Writers Academy 14

Wednesday 8 July 2009, 10:52

Ceri Meyrick Ceri Meyrick

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It's been a month since I last blogged, and we've now shortlisted down to thirty writers. This means that everyone who entered should have received a "yes" or a "no". If you haven't - something's gone wrong - so you need to get in touch with us directly.

This is the longest stage of the process. Each of the 150 long-listed scripts was read in full by two members of the drama department and marked in eight categories: Dialogue, Character, Narrative Structure and Pace, Distinctive Voice, Emotional Appeal, Visual Storytelling, Credible World and "Did it keep your attention?". Each section is marked out of five and so the final score is a mark out of 80. It's tough "scoring" writing ability, but at least it gives us something to hang our responses on and it's the best system we've come up with so far. Anyone got a better suggestion I would love to hear it!

The team and I then read as many of those as is humanly possible (usually all those with marks over 50). We then (and only then) look at the application forms and factor those into the equation:
- Do they watch (or at least pretend to watch!) Continuing Drama? - you'd be amazed those applications that don't even mention the programmes... or television!
- Do they have some knowledge of the pressure they'll be working under?
- Do they come across as writers who can work collaboratively? - really difficult to judge, and this is what the workshops are all about.
- What's their writing CV so far and how does it show an aptitude for this kind of writing? (that doesn't mean only writers who've worked on continuing drama before)
- Do they want it? - do they really want it? Again impossible to judge from 400 words on a stuffy online application form, but you have to try get to the heart of what they're saying and make a judgement on this.

Then... we get input from the Writersroom for anyone on the list who's work they've read, we ask around, we ask for second opinions, we compare notes... basically we do everything we can to try and make this rather artificial process as fair and as exhaustive as possible.

I'll be meeting the final thirty at the workshops later this week. We're very excited about them, and the quality of work this year, everyone agrees, has been higher than ever. If you didn't make it this time, I would really encourage you to try again next year. I could have filled the workshops several times over with worthy people.

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    Comment number 1.

    Thanks, Ceri. Really useful to hear about the process. Sounds exhaustive!

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    Comment number 2.

    I understand the BBC has a policy of not giving feedback to individual entrants who failed to make the final shortlist, and given the numbers involved it makes sense, but I wonder if an exception could be made here? I'm sure there are many from the final 150 (myself included) who would find it useful to know where they went wrong at the last stage, especially if they are thinking about trying again next year. Even just knowing the final 'score' out of 80 would be useful! Would this be possible?

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    Comment number 3.


    ... and others who've asked for personal feedback. It's not a question of BBC policy here. It's just not practical. We look at people's scripts in detail - three/four different people read them. The marks are just a guide, as the team reads each script and takes a view on the marks - so not just the highest end up going through, but the ones that are right for us. In the end you get through via a combination of several people's subjective reactions. It's not a question of "going wrong" and how can you do it right the next time.

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    Comment number 4.

    Thanks Ceri, that's fair enough, I do understand. And I didn't really mean 'going wrong', just why the script/application didn't get through to the final list. But like I say, I do understand why you can't do it.

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    Comment number 5.

    Ceri, you suggest that people try again, but I hear and read of people who've tried two, three times and never seem to get any further. Is is possible to say of the thirty on the shorlist, how many have applied before? How many are making progress, how many get selected on a second or third application?

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    Comment number 6.

    @ Brucewriter

    I can tell you that just over a third of the shortlist had applied before.

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    Comment number 7.

    Ceri, of those, how many have fared better this time compared to previous applications? Have they all made the workshop/shortlist before?

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    Comment number 8.

    Two or three had made the workshop stage before. The rest hadn't got that far before.

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    Comment number 9.

    Thanks for clearing that up. Sounds like there is value in applying again.


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