Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Script Opportunities UK

It’s sometimes surprising (and disappointing) to read the posts on Shooting People where people moan and gripe about how crap the system is here in the UK and that there are no opportunities or not enough support (or script competitions) to help identify new talent.

Here’s a list to counter that claim. It’s not a definitive list by any means (if anyone knows of someone, somewhere or some other opportunity, then let us know) but it’s a useful directory of reputable industry support and essential knowledge of where to go with your script. Some of these will already be linked in the sidebar but repetition is the base of all knowledge.

The deadline for Screen International’s annual Oscar Moore prize has just elapsed (9th December) but sometimes the closing date can be extended, so it’s worth checking it out if you’ve got a script you think has a chance of being better than the rest.

It’s the UK’s top screenwriting competition with a tasty £10 grand prize, widespread industry exposure and a performed reading of your script all included in the glory. You don’t see it publicised very much so sometimes it can slip under the radar but every spec screenwriter worth their salt has the page bookmarked on their browser. Every year, they choose a different genre, this year being ‘Comedy’. Contact Sade Sharp for any niggling queries: sade.sharp@emap.com

No prize winner has gone on to get their film made, yet, but I know two previous winners who were able to get work and get an agent all because they bothered to enter. There’s not even an entry fee (!) so you have no excuse (although a donation of your choice is recommended as the prize is a charitable foundation in memory of Screen International’s editor-in-chief Oscar Moore who died of an AIDS-related illness in 1996.)

Another current contest is Golcanda Films’ Horror Competition. The deadline is January 28th 2006 and the prize is £1,000 advance on an option and two runners-up will be placed through a Draft to Draft Development Programme at the Script Factory.

For Irish writers in the UK, there’s the Tony Doyle bursary, set up by the BBC in memory of Irish actor Tony Doyle (Ballykissangel, Between the Lines etc). I won this last year (hurrah) but it’s now a biannual event so keep checking for details of the next deadline.

Advantages of winning the prize include meeting the important BBC bods who are keen to promote you as a new writer (recommend you to an agent if you haven’t got one for example) and I’ve been lucky to see my winning script go into development with Parallel Films (Breakfast on Pluto) thanks to hunky Irish actor Liam Cunningham who was part of the jury and who absolutely flipped for my story (coincidentally, I wrote it with him in mind).

Development Funding:
The UK Film Council. I can hear some of you take a sharp intake of breath in disgust already. Come on, don’t be like that. They’ve got a pot full of money and they’ve got to give it to someone. I know submitting for their various schemes and funds can be frustrating, especially if you keep getting rejected (hello!), but they’re genuinely after decent projects so even if you’re a lone writer, they’re willing to consider your script for a bit of their development cash.

They’ve got a good scheme for short films and the 25 Words or Less is always worth a pitch or two.

And if you’re daunted by the Film Council’s main office in London, don’t forget to contact your local region to see if they’ve got any funds or schemes that are relevant to your project.

Development Support:
The Script Factory has become one of Europe’s leading development organisations working to support screenwriters by finding and developing new screenwriting talent; supporting the people who work with screenwriters; and by presenting unique and unmissable live screenwriting events with some of cinema’s top creative talent.

They offer courses on how to be a script reader and diplomas in script development, and you can get your script read & assessed by their own readers, and after your polish, you can get your script performed by professional actors to see what’s working and what’s not. It’s got widespread industry support. Essential contacts and knowledge.

Skillset is the Sector Skills Council for the Audio Visual Industries, which comprise broadcast, film, video, interactive media and photo imaging. Jointly funded by those industries and the Government, their job is to make sure that the UK audio visual industries have the right people, with the right skills, in the right place, at the right time, so that the industries remain competitive.

Raindance is dedicated to fostering and promoting independent film in the UK and around the world. Raindance combines Raindance Film Festival, Training Courses, Raindance Kids Film Festival and Raindance Film Productions. Never heard of them? Where have you been?

Shooting People is an on-line community of writers and filmmakers. It’s a subscription service (about £20 for the year) but it’s not a lot for widespread access to a range of production crew and experience. The post boards can become negative diatribes about the industry but if you’re stuck for crew on your short or low-budget feature, then there’s no better resource. You can even pitch your scripts every Wednesday. Essential pitstop for all new writers, and an enjoyable hang out for those with a bit more street cred.

There’s also Talent Circle and UK Screen. Similar organisations and set-ups to Shooting People, also for a small fee (I think Talent Circle might be free).
So there you have it. A few places for competitions, funding and support. I’m sure our American friends would say we’re spoilt for choice but all I ever hear is moans and groans about how the UK industry is rubbish. Of course there are flaws and frustrations in every set-up but the opportunities do exist so it’s down to us to put up or shut up with our own work rather than complain about the system.

Crikey. That’s more links in one post than I ever thought possible (that I’d do) so let me know if a few don’t work or whatever, and if you know of other funding/competitions/places worth a visit, feel free to share.


Anonymous said...

Don't forget the BBC.

Most people who send them stuff get rejected (obviously), so there are an awful lot of bitter people out there who will tell you that the BBC never reads stuff, or that they take years to get back to you, or that they steal ideas etc etc.

But, if you have some halfway decent writing and you send it to the BBC, they will give you an honest assessment and, if they really like it, they'll invite you in for a chat.

And, whilst "Doctors" might not be everybody's cup of tea, it can get you that first broadcast commission, can't it Danny?

And the USA has nothing quite like the BBC.

Danny Stack said...
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Danny Stack said...
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Danny Stack said...

Sorry, the two deleted posts are me, mucking up the link to the BBC's writersroom, just when I thought I was a whiz.

Here it is: BBC writersroom. But you knew that already.

And yes, the Beeb rocks: I've got them to thank for my TV career to-date.

James Moran said...

Excellent post, sir. Another cool link for your perusal: Straight8 (http://www.straight8.net/straight8b.htm)

It's not cheap (£65), but they send you a Super8 cartridge (3 minutes long), numbered and marked etc. You film your short masterpiece, do a CD of your own or royalty free music, or narration, or whatever you want, then send them the cartridge back - without processing it. They have mini festivals through the year, where they show the best ones, along with the soundtrack - so you don't see your film until it's shown in front of people, which could be fun. I'm very tempted to have a go, but I haven't got a Super8 camera - eBay's full of them though, varying in price from a couple of quid to hundreds.

Bit of an unusual one, but pretty cool too, I reckon.

Danny Stack said...

That is seriously cool. Great films too. Must get my hands on a Super8 camera...

James Moran said...

Yeah, there are some cool examples on the site. Really makes you try and come up with purely visual concepts, as you can't do dialogue (unless you do silent movie cards...) Just images and music, or narration, or all three. Or weird sounds. Limiting, but freeing at the same time.

Iain said...

There is always the international screenwriting community too. There are thousands of screenplay contests across the globe - it costs more to send you script but it's worth it.

When I still lived in London I became a Nicholl Semi-Finalist - nothing came of it - but it meant that I was on the right track with my work.

One of my most used bookmarks is Moviebytes. Not so great for development help but still a useful resource for international screenwriting competitions etc

Danny Stack said...

Hi Iain, thanks for the comment, hadn't read your blog before (I thought I knew them all...) so will add it to the links.

And kudos on the Nicholl. Extremely difficult and competitive I believe. Hope everything is going great now that you're in the States.