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3 Writing Lessons from 'Orphan Black: Echoes' Showrunner Anna Fishko

June 20, 2024
4 min read time

Who doesn't love a story identity, mysterious pasts, and...4D-printed body parts? Anna Fishko, showrunner and Executive Producer of sci-fi thriller Orphan Black: Echoes, pulls out all the stops in this expansion of the Orphan Black world, twisting perceptions of self and introducing tech that makes cloning seem old-fashioned.

In this interview with ScreenCraft, Anna digs into how she came up with the idea for the show and how real science played a role in bringing the world to life.

Research Can Supercharge Your Creativity

If you're familiar with Orphan Black, then you know that cloning technology plays a huge role in the story, and Echoes definitely ups the ante here with the introduction of revolutionary four-dimensional body part printing. 

Writing about cutting-edge tech like that is so fun, not to mention thrilling for your audience, but if you're going to write about it, you have to know what you're talking about. That's where research comes in.

Anna really did her homework before writing Orphan Black: Echoes. Not only did she discuss how identity works with her husband, a former philosophy professor, but she also spoke with a scientist at a human tissue printing lab in Wake Forest about real technology being developed that can print brains and hearts.

Read More: Shake Up Your Research Routine 

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You don't have to be an expert in the field you're researching for your script, but having a basic understanding of it will help you write more authentically and smoothly. Seriously, you know you haven't done your research if you're constantly having to stop and figure out how hot the surface of Mercury is because you really want to write "The Martian — but on Mercury" but you aren't sure what materials your protagonist will need in order to avoid being obliterated upon entry.

(It's 800° F, by the way. The surface of Mercury.)

Don't Try to "Paint Match" — Use "Contrasting Colors"

We can all think of an example of a sequel or any iteration of a franchise that doesn't quite match the tone of the movies before it. They try so hard to get it to match up, but the shade is just ever so slightly off.

Anna uses a great analogy about choosing a tone when writing a story inside an existing universe like Orphan Black. She explains that trying to match the tone of an existing story is like trying to paint-match colors. "If you try and match a color that you have on your wall...like, exactly...it gets really close but it's never quite the same. You always see the ways in which it's different."

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She goes on to say, "I always wanted our show, tonally, to have kind of like a contrasting color. So, the two things should sit nicely next to each other, but not try to be matchy-matchy."

So, how do you approach this challenge? Of course, you have to do your research and identify the tone of the IP you're working with, but you also have to trust your own voice as a writer and try to wield your pen (or laptop...well, don't wield a laptop) like a painter, not an imitator. 

Literally...Just Keep Writing

What is the greatest screenwriting advice? It's so simple that oftentimes writers dismiss it, but it's so crucial to your success. Keep writing. That's it. Just keep writing.

Done with your first draft? Keep writing.

Didn't place in a contest? Keep writing.

Received negative feedback on your script? Keep writing.

This is the advice Anna gives to aspiring screenwriters, saying, "Just keep working on the thing. If you write one thing and nobody likes it, just keep working on it and try to make it better. Or write a different thing. The more you do that, the better you're going to get. Eventually, you're going to write something that somebody's going to love and it's going to work out...I hope."

Read More: 6 Tips To Keep Writing When It Feels Like the World Is Falling Apart

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