Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Matthew Cooper, a scriptwriter, director, and script consultant based in Leeds, West Yorkshire, UK.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

I'm a script consultant and scriptwriter for hire with 25 years of experience in film and TV in the UK. I've been BAFTA shortlisted and Royal Television Society nominated. I've been on the core writing teams of most of the UK's prime-time soaps, as well as writing award-winning screenplays and short films (including the short film that started Ewan McGregor's career many years ago).

Unlike other scriptwriters - my services are available for anyone to hire (and I don't work with an agent). I realised as technology changed, scriptwriters were needed across all kinds of digital media (not just film and TV). I'm the first agile scriptwriter - still working in film and TV - but also using my storytelling skills across all kinds of digital media (and in the metaverse).

Tell us about yourself

I had my first script produced and broadcast on Channel Four when I was just 19 years old – the short film is the first acting credit for Ewan McGregor – the award-winning film launched my career at a very young age after I won a scriptwriting competition run by Channel Four in the UK.

From there, I went on to sell a feature script to a US major before finding myself in the fast-paced world of UK soap operas. I started as a core writer on the Emmerdale team (at 27, I was the youngest writer they ever had) before moving on to the BBC's EastEnders, where I wrote the iconic episode where 'Alfie' told 'Kat' he loved her for the first time–one of the highest watched episodes of the soap in its 20+ year history.

I worked on CH4's Hollyoaks show as part of the team, which tripled the show's viewing figures under producer Bryan Kirkwood. I oversaw storylines that introduced the McQueen family and notorious club owner, gangster, and double murderer Warren Fox, who was described as the first 'realistic' gangster character in UK soaps.

Tiring of the soaps and seeing the change in the media landscape with the launch of the Web. 2.0 I started a website as a script consultant and script doctor, and I got work and commission on various produced and released feature films on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as more varied online work - including launching a web series in 2007 - backed by one of the 'Dragons' from 'TVs Dragons' Den' a UK entrepreneurial show. From there, I also started to act as a 'player turned coach' for new writers through my script consultant service.

As the gatekeepers of traditional broadcast media began to break down and digital equipment and editing faculties became affordable, I started to work as a director and completed a trilogy of innovative low-budget horror films based on the work of H. P. Lovecraft. The films are 'Markham (2020)' 'At The Mountains of Madness (2021)' and 'When The Earth Gives Up The Dead (2022). The films were released for free online and were made using a mix of ultra-modern tech and retro analogue equipment – mixing Super 8mm with virtual soundstages – all done on ultra-low budgets and completed during the Covid Pandemic. These films helped land me other work as a writer and director, and I'm set to direct the feature film 'Sober' in 2023 starring Dean Smith (Still Open All Hours/Waterloo Road/Last Tango in Halifax/Coronations Street) and Tom Gibbons (Young Dracula/Funny Cow/The Archers).

I love scriptwriting and directing and enjoyed working as a regular TV scriptwriter - but now, thanks to my website being so popular, my work is much more varied and exciting. New job offers come in daily - and often, they're a lot more interesting and exciting than writing regular series or serials for TV. Scripts and scriptwriting experience are used in so many ways now.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

I was 'early,' and I'm still just about the ONLY scriptwriter with experience who is offering their services online and without an agent. The work I get is amazingly varied, and I manage clients the way any other freelance creatives would - other screenwriters expect their agents to manage their career and work - I'm in charge of my own destiny, and I don't need to pay a percentage to anyone.

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

My work is completed by me. So, I'm limited by what work I can take on. In the past, I have had to turn some work away, which is hugely frustrating. Now, I'm developing avenues to refer work to other scriptwriters who I know will deliver high-quality work - I monetize the referrals, but I also make sure with follow-ups that the clients get a good service and a satisfying result as I make the referral - it's important for me to know that people are happy.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Just start - you can't wait for circumstances to be perfect.
  2. You'll learn as you go along - some lessons are painful - but that makes you learn from them so that issues can be avoided in the future.
  3. Make sure you rest. Seven days a week won't help you in the long run.

Where can people find you and your business?


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