Monday, 8 March 2010

Submitting a Screenplay to BBC Writersroom

The great thing about sending a screenplay to BBCWritersroom, is that, on condition that the first ten pages grabs the attention of the reader, the screenplay will get a fair reading, and possibly even a feedback, which is often more than what other film agents have to offer.

What to Expect from BBCWritersroom

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Too often it happens that film agents are too busy to even look at a screenplay. At other times, the film agent may be too busy to reply to a submission package due to other commitments and needs chasing up. This is where BBCwritersroom differs, for despite receiving thousands of submissions every year, at least the first ten pages of the screenplay will be read. If the screenplay is worth its salt, it will be properly evaluated, and in rare cases, taken on.

BBCWritersroom and the Role of the Screenwriter

The screenwriter must ensure that the first ten pages offers something different, in that the opening scenes are compelling and is sparkling with quality, or the rest of the screenplay will not be read. The BBC also has helpful tips and advice for the budding screenwriter looking for opportunities, which can be found on their website.

How to Submit a Screenplay to BBC Writersroom

Submitting a screenplay to the BBC is quite simple, for no other documentation is required. However, the screenplay must stand out from the crowd in quality and originality. This means drafting and drafting again. Equally important, the screenwriter must read the submission guidelines carefully, for what not to include is as important as what is sent.

The following are not required by the BBC:
  • Episodes of existing dramas, such as Eastenders or Ashes to Ashes. Only original ideas are welcome
  • An explanation of why the screenplay is so good and should be read. The screenplay will be judged on its own merits
  • Literary fiction that requires adaptation, although a film adaptation from the writer’s own fiction novel is welcome
  • Film treatments or proposals are not welcome. Only the completed screenplay will be evaluated
  • A screenplay in the correct format is essential. Scriptsmart Gold is a free downloadable screenwriting software which will format TV dramas, sitcoms and radio sketches.
What BBC Writersroom Want
BBCWritersroom, as well as other film agents are looking for the following qualities within a screenplay:
  • Original, compelling and contrasting characters whose conflicting drives propel the plot
  • A strong subtext, that is the difference between what is overtly expressed by the characters and what remains unsaid.
  • Dialogue that leaps from the page, and where every word counts without seeming to
  • An original plot where the audience cannot guess the outcome
  • A white knuckle or painfully subtle conclusion
  • The ideal screenplay should be between 90 to 110 pages long and contain the writer’s contact details.
What to Expect after Submitting the Screenplay

The writer must learn to be patient, for writing often involves waiting. The BBC will endeavour to reply with an acknowledgment card within four months or so. But with so much competition, the screenplay is likely to be returned without comment. If the screenplay is good, however, it will be returned with a feedback and an invitation to send a second screenplay. In very rare cases, the screenplay may be referred to a development scheme via the development manager. But this has happened in the past.

But even if the first attempt is fruitless, it is worth keeping an eye on the BBCwritersroom site for scriptwriting competitions, bursaries, news and events. The BBCwritersoom blog is also contains useful advice for screenwriters.

Helpful Articles on Screenwriting

The transformational arc of the screenplay
Why write a screenplay
Books on screenwriting

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