Tuesday, November 30, 2010

RPP Update

This year's Red Planet Prize has been a hugely exciting affair, especially as Kudos Film & TV partnered up with the competition to find new TV writers. We've spent months reading the first ten pages of all the entries (over 1,500!), and the last eight weeks reading the full 2nd round scripts.

This initial reading team consisted of me, two execs from Red Planet and three execs from Kudos. We've laughed, cried, argued, debated and agreed. Now, we're at the last hurdle where the final shortlist will be presented to the esteemed judges to make their pick for the winner.

If you don't already know, the judging panel are: Tony Jordan (Red Planet), Jane Featherstone (Kudos), Polly Hill (BBC) and Ben Stoll (C4).

Cor, exciting!

So, they'll be making their decision in the next week or so, with the winner and runners-up notified very shortly afterwards. The Red Planet/Kudos workshops will then take place some time in the New Year, where everyone will receive mentoring and support.

It really is a terrific screenwriting competition. Nothing like it anywhere else in the whole wide worldz. I can't think of one drawback in entering because (a) it's FREE (one of the conditions I insisted on); (b) you start a new script (or polish an existing one); and (c) you have to finish the script, so it gives you motivation.

As with any competition and shortlist, it's extremely tough and subjective to make a choice, so just because your script didn't make the cut doesn't necessarily mean it won't stand you in good stead. All thanks should go to Tony Jordan and Kudos for being so generous and passionate about the competition, and it'll be back next year for a similarly exciting run. More news in December when the winner will be announced!

In the meantime, if you haven't listened to the latest edition of the UK Scriptwriters podcast with me and Tim Clague, then catch up on the site or listen below. In this episode, we've got a great competition, courtesy of movieScope magazine. Up for grabs this month: Movie Magic Software, DVD Screenwriter Series and five trial subscriptions to movieScope (which is a great magazine for any industry insider as it discusses everything from pre-production right through to visual FX and other post-production mysteries).

Monday, November 29, 2010

New Podcast!

Tim and I did episode 5 of the UK Scriptwriters podcast last Friday. If you're not subscribed or missed it over the weekend, you can catch up here. In this edition, we look back at the London Screenwriters' Festival, discuss genre writing, and review The Walking Dead, Misfits and A Town Called Panic.

PLUS, there's a great competition for Movie Magic Screenwriting Software, DVD Screenwriter Dialogue Series and FIVE, count 'em, FIVE trial subscriptions to movieScope magazine. Full details on how to enter is on the podcast. As ever, have a listen and tell us what you think, or make suggestions, or whatever comes to mind. Email us directly at ukscriptwriters @hotmail.com. Thanks!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


What I love about the screenwriting blogging community - or 'the scribosphere' as it's commonly known - is the inspiration and goodwill that is so readily shared. It can really motivate you to get things going if you're stuck in a funk. For example, if you're feeling down and depressed about your latest rejection, then chances are someone's written a powerful blog post about brushing it off (or linked to it on Twitter) which will lift your spirits and help you get back into your groove. On Twitter in particular, it's like one constant chat at a cocktail party; sharing jokes, links and interesting screenwriting tidbits (if you follow the right crowd).

Of course, there is no substitute for real interaction with your fellow human beings so that's why networking events such as talks, screenings, Q&As are so helpful and invigorating. The recent London Screenwriters' Festival is a good example. If you were there, you will know how strong the vibe was, and how fun it was to chillax, hustle and network with the speakers and delegates. The talks were top notch, while the energy and personality of the place was infectious and inspiring. Going to these types of events really help to boost your screenwriting battery so that you return to your desk, fully charged and ready to go.

And then you look around and see what your friends and colleagues are up to (or 'frolleagues' as I like to call them), which gives you extra incentive and inspiration. Jason Arnopp goes off with Dan Turner and makes a horror film. Just like that. No fuss, no hype, no ceremony. Just went out and made it. It's gearing up for a release next year and I can't wait. The Mighty James Moran is as busy as ever, and you get glimpses into his twisted soul on Twitter, but most of all, he's returned to the world of blogging (hurray!) and what he has to say on the recent Amazon Studios debate is worth reading.

Then there's the lovely Lara Greenway and Lucy Vee, who have teamed up with director JK Amalou to make a low-budget thriller called Deviation, starring Danny Dyer. This one's just started production but what's even more impressive is that Lara's just come from making a film called Crikey Villains, and Lucy, well, she was organising the screenwriters' festival, associate producing Deviation, script reading, blogging, script editing, tweeting, writing, leaping small buildings and saving the world (more details on Deviation and what an associate producer actually is on Lucy's blog).

Who else? Oh! Piers Beckley goes and sets up his own theatre company, Red Table Theatre, which has a show on over Christmas. Check it out! On the first night of the screenwriters festival, me and Piers (accidentally?) challenged each other to make a short film over the next few months, with 17th March 2011 (St Patrick's Day, apt) as the deadline. It's got to be between 3-5 minutes (not including credits), have no more than 5 actors in it (counted as anyone with a line, onscreen or off), and you need to either write or direct the film. Or both. So, um, I better get cracking. I quite fancy doing a comedy so if anyone's got a script that match these guidelines, I'd be happy to read it.

But my point of this post is to keep busy, keep active and keep working. Get your inspiration from wherever you can. Don't get sucked into a rut or knocked sideways by a rejection. Take it on yourself to do something or change something about your profile. What are you doing to stand out? There's more to writing than just writing, although ultimately that's what it all comes down to, so don't let it fall by the wayside either. Don't let online or other networking activities become the centrepiece of your profile. Let it inform and inspire, but stay focused on what really matters.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010


What's the best way to network? Does networking actually pay-off? Where can you network? How do you know who to speak to? How many drinks should you have before you try to speak to them? Should you put on an exuberant 'pitch performance' immediately, or just make polite chit-chat? Should you try witty and charming?

The best way to network is just to talk to someone. It doesn't matter who they are. Simply introduce yourself and say Hi. They could be the runner, the assistant, the exec, the director, it doesn't matter. See what chit-chat emerges. Maybe hand them your business card, let the conversation come to a natural close and move on. Be friendly and casual rather than eager to talk about yourself or flog your latest script.

Networking works, but it works over time. This means that one brief handshake with a powerful exec does not launch a career. You see so many people stride up to their target, desperately hoping to make a huge impression when really all they're doing is making the person feel uncomfortable. Networking is about biding your time so that your name gets 'out there' and people will have some sort of recollection of who you are when you next see or contact them. Build a cumulative awareness of 'you', as it were.

The best way to do that at the moment is the internet. Blogs, Facebook and Twitter have revolutionised the way we communicate with each other, and given us access to people where previously the doors would have been firmly closed. But it's not enough to just sit behind your desk, write a blog post, tweet or update your status. It's a good start, certainly, but it's no replacement for face-to-face recognition. That's when networking really pays-off as people get to put faces to names, and feel more comfortable with recommending or considering them for work.

So, where can you network? Film festivals, screenings, Q&As, talks, writer groups - anywhere where two or more industry folk happen to be!

How do you know who to speak to? Research the people who are going to attend. Find out if any of your online community are going. Organise drinks/meet-up before hand.

How many drinks should you have before you try to speak to the influential peeps? One or two for dutch courage but don't get pissed whatever you do!

Should you put on an exuberant 'pitch performance' immediately, or just make polite chit-chat? Polite chit-chat. If you do get into a pitch, just be yourself. Pretend you're talking to a friend about a film that you think they should see.

Networking can be disconcerting for some people, especially if you're by yourself and know no-one else there. I've talked about networking before in the professional screenwriter series but it's worth reiterating this: "If you find yourself at an industry event but are not sure who to approach, and feel a bit shy, make it your mission to speak to ONE person. Just one. If you come away that night with one business card, you’ll have succeeded. But by approaching that one person, you’ll quickly realise that it’s not that bad, and saying hello can lead to an introduction to someone else, and before you know it, you’ve had a great time meeting new friends and contacts."