In conversation with Joe Barton

5 November, 2020

On Tuesday 6th October, Screen and Film School Brighton were thrilled to welcome screenwriter Joe Barton for an exclusive virtual masterclass!

Joe is best known as the writer/creator of the multi-BAFTA nominated Giri/Haji,  an 8-part television series that follows Kenzo Mori (Takehiro Hira) as he searches for his missing brother in London. It received 6 BAFTA nominations, including Best Drama Series, and won Best Supporting Actor for Will Sharpe’s performance as Rodney. Joe also wrote feature film The Ritual for Netflix, a horror film where we join Luke (Rafe Spall) and his friends on a lads’ trip as they’re stalked through a forest in Sweden.

Screen and Film School Masterclass - Joe Barton Screenwriter


We received some brilliant questions from students for Joe and we’ve highlighted some of our favourites below:

Q: Giri/Haji often plays with the creative narrative. How did that experimental nature come about?

A: It was already a strange show as it was bilingual, and the BBC were very open to us experimenting and trying new things. Creatively I felt like we wanted to make something that didn’t feel like anything else on TV at the moment. There’s so much on at the moment and as audiences we’re so well versed in the structure, so I feel that we should have freedom to play with that.

Q: What was shooting in Tokyo like?

A: It’s really difficult to shoot in Tokyo- it’s an amazing place but difficult for filming. You aren’t allowed to do anything that will inconvenience anyone- which is a lot of what filming is! There was one scene with a car on the pavement which we had to film in Swiss Cottage as no where in Tokyo would let us film that! 

Q: How do you keep faith in yourself?

A: I think it’s a combination of things. There was nothing else I wanted to do, or was particular good at. And I think there was always an unshakeable belief that I could do it- which is good because there are a lot of rejections. Perseverance is one of the most important things to have- the willingness to keep going. I backed myself enough.

Q: Throughout your creative journey so far what’s the most difficult challenge you’ve faced?

A: I think it was the “breaking in” part- the early days. The hurdle of establishing myself in the industry and getting an agent was a long slog but all of that hard work paid off down the line. Once you’re in it gets a bit easier because you’ve convinced someone already that you can do this professionally. It’s tough for everyone- you’ve got to make a plan and keep pushing through, but it’s not impossible.

Q: How do you write consistent and believable characters?

A: You have to slightly be a sponge around people. A key is to writing believable characters is dialogue, which is difficult and a skill, but there are things you can do to improve. Interrogate every line- understand the tropes of TV shows and what people in real life would and wouldn’t do. Put yourself into their mind, and try and live with them in your head for months on end. 

Q: If you had just graduated this year how would you approach getting work in the industry?

A: Networking is not happening to the same level- your work is the most important thing you have. Make something. 



A huge thank you to Joe and all of our staff, students, and alumni for making this masterclass one to remember. We can’t wait to welcome Joe Barton to Screen and Film School in the future!

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