treatment, then beyond that into a script. The idea was that each of us should have a pilot script of our project, to promote to potential producers or broadcasters.”
Kit’s project was something he had been wanting to write for a long time: “A period drama based on a true story, about a group of women in Edwardian London who learned martial arts as a form of self-defence in one of London’s very first martial arts schools and how they became involved in the Suffragette Movement. It’s a story of female empowerment set against the larger political backdrop.” Kit sees it as a returnable series of eight one-hour-long episodes.
The programme culminated in a round of pitching sessions. “We summarised our projects into one short paragraph and the production companies decided which writers they wanted to meet. It was a brilliant opportunity to pitch, and meet and make contacts with people in the industry who could potentially take the projects forward.”
“The course helped me to build my profile and confidence,” Kit says “and it gave me the time, structure and support I needed to develop a project I’d been committed to for so long into a treatment and pilot script that I am proud of and happy to take out to the industry.” Kit feels that spending time with a group of eighteen other writers sharing experiences and advice and supporting each other was incredibly valuable. Since the course ended they have remained in contact and continue to help each other.
The main hurdle to be overcome in order to take the scheme was juggling other work projects and family commitments. Kit has children and attending the residential blocks was only made possible because “my wife is also self-employed and she was in a position to support me and take up the reins in terms of the family. For some people that could have been harder.”
Katrina Wood, CEO and founder of MediaXchange comments, “The participants were focused, hard-working and diligent through a challenging nine-month schedule, leaving with skills and processes which will assist their careers going forward as well as a quality pilot and treatment for their own original idea. They deserve every success.
“We have been hugely encouraged by the terrific response from the high-end TV and UK drama industry at each stage - from participant referrals, speakers contributing to the modules, and finally to picking up projects for development.”
Kit feels that above all “it was a fantastic experience. It’s given me a better understanding of the industry and the role of lead writer.” He adds that he feels more equipped going forward. “It’s been a great platform to push my career on. I’ve already received potential offers to work on larger scale shows than I’ve done to date. I feel like it’s already starting to pay dividends in that respect.”
For the future Kit “would like to be writing my own original projects, getting my own ideas and my own characters and stories on screen. It’s not so much about writing the whole of a series and having authorial control. For me, it’s more about being the lead writer in the room, with more creative input and control, steering a drama series based on my projects and characters, and bringing a group of writers on board, to work with that vision.”
Kit hopes that having been on the scheme production companies will look at him in a different way - as a writer who is ready to take the next step.
About MediaXchange’s Advanced Writing for TV Drama
MediaXchange’s Advanced Writing for TV Drama is designed to build the professional writing and collaborative working skills, which writers need to succeed in the competitive genre of primetime drama series. It is targeted at writers with proven credits and experience and is intended to create a resource of experienced writers for the industry. The initiative is delivered by MediaXchange and funded by ScreenSkills.