Comedy writer Hannah George on scribing for TV and new podcast 'Drunk Women Solving Crime'
Hannah George is a comedy and drama writer for film, TV and radio. She has written for CBBC show Wolfblood, Sky1's Trollied, Disney's The Lodge and Nickelodeon's The House of Anubis. Hannah also writes and directs online comedy and has racked up over 100m views for her first sketch as well as writing and directing Where are you from? The Game for BBC Three. Here she tells Mandy News about her writing process, how she got started and details of her new comedy podcast Drunk Women Solving Crime.
Hannah, can you tell us a little bit about yourself, where you’re from and how you got involved with the comedy industry?
I am a writer and, I suppose now, a director? I’ve directed some stuff but I just wouldn’t call myself a director. It’s more that I make my own stuff and can’t pay a director. I just end up doing it myself. But yeah, I’d say writer-director [laughs] and, now, podcaster.
I’m from the Isle of Wight and the Isle of Wight doesn’t have a big comedy scene. So when I went to university, I started doing stand-up – Edinburgh, stuff like that – but it was always a means to an end because I’ve never wanted to be a stand-up comedian. I wanted to write.
As soon as I signed to a literary agent, I gave up stand-up. Also because I had to move back to the Isle of Wight after uni – it was a necessity.
Since then, I’ve written a lot of stuff; kids TV, a lot of comedy and, more recently, I’ve made some sketches of my own which have enjoyed some relatively good success.
How long did you do stand-up for? And how did you get your writing out there, initially?
I did it for about four-five years. I did about 500 gigs, really hammering it pretty hard at the beginning.
I got my first writing gig by meeting Sandi Toksvig at a stand-up gig that she was MC-ing. Just before she brought me on, she said “Oh who are you?” I said I was a stand-up but wanted to be a writer, so she said: “You should come and write for The News Quiz”.
Then I was just writing scripts, back on the Isle of Wight, for about a year. I finally managed to get someone to read one of my scripts and they wanted to option it, and then I got my agent. The rest is history [laughs]
So who have you written for?
I did eight episodes of Wolfblood, a show called House of Anubis, which is on Nickelodeon, with my writing partner James Whitehouse, and Trollied on Sky One. A lot of stuff for Radio 4 – like gag writing. Gag writing for Miranda Hart’s tour, which was quite good fun.
There’s been some CBeebies stuff recently; a show called Waffle the Wonder Dog, which is about a talking dog. Writing a show with a talking dog has genuinely always been a dream of mine.
And I just did a show for Disney, called The Lodge.
What would be your regular hours working on something like a CBeebies show? How does it work?
It really depends. If I’m writing with a partner, sometimes we’ll send scripts to each other – I’d work on it for half a day and send it, and then they’d work on it for half a day and send it back. I do try and keep “office hours” in terms of writing specs and just keep on writing as much as possible. You can’t expect the work to come to you, you have to keep developing stuff.
What I tend to do is set my “office hours”. They’re usually 10am-4pm because in terms of creative stuff, I burn out by about 4pm. Part of me thinks “Oh it should be 9-5, I don’t work as hard”, but, actually, I'm just writing rubbish if I'm doing it any longer than six hours. So between 9-10am or 4-5pm I tend to do admin.
Obviously, stuff comes in at all hours, so, you know, I’m probably working at least another extra hour a day just replying to emails, etc.
Weirdly, my advice is don’t write too much; you need to allow yourself just those golden hours of being really good.
What’s the weirdest place you’ve written? Have you written in offices? What’s your writing space?
Hmm. When I lived on the Isle of Wight, one of my writing partners and I would go on little ‘tea-room crawls’. We’d start at one side of the seafront, have a cup of tea, do some work and then walk along the seafront, stop somewhere else, have another cup of tea, maybe some lunch and do some more work. That was quite idyllic, quite nice. We were hitting all the deadlines so it worked well for us.
Now, it’s a lot of working from home but I have three desks in my flat, so I can switch and stroll between. I think variety is really important.
I have a friend on the island who’s got this little shepherd’s hut thing in the middle of the countryside. I’ve written a children’s novel recently and did quite a lot of it there. There’s no Wi-Fi there, no electricity. I never thought I needed that but as soon as I went there I thought “this is great!”
What can you share with us about your latest projects?
Well, I’ve just written a feature film – the first, solo, feature film I’ve written – and I’m quite excited about that.
Obviously, with development, I’m waiting on a lot of decisions at the moment. So, I had a little bit of time between getting some decisions and starting work on other shows, and thought “what don’t I have a spec of, really?” and it was a feature film.
I like stuff like Bridesmaids and Pitch Perfect, so I’ve written that style of film which I’m really excited about. I’ve just finished that and have about four different scripts in development with companies at the moment.
I’m just trying to make that next step of having my own show. I’m also doing a podcast called Drunk Women Solving Crime.
What’s it about?
Well, the premise is in the title [laughs]. It’s essentially me and comedians, Taylor Glenn and Catie Wilkins. Each week we have a guest coming in – the first guest is Katherine Ryan – and we just chat about a crime that has happened to them and then we take on a true crime.
It sets up questions, so it feels like we’re solving the crime and, at the end, we try and solve a crime for one of our listeners, which is quite fun. We’re very rarely helpful [laughs].
Going back to where and how I write, what I love about doing the podcast – and I know this sounds pathetic – is just the getting out of the house. As a writer, you’re sat on your own a lot, so it’s been great spending some time with my friends and then meeting all these great hilarious women. And also learning a little bit about crime [laughs].
Anything else up your sleeve?
A sketch I’ve written and directed just came out on BBC 3. And more writing!
What advice would you give to someone wanting to become a writer?
I was definitely of the “write more than one thing” mind-set. Some people write one thing – their passion project – and they think “this is getting made” but it probably won’t, you know? So just keep writing, keep writing!
And show people, as well. Some people write and never show people. Let some people read it! And before you approach agents, make sure you’re submitting the best possible thing you have because if an agent does pick up your script and starts reading it, and it’s not good, you don’t get the chance.
In some sense, there is meritocracy – as in good work gets made – but if your scripts aren’t good enough, you won’t get anywhere. It seems so obvious but I look back at my first scripts, thinking “why didn’t I get anywhere?” and then I read them and go “Oh, I see” [laughs].
Make your own things too. The reason I’m doing BBC 3 stuff now is because I’ve made some stuff off my own back and got something like 100m views. Make shorts, as well.
Just show a level of dedication – because you really have to be dedicated.
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