When I finished my most recent draft of the short film I’ve been developing I sent it to the BBC Writers Room. The BBC doesn’t develop short films as far as I know, but they accept through Writers Room scripts of a minimum of 10 pages as an example of a writer’s style and ability (though from December 2009 they have stopped accepting short scripts). So I knew it was unlikely to progress to anything but it was a piece of work I felt was now far enough along to be read by others. There are few places you can submit a short film script for free and have the chance of some feedback (if you want you can enter competitions and by paying the entry fee get yourself some coverage. But then you might as well just pay for coverage as many script competitions are run by services who offer that all year round anyway. The bottom line is it costs any which way). Good feedback of course is essential in helping to improve your writing.
They’re very nice at Writersroom, they send your script back and everything (ok, expected that seeing as they asked for an SAE) and I was lucky enough to get some feedback on my script. I was pleased that the précis accurately summed up the narrative and its tone as I intended it. Where it fell down for them it seems (and this is the part I have fixated on) was that the surreal nature of the action and use of voice over prevented me from demonstrating an ability to create dialogue and conflict. On these points I have pondered and wandered down into a rabbit hole…
Because I didn’t want to use a lot of dialogue (in fact the main character barely speaks) and having many internalised elements (voiceover and some flashback type stuff) is germane to the very idea of the story (god, I know if I was reading someone defending their use of voiceover and flashback I’d be wary of the quality of what they were writing. But it’s my story and I like it a lot and I can justify its means).
So perhaps I didn’t ably demonstrate, with this script, the skills that the BBC are on the lookout to develop? I can totally see how that would be the case. I set out to write a slightly surreal and cinematic short film and I did.
But now I’m questioning the major deficiencies that I worry may have been highlighted here, namely:
1) That I can’t write to the level of what is expected by somewhere like the BBC.
2) The script I thought was solid is actually lacking in some essential aspects.
3) That I need to swap my approach to something more conventional.
But then I always think the worst. Given that the truth is usually somewhere between the best and the worst you imagine here is instead what I’m taking from this episode:
1) I may or may not be able to impress the readers at Writersroom, but going in I knew the script I sent wasn’t going to do that anyway and that’s fine.
2) I was confident about the script before and I should now temper this with the feedback I’ve had to test what I have previously thought to be working.
3) This is a whole argument I’ve touched on before and it’s a rubbish argument. Convention is probably the wrong word too, I don’t mean to suggest I’m unconventional and in opposition to the inverse. Some projects will have a straighter edge to them than others, what matters is that they are made from some kind of passion and belief and they are sound within themselves. That’s all you can do really.
So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to do another draft with these considerations and others in mind. Then I’m going to try and make the film.
But that’s probably going to have to be in the new year as it’s all getting Christmental at the moment and I’m back to working on my short story, as well as trying to get the podcast to a good place before revisiting it in 2010.
2010! That’s a whole other decade!