She won the public over with the delightfully forthright and hilarious Fleabag, injected with fourth-wall-breaking splashes of personality and wit, but these days it’s clear writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge is a consummately blockbuster-friendly writer as well (if we can assume as much from her recruitment for rewrites on No Time To Die and ground-up involvement with the upcoming Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny). YouTube channel Screenwriters Network has compiled some salient tips espoused by Waller-Bridge across multiple interviews, thereby highlighting a number of her most individual and/or helpful insights.
A counterintuitive, but accommodating one to begin: Put your material, your jokes, your characters, first, and only then worry about the overall structure of your script. That sort of busy-work keeps you from spitballing to your full potential; make a pairing between ideas and see what sparks creativity.
Even still, you’ll need some sense of direction, so: you must know the ending. That way, you’ll also be able to go as far away from that point as possible. Ask yourself what emotional journey you want to take audience on; their destination and end should wind up a with an element of surprise, so work away from a scene you know will have some punch to it, and start building back up to it from there.
These have been some pretty topsy-turvy techniques, but most screenwriting gurus have probably got this covered as well: Surround yourself with an encouraging support network. “So many people in this industry are going to say ‘no’. Make sure you spend time with people who encourage you and support you. That belief is what keeps you going when the pages won’t come”. Well put.
And, emboldened by the compliments and force of belief of those you love, go forth and write fearlessly. Treat the script as if no one is ever going to read it, a diary under your total command and filled only with whatever you know would make yourself or your confidants laugh, cry, or whichever response you prefer. It’s precisely those ideas which are truthful, even if you wouldn’t have written them if you were more self-conscious about what is expected of you as a writer today.
And with those expectations hauled from off your shoulders, you should find it easier to follow Waller-Bridge’s next direction: You have to be able to relax, so it’s worth it to find a manner to unwind your mind, ideas come more easily that way. As Waller-Bridge points out, “a lot of Fleabag was done with half a bottle of wine down already”. Take it easy, and do so in good company.
Give the video a watch below. It features clips from Fleabag and Killing Eve, interspersed with Bridger’s quotes.