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Sunday, 30 August 2015

The Custard TV at Edinburgh: Soaps Masterclass

Welcome back to more coverage of our time at this week's Edinburgh TV Festival. This time we provide highlights of Friday's Soaps Masterclass as the producers, writers and stars from the nation's most-watched shows talked about the hits and misses they'd experienced during their time working in the genre.

Here are some of the highlights:


. Eastenders boss Dominic Treadwell-Collins bemoaned the fact that the soaps were all pitted against each other in the press and hated the fact when they scheduled head-to-head as all of them lose out.
. Hollyoaks' Bryan Kirkwood talked about the specific challenges that he faces in creating a show pitched squarely at the 18-34 demographic. He says that their stories are told at a faster pace and whilst they're not to everyone's tastes appeal to their specific audience.
. Emmerdale's producer Kate Oates talked about the importance of stunts in soap but how they should be used sparingly and in conjunction with a long-running storyline.
. Daran Little, who has worked as a writer on the majority of the soaps, talked about how the producers were always pressuring the teams for ratings. He talked specifically about the Richard Hillman storyline on Coronation Street and how the boss of Granada wanted another serial killer straight away to capitalise on the ratings that that particular plot had garnered.


. The panel noted how big the Christmas episodes of their soaps have become with former Coronation Street boss David Liddiment, who chaired the chat, saying that if Christmas didn't fall on a Monday or Wednesday than the show didn't air. Now Dominic Treadwell-Collins says that the team start planning their Christmas episode a year before and work backwards from that.
. Dominic Treadwell-Collins discussed how wary he was bringing Kathy Beale back from the dead however he noted that other soaps had done it in the past. Coronation Street's Stuart Blackburn added that when he was on Emmerdale they did the same thing with Kim Tate however at the time their producer was in the dark.
. Dominic Treadwell-Collins also said that all of their storylines are based on something that has happened in real life mentioning an upcoming plot that is based on something one of his team read in the paper.
. Kate Oates brought up the ghost of Val Pollard appearing in a recent episode of Emmerdale and added that while it was a flight of fancy it worked in terms of the character of Eric Pollard.
. Bryan Kirkwood said that he and his team at Hollyoaks got it wrong with a storyline about a gay Nigerian asylum seeker as they concentrated too much on the issues and ended up hitting their audience over the head with a pamphlet.
. Dominic Treadwell-Collins admitted that his team were prepared to kill of a character in the near future but ultimately decided against it as it wouldn't have been fair to the audience to lose the character in this way.
. Daran Little admitted that he cried whilst writing the death of Coronation Street character Mike Baldwin as he was character that represented a lot of things to him.
. Eastenders actress Kellie Bright voiced her pleasure at the relationship she has with the writers on the show saying that she can come to them if she doesn't feel that her character would react in a certain way.
. However Daran Little admitted that there was one actor on Coronation Street who disagreed with the writer's portrayal of his character and so he was shown the door despite being on the programme for ten years.
. Coronation Street actress Sally Ann Matthews said it was strange to be back on the show after so many years however Stuart Blackburn claimed that he had no plans to bring back her character again if it were not for the brilliant performance the actress gave in her recent appearances.
. The panel all said one of the joys of working on soaps was the ability to bring back characters although they all agreed that it's not something they should do so often. Dominic Treadwell-Collins also mentioned that lawyer Marcus Christie was going to return in the near future as part of Max's murder trial.
. A few members of the panel noted that Daran was always knocking soap characters up however he said that this was long term planning as these babies would eventually be those fronting the show.
. To this point David Liddiment admitted that while he was running the show both David Platt and Rosie Webster were born and the team at the time noted how they'd both be prominent when it came to Coronation Street's 50th anniversary. Stuart Blackburn also commented that he'd know where the character of Simon Barlow would be in ten years' time.
. Sally Ann Matthews commented on how hard it was to act our normal tasks whilst reciting lines at the same time saying it was difficult making a cup of tea on screen during a scene.


. Bryan Kirkwood noted the recent story on Hollyoaks involving a male rape and mentioned how it was a plot that he wanted to tell at 6:30. He added that it was a story that he and Little had initially wanted to write on Eastenders but were told in no uncertain terms that it was a no go area. However he said that after the story on Hollyoaks aired it changed the conversation and now the sexual abuse of men is something more people are talking about as a result.
. Dominic Treadwell-Collins talked about how nervous the team were about the Christian and Saeed storyline in Eastenders however they felt that this was even more of a reason that the story should be told.
. Both Dominic Treadwell-Collins and Stuart Blackburn noted that whenever a gay kiss airs on the soap they still receive vile messages in their inbox the next day.
. Kate Oates talked about how social media is now having a much bigger influence on the soaps and one of the big challenges is making that work in terms of soap.
. Finally Kellie Bright was asked if she'd make it to the final of Strictly Come Dancing but she said that at the moment she was just on the show to have fun.


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