Thursday, November 30, 2006

Writing for Other Media: Theatre

Following on from my previous post on writing for other media, I thought I'd take a look at some opportunities in each of those 'other media', starting with theatre.

Soho Theatre have just announced the Westminster Prize for 06/07. This is open to anyone living or working in the Borough of Westminster without a produced play to their credit. It's a great opportunity to get started in writing for theatre. The brief is to write a ten minute play with two characters (no more, no less), inspired by all or one off the three photographs above. Three winners will have their plays performed at Soho Theatre. Deadline is February 2007 and full details can be found here. While you're there, scroll down to the bottom of the page for an excellent list of tips and hints, or sign up for a free workshop on 12th December or 16th January. Think I'm going to give this one a go.

If you aren't elligible for the Westminster Prize you could try the King's Cross New Writing Award. This is open to all writers of any level experience, deadline May 2007. The winning play will be produced by the Courtyard Theatre.

For writers in the North of England there's the Bang! competition. The prize is a writing mentor, a bursary of £1000 and the chance to have the work performed on stage. The organisers are looking for short dramas for the stage of, up to fifteen minutes long and they can be either a complete piece or an extract of a longer piece. Submissions should reflect the British Asian Experience. A free series of workshops are being held in various cities across the north to tie-in with this. Deadline for is 8th January 2007.

There are a number of new writing theatres and theatre companies based in London, either actively seeking new work or offering reading services. These include 10 in a Bed Theatre, who hold monthly readings of plays in progress, Theatre 503Operating Theatre Company and Canal Cafe TheatreThe Bush Theatre, and The Royal CourtHampstead Theatre among others. In addition to offering written feedback on all scripts submitted, Hampstead Theatre also run a fantastic initiative, Start Night. It's held every four to six weeks, and audience members give written feedback on the performed work. Next Start Night is 22nd January, deadline for submissions 5th January. Full details here.

This isn't an exhaustive list, by any means, so please send me any other opportunities or initiatives, especially those out of London, as obviously I'm better informed about stuff that's happening on my doorstep! Check outWriternet's guide to producing theatre companies to whom writers can send unsolicited work. Also, check out Tom Green's guest post on Danny Stack's blog.
Posts on opportunities in radio, short film and short stories to follow when I get around to it. I am trying to keep busy to keep my mind off the fact that the selections for the UK Friendly Producers Scheme are expected tomorrow...

Writing for Other Media

We all know how difficult it is as a new writer to break into film and TV writing. Last October I attended aScript Factory panel discussion on writing for other media. I wrote a report about the event for thewritewords online writing community, which I'm no longer a part of, but, I dug out the report recently, searching for information on one of the opportunities mentioned, so I thought I would post it here. Some of the information is now out-of-date, so I've put my updates in italics.
Each year during the Times BFI London Film Festival, Script Factory host SCENE, a kind of festival within a festival, dedicated to scriptwriting. Recognising that film and television offer limited opportunities for new writers, Script Factory drew together a panel of experts from radio, television and theatre to consider how writers can get their work produced and appreciated by the widest audience possible. The four experts were Abigail Morris, Artistic Director, Soho Theatre; Eileen Quinn, Director of Drama, IWCCaroline Raphael, Commissioning Editor for Drama and Entertainment, BBC Radio 4and Kate Rowland, Creative Director, New Writing, BBCMarilyn Milgrom, a Senior Tutor with the Script Factory, chaired the event, which took place at the Curzon Soho on 27th October 2005.

Script Factory took a break from running Scene this year, but I understand it will be returning again next year.

A little bit about the panellists and how they/their companies work:

Radio 4 schedules 13,000 programmes across 14 different genres each year. Caroline Raphael is responsible for drama, comedy, Book at Bedtime, Afternoon readings and poetry commissions. A large part of Caroline’s job involves sourcing comedy and as such she said she spends considerable time in ‘smoky rooms above pubs’ and camped out at the Edinburgh comedy festival, listening to comedians perform their work. Caroline also relies largely on her producers to bring in new writers.

IWC is one of the top ten UK independent production companies, though Eileen Quinn asserted that ‘independent’ is something of a misnomer – IWC and other independents are entirely dependent on the demands of broadcasters and distributors. Eileen emphasized that she is involved in the business side of the industry and her role does not involve seeking out and nurturing new talent and she will only read scripts via agents. That said, Eileen depends upon colleagues to alert her to new writers worth keeping an eye on, and will go to readings or performances based on these recommendations.

Abigail Morris took over as artistic director at Soho Poly in 1992 and has seen the company through financial strife to reopen in 2000 as the Soho Theatre. Soho Theatre’s focus is firmly on new writing and has a dedicated Writer’s Centre that receives over 2,000 unsolicited manuscripts a year. Soho employs a team of 20 script readers and all submitted scripts receive a written response. If Soho is unable to produce a script they will try wherever possible to feed the script into other avenues, such as radio or television.

Abigail Morris moved on from Soho Theatre early this year, replaced by Lisa Goldman.

Kate Rowland set up BBC’s Writer’s Room in 2001 to develop and promote the BBC’s new writing strategy across television, radio and film. Writer’s Room’s 8-strong team actively seek out new writing talent by attending performances, readings, watching short films etc. In addition to this team, Writer’s Room uses 8 freelance script readers. The script readers operate by reading the first 10 pages of a script, then passing it over to another reader. Scripts are then sorted into bundles – scripts that will get a full read, and scripts that will be returned without being read further. All scripts will receive some feedback.

Opportunities for New Writers

Radio offers by far the most opportunities for new writers to get their work produced. In addition to the 
Afternoon Play,Friday Play and Women’s Hour Drama, BBC Radio also broadcast short story readings, which Caroline Raphael believes new writers often neglect. Short stories should be approximately 2, 500 words to fill a 14-minute slot. For Caroline, writing good dialogue is the most important factor for writing for radio. Kate Rowland of the Writer’s Room has commissioning responsibility for The Friday Play on Radio 4 and The Wire on Radio 3. Both Caroline Raphael and Kate Rowland cautioned against ‘filling in the gaps’ for radio listeners, for example, dialogue such as “is that gun in your pocket loaded?”.

The Writer’s Room work a lot with theatre writers and the website includes opportunities in theatre as well as TV, radio and film. Kate Rowland said that the Writer’s Room champion writers they like and do everything they can to help writers get a commission. This can take several years but the Writer’s Room also offers writing schemes and initiatives. Soho Theatre produces about 6 new plays a year and the Writer’s Centre holds two competitions for playwrights, The Verity Bargate Award and the Westminster Prize. The Writer’s Centre also operates a Young Writer’s Scheme for writers aged 15-25.
See my next post for information on the Westminster Prize.
In association with Channel 4, IWC run Coming Up, an annual new writer’s scheme. The scheme produces eight 30-minute films for television and is open to writers and directors without a primetime TV drama credit. In the first instance, writers should submit a script sample and a 1-2 page synopsis of their idea. Successful applicants will be fast-tracked through the development process, receiving support and guidance with writing first a step outline and then a first draft. Eileen Quinn works with the selected writers as executive producer. The films will be shot on digital and screened late night on Channel 4 and the intention is to produce cutting edge, boundary-pushing work. Details of the scheme are on IWC’s website, and the deadline for next year’s scheme will be announced soon. Eileen said she looks for writing ‘in pictures’ and a distinctive voice. Andrea Arnold, a participant in Coming Up some years ago, went on to win an Academy Award for her short film ‘Wasp’ and other Coming up writers have had work commissioned by the BBC.

Andrea Arnold's first feature film Red Road is in cinemas now and picked up an award at Cannes this year. Details ofComing Up for 2006 were announced in March with a deadline in April so I expect the details will go on IWC's website within the first few months of 2007.

Kate Rowland noted that the deadline for the Dennis Potter award, which aims to produce a single television drama for BBC 2, is coming up soon. Details will be announced on the Writer’s Room website.

This year's Dennis Potter Award was launched in January, so keep an eye on the Writer's Room website for updates on this early in 2007.

Do’s and Don’ts

All four women agreed that new writers should have a distinctive, unique voice. As Eileen Quinn put it, she is looking for writers who ‘have something to say and know how to say it”. Abigail Morris said she looks for honesty and integrity in writing. Kate Rowland is impressed by writers who can ‘think in scenes – no coming in and out of rooms”. Caroline Raphael advised writers to research their work carefully and to respect the intelligence of their audience. Asked what is the quickest way for a writer to ensure their work ends up in the bin, Eileen Quinn cited incorrect formatting and TV scripts written in play format. For Abigail Morris, the biggest no-no is writers who have had work rejected by film or television, and try the script in theatre without re-writing it. As for common mistakes writers make, Kate Rowland suggested over-writing and advised writers to avoid lengthy, prosaic scene descriptions. Eileen Quinn advised against sending completed scripts to production companies. She suggested writers should send a treatment or synopsis only, giving producers “less to say no to”.


All panellists emphasized the need for new writers to consider other media and the importance of having work produced in some format. Eileen Quinn commented that in her experience novelists and playwrights were often reluctant to learn the craft of writing for the screen. Kate Rowland noted that it is now more common for writers to move between different media, as opposed to the traditional way of starting off in radio or theatre and moving up to television or film. She suggested writers should be ‘tangential’ in their approach. Everyone acknowledged that getting work out there is difficult and takes commitment and perseverance as well as skill. The four panellists were very well chosen and offered differing experience and approaches.. What all the experts had in common was a genuine and palpable enthusiasm for new writing in all its forms. And nice to see an all-female panel of experts at the cutting edge of new writing!

I hope that was useful (sorry it was so long!) and if any of the information is outdated now, do let me know.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Cover Letters

Been catching up on script reading this week. One company I read for send me the cover letters, the CV's and anything else the writer has included in addition to the scripts. I'm always fascinated by the cover letters because they are a good indicator of the quality of the script. I've read all sorts of things in cover letters - quotes from friends and teachers in support of the writer, details of where they grew up and their childhood, their day job, instructions for how the script should be read, A-level results and a boast that the script enclosed is like "nothing else", followed promptly by an admission that s/he had "borrowed" bits from other TV programmes.

It makes no difference to me what's in the cover letter. I'm paid to read the script from start to finish so a bad cover letter won't prevent me from making a recommendation if the script is good. But it rarely is if the cover letter is bad. And not all companies have the resources to read every script submitted and a badly written cover letter is just one of many excuses they may use to filter scripts.

There's no perfect cover letter for a spec script and just because I read a lot of them, doesn't make me an expert. But there are certainly things not to include, such as the examples above. In my view it's best to keep to a couple of paragraphs. Use the first paragraph to introduce the script you have enclosed - describe the story in a sentence or two and state what genre it is. If it's TV, make sure you mention if it is a one-off a series or a serial.

In the next paragraph, include some details about yourself. Keep these details strictly writing related unless it is directly relevant to the script you've enclosed - for example, if you've written a medical drama and used to be a nurse or trained to be a doctor. Focus on whatever writing success you have had like competition wins, options and any produced work. Don't list every single achievement; be selective. If you are submitting work to a talent spotting service like Writer's Room include a line or two about the kind of writing you would like to do such as radio, continuing drama series, comedy sketches, sitcoms etc.

Scriptwriting MA's and creative writing courses come in for a lot of flack. I think it's absolutely fine to mention you've done (or are doing) a writing course in the cover letter, but keep it to the "about me" paragraph. Don't bang on about it in the first paragraph before you've bothered to introduce your script and don't include the grade you got for the script you are submitting - the only thing it shows is that you are serious enough about a screenwriting career to invest time in money in learning more about the craft, not that you are a fantastic writer.

Avoid telling the reader what their production company should be making or being dismissive of the quality of British TV or film (assuming that's the market you're going for of course). Avoid being jokey or matey in tone - even if you are submitting a comedy script! The purpose of the cover letter is simply to explain what you have submitted and introduce yourself, not to convince the reader you are an undiscovered comedy genius. Let your script do that. Don't use superlatives about your work but don't be coy either. Keep it to one page unless absolutely necessary and be polite and courteous in summing up.

I'm sure most regular readers of this blog don't need to be told this stuff, but then I've read dodgy cover letters from writers with a lot of experience, so this isn't a mistake only beginners make. The golden rule is to keep it short and to the point, including only information that is relevant to the script or you as a writer.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Movie Meme

A nice little meme I found over on Is That So Wrong?

1. Popcorn or candy?

Popcorn. But mostly I don't eat at the cinema, because other people munching loudly or rustling wrappers bothers me so I feel I shouldn't do it.

2. Name a movie you've been meaning to see forever.

Only one? There are loads. Hundreds. There are even several that I own on DVD but haven't got around to seeing yet. One of those at random: The Lost Weekend. It's one of those films that I keep finding on TCM when I'm channel hopping, and I've always wanted to see it but I hate not seeing things from the absolute beginning, so I have to change over. But I've had the DVD for ages and have no excuses or reasons for not watching it yet.

3. You are given the power to recall one Oscar: Who loses theirs and to whom?

Again, only one? I'm very tempted to pick a screenwriting category. But feel mean taking an award from a writer so instead I'm taking it away from someone I don't have an ounce of respect for. Hand it over Catherine Zeta-Jones. Come on, you knew someone would ask for it back eventually didn't you? Did you really think they choose you over Meryl Streep or Kathy Bates?
My sister has a name for Catherine Zeta Jones but I better not publish it here, I'll be flagged for inappropriate content.

4. Steal one costume from a movie for your wardrobe. Which will it be?

That's difficult. There are many costumes it would be fun to dress up in, but "steal for your wardrobe" would imply something I'd actually wear day to day, so I'm going to go with Uma Thurman's outfit in Pulp Fiction. Maybe that's a bit boring, but I can't think of anything else at the moment.
5. Your favorite film franchise is....

Indiana Jones. But I think they should leave it well alone now.

6. Invite five movie people over for dinner. Who are they? Why'd you invite them? What do you feed them?

William Goldman, John Cusack, Alfred Hitchcock, Jane Campion, Susannah Grant. I'd invite them because they are all people whose work I admire or have been influenced by in some way, so I'd have plenty to pick their brains about and because I think they're a good mix of people. I don't know what I would feed them (what do you feed a dead man?) but we'd drink mojitos. Why? Because I like them.

7. What is the appropriate punishment for people who answer cell phones in the movie theater?
Throw them out, ban them from ever attending that cinema again and sent their picture round to every other cinema in the area, telling the managers not to admit them.

8. Choose a female bodyguard: Ripley from Aliens. Mystique from X-Men. Sarah Connor from Terminator 2. The Bride from Kill Bill. Mace from Strange Days.

Ripley. I don't know if she'd be a better bodyguard than the other ladies, but I think she'd be the best company.

9. What's the scariest thing you've ever seen in a movie?

The Exorcist and The Shining are probably the two films I find most scary. There are any number of terrifying images to choose from the former, but I think the bits that unnerved me the most are the moments when you are waiting for something to happen. That long shot of Regan's bedroom door, shut always chills me. It's the anticipation of what's lurking behind. The Shining achieved something similar with the shots of the little boy on the tricycle, cycling around the hotel - you know something bad is going to happen. Although it took me a long time to shake the image of the woman in the bath from my mind. Makes me shudder just thinking about it.

10. Your favorite genre (excluding "comedy" and "drama") is....
Okay, so you're looking for sub-genres here - comedy-drama? drama-comedy? Psychological drama or thriller? Supernatural drama? I really don't have a favourite genre and I don't have any particular genre I would unequivocally steer clear of.

11. You are given the power to greenlight movies at a major studio for one year. How do you wield this power?

It would be about what I wouldn't greenlight, rather than what I would - sequels might be greenlit but only on the condition that the same creative team are on board, same cast etc (unless of course a character is killed off. No City Slickers 2 shenanigans!). No big screen versions of TV shows and no comic book adaptations. No $20m paychecks for stars and no astronomical budgets either. Writers and filmmakers get creative freedom but not unlimited budgets - boundaries can be productive.
12. Bonnie or Clyde?
You can't have one without the other.

13. Who am I tagging to answer this survey?
Anyone who fancies it.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Q and A: BSSC Semi-Finalist Eleanor Tucker

I've been getting a lot of traffic to this site from people searching for info on the British Short Script Competition, which I mentioned in this post back in April. It's always good to get some insider info on any script competition, especially those with a fee - you want to know it's worth parting with your hard earned cash! As it happens one of my script reading clients, Eleanor Tucker, recently reached the semi-finals of BSSC so I asked Eleanor a few questions about her experience with the competition. Eleanor is based in Edinburgh and currently has a short script in development with Fluid Eye Productions and her two minute short script was just produced by The London Film Academy. You can find out more about Eleanor or get in touch here. 

Q. What prompted you to enter your script, 'Something Unforeseen', to the competition?

A. It was actually the first competition I’ve ever entered. I’d heard the BSSC mentioned on Shooting People and a couple of other screenwriting websites and I thought I’d look into it. It appealed because there was no restriction on genre and they seemed pretty organised. The competition has got some high profile sponsors, plus the top prize is getting your film made, which is a pretty attractive prospect to a rookie writer like me.

Q. Did your write your script specifically for the competition?

A. Kind of. An anecdote my husband told me gave me the idea for it, and this was around the same time I saw the competition advertised. The two things just sort of combined. I like working to a deadline and the closing date provided me with just the incentive I needed to sit down and write it. I was also looking for a break between drafts of my feature.

Q. What’s the script about?

A. It’s a drama about a woman who’s trying to leave her husband. Things don’t go according to plan, to say the least. I wanted it to be about moments of clarity. And how sometimes fate – if you believe in it – can behave in mysterious ways. The story is told backwards. I like mucking about with structure because it can create a very different kind of suspense.

Q. Do you think the entry fee was justified?

A. The competition is well organised with an informative website and high-profile judges, so I think it’s fair enough to contribute to the administration. Which, with the amount of entries, must be a nightmare.

Q. When - and how - did you find out you’d got through to the first round?

A. Later than I expected, July I think. It was a reasonable wait having got my script in for the early deadline in April. I think they had more entries than ever this year, about two thousand. I found out I’d got through to the first round just by checking the website (which I’ve done quite a lot of over the last six months!). Kaos Films (the production company that produces the winners) also send out a newsletter reasonably regularly that keeps you informed of when they’ve posted each round’s qualifiers on the website. It also has news of previous winners, for example if they’ve started filming or won at a particular festival.

Q. And how many rounds are there altogether?
A. This year there were three rounds, then the semifinals. The qualifiers for each round were announced about every four to six weeks. In their newsletters, the organisers kept apologising for the delays, so I think a few people were complaining. I was just really excited and couldn’t believe it when I kept seeing my script listed at each stage.

Q. How many people got through to the semi-finals?

A. About 60. Then there was a wait of about ten days until the finalists were announced on the 13th November. I wasn’t too disappointed I didn’t get through to the final because I was just so pleased to reach the semis.

Q. Were there prizes for semi-finalists?
A. No. My husband bought me a bottle of bubbly, though...

Q. What are you doing with your script now?

A. I posted a pitch for it on Shooting People last week and I’ve had some interest already. I’m hoping it will appeal as it’s a good length (ten minutes) and low budget in terms of location. Oh, OK, I’ll admit it – I think it’s a good story too…

Q. Will you be entering the competition again next year?
A. Probably, yes. It's been quite fun but I suppose that's maybe slightly to do with the fact I got to the semis!

Q. What do you feel you've gained from getting through to the semis?
A. It's a good calling card for my script. And I think it's given me a bit of validation about what I'm doing, which helps enormously when you're just starting out.

Q. Finally, would you recommend this as a good competition for new writers?
A. Definitely. Although there are a lot of entries it's pretty high profile and I don't think it breaks the bank, either.


Many thanks to Eleanor for sparing your time to answer these questions. Congratulations again on reaching the semis, and good luck with Something Unforeseen and your other projects!

The blogger gremlins are nothing if not idiosyncratic. This post wouldn't publish while it contained the ampersand...

Saturday, November 18, 2006


It's been an up and down week. Been doing loads of work on the outline for submission to the Friendly Producer Scheme. It's not quite there yet, but feeling better about it than I was. One minute I thought it was fine, the next all I could see were the things that didn't work, and was at one point near tears of frustration because I knew what was wrong, but not how to put it right. But my lovely fella came home from work early, whisked me off to the pub with my outline, listened patiently while I moaned about my frustrating day, and then read through the outline and offered some cracking advice. Confidence restored! John August has just posted about crises of confidence, and how to tell if it's lack of confidence in your own abilities, or a realisation that maybe the idea you are working on is actually crap. He's got some sage advice, as always. I think my little lapse was the former. It's something that happens to me often enough that I really should instantly recognise it!

Frustration hasn't been limited to writing this week. Discovered an independent film festival called Unheard Voices last week. They are running a series of all day workshops throughout one week, all priced at £5 or £30 for the lot. Been trying to book tickets for a couple of the workshops. The booking form on the website doesn't work. I've phoned, I've emailed, I've left voice messages but to no avail. No one has got back to me. They clearly don't want my money. I've switched my days in the office job so I can go, now I just need to get the bloody tickets. Most annoying, and I'm feeling so petulant about it I'm refusing to post the link to the website. I'm not usually this peevish but I do hate bad customer service.

On that note, an off-topic irritation: just booked a flight with one of those delightful "no-frills" airlines (are any airlines "frills" anymore?). The latest additional charge is £5 for priority boarding. So you can pay an extra fiver to have "priority A" stamped on your boarding card and be the first group called to board. But unless you have sharp elbows that you are prepared to use to shove people out of the way, it really doesn't matter what letter is stamped on your boarding card, because the airline staff only ever half-heartedly request that "all other passengers remain seated at this time". All other passengers do not, EVER, remain seated and by the time you've pushed your way through all the people standing in your way, the airline staff are calling the next priority level anyway. Last time I flew with this airline I was priority B and was one of the last people to board. But next time things will be different. I have sharp elbows and I'm not afraid to use them!

If you've persevered and read all of this ranting post, I salute you and invite you to share your own week's woes, writing related or not.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


This Friday's Shooting People screenwriter's bulletin helpfully contained a list of screenwriting and film podcasts. I've had Creative Screenwriting Magazine's podcast page bookmarked in my favourties for months now, and not got around to actually downloading anything. And I've had Mark Kermode's Five live film reviews podcast bookmarked for a while too. Told you I'm a procrastinator. Anyway, the SP list was the motivator I needed to actually download some stuff, and I've just spent the last couple of hours listening to screenwriting podcasts while cleaning the flat (and I looked a picture strutting about with my marigolds on and my i-pod attached to my hip). I might be a terrible procrastinator but I am capable of multi-tasking! Best so far was the Creative Screenwriting Q&A with Noah Baumbach, writer-director of the wonderful The Squid and the Whale, which I just saw this week. His discussion of his writing process particularly struck a chord with me, especially the fact that he doesn't outline. Yes, I'm still struggling with the outline for my latest project, which I'm trying to sort in time to submit for the UK Friendly Producer's Scheme. Time is running out. More on my outline anxiety and lessons learned from Baumbach another time. Right now it is time to watch trashy TV and forget about my woes. For a bit.

Friday, November 3, 2006

Need Funding for Your Dream Project?

I got this email today:

Free Funding Available for Talented Artists. We are making a brand new prime time show for ITV, where the public are invited to come along and pitch for some money for absolutely anything. We have a panel of millionaires who will be giving away their money to anyone who can convince them to part with it. We are especially keen to get some very talented artists / musicians / comedians/ actors with specific projects that they need funding for. It is an amazing opportunity for people to walk away with a lot of money and fulfill some of their dreams and ambitions. To apply visit please call 0845 458 6500 

I'm just posting this because I'm vexed that they've mentioned artists, musicians, comedians and actors but not writers or filmmakers. But if you can pitch for absolutely anything, I don't see why that can't be to produce a play or a film, or for enough money to give up your day job and spend a year writing. Or, why stop at a year? These are millionaires just looking to give their money away to a charismatic creative type. I think I'm going to pitch for funding to give up my day job but continue to live in the manner I'm accustomed to - no scratch that, might as well aim high - and write, write, write. And of course whatever I write will be produced by my rich benefactor. And I want a year's supply of wine and cakes. To aid the creative process of course.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

(Mini) Festival Fever

A couple of mini-film festivals coming up in London in the next week or so. From 26th-30th April, the Apollo West End hosts the Sci-Fi London Festival. In the line-up are several UK premiere screenings, a programme of short films, and some intriguing panel discussions, such as a Contemporary Horror Heroines: The Ginger Snaps Trilogy and its Audience which includes a screening of Ginger Snaps. Even though I'm a big wimp and watch most horror films with a cushion over my face, I might try to get to that one.

The East End Film Festival runs from 27th April to 4th May, at various East London cinemas. The programme includes the London premiere of Richard E. Grant's directorial debut, Wah Wah and the UK premiere of a Chinese/French co-production, Walking on the Wild Side. Other highlights include a Q&A session with Richard E. Grant a script-to-screen session with screenwriter Toni Grisoni and an intensive animation writing workshop. All the screenings and events are reasonably priced, but you can purchase a festival pass for just £35 to guarantee unlimited entry to the festival.

I am resolutely still trying to promote Curzon Soho's Serious About Shorts series. You can catch the Bitesize Cinema programme this Saturday and on Thursday 27th there will be a selection of animated films showing as part of the Oscar Nominated Shorts programme.

Finally, I've just discovered the Bird's Eye Short Film Festival Blog, which I've added to my links. The festival itself is held in three stages, the first to celebrate International Women's Day in March, the second is coming up in June and the final part will be held in September. More details are on the festival homepage.

Who needs Cannes when you've got all this?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Sent my Coming Up submission off yesterday and have been dealing with the slight sense of a come-down that tends to follow any submission. The idea I had been working on has been with me in some shape or form for a couple of years now, stored away mostly in my head and scribbled on bits of paper. I've always tended to have a love/hate relationship with my scripts and ideas and this one was no different. There's a strange mix of emotions to sending something off for consideration - relief to finally be finished (insofar as any script is ever finished), hope for the prospects of the project, fear of rejection, resolve to take it on the chin if it is another rejection, enthusiasm for the next project, and sadness to have left behind your characters in their world, if only for awhile.

In this instance, though I really liked my finished synopsis, I still feel uncertain it is the sort of thing they are looking for, and more significantly, I feel I may be considered too inexperienced for this scheme even if my synopsis is well received. It was clearly stated that this is not a beginner's scheme, but aimed at writer's "building a track record" in film and television. When does one cease being considered a beginner, and become a writer building a track record? How exactly is that defined? I've been slowly but surely increasing my submissions over the last year and in my mind I'm working on building up that track record. But will the good folks at IWC Media agree? 

I'm not planning on giving myself too much time to think about that. As Danny Stack sagely noted in this posttoday, "the best way to wait for a reaction to a script is to start another" . I have several other things I should be getting on with now, so I plan on taking that advice to heart. I'll be rewriting some older scripts, working on a new short script hopefully for the Kaos comp, and then developing at least one of three possible feature script ideas. And at some point I do intend to come back to my synopsis for Coming Up, whether it is successful in that scheme or not. I'm going to keep busy.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Scriptwriting on a Budget: Getting Feedback

Scriptwriting is big business. There are numerous books on scriptwriting, "script gurus" offering workshops or one-to-one advice, scriptwriting retreats, scriptwriting software and of course, many script reading and script editing services. Despite the industry in scriptwriting related products, making a living out of scriptwriting (or indeed any other kind of writing) is difficult and notoriously badly paid. Aside from the fact that, as a script reader and a spec scriptwriter, I never have any money, I'm also the sort of girl who likes to find a good bargain, so I've decided to do a regular series of posts on this blog, under the theme scriptwriting on a budget.

I'm focusing this time on getting script feedback either for free, or at an a affordable rate, which I've set at £50, because it seems a realistic benchmark and because it is about as much as I would be able to pay for a report myself. At this juncture I'll point out that I'm not personally endorsing any of these services and I would ask that if anyone wants to comment on this blog, any references to the services I've mentioned here are respectful. Also, I'm not suggesting that the script reporting services that I haven't mentioned here on the basis of their rates are not also value for money. Low budget isn't always high quality, but on the other hand, I see no reason why good constructive analysis needs to be prohibitively expensive.

I mentioned in my last post a competition Spread the Word are currently holding. For those who didn't go off and check the website for details, the competition is to have your script or novel critiqued by a London-based script reading and script editing service. To be considered, you need to be comfortable posting an extract of your script on the Spread the Word forums. The extracts posted there will then be voted on by other forum users, and the manuscript with the most votes wins a report of the complete manuscript from the London Literary Consultancy. There are also a few free reports of manuscript extracts up for grabs. According to their website, paying clients would be charged £275 to have a feature screenplay (of up 120 pages) read and critiqued by LLC - not a sum most of us have just lying around in spare change! So, perhaps worth a go. More information on how to enterhere.

There are other ways to get feedback on your work for free. Online writing communities such as Writewords andWriter's Dock can be a good first port of call for informal, supportive (mostly!) feedback. And of course other writing groups, friends and family can be great resources too. BBC Writer's Room of course, accepts unsolicited scripts and the team of readers there will read at least the first ten pages of everything submitted to them. The feedback offered will be minimal, but constructive. BBC Wales also accept unsolicited scripts, though again, the feedback won't be extensive and for new writer's the Writer's Room should always be a first port of call. Screen Yorkshire have recently launched a script reading service for companies and individuals in the Yorkshire and Humber area, and the first use of the service is free to limited companies, sole traders or partnerships. Northern Film and Media offer free script assessment to writers based in Northumberland, Tyne & Wear, County Durham and Tees Valley.

Another option for free feedback (although of a slightly different nature) is the Rocliffe Forum. Submit your script to Rocliffe, and if they pick it for one of their new writing forums, the script will be read by professional actors to a select audience, with a discussion of the script following the reading. Of course, just submitting your script is no guarantee of having it selected for a performance, and there aren't any details on the website about the process of reading through submissions in the first place. I would expect that unsucessful applications don't recieve any analysis, though there may be some minimal feedback. Probably best approached as a showcase for a script that has already been through some development, but nevertheless a good opportunity that won't put you out of pocket.

If you are willing and able to part with some cash, there are numerous options for getting a professional script report, but as I said I'll stick to services for under £50. Writernet offer a script reading service on a sliding scale. Writernet subscribers get a discount, but for non-subscribers the prices are still affordable - for a fully waged writer, a report costs £30. Writernet have a particularly strong background in theatre, but will also read radio, film and TV scripts. On the subject of theatre, Soho Theatre and Writer's Centre accept unsolicited scripts and will provide a report on submissions free of charge.

Scriptonic provide script reports for £50 on feature scripts of up to 100 pages, with higher rates for longer pieces. Regular readers of this blog will have benefitted from insights from Lucy, who runs her own script reading service with reports at very affordable rates. Have a look at Lucy's excellent blog for more information. Another blogger, Scott the Reader of Alligators in a Helicopter offers script notes for $60 - about £35. And not to blow my own trumpet, I also read scripts for private clients and my rates are all below the £50 mark - I won't go into further detail here, but my contact details are in my profile for anyone interested.

So there we have it, a brief guide to free/cheap script reports or feedback. If anyone has any suggestions I've missed out on, let me know. Equally, suggestions for more Scriptwriting on a Budget guides are welcomed!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Spread the Word

As they have just announced their new season of literature workshops and events, it seemed a good idea to highlight a great writing resource for London, Spread the Word. There is a slight bias towards poetry and prose in the new schedule, but scriptwriters might find Life Recorders and Sketched of particular use. I'm thinking about signing up for these two myself. I attended one of their workshops last year, about writing for the web, and found it a really informative and enjoyable day. If you want to support Spread the Word's activities, you could also get involved as a volunteer.

For the non-London based writers who read this, take a look round the site anyway, as there is some useful information and interesting links in the resources section and a forum that could do with some lively debate. Spread the Word are also running an interesting competition at the moment, which isn't exclusive to London writers (that I can tell), but it ties in with the planned topic of my next post, so I'll discuss it then. Those of an impatient disposition can find the details on the website...

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Kaos Films British Short Script Competition

The early deadline for this competition is just a few days away, on April 14th. If you get your script in then, you'll save £10 on the entry fee. I'll be aiming to have something ready in time for the late deadline of 26th May. I did start something for this a while back, but have adandoned it on the basis of it being utter crap and have now got a much better idea to work on, so I'll be cracking on with that once I am liberated from Coming Up synopsis hell. I have decided I hate synopses - story breakdown I can do, but a sexy synopsis is beyond me. But I will persevere with it.

Anyway, for anyone entering the Kaos comp, scripts will be accepted if they are post-marked by those dates. I'm on the Kaos mailing list, and this morning they sent a useful little interview with the founder of the competition, Arif Hussein. It's useful whether you intend to apply or not, so I've copied below for your reading pleasure:

We are constantly asked by writers: What are the Judges looking for? Can I see the previous winning screenplays? In this article we've put these questions and more to Arif Hussein the founder of the BSSC.
Q: First of all I'd like to congratulate you on behalf of the writers out there for what is widely recognised as the best and the most prestigious screenplay competition in the world.
A: Thank you and I'd like to thank the writers and the sponsors who have supported the competition without them we wouldn't be here. This is the fifth year of the competition and it really has exceeded all our expectations. Today we have The NFTS as an associate partner THE TIMES newspaper as our media partner, Working Title Films are supporting us. And in this fifth year of the competition we have great prizes for the writers. The winner will not only have their screenplay produced but will be invited to the awards ceremony of The British Independent Film Awards to receive an award. All the finalists will be invited to apply to the NFTS to go on the MA in screenwriting and will by-pass all the preliminary rounds. Any one who has ever applied to a film school knows the true value of this prize and of course all the runners up will receive screenwriting software. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the judges who have put in an enormous amount of work each year particularly Nik Powell, Stephen Woolley and Michael Kuhn. I'm hugely grateful to them for their support.
Q: Let's start with the one of the most frequently asked questions. Why don't you publish the winnning screenplays on your website?
A: The main reason is that we want to produce the film and allow the film to have a reasonable exposure in the market place before we publish the screenplay. The winner of 2002 competition THE HANDY MAN by Tom Beach is a thriller with a twist in the tail. It is important for the audience's enjoyment not to know the ending. The 2003 winner THE STARS DON'T TWINKLE IN OUTER SPACE by Hank Isacc is a very powerful drama with a twist. Again, it would kill the film if we publicise the ending. And the same goes for the 2004 winner LIKE FATHER by James Walker which is about to go into production in Bosnia.
Q: Well that gives us some insight into the winning screenplay, in that all three you've mentioned have a twist in the tail. Is it reasonable to assume that the judges are looking for a screenplay with a "twist in the tail"?
A: No, not necessarily. Yes the first three winning screenplays of BSSC do have that in common but last year's winner THE OTHER ME is just a very clever piece. What they all have in common is a great story with a beginning, middle and an end. They are all mini features and that is what any script reader, production company or competition wants to see in a script. Some people say but it's only a maximum of fifteen minutes! I say to them think about the best commercials on television, the ones you remember. Now ask yourself why do you remember them? Because they tell a story with a beginning, middle and an end and they do it in just thirty seconds.
Q: Is that what the readers are looking for?
A: The readers are asked to judge the entries in six categories. 1. Plot/premise 2.Structure and pacing. 3. Characterisation. 4. Dialogue. 5. Cinematic potential and 6. Quality of writing. You don't have to get ten out of ten in each category to be the winner. We often receive scripts with no dialogue it doesn't mean they will receive zero in that category. It's not how it works. The marks of each category carry you through to the next round.
Q: So you need to score high marks in the categories that apply to your script.
A: Yes. In all the categories that apply to your screenplay.
Q: Okay, so you can't publish the winning screenplays, what about the runners-up, why don't you publish them?
A: We don't own the copyright on the runners-up. If we publish them we could be in serious trouble.

Anyone else intending to apply for this one?

Saturday, April 8, 2006


After almost 5 months, I've finally got some feedback from BBC about my Evening Play Submission. As expected, the feedback was brief, though it was encouraging and they pointed out the "emotional potential" of the piece, which I wasn't convinced I had captured in the pitch. So, I now have my first official rejection slip of the year - hurrah! I'll certainly come back to that idea, though not for a while as there are several other things I want to get on with first. I feel as though I've been working on the Coming Up submission forever and a day, so I'm hoping to put the finishing touches to that over the weekend and be able to put that one to bed too. Next up, the Kaos short film competition.

Friday, April 7, 2006

My Body Hates Me

As I've mentioned before, my current working situation is three days of the week in a stuffy office doing a job I'm not especially enthusiastic about (though it does have some nice perks), and two days at home script reading. Writing is shoe-horned into weekends and on my freelance days, the couple of hours freed up by not having to commute. My freelance days are both precious to me and pressurized. I need to make ends meet and script reading doesn't pay fantastically well, so I have to read a lot in those two days. Unfortunately, every so often my body rebels against me and prevents me from getting through as much reading and writing as I would like.

Take today. I like to have an agenda for my days at home, otherwise I get nothing done. Today the plan included doing a bit of yoga (does wonders for my dodgy back) getting through 2 scripts (both lengthy ones, but for different companies so one brief report and one detailed analysis), at least an hour on my own writing, update blog, and make a few inquiries about script reading work. But no. My body is having none of it. It has been threatening a strike for most of the week now, but chose today for a complete shut-down. To be pretentious for a moment and quote Withnail and I, "I feel like a pig shat in my head". I physically couldn't get out of bed till gone 8am, an hour and a half later than I had planned. As my other half has observed on more than one occasion, my body hates me. If I've got a deadline, have got to travel, or am looking forward to, well anything at all, it will find a way to scupper my plans. But today is the day that I fight back! I've fortified myself with pomegranate juice, toast and fruit and I've dragged myself to the computer to update the blog. I'm about an hour behind schedule, so the yoga had to go, but maybe I can fit that in a bit later. Now, I'm going to try and read through the pain and later I will try to write through it as well! What a trooper I am...

Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Suddenly all hell breaks loose with hilarious cons...

Last year I did a short course about writing arts reviews. I'm not sure review writing is really for me, but I found the course useful in other ways. As with scriptwriting, writing reviews is all about economy, and the course tutor very helpfully made a list of phrases to avoid using, and invited us to add our own pet peeves to the list.

I got thinking about this list today as I was reading scripts and again came across two of my most hated expressions : "All hell breaks loose" and "..With hilarious consequences". The latter is more frequently found in synopses and pitches, which is probably even more damaging than putting it in the script, as it increases the likelihood that the script won't be requested. I've never yet read a script that promised "hilarious consequences" that was actually funny. And I've lost count how many times I've read "all hell breaks lose" in scene directions. It's a lazy turn of phrase that leaves so much open to interpretation. Writers, describe how you imagine all hell breaking loose would look like!

So today I revisited the notes I took in the reviewing class and added "all hell breaks loose" and "with hilarious consequences" to the list of banned phrases. I'm aware that I'm not immune to overusing certain words in my own writing, so I intend to consult this list next time I'm rewriting or editing. "Suddenly" and "however" were also on the 'to avoid' list, and I'm particularly partial to the latter. "In order to" is another good example - what's wrong with just "to"? The extra words are simply a cushion. Scriptwriting is about getting to the point. No room for cushioning!

My usual approach to avoiding lazy phrases is simply to go back through my script with a highlighter pen and mark up phrases I need to rethink, or any persistently repeated words. This may seem pedantic but good scene directions are as important as any other aspect of the script, and it seems that many writers focus their attention on editing or rewriting dialogue and ignore the flow of the scene directions. A few of these tired old phrases on each page will have a huge impact on the overall pacing of the script. And as for dialogue, simply going back and cutting out words like "well" and "look" can make all the difference in injecting some energy into the script. In real life people might use the words and phrases all the time, but in a script they just slow things down.

I'm sure there are plenty more cliched words and phrases we could add to this list, these are just a few that struck me today. Anyone got any other suggestions? What makes you cringe every time you read it? What word or phrase do you find you just keep using in your own writing? I'll attempt to compile a definitive 'to be avoided' list!

Friday, March 31, 2006

Scripts I'd Like to Rewrite

Tom of The One Year Push was also tagged by Ismo and opted not to tag four more bloggers, but instead to ask scriptwriting bloggers to list the 4 films they would like to rewrite. I like making lists but can't think of 4 at the moment so here are 3:

Creep: I'm not a huge horror fan by any means, and my taste in horror veers towards the psychological horror/thriller. Still, I love the simplicity of a good, classic horror set up, like Halloween, The Shining or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Most of these are actually surprisingly light on the guts and gore. Anyway, I loved the idea of a horror set on the London Underground. The tube is scary and uncomfortable and I'm glad I don't have to use it too much anymore. But Creep was so disappointing. The first problem was that the lead character was a hateful bitch I wanted to die. Not a good start. And then killer was revealed far too early, rather than building up the suspense. And he was called 'Craig'. Not scary. If I were to rewrite it, I'd try to crank as much tension from the situation as possible, before revealing the killer. A bit like in The Descent, where there is already a lot of jumps and scares just from the fact these idiotic women are crawling around in tiny caves in the middle of nowhere. And I'd try to make the lead character someone the audience might actually want to survive!

The Warriors: I really didn't expect to like this, but I loved the idea, the central characters were nicely contrasted and it was a lot more tense than I thought it would be. Strictly speaking, what I'd want to do is remake it, because it is obviously very dated now, but I think it could be updated very effectively.

When Brendan Met Trudy: This was written by Roddy Doyle (The Commitments) and so I had high expectations. It suffered from trying too hard to be wacky and funny, without bothering to develop the characters and it was poorly structured. I'd go back to square one with the central relationship, and develop the story from there, but somehow magically maintain Roddy Doyle's wit!

Now, since, as I said I like making lists, I'm going to throw another one back out there to my fellow scriptwriting bloggers. Feel free to share your dream adaptation project. They can be book, comic, play or true story. Here are mine:

The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold: Adored this book, about a young girl who is murdered, watching over her family from heaven as they to piece together their lives after she has gone. It could have been so sentimental given the scenario, but somehow avoids this. Sadly, I'm too late for this one. Last I heard Peter Jackson had bought the rights. Before that, Lynne Ramsay had expressed an interest. Have to say I would have gone for Ramsay over Jackson, but time will tell if I'm judging harshly. I loved Heavenly Creatures after all, so we'll see.

Death and the Penguin, Andrey Kurkov: Set in the Ukraine, its about an obituary writer who adopts a penguin from a zoo that's about to close, which eventually leads to his involvement with Kiev's criminal underworld. No idea yet how I would handle this, but I'd love to have a go anyway. Misha the depressed penguin is a fantastic creation, and the book is very visual, so I think it would make a great adaptation. I'm sure I'm not the only one who thinks so, but if the rights have been bought, I haven't been able to find anything about it.

Summer of My German Soldier, Bette Greene: One of my favourite childhood books, about a young Jewish girl in the Deep South during WWII, who befriends an escaped German POW. Very poignant and a very resonant story. There has already been a TV adaptation of this in the 70's, according to Imdb, but I think enough time has passed to tackle it again. I'd want it to be a feature rather than TV.

I do have a fourth but I'm not telling as it is something I intend to tackle in the near future. So watch this space!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Some Updates

A little while ago I posted about short films on the web, and some opportunities for short film script competitions. I've just discovered the Super Shorts Film Festival, which will be held for the second time this summer, entries are being accepted now until the final deadline of 6th June. Perhaps an opportunity more geared towards directors than scriptwriters, but for any screenwriters out there lucky enough to have a produced short film it's a good opportunity to have it screened. You can also watch last years Super Shorts entries here.

Another one for those of you lucky enough to have a completed short film ready (or nearly ready) to go is theBetting on Shorts competition. The theme for submissions is 'vacancy' and there's a prize of £200.

Finally, Curzon Soho are screening a selection of British short films from the Dazzle distribution label tomorrow night at 6pm. Tickets cost £5.50 and I'll be going if I can get out of work a bit early.

And by the way, I am still interested in any views on the short scripts I recommended in my original post, or any alternative suggestions. Ot perhaps I should deduce from the lack of response to that post that no one else is all that interested in shorts? If so, your missing out I tell you!

Short films aside, I mentioned two new script opportunities recently, so here are another couple I spotted recently:

The London Script Consultancy is looking for interns. This is an excellent opportunity to gain an in depth knowledge of all aspects of screenwriting and the film industry, assisting with script reading, film reviewing, industry research, and general administration. Applicants should be based in London, have a good telephone manner, basic computer skills and be available 10-6pm Mon-Fri for a minimum of 2 months. To apply, 

And there's still a chance to get involved with this summer's screenwriting festival in Cheltenham:

The first international Screenwriters' Festival is taking place at Cheltenham Film Studios at the end of June 2006, and we are looking for dedicated volunteers to work in a variety of roles, both in the lead up to the event and during the festival itself. This is an excellent opportunity to get an inside view into the running of an international festival, with the chance to work alongside top industry professionals and big names in screenwriting and film
There are full or part time roles available.
To apply contact Adam Laity

Monday, March 27, 2006

A Couple of Opportunities - London Based

From Arts Council England's "Arts News" mailing list:

This course is aimed at anyone who is interested in writing for
television, film, radio or theatre. The course covers all the main
areas of scriptwriting craft. If you have story ideas you would like to
bring to the class for development, please bring them but this is not
essential and no previous writing experience is necessary. Everyone
welcome. Concessions available. For further details and booking

From Creative Capital:

Film London Company Placement Scheme
Applications are now welcome for trainees to the Film London Company Placement Scheme for new entrants into the film and TV industries. Film London is supporting six film and TV companies to provide six-month paid work placements. The companies hosting the placements are:- Karen Hamilton Productions- Diverse Productions- Two Four Productions- Number 9 Films- Adventure Pictures- Tigerlily Films.As a trainee benefits include: - six month placement - minimum wage (£5.05 per hour - 40 hour week)- a structured work plan- a senior supervisor / mentor. Film London welcomes applications from individuals from under-represented groups including: individuals excluded through economic circumstance, women, people of Black or ethnic minority background and people with disabilities.This scheme is supported by the London Development Agency. Application deadline 7 April 2006.
Film London Contact: Kevin Dolan
Phone: 020 7613 7676


Oblique Ismo has tagged me with the "Four Things Meme", so here we go:

Four Jobs I've had:

  1. Assistant Stage Manager
  2. Shelf stacker
  3. Youth worker
  4. University administrator
Four Films I can Watch Over and Over Again:
  1. I Went Down
  2. Jaws
  3. Star Wars original trilogy (Okay, that's cheating a bit but there are lots more than 4 films I can watch again and again)
  4. The Breakfast Club
Four Places I've lived:
  1. Donegal
  2. Dublin
  3. Dorset
  4. Hampshire
Four TV Shows I love:
  1. Spooks
  2. Shameless
  3. Life on Mars (please, please, please BBC/Kudos, don't make us wait another year for the next series!)
  4. Green Wing
Four Places I've Been on Holiday:
  1. Netherlands
  2. France
  3. Spain
  4. York
Four of my Favourite Dishes:
  1. Veggie Chilli
  2. Veg Stir Fry
  3. Brother-in-law's veggie lasagne (spotting a theme yet?)
  4. Any veggie dish with garlic, tomatoes, onions and peppers but absolutely no mushrooms. I do not eat fungus.
Four Blogs I Visit everyday:
  1. Writer's Guild
  2. Danny Stack
  3. Bang 2 Write
  4. Scott the Reader
Four Places I'd Rather Be Right Now:
  1. Home (London)
  2. Home (Ireland)
  3. That's
  4. it!
Four Bloggers I'm Tagging
Can only think of three who may not have been tagged with this already (and apologies if you already have!)
  1. Lucy
  2. Dom
  3. Olaf
There, now, wasn't that enlightening?

Friday, March 24, 2006

Light Housekeeping

I've (hopefully) sorted out some of the links on the right that weren't working, and added a few new links as well. I thought it was about time I put a picture in my profile as well. I wouldn't dream of inflicting my mug on the www, so here's a picture with, appropriately enough, some pretty light and shade!

I've tidied up a few loose ends writing wise as well. Some helpful people over on the Writer's Dock noticeboard have helped with a few research questions I had regarding my synopsis for Coming Up. Thankfully, the story seems to hold up and its really taking shape now. I'd been worrying for a while about which script to submit with the synopsis as a writing sample, but I've found something old that I think would be an appropriate choice, and it doesn't need too much re-writing before it's presentable, which is a bonus! I've also been chasing up script reading opportunities this week and things are looking positive with one company in particular, so fingers crossed, as I need the work!

So I feel nice and refreshed for the weekend knowing I've done what I can to tidy up a few things. Unfortunately, I now need to do some actual tidying up, which probably won't leave me feeling quite so refreshed. Still, for some reason I get some of my best ideas when doing washing up or hoovering, so it isn't all bad!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Cool for Cats

I've often thought I'd like to write for a children's series or cartoon so I try to pay attention to what's on CBBCwhen I can - not easy as I'm not always home during the day, but I try. So I read this Guardian article with interest. Jess, the black and white cat belonging to Postman Pat, is to get his own spin-off show! The new series will be called Guess with Jess and is aimed at pre-school children.

My initial excitement at this was soon replaced with dismay as I read further. Three things unsettled me: 1) the new show will be computer-generated, 2) Jess will TALK!!! And 3) production hasn't even begun yet and a deal has already been struck with Fisher Price toys, so when the series does air, it will "be accompanied by a host of toys and other merchandise". Interesting that the show has been developed due to "public demand" - Postman Pat was first aired 25 years ago so the people who remember it fondly, like myself, are now adults (well, in theory anyway) and possibly even have kids themselves. If they are the ones who have expressed interest, they are surely going to be disappointed with the new, all-improved CGI'd Jess. Of course, cable channels like Nickleodeon show old episodes of classic kids programmes, so I'm sure there are a few new generation fans of Postman Pat out there. But again, if that's the case, why not just bring back Postman Pat as it was? Who wasn't dissappointed by the new Muppet Show, or the fact that the Pink Panther talks now?

As for the marketing deal, I find it a little disturbing that this has been decided before the new show has even begun production. Of course, marketing has always targeted kids with various degrees of subtlety - the trend for supermarkets to put brightly coloured confectionery right by the tills where kids can easily grab them, for example. And I have distinct memories of the merchandising tie-ins connected with my favourite childhood shows - I got a Roland Rat bathset one Christmas, and at one stage I'm sure I had a Zig and Zag duvet set. Still, announcing the merchandising deal in the same press release as the show seems pretty cynical to me.

I admit that have a slightly rose-tinted memory of childhood TV, sitting on my Granda's knee (back in the days when that sort of thing wasn't met with suspicion) watching things like Button Moon and Bagpuss. The charm of these shows was their simplicity, and nowadays kids TV shows seem to be so sophisticated. Still, I did recently stumble across a lovely animated series on CBBC called Binka. I was home during the day and depressed, naturally I turned to kids TV to uplift my spirits and uplift my spirits Binka did! Binka is a big fat cat who spends his days eating, sleeping and occasionally pretending to catch mice. As a cat lover, I really liked the fact that it captured the character of cats so well - there's a bit in one episode where Binka finds a bed to sleep on, and kneads the duvet with his paws before he settles down, like I've seen cats do so often! It's aimed at young kids (not overgrown ones like me, sadly) and Binka doesn't talk or do anything particularly human, apart from maybe trying to impress Suki the girl-cat. It's very endearingly narrated by Stephen Tomkinson and I'd recommend anyone with kids, or adults in touch with their inner child, to look out for it. More information about Binka here. Not sure what time it is on, or even if it is still showing. Hopefully there will be another series, or it will get an airing on CBeebies or something. Interestingly enough, I haven't encountered any Binka soft toys, duvet sets or bath sets!

Despite my despair at the CGI Jess, I still look forward to the imminent resurrection of Jackanory - please BBC, don't mess it up!

More classic kids TV here.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Comments Function Sorted - Thanks Scott!

Thanks to Scott the Reader for alerting me to the fact that I was unwittingly preventing comments on this blog - seems I had the 'moderate comments' box ticked. Anyway, I've unticked it now so apologies if anyone else did try to leave a comment - feel free now to share your views!

On an unrelated note, many of us UK-based scriptwriters are probably now aware of the upcoming Screenwriters Festival in Cheltenham. Anyone with festival organising/admin experience may be interested in this opportunity I spotted on Talent Circle:

Working with the Director and the Board of Screenwriters Festival, a new exciting international festival devoted to the art, craft and business of screenwriting, to organise, book and arrange the logistics of the June 2006 festival and project managing this to a tight deadline and budget.
Skills:High degree of organisation, methodical approach, good planning, financial control and project delivery: involving multi-tasking across a range of different tasks under time and financial pressures. A good communicator who can work both in a team and alone, and is self-motivated. A knowledge and a desire to operate under health& safety regulations associated with events staging. Essential: Good people skills, sense of humour, flexibility and commitment to the Screenwriters Festival 
Experience: Festival administration and organising, or TV or Film production manager skills. Project management including finance. Other requirements:To be largely based in Gloucestershire from April to July 2006. This is a paid freelance contract. Please do not apply unless you have relevantadministrativee experience and references. 

Contact details etc can be found in the original ad, though you might have to log in to Talent Circle to view it. It's a free site though and worth signing up if you haven't already. As for the job, it's a great opportunity to get involved with the first UK screenwriting festival. I'd go for it myself if it weren't necessary to be based in Cheltenham. Good luck to anyone who does apply!

Oh, and don't forget, as part of the Screenwriters Festival there's a short script competion for writers who live, work or study in Gloucestershire.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Short Films

As well as working on a synopsis for a 30-minute single drama for Coming Up, my other writing project at the moment is a short film, which I may or may not enter for the Kaos Films short script competition. The concept is simple, as all good shorts should be, and the first draft is 4 pages. The minimum page length for the Kaos comp is 5 pages, and you might think it an easy enough task to stretch 4 pages to 5, but I'm wary of dragging it out just for the sake of it. 1 minute of screen time can be a very long time if isn't necessary to push the story forward. Of course, as the early deadline is 14th April and the late and final deadline in May, I suppose there's time to write another short to submit to Kaos, one that more naturally suits the specified timeframe.

In fact, though I don't write too many shorts, I've decided I'd like to have a few good short scripts under my belt by the end of the year. Short scripts are great projects for new writers, because they can usually be made cheaply and quickly so it is a good way to get a writing credit. Sites like Shooting PeopleMandy and Talent Circle frequently feature posts from young directors or fledgling production companies looking for shorts scripts to direct/produce. There are also some funding opportunities and schemes for short films, such as the UK Film Council's digital shorts scheme and The Irish Film Board also have a number of short film funding initiatives.

With broadband internet connections now the norm, there is no excuse for not checking out some of the huge range of shorts available online. BBC Film NetworkChannel 4 Film and Atom Films should be your first port of call. Shooting People and Raindance have both produced DVD collections of short films, details of which arehere, and here. Getting hold of scripts of produced short film scripts isn't quite so easy. I have manged to find some of the winning scripts from the Orange short film competition (sadly no longer active) to download here and there are a couple of shorts on the Internet Movie Script Database but otherwise I've drawn a blank. If anyone has any suggestions, let me know.

For anyone about to trawl the net for short films, looking for inspiration, here are a few recommendations:

Six Shooter - Written and directed by playwright Martin McDonagh, this won the 2006 Oscar for Best Live Action Short. With two mesmerising performances from two of my favourite Irish actors, Brendan Gleeson and Ruadhri Conroy, dazzling dialogue and a darkly funny tone, it's a must see.

Old Street - Written by another playwright, Patrick Marber (Closer), this stars Ray Winstone as a man stuck in a carpark late at night.

Bouncer - Another one starring Ray Winstone, just because I love him so! A riveting drama with Winstone doing what he does best - playing a hard bloke with strong sense of morality.

Dual Balls - One of my tutors at university screened this clever little comedy, and it still sticks in my mind years later.

Undone - Watched this recently and again its a very simple idea, inspired by a Bjork song, which was reason enough for me to watch it.

I've picked these are they are a good variety in length, theme and genre, but I'd love to get some suggestions of other good short films, or opinions on my selections.