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Graham Ralph • Silver Fox Films
Series vs Features: the main differences

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Copyright Cartoon, the European Association of Animation Film Cartoon Master Postdam, Germany, November 2005

Graham Ralph is Director at Silver Fox Films. Graham has directed a string of internationally successful series and short films including Rhinegold (S4C/BBC), William’s Wish Wellingtons (BBC), The Forgotten Toys (ITV), The First Snow of Winter (BBC), Angelmouse (BBC), Second Star to the Left (BBC), So Many Santas (C4), Bounty Hamstre (ITV), and more recently Harry and His Bucket Full of Dinosaurs for Cartoon Network US and Disney UK.

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What are the main ingredients to write a good script?

Writing feature script is a different job than writing a TV series. Scriptwriters should treat a TV series as an individual movie, with three act structures.
The writer needs perseverance, a thick skin.
When writing a feature the scriptwriter needs to re-educate himself. A feature script is very big. The gap between a series script and a feature script, it can be a humbling experience. The writing skills have to be much better. It is essential to watch movies that work, and use them.
Writing a script is a long journey; scriptwriters should always keep working on the script.
What is very important is to collaborate and to get a good script editor. The script editor should not be a friend and should be paid! They can really dissect the film, made the story work. A good script editor does not rewrite the story. He helps the scriptwriter to improve the script. It can catapult the script from a TV series to a proper movie.

What are the central themes for storytelling a TV series and a feature?

The differences can be of two orders: creative and technical differences.
From a creative point of view the TV series don’t have themes, they have a central idea or premise. The movie has messages that underlie what the film has to be about. Then those themes are explored. With it comes story arcs and protagonists change through the film. At the end of the movie they have learned something and they have changed.
Movies are about something in our lives, a moment that changes things. In a series that would send it off in another direction.
The scriptwriter has to bear in mind that audiences’ expectations are very high. The public expects special effects. The scriptwriter has to find stronger skills of storytelling because we can’t always match them.
From a technical point of view, there are two differences of quality. In 2D you get strobing in cinema. For TV the quality of drawing doesn’t have to be so high. There is no need to be too precious about every single frame of drawing. On a big screen, you do have to make it big. For cinema you must put the drawings on every single frame. Otherwise the camera judders, put it on single frame and affects the cost. In 3D the problem is the rendering.

What has been your experience with the Magic Roundabout?

I am now working on the TV series, after the feature film that was released in 2005. For the TV series, we removed the big expensive actors. It was impractical cost-wise to keep them. So we have to look at it as a soap opera. We keep all the story within the village. The advantage of the 3D is that we have the materials (characters, backgrounds…) and we are able to use them for the series. With a 2D feature series you have to draw them again for the 2D series.

A success series can guarantee a successful feature?

No, but if you have a brand base or a fan base, then you will attract those people into the movie. Staying power is important. Strong fan base can guarantee territories to sell. There is definitively a spin-off potential. But you have to establish the brands in the territories. Timing is important, if you carry on directly after the film, you can use the material.

What are your helpful hints to young scriptwriters?

Script script script and find a very rich friend! Every time you start a feature, think about it, give the audience something they have never seen before. They are hungry nasty things; they are consumers of the next new thing. And they love the newness, the freshness. And again get the script perfect.

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