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Writers Academy 22

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Ceri Meyrick | 15:54 UK time, Tuesday, 18 May 2010

The First Sift

If you haven't received an email today telling you you're no longer in the running, you will have progressed through to the second round of our selection process. We have "long-listed" down from 510 to 177 scripts. For me (and for some of you) this is the most brutal and nerve-wracking part of the process. I have a team of long-standing and very trusted readers - some of whom are writers themselves, and others who work, or who have worked, on the shows in the department as Script Editors. They read the first ten pages of each script, and I then check/read them too. We take three days to do this, and I like to think we've been pretty thorough. Tough choices have to be made, however.

I talked to the readers this year about giving some general feedback and this is what we came up with:

Positives (what made them thank me afterwards for the gig):

  • There was a huge variety of subjects and themes this year - no one popular idea emerged - which is unusual.

  • Comedy, joy and fun.

  • Scripts that don't tell you everything up front and surprise you.

  • Characters that aren't at all "nice" but you love them.

  • Snappy, smart, intelligent rat-tat dialogue.

  • Unresolved sexual tension - how we love it!

Negatives (what drove them insane and demanding chocolate):

  • Nothing happening in the first ten pages.

  • A lot of very static theatre plays were sent in this year. I lost count of the number of scripts that opened with two people meeting on a park bench.

  • Short film scripts - so hard to judge when there's only a few pages.

  • Hard to read formats - just be clear.

  • Characters who don't have names - very hard to breathe life into someone called "Man" or "Mother".

  • Badly handled exposition (e.g. characters telling each other what they both already know, photos where we're meant to notice something, etc...)

  • Low stakes.

  • Too many stage directions/writing camera directions/breaking up speeches with stage directions.

  • Lengthy opening monologues.

The next stage is that each script gets two full reads from two different members of the drama department, so I won't be short listing further until the end of June. 'Til then....


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