Opinions

On a whim, I sent a script into the BBC’s writersroom a while back.

I didn’t have big expectations, I don’t even know why I did it really. I think I printed the script out for a competition then found out I could enter it online. Whatever the reason, it was lying around and I slapped it in the post.

The script I sent was Cause and Effect, which had previously won free script coverage from Script Shark. Coverage you can read here, if you really feel the need.

Script Shark liked the script and gave it a consider, which is quite good and not something which happens often (or so I’m led to believe). Part of the service Script Shark offer is free pimping if they give you a consider, and pimp they did.

Shortly after they took up my corner, I got a phone call from Colin O’Reilly who, according to his company’s website, just co-produced ‘Blades of Glory’. He likes the script and wanted to read anything else I’ve written.

This all sounded quite promising.

Nothing came of it, of course, but it sounded quite promising.

Anyway, whereas I was pretty certain the BBC wouldn’t like the script, I thought it might lead to one of those: ‘it’s not terrible, what else have you got?’ Kind of letters.

Yes folks, I’m that much of an optimist.

The reply came back today, no wait, yesterday now.

Shit, it’s bedtime.

The reply’s here, in black and white …

That’s right, it’s a bog-standard rejection. Absolutely bog-standard, no praise or criticisms whatsoever.

Which is fine, everyone has different opinions.

Maybe the BBC gets a far higher standard of submissions than Script Shark? Maybe they just have far higher standards? Maybe, giving myself a little break, the BBC are just looking for different things?

Of course, the most likely explanation for the widely varying coverage (glowing and none) is just a matter of opinion. Different people read the same script on different days and guess what?

They have different opinions.

(Right now I’m having a difference of opinion with my spellchecker – it seems to think ‘big’ isn’t a real word. It is a real word, I’m sure of it. There was even a film starring Tom Hanks, and Tom Hanks never lies.)

It just serves to remind me that the whole business is based on opinions and you can’t really trust any one person’s, good or bad. You have to take an aggregate of several to gain some sort of insight. Mind you, it’s hard to gain any insight from a flat rejection.

Still, last month I had two producers read the first half of the script on my website and go on to request the full script. Neither has got back to me yet. Actually, one did. He said he hadn’t read it yet, but would.

We’ll just have to wait and see.

In other news, I’ve just finished another draft of ‘The Seventh Sword of Bathrick‘, for the producer; and I’ve actually managed to write some sketches for The Treason Show and NewsRevue this month. NewsRevue have already used a half dozen of them, we’ll have to wait and see how I get on with The Treason Show. There are twelve sketches and a song in the current provisional running order, but that will probably reduce to four or five by the time the show runs.

Still, it feels nice to be back in the sketch saddle again, taking an interest in the world and then making fun of it. At least I can still make people laugh, and not just at me either.

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Categories: Industry Musings, Progress, Two steps back | 11 Comments

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11 thoughts on “Opinions

  1. Out of curiosity, how long does it take you to write a NewsRevue/Treason Show sketch? I know I’m quite slow at sketch writing, but I’m trying to figure out how slow in comparison to others.

  2. Depends how inspired I’m feeling. Some just roll straight onto the paper, the only limit is my typing speed. Some take an hour or so. Usually that’s me just staring into space trying to think of a punchline. In fact, the last line of any sketch is the hardest and takes much, much longer than any of the others.

    I guess a reasonable average would be half an hour per two page sketch?

  3. Right, I’m revising my self-description from ‘quite slow’ to ‘really effing slow’. Must work on that…

  4. How long does it take you?

    Bear in mind I skip several important steps, like reading it through for spelling mistakes.

    And it’s not always that fast. The other day I spent six hours at the computer and only came away with 4 sketches and a song – none of which were very good.

    We should ask Gordon how fast he is, he can either knock out a sketch every minute or he just never sleeps.

  5. Well, if I’m lucky and inspiration hits, I can be very fast indeed. But inspiration doesn’t hit very often. This month I went to the Treason Show writers’ meeting and got assigned to write a two-part sketch that took me over a day. And wasn’t very good. And didn’t make it into the rehearsal room. Story of my sketch-writing life at the moment — maybe I just need to take a short break from sketches and rest the funny muscles.

  6. Yeah, maybe. I just took the best part of six months off.

    Erm, this is embarrassing, but have we met at the writer’s meetings? I’m a bit shit with names.

  7. Last Tuesday was my first one, so unless you were there and I missed you, no.

    I’d like to get down to more of the writers’ meetings, but London to Brighton on a weeknight is a bit of a slog, and the last fast train back is at the ridiculously early hour of 10.

  8. Ah, no. I wasn’t there. Haven’t been to one for six or seven months. Last Tuesday I was in London, how’s that for synchronous avoidance?

  9. Hi Christine. Ignore Phill’s flippant comment about me writing a sketch every minute. Although, funnily enough, he’s right about me never sleeping. I have Velikovsky Syndrome. You know, where the eyes stay open but the body itself sleeps? It gives my wife the creeps when she turns over in the night and I’m staring straight back at her. I always feel like bursting out laughing at that point, but I’m usually far too tired.

    Anyway, sketch-writing, yeah. Like Phill says it’s either long, short, or in-between. Which is as about as much use as tits on a rabbit. There are shortcuts though. I always find that if you play a news story over in your head for a few moments while you’re away from a PC/laptop/piece of papyrus, then something will inevitably come. Then you start playing with lines, and hopefully see a punchline, or at least somewhere you can imagine the sketch stopping. The more you do before you actually sit down to write, the quicker it’ll get done.

    Obviously there are times it doesn’t work as simply as that, and you labour away for hours. My advice here is: walk away. Do something else. THINK of something else. The potential for thinking up another sketch, or a punchline for something – ANYTHING – is huge when you’ve got writer’s block on something else. Remember, the Coen brothers wrote Barton Fink while they had writer’s block on Miller’s Crossing (they even made writer’s block the central storyline – how genius is that?).

    Asking yourself what’s funny about a particular piece of news helps as well. That might seem obvious, but if you really sit down and think about the essential comedy within a story, then you’re halfway there. You see a story about John Prescott, you immediately think: sex, secretary, two Jags, violence. Pick your favourite. Mix them up. Sometimes, you can even reverse them. Imagine John Prescott as a peacenik, or a monk. Hey, NOW you’re being funny!

    Okay, so you might not be able to do that with every subject, but play around with the subject matter, play around with the form. Sometimes you can even get away with using the subject as a pretext for something even funnier. Take the example Mark gave this month about the EU being 50. He wanted to use that to shoehorn in a bunch of gags about how 2007 might have looked to people back in 1957. I wrote a sketch about that last night and it worked. It might not have had much to do with celebrating 50 years of the EU, but it still worked. Whether it makes the running order, though, is another story.

    I hope this is of some use to you, Christine. If not, put it down to the ravings of a chronic liar. If you haven’t already guessed, there’s no such thing as Velikosky Syndrome.

    PS. I notice you’ve got a link to my website on your own blog (yay! thanks for that). You might want to change that to my Myspace page though; it’s more up-to-date. And has pictures and stuff. It’s: http://www.myspace.com/gordonsrobertson

  10. Damn, Gordon. That’s long enough to be a guest post.

    You had me with the Velikosky Syndrome, I know a guy who sleeps with his eyes open. I was going to email him.

    It must be bed time, surely?

  11. I’ve swapped out your web site for your Myspace, Gordon.

    As for the sketch writing thing (sorry to have hijacked your post with this big conversation about my writer’s block problems, Phill), it sounds like we’re all talking about what psychologists call ‘flow’. I use most of the idea generation techniques everyone’s mentioned, but my problem seems to be getting into a mental state where the ideas come freely and smoothly (this being the mythical state of ‘flow’). I suspect I’m letting my inner critic get in the way too much, and I’m therefore wasting a lot of time agonising over whether such-and-such of a joke is funny, rather than getting on with it and leaving the critic bit til later.

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