Sleeper Writer Chats

The man behind the recent episode of Torchwood, James Moran, has spoken exclusively to the BBC’s Official Torchwood website about the second episode of the second series, Sleeper.

It’s quite a straightforward effort, however there is a passage in there that describes the differences between getting a TV show made and getting a film made; James wrote the British movie Severance:

Films move incredibly slowly, because there’s usually no release date, and they want to make absolutely sure that they won’t waste all their money and effort. They cost so much, there’s so much risk, and it’s just a one off – if it fails, that’s the end, it’s over. So there’s lots of second guessing, many people are involved as it goes along, with their input and notes and ideas and suggestions, and after it goes into production the writer is slowly moved out of the way. But when you start, you can write pretty much anything you like, without caring about budget or anything like that.

With Torchwood, I got the job in December 2006/January 2007, and they knew pretty much that the series would be on around January 2008 – so that’s the major difference. You have to write fast, and it has to be perfect, because they’re filming in May/June, so you get to see the results of your work much more quickly. It’s fun because I get to play with someone else’s characters – they’re all set up for me, and I can try to bend them a little, mess with the format, while keeping within it.

Writers are treated really well in TV, and you’re kept involved with everything the whole time – the writers all got emailed the design for the new boardroom, just in case it was helpful, and we’re at the meetings, see the designs, all that fun stuff. Plus they’re pretty flexible, they want you to go crazy and do whatever is in your head. They kept saying, go as big as you like, if it’s too much we can pull you back. Which they had to do when I wrote a massive sequence involving the SUV exploding with someone on the roof… But still, I got some pretty amazing, expensive stuff in, so I’m very happy.

Incidentally, did you know that Torchwood is recruiting?

Christian Cawley

A long-term Doctor Who fan, Christian grew up watching the show and has early memories of the Graham Williams era. His favourite stories are Inferno, The Seeds of Doom and Human Nature (although The Empty Child, Blink and Utopia all come close). When he’s not bossing around the news team, Christian is a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology and domestic computing, and enjoys classic rock, cooking and spending time in the countryside with his wife and young children. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

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