Beneath the Tunic: Writing and Making the BBC Historical Epic Poldark

with Debbie Horsfield and Heida Reed
moderated by Sarah Drew


Beneath the Tunic: Writing and Making the BBC Historical Epic Poldark image

Described by The Telegraph critic Allison Pearson as “devastatingly good”, Poldark is the perfect blend of action, adventure, forbidden romance and intrigue, set against the stunning Cornish coast.

An instant hit when it first screened on BBC One in 2015, the show raked in around six million viewers per week (as well as a further seven million in the US), making it one of the most watched shows in Britain – and boasting more than TWICE the audience of Game of Thrones.

Written with vim, vigour and a modern sensibility, Debbie Horsfield captured the public’s imagination AND maintained its prime time slot. To the distress of its loyal fans, its fifth and final season aired in the summer of 2019, but its legacy endures…

Meet Debbie Horsfield and the team to find out how it was written and produced, why it was such an enormous success and how to keep ratcheting up the drama, season upon season.

If you want to write multi-season historical drama for television, this is an absolutely unmissable session.

Appearing in this session

Debbie Horsfield

Debbie Horsfield – Screenwriter

Credits include Poldark; Sex, Chips & Rock 'n Roll; All The Small Things

Debbie is responsible for the BBC smash hit Poldark and is an award-winning screenwriter and playwright.
Debbie Horsfield
Heida Reed

Heida Reed – Actress

Credits include Poldark, Death in Paradise, Silent Witness

Icelandic actress Heida won the hearts of audiences worldwide as the ever-dignified Elizabeth in the fraught Poldark love triangle.
Heida Reed
Sarah Drew

Sarah Drew – Screenwriter

A screenwriter, musician and producer, the multi-talented Sarah brings her impeccable moderating skills back to the LSF this year.
Sarah Drew

Screenwriting for Film & Television

Developing a Hit TV Show

Developing a Hit TV Show

Would you like to know how original serials and procedurals are REALLY designed? If the “over the counter” stuff leaves you confused or wanting, you’ve come to the right place: There’s more to TV series development than the superficial five-act paradigm!

What Makes a GREAT Adaptation?

What Makes a GREAT Adaptation?

How to identify the elements that lead to getting sold and produced. Adaptations are so ubiquitous: about half of Hollywood movies are adaptations, which also includes movies based on real people. An interesting novel doesn’t always become an interesting movie, nor does an interesting life.

Writing for TV in the Era of Streaming Services

Writing for TV in the Era of Streaming Services

With the global video-streaming market expected to be valued at over $125 billion dollars by 2025, the trend is clear: the streaming market is not just for tech nerds anymore. Come to this panel for the best strategies to find your audience on Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, or elsewhere in the exciting world of streaming.

Writing World-Class Longform TV: Sorting the ‘Bait’ from the ‘Bull’

Writing World-Class Longform TV: Sorting the ‘Bait’ from the ‘Bull’

Get your TV project in the best shape it can be for both a competitive and exciting marketplace in 2020.

All You Need Is a Girl and a Gun* (*Jean-Luc Godard)

All You Need Is a Girl and a Gun* (*Jean-Luc Godard)

From Miss Marple to Dana Scully, numerous renditions of female TV detectives have always styled out the televisiual crime scene. This panel discusses why she holds such a fascination for the viewer, how writers have evolved her across the years, and where, in a post-Me Too landscape, she is likely to head next…

Writing for the Female Gaze Part III

Writing for the Female Gaze Part III

For the third straight London SWF, we bring this thought-provoking, mind-opening session to screenwriters. The Female Gaze returns. With some of the most groundbreaking and trailblazing wonder women in the industry, we continue the conversation that affects ALL of us.

Acting Up: Writing to Attract the Killer Cast

Acting Up: Writing to Attract the Killer Cast

We all do it. Imagine our favourite actors saying our lines, maybe even write roles for a specific actor – without any notion of how to make that fantasy a reality. In this session, you will hear directly from professional actors what they look for when a script comes across their desk, and what turns their “Maybes” into “Yeses”.

Inside the Writers' Room

Inside the Writers' Room

Ever wondered what it’s REALLY like inside the writers’ room? How does collaboration work? How do you crack a story? What happens when the ideas dry up? Or when no one agrees? Get the inside scoop from TV legend Tony Jordan, experienced showrunner and creator of some of Britain’s best-loved shows.

How Do You Get a TV Movie from A to Z to TX in a Year?

How Do You Get a TV Movie from A to Z to TX in a Year?

Hear how writer Barbara Machin, producer Jane Steventon and director Justin Molotnikov took the low-budget feature Susan Hill’s Ghost Story from inception to transmission on Channel 5 in only a year and the trials and tribulations they faced.