Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Why a dream come true could be a nightmare

While having a natter via Twitter DM, Bang2write script reader goddess Lucy Vee revealed there's a right old glut of 60 pages TV drama pilot scripts clogging up the piles of agents and production companies at the moment. Why? Most likely it's a side effect of the Red Planet Prize and the BBC TV Drama Writers' Academy.

Flashback to 2005 and everybody wanted to write features. But the advent of the Writers' Academy got people thinking maybe they should developing TV drama scripts. [In fact you don't need a TV drama script as your sample. Only nine of the 24 shortlisted applicants this year submitted TV scripts, as Ceri Meyrick details here.

When the Red Planet Prize launched in 2007, you could submit anything - TV drama, feature screenplay, whatever. The following year that got narrowed to 60-minute TV drama pilot scripts, which stayed the same for the contest this year. RPP got 1500 entries this year, that's a lot of TV dramas looking for a home.

My pilot script FAMILIES AT WAR was a finalist in the last RPP contest. Since then it's done a nice job for me as a calling card script, but it's unlikely to ever get made. The period setting [WWII] is a major disincentive on cost grounds, plus it's a soapy returning drama series - a huge risk by any measure.

But I got to thinking what would happy if somebody did decide to make my show? Once I'd finished doing the dance of joy, my next logical move would be voiding my bowels. Because I don't yet have the experience to run my own series. Two or three years back ITV commissioned a drama series from a new writer and...

...let's just say the results weren't pretty. Happily, the writer has worked on other series since, but I wonder how much better the series could have been if they'd had a few more credits under their belt first. Be careful what you wish for, in case you get it before you're ready.

1 comment:

michellelipton said...

But here's the thing, you wouldn't be running your own show. Precisely because you wouldn't have the requisite production experience.

I've got three original TV projects in various stages of development with independent production companies at the moment, two of them are returning series ideas and one is a three-part stand alone drama.

If in an imaginary world of make-believe where any or all of these shows actually got greenlit, this is what would happen:

The producers would handle all aspects of production on the three parter so that's fine, I can just worry about getting the scripts right with their guidance on budget and practical constraints etc.

And for the other two, the producers would bring on a more experienced writer with show-running or significant production experience to write X number of episodes and oversee the project.

I would be "creator" and writer of X number of episodes, but I wouldn't be expected to take on show-running or production responsibilities if I didn't feel comfortable that I knew what I was doing.

It's a question of being honest during the development process and working with people who are happy to provide the support you need while you learn the ropes of production.

I don't think anyone (or at least, anyone worth working with) expects a new writer to be able to jump in feet first. But there are people out there who are willing to give you a chance to have a go if you've written something they really want to make.