Archives for May 2011

Writers Academy 27

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Ceri Meyrick | 11:16 UK time, Friday, 27 May 2011

The First Sift

The First Sift

We've now read the first ten pages of all of our 495 entries for the Writers Academy. As you can see, we all sit in a room together (Readers, my team and I) with "The Pile". It is a gruelling, nerve-wracking, but also hugely enjoyable three days. Thank you all the writers who entered for their brilliant imaginations, jokes, characters, heart-stopping moments and emotional hits.

Hugely Enjoyable

We can't give individual feedback to every script that doesn't get through, but we do all compare notes at the end and try and get a sense of some general observations.

We always try and spot trends - but this year that was really heard. The scripts were more varied than they have ever been - which is encouraging. Some mini trends did emerge though: gambling, bullying, suicides, Taliban metaphors, kids gangs/street talk, graphic sex talk, characters called "ASBO" and MPs. Make whatever you want from that -we drew no sensible conclusions.

Unfortunately, there was a worrying lack of decent female lead characters, or indeed female characters overall. Why this should be noticeable less than in other years is disturbing.

Unlike previous years, when the theatre pieces have stood out as the most interesting creatively, there were many more really ambitious TV screenplay samples. Hurrah!

We now have 157 longlisted scripts - each of which will get two full reads from members of the Drama department. We will be shortlisting these down 30 at the beginning of July, so I'd better get reading.....


You can also follow me on Twitter for updates @cerimeyrick

Laughing Stock: Final shortlist

Fiona Mahon | 13:07 UK time, Monday, 23 May 2011

We are very pleased to announce that the final shortlist for the Laughing Stock competition is:

Sarah Seth
John Dorney
Elliott Kerrigan
Mathilda Gregory
Shazad Mohammed
Andrew Parkhill
Jo Williams
Daniel Moulson
David Byrne

Our judges - Cheryl Taylor, Simon Nye, Rebecca Front, Adil Ray and Kate Rowland were hugely impressed by the standard of entries. Read Kate and Cheryl's feedback below:

Kate Rowland, Creative Director of New Writing at the BBC
It was amazing after all the work, from both writers and readers, to be sat in the pub with Cheryl Taylor, Simon Nye, Rebecca Front and Adil Ray judging the final shortlist. I had promised the judges 12 scripts - but in the end they got 14 as the list was too strong to cut people out at that stage.

So, how did we make the final decision? Well each script on the shortlist was rigorously debated, we agreed to disagree - what was resonant, distinctive and funny for one was not so for another, but round that table was real admiration for the writers. Cheryl thought the standard incredibly high, lines were quoted, images debated and John Dorneys boldness of vision to sumit a comedy script without any dialogue discussed.

I think on behalf of all the judges I want to say to all the writers out there thank you . I know how hard it is. Blood has been sweated to make the comedy work and I do not underestimate what has gone into each script. In the end this was a competition for a development opportunity and we only had room for 8 well in the end we made it 9 as we were so torn. And to those that didn't make it you are not forgotten especially those who made it so far. You are in our heads - and that is a very good place to be.

Cheryl Taylor, Controller, BBC Comedy Commissioning

I was astounded by the number of entries for the Laughing Stock Comedy initiative and very impressed indeed by the quality of the finalists. It's reassuring to know that there are so many imaginiative and funny writers at large and we fully expect to be hearing a lot more from them.

TV Drama - The Writers' Festival 2011

Kate Rowland Kate Rowland | 10:41 UK time, Thursday, 19 May 2011

Writers' Festival poster

So the 2011 Writers' Festival is shaping up, and is even more exciting. We've listened to the feedback from last year which was fantastic, and we've tried to incorporate as many of your ideas as possible with our wonderful curating group led by Paula Milne, with Toby Whithouse, Stephen Butchard, Jack Thorne and Alice Nutter making sense of it all.

I always know when the festival is getting close, I get the 3 o'clock wake up with - why on earth am I putting myself through this again? Nobody will turn up? What's left to talk about? But there's stacks. TV Drama drives the schedule, the emotional engagement that the writers and audience have to the final outcome is intense and provokes passionate debate so that's what the festival is for - a forum for professional writers to engage with one another, discuss big ideas, have inspiring masterclasses and take away some practical thinking.

Attendees at TV Drama: The Writers' Festival

I originally came up with the idea for a TV Drama Writers Festival four years ago. The aim was that it should be writer-led, and across the whole of the broadcast industry. The festival is a fitting way to mark our commitment to being a force for change for writers.

BBC writersroom is an open door to the BBC, dealing with 1000s of unsolicited scripts a year and working in partnership across the industry. Our role is to support the inspiring work done across BBC departments and facilitate new ways of working. Our job is to help writers to speak their voice - and the festival is a brilliant place to do just that. I look forward to seeing you all in Leeds.

Image from the Writers' Festival 2010.

TV Drama: The Writers' Festival will be held on July 6th & 7th at Leeds College of Music. Apply now for your ticket.

New competition: Get a Squiggle On

Fiona Mahon | 16:40 UK time, Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Get a Squiggle On logo.

Want to write for Cbeebies? We've just launched our brand new competition, Get a Squiggle On. We're looking for 20-minute live action scripts - they can in any genre including Drama, Comedy, Music, Dance and Puppets, or a combination of more than one, suitable for children aged 3-6.

You might never have written for a pre-school audience; you might be new to writing completely - whatever story you choose to tell, remember to let your imaginations run wild! This is an opportunity to develop your work, bolster your writer's 'toolbox' and craft, working with the Cbeebies team.

For full details on how to enter, visit the Get a Squiggle On competition page.

We've put together a selection of resources to help get you inspired - visit our resources page to download Cbeebies scripts, watch some clips from Grandpa In My Pocket, Mr Bloom's Nursery and more, and to read some top tips on writing for a pre-school audience from Zingzillas' Producer and Script Editor, Dominic Macdonald.

Check out some highlights from Cbeebies in the showreel below:

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Stay tuned to the blog for more updates, video resources and guest blogs during the competition.

Good luck!

BBC TV blog: Doctors

Fiona Mahon | 14:57 UK time, Friday, 13 May 2011

Image from BBC One drama, Doctors.

Really interesting post on the BBC TV Blog that's well worth a read: Peter Lloyd, series producer for Doctors, talks about how continuing dramas deal with having to can characters who they've spent time developing because an actor wants to leave. He also talks about how the team of writers approach developing new characters and their unique 'voices', and the challenges writers face working on a series drama:

"Some writers really struggle to get these voices right. They may be more interested in plotting than they are in characters.

Or they may be brilliant at writing their own characters but less interested in writing someone else's.

But if you're going to write for series drama, you're going to have to get the knack of it, or you'll be rewritten somewhere down the line... and you probably won't be asked back."

Read the full blog post on the BBC TV blog.

TV Drama - The Writers' Festival: Hugo Blick

Fiona Mahon | 14:43 UK time, Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Another update on TV Drama - The Writers' Festival - we're very excited to announce that writer, director and producer, Hugo Blick will be speaking this year.

Best known for his work on Sensitive Skin, Marion & Geoff and The Last Word Monologues, Hugo has most recently written and produced new BBC Two thriller, The Shadow Line.

Read a recent interview with Hugo on the Digital Spy website.

Watch a clip from The Shadow Line below:

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TV Drama: The Writers' Festival takes place on July 6th and 7th at Leeds College of Music. Find out how to apply for a ticket for the festival.


Danny Brocklehurst Danny Brocklehurst | 15:42 UK time, Monday, 9 May 2011

Exile is without a doubt one of my proudest moments as a writer. It is a show that sets out with serious themes in mind and explores them through character, whilst utilising a thriller motor to forward the narrative.

So where did it come from? Well, having worked with Paul Abbott on three previous shows - Clocking Off, Linda Green and Shameless - we were keen to work together again. After thrashing through a few different ideas, Paul produced a short six page document from his bottom drawer and asked me to read it. It was entitled Exile and was the premise for an independent feature film. It was set in America and involved a sex scandal in US politics. But at the heart of it was a father /son story, which really interested me. So we set about reconfiguring the narrative and it kind of took on a new life. I brought in a lot of themes that excited me and took it into the politics of local Government. But I always tried to remain truthful to Paul's original idea.

Image from episode 1 of Exile.

The first draft of episode one I wrote very quickly, and we then did subsequent drafts with various changes, especially to the opening ten minutes. Previously the opening was set in London and showed how Tom screwed up his life, before finally setting off back up North. The BBC, in their wisdom, said the story started when he got in his car and drove away from that life. So we made the decision to show the way he messed things up in very brief flashbacks as he progressed towards his childhood home. It is a decision I now know was the right one.

I worked out the whole story in advance and when the show was greenlit, I set about writing the other episodes. Some writers like to work out story as they go along, but personally I need a road map. I have to have my destination worked out prior to setting off.

I wanted to write a truthful, moving father/son story. Exile is dressed up as a thriller, but for me it's a story about fathers, sons and how difficult those relationships can sometime be. I love stories about families because all kinds of secrets are contained there. We all have families and we all understand how endlessly fascinating those relationships can be. Our parents give us our formative view of the world and we, in turn do the same for our kids. We battle with our siblings and we rage at our offspring. The home should be a place of harmony, but often it becomes a battleground or a place of lies and half truths.

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They say write about what you know, but that is only half true. If writers only wrote about what they know, drama would be very dull indeed. You have to try and capture the truth of emotions you recognise and place them into a dramatic context. I understand heartbreak, because it has happened to me, but I can apply that same feeling to all kinds of different people who - in that moment - feel as if their world is falling apart. This is what writers do when they are writing at their best. For me, drama fails when it fails to emotionally engage, when writers refuse to put a piece of themselves into their work.

I was lucky enough to be mentored by Nicola Shindler and Paul Abbott, two of the best in the business, and I now feel the pressure to do good work, because I want to reach their standards. And that's not a bad motivating force. But I'm a particular kind of writer; I could never do sci-fi or something vampires, because that stuff just doesn't interest me. I want to grapple with contemporary lives. My other favourite writer is Tony Marchant - if I could get close to some of the stuff he's done, I'd be a very happy man.

Read the script for Episode 1 of Exile in the writersroom script archive.

Danny Brocklehurst will be speaking at this year's TV Drama: The Writers' Festival which takes place on 6th - 7th July at Leeds College of Music. Apply now for your ticket to the festival.

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