Writersroom organises development session for promising group

Brothers Keith and David Lynch Film writers Keith and David Lynch learn about getting work from script to screen

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There are some things in life that are a sure bet. Here's a few - we'll be wearing winter coats for the next five months; there will be an area of low pressure stuck over the UK for weeks; a celebrity will sue a newspaper; and Kate Middleton will make news headlines with a dress.

But you'd be a fool to bet on a new writer getting their work published. The odds are never stacked in their favour.

Twenty-five new writers have defied the odds and taken the first steps to getting their work seen by the right people. These writers are the latest crop of talent to come through Writersroom, the BBC's unit for championing new writing talent across drama, entertainment and children's programmes.

While Writersroom used to run an unsolicited script system all year, it now will only review writers' work at specific times, in the autumn, winter and spring. These 25 writers - whittled down from 2000 - are the first to make it through the revamped system.

In a brightly lit room that looks out to the traffic-clogged artery that is W1, the group gathers to listen to BBC in-house producers and executives talk about what they are looking for in terms of ideas.

Start Quote

It's easy for writers to get pigeonholed”

End Quote Kate Rowland Creative director of new writing talent
Too much crime

Hilary Salmon, a senior executive producer in drama, sits down on a creamy settee and kicks off by saying that there is far too much crime drama. (Aspiring tv writers can tick that genre off their list now.) The BBC producer is currently busy with a drama called Frankie, about a nurse in Bristol who has to deal with the pressures of modern life.

She tells the novice writers her top rule for writing for tv - 'Watch as much television as you can.' A writer asks Salmon how she finds things that have never been done before. The senior exec is quick to point out that she's not looking for something totally original.

To emphasize her point, she holds up her hands and brings her palms together until they are about an inch apart: 'We are looking for things that are only that different.' In other words, don't try to reinvent the wheel.

Kate Rowland, creative director of new writing talent, likes running these sessions because they get fresh, enthusiastic people thinking about different writing opportunities at the BBC - and not just those that most suits their style. 'It's easy for writers to get pigeonholed,' she argues. The selected writers here will also get feedback on their work, ideas about how to progress it and invaluable tools that will help them jump some of the biggest hurdles in the commissioning process.

If showbusiness is about who you know and not what you know, these sessions are also the ultimate meet-and-greet. 'The writers get to talk to people in a very intimate way and not in a big forum,' the creative director says.

The session is likely to boost confidence, but will it lead to a commission? It's a question that hangs unspoken in the air. Here's a tip for you gamblers out there - I would bet that someone in this room succeeds where many others fail.

Ariel meets four talented writers

Vicki Woof, Cumbria

Vicki Woof Vicki changed her life after losing an eye

A successful university lecturer and creative writing teacher for 20 years, Vicki didn't consider letting other people see her work - she's been writing poetry and stories since very young. 'It's always been a bit of a dirty secret,' she confesses. When a routine eye infection led to several operations and the loss of her eye, she decided that life was too short to avoid taking big risks.

She quit her job and decided to focus on writing full time, while her husband becomes the breadwinner for the family. 'I'm unsalaried for the first time in my life, which is very scary,' admits the mother of three.

Vicki applied to Writersroom after searching for a forum for her work. The former lecturer found out that her script - a radio play about suicide and an incontinent cat - had been selected for further development on her last working day.

Keith and David Lynch, Essex

Keith and David Lynch at writing session Brothers Keith and David don't get enough sleep

The Lynch brothers aren't getting enough sleep. Film buffs, with an impressive list of credits to their name so far, they are still unable to give up their day jobs. One works as a banker and the other as an editor for a short film channel. 'If we could write scripts in exchange for food or rent, we would just do that,' says Keith.

Writing partners for the last six years, the siblings have won competitions and sold a modern-day adaptation of Oliver Twist, which will become Red Bull's first narrative feature film. Like old married couples, the duo finish each other's sentences and claim to pick each other up when things aren't going so well. It helps that they have the same tastes in film, singling out Memento and The Usual Suspects as two of the biggest influences on their work.

They submitted Sitting Ducks, an action comedy, to the Writersroom. Dave calls it 'Blackhawk Down meets The Hangover'. It's their first foray into comedy, but they are also making their directorial debut with a sci-fi thriller and would like to work on a tv idea. On their versatility, Dave says: 'We love all cinema. We see ideas in every single moment so we don't like to restrict ourselves.'

Mwewe Sumbwanyambe, Yorkshire

Mwewe Sumbwanyambe Mwewe reflects on his homeland

Born in Scotland but originally from Zambia, Mwewe - who has been writing for six years - didn't return to his native homeland until he was 16 years old. 'The only images that you only really see about Africa in this country are those of malnourished children with bones sticking out of their skin and flies crawling through their noses.' The writer was shocked to discover that there is a large middle class. The experience made him reassess how people, who come from other places, think about England.

He submitted a play called Back Home Contemplation, which won him a place on today's session. The work, which he hopes will get staged, deals with two fractured families that end up migrating towards South Africa and Zambia after the general elections in Zimbabwe in 2008.

Mwewe is no stranger to the BBC, with two seed commissions that originated through Writersroom. 'I will always write theatre, it's my passion. It has to be because it's so poorly paid, but I do want to write tv and write radio as well,' he says.

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