Sketch Factor

I got an email yesterday from the BBC – never a good sign. A month or two ago I sent in two sketches for their latest competition Sketch Factor; the general aim being to find new writers for a new Radio 4 sketch show: Recorded for Training Purposes.

I don’t usually bother with BBC Talent competitions, for several reasons:

1) Judging by the latest comedy offerings, the BBC and I don’t really agree on what’s funny any more. The last BBC sitcom I had any time for was HELP, which was buried in the back end of Sunday night where no one would see it. This difference of opinion usually extends to the winners of their competitions, I just can’t believe they are the best the country has to offer. I’m not saying I’m any funnier, I don’t think I am; but there must be some aspiring comedy writers out there who can actually write comedy, surely? The last few competitions have been about submitting material to shows I really, really don’t find funny. Writing comedy in a style you don’t find funny is really difficult, or at least it is to me.

2) I feel a bit weird about submitting to these competitions. By their standards, I qualify; I haven’t had a radio or TV commission. I do however make a small living out of writing; I am technically a professional writer – I get paid to write. I can’t help feeling I’m not complying with the spirit of the competition somehow.

3) I don’t actually like writing sketches. I do a lot of it, because it pays the bills; but I don’t actually enjoy it that much. I certainly don’t think I’m very good at it.

So initially I thought I wouldn’t bother.

Then I thought again. Recently I’ve been having a lot of success with sketch writing. The Treason Show and NewsRevue certainly appreciate my material. I’ve sat in the audience of The Treason Show and watched people laugh at my material; I know I can make people laugh – consistently, month after month.

So I changed my mind. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

And yesterday I received the response:

 Many thanks for your entry to the Show Me The Funny Sketch Factor competition.  We are sorry to let you know that your sketches have not been shortlisted for the next stage of the competition.

Damn it.

I honestly believed I stood a chance this time. I even sent one of the sketches into The Treason Show, where it was performed and people laughed. They thought it was funny, they can’t all be wrong. Can they?

It’s been a while since I’ve been rejected by anyone, I’d almost forgotten how it feels. I know logically it doesn’t mean I’m not funny. It doesn’t even mean the sketches aren’t funny; it just means there were other sketches which were a) funnier and b) better suited to the show format.

Still stings a bit.

On the plus side: I got a call this morning about GROOVE BRITANNIA, a short film I wrote with Marian Kilpatrick. It has been filmed and is currently in post-production; hopefully there’ll be a screening sometime in the new year.

I also got an email from Andrew Senior, one of the guys behind THE EVOLVED; they want to start on a new project as soon as possible. Great news, these guys may not have much in the way of resources, but THE EVOLVED was filmed and available in the shops inside of a year. As good as it is, the new project is going to be much better. They gained a lot of experience from the last shoot and I gained a lot of insight from the Cannes screening. I really think we can make this new film exponentially better.

I’m choosing to see yesterday as a good day. It may rain occasionally, but the sun always comes out afterwards.

Categories: Progress | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Sketch Factor

  1. Well, misery loves company. I got the same email from the BBC yesterday. I too thought I had a real chance with that contest, I too reacted to the bad news with a full-fledged sulk, and I too blogged about it. (Not as eloquently as you did, I must say.)

    It’s so hard to tell with these things. On reflection, my sketches may have been a smidge too cruel for the format. It’s nicer to think I got the tone wrong than to think I simply wasn’t funny. But who knows? At the end of the day, it was down to the personal taste of a small number of people whose judgement we might or might not respect if we actually knew them.

  2. I think this was the first of this kind of competition that I didn’t enter. For two reasons.

    The first was that I genuinely didn’t find the explanatory gumff about it all that funny.

    The second was that it’s a very hit and miss way to achieve something. If someone is looking for a writer to write for a certain show, or at the very least in a certain style, then the advertised parameters should dictate precisely what’s required. Just to say ‘send us a sketch or two’ doesn’t really cut it in my book. What if I write a sketch about a transgender Nazi with a penchant for paedophilia, when what they really want is someone who can write catchphrases like ‘Waazaaaa!’? (remember that one? Budweiser, if I recall).

    Thirdly (I know I only said two reasons, but I’m a writer, so I’m allowed to break with convention), I didn’t really want another rejection. I don’t mean that in a ‘poor me’ sense. I mean it in the sense that this wasn’t a project that greatly interested me, I didn’t have the confidence or belief that I’d pull it off (and thereby subconsciously probably wouldn’t have put my all into it), and felt that a rejection on these terms was more than likely. That, quite frankly, was not something I wanted.

    I’m more than happy to enter things I genuinely feel I have a chance with, and THEN being rejected (I’ve had so many rejections over the years I feel like Napolean Dynamite being the last to get picked for the footy team). That doesn’t bother me at all. Well, it does, but you know what I mean.

    A friend of mine got the same email as yourself and Christine the other day, and his reaction was exactly the same. Still, he’s got a sitcom being pushed in front of ITV2’s noses, so there’s still a chance elsewhere. Which is something we all have. We send so many things away, and reply to so many ads, that surely something has to stick sometime.

    Although, even then, we can still find time to moan about how it’s been treated.

    By the way Phil, congrats on the new imdb entry. Your feature film bibliography is now almost as big as Rik Waller’s pants. Another couple and you’ll be challenging Fern Britton’s bra. Keep it up!

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