Monday, 13 July 2009

BBC Writers Room Roadshow July 1st Liverpool

It was July 1st; remember that far back, it was when the sun was dragging Britain into a horrible lethargic daze. Probably the last week of our summertime. Since then I have taken a week out, on holiday, hence why the write up on the BBC writers room roadshow is a little after the fact.
It doesn’t really matter I suppose it’s not like anyone was chomping at the bit to read this, but I hope if you stumble across this you’ll find it interesting. The following contains what happened at the event, and what nuggets of information I gleamed from it which may help your writing endeavours.
The presentation began with some numbers, the writers room gets over 10,000 scripts to read per year. That number is rising by around a 1,000 each year. It takes four months from submission to getting feedback on average. If your script hasn’t grabbed the reader within 10 pages it is discarded without a full read and doesn’t get feedback. Those 10 pages are essential. If you manage to get the reader’s attention in those your script will get a full read and will be sent back with feedback.
The presentation was done with a ‘common sense’ power point, which power pointed out the obvious. If they have to point out some of the errors they did in that power point I dread to think how bad some people’s scripts are.
Apart from the power point they had a clip of Simon Ashdown’s and Jeremy Dyson’s Funland. The clip was of the opening moments of the series, and was used to outline what the writers room are looking for from those opening pages of your script. If you have the DVD, watch it, take notes.
Basically my thoughts were that the opening outlined the following:-

1. Set the tone of the series

2. Bring out the mystery, or hook to grip the viewer

3. Introduce the MAIN characters

4. Beware exposition, maybe begin with an action sequence

5. Tell the story visually

6. Focus- Give the audience a focused way into the story

Following this was the usual screenwriting book rubbish about character goals and structure. Not rubbish advice, just the kind of information which is everywhere. The real interesting stuff was in the figures. So, here we go with some percentages:-

80% Do not get past the first 10 pages, so get no feedback

17% Get a full read of their script and feedback

3% get invited to send in another script

1% get forwarded to a BBC commissioner

Not heartening figures, but all screenwriters must savour that challenge...OR DIE!

The last titbit of information I picked up was that the writers room will look at short film scripts as long as they are over ten pages in length. Next few weeks I will be sending through a short film of mine for them to have a look at, to begin the fight against the 20% feedback figures.
Good luck everyone.