The Sitcom Mission

Blog #28 - Interview with Julie Bower, writer of 49 Cedar Street

Published 3rd May 2011.

Julie Bower.An interview with Julie Bower, the writer of Radio 4 sitcom 49 Cedar Street...

Hi Julie. What's your background and when did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I didn't really decide exactly. I think it's a vocation, it's just something you feel compelled to do for whatever reason. Sometimes I think it must be nice to be a solicitor or something that pays the bills and lets you have holidays but I don't think I would have been happy doing anything else! I studied Drama at Exeter University and procrastinated by working for different film and TV companies for a bit then I had a sort of quarter-life crisis, quit my job and decided to give writing a proper try.

Who are your influences?

I am very fickle and I have a new favourite sitcom every week. I rush out and buy the box set and watch it until my eyes bleed then I usually move on to something else. I remember watching something by Guy Jenkin in the 90s called Crossing the Floor and even though it was very different to Drop the Dead Donkey which he and Andy Hamilton were famous for at the time, his authorial voice was coming though crystal clear and it was wonderful. I didn't think "I bet I can do that" or anything, I was like 15 at the time, but it stayed with me, this idea that there are a million ways to say something, but it's having something to say that matters.

What was your biggest mistake or failure and how has it helped you in the long run?

Pathetic as this sounds I felt like a failure when I first started out. I went from a vaguely impressive media job in a cute little office in Soho, trendy bars, Apple Macs, and saying things like "I work in TV actually. Documentaries?" to living back with my long-suffering parents in Northampton and temping part time. I didn't want that life, I was 25 years old and I wanted the cool, trendy life I'd given up, (yeah, I know) but I also wanted to be a writer and I couldn't have both. At the time I felt like I'd lost my identity, when actually I didn't have an identity, I had a job, which isn't the same thing.

Misery Bear.Which show do you wish you could have written and why?

It's always frustrating when you're working on a new idea and then something similar but better gets commissioned. I absolutely love the Misery Bear stuff that's online at the moment (pictured), I'm always trying to think of funny things to do with bears (Just the word 'bear' is funny, I love it) but that's the bear market cornered now.

Tell us about what happens in 49 Cedar Street...

It's about the adventures of three dysfunctional housemates. I've tried to give it a sketch show feel, with cutaways and 'remember the time' sequences, a bit like in Family Guy. In the pilot episode, it's the story of how they came to be living together and features a song with a fantastic melody composed by Alexander Rudd. It also features a lucky mattress, an alcoholic Cupid and a caveman with commitment issues. Essential components for successful story telling.

49 Cedar Street recording. Image shows from L to R: Hannah (Isabel Fay), Elliot (Tom Parry), Laurence (Colin Hoult). Copyright: BBC.Some of the ideas in 49 Cedar Street are pretty wacky. Do you have to thrash them out, sweat over them or do you just think like that anyway?

I try and make it logical rather than just be wacky for the sake of it. I try and make each idea make sense within the context of the story and characters. I don't always succeed in this; it's probably the thing I have to work the most hard at.

You were a finalist in 2009's Sitcom Trials and a quarter-finalist in 2010's Sitcom Mission. Has entering sitcom-writing competitions helped you as a writer, and if so, how?

It is a very industry friendly event which is a credit to the organisers. But for me it built my confidence in a way that only live events can really. You get your team together (and I have been SO lucky with the people I worked with in these events) and everyone works really hard, and then you learn what is and isn't working in your script and that helps you make it better. Declan and Simon are a bit mad looking, and Lord knows we all wish they would stop messing around and set the date for their wedding, but they are genuinely passionate about what they do, and they encourage new talent and I love them. [Aw shucks, we luv u 2 D&S]

What three pieces of advice would you give to an aspiring writer?

I'm not really a massive fan of advice (unless it's "Don't go through that door there's a monster in there" type advice). But writing is very personal and people do it for lots of reasons, and part of why it's an interesting vocation is that it's all so subjective and you figure out what you want to say as you go. The world and the industry is full of people saying "You should do it this way" but what they really mean is "I did it this way and that's what works for me" Also although I am so thrilled to have got a radio pilot made with such an awesome producer and cast I wouldn't say I've made it exactly - I don't know if I'm at the advice giving stage just yet! You've seen Life of Brian, haven't you? "You have to figure it out for yourself. You're all individuals" I genuinely believe that!

BCG Guide to '49 Cedar Street'

See also: Interview with '49 Cedar Street' producer Colin Anderson

More blog entries

Blog 96 - Sitcom Mission Longlist blog 2018

Blog 95 - Welcome to The Sitcom Mission 2018 - here at last!

Blog 94 - The Sitcom Mission 2017

Blog Archive

Blog RSS Feed