Toby Whithouse Interview, Part Three

Here's the final instalment, folks. Thanks to Toby for agreeing to this exclusive Q&A. If you need to catch up, you'll be wanting to read Part One and Part Two.

How many episodes will comprise Series One of Being Human, and when will it air? Did you write any of those episodes while waiting for the green light, in an optimistic state of mind?

It's 6 x 60 mins. As I said, the BBC kept Being Human in development even after it was originally overlooked. I was commissioned to write another episode - what would in theory be the first episode of the series proper. Though I confess after we didn't get the commission, it did rather knock the wind out of my sails. But I carried on, nonetheless. And it meant that when we finally got the nod, I'd already written the first draft of the first episode.

Do you have a writing routine? Do you, for instance, work with concentrated intensity for three hours a day, or all day, every day like some breed of madman?

I approach it very much like a job. I start at about 8.30am and finish about 5pm. But the best time of the day is certainly the first three hours. That's when I write best. Everything after that is diminishing returns. Also, bear in mind, between 8.30am and 5pm, there is a lot of surfing, emailing, talking to my friend Harriet, weeping, tea drinking and perhaps a crafty nap.
Certainly now I'm writing Being human full time, I'm a little more disciplined. There is a heap of work to get through, so generally my days involve a lot more writing and a lot less porn.

What advice would you give to screenwriters hungry for their first TV credit?

Never write for an audience. It sounds odd, but you have to get yourself into a state of mind whereby you're imagining that whatever you're writing will never get made. The reason is, you need to develop your style and your voice, not ape someone else's. And the best way - I found - to do that is write without worrying about getting a commission.

There will be plenty of occasions, once your career is up and running, when you'll have to adopt a house style on a show. Every show I've written on that I haven't originated, I've had to write in the style - albeit with my own colours and twirls and nonsense - of the show. But the thing that will get you those jobs is your calling card script. Be it a play, a feature, a sit-com, a single drama. And that script has to demonstrate your own unique voice. And I found the moment I stopped writing for an audience, but for my own enjoyment, my voice started to develop.

That doesn't mean to say you shouldn't have writers you admire or are influenced by. But you should let these people inspire you rather than form you.

The original Being Human BBC press office page

The BBC press office announces the full-series commission


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Robin Kelly said...

That was top-hole, Sir.

Lucy said...

Top hole?? WTF??? How saucy do YOU want to be, Mr. Kelly?!

But yes, it was indeed the dog's wotsits.

Phill Barron said...

Holy fuck! I've just noticed it's Whithouse not Whitehouse.

I'll admit, it's not a revelation which really needs an exclamation mark, much less a swear word; but it's been a slow day.

Nice interview, you should be a journalist.

Piers said...

But if he was, there'd be no way to bribe or twist him...

Oli said...

Not only top-hole, but also cool beans. Very good stuff.