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Phil Collinge and Andy Lord Interview

Posted on 29 June 2005. © Copyright 2004-2024 WriteWords
A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
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WriteWords talks to Phil Collinge and Andy Lord, comedy writers for TV, theatre and film.

Tell us something about your background.

First and foremost we are comedy writers. In the past we’ve worked for BBC Television and Radio, Carlton Television, S4C, Six Foot High Films, Portuguese and Dutch Television, Children’s ITV and BBC Radio Scotland to name but a few. We’ve sold scripts for; sketches, short film scripts, stand up comedy, short stories, theatre in education projects and live comedy shows. At the moment we’re working on sit-coms and feature scripts, which is the way forward for us, and ‘touch wood’ it seems to be happening.

How did you start writing?

We’d both learned how to write our names in joined up letters at an early age, so the basics were already in place. We had mutually written material for a variety of work/college shows, but neither of us had taken things any further. We actually wrote our first collaborative comedy in 1981 whilst still at school - a ‘This Is Your Life’ sketch for a school revue. An initially enjoyable process which due to some of our friends’ inability to keep things secret introduced us to the doubtful joys of the re-write, the re-re-write and finally the re-re-re-write.

The formal comedy writing partnership evolved mainly through drunken conversations and a mutual sense of humour! We’ve always watched a lot of the same programmes on TV and got to thinking that maybe we could do it! Our goal of getting things published/broadcast came at a much later date. It was probably around 1993 when we made the decision to venture into the world of comedy writing proper and actually started the demoralising process of submitting our work to producers. In that time we’ve moved from being non-commissioned writers selling the occasional sketch, to a situation now, where we get contacted by producers with big ideas but with no idea how to translate them into scripts!

Who are your favourite writers and why?

Ronnie Barker, Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, would be top of the list. There is a certain elegance about their comedy. As well as being clever and funny, it’s also mainstream and ‘warm’.

Too much comedy today seems to be a cult experience aimed at a ‘youth market’. We like to think that our material will appeal to a whole range of ages and backgrounds - just like comedy used to be when we were growing up.

Warmth is a very significant factor for us. A lot of English comedy is about failure, but you’ve got to feel something for the characters even if they are not traditionally likable. Hancock had it in the 50’s and 60s, and Peter Kay has it now. When repeats of ‘Dad’s Army’ or ‘The Two Ronnie’s Sketchbook’ are pulling larger audiences than new comedy shows, you have to think that people who worked in the industry in those days had got the formula right. Too many shows these days try to appeal to the youth market by employing star names and using shock tactics. We try to write comedy that everyone can relate to – ‘new’ and ‘ground-breaking’ is not automatically amusing.

How did you get your first agent/ commission?

Our first sale was a rather ‘X rated’ sketch for a Freddie Starr show which was actually shown at 8 o’clock! The sight of our names scrolling up in the credits spurred us on to achieve greater things, and from there things have grown slowly but steadily.

We are now at a point where we can expect to be writing things which (for the most part) will get made, rather than just on spec. The secret is to believe in yourself and to hang on in there. If you’ve got it, one day someone will realise!

What's the worst thing about writing?

Rejection! In one form or another we all get it, and its part of the learning process. It could be a whole feature script that is sent back with a ‘no thank you’, or a producer who’s definitely going to make your film but seems to want to change every word for the sake of it. It’s like the joke ‘How many writers does it take to change a light bulb? – What’s wrong with it the way it is!’

You have to believe that you’ve got talent, be able to learn from feedback and at the same time stick to your guns if you think you are right – even Fawlty Towers got rejected a few times before it was made!

And the best?

Seeing it made, whether it’s a short story or something on TV – there’s nothing to beat the feeling that your work has actually been produced and is entertaining to its intended audience!

Tell us what kind of response you get from audiences and if/how this affects/influences your writing

It doesn’t affect us really because we tend to write what we think is funny. Of course reaction can always help in the editing process! We’re more influenced by watching other people’s work. Looking at what types of material is being made and what isn’t helps, and conversely you can identify gaps in the market that way.

What was your breakthrough moment?

I think that the day we had to attend a meeting at Pinewood Studios to discuss a couple of feature length projects possibly marked the moment where we realised that “we’re really being taken seriously here”.

A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

Comments by other Members

anisoara at 23:03 on 30 June 2005  Report this post
Good interview.

And this made me laugh:
Make sure you are spending more time writing than you are visiting e-mail forums and asking copyright questions!
And it just made me laugh again when I re-read it!



Zigeroon at 11:09 on 06 July 2005  Report this post

Fabulous insight on how to keep going through the rejection process. Perseverance and tenacity and belief. It's a mantra and an affirmation wrapped up in one. It seems to work. Let's hope it does.


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