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Gary talks to Mark Lever about their film 'Moving In' / 6 November 2011

'Mind the lights! a behind the scenes still from Moving In.' Photo Credit: Harry Killingworth

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Last year I worked with Mark Lever on 'Moving In', a comedy drama about University life. I directed the pilot episode, which can be seen on youtube. I interviewed Mark about the process and how it came about.

So how did Moving In come together?
Moving In spawned from an idea I had about this family where, the main character, (Michael) has Asperger's Syndrome. I wanted to explore how he dealt with things when he first goes to college and has this support assistant breathing down his neck at first, and eventually gets rid of his support and fights life at college all by himself – this was quite similar to my own experiences.

Various ideas were looked at but the main difference between that concept and the eventual final concept was that Moving In was going to be set at university. I remember having the idea originally to do a series about university life with three guys/three girls as the main characters all based on quirky characters I have met in my life before I went to university. I had a first draft done before I actually reached university but things changed dramatically as actually living university life bought in so many interesting ideas and a personal touch to it.
After living university life for a month, I had another draft by October in the first year.

How did you set on the idea of ‘Moving In’ with Mark?
Gary and I worked together on scriptwriting other TV scripts before I reached university, so it was a natural collaboration. When the concept of the film came together Gary and I were constantly discussing via phone / text messages and meeting up to narrow down the fine details like who the characters were going to be; their journey; the tone and style; and how it was going to be original. It helped that Gary and I were both into similar sitcoms / drama comedies like ‘Scrubs’ and ‘Friends’. After I spent time at university ideas were flying in from everywhere, sometimes to the point that it was hard to narrow down the ideas that were going to be in the final script. 

What was the process for writing the script?
The flash of inspiration that got me started on this script was the idea of doing a university sitcom in the style of ‘Friends’ and coupling it with a stylistic edge, like ‘Spaced’ and ‘Scrubs’. At first it was all about asking myself what I really wanted from the script. I knew that I wanted a show that provided quite a few laughs. I wanted the balance of having three guys and three girls. I wanted one person who saw the story through who was down to earth, to highlight the eccentricities of the rest of the house.

People I had met at college and people I drank with, inspired each character. Once I found my characters it was all about coming up with the angle on university life that would create an original fresh point of view (which, came through having the main character having Asperger's Syndrome) and a story that everyone at university could associate with (the transitional period people go through when they move from home to university).

Then I mapped out every beat of each character's story so it was clearly defined that each character was coming to terms with change; looking for ways to move over each hurdle and to open themselves up to university life. After that I did a scene outline. I had various jokes clear in my mind but I had more work to do on coming up with the gags and this is where I was very critical on what would make the script funny.

I knew that I had to be the main filter system in what jokes would be put down in the script and I remember countless nights staying in my bed closing my eyes running through so many different lines in my head and possible cutaways that could be the punch line to what someone had said. Only the lines or cutaways that actually made me properly laugh would be kept. There was no point writing down a line that was slightly quirky or witty. Whenever I came up with a gag worth remembering for the next time I would be sat in front of my laptop I would jot it down on my phone as a note. This is a technique I still use. Then eventually when I would get to my laptop the jokes were given a second run through before they were put in script.

One of my styles in writing when I write a TV show is to put loads of lines inside the script that give audiences something to notice they didn't the first time round. At the same time I try not to make this heavily effect my script because I want audiences to properly enjoy it first off. As well as this, I like to provide many hooks to give the audiences reasons to come back for more. As a TV show pilot, it's a must. You want loads of ideas in the script that make the audience want to know what it was all about; what's going to happen next.  You always hope it’s not going to be just a one off.

My work method when writing the script is to give myself so many scenes a day to write. I say scenes rather than pages because I tend to think of scenes as little stories in themselves. In a way they all have their beginning, middle and end and don't forget cliffhanger / set up for the next scene. Before I start writing up the scenes I bring up Microsoft Word and Celtx and go into Word and bullet point everything that I want to happen in the scene; what information needs to be conveyed, any pieces of dialogue I want to write into the scene that are important to the story.  

That way when I actually write the scene into Celtx it's just a matter of finding a way of tightly knitting each of these bullet points into a fully constructed scene. By doing this, it paces and structures the scenes. After every work session I usually read what I have written a few times over and then correct any grammatical errors I have made and then usually get excited by writing more tomorrow. I tend to write 8-10 pages at a time. When I have done a work session, most of the time I send it to Gary so he can have a read through.

How is the campaign and funding and marketing the project going?
The marketing of the project is going fairly well but could be going much better. Ideally I want to achieve as many views as possible but I know that is  hard to do with the budget and time we have. In perspective, the results that have been achieved so far are positive. Hopefully in the future I will be able to get much more media coverage for the show through newspapers, local magazines, online blogs, university newspapers etc… Unfortunately most of the university newspapers haven't given any support for the show even though I think it’s for their target audience.

I am also hoping to do much more print advertising-leaflets, posters, t shirts in future. My aim with the marketing is to get at least a thousand views on youtube before I go ahead and make a second episode. As far as trying to fund future episodes, I am looking when I finish  university to concentrate my time on selling one or two other TV show scripts I have written or am in the process of writing. I am thinking that this is probably the best route to go down to see concepts come to proper fruition.

Moving in Part 1

Moving in Part 2:

Thanks for reading ☺
Mark Lever.