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Writer Nancy Harris & Producer Emma Norton Dissect Irish Dramedy ‘The Dry’ — Storyhouse

With its second season now airing on ITVX in the UK, the creator and the producer behind Irish comedy-drama The Dry both sat down at Dublin’s Storyhouse festival to give attendees a masterclass in how they attempted to grab audiences in the first five minutes of Season One.

The series, which is written by Nancy Harris and produced by Element Pictures’ Emma Norton, follows Shiv Sheridan (Roisin Gallagher) as she returns to Dublin after years of partying in London. She tries to navigate a new phase of her life but trying to stay sober and being back with her family is not easy.

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After showing the audience the first few minutes of the show, both Harris and Norton reflected on the craft of building a big opening scene that would keep the audience wanting more while also introducing the characters.

“The challenge of that was to try and set up every single character,” said Harris. “It’s not a one-character show, it’s a five-character show and it’s five POVs and you’ve got five minutes to set up that she’s an alcoholic and make that funny, to show who everybody is in the context of the family and to also show that there has been a death in the family but that is not the death that we see there. So, right off the bat, that was the biggest thing. We needed the audience to be asking questions.

Harris added that while The Dry has a “clear conceit”, the whole plot is generated from characters. “That’s why all the characters have to be clear and then conflicted, so we have to think they are one thing and then discover something else that but essentially most of the plot of the show is generated from those characters being put into difficult situations.”

Producer Norton added that the first five minutes of the series shows “the density of story that can be told in a short space of time.”

“There’s also a lot of nonverbal storytelling in that early sequence as well and all the things about Shiv’s expectations of who she’ll meet when she gets into that airport and part of that is restricted, you know all the little hints and bits of information,” said Norton.

The Dry was produced by Element Pictures in association with Fís Éireann/Screen Ireland and ITV Studios in partnership with RTÉ. Paddy Breathnach directs all episodes.

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