In a Southbank Show interview with Melvyn Bragg to coincide with the launch of Pennies from Heaven, Dennis Potter stated emphatically, ‘I don’t write for television, I write television’(14 February 1978). Potter’s implication was that television fiction is driven by those who create the texts upon which it is based; that it is derived from those who create the blueprint: the screenwriters. Quite simply, his words emphasised that without the screenwriter, television fiction would not exist. This is an idea advocated today by television writer Sarah Phelps, whose work over the last ten years has encompassed nearly a hundred episodes of the BBC soap opera EastEnders, episodes of television drama series No Angels (Channel 4) and Being Human (BBC3), and two high profile BBC adaptations of work by Charles Dickens: Oliver Twist in 2007 and Great Expectations in 2011. Phelps acknowledges the power of the screenwriter’s ideas and craft as central to her practice, and it is this sense of both authorship and ownership that earns her not only great recognition for her work, but greater recognition than her counterparts in the world of film, where the role of the director continues to dominate.
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- Sarah Phelps on Writing Television: Adaptation, Collaboration and the Screenwriter’s Voice
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