How did I get here?

Portrait of Glen Laker

For 20 years, I sat in offices and wrote movie scripts (mainly horror and sci fi) in my lunch hour and evenings. It wasn’t until after I’d watched my fifth commissioned feature film die in development hell that I belatedly realised the UK doesn’t have much of a film industry and I should try my hand at writing some telly instead.

20 years. My teachers at school always said I wasn’t the brightest bulb in the… whatever-it-is-a-bulb-goes-in.

The Red Planet Prize

So back in 2012, I wrote this 60-minute pilot script for a crime drama. I didn’t think anybody would read it. The script was inspired by the crime shows I grew up watching, shows like Prime Suspect and Cracker. I had no idea what I was doing, I’d never written a TV script before. But I did know what an opening scene was, that a mid-point came around halfway and that as long as it ended with good cliffhanger, the reader would surely want to know what happens next. At least I hoped they would.

Once the script was finished, I sent it to a few agents, but didn’t hear back. Then I saw someone on Twitter talking about the Red Planet Prize. So I entered the script and waited for the rejection email.

Well, I got through the first round. Next up was the long-list. I waited for the email. Maybe this time I’d make it to the second round. But the email never came.

So I’d already gone through the five stages of grief when, a month later, I received the surprise (and, I assumed, mistakenly sent) email telling me I was on the short list. I phoned them to check and it turned out the organisers had forgotten to contact me about the long list. I made the final eight.

Holby And Beyond

The script then got me onto the Holby City Writers Scheme and months later, on the morning of my birthday, I got a phone call from the BBC asking if I was available to write an episode of the show.

It’s been a busy few years since. In 2015 and 2016, I wrote on two series of VERA for ITV. I loved writing Vera. Around the same time, I worked on the second series of ITV’s World War 2 drama HOME FIRES. Then in early 2016, I signed up to adapt Lynda La Plante’s bestseller TENNISON into the six-part series PRIME SUSPECT 1973 for ITV and PBS Masterpiece. How nuts is that? Just two years before, I’d been fixing computers for a living, feeling foolish for still harbouring dreams of one day being a full-time writer.

Fast forward to today. I’m currently lead writer on an 8-part thriller, PONIES, which is shooting next year. I also wrote episode five of ITV’s medical drama GOOD KARMA HOSPITAL, broadcast on Easter Sunday 2020.

Earlier in 2020, I had my first green-lit project, THE CHELSEA DETECTIVE, a new crime drama from Expectation, Acorn and BBC Studios, which is shooting in 2021.

A box! I think a bulb goes in a box.

Writing A Deaf Character In ITV’s Vera

This is a copy of the piece I wrote for The Limping Chicken blog (Deaf news and deaf blogs from the UK).

Writer Glen Laker tells us how having a deaf son led him to include a deaf character in Sunday’s episode of Vera on ITV1 

 I’ve been writing for 20 years, much of it alongside a day job, where I worked in Access Services at the BBC for 12 years (before that, I was a subtitler at ITV for 3 years), as a development manager, looking at and developing new methods to create subtitling and signed programming for the BBC output.

I wrote in my spare time; one of my first broadcast script jobs was writing information films and sketches for BBC’s See Hear. 

 In 2008, my son Toby was born and diagnosed with a severe bilateral hearing loss. It was an odd coincidence. After 15 years of working on programmes for Deaf viewers, I was raising one. 

 The learning curve was steep. My family were immersed into a new world of British Sign Language, of hearing aids, of loop systems, of making sure everyone around you is deaf-aware. 

 From 2010-2012, I worked with Deaf writers and directors, script editing three series of the Zoom and Zoom Focus strand for the BSL Zone, a compilation of TV movies and short films made entirely in BSL, which are shown on Film Four.

This inspired me to write more deaf characters into my own scripts. I also wrote on two Zoom films, Chasing Cotton Clouds (co-written and directed by Samuel Dore) and Champion Of The World (directed by Bim Ajadi). 

 In 2012, I wrote a television pilot called Snow Angel, which features a deaf police officer as the main character. I didn’t think it would appeal to anyone, as the majority of it was in BSL, but it ended up being a finalist in the Red Planet Prize and has since been developed as a six-parter with Noho Film and Television. 

Also, it landed me a chance to pitch on writing for ITV’s Vera. I wanted to put a deaf character into my episode. I also wanted an honest representation of what it’s like to be a hearing parent of a deaf child.

The reality is that you just get on with it. You don’t stop to admire or reflect. That matter-of-fact portrayal of deafness appears to be on the increase in TV drama, which is a good thing.

 

Vera Sign 2 

 The cast and crew of Vera really embraced the deaf storyline. ITV searched local Northumberland schools and cast a deaf boy in the role. They had a sign language interpreter on set to translate and teach the actors playing the boy’s parents (Alex Reid and Mark Bonnar) some BSL. Even Vera gets to show off some of her sign language training, by finger-spelling her name (though she mistakenly spells it “Vira”!).

I know one episode of a show isn’t going to change the world, but the more exposure that deaf characters get on television, the more viewers will get a flavour of that wonderful world. And for me, on a deeply personal level, that increases the chances that deaf children like my son will experience less ignorance and more acceptance as they grow up. 

You can watch this episode of Vera on Sunday night from 8pm-10pm on ITV1.

Vera – “Muddy Waters” – ITV 19th April 2015

I wrote the episode of VERA, “MUDDY WATERS”, which will be broadcast on ITV at 8pm, Sunday 19th April 2015. The Wikipedia synopsis for the episode is:

“DCI Vera Stanhope and DS Aiden Healy investigate the death of an unidentified man dredged up from a slurry pit on a remote Northumberland farm. Owner Danny Pryor and his right hand man Milosh Beqiri are forced to admit they use a number of illegal Serbian workers. But Goran Vlasic has fled to the nearest port and Zamir Ilic is lying in his bedsit with a gunshot wound to the neck. A faded tattoo identifies the slurry man as Jack Reeves, a young man from the local travelling community. But what is his connection to the Serbians and Pryor Farm?”

Brenda Blethyn stars as DCI Vera Stanhop, with Kenny Doughty as DS Aiden Healy. The episode also has an amazing supporting cast, including: Mark Bonnar (Line of Duty), Alex Reid (The Descent), Mark Womack (Route Irish), Lee Ross (Eastenders), Aisling Franciosi (The Fall) and Jennifer Hennessy (Red Riding).

Full cast and crew: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3979914/combined

myWPEditImage Image

Tune in: ITV, 8m Sunday 19th April 2015. Or catch it on ITVPlayer after.

https://www.itv.com/itvplayer/vera