Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Young Digital Reporter at Face 2 Face with Sally Wainwright

Young Digital Reporter at Face 2 Face with Sally Wainwright, Wednesday 10th October, 7pm, University of Salford, MediaCity UK

Words by Thomas Burke.
I've come to Media City at Salford Quays with the Festival's Liz Postlethwaite to attend an audience with writer/producer Sally Wainwright. Everyone is in a massive dark theatre-like room for a face-to-face session with Ms Wainwright. Once all attendees are in their seats (including myself) and the cameras and mikes are set, Wainwright makes her prompt appearence and is introduced by the night's host.

She is recognised for writing Unforgiven, Mrs Pritchard (starring actress Jane Horrocks), Jane Hall, At Home With The Braithwaites (starring former Time Lord Peter Davidson) and, in more recent years, the acclaimed ITV crime/drama series Scott & Bailey (starring former Coronation Street actress Suranne Jones), and we are shown clips of these various programmes on a large cinema-type screen. Wainwright's other writing credits include earlier scripting stints for Coronation Street and the BBC Radio 4 series The Archers, and says that she has always been a "lover of words". She speaks of how she helped develop a play called Hanging On while at university and also how she would send countless letters to different companies, asking to work as a writer but, at the age of 24, she was refused several times.

Sally Wainwright is engaging and quick-witted, yet eager to give her audience as much information as possible and she informs us that her initial inspiration for Unforgiven was that someone was attempting to sue her: she felt as if she was on the wrong side of the law or in her words - "The wrong side of the nutter." She reveals she met a real-life police woman for research when developing Scott & Bailey, and says research and thinking carefully when writing stories is very important, yet also freeing. She says the female officer was a character in her own right, even though clearly this former officer would have to deal with criminals of the worst kind on a daily basis.

Wainwright is currently busy creating the third series of the ITV drama, while also writing for theatre and developing an as-yet-untitled series for BBC. She admits that writing stories and creating drama programmes is a lot of fun, but it's very saddening when it's all over. Halfway through the night, the big screen is used again, this time to show a preview of Wainwright's upcoming BBC drama Last Tango In Halifax, starring actress Sarah Lancashire, which will focus on the joys of falling in love and being in a relationship.

Soon it is time for questions and answers by various members of the audience...
Out of everything you've written, what have you enjoyed the most?
Sally says she has enjoyed creating At Home With The Braithwaites and Mrs Pritchard as they were the first programmes she wrote that got her noticed, as well as Jane Hall.
Are there any programmes from across the pond that you like watching?
Sally admits that she really likes watching the US dramas Nurse Jackie and Breaking Bad and says that the two shows are surprising and defy expectations.
What type of dramas do you like the least?
Ms Wainwright does not enjoy costume dramas and says: "Don't watch a costume drama, just read the f-ing books", a dual reference to both Jane Austen and Downton Abbey.
What do you do when writing for screenplays for TV and sending scripts to television companies?
Do whatever you can - send scripts, letters, annoy people to death, get on their nerves and if you manage to get work in the TV industry, please remember: DO NOT listen to script editiors - "You should change this, that and the other - f-off, I'm not changing anything you tell me to change, it's up to me!"
Is writing female main characters in most of your stories/programmes a choice?
It's just natural as I'm also a woman, obviously, and I just base some of my material on parts of my life and my way of speaking and my own personal life and perspective of things.

With that, the night ends with a round of appaluse. Everyone in the audience has been hanging on Sally Wainwright's every last word, and there was a great hush and silence in the room, but also laughter when she was witty. She was reserved, yet down-to-earth, and very candid about her life growing up, all the way to her own rise in the worlds of TV and theatre. It's reassuring to hear that someone as prolific as Sally Wainwright has worked unbelieveably hard to get to where she is now. Good luck, Sally! 

Throughout the Festival in 2012 we will be working with a group of young people to support them to become digital reporters, and to document a range of events from their perspective. As well as writing blogs and reviews, the young digital reporters will respond to our events using other methods such as photography, illustration and radio. We are really excited to see how our young reporters get on and hope that you will enjoy reading, listening to and watching their work.

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