Malcolm McGonigle Children’s Script Writing

Malcolm McGonigle 21/1/2015
Appearing at Ayr Writers Club for one night only – successful TV screenwriter for CBBC programmes MI High and The Dog Ate My Homework – Malcolm McGonigle.
Our evening began with Malcolm speaking of his first forays into writing and his varied career to date; reviewing rock gigs, using his own specialised musical knowledge, for magazines Songs then The Big Issue, penning articles for culture & arts magazines, submitting comedy gags and short sketches for BBC Radio Scotland and, of course, writing TV scripts.
It took Malcolm 2 years, writing at night after work, to complete 3 half hour episodes of a TV show which he sent to BBC Scotland Drama who took it into development and spent the next two years preparing it. Malcolm added that there are opportunities available for budding scriptwriters at BBC Writer’s Room who are keen to identify and champion fresh writing talent. Meanwhile, back to Malcolm’s story – he got the important phone call 6 months later – the BBC was interested in his script. Two further years were spent “tearing it to shreds” (Malcolm’s own words), rewriting and developing plot, dialogue and characters before a Time Lord from Gallifrey scuppered the whole project. It seems the BBC’s annual budget for new drama that year went towards financing Dr. Who. Malcolm’s series was shelved.
Undeterred, he entered a rewritten version of the script to The Red Planet Scriptwriting Award. From over 4,000 entries, he was chosen as a finalist and this success led to him being given the wonderful opportunity of joining the writing team for popular kids CBBC show M.I. High. He has, so far, written three episodes.

Malcolm had brought along copies of a script. The thespians in our midst read out the parts then we watched the finished and very entertaining product on-screen (thanks to Malcolm and Nigel’s IT skills). It was interesting to see the script come to life and note the changes to dialogue and running order.
Throughout the evening Malcolm helpfully answered our many questions and generously gave any would-be screenwriters/dramatists excellent tips–
• Learn to accept criticism/rejection
• Be prepared to pitch your idea (acting skills come in handy for this)
• Comedy sketch/gag writers should head for the comedy clubs and try stand-up. Radio producers often hang out at them scouting for new talent.
• Keep comedy sketches short – 2 mins max.
• Scriptwriting for children? Listen to young people talking to hone authentic and realistic dialogue.
• Remember a good script, like any good story, needs a strong protagonist(s) and antagonist(s), an “object of desire” and plenty of conflict to drive the plot along and keep the audience hooked.
Early in the evening Malcolm had stressed how important the first 10 pages of a script were – their quality and content have to grab a script reader’s attention. So with that in mind get your first 10 pages polished and perfected for the Children’s TV Script competition – Malcolm is our judge!

Many thanks to Malcolm McGonigle for a humorous, interesting and eye-opening talk on the world of screenwriting. Listen out for his gags on the Des Clark Radio Scotland show and tune in for his new project on CBBC – The Dog Ate My Homework – airing weekly on Fridays at 5pm as from 23rd January 2015.
And when the credits roll in future, look out for Malcolm’s name….I’m sure his original award-winning script will make our tellies one day!

Linda Brown

McGonigle 21 01 15 2

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