Tuesday, November 27, 2007

No Unsolicited Material Welcome

I've got scripts to send out. Scripts which have been waiting for the latest versions of the Writers Handbook and Writer & Artist's Yearbook to be released. Bought them, started going through the production company listings, found one sentence just kept jumping out at me.

"No unsolicited material welcome."

You fucking what??? Why has everyone shut their doors all of a sudden?

Personally I blame the seemingly thousands of BA and MA screenwriting courses popping up all over the place. When I started my BA at Bournemouth it was one of only two in the country, now every university or sixth form college seems to have one on their curriculum. Good news you might think, bad news I say. For two reasons.

Firstly it's creating a huge amount of competition out there for new writers the majority of whom are going to end up being disappointed. People like myself who were starting to get noticed and were beginning to think they were getting somewhere, are now finding themselves being edged out again. The quality of the slush piles are growing and you are now having to write gold plated scripts just to get in through the door.

Secondly, you would think with all these emerging new writers, enthusiastically clutching their MA's as they march into producer's offices, that more of their work should be finding its way onto our screens? Not the case as far as I can see. One or two might make it, write the odd episode of some soap or other before they slip off the radar. It just seems to be the same old writers all the time.

Last year I found out one of my fellow graduates was working as a story liner for Hollyoaks. "Great," I thought, "I'll be able to get a trail script no problems." I got turned down flat! Maybe it was because I tried to knob her when I was drunk at uni (her and the other 6000 or so women there at the time), or maybe at 38 I'm way too old to be writing about the sex lives of glamorous teenagers?

So I'm going to solicit myself, ring the buggers up and MAKE them read my scripts.
"Have you got an agent?"
"No I fucking haven't... you're still going to read my script though... right? Hello? Hello? Fuck it!!!!"


Oli said...

I'd suggest you call the companies/agents and politely ask?

Dom Carver said...

That was my plan, I was just pretending to be tough in my post. In reality I'll be groveling on my knees so much they'll bleed.

Oli said...

That did come off like I'd had a bit of an irony bypass, didn't it? When people do welcome unsolicited material, do you get the nagging feeling that they must not be very good?

Dom Carver said...

Either that or they have a wonky table to prop up.

Lucy said...

This is not a new situation, Dom. Last time I checked the Writers' Handbook or whatever it is called it wasthe turn of the millenium and I had purple hair and rings in unspeakable places. Most said then, "No unsolicited material".

You make your own opportunities and to do this you have to make contacts. Shitloads of them. Sometimes they'll take years to come to fruition but you have to water them with coffee and meetings on trains and bacon sarnies and pints of beer and script reads and parties at bizarre agent's houses when one of you is being sick in the bathroom and holding up the toilet Q.

It's true.

Pillock said...

I'm about to embark on an MA, but I'm under no illusions that it's going to somehow get me a commission. I look at it as a chance to focus on improving my craft, and maybe make some contacts.

The competition's always been fierce. It's allways been hard to break in; always will be.

Lucy said...

Hear, hear Pillock. Courses do not a writer make - all they do is help you to focus and GIVE YOU practice. Some might help you get a portfolio together though I junked all mine from Bournemouth 'cos they were shite. 3years of practice for me, excellent time, learned loads about myself - but it's been by working with others that I've learned the most about actual writing and actually now you come to mention it, working with others has been like a "chain reaction" in that I've got other stuff off the back of other stuff. From small acorns come great oceans. Or something.

Dom Carver said...

I think what I was trying to get at is that some people (not you Andy) think that the BA or MA is a fast track into the industry. Of course it isn't, we know that, only hard work and effort can get you the career you want. But there are those who think qualifications are the be all and end all, which is why the market is being flooded with scripts, and these degree courses are actually doing their job and increasing the amount of good scripts out there we have to compete against.

Lucy said...

There's always been competition, Dom. There always will be. But anyway, it's a skewed argument IMHO and I'll tell you why: even taking your point that scripts were somehow worse before all these courses, there was still competition - on that level. Now there's competition - on this level. What's the diff? Still competition. Still gotta get past it. End of.

In any case, though: we might be seeing less scripts with bad formatting or curious foibles with structure. That's true: people are listening to others who've gone before and that's good.

But are the stories improving? Are there new ways of telling them? Or are writers falling into the same story traps they always did?

Plus that ol' chestnut --

You can't teach talent.

So courses: made loads of difference to getting through that big spec pile (or not as the case may be)?

Not in my view: it's as hard as it ever was. Difference is, it's probably easier to hear how others got through it courtesy of the blogs etc and perhaps that's what some (not nec you) find dispiriting.

Chip Smith said...

Dom - if you're looking for lists of companies to send unsolicited submissions to, there's a very good post on Danny Stack's blog which gives a stack load (so to speak). If you mosey on over to my blog as well, there's a complimentary list to Danny's, which has a few more that might be worth looking at.

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