One year, one month and one day after starting writing series 3 of FND, we’ve finally finished making the series. I’m not sure when it’s on telly yet, but as soon as I know I’ll let you know. Feel free to ask Channel 4 to hurry up and stick it on!
Quite a few people have asked me how I go about writing, and making the show, so I’ll explain…
I usually spend the first month just thinking of ideas, writing random scenes, lines, anything that might help me craft the series. Then I’ll start on my first script. I’ll normally know what the central idea of the episode is when I start, and will go back through all my ideas, and see what connections I can make, so I can start to create a story. I usually allow 5 weeks per ep.
I need to have a strong opening, and I have to know how the show is going to end, but it’s the middle stuff that’s tricky. Plotting is where most of the work goes, and I try hard to keep story flowing and moving forward. Making the script a real page-turner is what I want to happen.
I’m also trying to make the show as visually interesting as possible. I aim to have at least five ‘big’ comedy moments. Anything from Jonny jumping out of a bin bag in series 1, to say, Jim tipping a pot of red paint all over his head in series 2. Having a show set mainly in one location, and all over one evening, is definitely tough to write, but at the same time, it can be quite liberating, as the framework and limitations are right there in front of me.
Along the way, I’m assisted by my amazing executive producer, Caroline Leddy, who’s always on the end of the phone if I need her. She reads drafts and gives incredible notes as she goes.
Once the scripts are done, and after I’ve gone out and got a little bit drunk, it’s pre-production time. This is 6 weeks of gearing up to the making of the show. My director – the fantastic Martin Dennis – and I go through all the scripts, discussing how they’ll be shot, what will work, what won’t. Martin always has great suggestions to funny stuff up. This is a time for re-writing.
My brill line producer, Georgie Fallon (who runs the production) will let me know what things we can’t shoot, due to money and logistics, and so I normally have to rewrite about 10 scenes. Then it’s looking at costumes, set design and casting the show. A few weeks in, we have a read-through, which is the only time, as a writer, you get to hear your whole series performed in one. Everyone is there (apart from Norman Tebbit who never comes) – director, exec producers, main crew members. It’s nerve-racking but also quite emotional hearing your lines being performed by such talented actors. I don’t cry though. I never cry. Never. NEVER.
We do 1-2 weeks rehearsal with cast. There are last minute script changes, as new lines come up here and there in the rehearsal room. And then we’re ready to film.
Each series takes seven weeks to shoot. Six of these are on location in the house – a real house – in NW London, the rest all around London. What can I say about filming? Well, we use cameras and stuff, and then it’s done.
Then 10 weeks of editing follow, with our editor, Paul Machliss (he did Look Around You Series 2 and Peep Show with me, so is fab). Myself, Martin and Paul sit in quite a warm room overlooking a sex shop, eating biscuits and knocking the shows into shape. Along the way we have notes from my excellent exec producer, Kenton Allen, and Caroline. Then once a week we have a screening with Channel 4 for more notes (or ‘criticisms’ as I call them). Actually, getting notes from good people is a very good thing. We want to hear what isn’t working, so we can fix it.
Finally, we do the grading of the shows, in which we correct the colour of the show, do the dubs (sound mixing), and suddenly it’s one year, one month and one day later, and we’ve finished the series, and I find myself sitting in a cafe in Soho, tired, happy, and about to have a beer.