Words by Jyoti Mann
After graduating, Gillian submitted her short film script, Loose Threads, about a woman who only discovers she is living in a knitted universe when she unravels her job by mistake, and landed both her first commission for an animated feature and first jobbing writing gig. Since then she has gone on to write for a number of pre-school shows including Topsy and Tim, Ruff-Ruff, Tweet and Dave and 64 Zoo Lane, as well as teaching scriptwriting at Goldsmiths, University of London.
We caught up with Gillian to hear more about her most recent writing venture.
What is Kazoops about and where did the idea come from?
Kazoops is a lovely show set in the Australian outback. Stories revolve around a young boy called Monty Kazoop and his best friend, Jimmy Jones, who is Monty’s pet pig. In each episode, Monty explores a preconception about the world and reaches his own, unique, conclusions.
It was devised by an Australian production company, Cheeky Little Media, and is unusual because the show grew out of a catalogue of distinctive and witty children’s songs. I loved working on Kazoops because everyone really cared about making it work well. From the design of the show to the quality of the animation, everything mattered. As writers we were worked hard but trusted to do a good job.
Official Kazoops Trailer //
What is a typical working day like for you?
Depending on the deadlines I face, once my daughter is off to school I either get straight down to work or go for a walk first to clear my head. I try to get a walk in most days. I frequently take my laptop or hard copy and work in the café round the corner from my house. Some days I get to watch cartoons all morning.
What is it like to write for a CBeebies show?
Animated series are usually complicated co-productions, with just part of the funding coming from an attached broadcaster. There are specific compliance issues when writing for a young audience and each broadcaster has a particular house policy. CBeebies has their own list of dos and don’ts.
How is writing for children’s television shows different to writing for adults?
One of the things I like about writing for young children is that all stories take place in a fundamentally benign universe. Other than that, the same rules apply as in adult drama. You need interesting, believable characters, a tight theme, clear tone and strong dramatic structure.
What has been the highlight of your career?
I have just finished writing a novel.
What has been the most challenging aspect?
Working with a script editor who won’t communicate with their team of writers. Luckily this does not happen too often.
Does your daughter watch your shows?
My daughter used to love watching shows I worked on. She still does, but now offers some pretty insightful editorial feedback.
What is next for you?
A colleague and I have an original pre-school series in development at present. I would like to get that into production. I also hope to find the right publisher for my novel.
What do you see yourself doing 10 years from now?
What advice would you give to future MA Screenwriting students?
Write every day. Be willing to re-write and take constructive feedback. Remember that jobbing writing is a collaborative process. Respect the experience others bring to the table. Look for openings, writing for the things you love, and be prepared to take knockbacks on the way.
How do you find out about opportunities?
Sometimes I get asked to work on shows directly. In addition, my agent is fantastic and works so hard on my behalf. I have been lucky enough to have a constant flow of work. I am hugely grateful to her.
If you could relive your time at LCC what would you do differently?
Very little. I loved the course. Perhaps network more – that has never been my strong suit.