Barbara Machin - Screenwriter

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WHY SHOULD YOU LISTEN TO HER…? Because she’s won a BAFTA and an EMMY and has a proven track record writing for successful long running series.


Barbara Machin is the creator and part of the writing and producing team of BBC1’s EMMY winning series WAKING THE DEAD, now in its ninth year. Her television films include PATTERN OF LIFE, DEVIL’S ADVOCATE, CARLA, THE INVESTIGATOR and AN UNSUITABLE JOB FOR A WOMAN and KISS OF DEATH.

She has written for many long-running series, but has a special association with CASUALTY. After 10 years away, she accepted an invitation in 2006 to write a guest double Christmas episode for CASUALTY's 21st birthday year; her two hour script won the continuing drama BAFTA in 2007.

She is currently creating/writing a new crime thriller series MINDHUNTER for the BBC and writing a three-parter CLOSER for ITV.

Q:  What was your favourite film as a kid?

A:  Actually I was film-deprived as a kid as lived in small rural village - so cinema highlights became iconic . Two inspiring favourites: HARD DAY'S NIGHT: viewed in small town flea pitt with hundreds of (other) screaming teenagers- utterly electrifying - film could change a life and make your pulse race. The other; LAWRENCE OF ARABIA blew me away: breathtaking filmic sequences and utterly devastating performances and storytelling. Better than drugs.

Q:  Who inspired you when you were starting out?

A:  Every writer whose work I loved on screen. Pinter for his wonderful film BETRAYAL and watching time run backwards thru a passionate affair : John Hopkins for TALKING TO A STRANGER and proving that time shifts and a family talking/ not talking to each other was as riveting as any story on earth; early Dennis Potter (PENNIES FROM HEAVEN/ SINGING DETECTIVE) for showing that drama could be as big as your imagination, Howard Shuman for Rock Follies again for his screen vision and daring to tell stories thru rock ; Alan Bleasdale for heart stopping BOYS FROM THE BLACKSTUFF; Jeremy Sandford for CATHY COME HOME proving drama could change the world and Lynda La Plante for making crime drama profound and meaning something so much more than cops and robbers.

Q:  What was your big break?
A:  Leaving teaching and getting a job as a promotion scriptwriter with Granada TV. I sat in Jack Rosenthal's (old) seat and wrote trailers against the clock for six months and knew this was where I had to be (ideally writing the drama not just the trailers!).

Q:  What was the best day in your career?

A:   I hope it is yet to come (!) and my years writing have been so happy that I have many. My first commission. Wow: I can do this and get paid . My first gig for CASULTY and visiting the set and seeing the wonderful Brenda Fricker and Derek Thompson saying my lines! Lifting the Emmy in New York for the WAKING THE DEAD team and the BAFTA for CASULTY and a guest Christmas special. Any day when a script gets a green light ands goes into production. It seems to take longer and longer!

Q:  What has been your most important lesson?

A:  That it is never easy. That nothing is predictable. That however much a climate dictates what you do and how you do it - believe in your own originality and fight for it. Never look back! Never compare yourself with anyone else. Never stop dreaming. Never get old. Never say never.

Q:  If a niece or nephew wanted to be in the business, what would you advise them?

A:  They have asked often and my answer is always the same. Do you want this more than you can describe? Are you willing to work harder than you can imagine. Take risks. Be poor. If all this excites you and you want to race towards it at a hundred miles an hour with your eyes and heart open - then you will probably make it work.

Q:  What is the hardest part of your job and how do you overcome it?

A:  Currently I am lucky enough to be developing and writing long-running series - (two underway with the BBC) and they are big beasts and take a long time. Hardest is the impatience to leap ahead and write like the wind. Reality is that beginning anything that new and that big and that expensive means you will have several rows of creatives looking over your shoulders and helping you shape and develop a creature which will hopefully run for years (WAKING THE DEAD now in its 10th year) Rewriting and rewriting and rewriting AND keeping your enthusiasm and creativity high is a tough job . A great supportive sympatico team is my blessing. AND much stamina and Belief essential!!!

Q:  What do you feel is a writers’ or filmmakers' key responsibility?
A:  Writing a brilliant script. Seriously. It is where it all begins. And ends. And pushing oneself always to challenge the way that the screen can tell the story. And saying something that matters. Inside every genre is the story of Us.

Q:  What mistakes do you see writers or film makers making over and over?

A:  Not sure I've ever had that thought. And it is incredibly important not to set rules and guidelines for emerging talent! BUT: my own experience has shown me that working the big TV drama series taught me so much and equipped me to be the writer I am today - and so maybe when I observe newbies shunning the "apprenticeship" experience because they feel it is "beneath" them I suspect they are making a mistake.

Q:  What advice would you offer a writer or film maker?

A:  Dare to dream. Then write it.