RIP Oliver Postgate 1925-2008 Before all the hi-tech CGI this and Blu ray that, when life seemed a tad slower and less complex, there was a whimsical Film making Magician called Oliver Postgate. A genius of stop-motion, his gentle tales of whistling Moon Aliens, talking Trains and a certain saggy old cloth cat enthralled millions of children in the 50s, 60s, 70s and garnered new generations of young fans with constant TV repeats and DVD sales. Remember the innocent joy of Bagpuss, "The most Magical, Saggy old cloth cat in the whole wide world", Noggin the Nog, Ivor the Engine, The Clangers, Pingwings, The Pogles of Pogles Wood?
Thanks for the childhood memories Oliver, sleep well.
My first one. My first multi networking. Actually got to give away some business cards!
Remember back to when it was that exciting for you?
Obviously the highlight of the fantastic evening was meeting the lovely Michelle and the fabulous Chip in person.
We all went for an impressively artsy-fartsy cakes and coffees in this quaint bistro/bar/deli/shop thing (very Bright-on) with real screenwriter and Noddy Holder lookalike Andy G afterwards. (The Bill, TV dramas Features, etc) I even got a hug from Michelle! (Red Planet finalist/ BBC academy, Stage plays, etc)
Hope some talent rubbed off on me…
Anyway, dear reader, here’s my report as salvaged from my scribbles…
Paul Ashton, the development manager at the BBC Writersroom aided by the lovely Jan, a dedicated staff script reader, (she beat 500 other people in the race for the job) presented the amiable, low key road show.
They’ve been whizzing up and down the UK, (see site for details)and had presented their spiel in Cardiff the previous night.
To be honest, there was nothing new here, you can get all, in fact much more, info and tips from their excellent site, but it was nice to see the human face of the BeeB.
In fact, Paul went to great pains to point out that they are Human. That they really do care. That they do understand the massive responsibility that we, and the Beeb, have thrust upon them.
As befitting a packed auditorium of screenwriters, he showed us, not merely told us about, an image of a huge pile of scripts in the Writersroom script room.
“What do you see here?” he asked.
“Despair!” some happy go lucky chap shouted out. Great. Bring us all down before we’ve even got the low-down on the odds of the being the one good one /lucky one /thing of the moment script that shines brightest amongst the 10,000 or so sent in each year. So I countered with “Hope!” –‘cos that’s what I came for.
I think a lot of the other people there came for a bit of hope too. The Hope that the Writersroom really do read all the scripts. (They do.) The Hope that they do guide/mentor/direct an exciting new talent to the Promised Land. Or preferably contract. Or at least, the right course… (They do.)
The Hope, that one day, “It” will happen.
Well “our” Paul reckons “It” might…
If you’re good enough. If you’re lucky enough. If you work hard enough. Especially the latter. His favourite phrase, to describe every phase of the process was “It’s very hard. Successful writing is incredibly hard to do.”
Paul didn’t see a slush pile in that picture. He said the Writersroom doesn’t have a slush pile. Unlike everywhere else, it has a pile of scripts waiting to be read, that will be read as per its remit.
He saw “hope, blood, sweat and tears” in the script mountain.
Jan saw fingerprints. She meant, of course, the essence of the individual’s voice on the page. Though, I must admit, what with the blood reference as well, I had this nasty image of some poor sod literally typing away until his/her digits were just bloodied, mushy stumps.
Apparently there’s a fine line between dedication and insanity…
Both Paul and Jan came across as excitingly enthusiastic about their mission to find, help and nurture new writers, if, as Paul kept saying, they had the raw talent.
And that mystical original voice. And of course, can tell a good story.
The BBC, through the Writersroom, has an open call policy on scripts. Anything, on any subject, as long as it’s over 10 pages so they can assess your Writer’s voice.
All, yes ALL, submitted scripts are read.
Even the over zealously packaged, though probably not the one someone had carefully tied with a together with a length of garden hose, sealed in covers decorated with a mosaic of garden tools items loving cut from the Argos catalogue and dispatched to the Beeb in a small wooden tool box!
“Please” said Paul. “Just send your script. It will tell us all we need to know.” Don’t forget to add your contact number, name and address with it. It seems obvious, but apparently a large number of us wannabes forget that bit…
Every script is subject to the infamous 10 page shift.
Contrary to popular believe, the Writersroom doesn’t use trainees/work experience/unpaid students for this.
A special team of contracted readers are brought in to assist the 10 staff readers with the cull.
A sort of Script SAS.
Each is an industry professional (directors, writers, producers etc). Each has a different speciality (animation, comedy etc) though all with the “ability to cross read all genres.”
Every script which has a full read gets feedback.
Paul emphasised the importance of the first 10 pages/10 minutes. “It’s far too easy to hit the off button, change the channel, surf the net.”
We have to hook the audience straight away to keep them intrigued.
Paul went so far to say that in his opinion, (which really counts!), we have only got 1 to 3 minutes to hook the money. “Get us to page 10. Then make us turn to page 11, then 13-14-15 etc. Hook us in” he said. “We really want to read a great script. It’s what drives us. It's what excites us” he enthused.
He challenged us to excite them by throwing out a series of clichés and sound bites.
But these ones work…
“Say what you mean, be clear in your script.
Write what an actor or director can show.
Play to your passion. Write what you just have to write. Don’t try to second guess what the industry wants. They’re way ahead of you. Be yourself, your own original voice.
Throw us into the middle of a scene. If it doesn’t need to be there to move the scene forward-cut it! Start on page one and don’t stop until you reach the end!
Character IS everything. For every scene think what does your character want now/tomorrow/end of his/her life?
Make the reader have an emotional experience.”
And my fave of the evening:-
“Drama has to go somewhere - it’s like a bicycle – if you stop pedalling you’ll fall off.”
Paul admitted hardly any of the spec scripts are actually made. We have to think of them as calling card scripts; to get the BBC to notice you and develop you as a writer.
He cited Angie Clark (“Eyes down”), Keith Brumpton (M.I. High), Paul Farrell (“Silent Witness”) as writers, among others, who had been developed and mentored into the industry directly because of their spec scripts sent into the Writersroom.
The night finished with a question and answer session and the offer to take our scripts back to the BBC “but only if you are sure they are the very best they can be. If they’re not, polish them, refine them, and submit them another time. The door is always open…”
This seemed to work its trick, because out of the packed audience, relatively few handed in their prized Opuses. (Opi?)
I did. It was what I went for.
I imagined Paul and Jan reading my drama in the comfort of their chauffeur driven BBC limousine ride back to London, hardly being able to contain their excitement, already drafting up that big, fat contract.
Good ol' Auntie Beeb are giving you all a chance to meet Your Favourite Monkey in person at, I believe, a free event !
Yeah, apparently they'll also being giving out advice, Q & A sessions etc and accepting scripts. But you know it's me you wanna see...
Sorry for rather late post but only found out last night. Must check in with Writersroom website more often! WR on facebook here http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/group.php?gid=35438074827&ref=mf
Anyone else going?
reply in comments section here or http://sheikspear.blogspot.com/ or email Hope to see some of you! You need to book a seat via the site or the link above. Brighton 6:00 - 7:30pm, Thursday 4 December 2008
Sallis Benney Theatre Faculty of Arts and Architecture Grand Parade Brighton
***UPDATE*** Meeting the Lovely Michelle & the equally Lovely Chip.
Anyone else going?
Just look out for a Monkey riding a camel, a blood stained Halloween physco surgeon and a small dog with a Tommy Cooper Fez! Hope you don't miss us...
A bit late 'cos I've been away on hols. Big up to the Spanish posse: Ricky, Josie, Mo, Dave & Michie, the 2 Johnnies et al.
Mrs S & I actually returned to the grey on Tuesday, but SO much to do/tired/hung over/lazy etc) only just got on the Blogosphere...
So HUGE Congratulations to all the very talented spec monkeys out there who got through to the Red Planet films full script call!
Special "well dones" to all my fellow bloggers who got though because, well, I "know" you, I follow your successes and near misses (no failures here!) like you follow mine, and I love you all. Truly do.
Especially whoever wins. Can I write one of your "guest" writer episodes?
Now stop reading this and go polish those scripts!
Commiserations to everyone else, myself and the Camels included, who got the "close but no cigar" email. Naturally the Camels really got the hump about it...
Moi? Well, I tried my best, that's all anyone can do, and it wasn't good enough/not what they wanted/didn't have legs/whatever.
Disappointed? Yeah, course. Giving up? No, course not! There's loads more leads to follow. Loads more comps to try. Loads more Prodcos to spec to. (We are after all, Spec monkeys, remember?) There's "RPIII: The Revenge" next year, where your script really is the best ever. And this time they'll realise it. And remember all the projects you were working on before RP became the be all and end all? Yeah, those ones...Good weren't they?
Remember how passionate you were about them? Yeah! Good!
So wish all the best to your buddies who are through, get over your knock back, and pound that keyboard 'til it melts from the heat of your red hot script rather than that can of petrol!
Now stop reading this and go finish those scripts!
Psst! Hey! Pssst! Oi you! Yes. You. Writery person... Have you seen this? No? Get over there quick then, in case they delete it! The great man himself speaketh his wisdom to us mere mortals. Free. Here. Seven pages worth, courtesy of good ol' Auntie Beeb. And it still ain't even Christmas yet...
Aren't we good to you, the BBC, Russell, and me..?
Updated my profile here and at http://www.myspace.com/sheikspear. Hope it looks more Writery. What do you think? All Comments welcome. How's your writing going? Mine's going well, thanks for asking, trying to finish/polish my 2008 Red Planet spec, but wouldn't you know, another brand new "blinding" spec idea keeps barging it's way to front of the muddled mind maze to crave development.
Different genre. Different era. So can't even sneak it in past the first ten pages already sent. Have to save it, on the usual scribbled bits of scrap paper*, for later. Unless the original protag falls into a time vortex or becomes a time traveller...Maybe he walks into this old fashioned Police telephone box and...
So, talking of time travel...
Here's something special to inspire you all:-
http://www. thewriterstale. com/scr. html Six scripts from the great Sir Russell T. Davies, OBE, including "Midnight" a true Master class (pardon the pun) in tight, gripping writing. Pure Class. Top education. Read them!
* Anyone else do that? Use the blank back of letters/old scripts etc as notepads? No? Well, you should now we're all supposed to be green!** **That's green as in recycling, save the planet, roll the whale back into the sea, green. Not green with envy at those scripts...
Hope this might be good for somebody "out there"...
Only just got this- I know it's really LATE notice but some of you might have something to go and if not it's only a 100 word pitch on something you might have... The panel are mainly Doc makers but it does say drama or ANYTHING I've sent 2 - it's free no postage so why not? You never know. Good Luck, Sheiky
"Euroscript News Pitch Up 2008 Pitch Your Idea to Channel 4 Urgent Deadline: this Friday 10th October Just in from Stellar Network - it's a very tight deadline but we wanted you to see it:
Do you have an incredible new TV idea that you would love to pitch to the people who REALLY matter- the commissioners and executives? Stellar is teaming up with Channel Four for a major new TV pitching event which will allow you to do just that. "
The great Russel T Davies tells us about another maybe, "The Maybe"...
"by the time I come to write, a lot has been decided. Also, a lot hasn't been decided, but I trust myself, and scare myself, that it'll happen in the actual writing. It all exists in my head, but in this soup. It's like the ideas are fluctuating in this great big quantum state of Maybe. The choices look easy when recounted later, but that's hindsight. When nothing is real and nothing is fixed, it can go anywhere. The Maybe is a hell of a place to live. As well as being the best place in the world"
Sounds familiar, does it not?
The great Paul Campbell, one of my "all you need to know" (UK) scribes, has a brilliant post about the doubts, triumphs and maybes of pro screenwriting here
Sums up why we do it. Or rather strive to do it. Maybe.
The effervescent Rachael me-me'd er, me, with the following...
“Find a song that sums up what you think it means to be a writer and post the lyrics on your blog and why you've chosen it. NB: It doesn't have to be your favourite song, it just has to express how you feel about writing and/or being a writer. It can be literal, metaphorical, about a particular form or aspect of writing - whatever you want. Then tag 5 others to do the same (reprint these instructions).”
So, with apologies to Mr Lennon and Mr McCartney, here's the song lyrics that always remind me of writing and inspire me to lovingly splash the ink across the parchment in the vain hope that one day my mad musings may be committed to celluloid...
Scriptwriter (Paperback writer amended)
Dear sir or madam, will you read my script? It took me years to write, and should be green lit Based on a novel by a man named Lear And I need a job, so I want to be a scriptwriter, Scriptwriter.
It’s the dirty story of a dirty man And his clinging wife doesn’t understand. His son is working for the daily mail, It’s a steady job but he wants to be a scriptwriter, Scriptwriter.
It’s a thousand pages, give or take a few, I’ll be writing more in a week or two. I can make it longer if you like the style, I can change it round and I want to be a scriptwriter, Scriptwriter.
If you really like it you can have the rights, It could make a million for you overnight. If you must return it, you can send it here But I need a break and I want to be a scriptwriter, Scriptwriter.
To think when I started I didn't know what I was blogging about, but, hey baby,look at me now...
Sorry, went a bit Austin Powers then...
So, how's it all going?
Yeah, deadlines are looming fast, so writing time's precious.
If you wanted a bit of procrastination or just as a cunning plan (Cripes! gone all Baldrick now...) to jolt the little grey writing cells (now I'm Hercule Poirot!) outa a blockage...
How's about,( oh no! Jimmy Saville!) in honour of this 101st blog, a writers "room 101" open me-me for now then, now then...(Jim again, what's wrong with me today?)
So, my pet writing hates for room 101:-
1/ Writers block (ha! ha! it be banned forever now, I tell ye!) - bloody hell - now I'm all piratey...
2/ House hold chores as set by the wife or significant other "before you play on the computer" - I mean, chores, really, surely that's why we have non writing partners...(Dunno what Dave and Rachael do!)
3/ Any type of repair man coming round "on your day off"
4/ Computer Viruses ( especially those devious window crashes deliberately set as electronic time bombs by you Mr Gates, the ones that magically happen just as you type that final Oscar winning line and yet just before you hit the "save" button...)
Sincerest apologies to my fan who emailed and asked if I was OK!
Fear ye not fellow Scribes, Ol' Sheiky is still in the game...
Sorry for leaving the blog floating all alone in cyberspace for a while...
I have been very busy lately! Don't worry, I've still checked in to sneak a peek at your gaffs to make sure you're all still OK (although quite a few of you have been a bit blog slack too...).
Glad you're all well and writing!
Well, busy, busy, busy with family, work and domestic projects... ...and, oh yeah, yer actual writing!
Been tiding my files and scraps of paper to sort out an order of sustained attack to move things up a gear, and build the portfolio into a professional agents/producers pack.
I really feel I have improved and have a greater understanding of scriptwriting than I did last year, and want to try to reflect that in a slight change of direction for the blog...
Totally script orientated only from now on. (Alright, maybe the odd funny!)
Writing wise, things are moving on a pace...
Had a few proper - yer actual writer - meetings!
Two turned out to be time wasters who had great huge pies in the sky, but one is ongoing and gives me the chance to be really writer-ery and tease you with the news that I'm involved in a secret TV project!
Yeah, me! But my lips must remain sealed until the time's right (just before it goes on air??)
RP project 2 is going well, and will be entered on time! Brand new show for this year although last year's entry is out in someone's inbox as we squeak! (and, no, that's not the secret TV project...yet!)
My film script is in it's tightening up stage and should be flying off to the RISE summer challenge soon. You're all entering that one as well right? Right?
Anyway, must go, lovely talking to all again!
p.s. I orf on Holiday again to get Mrs S some Sun (she works hard, bless her) so I'll see you all again in just over a week!
On the lazy-hazy Sunday Mrs S & I rode the camels (er, ok, bikes) down to the old A.D. for a free charidee Rock fest!
Sunny Sunday afternoon, picnic on the way by the water, then rocked the day away! Can't get better!
Amidst a collection of sparklin' chrome wielded together into awesome chopper styles, Harley D's and Jap rockets (and bizarrely an armoured car!) the beer flowed and the bands rocked a happy Pompey crowd at the Admiral Drake Community Festival Weekend!
Alternating between the vast open air auditorium, ok, car park, and the more intimate interior stage, the top selection of bands played for free and all the proceeds (raffles, auctions, lucky dips, collections, etc) went various well deserving charities and a great time was had by all.
Unfortunately we couldn't make the Saturday, but of the fantastic Sunday line up, particularly awesome were the Jam look & sound alikes Autum Stone, the heavy metal Stone Free, (best Black Sabbath "War Pigs" since Tommy & Ozzy!), the classic rock covers of Dr Rock, and the Whitesnake tribute band Whitefake.
No, silly, they're not getting engaged or hitched or whatnot...
Michelle is through to round two of the BBC academy (and as earned herself a place on my "All you need to know ( U.K.)" list!) and Piers, clever fellow, has written and directed an excellent short movie, "Fatal", which he'll let you see here...
I know the movie posters challenge comp is long over (many thanks to all those who took part)but I'm sure you'd agree this has got to be a contender for one of the best, had it been around at the time...
...to catch up on what I missed whilst away. I actually came back on the 30th but had work/life/usual things etc to sort out before I could crank up the old WWW.
First, my thanks to Super Nun, Lady Elinor of London for dispatching my prize from her comp, "Story" by Robert Mckee, to greet me on my return from my adventures. Anyone know if it is any good?
Loads of you went to SWF, maybe next year for me, when I've more to pitch, more experience/confidence to blag people into believing/assuming I know what I'm talking about...
Looking forward to reading your reports, when you recover from the hangovers,info overload and lost voices from all that pitching and networking. First SWF blog I've found is David Bishop's excellent highlights here and, even better for Dave, he got in free as a guest speaker!
Sir Jason of Arnopp has King Steven of Moffat's exclusive interview here Shared only with only us, his virtual buddies, and the few billion readers of Dr Who mag.
Word Lords Sir Daniel Stack and Sir Robin Kelly have the lowdown, with loadsa links, about something called the Red Dwarf prize or summat, here and here, though I've never heard of it and probably neither have any of you...
Information Queen, Her Majesty Lucinda Vee has a brilliant research list here to help give all your scripts an edge of realism.
Lady Rachael, of Castle Howard, tells us here about the success of her latest plays and the dangers of encouraging all those pesky new speccy writers...
"Talking" of new writers (well, new to me, anyway) check out Brendan O'Neill and Scampenstein . I wish I'd thought of it; I think he can sell this on the title and poster alone!
Duchess Potters reports on the Sharman Macdonald talk she attended here
Scribe Oli needs your vote here to help him decide on his next exciting opus...
Now, surfing done, bashing out this quick round up has made me come over all strange, an old feeling I've not had for a while,I've got to go write before it goes...
Well the old enemy the evil Dr Time and his nasty cohort Real Life, have beaten me again. Twice. Maybe, no, make that definitely, I tried to do too much. BBC Sharps, gone, dropped out. My effort's just not good enough. The idea was/is there but the execution, well deserved an execution! Without the blindfold or any last requests. It was stale, boring even. The Muse visited briefly, then taunted from a far.
Then, Bruntwood... Missed the deadline. Can't blame the postie. It's the damn spec monkey. Didn't finish it in time, let alone polish it. Sunshine, Pompey's cup celebrations, relationships, work, other commitments-all non screenwriting by the by, (how can that be? Am I not serious about this?) trimmed the weekly page count down to, well, to be truthful, nigh on zero in the end.
What to do?
Well, finish them both for the portfolio now the deadline pressure has passed. And work and complete one at a time. I'm not a James Moran. At this point in my writing I need to focus on one at a time.
Still on the bright side got mentioned in Blake Snyder's logline competition. And he's Hollywood!
And even brighter, won Sister Elinor's "Story" comp! (Thanks Super-Nun!) And she's Pinewood. Or Cricklewood, or nearby...
And on the even brighter side I'm off on HOLIDAY tomorrow! (promise I'll take me notebook...) See ya all when we return! Sheiky, xxx
As our belated Christmas prezzie, Awesome stepson Stephen treated Mrs S and I to a trip to see BON JOVI at Southampton FC 's stadium (nice to see they get some use for it-must be so empty on match days now...).
Brill show, as you'd expect. 35,000 people Rockin' together. The way the world should be.
"List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring. Post these instructions in your blog along with your 7 songs. Then tag 7 other people to see what they’re listening to."
Different tunes for different moods. OK, Rob, m'friend, here goes...
1/ Wanted dead or alive - Bon Jovi Any/all Bon Jovi - Saw 'em last night at Soton FC Stadium-awesome! ( though occasionally cheesy -they sung Lulu's "shout" to 35000 people!)
2/ Streets of Kenny - Shack
3/ 15 miles to nowhere - For Ramona
4/ Back in Black - Ac/dc
5/ We have all the time in the world - Louis Armstrong
6/ Smoke on the water - Deep Purple
7/ House of the rising sun - Brian Johnson and Geordie ( you gotta hear this one-heavy bluesy rock version)
Oh, yeah and of course, Luke and the Star wars band - I love ol' guitar Han's solos...
Have a great Holiday weekend! Don't let the keyboard take over your life too much... Take a walk, have a day out, watch a live band, see a movie (as in relax, enjoy and actually watch it - not study plot points, character arcs, etc), go down the pub...
Catch up on some reading...
Some essential new posts of wisdom from those who know:-
Well, what a week that was! Writing wise lost the weekend (again), but this time to Pompey's F.A. Cup win and celebrations, so didn't really mind. Too much. The Beeb officially announced that the brilliant Steven Moffat will take over from the equally brill Sir Russell T. Davies on Dr Who. And I actually knuckled down to some serious scriptwriting in the week!
Like James Moran on heat (but with fewer projects on the go and with less talent!) in a mad (and sadly all too rare) bout of keyboard frenzy I've resurrected the lost play for Bruntwood. It looks better, feels a tad fitter (trimmed some fat) but with only 20 days 'till the entry deadline the pressure is on. It still has a long way to go to live up to it's outline but I've got the "buzz", the excitement back for the project. I must admit I've struggled with this one, not only against the Evil computer, but also the restraints of the stage. That other Shakespeare fellow has certainly gone up a lot in my estimation! After some serious dithering, procrastination and general failing to come up with any sustainable ideas, I've also made some in roads into a script for the Beeb's Sharps initiative . That 'the nation's health' remit had me stumped for a while. And if all that's not all, for "relaxation"(!) and, mainly, to get me in the writing mood, I managed to translate some insane jottings from my scribble pad into a couple of funny (hopefully - but hey, comedy is a funny thing to write...) sketches for later use.
...Oh, and this time they're all saved on memory stick, sky drive and emails to my work's computer...
Go on guess Who, as Russel T. Davies says farewell...and takes his special brand of genius to other projects
So long Russ, Thanks for bringing the magic back.
"BBC Wales and BBC Drama has announced that Bafta and Hugo Award winning writer Steven Moffat will succeed Russell T Davies as Lead Writer and Executive Producer of the fifth series of Doctor Who, which will broadcast on BBC One in 2010."
"My entire career has been a secret plan to get this job," said Moffatt. "I applied before but I got knocked back because the BBC wanted someone else. Also I was seven. "Anyway, I'm glad the BBC has finally seen the light, and it's a huge honour to be following Russell into the best - and the toughest - job in television. I say 'toughest' because Russell's at my window right now, pointing and laughing."
The brilliant outgoing lead writer and executive producer Russell T Davies adds: "I can't wait to see where his extraordinary imagination takes the Doctor. Best of all, I get to be a viewer again, watching on a Saturday night."
Moffat's career began in 1989 with the landmark ITV children's drama "Press Gang", for which he won his first Bafta. "Coupling", the hugely popular and award winning sitcom that he created and wrote followed in 2000 and ran for four seasons. "Jekyll" a six part comic thriller transmitted on BBC One last year.
As well as "Dr Who", the super talented Mr Moffat is a director on the board of Hartswood Films, (which produced Coupling and Jekyll), is working on new comedy "Adam & Eve" (with wife Sue Vertue) and has just delivered the screenplay for "Tintin" to Steven Spielberg, the first multi-million £ instalment of a planned trilogy.
http://www.thewriterstale.com/scr.html Six scripts from the great Sir Russell T. Davies, OBE, including "Midnight" a true Master class (pardon the pun) in tight, gripping writing. Pure Class. Top education. Read them!
Plot, Characters, all 3 acts in half a minute...Jennifer Shiman hilariously re-imagines two hour movies in just thirty seconds, and still retains the major plot points! Pitching masterclass for when that Exec says " You've got half of minute of my time."