Bernard Padden Interview
Posted on 08 March 2005. © Copyright 2004-2024 WriteWords
WriteWords talks to screenwriter Bernard Padden
Tell us something about your background.
Currently living in Manchester where I was born: I’ve been working as an actor in theatre/television/film for over 20 years. A lot of actors “branch out” into writing whilst unemployed - I’m not much of an exception in that respect. I’ve had 4 pilot sitcoms optioned by the BBC and a few independent companies but none ever made it to the small screen. It’s only in the last 2 to 3 years that I’ve been writing full time as a sustainable career. I’ve done 11 episodes so far for DOCTORS, a BBC1 daytime soap. Right now I’m under contract to do 3 more episodes.
How did you start writing?
When I was trying to establish myself in London during the early 80’s as an actor I badly needed an agent. In order to be seen in something I wrote and staged a one man comedy show at The New End Theatre, Hampstead. Weirdly enough, the show was a success – it got an extended run and also transferred to The King’s Head, Islington. Channel 4 commissioned me to turn one of my monologues from the show into a 10 minute adult cartoon called BINKY AND BOO which was transmitted in 1988 (oh and I also got an agent). Encouraged, I wrote a few short comedy plays for various fringe theatre productions. At this stage I was doing quite well as an actor so I tended to treat writing as a kind of hobby…I was very “distracted” in those days. Lazy is another word.
How did you get your first agent/ commission?
See above. My acting agent also handles my writing.
Who are your favourite writers and why?
Favourite prose writer is Vladimir Nabokov – his use of language is startling. I’m always re-reading his stuff. Actually I’ve got about a thousand favourite writers – depending on my mood. Josh Wheedon, creator of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”, is up there. Buffy is one of the wittiest shows to have come out of America in the last 20 or so years.
What's the worst thing about writing?
Smoking too much. Getting started on a script: staring at a blank computer screen – I panic for the first 2 hours, thinking “I can’t do this. I’m a fake!”
And the best?
Writing those two sweet words “The End”.
Tell us what kind of response you get from audiences and if/how this affects/influences your writing
Writing for telly, my script editor is my immediate and interactive audience. She doesn’t let me get away with cutting corners or sloppy language.
What was your breakthrough moment?
About 4 years ago I sent a 50 minute comedy/drama script off to BBC Talent. They invited me down (up?) to London for an interview and asked if I was interested in writing for mainstream BBC telly. I was put onto a script editor at DOCTORS who asked me to produce a dummy script for the programme in 7 days. It’s the standard test for writers new to television. That done, I was then invited to submit storyline ideas for the show. My first 15 storylines were all rejected. About a year later I finally got lucky with a storyline about a gay guy who gets excluded from his dead lover’s funeral
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