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How to create the perfect writers' room

During Audiovisual Days, Manusfabriken and Centrum för Dramatik Syd held a roundtable and panel discussion on how to creat a perfect writers' room - and how multiple writers can create a TV series together. The special guest was screenwriter and editor Jesper Harrie, who worked on Solsidan, Bonusfamiljen and most recently Fartblinda, among other things.

TV series are being produced in Sweden like never before. Streaming services like Viaplay, Cmore and Netflix have triggered a boom within the TV industry, which has create a big demand for skilled screenwriters that have the ability to work together in different editorial groups.

But how does it actually work when writing a long TV series with a lot of episodes and several writers? How do you preserve the vision? How do you get everyone pulling in the same direction? Jesper Harrie, who has worked as a screenwriter since the mid-1990s thinks that the most important aspect is that everyone in the writing room has clear roles and that everyone feels like they are being heard.

He explains how long and substantial the process of writing a season of Solsidan is. Numerous versions of the script are written before it is filmed.  Giving the right sort of feedback on writers' scripts is thus incredibly important. If criticism is unclear or unfocused, it is easy for the writer to be led astray. That makes it necessary to have a strong editor with an overview of the whole series to lead the work. The series' actors are often invited in during the work to contribute to the writing process. However, this is rather unusual for most Swedish TV productions.

Screenwriters Karing Aspenström, Niclas Ekström and Kjersti Ugelstad also participated in the panel discussion. Niclas Ekström, who recently worked as the main writer together with Kjesti Ugelstad on the TV series 'Maskineriet' brought up the misconception that many new screenwriters suffer from, that they fail to see that TV writing is largely a collective process. He also thinks it is important to stress that most professional screenwriters write for series or formats where they are not the author.

The submission of the script to the director and production was also something that was discussed. How should the screenwriter's vision be protected when new people take over the process? Jesper Harrie sought so-called tone meetings, which are normal in the USA, where the screenwriters and directors go over the script together to ensure that a uniform tone and style are maintained.

All participants in the panel agreed that in a better writers' room is prerequisite for Swedish TV drama to survive in the competition with international series.  'We have to have a better dialog between the various professional groups, particularly the direction and the writing,' said Jesper Harrie.
 

See the whole conversation on K-play