We had over 700 entries for this year’s Funny Women Comedy Writing Award and it was a tough competition! But Lydia Rynne’s hilarious script, Living Wild, about a group of teens going on a bushcraft camp in the New Forest came top with our panel of judges. We caught up with Lydia to talk about re-re-re-re-writing and joining the coolest, funniest sisterhood in town…
Funny Women: How does it feel to win the Funny Women Comedy Writing Award?
Lydia Rynne: Winning this award has been an incredible confidence boost. Writing is, of course, such a solitary activity so to know it’s not just me that finds my scripts funny is reassuring, to say the least! I met so many talented writers, comedians and filmmakers at the ceremony itself, many of whom I can see myself collaborating with for years to come. I am over the moon to be welcomed into the warm, soft embrace of the funniest, coolest sisterhood in town.
FW: Tell us about your script Living Wild.
LR: This script was born out of my dream of one day leaving the rat-race behind to live off-grid in the wilderness. I’ve always loved survival films and books, such as Wild, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Into the Wild and pretty much anything else with ‘wild’ in the title. But I’m also (just about) self-aware enough to know that I’m way too dependent on Netflix and a constant supply of Superdrug’s ‘Relax and Unwind’ bubble bath to up sticks anytime soon. With Living Wild, I wanted to explore this conflict through the 16-year-old protagonist Phoebe. Desperate to impress her anti-establishment, hippie (and mostly absent) mum she joins a bushcraft camp in the New Forest, certain surviving in the wild will be a walk in the (National) park. But when she arrives to find a bargain-basement version of the Instagram-worthy eco-wonderland she’d been expecting, stuck with five other teens who are all just as lost and insecure as she is, Phoebe must swallow her pride and learn how to survive – both the wild, and life. The script is the first of a six-part series following the six hapless teens and their on-the-verge camp leader Lake Redwood (aka Linda Huggins) across the trial run of a brand new, and majorly underfunded, bushcraft camp. As they battle the elements, wild animals, the power-hungry landowner and each other, they also wrestle with the usual trials and tribulations of teenagehood from burgeoning sexuality and first love to accidental magic mushrooms and tampons made of badger fur.
FW: How did you get into scriptwriting?
LR: I was always involved in theatre whilst at university, where I devised and performed in plays and toured them to the Edinburgh Fringe and other festivals and theatres around the country. Knowing I loved storytelling, but not sure how telling stories could ever pay the bills, I worked in development and then at a literary agency where I got to read, watch and talk about scripts constantly. During this time, whilst still in denial that I was, or could ever be, a writer myself, I found myself impulsively scribbling down little nuggets of dialogue on the bus, in the lift, even on the loo. This went on for some time, like a guilty secret. It was only when another agent’s assistant (Ruth Sewell) at the same agency caught me by the kettle one rainy Tuesday afternoon and, in hushed tones, admitted she was moonlighting as a director, that I decided to let her read some of my ramblings. She did, and within two months we were finalists for Creative England’s Funny Girls scheme and developing a feature script together. This script secured me a place at the National Film and Television School in 2016. Flash forward three years, and I now feel able to call myself a writer!
FW: Any script writing tips for writers out there?
LR: Write what you want to write. Pursue the ideas that give you tingles and make you want to leap out of bed in the morning. As soon as you start writing towards what you *think* the industry might want, sod’s law the fashion will probably change and then you’re left with something that not even you feel emotionally invested in. If you’re going to have a pile of unmade scripts in a drawer gathering dust, they may as well be ones you’ll be proud to show to your grandkids/pets one day.
Let other people read your work, but not too soon! Having a trusted friend, colleague, fellow writer, even family member (thank you, mum!) to read your work is invaluable, especially when writing comedy. However, I’ve tripped myself up when sharing ideas that are still very embryonic. It’s important to give ideas time to grow into something sturdy and substantial first – even if just in your mind if not on the page – so you don’t want to run away and cry at the first whiff of criticism. My first draft is always my ‘heart splurge’ – an overflowing and overwritten bundle of emotion, imagery and even the odd Patti Smith lyric – probably quite fun to read, and definitely fun to write, but lacking structure. I often try and have two or more projects on the go, so after the first heart splurge, I can pull myself out of it, focus on something else, then come back with my objective head on to begin moulding it into a cohesive storyline that takes the reader/audience on a satisfying journey. And so begins the re-re-re-re-rewriting process which is where the real work starts, so allow plenty of time for this before your deadline.
FW: Who are your favourite funny women?
LR: In no particular order, I am a huge fan of, and want to invite to my next birthday party, and then gradually, organically, become BFFs with…
Lisa McGee, Felicity Ward, Kirstie Swain, Mindy Kaling, Katy Brand, Sara Pascoe, Amy Poehler, the Broad City lasses, Natasha Lyonne, Susie Wokoma, Victoria Pile, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Lazy Susan, Natasia Demetriou, Aisling Bea, Sindhu Vee.