Trainee Writer

Adventures of a screenwriter in training…

The difference between readers, network execs and agents…


Every screenwriting book, every website, every piece of information you’ll ever read will tell you the same thing: Once you’ve written your one-in-a-million script, you’re going to have to get yourself an agent.

What may surprise you here is that I’m not going to tell you how. For me to do o would be fraudulent because, well, I don’t have an agent. But I recently had an experience that I’d like to offer up not only as my first post of this blog, but as a cautionary tale.

After years of slugging away, trying to make something of myself as a writer, I finally had a script that I was happy(ish) with. The script, a television pilot for a show called Holland Park. I was so happy with it as a pilot script that I’ve even, with the aid of my good friend Colm, looked into producing a full-scale pilot but, alas, the money never came together. So I started to explore the next best avenue – putting it out here in the hope that someone might make it for me.

My first move was to submit it to the BBC Writersroom program. After a five-month wait, they decided that they were going to pass on the show – not so good, but I could take heart in knowing I’d make it through to the second round of the selection process. How do I know this? Because I cot a full page of coverage from them, in which I was told that they had enjoyed the premise and that I showed great skill in being able to effectively juggle so many characters (The show has nine leads) but that, sadly, the show wasn’t for them. While that isn’t a sale, that’s resoundingly positive feedback from one of the top media organisations in the world. The Writersroom reads thousands of scripts each year, and many don’t even make it to the second stage – it’s an undervalued achievement in its own right.

My next step was to do something ballsy and overly proactive. Something the television writing Gods would tell you is strictly verboten – I started contacting other networks directly. Whilst I received no reply from most – Sky One, Living (ss it was at the time) and Channel Five all managed to completely ignore my e-mail, whilst Channel 4 made it clear that they have a strict ‘don’t even think about it, kid’ policy on their website – I did receive a reply from my first-choice home for the show, MTV.

Not just an automated reply, a personal e-mail from their Director of External Development, Ilya Colak-Antic. He asked me to send him the script, read it and admitted that he liked it, though unfortunately didn’t find it to be edgy enough for the network. So I broke the other so-called golden rule: I pushed my luck and asked him if he had any notes for me. He said he didn’t, that the premise worked, the characters were authentic enough but it was just too tame for MTV.

As notes go, I was more than happy with that. As far as I was concerned, I was doing okay; I may not have made the sale, but I was getting positive feedback from some big-hitters in British TV.  So finally, I decided to make that next step: I submitted my script for the consideration of an agent.

Most literary agencies have one golden rule: They absolutely will not, under any circumstances, read unsolicited screenplays. The agency I approached, who I won’t name but will say are one of the majors, had this policy, but noted that they would read unsolicited stage plays. This seemed strange to me – after all, surely there’s not a lot of difference? Again, I decided to lay my cards on the table and take a risk.

After browsing the list of agents on their website, I found one who seemed to be the person dealing with television scripts and decided to write her an e-mail. I was friendly, open and honest – I admitted that I don’t write stage plays, I don’t know how to write stage plays, but I do know how to write screenplays – and asked if she would consider taking a look at my work. Her response was nice enough and she asked me to send them over, which  was happy to do. Then I began the waiting game. I’d submitted two scripts, the Holland Park pilot and, to prove I could write comedy, the first draft pilot of my work-in-progress web show, Housemates. I was – and still am – exceptionally confident in the potential of Holland Park but Housemates is an unknown, untried and untested property in my portfolio. Despite being a stand-up comedian, I don’t actually write a lot of comedy screenplays. And writing for the web is entirely new for me. Was I wrong to risk opening up to that x factor, that stride into the unknown?

Apparently so. My rejection came by e-mail, six weeks later, my name misspelled at th start – a sure sign they couldn’t care less about me as a writer – and the news that they hadn’t got the ‘gut feeling they rely on’ about me or my work that they need to commit. So what went wrong? What did they dislike about it that the good folk at the BBC and MTV had missed?

Who knows? It’s a funny old business. Maybe the next agent will love it. Maybe the next agent will hate it so much they set fire to my house. All part of the fun of being a screenwriter.

Until next time,

Kriss x

Advertisements

May 13, 2011 - Posted by | agents, Holland Park, Housemates, lessons, networks, screenwriting | , , , , , , ,

3 Comments »

  1. I never thought of it that way, well put!

    Comment by toasty redhead | May 15, 2011 | Reply

  2. I enjoy your tale. One more rejection just means your that closer to success. My motto is never give up.

    Comment by Gaelyn Whitley Keith | May 16, 2011 | Reply

    • Hi Gaelyn,

      I’m glad you enjoyed it; my attitude is that I have to make those who reject me regret it. It’s just one more thing to drive me forward in the long (and short) term.

      Kriss

      Comment by Kriss Sprules | May 16, 2011 | Reply


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: