Interview: Debbie Moon

July 14th, 2013 by

As part of my series on writers and filmmakers who on the front edge of making their mark in the business, recently I interviewed Debbie Moon, U.K.-based writer-producer who created the TV series “Wolfblood.”

Here are the two parts of that Q&A:

Part 1: “While glancing along a line of books, my eyes skipped from ‘wolf’ in one title to ‘blood’ in another and put them together. Okay, I thought, that’s interesting: what’s a wolfblood? Kind of like a werewolf, probably, but different… And suddenly I was rushing out of the store to find a pen and paper and write down all the scenes and characters popping into my head!”

Part 2: “It’s all about the idea. Finding an idea that will generate stories week after week is very, very hard! It’s partly about finding a theme that can be explored in many different ways, with different guest characters, and which creates problems that  don’t have a single easy solution.”

Please stop by comments to thank Debbie and ask any questions you may have.

Twitter: @DebbieBMoon

Official “Wolfblood” website here.

Interview: Debbie Moon (“Wolfblood”)

July 12th, 2013 by

For the next week or so, I turn attention to screenwriters, TV writers, and filmmakers who are on the front edge of making their mark in the business. Their insights, so recently on the outside looking in, reflect the excitement of breaking in, yet the challenges of attempting to carve out a career. Today: Debbie Moon.

Debbie Moon is a screenwriter based in mid-Wales. Her first professional credit was on the CBBC show The Sparticle Mystery; she then went on to create Wolfblood for CBBC. Her first novel, sci-fi detective story Falling, was long listed for Welsh Book Of The Year. She has also co-written a radio play, and has had over fifty short stories published in the UK and US.

In Part 2 of our interview, Debbie talks about some exciting recent news involving her TV series “Wolfblood” and shares some writing tips she has picked up along the way.

Scott: What is the experience to be so intimately involved in a TV series and working with other writers?

Debbie: It’s been wonderful. In the UK, it’s rare to have a showrunner as such: I mostly handle the writing, and I have a fantastic producer who handles all the production. There is a gradual movement towards a US-style writers room model, though, and we get all the writers, script editors and producer together in a room as often as we can afford to. Without doubt, that’s the best part of the process; throwing around crazy ideas, breaking stories, and eating chocolate!

It’s also been a real education in the practicalities of television: how casting subtly affects characters, the practicalities of finding locations and sticking to budget and schedule (season two was filming exteriors during the worst snowstorms for decades), and strict limits on how much we can afford to use our CGI wolves…

Scott: Where do you get story ideas from for “Wolfblood” episodes?

Debbie: Foz Allen, the producer, said something early on that really summed it for me: a good ‘Wolfblood” story isn’t about the characters being fully human, or solely about the wolf world – it’s about the point where their two sides collide. So we’re looking for stories where the characters’ secret lives and their everyday lives come into conflict: for example, it’s the night of the school dance, but it’s a full moon. Our best stories have an internal threat, say the school bully or a strain on a friendship, as well an external threat from an adult or the fear of discovery, and are resolved both by wolfblood ‘superpowers’ and by human qualities like caring and kindness.

Scott: What is a typical workday for Debbie Moon, series creator and writer?

Debbie: Nine until six at the desk, with a break for an afternoon walk (which is when I tend solve problems in stories!) September through to about March is the main writing period for “Wolfblood”, with filming starting in February. The rest of the year I’m working on other TV ideas and spec feature scripts.

Usually I have several projects on the go at the same time, at different stages of development, so I can swap between projects if I get stuck, or take a few minutes to brainstorm a new project in between more polished ones.

And there’s also a lot of traveling. I live in mid-Wales, CBBC are based in Manchester, “Wolfblood” is filmed in Newcastle, and for other projects most meetings are in London – so I spend a lot of time working on trains!

Scott: Recently there has been some big news involving Disney. Could you tell us about that?

Debbie: Disney has picked up distribution rights for “Wolfblood” across a number of territories, including North and South America, Russia, the Middle East, and parts of Europe. With the show already in Germany, Spain and Australia, we’re now showing or about to show in 70 countries. So keep an eye on the Disney XD channel, we’re on our way!

Scott: Also “Wolfblood” won a prestigious television award. What’s the scoop on that?

Debbie: “Wolfblood” season one won the Royal Television Society award for Children’s Drama, and has also just won a ‘Rockie’ award at the Banff International Media festival. Which has been fantastic for us as a show, and frankly, for me as a writer…

Scott: You have also written screenplays. What are some of the key differences between writing movies and writing TV?

Debbie: It’s all about the idea. Finding an idea that will generate stories week after week is very, very hard! It’s partly about finding a theme that can be explored in many different ways, with different guest characters, and which creates problems that  don’t have a single easy solution.

Also, I think creating an ensemble of characters is the key to television. You need to be able to take any two of your characters and put them together, and instantly have a conflict, a rivalry, an approach to a problem that no two other characters would take…

Scott: You’re part of the online writing community The Black Board. Given your busy life schedule, what is it about The Black Board you find valuable to you as a writer?

Debbie: Writers need the right balance of solitude and gregariousness, and one of the great things about social networks and online communities is that writers can share thoughts, ideas and encouragement across enormous distances at any time. Talking through a problem with someone else, learning from their experiences, testing out new story ideas: all vital parts of the writing process, and they’re now right at our fingertips.

Scott: How about three tips for aspiring writers?

Debbie: 1) If you really want this, don’t ever give up. Six months before “Wolfblood” was put into development, I was beginning to think I’d never get anything made. If I’d given up then…

2) If your work is in a genre not everyone likes, learn how to give readers something they can hold onto. I write a lot of science fiction, and always found it hard to sell. When I started deliberately putting in things readers could identify  with – family relationships, romances, lighter subplots – I immediately started getting better responses to my work, without compromising the story I really wanted to tell.

3) Whatever you’re saying, have something new to say about it. Werewolves have been around forever, but “Wolfblood” tackles them in a new way, and I think that’s been the key to its success. Even in an original story idea, there will always have been similar stories before – so know those stories, and foreground what you’re doing that’s different.

Scott: What’s in the future for Debbie Moon?

Debbie: I’m developing a primetime supernatural series with a producer at the moment, finishing up a feature spec and planning several more, and waiting to see if “Wolfblood” is renewed for a third season…

For Part 1 of our interview, go here.

Interview: Debbie Moon (“Wolfblood”)

July 11th, 2013 by

For the next week or so, I turn attention to screenwriters, TV writers, and filmmakers who are on the front edge of making their mark in the business. Their insights, so recently on the outside looking in, reflect the excitement of breaking in, yet the challenges of attempting to carve out a career. Today: Debbie Moon.

Debbie Moon is a screenwriter based in mid-Wales. Her first professional credit was on the CBBC show The Sparticle Mystery; she then went on to create Wolfblood for CBBC. Her first novel, sci-fi detective story Falling, was long listed for Welsh Book Of The Year. She has also co-written a radio play, and has had over fifty short stories published in the UK and US.

In Part 1 of our interview, Debbie discusses her background as a writer and how her award-winning TV series “Wolfblood” got its start:

Scott: When did you develop an interest in writing?

Debbie: I’ve always written. I remember writing a novel in the back of a school exercise book when I was six or seven. Okay, this ‘novel’ was about five pages long, but I was proud of it! I wrote obsessively as a teenager, but then I started working in theatre and went to university intending to become a theatre director. On discovering that I was a truly terrible director, I went back to writing, and eventually found my niche in screenwriting.

Scott: Did you do any formal studies in terms of creative writing or screenwriting?

Debbie: Not really. I think one module of my degree was a writing for the stage module, and I’ve attended a few evening classes and weekend courses over the years. But mostly I read all the screenwriting books I could find – I still buy a screenwriting book whenever I feel in need of inspiration – and learned on the job. Which basically meant about five years of writing really bad screenplays, watching movie and television, and slowly working out how to be better at it.

Scott: Before “Wolfblood,” what had you been doing in the way of your writing?

Debbie: My early career had an odd trajectory. One of my first feature specs, a US-set supernatural drama, was optioned by a UK company and went into development, I got an agent, started having meetings and having other projects optioned… But nothing ever actually got made. Projects went through a couple of drafts and went into turnaround, or just slowly died, I got a lot of  “It’s really interesting, but it’s too expensive/it’s not for us”,  and I wasn’t getting anywhere. And then “Wolfblood” happened.

Scott: Is it true you came up with the idea for “Wolfblood” while browsing in a book store?

Debbie: Yes, absolutely true! While glancing along a line of books, my eyes skipped from ‘wolf’ in one title to ‘blood’ in another and put them together. Okay, I thought, that’s interesting: what’s a wolfblood? Kind of like a werewolf, probably, but different… And suddenly I was rushing out of the store to find a pen and paper and write down all the scenes and characters popping into my head!

Scott: How did you go about developing the idea for “Wolfblood”?

Debbie: It was picked up by Children’s BBC quite quickly, but though an usual route. The BBC has a fantastic department called writersroom, which reads unsolicited submissions, runs training courses and mentors promising writers, and also holds open-calls-come-competitions for certain kinds of scripts. They happened to be running one of these for children’s dramas, so I wrote up a pilot episode and sent it in.

That first script was a mess – it had enough plot crammed in for three episodes, and introduced far too many characters – but it caught their attention and worked its way through various stages of the competition, culminating in a residential development week.  And then it was optioned and the development process began!

It was in development for about 18 months – longer than usual, because it’s a high-budget show for CBBC, and they were looking for co-producers – and gradually the show took shape. We added the character of Shannon, the ‘Mulder’ of the show who’s always been convinced there’s a monster on the moor (and has no idea it’s her best friend!), moved it from a small town to an isolated village, and worked hard on defining the world and the characters’ wolf abilities.

Scott: What were some thoughts that ran through your mind the very first few minutes when you heard CBBC had green lit “Wolfblood”?

Debbie: Fifty percent “Arrgghh!” and fifty percent  “Finally I can pay the rent!”  Seriously, though, it was a fantastic moment. I was about to go into the local movie theater when my agent rang, and I was jumping up and down with glee in the theater foyer…

Scott: What is your ‘elevator pitch’ for “Wolfblood”?

Debbie: What if werewolves have lived among us all along, keeping their heads down, locking themselves away on the full moon? In a quite country village, a 14-year-old girl about to undergo her first ‘change’ meets a fellow Wolfblood, a boy who’s grown up in foster care and knows nothing about his people or his abilities – and slowly, their secret secret begins to leak out…

Scott: Why do you think “Wolfblood” has connected with that core audience of 8-12 year olds?

I think it speaks about universal experiences: growing up, changing relationships, the fear that you’re not like everyone else, the desire to be different but the fear of being alone… In development, I always said our model for the show wasn’t, say, “An American Werewolf In London” but the classic X-Men comics: ‘I’m different, and that’s a little scary, it’s a secret I can’t share with everyone – but actually, it’s okay. And sometimes it’s awesome.’

My favorite moment, I think, is at the end of the first episode, when Maddy tells mixed-up foster kid Rhydian  “All the things you thought made you a freak – they’re completely normal for a Wolfblood.”  That’s really the theme of the show.

Scott: How has it been learning how to write for that targeted of an age group?

It’s been really interesting. CBBC do a huge amount of audience research, both generally and on specific projects (in development, we went out to youth theatres and got them to improvise around werewolf-related ideas, which was really eye-opening!) They know exactly what their target audience want: strong friendships and family relationships, action, fun, moral dilemmas, and plenty of comedy!

“Wolfblood” has been one of the first CBBC shows to foreground a will-they-won’t-they romance, which until recently was felt to be less interesting to the younger audience. It seems to have played really well, and I think it helped to bring in older teenagers too – for a CBBC show, we have an usually large number of 13-18-year-old viewers…

Tomorrow in Part 2, Debbie talks about some exciting recent news involving her TV series “Wolfblood” and shares some writing tips she has picked up along the way.

Let’s drum up some support!

February 17th, 2013 by

Longtime GITS reader Debbie Moon lives in the UK and writes for a BBC TV series there called “Wolfblood”. Indeed Debbie created it. Now she has some exciting news: “Wolfblood” has been nominated for the Kids’ Choice Award for Favourite UK TV Show, and also for a Royal Television Society (North East) award.

You can vote for “Wolfblood” in the Kid’s Choice Award here.

Voting isn’t restricted to the UK: you can vote from anywhere in the world.

You can download a sample script from Wolfblood season one here.

Let’s show some support for Debbie and her creative efforts by voting for “Wolfblood”. By the way, the series was picked up for a second season and Debbie is hard at work on it.