Thursday, November 23, 2006


Why are there so few scriptwriting competitions in the UK?

America is the mother land of screenwriting competitions and rarely a week goes by when I don't receive an email asking me if I want to submit to one. Besides the BSSC the only other notable UK competition has been the Oscar Moore Screenwriting Prize, but since this year's controversy when they decided not to announce a winner the competition has disappeared. Will it return? It doesn't look like it. So now the only option for UK scriptwriters is to enter American competitions, which I think is very sad indeed.

'We're always looking out for new talent,' is something we hear quite often from the UK film and television industry so shouldn't there be more opportunities for us writers. There are other competitions now and again, but most are specific (i.e. only people from a remote valley in deepest darkest Wales can enter, and only if they own more than three sheep) and very rarely are these competitions annual.

I've even toyed with the idea of starting my own annual screenwriting competition, but I realised I would come up against two rather large obstacles; (1) what would I be able to offer the winner as a prize? (2) do I really want to plough through a mountain of scripts on my own? That idea is a no go then.

I guess all we can do as UK scriptwriters is to continue to enter American competitions and hope the UK situation gets better.

If anyone knows of any UK competitions, however small and exclusive, could you add a comment about it here and hopefully we can create a small list of hope.


Lianne said...

I was thinking about the same thing recently, as I've also noticed that 2 Irish script competitions/iniatives seem to have fallen off the radar, The Tiernan McBride Award and The Tony Doyle Award.

I seem to recall a short script competition emerging round about the time off BSSC - 'fraid I can't recall the name of it now but i'll dig through emails and see if I can find it.

Aside from competitions, I think it's important to remember open calls for submissions, mentoring schemes and so on. We have one thing here in the UK that the Americans don't have: BBC Writers Room. I know lots of writers haven't had great experiences but I feel it is very important to champion any place that accepts unsolicited scripts, and talent spotting iniatives. The BBC also frequently run writing competitions, sometimes for radio, or sitcoms etc. I may have got this totally wrong, but I believe Dan Alexander got an agent and paid writing work off the back of placing in the sports short competition. Hopefully he'll correct me if I'm wrong but these smaller comps are not to be sniffed at.

Other opportunities I'm aware of are the Coming Up scheme run by IWC, the Rocliffe forum, which is a reading of an extract from your script and from what I understand agents and other industry type will attend this if they're on the look out for new talent. Stellar Network and NPA do something similar. Also, earlier this year Golconda Films hosted a horror writing competition in conjunction with Script Factory. As I mentioned (probably too often!) on my blog, I did a Script Factory course last month and participants were invited to submit and outline and the first 10 pages of their script for the opportunity to meet a UK producer for a development session. Marchmont and Open Eye Productions held open door submission policies earlier this year, as you know. It's a huge shame about Oscar Moore, but maybe something else will emerge in its place - a competition in which the winning script is actually produced would be a very good thing.

Shameless plug here, but one of my reading clients got to the semi-finals of the BSSC and I asked her a few questions about it on my blog.

Lucy V said...

Several of my clients have made it thru to comps too - all American. It's perfectly possible for Europeans to triumph, as the final draft winner showed this year.

I was thinking about this only the other day and doing a BANG2WRITE short script competition. Perhaps I could find someone from my contacts who would be interested in reading the script I think is the best? Be the best I could do and not much, but better than nothing...? Probably have to set a limit on the number of entrants tho! How about first 50, first served?

Or am I just talking out of my arse?

Danny Stack said...

Actually, I'm talking to a few people about something like this. Watch this space,, my space. Not, my blog. Oh you know what I mean.

Lucy V said...

Damn you Danny you keep pipping me to the post! Well, if you need readers, you know where I am...

Dominic Carver said...

Lucy: Not unless your arse has a nose, two eyes and two ears? Love your idea, go with it. An even better prize would be if you could persuade any of your contacts (a director if you know any) to actually make the winning short script.

I left out mention of the Writersroom because I was thinking mainly of feature length screenplay competitions like Oscar Moore. Short film competitions are OK but to win something like a British Final Draft comp and have your feature made would be fantastic.

Lucy, maybe you could use your contacts to suggest an annual feature screenwriting comp. It would be a fantastic idea if a major British producer/writer/director put their name to such a competition, and got it organized by a production company.

I often wonder why The Scriptwriter Magazine doesn't organize one.

Nice one, Danny, my eyes are peeled.

Lucy V said...

rE: FEATURES - Would love to Dom, but unsure I klnow anyone rich enuff!!! Besides, they'd be making my mofo film first, GET BACK bee-atches!!!

Lucy V said...

Ouch, mega typo's. Got Lilirose on my lap - can u tell??

Tim Clague said...

After many a year I have come to a conclusion. And its a harsh conclusion. Competitions are a waste of time. If you spent that same time on contacting productions companies and broadcasters and finding out what they want then this would probably be more productive. Entering competitions is a distraction. It fools you into thinking that are working.

Please note I am aware of the irony that my break came from entering a competition. But that was 10 years ago now and the world has changed.

Dan said...

O.R. - Didn't get an agent but I did get paid work afterwards having built a good relationship from the competition. I'm still in touch with them and looking at some work in the future because of it.

Lianne said...

Oh, thanks for clarifying Dan. Where'd I get the agent bit from? Anyway, proof I think that it is worth entering competitions. But you have to also go direct to the agencies and prod co's and find out what they're looking for.

I forgot to mention The Make Your Mark on Film competitions: Deadline is sometime in December I think. I don't think I'll go for it though, I don't like the theme and the brief much.