In this instalment of Meet the Creatives, we speak to scriptwriter Alex MJ Smith. He explains how his shattered dreams of rock stardom led him to write for comedy shows and brand films, and how a script helps the whole production run like clockwork…
Alex writes scripts and jokes for screen, stage and radio.
What do you do?
I’m a writer. This means I drink vats of black coffee, buy stationery for the sheer thrill of it, and spend my days stringing words together on my satisfyingly clacky keyboard. I enjoy all kinds of writing assignment, but I particularly love writing comedy.
How did you get into scriptwriting?
Throughout my teenage years, I was convinced I was going to be a professional musician. But when I finished my music degree (specialising in songwriting), I realised I’d always been better at writing the lyrics than singing them. I decided to explore a career as a writer in a different entertainment industry, and set about learning the mysterious craft of screenwriting (tip: podcasts are like university, but free). I’m now a full-time freelance writer, working across branded content, scripted entertainment and copywriting.
What do you like about it?
A script is neither a work of literature, nor a technical document; it’s a little bit of both. It needs to inspire the reader and convey a vision of the final film, while also providing clear instructions for the production crew. I enjoy this balance of art and craft.
What’s been the highlight of your writing career so far?
2019 was a big year for me, so I’m going to be greedy and mention two highlights: Firstly, I saw my name on TV for the first time, when I was credited as a joke-writer for Breaking the News on BBC Scotland. Secondly, I received my first theatre commission — a short comedy about 18th century piracy, set between Bristol and Cornwall — which should keep me busy for the first half of 2020!
What type of productions use scriptwriters?
All of them!
What can it add to a production?
In TV and film, they say it all starts with the script. The script provides the story, directs the on-screen action, and puts words into the actors’ mouths. When it comes to brand films, having a script will give your production focus. At the top of the filmmaking process, the script gives shape to the overall creative vision and provides the client with a ‘preview’ of the finished film, for approval or changes. During production, the script is the blueprint that the crew will frequently refer back to. Of course, a script is essential if your video is going to be presenter-led, or include voiceover. Whether you’re hiring an actor or delivering the lines yourself, a professional scriptwriter can help you articulate your points concisely, with an engaging tone. This is particularly key if your subject matter has the potential to be dry or jargon-heavy. There may even be room for some light-touch humour, to keep viewers interested and show off your brands’ personality — this is where a scriptwriter with comedy experience comes in handy!
In the next instalment of Meet the Creatives, we speak to sound recordist James Chatwin. He tells us how his reputation as ‘the audio wiz’ at uni led to work in stunning locations worldwide, and why no one will notice when he excels at his job…