CHANNEL 4 SCREENWRITING COURSE 2016
We are now open for entries – but only until 6pm Oct 30th.
It’s been another busy week packed with scripts and script events – our latest 2Phils Screenwriting course last weekend, 4 films at the London Film Festival on Monday, 4 more yesterday, a meeting with 6 of my 7 London Screenwriters Festival Talent Campus writers – and a rapidly expanding pile of scripts to read…
You may remember last week I asked for your questions about any aspect of the CHANNEL 4 SCREENWRITING COURSE. A big thank you to all of you who sent me questions. Here they are, with my answers –
Q: ‘I would be interested to know what sort of thing you look for on applicants’ CVs’
A: We are looking for writing experience – the scripts you have written, any prizes you may have won – so a CV of your writing credits. But don’t despair if the script you submit is the first thing you’ve ever written. The paramount factor is the quality of your script. If you’ve written a cracking script, then it won’t matter if it’s the first thing you’ve ever written. But it is also good to know something about you as a person – where you’re from, your work experience outside of writing, any noteworthy interests, hobbies, passions, any relevant training you may have done.
Q: ‘… and how much weight is given to industry/other writing experience when you’re making your selections.’
A: We aim to take as broad a cross section of writers on the course as we can. Undoubtedly there will be some writers who already have an agent, have had some success (often in theatre) and who already have a burgeoning reputation as writers. But we also aim to choose some writers with minimal experience and no agent. If we can discover a writer with absolutely zero industry experience, it can make the whole process doubly exciting – so if you have no industry experience, this absolutely isn’t going to stop us choosing you.
Q: ‘Gender equality:
As a screen-writer who has brought up children and then looked after an elderly parent at home, having had one feature film produced in 1985, surely by now I qualify as a ‘first time’ writer again? No? I know of many more women out there in my situation. We are an un-tapped resource ready to bloom again!’
A: To deal with gender equality first, males have had a relatively raw deal over the 5 years of the course. Of the 61 writers to have done the course so far, there have been 38 females, 23 males. It may be useful / interesting for applicants to look at the list of all the writers who been through the course since 2011, which you can see on the 4Talent website, and draw your own conclusions about the range of writers chosen –
NB If you think a very high proportion of the writers have literary agents, I should tell you many of them gained representation after / as a result of the course!
To address the 2nd part of this question, I’m afraid we can’t alter the entry rules to allow in women (or men) who have taken time away from screenwriting but who do have a credit. This would open the entry criteria up to all sorts of interpretations and probably pleas of unfairness from other under-represented groups. I absolutely recognise that this is a real issue and that it can be really hard to resume your career after a break like this – I know many writers in a similar position. So while I have every sympathy, I’m afraid altering the entry rules in this way would be opening a very large can of worms. The fact is the screenwriting industry is a tough nut to crack whoever you are and wherever you are in your life.
As above, we try to make sure that we do have a very broad mix or people on the course. And we have had several writers who fit into this category on the course over the years (minus the credit!).
Q: ‘your three most common reasons for having to send a script to trash, based on your experience doing this for 4screenwriters.’
A: Well, ‘sending a script to trash’ isn’t quite how I’d describe it! And there are 1001 reasons why scripts aren’t chosen – the main one being, however good your script is, we can only choose 12 out of the 1200 or so submitted. So however wonderful the scripts are, we are always going to disappoint the vast majority of applicants.
But if I had to come up with three common issues with the scripts that don’t get chosen, they would be –
1 Lack of clarity in the writing and presentation. Too many scripts are simply just difficult to read. As a writer you need to endlessly hone and edit your work so that it’s written as clearly, economically and elegantly as possible. In my experience the best scripts are usually the easiest ones to read – not just in terms of presentation, but in clear, simple use of language that allows the reader to clearly visualise the on-screen action.
2 Lack of originality or something to say. We get a lot of scripts that are highly competent – but I don’t know why the writer has written them. In many ways these are the hardest sorts of scripts to assess. The scripts that are clear, well-presented, show a good appreciation of the craft but just don’t ‘sing’ off the page. Scripts that feel derivative and over-familiar. The best scripts, even if they’re very much ‘genre’ scripts, do something fresh and original, spin or subvert the genre in a way that feels exciting – and the best scripts often tell you a lot about the person who has written them. Think about what excited you about the idea originally, and don’t lose sight of that.
3 Lack of an instinct (and the craft) for what makes story exciting – setting up intrigue and mystery, using the cuts between scenes to drive the story, giving characters quirks and flaws that are recognisably human, having a premise that is inherently dramatic and exciting.
Q: ‘Should we include a logline or brief synopsis? Is a logline on the cover page a good idea or not advisable?’
A: If you want to include this on the title page of your script, that’s fine – but it’s absolutely not necessary.
Q: ‘Is it preferable that the script is a self-contained completed story or can it be a pilot for a series?’
A: A pilot for a series is absolutely fine. As is a feature film or other self-contained story. In whatever format (feature screenplay, series pilot, radio play, stage play) what we are concerned with is the quality of the writing – the writer’s ability to bring a story alive off the page, to write with a distinctive, exciting voice.
And if you do have anymore questions about the course, and you’re going to the London Screenwriters Festival next week, please do come along and ask me in person, and find out much, much more about the course from our session which is on Sunday Oct 25th 2-3pm, with Lisa Walters, from C4 Drama, and 4Screenwriting alumni writers / success stories Anna Symon and Jane Eden on the panel
At the moment I am working through recently submitted scripts for my script consultancy – but I have to clear the decks for the next few weeks to concentrate on the 4Screenwriting submissions. So please do keep submitting scripts to my consultancy if you’d like to (and to book your place in the queue!). But I can’t read any scripts submitted from today until the start of DECEMBER.
SCREENWRITING GOLDMINE COMPETITION
A quick reminder that entries are also still open (until December) for my mate Phil Gladwin’s rival / complimentary (!) script contest. Talking to him at our course over the weekend reminded me what an impressive array of judges he has lined up. His course can be a huge career boost. In fact the afore-mentioned Jane Eden went on from winning Phil G’s course to the C4 course and has since gone from strength to strength.
LONDON SCREENWRITERS FESTIVAL
Finally, as above, I will be at the LSF over next weekend (not on the Friday). If anyone who has used my script consultancy – or is interested in doing so – would like to meet up for a quick chat about their script or career issues, please get in touch.
I look forward to seeing you there!
All the best
Oct 16th 2015