I’m not usually one of those people who stays seated in the cinema until the bitter end of the credits. You can get the information off the internet, after all, and you don’t want to miss your bus. However, next week, when I attend the world premiere of The Inbetweeners 2, the hotly anticipated sequel to The Inbetweeners Movie (which broke box-office records when it unexpectedly grossed £57 million), I will be there until the Dolby logo has scrolled past and the staff have started hoovering up the popcorn. Why? Because for the first time in my life, my name will be in the credits. But it’s likely to be quite a long way down.
Some context: I have known the creators, writers, producers and now directors of The Inbetweeners, Iain Morris and Damon Beesley, for six years. We first met in 2008 when their relatively young production company, Bwark (it’s an in-joke involving Ricky Gervais), was in the laborious process of piloting The Persuasionists, a sitcom set in an advertising agency. They asked me to “have a look” at the script. In more formal terms, they employed me as a script editor. Your job is to read a script, write notes, and suggest cuts and changes, and even new jokes. In my experience, scriptwriters love to script edit – as it’s not your baby, it’s far easier to hack into it. (When I’m writing my own scripts, I forget everything I know about editing.)
The show was green-lit by BBC2, and I was hired to edit all six episodes. It was an enjoyable process (particularly as writer Jonathan Thake was new to TV and uniquely pre-jaded) and I clicked with Morris and Beesley, whose stock was up after the success of The Inbetweeners on E4. A second series of The Inbetweeners aired in 2009 to near-universal fanfare among its target audience of teenage boys and men who fondly remember being teenage boys. In 2010 The Persuasionists turned out to be a noble flop, but it had been a bonding experience.
Morris and Beesley, hirsute 30-somethings upon whose own sixth-form embarrassments in the 1980s much of The Inbetweeners was based, are an approachably dynamic, misleadingly scatty and inescapably funny pair, whose tireless work behind the scenes has since emerged above the line. They found themselves signing autographs for Inbetweeners nuts at the red-carpet premiere of The Inbetweeners Movie in the summer of 2011, alongside its popular young stars Simon Bird, Joe Thomas, Blake Harrison and James Buckley. The film’s runaway success (it was the most successful opening of a comedy in the UK) made a sequel inevitable. Morris, the natural pessimist of the duo, never thought the first film was a sure thing. He told me, “There were moments during the edit where we were just thinking, This is s**t.” It wasn’t.
Then, last September, I had a call from Morris about The Inbetweeners 2 (in cinemas from Wednesday 6 August), which he and Beesley had locked themselves away to write, and which was set in Australia for a cringe-ready “gap year” vibe. He asked me if I would “have a look” at their latest draft (again, to make notes, suggest cuts and changes, and maybe some new jokes). As an editor, I was flattered to be asked, and as a fan, basically just excited to see it. I would, Morris told me, be the first “outside pair of eyes” on it. Perhaps inevitably, he said he was worried that it was “a bit s**t”. A copy of the screenplay was couriered to me; it had my name printed on every one of its 140 pages to dissuade piracy and was ambiguously titled Script Title on the cover page. It was like being in the secret service.
I read it. It wasn’t “a bit s**t”. However, my job was to make notes, so I duly scribbled all over it, striking a line through whole sections of lovingly crafted dialogue which I felt could feasibly go (it’s a bit like being God), and noting in the margins any repetition of the word “bell-end”. The three of us met a couple of weeks later in fashionable East London and, after manly hugs, set to work. We went through the script page by page, line by line, gross-out moment by gross-out moment. I made suggestions. They wrote some of them down. And that was it. They were off to Australia for pre-production within a week. By the time they returned with the sequel in the can, I was installed in the Bwark office script-editing the second series of female-centric comedy Drifters for E4 with writer/star Jessica Knappett, who played Neil’s holiday romance in the first Inbetweeners film.
I am under no grand illusions about what my job – eventually agreed upon as “Script Consultant” – entailed on The Inbetweeners 2. I was there to restore confidence to the two men who’d written the script, in isolation and under ludicrous commercial pressure, and to count profanities. For what amounted to three days’ work, I had earned my first ever film credit, and for that I shall remain unfeasibly grateful. And no, I’m not on a percentage point of the profits if the film makes another £57 million. If only...