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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Sharps Schenanigans, Part 2

Like many people out in www.land, I had a few issues with my script for the Sharps initiative. Thirty minutes' worth of quality, stand alone spec drama is harder to produce than one might initially think. Finding a story that "fits" is difficult: too small and you end up with an extended short (which *feels* somehow desperate); too big and you end up with a compressed feature which feels thwarted and cut off in its prime. Both are ultimately dissatisfying to read.

So I was quite pleased with my final effort, LINE UP. Ultimately a comedy drama, the first draft was a little top heavy structurally and contained several preachy scenes that needed to be excised with a sledgehammer. The second draft was met with a lukewarm response from one reader due to a "suspension of disbelief" problem and a couple of others who felt my gay character was a stereotype (though interestingly, an openly gay friend offering feedback felt the same character was "spot on"! Very confusing). The third draft however tied up several of these issues and was met with generally an enthusiastic response. Which was nice.

So I sent LINE UP off to Sharps on June 7th, sure I had as good as chance as any: after all, I had done my prep, had plenty of feedback (my original Po3 turned into about a Po12, with the feedback god that is David Bishop going waaaaaay beyond the call of duty, thanks mate) AND I had got the script in, in plenty of time BEFORE the deadline.

Except I haven't had a confirmation email.

Of course, this could mean two things other than my script never arriving at The Beeb: it may have been logged and my email sent, only AOL did not deliver it to me (wouldn't be the first time - and Chip, also an AOLer, very kindly points out he had the same problem on David's blog). It may also be that, because my script was early to arrive, it ended up on the bottom of the pile somewhere in the dark depths of the Writers' Room. I emailed Aunty yesterday and someone helpfully confirmed that there are still many scripts to log, so there is still a good chance it's in a pile still waiting. We'll have to wait and see, nothing else to do now at this late stage.

Of course, any disappointment on (possibly) missing out on this opportunity is based on the assumption I really DID have "as good a chance as any", lol. Maybe Line Up got to the Writers' Room and it's already been opened and discarded like the dog it *really* is... ; )

If you have any Sharps reflections you'd like to share, feel free...

UPDATE: Robin offers some really interesting thoughts about his rewriting process for Sharps here.

30 comments:

David said...

I already posted some thoughts on my blog - I only received my confirmation at about 7.30pm last night.

I definitely needed the challenge, although ideally I wouldn't have had several work deadlines pounce on me at the same time.

I assume you've seen this as well?

Lucy said...

Yes I have seen it, thanks David - I'm not the only one, yay!

I will check out your thoughts on Sharps pronto, ta for the link.

Laura Anderson said...

I JUST got my confirmation email through, Lucy, so sure you're will come soon.

SK said...

You know what would be nice? If they'd tell me at what stage I failed. I know they haven't time to offer feedback, but how long does it take to write a bunch of form e-mails that say 'your script was rejected after the first ten pages'/'was given a full read and then rejected'/'was passed to the judges', and then send the appropriate one to each entrant (they must have to enter all this into their system anyway, and they already have the unique ID number -> e-mail address mapping).

rosamundtearooms said...

From my experience of script reading, sk, I would imagine that if you get a full-read you'll get feedback.

Wyndham

SK said...

Point. Well, in that case I just wish they'd put on the form letter 'we only read the first ten pages and weren't impressed enough to go farther' instead of platitudes about the general standard of entries being unexpectedly high.

rosamundtearooms said...

Eh? Does that mean you've had a mail from them already?

Wyndham

SK said...

No, but I'm so busy next week that I have to make these points now 'cause I won't have time after I do get the e-mail.

Sal said...

I have no confirmation either, even though I sent mine recorded delivery a while ago. If it hasn't been logged, I assume it hasn't been read, yet the judges need to inform the winners by Friday, so haven't I missed the boat? Is it better to be rejected read or unread?
Anyway, hats off to the Beeb for this initiative. Let's not complain. They've read 600 scripts, will give feedback to 20 at a workshop and are to take 8 on a residential. That is above and beyond.
If you don't get through, you're not good enough, so go away and get better. That's what I plan to do.

David said...

sal: exactly my take on how to approach not getting through!

From what I've read at the blog, scripts aren't necessarily being logged prior to being read. Due to the time constraints, everything's being done in parallel (sort of).

SK said...

Well, there's a debate to be had about what's 'above and beyond' when it comes to a publicly-funded organisation whose duty is to produce top-quality TV as opposed to a commercial concern, but yes, this is a neat scheme.

I just wish they would be more up-front about not being good enough. It'd be interesting to know, basically, whether I'm in the 'shows promise but not there yet' bracket or the 'should give up' bracket. And with no feedback other than 'no' and platitudes, you always fear the worst.

('The standard of entries was very high' is the worst, because obviously there must have been a few stinkers among them - was mine one? How am I to know if they are polite to everybody? Tell me the truth about how rubbish I am! I can take it!)

David said...

sk: I suppose the flipside is that it's not the BBC's place to tell the people who fund it that they should give up writing. It would be good to know if you made it to a second reading or the longlist, though. Even that would be useful feedback.

Sal said...

SK - You could go on a course. I did a week long scriptwriting course last year and asked the tutor (a well known writer) 'Could I do this?' and she said 'Yes, if you work hard' which I think applies to a lot of us. Check out the Arvon Foundation website as they have a couple of TV writing courses this year.
Also, The Writersroom accepts scripts all year round. I sent my first and got some really useful feedback and an invite for my next script (which I have spent 9 months on - therefore it should be a lot better than my Sharps offering - I hope). Just make sure your first 10 pages are as good as they can be to insure a full read.
Or why not use a reader like Lucy or Writernet. You'll get unbiased comments.
Basically though, I know deep down that I'm not good enough yet. I don't need anybody to tell me. Am I sure if I will ever be good enough? No, but that's not going to stop me trying.
Anyway, good luck and remember, this writing lark is hard for all of us. I've got two friends who have just been commissioned and trust me, it never gets any easier.

Lucy said...

Some interesting stuff here guys, cheers.

I think I may have read for SK now you mention it Sal - but whatever the case, I would NEVER tell a writer they should give up any more than I would say they had a definite chance of making it... , I don't think it's possible to say either way with any writer, as people's work and potential changes literally all the time.

That's why I always say to writers that if they really want it, they should just keep going, no matter the outcome of schemes, courses, script calls, etc - and as hard as that actually is. Believe me, I know all about that!!

Caroline said...

Tell you what - this is like a TV episode with numerous cliffhangers and reversals. I sent my Sharps effort in late. But got an email receipt a couple of days ago saying they'd received my script. Now I've just got an email saying that I completed the online application form but they haven't received a script in the post. WTF.
For me this isn't as awful as for some others as I knew my effort was not good enough to cut it this time. But what a nightmare I think due to the very short turnaround they have on it.
Still - got to give it to the writersroom for Sharps. Just think of the admin (not in the Amy Whinehouse sense ;)) involved in this initiative let alone the reading. Hope they do it again.

Caroline said...

Oh - now they've 'recalled' their email to me. But which one, the one that says they've got my script or the one that says they haven't. Arghhhhh!

Did you ever get a receipt Lucy?

Lucy said...

Blimey - what a rollercoaster!

No receipt for me still and no closer to what that means.

This is an interesting development as you say though, since it shows that receipt of script emails are not necessarily, well, accurate. Meaning those of us who don't have those emails may not be as screwed as we first thought.

I hope they do it again too, but maybe next year The Writers' room would be better off with a 2 week turnaround minimum?

Lucy said...

Oh - and Caroline, looks like you weren't the only one this has happened to either if you check the writersroom blog in the comments section of the latest post...

Caroline said...

Yes - I've received an apology email as well now. So looks like mine did arrive by Monday after all. Phew.
But does show that they are now chasing up all the online submissions that they haven't received a script for. So does look like they're being thorough?

Lucy said...

That's a good point - I know they got my email form ok, so if they didn't receive my script then presumably I should hear within the next couple of hours and so should anyone else with the same prob...

Sal said...

I've just got one of those e mails from the Beeb to say they haven't received my script - although according to Royal Mail, it was delivered on Friday June 13th. Oh no, is it really lost or is this another mistake?

Lucy said...

I've got an email saying the same Sal, though unlike Caroline I haven't had a recall saying that was a mistake... So who knows! *Sigh*

Sal said...

Well, looks like we're stuffed. Even if they do find our scripts, why would they bother reading them? They're phoning finalists today and will be all scripted out.

Lucy said...

We've just got to console ourselves Sal that we've got a 30 min script to add to our portfolio - I know I wouldn't have got around to writing it without the focus of the deadline. And if they run it next year, then I'll enter it then, lol.

Lucy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SK said...

Yes, the NWI have always been very good at giving detailed feedback instead of form rejection letters. That's kind of why I was thinking that knowing how far from success we came would be a nice feature of this competition -- I wouldn't have even expected to hear back from the Red Planet one, for example.

As for telling people they should give up writing, well, it's the BBC's job to foster the culture of the nation, at least as regards television (well, I think it is, I am aware this is controversial at the moment) which does kind of make it their duty to try to find and nurture new talent but in no way obligates them to spare people's feelings.

I suppose they could always reply saying 'if anyone ever hires you to write anything, there is something deeply wrong with the world; however, given the amazing lack of talent displayed by some TV writers with flourishing careers anything is clearly possible, so you might as well keep at it.'

Lucy said...

No matter how good or successful a writer gets there is *always* someone lining up to condemn them as crap. This is a subjective business, what's the point in making assertions? Someone else is always likely to feel the exact opposite it seems.

SK said...

Okay so it looks like I get my wish (I suspected I might): 'We asked the readers to give the benefit of the doubt, and just over 100 scripts (out of nearly 600) made it through to the second read stage. [...] For the writers who got to the second round but didn't make the final shortlist - when the dust settles we will let you know that you got to the second stage, with some brief feedback.'

So I will get to find out fer sure whether mine was in the 5/6ths of the pile that had no merit whatsoever ever when given the benefit of the doubt.

Sal said...

Come on SK. Just because you didn't get through this time, doesn't mean you won't next time. Your script didn't cut the mustard, so you have to get back to work and make sure the next one does. And let's face it, four weeks was a very short space of time - I only managed one draft and my first drafts are always awful. I didn't get through either. Got rejected by Red Planet too. Still, am going to keep plodding on...if I get nowhere, ever.....well, I hopefully I will have enjoyed trying.

Lucy said...

Good for you Sal. And don't forget - if it doesn't "cut the mustard" somewhere, that doesn't mean it won't somewhere else. I have drafts that have been both blasted and praised to the hilt... No one's made em yet though! ; )