The writer/associate producer of the BBC3 sitcom Him & Her talks about how he got started in the industry.
Published 09 May 2012
What first inspired you to get into your craft?
I'm not very good at anything else. I've always been a hazard in any other job I've had. It's been a big stroke of luck that people are happy to pay me for something I'd probably do for free anyway.
How did you first break into the industry?
I did lots of live comedy at university. Thankfully, no evidence of it exists. I then spent a few years taking live shows to the Edinburgh Fringe as a writer-performer or a director. Kenton Allen came to see a one-man play I was doing, liked it, read a sitcom script I'd written, liked it and took it to the BBC. After a bit of work, it became Him & Her. So really it's all thanks to him - no one else was interested in making it.
Which professional figure in your field do you find the most inspiring?
When I was a teenager, Chris Morris took my brain and shook it. I'm not sure it's ever been the same since. And I like those Americans you get that make dense but populist TV shows.
If you hadn't managed to break into your field, what was your plan B?
Teach English and resent it.
Which film/tv programme do you wish you could have worked on?
The Piano Teacher.
What single piece of advice would you give to a young person trying to break intoyour discipline and get noticed? How do you stand out from the crowd?
Find out what it is you do and why you want to do it. Be patient – there's no rush. Work on things you believe in. Keep your soul clean for as long as you can. If you only want to be a writer because you like to see your name in lights, question your personality.
Were there any people who supported/mentored/championed you in the early stages of your career? How important are these kinds of relationships?
Kenton Allen, as mentioned above, has really changed my life. Before he got Him & Her made, I was penniless, hopeless and assumed no one would ever want to make the sort of thing I wanted to make. He's really nurtured me and looked after me, both artistically and personally. He supports me and encourages me and tells me when I'm being an idiot and listens when I insist I'm not. It's so important to work with people who tell you when you're rubbish because if they don't, no one will. If I'm lucky enough to be doing this for any longer, it's thanks to him.
Richard Laxton, who directs Him & Her, has also really helped me. When I started writing the show I knew exactly how it should taste but I was less clear on what the ingredients were. He's been invaluable in helping me make my ideas work on screen. And he's a very kind, funny and generous person, which informs everything he does. I know everyone in this kind of interview says everyone they work with is unrealistically amazing – and I know it always comes across as lame and completely fake – but Richard is genuinely a brilliant director and I feel very lucky to have been able to sit with him while he directs Him & Her.