Top EastEnders writer reveals how to create a TV script that makes the grade

June 22, 2017

‘It’s Faaamly ain’t it?’, ‘Rickaaaaaay!’… everyone knows the catch phrases of BBC’s top-rated soap EastEnders, but how do you craft a script that leaves millions of viewers on the edge of their seats week after week?

Top script writer Spenser Frearson was just the person to guide Burgess Hill Girls Schoolstudents when he visited the school to run a workshop on dialogue.

But how do you set about becoming a script writer in the first place?

Spenser says that as a teenager he sought out every opportunity to do drama and was already writing plays. ‘The thing about drama is that you have to practise with actors,’ he says. ‘So it’s really good to get involved in school drama and youth theatre.’

Spenser went on to Cambridge to study Natural Sciences but found time to develop his passion for writing.

“At university it suddenly hit me I wanted to be a writer, so what was the point of doing physics?” he laughs. “Writing was my dream. But Cambridge was a great place for me.Although no-one actually studies drama [there], there’s so much opportunity to get involved in it.”

Among his contemporaries were acclaimed film and stage director Sam Mendes and top actress Rachel Weisz.

After graduating, Spenser wrote for ITV police drama The Bill before going to EastEnders. He now has 20 scripts for the show under his belt.

His most famous storyline? “Probably the one I’m best known for is where Syed Masood, a Muslim character, came out as gay. That got loads of publicity.”

For his workshop, Spenser drew directly on his experience on the top show: “I brought along some story lines from EastEnders and we discussed how to write a story for a soap opera.The girls were great and had some really great ideas.”

But Spenser left the girls in no doubt about the complexities of a career as a scriptwriter. “I talked them through the whole lengthy, torturous process of getting script on a screen and how I had to do three or four drafts of a script for EastEnders before it was filmed.”

He revealed that a good place for budding TV writers to start their careers is as a script editor – “that’s a job they could be doing in five to six years. And it’s a path to becoming a producer.”