Monday, June 12, 2006

The Play's The Thing

“It takes true originality, tenacity and talent to make it as a successful playwright in the competitive world of commercial theatre. In The Play’s the Thing, a major four-part series, Channel 4 has launched a search for a new British playwright – a new voice to enliven and envigorate the West End stage.

The series has attracted over 2000 submissions from previously un-produced writers. Across four episodes, The Play’s the Thing follows the progress of these theatre wannabes from restaurateurs to supermarket workers, scientists to call centre operatives, from the earliest stages of selection through the honing of their words into a play fit for production by an established director and hand-picked cast.

It’s the job of three top theatre professionals – West End producer Sonia Friedman (who produces the West End production of the winning play in June), Literary Agent Mel Kenyon and Actor Neil Pearson – to whittle down submissions to a shortlist of three before the winner is selected. Then a brand-new name will emerge into the spotlight to experience all the drama of first-night nerves and public scrutiny as the curtain goes up on their West End debut.

As an extension of the television series, The Play’s the Thing is also an online repository and marketplace for radio drama, written by aspiring and emerging writers with script training and development delivered through Ideas Factory, Channel 4’s Talent initiative to support 16-34 year olds pursue a career in the creative industries.”


The first episode of The Play’s The Thing was tonight. At first it was quite disconcerting and disappointing as the tone, background music and voice-over seemed to imply that a bunch of sad loser lunatics had applied. And perhaps they had. But the judges got it down to a shortlist of reasonably normal people, and the episode started to pick up. The submission process looked rather daunting with the applicants having to film themselves performing a snippet of their play, and then pitching it to the panel by using a chalkboard. Good on them. Best of luck. Come on Steve the Supermarket Guy! That’s who I’m rooting for.

Surely it’s only a matter of time before they do Screenwriter Idol or a screenwriting version of Dragons' Den? Surely.

10 comments:

Dan said...

Didn't they do just that in the states with 'Project Greenlight'?

Ben Affleck & Matt Damon ("matt daaamon" - Team America, genius) produced it and the winner was given a budget of 1 million to go shoot his winning entry.

I can't remember if it was shown over here though. Probably popped up on some satellite channel.

Dan Owen said...

I was about to mention Greenlight. I don't think it's been on in the UK, and if I remember correctly the original winner "Feast" is still stuck in limbo after being filmed years ago!

Robin Kelly said...

Sky showed the first series and the first film Stolen Summer. It was well made but the premise and story were lacking somewhat.

Miramax promised a UK version but they closed down their UK production unit in horror because of Elephant Juice.

Danny Stack said...

Ah yes, I knew of Project Greenlight and watched the first series on Sky a few years ago. I don't think one of the terrestrial channels would ever do something that high profile, what I mean is a 'script idol' type reality show or a pitching session series, like Dragons' Den.

Surely that must be coming soon for screenwriters? I thought the BBC Writers' Academy would have cameras through their selection process, maybe they did this year...? Anyone get thru to this year's selection stages, or beyond?

Paul Campbell said...

not very visual, though, is it?

I thought it pretty odd that they went ahead with Project Greenlight because I simply couldn't imagine it making very good television. Pop Idol has singers, Strictly Come Dancing, or whatever it's called, has dancing, Project Greenlight has some sad looking individuals hunched over their PCs tapping away.

And how do you vote for your favourite? Do you base it on a performed reading, or on a pitch? I just can't really see it working.

BBC did something last year for sit coms when you had to finish off half a script. But I didn't get to see the programme that came out of it.

Anonymous said...

Watch out for 'The Lot' - the answer to Pop Idol with - you guessed it - Film Maker Idol as exec produced by Spielberg and hitting the tube Spring 2007. They're taking entries now, I'm not even sure if Brits are eligible, but it sounds curiously arousing with film makers directing a film a week in a different genre and voted for by the the ever faithful general audience. I wonder if it'll bring god talent to the fore front or be a needless Tv Exercise in which the audience votes for the director with the coolest hat and loudest voice...

Dan said...

Danny, the selection is still on going for the Writers Academy. I received a letter saying they'll be contacting people after the 26th June.

Danny Stack said...

Good luck! Keep us posted...

Anonymous said...

I've never seen such a risible, disgusting ego battle as 'the play's the thing.' not from the writers, of course, most of whom seemed meek, intimidated, needlessly thankful... you know, writers. the producer, agent, and actor however - i was suddenly watching a show about childish insecure people trying to one up one another. big brother basically, except doubly pathetic, because these guys claim to be talented.

Pillock said...

I'm with you on Steve the Supermarket guy, but I also really like the young youthworker girl, whos name I forget.