Apparently, there was a debate on Shooting People recently about the UK Film Council’s 25 Words or Less Scheme, and whether or not it’s fair that they exclude writers who don’t have agents. Lucy blogged about it, here, and it provoked a variety of comments in response. Here’s my view: non-repped writers can apply to the UK Film Council at any time they like for the Development Fund, and you get the same prize - £10k. The 25 Words or Less scheme is to develop a genre script for commercial cinema, so for some reason, whether they're right or not, they want writers who have an agent. The rules for eligibility may be frustrating for some, but there are similar opportunities open to all at the same organisation.
In other words: get over it. Get on with it. Don’t spend your time whinging about not being allowed to enter a competition when you can apply for the same dough at the same organisation on a different scheme.
But, in the comments’ section of Lucy’s post, Potdoll mentioned that agents might be willing to endorse writers specifically for the 25 words scheme, as a potential one-off. (She also mentioned that Janet Fillingham might do it as part of their "bespoke services").
Then, a few days later, someone emailed me and specifically asked: “are some agents receptive about being asked to rep someone for the purposes of entering [the 25 words or less]? And if so, how the heck do I find them? Is it a trial and error, go down the list job, or are there any likelihoods - eg smaller agencies more willing? Any tips on how to put my best foot forward? Phone, or email?”
It certainly SEEMS like a good idea to me to ask an agent to rep you for the 25 words or less scheme but I honestly don't know what agents are willing to do this. However, further investigation was obviously needed, so I contacted a few agents to see what they thought.
In their response, the general consensus was that they would be unwilling to represent a writer for the 25 words scheme alone. Most agents want to take on a writer having read full scripts, and if they like the writer’s style. They’re going to be less likely to take someone on just for one specific project, especially on the basis of their application to the 25 words or less.
Another agent suggested that it would be easy for them to say ‘yeah sure, you can put our name on it’ but they certainly wouldn’t do it, and doubted that most reputable agents would, either. They won’t attach their name to anything they haven’t read, and if they like the writer’s work, then they would want to represent them across the board, not for just one project.
In addition (and this is the interesting bit), they said that the 25 words or less scheme is a nightmare contract to negotiate, and this round is for LOW BUDGET films, so no agent would be making much money out of it.
However, all were in agreement that there are no hard and fast rules, so it’s a matter of choice whether an agent wants to take a punt on a new writer who’s got a bit of style and savvy. From this, I think that it’s probably not a realistic idea to ask an agent to rep you for the 25 words or less scheme. But I do think that if you have the right attitude and approach, then you could certainly get an agent’s interest, and they might read something of yours, and like it, and may agree to put their name to your application, and see how things pan out. And perhaps the smaller agencies who encourage new writers might be more willing to support such an approach. It should be pointed out that it all comes down to YOU and your WRITING; that’s what an agent is going to be interested in, not a quick sale on the 25 words or less, or any fast track notions of representation.
Remember, you can apply to the UK Film Council with your genre script or treatment on any day of the week, whether you’re represented or not, so if you can’t apply for the 25 words or less, don’t sweat it. If you really think you’ve got a great idea, then put a proposal together, and take your chances with the Development Fund. They want your good scripts and genre ideas. The 25 words or less scheme is not the be all and end all (and to date, I don’t think there’s been any real successes i.e. actual films made, but a few have been optioned). I suppose the argument comes down to public money, and that the general public should be allowed to apply. But again, the general public can apply to the Development Fund, so there’s no reason to complain. They may be right, they may be wrong. It doesn’t really matter. That’s the way it is. Let’s get on with it.
I’m on system shut down for a few days, so see you later. In the meantime, be good, be kind and be careful. Most of all - be inspired! Corny send off there…so shoot me, maybe it’s the holiday vibe.