Wednesday, July 04, 2007

To Mars and beyond!

I see a lot of blog buzz about Red Planet's £5000 competition. On one hand I applaud any initiative that offers a way in to the biz. On the other I say to Tony Jordan make it £20,000 so I know it's not just a self publicity gimmick.

No pro writer gets out of bed for 5 grand. And so far if you are not one of Tony's EastEnders mates you have little chance of getting on his shows. That's understandable. And I accept that.

But I hate the crap that goes on on network TV. When a writer with power has a chance to make a difference - then make a difference for fuck's sake. I hope he does.


Anonymous said...


I'd love to hear your thoughts on how this will pan out in practice. If you remember that the BBC Writers Academy reputedly had in excess of 1000 applicants and yet the entry criteria were very strict and that BBC Writers Room claims to get 10,000 scripts year then I reckon Red Planet are going to be inundated with thousands of 'first 10 pages'! Who will read these?? Will they genuinely be able to sift through them in a meaningful way? I can see this one disappearing under a sea of applications and I bet the eventual winner is under 35 or at least very demonstrably 'undiscovered' - the writer's equivalent of Paul Potts on Britain's Got Talent ie a real sob story that if it wasn't for this marvellous opportunity would have gone unnoticed and unrewarded.

Whatcha think?

English Dave said...

Anon, it is total verbage. Red Planet have nowhere near the resources to cope with this.

But kudos to them for their PR skills.

English Dave said...

My response above was ill judged. I have no idea what resources Red Planet have in place.

And don't get me wrong, I applaud them for this initiative.

Dom Carver said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dom Carver said...

From the horses mouth so to speak :-)

Jaded and Cynical said...

How nice that after the Diana concert we didn't have to wait long for the next exercise in shameless self-agrandizement from some cheesy showbiz types.

Okay, so we're talking here about thousands and thousands of bits of scripts being speed-read by an army of unpaid volunteers, so that one lucky beneficiary can pick up enough cash to make a down payment on a secondhand Mazda. Great.

Part of the problem in this country is that writing is treated like a hobby for enthusiastic amateurs, rather than as a professional career path within the entertainment industry. And daft competitions like this don't change that.

If Mr Jordan really wants to help new talent, why not hire a few promising writers and put them on the payroll. But hey, where's the PR benefit in that?

Nathaniel said...

Maybe prowriters don't get out of bed for £5000 but an opportunity is an opportunity and the day when I can say five grand? Wake me up when it's thirty is a day that might become possible with Mars and beyond. Maybe they don't have the resources, maybe they are all about PR and spin ... maybe ... a lot of maybe's. But I prefer to be optimistic. And I'm going for it.

Dom Carver said...

Jaded: So you don't think £5,000, an agent and a paid job writing for one of Red Planet's series is enough of a prize for a new writer?

Jaded and Cynical said...

If let's say 3000 people enter the competition, the problem isn't that one person wins a small prize, it's that 2,999 are wasting their time.

And if you really think you can beat those sort of odds, you shouldn't be writing fragments of scripts, you should be picking numbers any week there's a rollover.

What sort of job is (and that's what we're talking about - a job) that puts potential recruits through this sort of humiliating and random process? And just so that in five years time the lucky winner might get a chance to write an episode of HolbyWhatever.

I don't mean to belittle the dreams of others. Sincere good luck to anyone who enters the competition. But the more I learn about the business, the more convinced I become that you have to be nuts to try and pursue a screenwriting career in this country.

Anonymous said...

Tend to agree with Jaded, it'll attract hobbyists. There are enough writers with the talent and experience getting the door slammed in their face at the moment.
Isn't the slush pile big enough? The brainchild of Danny Stack executed by Jordan's fledgling Prodco. Hmmm, PR exercise to enhance the profiles of them both and put Red Planet firmly on the media map.

Ho hum, still give it a go. Five grand is five grand.

Robin Kelly said...

I fully take on board the comments against it and have lowered expectations accordingly but I still think that overall it's a good thing.

£5,000 is just the prize for the best script, commission fees are on top of that, I should imagine.

But why is it considered a waste of time for writers to be writing a script, Jay? It's something we should be doing all year long but it sometimes takes a competition to give us a kick up the arse and do it.

Should our script fail in the comp we should still have a good spec to try and get work elsewhere.

Jaded and Cynical said...

Maybe this is the cynic in me, but one of the problems with this competition is that they're not asking for complete scripts, just the first ten pages.

Instead of writing a full script and submitting a part of it, I suspect a lot of people will try and improve their odds by writing the first ten pages of five or six different stories and then dumping the lot into the Red Planet in-box. Good luck to the unpaid volunteers skimming their way through that lot.

Dom Carver said...

Jaded: See you haven't even looked at the competition properly. The first ten pages is to narrow down the field, then they will ask those who get through to the second round for the whole script.

Mr. Jordan has also stated that they may do something for other writers they like, who for one reason or another don't win.

You win even if you lose. Talent is what they're looking for after all.

Dom Carver said...

Jaded: Watch the vid.

Eleanor said...

Jaded, the rules say only one entry per person. That should cut the pile down a little bit. ;)

Sheikspear said...

Great post and some good verbal tennis between the Jaded & the Dom!

But hey...

It's a submissions call from a UK production company that accepts unsolicited scripts anyway (see the vid blog), but this time it's giving out a cash prize, (scribes are always short of money!) a contract, and mentoring!

What's not to like?!

It's free to enter, unlike a lot of other script comps (which will still have the same 100,000 - 1 chance)
It inspires! (look at all the blogs buzzing away!)
It gets scribes writing, surely the main point, even if like me (most probably)what you create won't be good enough for this year's entry you'll still have it saved for next year ( and all the other drafts of it--it might end up becoming THE script you knew you had hidden inside anyway...

And, yeah, sure, Red Planet get some publicity...
This is showbiz, folks!

English Dave said...

Good points across the board. Thank you all. As I see it, here is the danger facing writer prodco's in this country.

Suddenly you have overheads. Or partners bankrolling you who are looking for results. Results means commissions. Sure fire, A1 commissions.

That can create a pressure induced mindset of pitching what you think 'they want' rather than what is actually of good quality.

Holby Blue, a bog standard cop show, Echo Beach - a soap and God knows we need another of those - And Moving Wallpaper - a drama about behind the scenes on Echo Beach?

So far I'm thinking commissions rather than quality.

Anonymous said...

Now that all is said and done, does anyone really believe that Tony Jordan, Stephen Fry, et al read 10 pages each from 2100 scripts. If you do, I'd like to know what you're smoking. Just do the math!