Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Red Planet Pointers

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Cor, will you look at that? The first week of July already. Which means that there's only 3 weeks 'till the deadline for this year's Red Planet Prize. The entries are already flooding in, which is great, but no doubt there's still many of you tinkering with your first ten pages and holding out on pressing 'send' until the final minute (which is also cool and the gang, naturally).

In case you don't already know, this year we're partnered with the mighty Kudos Film & TV and yesterday we met on their roof (really) to discuss how this year's comp is going to go down. I thought it might be handy to post some general pointers about submitting an entry, and go over some useful do's and don't's about what makes a cracking first ten pages.

THE FIRST TEN PAGES

The best bit of advice about your first ten pages is to ignore the so-called rules of how to begin a script. Instead, try to be happy and confident that this is the best way to begin your STORY. Great scripts always have a style and assurance about them that tell the reader/editor/exec that this writer can spin a yarn, and they should stick around to see what's going to happen. More than that, they're already interested in what's going to happen. You don't have to be clever or cute, just tell your story. It doesn't have to be a car crash or a big bang; it could be a slow-burner of mood or intrigue - but as long as it's clear and inviting, and the writing's confident and assured, then the script is always going to stand out from the crowd.

More thoughts on 'first ten pages' here and there's an overview of last year's entries here, writing tips from Tony Jordan's workshop here, and even more about the beginnings of scripts here. There's an overview of the first year's entries here, not to mention the top 10 cliched ways to begin your script here.

THE COMPETITION

This year’s competition is for an original 60 minute television script, either a single play or a pilot for a new series. You are initially required to submit the first ten pages along with a short synopsis. THIS SYNOPSIS COULD BE OF THE PILOT SCRIPT OR THE ENTIRE SERIES, whatever you think best sells the idea/script/show. The full script should be available on request, you may be required to submit this WITHIN A MONTH OF THE FINAL CLOSING DATE. This means that we'll be asking for second round scripts by the end of August.

Multiple entries are not allowed. You can, however, have a maximum of two entries if you submit one script by yourself and one with a co-writing team. Please don't send full scripts at the first ten pages stage. Similarly, don't send 12 pages or 8 pages of script. Send the first ten pages, regardless of where it cuts off in the scene. The competition is open to anyone in the UK & Ireland. For full rules and information, check out the website.

GENRE

The scripts can be in any genre. Drama, Comedy, Comedy Drama, Thriller, Psychological, Supernatural, whatever floats your boat. Please don't send us half hour scripts, sitcoms or feature film scripts. Remember, we're looking for an original 60 minute television script, either a single play or a pilot for a new series.

** UPDATE ** If you're unsure how long your script should be, anything between 50-70 pages is a good ballpark. Anything less or more than 50 or 70, you've probably gone too under/over an hour.

FORMAT

Ideally, scripts should be written in standard screenplay format, which means they should be typed in Courier pt12 font and with appropriate tabs/margins for character names, dialogue and scene description. It just looks more professional that way. We're not going to reject any script based on its format. We're interested in good writing and great scripts, no matter what the form, but as a general observation, poorly formatted scripts usually mean poorly written screenplays.

Celtx is free screenwriting software. Final Draft and Movie Magic Screenwriter are what the professionals use, but you can easily format a script on MS Word, too, either by setting your own margins/font or downloading their template.

OPTIONED SCRIPTS

It's probably not a good idea to send us a script that's optioned with another company. While it may be a good representation of your writing, it's just going to get a tad awkward if you get past the second round stage with a script that's in development somewhere else. If your script gets optioned by someone while we're reading it for the competition, then let us know, as that's better for everyone involved.

That just about covers everything, I think. Any questions, just shout, and good luck!

21 comments:

terraling said...

Hi Danny

Minor bit of clarification: pilot for a series means a returning series and so you are not looking for the first episode of a drama serial, is that right?

Oh, and while I'm at it, do RP/Kudos sponsor this with the expectation/hope that they will make it? So budget/geography etc are factors, or do we just dazzle you with our best interplanetary storytelling?

Ta.

Danny Stack said...

Serials are fine to submit, no problem. And budget/geography also not a problem. If the winning script is something that blows them away, then they'll want to make it, I'm sure. Otherwise, it's just a great way of finding writers for their existing or new shows.

Anonymous said...

Hi Danny,

With regards serials, are you saying you will accept a 60 page script which is the first episode of a two-part serial?

Thanks,

C Healey

Danny Stack said...

Yes. Remember, the script can be a one-off 60 minute play, too, it doesn't have to be part of a series or serial.

Anonymous said...

Hi Danny,

Thanks that's good to know. Does that mean something like the 2 parter DIVE which is currently showing on BBC 2 would be eligible? The rules on the site are a bit confusing as it says 'either a single play or pilot for a new series', there's no mention of serials/2 parters which might mean people working on these won't think they're eligible if they don't read your blog. I initially thought I couldn't enter so there might be others like me.

Best,

C Healey

Danny Stack said...

'One-offs and series' is the broadest way we described it for the rules but as long as it's a 60 min TV script that you enter, whatever series/serial/two-parter form it may be in, that's fine! We'll get the gist.

Tim Clague said...

Fantastic to see Red Planet (plus Kudos) back again. This is really the only great TV writing competition in the UK.

manfromthezoo said...

Good to know that we can focus on writing and not budgetary concerns. Not having to gut my story to get it taken seriously is a real treat!

Rosie said...

Thank you for the expanded info, Danny.

One question regarding the synopsis: if the script is a pilot, would a SEASON or SERIES outline be preferable?

Danny Stack said...

Whatever you think best sells the script/show, Rosie!

manfromthezoo said...

Morning, Mr S. You mention just serving the story and ignoring the the first ten page 'rules'. This is good to hear, because in my case my first ten pages involve only very minor characters within the context of a critical establishment of plot. My main characters aren't introduced until just after this.

Despite that horrific disregard of 'the rules', are you saying that if the writing is strong enough a piece can survive the first round cull?

Thanks :)

Danny Stack said...

Exactly!

James said...

Hi Danny
A possibly stupid question... With the first 10 pages PDF, should you also include a script title page, or should we just start at 'Fade In'?
Thanks very much
James

Danny Stack said...

Hi James. Fine to include title page, fine not to include it! Saving a PDF file from Final Draft automatically generates a title page so if you want to fill in those details, in Final Draft, go to Document on the menu bar and then Title Page. Then when you save the script as a PDF, the details are automatically transferred/generated.

James said...

Brilliant - many thanks Danny

ColinM said...

Hi Danny,

very useful site.

Quick question how long should the short synopsis be?

Thanks,

Colin

Danny Stack said...

Hi Colin! I think the limit's 60 words on the submission but it can be shorter, whatever you think works best.

Anonymous said...

Hi Danny,

Do you have an approx figure for what you want advanced to the next round? I'm presuming the cull will have to be pretty brutal with over 1,500 entries?

Thanks in advance for your answer.

Katy

Danny Stack said...

Hi Katy - It is typically brutal but I'm not exactly sure how it'll pan out this year. Previously, it's been around 20-30% of the 1st round, but the number could be as many as it needs to be, depending on the scripts we want to put through.

Helen Wilson said...

Hi

I'm so excited about this competition having submitted our entry.

Do we get notified if we don't get through or is it just a case of wait and see and if we don't hear then thats it?

Kind regards

Helen

Danny Stack said...

HI Helen - yes, everyone gets notified of the outcome, as far as I know.