Nothing is Ever Wasted

27th January 2024
5 min read
13th February 2024
Your previous projects can be given a new lease of life

Do you have a short story or a play that would make a good TV series or movie?

The pipeline between Hollywood and the publishing industry has long existed. Back in the 1930s, writers such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway had shortlived careers as scriptwriters. The difference is that today, thanks to the Hollywood Writers strike, that pipeline has grown considerably shorter with studios and streamers looking for material as "close to the source" as possible. 

When I looked through my portfolio, I discovered things I’d forgotten I’d written. With the success of investigative podcasts such as the New York Times Serial, I’ve now decided to turn a treatment for an unmade feature-length documentary into a podcast series. Meanwhile, the arrival of a new publishing house in the US prompted me to re-examine another documentary pitch to see whether it could be turned into a book.

"Recycling" now seems to be the watchword. I’ve spun off the main characters from an optioned but unmade TV pilot into a short film for an Irish network. Now I'm spinning off two characters from a short story into a TV pilot - and I've already had interest from a producer. 

The point is there are any number of successful examples and ways of "reviving" old or unfinished projects.

Podcasts are easier and quicker to get off the ground and can lead to other things such as TV series and movies. For example, the podcast Limetown was turned into a TV series for Facebook Watch starring Jessica Biel and Stanley Tucci. And the podcast The Dropout, about Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes, was turned into a successful series for Disney. And there are a number of other examples, including Dirty John and Homecoming on Amazon.

And what can become a movie or TV series have been stretched beyond what was once considered the norm. There’s an entire subgenre of movie that exists in the US but not really in the UK as yet  – and that’s the corporate or product movie. Examples include the Netflix movie Air, about the advent of Nike’s Air Jordans – the shoe that literally made the company’s name. Written by first timer Alex Convery, Air starred Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, who also directed. Not bad for your first foray into scriptwriting. Then there’s Tetris, about one of the most popular video games ever made, and Founder, about the beginnings of McDonalds.

After the success of the billion-dollar grossing movie Barbie, toy companies are busy going through their Intellectual Property to see what can be turned into movies or series.

First up is the Bob the Builder movie to be produced by Jennifer Lopez’s company. Expect Bob’s catchphrase, “Can we fix it? Yes, we can!” to be given a new lease of life.

Did you have a favourite toy as a child? Maybe it’s time to check who owns the rights…

Even a hobby can be turned into a viable project. My Dad Wrote a Porno started life as a hugely successful podcast series with more than 400m downloads, before becoming a non-fiction book, a HBO TV comedy special and finally a touring stage production.

Alice Charles

The point is one project can have many lives and iterations. Alan Bennett’s Up In Town series of monologues were first produced as stage plays in 1998, before being turned into radio dramas, a TV series as Talking Heads with Joanna Lumley, and now lives on Amazon Audible.

With the proliferation of media outlets, the avenues for writers have increased. As terrestrial channels experience a downturn in advertising revenue, companies are increasingly turning to branded content. For example, back in 2001 BMW funded a series of short films by well-known directors including Tony Scott, Ang Lee, John Woo, and Guy Ritchie, and all starring Clive Owen. If you haven’t seen them, they are well worth looking up on YouTube,

BMW is, of course, a major company but newer companies, especially those in the technology, social media and gaming spaces, are more willing to partner with less established names with the right project - as long as it aligns with their mission and messaging.

So, where to begin?

  1. Create a Project List including all your projects, both finished and unfinished. This should include a logline or brief synopsis of each project, separated by relevant area eg Fiction, Non-fiction, TV, Film etc.
  2. For your Fiction Projects, create a list of the main characters in each work. Is there a great monologue that could work as a piece of theatre or radio? Is there a sequence in an unproduced TV pilot that would work as a short film?
  3. Do you have an original approach to turning a toy into a film or TV series? Do you have a script or project that illustrates this?


Alice Charles is a scriptwriter and playwright with a background in journalism. She has worked for numerous newspapers, magazines and websites including the Financial Times, Yahoo! and She Caribbean Magazine where she was Editor-in-chief.

Writing stage