Alison Pennells is a scriptwriter, playwright, novelist and script consultant from Leeds

As a female script consultant and scriptwriter I spent three years on the core writing team of UK soap Emmerdale – I worked as a storyliner initially and then moved onto the writing team proper about a year later.  I wrote around 25 actual broadcast episodes over a three year period.

Famously, soaps are (or were) the training ground for many great TV writers. The likes of Jimmy McGovern, Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Tony Jordan, Sally Wainwright, Kay Mellor and Russell T Davies started their careers writing for the soaps. 

Female Script Consultant

The soaps are a great place for scriptwriters to learn and develop their craft – and build up a reputation for reliability. A reputation for reliability is an important thing to have for a scriptwriter wanting to develop their career.

A lot of new writers wanting to break into TV scriptwriting look down on soaps, but that’s a big mistake. Writing for the soaps for any length of time is a sure sign that the scriptwriter can deliver good quality scripts under pressure.   And this ‘pressure’ element of soap writing helps producers understand that when working with an ex-soap scriptwriter – the writer will be able to handle whatever is thrown at them, and that makes producers trust scriptwriters a little bit more.

As a female script consultant who has written for the soaps, I’m aware of just about everything that can go wrong between the script being written and the show ending up on screen.

Soap Scriptwriter

As a soap scriptwriter, I have helped rewrite scripts at the last minute for various reasons, for example – an actor being ill on the day their scenes are meant to be shot – a sudden last minute change of location which means the scene will need to be rewritten FAST.   Soap scriptwriters have these sorts of requests all the time – and to stay on the show, you need to be able to think fast, drop everything and rewrite scenes quickly and on-demand for the producer (even if you’re on the other side of the world on holiday when the call comes).

Soaps, whatever you think of them (and some of them are dire) are juggernauts production wise, and do not stop for anything or anyone (and all TV producers know this).  So, when a producer sees that a scriptwriter has the soaps on their CV – the producer will know, that no matter what, this scriptwriter will be used to delivering the goods – under any circumstances that the production throws at them.

That’s why, when building a scriptwriting career – a stint on the soaps is often a good idea.

Alison Pennells is a scriptwriter, playwright, novelist, female script consultant and producer from Leeds. Alison was a core scriptwriter on Emmerdale and The Royal Today. Her short film ‘Me Head’s a Shed’ was winner of The Yorkshire Short film award. Her play ‘Dirty Laundry’ has been a huge success and raised much needed funds for cancer charities across the UK. In recent years Alison has worked as a female script consultant and producer on three feature films. Alison is married, has a daughter, three doggies and no cats (at the moment).

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