Sorry we’ve gone a bit quiet – but following the deadline on 21 May, our sterling team has been opening, checking, logging and organising the 1899 scripts we received. I’ll just repeat that: One Thousand, Eight Hundred, and Ninety Nine scripts. That’s nearly half of the total number of unsolicited scripts we processed for the whole of 2011. Here’s what a selection of them looked like as they slowly took over our working lives:
Script room submissions
What we decided to do next was break the total down into genre piles, and here’s what we got for each in numbers (and percentages of the total):
TV DRAMA: 473 (25%)
TV COMEDY: 478 (25%)
FILM: 426 (22%)
RADIO DRAMA: 278 (15%)
STAGE: 127 (7%)
RADIO COMEDY: 90 (5%)
CHILDREN’S: 23 (1%)
And then came D-day – or rather, S-day. The sifting. Our team of hardy, battle-worn readers gathered together in a quiet part of a little known BBC building, and readied themselves for two and a half weeks of total script immersion. In the old system, the readers just picked scripts off the pile randomly, but this time we decided to compare like with like, and they looked at one of the above genres for a day or half day at a time, then moved on to another genre. That way, they were able to compare film with film, radio drama with radio drama and so on - allowing themselves to maintain a focus while also staying fresh day by day.
Each day, we would regularly catch up and talk about the scripts they liked, the recurring problems and difficulties that arose, and any patterns that were emerging. We also asked the readers to make a simple note of the recurring reasons why scripts weren’t managing to get through the first 10 page sift (and we’ll be blogging about this data at a later date when we’ve had chance to crunch the numbers and try to make some sense of them).
Some interesting things emerged anecdotally. At this stage, they were particularly impressed by the better film scripts and stage plays they were reading. They felt a lot of TV and radio scripts, both drama and comedy, tended to struggle to do something really original or exciting – perhaps because writers felt inhibited by the demands of broadcast schedules and formats. But originality and excitement was a recurring struggle for the readers across a large proportion of scripts.
By the end of the second week, all the scripts had received a first 10-page sift, and the readers had put through about 20% of all scripts to the next ‘read-on’ stage. Which also meant 80% would not progress. But that’s the reality of script assessment – we’re only looking for and expecting a smaller proportion to make it through. At this stage, I had already started doing some second reading and the readers picked up the baton, working through that 20% to second read between 20-30 pages and see if and how they progressed. This second sift is one of the new elements we've introduced to the process, and it helped us find and focus on the scripts that were crying out for a full read and script feedback. By the end of the final week, and after a final double-check by myself and Henry Swindell (our man in the north), we had ourselves a pile of 100-plus scripts – or 6% of everything sent in.
All the emails have now gone out to writers who reached every stage of the process. So if you sent a script but haven’t received an email from us – please check your junk/spam mail, and check the email account is working fine. And if it still isn’t there, then email into our general inbox with ‘Script Room’ in the subject header and your full name and script title in the body of the email, and we’ll endeavour to get back to you. But be patient – we’re a very small team.
To those who didn’t make it through – don’t be disheartened, but do make sure that if and when you submit another script to us in the future, make sure you give it the time, effort and development it needs before you send it off. Even if that means waiting not just for the next submissions window, but the one after that. Because another strong feeling from the readers was that many scripts just hadn’t been developed and reworked and rewritten enough before they were submitted. And to those who did progress through, well done – and bear with us while the readers take a full look at your script.