Screenwriting industry panel

A  bit late in the day to report back about this but better late than never. On Thursday May 27th I was part of a panel discussion, along with Ceri Meyrick from the BBC Writers Academy and literary agent Rob Kraitt (AP Watt Ltd.), organised by Euroscript, to discuss ‘How To Get Into The Industry as a Screenwriter’.

The event was fantastically well-attended and strong evidence (if any were needed!) of how many enthusiastic screenwriters there are out there.

The general consensus seemed to be that things are undoubtedly a bit tough at the moment, particularly in the world with which I’m most familiar – TV drama. As you probably will have noticed, there just isn’t nearly as much being shown or commissioned as there was a couple of years ago. The world of feature films is always difficult but probably not that much more difficult now than it ever has been!

Some thoughts and strategies from the panel – in these straitened times, it’s a good idea to think about who does have access to money for writers – and this tends to be the publicly-funded bodies like the BBC and the UK Film Council. This certainly is borne out by my personal experience – my two most recent paid development projects (as producer) were for BBC Comedy and the UKFC!

So think about other sources of public funding eg the regional film agencies,  different areas of the BBC. For instance, radio drama was mentioned a couple of times in the evening as a good way-in for dramatic writers. Writing radio drama is obviously different to writing screen drama – but there are similarities; and there is a demand for radio drama. This is an area that is definitely worth looking at. There is some quality drama on BBC Radio, and a BBC radio drama credit will give you increased writing credibility as a screenwriter.

Literary agents are important but even the literary agent on the panel (Rob Kraitt) emphasised how much could be done, how much of the initiative for getting your foot in the door then kicking it open, is down to the writer themselves and not necessarily their agent. This was interesting but certainly accords with my experience. Don’t think getting a good literary agent is the Holy Grail in itself. And once you have (got an agent) don’t sit back and rely on them to open all the doors for you.

The general conclusion seemed to be that the combination of good spec scripts, professionalism and persistence would still get the job done. But persistence is probably particularly important at the moment.

From personal experience though, I know how script editors and producers are constantly on the lookout for good writers to write their shows. And Ceri confirmed this is very much the case at the BBC. Get those spec scripts in as good a shape as they can possibly be. If you have a really cracking script to show people, it will open doors for you.

Good luck!

Philip Shelley


June 9th 2010