Breaking Into TV: An Interview with Karl Warner, Head of E4

Monday 12 August 2019

Photo Credit to Karl Warner

This week at Into The Script - we welcome Karl Warner, the Head of acclaimed British TV Channel E4. 

As well as broadcasting American hit shows such as Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Goldbergs and How I Met Your Mother, E4 is also known for creating homegrown British content such as Skins, Made In Chelsea,  Shameless, The Inbetweeners and  Misfits

My feature writer Scott Baker had the opportunity to ask Karl exactly what it is that E4 is looking for and how writers can write a story that HOOKS an audience in this ever-changing and evolving world of television!

So, let's hand over to Scott:

You began your career at Endemol USA and before joining E4, you had your own production company with Sony as well as working at the BBC. 

What was it that drew you to producing, and did you experience any other aspect of filmmaking prior to deciding to focus on producing? 

I started out on a show called Bar Wars, which was set in Corfu for 12 weeks.

I loved the people on that production.

They were smart, funny, creative and brilliant fun and I thought it was a working culture that would suit my personality and interests.

I loved how hard everyone worked and how committed they were to achieving excellence.

And I discovered quickly that TV was an industry that valued original, exciting new ideas more than anything else.

Until then, I had no experience of filming or producing.

We're in the midst of a technological boom as consumers watch content in a vast variety of ways. Television is no longer just a family gathering around the TV any more. 

Understanding this challenge, can you discuss how this shift may have affected your role in any way, and any top tips for writers looking to write content that can compete in such a fast paced form of media?

Whilst the way people are watching stories on TV has changed a lot, I don’t think the fundamental story telling techniques have changed as dramatically.

So for me, that means we just have to find smarter, faster, easier ways to get those stories to the audience – wherever they are, we are.

But it also means writers have to work harder to make sure their stories punch through, feel original and say something new.

Millennials are a generation more switched on than people think. 

How does this shape the type of content you develop to strike a balance that is satisfying, intellectually stimulating and entertaining all at the same time? 

I think our audience are interested in a wide range of topics – they’re not to be underestimated! – but the treatment of those topics, the people telling the stories, and the perspective they choose to take is crucial.

E4 makes shows for young people not about young people. And we set out to appeal to young audiences but not exclusively.

That means we have to be broad in our appeal and approach.

All of our shows should have Entertainment value at the forefront of the proposition but other layers drawn from Factual, Comedy or Current Affairs deliver depth which we think is key.

There isn’t a formula for how we balance those elements, it’s how it makes us feel.

Can you share with us what happens at E4 in regards to developing a show right up to it being aired? How many months is this on average? Do you develop a show with a particular time slot in mind if there's a gap, for example? 

Are you involved from the beginning or do you take a step back and allow your Commissioning Editors to work with the writers? 

The average TV show takes approx. 12months to get commissioned from a first pitch to broadcast. But there are exceptions – some shows are on air sooner than that, and some take longer.

I’m sometimes at the first pitch but mostly the Commissioning Editors pitch me the best ideas they’ve been working on with Indies at our bi-weekly routines.

We try to provided a Channel perspective to help shape the idea and will indicate to the Commissioning Editor how much money we have available and when we’d ideally like to schedule it.

Once the show is commissioned, I tend to step back from the detail of the production but will receive regular updates and eventually see a rough cut that I’m able feedback on.

How do you predict TV may evolve in the next 10 years, and what do you believe will be the next big shift in your opinion? 

I think we’ll continue to see the decline in traditional linear viewing and more on demand services emerging.

I think viewing habits will move to extremes – high levels of on demand or large scale, scheduled event moments centred around Live or ‘as live’ TV. 

Please could you share with us your top 3 tips for writers looking to develop and create content targeted for Millenials?



Scott Baker is a screenwriter and producer with a passion for the horror genre. Starting with short films, Scott is currently writing two feature lengths with the goal to produce them
independently and start up a Blumhouse like model here in the UK. 

Aside from writing, Scott works with the London Screenwriters’ Festival who will be celebrating their 10 year anniversary in 2020 and is a content writer for Shore Scripts. Scott has also worked with theGreat American PitchFest and promoted “Once Upon A Nightmare” an Edinburgh FringeFestival production written by the Clarkson Twins and Gemma Hurley.

You can find Scott on Instagram and on his Twitter

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