106 – UK Show Creator / Show Runner Dan Sefton (Co-Founder, Seven Seas Films)

This week, host Gray Jones interviews UK show creator / showrunner and practicing doctor Dan Sefton, who is also the co-founder of the independent production company Seven Seas Films.

This episode is sponsored by Pilar Alessandra of onthepage.tv. Pilar is offering TV Writer Podcast listeners a 10% discount on any of her services. To get your 10% off, reach out to her directly and tell her Gray sent you!

Dan Sefton Bio:

Dan Sefton is a prolific television writer who founded Seven Seas Films in 2016 alongside producer Simon Lupton, with the aim of creating and producing TV drama for the UK and international markets, putting the writer at the center of the process. Together they have several projects in development, including “The last Days of Marilyn,” in partnership with 101 Studios.

Previously an A&E doctor, he started his television career as a hobby; writing episodes of UK medical dramas such as “Doctors,” “Casualty” and “Holby City.” Delving into the world of scripted drama, Dan also wrote episodes of Harlan Coben’s “The Five” (Sky One), “Death in Paradise” (BBC One), “Monarch of the Glen” (BBC One), “Mr Selfridge” (ITV) and “Secret Diary of a Call Girl” (ITV2).
Having written comedy series “Porters” for UKTV to critical acclaim, Dan went on to write the original four-part drama series, “Delicious,” starring Dawn French, Emilia Fox and Iain Glen for Bandit TV and Sky One. He also wrote four-part thriller “Trust Me” for Red Productions and BBC One, starring Jodie Whittaker, which was broadcast in August 2017.

Most recently, Dan’s writing credits include Tiger Aspect’s “The Good Karma Hospital,” now in its third series on ITV, and “The Mallorca Files” with Cosmopolitan Pictures and ProSieben for BBC One which is in production with series two.

In May 2019, Great Point, the UK’s leading independent media and investment firm, invested in Seven Seas Films.

INDEX TO THE EPISODE:

1:42 – Interview start… how Dan started out as a medical doctor, and amazingly, continues to practice medicine while writing. How the first script he ever wrote was produced, for the UK show “Doctors.” Many medical shows followed… Dan discusses the difference between his real life experiences and the shows the end up on TV, how he was actually more appealing to producers when he was practicing medicine than when he quit it, and how he maintains the balance between the two.

9:41 – Dan discusses how representation works in the UK, and his experience with representation.

12:19 – How freelance scripts work in the UK… how there is not as much of a writing room in the UK, but how there are non-writing creative producers who do a lot of the series building and planning.

17:27 – How he made the jump to creating and running shows.

21:40 – The process from pitch to production of how he creates shows. How in the UK, you work much more with independent production companies to pitch shows to the network… discussion on the UK process is similar to how reality TV is developed in the US.

26:40 – Why and how he created his own production company.

29:29 – Sponsor break

30:26 – Differences between the US and the UK in how a show is run… how UK TV is much more of a writer auteur medium, but the US excels at delivering volume. Could a US writing room work in the UK?

36:54 – Dan has worked in several genres… is that easier in the UK?

40:40 – With shorter seasons in the UK, is it easier for a younger writer to get a show off the ground? How pairing with established production companies can help. How his company Seven Seas looks for new unique voices, but expects people to have done a lot of homework before walking in the door.

49:37 – Does he see many writers crossing the pond, one way or the other? Mostly, he sees showrunners from the US attracted to the writer-as-auteur system.

52:44 – Advice to greener writers… understand that you are the product, not just your script. What do you bring to the table? You must be able to sell that too. Also, know what you are getting into, and be willing to work very hard. It’s better to write a fresh take on a genre than to reinvent the wheel. And… train yourself to work very quickly, even if it’s not for a specific deadline.

Follow Dan on Twitter: @dansefton

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Didn’t get your questions asked? Make sure you follow Gray on Twitter (@GrayJones) so you can get the scoop on who is being interviewed and how to get your questions in. Also check out our TV Writer Twitter Database to find Twitter addresses for over 1,200 TV writers. Find previous episodes and other resources at www.tvwriterpodcast.com.

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044 – John Finch (A Family At War, Sam, Coronation Street)

This week we are proud to welcome the creator of some of the UK’s finest and highest-rated TV series of the 1970s, recipient of the Best Series Writer award by the Writers Guild of Great Britain, writer-author-series creator John Finch!

John Finch was born in Liverpool during the Depression. When his father disappeared, he moved with his mother to a mining community in Yorkshire. Life was tough, and by the time he left school at the age of 14 he had been to 12 schools, including an orphanage.

At the outbreak of war, he joined the Merchant Navy at the age of 16 and sailed from Liverpool in 1941. He served as a sparks on a freighter, a tanker, a troop ship, and a rescue tug before being medically discharged in 1944.

He worked various jobs upon returning from the war, gradually moving toward writing as a career. In this time, he wrote for various magazines such as Illustrated and Picture Post, with occasional contributions to the BBC, and his first play, the first in television to have an industrial setting, was transmitted in 1958.

In 1960, he became the first trainee writer to be contracted to write Coronation Street, now the world’s longest-running TV soap opera, and later became editor and producer. He went on to became Granada’s most prolific writer and created, wrote and edited many of the company’s longest-running serials and series. These included the 52-hour series A Family at War, which sold throughout the world and is still being transmitted in countries such as India and Pakistan, and throughout the Middle East. Norwegian viewers recently voted it the best television series ever. He later created and personally wrote every episode of the 39-hour series Sam, a tribute to his mining village upbringing, and went on to create and write many other long-running series.

In 1975, he was given the award of Best Series Writer by the Writers Guild of Great Britain, and received the Broadcasting Press Guild Critics Award for Sam in the same year.

His novel, Cuddon Return, was a bestseller, and in 2002 he completed his first play for the theatre, JOE, described as “a play for two actors and a load of junk.” It has been warmly praised by critics, producers, actors and fellow writers.

He has lived with his family for many years in the Yorkshire Dales.

Visit John’s website: johnfinch.com

Buy Gray’s book for only $4.99! Look for it on Amazon – How To Break In To TV Writing: Insider Interviews.

Didn’t get your questions asked? Make sure you follow Gray on Twitter (@GrayJones) so you can get the scoop on who is being interviewed and how to get your questions in. Also check out our TV Writer Twitter Database to find Twitter addresses for over 1,000 TV writers. Find our previous episodes and other resources at www.tvwriterpodcast.com or on Gray’s YouTube channel.