What's it like to work in a writing team?

Content. Image shows from L to R: Rhiannon Shaw, Yiannis Vassilakis, Lorna Woolfson, Sadia Azmat, Kenagh Babcock. Copyright: Turtle Canyon Comedy

Content, a web series from indie comedy production company Turtle Canyon Comedy, reaches its series finale this Tuesday night.

It's a sitcom about a terrible content agency called Content Content, which creates awful content and is on the brink of bankruptcy. Because content features so heavily, not just in that previous sentence but in every discussion of the online world, the main Content episodes are accompanied by a whole host of extra content: a podcast, reaction vlogs, crossover series and a spin off group of sketches, all set in the same world. It's a unique approach to a comedy series and one that embraces the benefits of releasing online; including being able to take more risks and to tell non-linear stories.

In an unusual move for a UK sitcom, the challenge of writing such a show was taken on by a team of writers, working with creator Yiannis Vassilakis and director Stuart Laws. We spoke to those writers (including two chosen through an opportunity open exclusively to BCG Pro members) to find out what the experience was like.

Here's what Sadia Azmat Kenagh Babcock, Rhiannon Shaw and Lorna Woolfson had to say...

Writers' room. Copyright: Turtle Canyon Comedy

What was the writers' room like?

Rhiannon: So fun - I felt like we all brought something different to the table in terms of style and sense of humour.

Lorna: It was great. They had biscuits.

Sadia: Just a dream to work with such professionals and amazing talents.

Kenagh: Everyone's ideas were heard and appreciated and this environment made collaboration easy and storytelling effective. Every writer is brilliantly funny in their own right, and some of the laughs had there were among my hardest thus far.

How was it working on a project that already had an overarching series plan?

Rhiannon: Yiannis is amazing and he gave us just the right amount of flexibility when it came to the script. I can't imagine how tricky it is to give your project over to a room full of strangers and watch them poke and prod at it.

Lorna: It was great that so much of the difficult stuff had already been done by Yiannis so we could get straight into the fun stuff like working on the characters and making the stories as good as they could be (and eating the biscuits).

Sadia: I would also add that Yiannis and Stuart were completely flexible and open to our ideas/discussions - to the point where we were thrilled with Yiannis being so good at listening and taking on board such an array of suggestions.

What are your favourite moments or lines from the show?

Lorna: I think my favourite moment is in Episode 4, when Alex is trying to get himself out of the sticky mess of having offended cyclists online.

Rhiannon: Yeah, I love when Alex is trying to write that apology video, it turned out a lot weirder than I ever anticipated. Annie McGrath is great.

Kenagh: My personal favourite moment would have to be the Things Not to Say to a MAMIL video [middle aged men in lycra]. Either that or anything Anton McCrae - that man is a genius.

Sadia: I have to confess I can't stop watching A-A, as every time she is ignored it's so crushing. Stuart's unveiling as the man behind DDV - who doesn't love a baddie?

Content. Image shows from L to R: Taylor (Belle Fage), Jam (Rajiv Karia), Alex (Yiannis Vassilakis), Hetty (Kath Hughes), A-A (Molly McNerney). Copyright: Turtle Canyon Comedy

How is it working with others to write comedy?

Sadia: Working in this group was amazing because all of the writers brought so many different strengths and experiences to the table. It was fun to write in a group because you can really follow an idea through and your team supports in terms of troubleshooting and can act as a test audience too.

Rhiannon: A pleasure. A tricky, delicate, rewarding pleasure.

Lorna: I loved it. There wasn't one arsehole in the room. Oh wait a minute, that might mean it was me. Shit.

Kenagh: Turtle Canyon Comedy are brilliant and the other writers brought it made up an extremely talented group. I enjoyed having fun with the rest of the writers, but I also felt myself grow as a writer and storyteller during our time together.

How does it feel to write something and then see it on screen?

Sadia: It's amazing. It's hard to put in words that one minute we were huddled around a whiteboard thinking of the characters names and traits and then they become real people. I have to commend Stuart on his relentless hard work and excellent directing.

Lorna: However strong an image you have of how it's going to look in the end, the result is always a surprise (a good one in this case).

Rhiannon: It makes me feel quite ill, to be honest. In a good way.

Kenagh: Seeing something on screen after writing it will never be a normal experience for me. I remember showing one of my friends the first versions of the unfinished episodes, and her extremely positive reception was surreal. I feel so incredibly lucky to have worked for a project that I personally enjoy so much.

Favourite character to write for?

Rhiannon: Probably Taylor. She has that Andy Dwyer-esque quality where you can just put weird things in her mouth.

Lorna: Taylor. She exists on a different planet so all of her lines could be way out there.

Kenagh: Taylor, so dumb she's almost smart, has such brilliant character writing. The way she processes the world around her yields such amazing one-liners throughout the series.

Content. Image shows from L to R: Hetty (Kath Hughes), Jam (Rajiv Karia), Taylor (Belle Fage). Copyright: Turtle Canyon Comedy

Favourite storyline?

Lorna: I loved Taylor trying to raise money for Africa by drinking toilet water and how that ends up.

Kenagh: Jam and Hetty's friendship. They seem like two people that would and should never be into each other, but the more and more we learn through the show the more it almost starts to make sense.

Sadia: Homeless social experiment.

Rhiannon: The final episode! I'm a big fan of Direct Digital Video.

Any ideas that didn't make it to the final series that you wish did?

Rhiannon: I was proud that MAMILs made it into the final series. A very important segment where James Acaster buys a cereal bar got cut, which I'm still a little heartbroken about.

Lorna: I feel there should have been a biscuit based episode. I like biscuits.

Sadia: I'm not sure if I put this forward but definitely exploring the murky origins of Africa Aid would have been very amusing to watch unfold.

The spin-off episodes, vlogs and podcasts present a unique approach to a comedy series, how did they develop in the writers room?

Lorna: We each went off on our own to write a spinoff episode and or vlog and podcast then shared it with the rest of the class.

Rhiannon: From the off Stuart wanted to create an 'extended universe' around the series. It's a bit like fanfiction, just not written by fans. We got thinking about what we wanted to see from our characters that we hadn't been able to include in the main episodes - Alex's home life, who else features on GirlyBoss, what Jam does when he's not at work... It was fun to brainstorm in that particular vein. I love episodes of shows where we get to take a peek into the character's life outside the 'sit' of the sitcom, like The Dinner Party episode of the US Office.

Sadia: They really speak of the current age of technology we are in and not only have context but also give scope to progressing characters/narratives.

Kenagh: These elements are what makes the show unique. As a writer, all the bonus content made the experience as a whole that much more enjoyable. There was so much freedom afforded to us as writers in creating the bonus content, it was a chance for all of us to put our individual comedic touch on Content.

Watch Content here

The final episode premieres on YouTube at 8pm tonight.

Published: Tuesday 17th December 2019
BCG Pro logo

This article is provided for free as part of BCG Pro.

Subscribe now for exclusive features, insight, learning materials, opportunities and other tools for the British comedy industry.

Lee Mack

Big Comedy Conference 2024

Insight, updates and wisdom from leading industry figures including writers, commissioners, agents and producers.

London, Saturday 16th March.

Book your ticket now