Tom de Ville- Writer: Hannibal & Jekyll & Hyde
When did you realize you wanted to work in television?
When I was a young kid I really loved movies, and often dreamed about becoming part of the stories. As I got older, I started learning how movies were made and became determined that I wanted to work in them.
I did a degree on screenwriting at Bournemouth University in the UK. We spent the second year of the course focusing on television. I began to realise for the first time how much television had also impacted on me throughout my life, and I also learned how much faster and more fluid television production could be. That got me hooked.
What advice do you have for college students who are looking to pursue a career in the television industry?
My biggest piece of advice is to make every opportunity for yourself that you can to become involved with the industry.
I got my first big break because I impressed my tutors at Bournemouth enough that when a producer contacted the school to ask about meeting with the most interesting graduates, they put my name forward. I did this by writing strong, clear commercially minded material, which showed that I understood how a commercial television episode works.
There are of course other ways to do this. An internship at a production company is a strong way to get noticed. Alternatively, it’s amazingly easy to produce your own content and distribute it online these days.
Write stuff. Make stuff. Get noticed. Get an agent. These are the key goals.
First job in the industry? What you learned from it?
When I left college, I met with several producers. One of them was interested in producing a horror series. I pitched him a couple of ideas and together we came up with the idea of a horror anthology series. That became Urban Gothic – a series that was broadcast by Channel 5 in the UK. I wrote all thirteen episodes of the first series, which was a huge job. I was young and stupid enough just to throw myself at it.
The big mistake that I made was to assume that this initial success meant that my career was set in stones. It took me a number of years and several disastrous failures before I got some more television produced.
What is your writing process like?
It largely depends on the show. Different programmes have different schedules and different processes.
The planning on “Hannibal” was meticulous, and it was also of course a team effort. I came over to Los Angeles and worked in the writers’ room for a month, helping to break several episodes, and then planning the episode I was given to write. I then came back to the UK and spent a very intense period writing several drafts of the script, before handing it back to the head writers so that they could work their magic on it.
I’m currently working on “Jekyll & Hyde” – a big, new action adventure series for ITV in the UK. We don’t tend to have writers’ rooms in the UK – largely because TV budgets aren’t big enough – so I’m working directly with the head writer and a script editor. Working together we’ve come up with rough outlines for the two episodes I’m working on, and now I’m writing the first drafts of the scripts.
I’m expected to produce a fifty-page script in roughly two weeks, which means writing around 5 pages a day. This isn’t as punishing as it sounds.
What is the favorite thing you’ve written that made it into your episode of “Hannibal”?
After their epic confrontation in Season 2, I was hugely excited when Bryan Fuller told me that there was going to be a rematch between Jack Crawford and Hannibal Lecter in my episode. I’m pleased to say that the final onscreen fight beautifully captures the brutality I poured onto those pages. (But then the show is so beautifully brutal that I was never in doubt that it would.)
Secondly, loving Anthony Hopkins’ performance in the original “Hannibal” movie, I was always very pleased that I got a ‘Toodle-oo’ from Mads too.
What show made you fall in love with television? What show are you currently loving?
Being a monster-loving Brit, I’ve always had some Doctor Who love running in my DNA and I’m thrilled how it’s become a worldwide phenomenon in the last few years.
Other shows I’m currently loving: “Mr. Robot”, “Narcos”, “Game of Thrones”, “Black Mirror”, “Great British Bake-off.”