For the first time, in 2016, I ran what I am now committed to making an annual event – a script showcase where, over a 1 hour lunchtime in December, I put on readings of 10 minute sections from the 5 best scripts to come through my website last year.
I ran it because I got to September and was struck by how many excellent scripts had come into my script consultancy service in 2016.
I was a little worried beforehand that maybe I’d built these scripts up in my head as being better than they were, but the event itself couldn’t have gone much better and I was relived as I sat listening to the readings that my assessment of the quality of the scripts felt vindicated.
I managed to get 6 really outstanding actors, who, with no rehearsal whatsoever, just a 30 minute meeting with the writers beforehand to ask any questions they had about the stories and characters, brought the scripts off the page with such life. For me, and for the writers, it was a real treat to hear the scripts performed by such outstanding actors.
I have to say as I sat listening to the readings, with a completely full theatre, sensing the audience’s attention and enjoyment, I felt a surge of pleasure. Any anxiety was forgotten because I was so thoroughly enjoying the readings.
The industry turnout was fantastic – we had representatives from BBC, ITV, Left Bank Pictures, Bandit Television, Vox Pictures, World Productions, Daybreak Pictures, New Pictures, Kudos, Euston Films, Tiger Aspect and many, many other production companies. With 4 of the writers unrepresented, we also had a very good turn-out of literary agents.
We had a table by the theatre exit piled with full versions of the writer’s scripts, and it was great to see the queue that formed at the end to get copies. And I got a load of emails straight after requesting electronic copies.
Three of the writers were kind enough to write up their own take on the event –
Philip Shelley December 2016 Showcase – Jerry Hurley
Philip read a feature script of mine and invited me for coffee to discuss it. He’d already told me he liked the script and so I hoped that during our meeting I could solicit his advice about all the ‘next steps’ I needed to take. Namely, getting an agent and getting the script into the hands of production companies that would either make it or give me work on other things. However, I came away from our meeting with an opportunity I couldn’t have imagined.
He asked if I’d be interested in having an extract of my script performed by professional actors in a lunchtime showcase event, attended by the professionals I was hoping to reach out to – and of course, my answer was a resounding YES! Finally, it felt like that thing I was working towards might just happen.
And twelve weeks later I found myself in the front row of a West End theatre with six actors in front of me and a house packed with industry professionals behind.
On the morning of the showcase, Philip, the actors and writers met to go through any last minute questions with the scripts. Everyone knew exactly what they were doing and the whole atmosphere was one of gentle excitement… I must say here, the actors were all fantastic, both in terms of their performances and generosity. All of them were successful and they were there, making this effort for us and helping us to launch our careers. How fantastic is that?
The showcase went really well. The performances ranged from dark drama to light comedy and the reactions ranged from you-could-hear-a-pin-drop silence to group laughter. Piles of scripts and business cards were taken by many of the attendees, thanks were said and fingers were crossed that all the hard work would pay off. Only time will tell. But I am certain that every writer left the event feeling enormously positive and hopeful.
The showcase was less than twenty four hours ago. Nine people took my script yesterday and several others requested it. This morning I received two further emails from production companies asking if they could read it. One even enquired if I’d be interested in coming in for coffee to discuss writing television drama… So, the early signs are good. People are reading my script and what’s more, I haven’t had to write one begging letter or twist a single arm! If there’s a lesson to be learned it’s this – if Philip Shelley invites you for a coffee, GO!
Script Showcase Review – Laurence Tratalos
When your work is performed there is always the worry that no one will laugh. For serious drama writers that would not be an issue, but as my script was a comedy I suffered from the usual chilling anxiety that my words would be met by stony silence and tumbleweed rolling past. Thankfully the audience laughed. Right from the start. I was surprised how some lines I hadn’t considered funny received big laughs whereas my favourite lines often got nothing more than a chuckle. For the most part though I was really pleased with the reception.
But the real credit must go to the cast, who were fantastic. They had read the scripts beforehand but not rehearsed. There wasn’t a single cock up, not a line dropped, and they all played multiple roles with ease. Flitting from Pakistani to Yorkshire accents, no easy feat. They call it ‘lifting the words off the page’ and it’s amazing how different your script becomes when you have a talented cast to bring it alive.
It’s to Philips’s immense credit that so many industry people were willing to spend their lunch break in a small theatre in central London. The theatre was full to the brim and the atmosphere was brilliant. Since the reading I have received positive emails from several agents and also production companies. All in all a great experience and I sincerely hope Philip has the time to do another showcase next year. No pressure there Philip!
Script Showcase – Helen Seymour
I sent my radio script ‘The Beginnings of My Life’ to Philip back in April 2016 via his script consultancy, with no idea what might happen. Part of me was expecting to be gently put out of my misery, a bit like during X-Factor auditions, with a polite but firm ‘writing is not for you’. Luckily his response was fantastic – encouraging while also constructively critical, really drilling down into the script and pinpointing exactly what worked and what didn’t. I was thrilled when he said he liked the play and thought it could find a home with the BBC. Getting recognition from someone as knowledgeable as Philip was just the confidence boost I needed.
So that was that, for a while – then in September, I heard from Philip again who said he was organising a script showcase of the best five scripts received through his consultancy that year, and would I like to be part of it? I almost bit his hand off. Philip organised the event at the Tristan Bates Theatre in London, which he filled with around sixty industry professionals – producers, agents and others. The kind of people new writers would kill to get their work in front of!
I turned up on the day nervous but excited, having devoured the superb scripts of the other writers (Laurence Tratalos, Jerry Hurley, Brian Lynch and Kevin Di Biasio) and feeling suitably intimidated. I needn’t have though – everyone was incredibly nice. The event comprised of a series of ten-minute excerpts performed from each script. The actors were incredible, performing a dazzling array of characters in a short space of time with little time for preparation. It was a huge privilege seeing them perform my script – if a little surreal! – and they were able to find nuances I’d never thought about when writing it.
All in all it was a thoroughly enjoyable day. It is too early to tell what the outcome will be for me as a writer, but I have been contacted by a few production companies – including NoHo Productions, Working Title TV and Conker Films – asking for my script and for more information about me as a writer. It is also a great addition to my writing CV – a ‘stamp of approval’ from Philip is a huge credibility boost in the industry. Who knows where it will lead, but it was certainly a wonderful end to 2016, and perhaps will lead to even better things in 2017.
Thank you so much to Jerry, Laurence and Helen for writing these accounts of the event. And, like these writers, I would like to say a particular thank you to the amazing cast we managed to get for the event and who did such a great job – Nicholas Gleaves, Taj Atwal, Karla Crome, Will Howard, Gina Bramhill and Carl Prekopp.
Finally this week a word from screenwriter / script editor Phil Gladwin about his excellent SCREENWRITING GOLDMINE AWARDS –
‘We’re in the last couple of weeks of the entry period. Back in 2012 we started out with just eight people on the panel, but now there are 35.
I believe the Screenwriting Goldmine competition is one of the few independent script competitions with this diversity of reach in the British TV industry. The five finalist scripts do get strong access to senior people from many different production companies, broadcasters and agencies.
To get into that final five, well, don’t over analyse it, just write us a really good script. It can be any genre, TV drama, or feature film, and must be between 45 and 125 pages long. Scripts strong on character with a cracking narrative probably stand a better chance, but don’t get too hung up on what you think we’ll like, we are really looking for your own vision to hit us hard.
Basically there are no rules other than the Prime Directive of all dramatic writing: Be Entertaining!
Entries close on Jan 31st.
Thank you Phil – and I’d like to add my own personal stamp of approval to Phil’s course. Being one of the 5 winners is likely to be a huge boost to your screenwriting career.
The next newsletter will be on Friday Jan 27th
All the best
Jan 13th 2017