Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Coming Up 2012

It's that time of year again:

Coming Up 2012

4Talent Logo Coming Up Channel 4 4Talent

COMING UP is currently the only talent scheme in the UK where emerging filmmakers have the opportunity to make an authored drama with a guaranteed network broadcast. Now in its tenth year, Channel 4 and Touchpaper Television continue their commitment to innovation, experimentation and new voices.

Commissioned by Channel 4 and produced by Touchpaper Television, part of the Zodiak Media Group, the aim of the series is to create eye-catching, innovative, challenging films.


We will make 7 films for a half-hour Channel 4 slot.

What do we look for?

Bold, original and surprising ideas with strong voices – unafraid of ambition, wit, urgency and fearless entertainment. Films that can be shot in four days on a limited budget.

Who can apply?

We are looking for the best fresh and talented filmmakers out there.

  • Writers who have not had an original single, series or serial broadcast on UK television. Writers who have contributed episodes or series and serials (eg a long-running soap) are now eligible to apply.
  • Directors without a primetime TV drama credit.
  • Writer/Directors: We will accept submissions from writer/directors who meet the criteria for writers and directors as per above, but excellence in both disciplines must be shown to be considered in this category.

Submissions from multi-cultural and regionally-based filmmakers are encouraged.

How to apply:

Application forms are available here.

Submissions accepted by POST ONLY to:
Touchpaper Television
3-6 Kenrick Place
London W1U 6HD

Deadline for Applications: 1pm on Thursday 9th June 2011

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

The International Student Film Organization: Short Film Competition

I've happily accepted another offer from the ISFO to be on the jury for their short film script competition. The competition is being run through Circalit and here are the details:

The competition aims to encourage students interested in screenwriting to publish their work on an international platform and present their skill through a short film script. One of the targets of the ISFO is the connection of the student- and professional film sector and the competition is going to give students the chance to have their work judged by experienced screenwriters and industry professionals.

This competition is hosted by The International Student Film Organization Ltd

How the winner will be selected?

All screenplays will be pre-judged by film students from all over the world on The 20 best scripts will be forwarded to a jury of industry professionals, who will give their verdict between the 27th June and 17th July.

The jury includes distinguished judges such as Catherine Shoard (The Guardian film journalist), Phillip Barron (Screenwriter), Taghi Amirani (Documentary Film Maker), Jenna Bors (Academy Award winning student film maker), Andy Baker (head of MOFILM), Jez Freedman (Screenwriter), Evan Leighton-Davis (Industrial Scripts), John Dalton (Screenwriter), Hazel Hayes (YouTube Representative) and Wendy Mitchell (Head of News of of Screen International).

PLEASE NOTE: As only the 20 top rated scripts are going to be passed on to the judges, it's going to be up to you, the author, to ask your friends to come to the Circalit website and vote for you. Scripts which have not received any votes will not have a chance of being passed on. We have decided to organise the competition this way because we feel that it is not just writing skill that makes a good screenwriter, but also the talent to promote him/herself.


The winner will receive a free copy of the Mariner Writers' Suite 7. As a runner up prize, Pauline Kiernan has kindly sponsored her book 'Screenwriting they can't resist'. The best three scripts will also be premiered on the ISFO website with the permission of the students. The 20 most popular scripts will receive comments from our distinguished jury.


-You must be a student to enter (university confirmation might be required as proof from the winners)

- You must be a member of the ISFO (eg have signed up for our free newsletter)

- All screenplays must be between three and five pages long

- The story should be freestanding

- The screenplay can be of any genre

- All work must be original

- The deadline is the 12th June 2011

- By entering this competition, you register on the ISFO mailing list.

- By entering this competition, you grant the ISFO permission to access your name, email address and city of residence for the purposes of identifying entrants.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Writing what you know

Along with 'nobody knows anything,' 'write what you know' is one of the most overused (and often misused) expression in screenwriting.

I recently read Starting Over by Tony Parsons. At the end of the novel there was an interview with him and he made what I thought was a very accurate and interesting observation. He said that writers have three things to work with; life as you have lived it, life as others have lived it, life as you can imagine it.

It breaks down as experience, research and imagination. What you have gone through, what others have gone through and what you can make up.

It really does boil down to that. Writing what you know is writing about what you've done, what you can find out about and what you can dream up. New writers often fall into the trap of writing stories based on their own lives - and to be fair, most of us have done bugger all by our mid twenties. That's why the slush pile is full of a night in the life of a bunch of clubbing twenty somethings. Like all 'rules,' there are exceptions. It didn't do Human Traffic, Swingers or Go any harm. But most exceptions prove the rule.

And different scripts require different combinations of all three. Here's how it's worked for me in four of my screenplays.

A Lonely War - drama inspired by real life exploits of the 43 Group. Set in post war London, this took a massive amount of research; books, documentaries and best of all, speaking to a couple of former group members. Nevertheless the story I wrote was fiction - it came from my imagination. As far as my own experience - probably very little to be fair.

The Storyteller - drama about a disabled, aspiring novelist struggling with chronic pain. A dash of research, but most of this came from my own experience and imagination. The story was based on a what if? The protagonist isn't based on me, but an alternate version of me.

Can He Flick It - comedy about a guy trying to win the subbuteo world cup to save his family toy shop. Not much research or experience in this one. I did grow up playing subbuteo with mostly my brother every Saturday afternoon, and I did do some research into this weird subculture that surrounds the game now. But most of it I just made up, based on my love of films like Dodgeball and Happy Gilmore.

Dough - Again, not much in terms of experience, although the story is set in the Jewish community I am familiar with. However there was plenty of research into the character of Ayyash, the lives of Darfur refugees in this country, and I spent a day in my local kosher bakery watching everything and learning loads. But once again, the bulk of the story came from our imaginations.

So as far as writing what you know goes - the only time experience played the majority part was in The Storyteller - and even then it was mixed with a fair degree of making stuff up. For the most part, my screenplays come from research and imagination. This is true in the next two scripts I'm co-working on, one an animation feature about birds (so zero experience, a little research and plenty of imagination) and rom com about warring matchmakers (also pretty much zero experience, a bit more research and most of it made up.)

So the next time you hear someone talking about writing what you know, or even telling you to do exactly that, smile politely, nod your thanks, and think about what it really means.