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Writers Academy 13

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Ceri Meyrick | 13:55 UK time, Thursday, 28 May 2009

The First Sift

We've now completed our first sift. My team and I shut ourselves away in the WritersRoom offices for three days and have "longlisted" the applications down to 150. The rest will have received emails telling them they didn't make it this time. So, if you haven't heard anything yet, you're still in the running.

The process of the first sift involves us reading the first ten pages of each script. If we then want to read further, the script is put forward for a further two complete reads by members of the Drama Department. This is the Longlist.

We can't provide any meaningful individual feedback for the 350 entries we reject at this stage, there's just too many, so I've tried to put down a few thoughts here that may be helpful.

It's a very intensive few days. What amazes me is that the best scripts do stand out, unequivocally. A good script lets the reader know within the first ten pages why it needs to be read. There is nothing more frustrating than reading 10 pages of a script and finding yourself wondering why the writer selected these characters and this situation. Some scripts seem so intent on establishing their world that they forget that something needs to happen with this world to generate a narrative.

Personally speaking, I felt there was more variety and ambition to the scripts submitted this year. Subject-wise there was more teen drama, more horror and more funerals. No idea why that is. I blame Skins! Again, as last year, it was often the theatre play scripts that stood out for their originality, maybe because writers felt they had more freedom with the format. There were certainly many technically competent television screenplays, but some of these told rather boring stories, or that simply wallowed in depression.

I've also put down some general thoughts gathered from the team:

Positives:

- Most of the readers felt that the standard was higher this year.
- Lots of bravery - interesting original worlds.
- Sparky dialogue
- Technically accomplished scripts (although this meant the need to be stand out original was greater)

Negatives:

- Too many stage directions
- Scripts opening with several pages of monologues
- Dialogue that sprouted facts endlessly
- Spelling mistakes and hard to read script formats

So, now we begin the process of shortlisting down to the final thirty people who'll be invited to the Workshops in July. I'll report back on that process towards the end of June.

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