Senior Script Editor – Kathryn Shrubb

What is your job role and what does that involve?

As a Script Editor I am involved in helping the writer develop their idea from pitch to script to screen. This involves helping storyline and plot, usually across a number of episodes. One of my main roles is to be the writer’s advocate to the Producer and Executive Producer and ensuring that everyone’s thoughts are discussed.

I also do a lot of the research required for the script and story, which might involve anything from finding out answers to specific questions to organising an expert consultant to come on board. It’s the reason my pub quick knowledge is pretty impressive.

During the shoot I am the main liaison between the production, the writer and the rest of the editorial department.

I also work with writers before an idea has been green lit. This is the development side of my role and is much is more about finding new and current writers and developing their next ideas.

How did you get into Script Editing?

To begin with, all I knew was that I wanted to work in television drama and wasn’t really aware of all the myriad of roles available. So, I started off as runner in Children’s drama and then moved onto being a Production Secretary. Both were really great roles in getting a taste for drama production and all the different departments involved in making a drama series. It was here that I first learnt of the Script Editor role and that it sounded like something I would love to do and wanted to aim for. I was then very lucky to get a place on the BBC Production Trainee Scheme, which was an amazing experience and gave me a chance to experience a range of television genres and roles. By the end of the scheme, I knew working in drama and with scripts was definitely what I wanted to do.  It was then just a case of gaining as much experience as I could on a variety of productions, working my way from Script researcher to Assistant Script Editor to Script Editor – with a slight detour through radio! This took me quite a few years, but allowed me the opportunity to build up knowledge of a variety of drama and scripts. And work with an amazing range of people.

What training have you had?

Most of the training I have had has been during jobs and productions. As part of the BBC Production Trainee scheme there was a range of really wonderful training workshops, where we were given the basics on everything from pitching to camera operating. But to be honest, in certain areas I am still training and learning now, I don’t think this is something that will every change.

There are some great resources out there on the fundamentals of working in drama production and with scripts, and it is always useful to dip into these and learn from other’s experience.

What key skills do you need for your job?

Working through a range of positions and now as a Script Editor, I am very lucky in that I have developed all the skills I have needed as I have gone a long. Every new script and production brings a new set of skills. But I would probably say the fundamentals, are creativity and the love of storytelling in all its forms, being able to come up with solutions to story problems – which sometimes means just talking all sides of the story and characters through – and a knowledge of what is currently being made and is popular. I would say, one of the most important things is to try and know what stories you like and enjoy.

Is working on a TV Drama and a Children’s drama different?

As a Script Editor, there is really not that much difference. At the end of the day it is all storytelling and about how to tell the best story for the specific audience. Of course, there will be a difference in the type of story and subject being told. And another difference might come in the length of the script/show for example 30 minutes or 60 minute. This will then change how you structure the script and the episode.

What do you wish you had known when starting out?

To wear a warm coat, especially on night shoots. And to hover by the tea trolley.

Also, to not be scared to give my opinion and ask questions. As long as it is honest and polite, most people are keen to hear a wide range of thoughts and help others to understand the job and stages of creating a story and script.

What are your top tips for someone starting out?

Try to learn a little something about every department roles and say hello to the people in them! There are so many interesting roles in drama production and it’s really great to learn from all of them.

Sounds a little obvious – but ask questions! In my experience people are usually happy and eager to help others get into the industry.

Watch as much TV and film as possible – things you like, things you don’t. And both current and past. It’s always great to have a wide knowledge base and bring inspiration from all over.

Keep a notebook – my memory is terrible so I have find it useful to keep a note of writers, directors and stories I have enjoyed.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

Hopefully in 5 years I will be a Producer. But in the main still working in drama and helping to tell stories…

If you weren’t a script editor what would you be…?

Tricky one….in dream land, maybe a Vet or a Marine Biologist. But in reality probably a Lawyer.

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