Swedish producers and channels are constantly looking for the next big comedy with broad appeal. Old structures are being challenged and the “rules” for what a comedy series should be have changed fundamentally. The line between comedy and drama has been more or less erased, and the genre has expanded a great deal. This is maybe most obvious in the selections on the streaming services Netflix and HBO, but even traditional channels like SVT and TV4 have begun to think differently. But how do you find these ground-breaking ideas?
Cooperation can lead to strong script ideas
The fundamental idea with Manusfabriken’s Comedy Series Lab is that program ideas and new writer constellations will grow from cooperation.
To that end, 15 scriptwriters were chosen after an application process for Comedy Series Lab, where they could, in a workshop format, see how comedy as a genre can be inspired by new trends and reimagined. Many of the writers have previously worked on comedy series like “Welcome to Sweden,” “Halvvägs till Himlen” (Halfway to Heaven) and “Starke Man.”
The writers brainstormed a few rough concepts that were then developed further in smaller groups. The result was five new comedy series ideas that are ready to be taken further to production companies.
Several of the series that were developed during the workshop will also be pitched to companies, channels and audiences at TV Drama Vision during Gothenburg Film Festival.
“There were a lot of laughs and a great creative atmosphere. We came up with some good and some not-so-good ideas, which is what happens in the lab format. It took a lot of hard work and the 15 participants were really focused,” explains Niclas Ekström, who is responsible for the project at Manusfabriken and who arranged the two-day script lab.
"It was clear that the writers were used to coming up with ideas quickly, evaluating them and immediately working on them. A lot of people said that the biggest attraction was working together with other talented screenwriters."
What makes a TV series script successful?
“Time and trends are an important part of the process. If Solsidan (Sunny Side) were to premiere now, for example, would it be as successful? Probably not,” says Niclas Ekström. “A series has to be based on the current social tone and mood to be a hit.
“Another important part is the characters’ relationships. We work primarily based on these parts: arena, relationships and events. During the lab, the writers expanded on these in their own way.”
What problems can you encounter in this kind of script lab?
“Like in all creative environments, it’s important to be open-minded. All the participants are professionals, which can lead to deadlock, as people can have a pre-determined picture of what companies and channels are looking for. It’s also important to clarify copyright and ownership. If the idea comes from the group, who owns the concept? That’s why we felt it was very important that the ideas belong jointly to the writers.”
Why did Manusfabriken decide to arrange this event?
“Our objective at Manusfabriken is to create more professional productions and more projects for west Swedish screenwriters. Through this collaboration, several concepts will be put forward, while we’re also improving relationships with production companies and channels.”