British Comedy Guide

March 9: BBC open submissions: Comedy scripts 

Avatar

Lawrence Diamond

  • Friday 6th March 2015, 6:13am
  • England
  • 53 posts

BBC writers room open submissions: Comedy scripts (TV, film, radio, stage or online).

Opens 9 March and closes 2 April 2015.

If you've not considered radio writing before, this article might inspire you:

http://blog.write-track.co.uk/writers/how-to-break-into-radio-writing-7-tips-by-bbc-radio-4-commissioner-caroline-raphael\

I want to submit a radio comedy script, I've dug out the relevant links from the BBC website:

This is what the open submission opportunity is: http://www.bbc.co.uk/writersroom/opportunities/script-room

How to submit (you need this) http://www.bbc.co.uk/writersroom/send-a-script/esubmission-faqs

Script formatting guide for radio (useful) http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/writersroom/scripts/bbcradioscene.pdf

Tips for writing radio comedy (you should know all this already) http://www.bbc.co.uk/writersroom/writers-lab/genre-toolkits/writing-radio-comedy

These are (unfortunately) the only two example BBC radio sitcom scripts: http://www.bbc.co.uk/writersroom/scripts/clare-in-the-community

Example BBC radio sitcoms to listen to: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/programmes/genres/comedy/sitcoms/player/episodes

There are basically no guidelines that I can find though.

No guidelines for obscenity or sensitive topics, length, no suggestion for what scriptwriting program you might use. Come to think of it, they don't even state if your submission should be the pilot episode, though I imagine it would be sensible to send that. I wouldn't mind some advice on these points!

Length...
The radio comedies all seem to be 30 minutes. The two example scripts (from link above) appear to both come in at 6,000 words. This seems a lot more than I would expect. A show like FRIENDS is about 3,000 words for 24 minutes. There's a lot of laughter in there though. I've been writing 3,000 word radio scripts that I thought would come to about 20 minutes. So I would have thought 30 minutes would be about 4,500 words. Something is not adding up!

Avatar

Jenni

  • Friday 6th March 2015, 9:43am
  • England
  • 8 posts

I wouldn't get too bogged down by the word count. There can be a pretty big difference. I know these are TV examples, but I imagine that a show like Sports Night with fast dense dialogue comes in at a lot more words per minute than the Royle Family with it's slow paced words and long silences. I'd write it and then read it out with the appropriate expression and pauses for FX and that should give you a pretty clear idea of running time. Friends will have pauses for laughter because of the live audience. I honestly don't know whether most radio sitcom is recorded live or not.

I've heard conflicting advice on whether to send a pilot or not so no help there. I think the lack of guidelines is fairly intentional because they're not actually looking for something to broadcast, they want to see how good your writing is and how good your ideas are. So you could be chosen even if they'd never be interested in this particular sitcom. That said, I'd probably not go for anything too controversial in case it puts off the person who reads it first.

Good luck! I hope it works out for you. I'm working on a TV script but not sure it's going to be good enough in time for the window.

Avatar

Mr Writer Like In The Song

  • Wednesday 11th March 2015, 9:04am [Edited]
  • England
  • 135 posts

I write five to six thousand for half hour, two to three thousand for 15 mins. I'm nearly always over length, but I think that's better than being under - you're then cutting and making things tighter and leaner, rather than padding.

Edit - these are radio lengths, not TV.

Avatar

Lawrence Diamond

  • Wednesday 18th March 2015, 11:38am [Edited]
  • England
  • 53 posts

How on earth do you go about writing a 6,000 word script?

3,000 is fairly easy. A story = 6 to 7 beats. B story = 4 to 5 beats. This gives you enough room for, say, a small twist then a big twist at the end.

6,000 is almost a short movie! Teary

Avatar

sootyj

  • Wednesday 18th March 2015, 11:43am
  • England
  • 51,287 posts

Write a short movie then

Avatar

Paul Wimsett

  • Wednesday 18th March 2015, 11:56am
  • Folkestone, United Kingdom
  • 3,379 posts

Do you even need a twist, Lawrence? You're hardly Chubby Checker.

Avatar

Lazzard

  • Wednesday 18th March 2015, 12:54pm
  • Ludlow, England
  • 4,648 posts
Quote: Lawrence Diamond @ 18th March 2015, 11:38 AM GMT

6,000 is almost a short movie! Teary

Not really, bearing mind a full-length movie is about 20-24k
3,000 words is not enough for a TV half-hour, unless your very light on action.
Radio, maybe...

Quote: Lawrence Diamond @ 6th March 2015, 6:13 AM GMT

A show like FRIENDS is about 3,000 words for 24 minutes.

Are you getting this info from transcripts or actual working drafts?
Transcripts are usually just dialogue.

AvatarBCG Supporter

Bonzo

  • Wednesday 18th March 2015, 12:57pm
  • London, England
  • 823 posts

Hello - this is in their terms and conditions:

Length

We accept scripts that are at least 30 minutes long, which is a fair length of time to assess a writer's work - it's extremely hard to judge a writer's abilities with a view to BBC broadcast slots if their work is shorter than this. As long as your script is equivalent to at least 30 minutes in length, we will consider it.

The minute-to-a-page measure of classic screenplay format is a useful rule-of-thumb, but isn't a cast iron formula as it ultimately depends on the style of the piece. Generally speaking a half-hour sitcom would come in between 30 and 35 pages, an hour-long drama between 50-70 pages, and a feature film between 70-120 pages. The best way to judge the length of your script is to time yourself reading it, allowing extra space for action. A group reading or performance is even more useful since each reader, like an actor, may deliver their lines of dialogue at different paces.

We do not accept any of the following

Scripts written for existing or previously produced shows/characters - we only want to see your original work. If you are an agented writer find out about submitting a script for one of the BBC Continuing Drama shadow schemes.
Samples or extracts from scripts - we only want to see a full script or episode.
Full series or serials - we only want to see one episode. The only exception to this is that we will read the first two episodes from a proposed 15 Minute Drama serial for Radio 4, which usually span five fifteen-minute episodes. If you are submitting a sample script for Children's TV you are welcome to submit 2 x 15 min episodes as a single PDF document.
We do not read further episodes of a series or serial if we have already rejected, or given feedback on a previous episode.
Short stories - these can be sent to BBC Radio 4's Opening Lines when it is open for submissions.
Novels, unpublished prose manuscripts, or another writer's work you wish to see adapted.
Comedy sketches - we only read narrative comedy series and sitcoms or full sketch shows of at least 30 mins in length. BBC Radio 4's Newsjack and Radio 4's The Show What You Wrote both accept submissions of sketches.
Short film scripts - we only read scripts longer than 30 pages/minutes.
Adaptations for broadcast of another writer's idea - we want to see your original work. (The only exception to this if you have adapted your own work from another medium.)
Poetry
Scripts from overseas - we are looking for writers with whom the BBC can develop a strong working relationship and who have something to say that will appeal to British audiences. You may be a non-British-born writer, but you must be resident in the UK or Republic of Ireland. If you are currently living overseas, only consider submitting your script when you return to the UK or Republic of Ireland.
Scripts from writers under the age of 16.
Submissions by email - when Script Room is open for submissions, we can only accept scripts online via our E-Submissions system or by post if writers are not able to submit via the website.
Resubmissions of work previously considered, even after rewrites - make sure you make your script as good as you possibly can before sending it to us. We also do not read further episodes of a series or serial if we have already considered a previous episode.
Scripts submitted to other BBC Writersroom talent searches and competitions, the old unsolicited system or previous Script Room submission windows.
Ideas, pitches, outlines, synopses, or treatments on their own - we must always receive a script with every submission.
Multiple submissions at one time. We can only accept one script from each writer/writing team in a given submission window. Alongside the Script Room, will be various specific talent searches which writers may also enter.
DVDs, videos, CDs, audio tapes, or any video/audio material accompanying, or instead of, a script.
The BBC reserves the right to disqualify entries that are inconsistent with the BBC Editorial Policy Guidelines or which may bring the BBC into disrepute, including any entries which profit from criminal activity.
The BBC reserves the right to amend these terms and conditions at any stage, including changing or substituting the selection process and the development opportunities. In this event, a notice will be posted on the following website: www.bbc.co.uk/writersroom/

Avatar

Marc P

  • Wednesday 18th March 2015, 2:51pm
  • England
  • 17,698 posts

6000 - 7000 words is a goodish average for half an hour. I generally work to 3000 words though to allow for the audience laughter.

AvatarBCG Supporter

Bonzo

  • Wednesday 18th March 2015, 2:53pm
  • London, England
  • 823 posts

Ours is currently 5.5K words and is working out to 30 mins when read aloud.

Avatar

Marc P

  • Wednesday 18th March 2015, 3:08pm
  • England
  • 17,698 posts

I can't read mine aloud I keep laughing so much, will have to get someone else to time it for me.

AvatarBCG Supporter

Bonzo

  • Wednesday 18th March 2015, 3:16pm
  • London, England
  • 823 posts
Quote: Marc P @ 18th March 2015, 3:08 PM GMT

I can't read mine aloud I keep laughing so much, will have to get someone else to time it for me.

Ha ha!

Unfortunately, we don't have the problem! :)

Avatar

Paul Wimsett

  • Thursday 19th March 2015, 3:46pm
  • Folkestone, United Kingdom
  • 3,379 posts

Jane writes for Newsjack, Notorious not so much.

Go figure!

Avatar

Lawrence Diamond

  • Friday 20th March 2015, 2:20pm
  • England
  • 53 posts

> Are you getting this info from transcripts or actual working drafts?

Transcripts. The actual word count of 24 minutes of American TV sitcom dialogue is about 3,000 words.

My last two radio scripts = 3,019 and 3,037 words.

I'm not even particularly trying to get them a certain length. I guess I've just watched a lot of American TV sitcoms and this length is now second nature to me.

From what I've listened to, radio sitcoms don't seem to have a C story, so it's basically a case of writing in a way that allows you to massively stretch scenes out with monologueing or have "character building" scenes that aren't strictly necessary or... I don't know.

6,000 words seems a very unnatural length to me. I've written a two-parter with the A story carrying through but with a bit of a clunk as the B-story just suddenly switches over.

I would be genuinely interested to hear from people who have written 30-minute radio scripts on how you go about outlining that in a way that isn't a bit shit.

Avatar

Mr Writer Like In The Song

  • Friday 20th March 2015, 3:02pm
  • England
  • 135 posts

Hi Lawrence

Radio shows have a lot of words. A LOT of words. Because there's nothing else going on!

3,000 words won't last more than about 18 minutes in radio. Between 5,000 and 6,000 will get you a half hour - as stated above, I tend to err towards the top end, because I believe it's better to trim than pad.

If you feel your plot is sound at 3,000, then what the extra word count gives you is more space for character development and jokes.

I also think simpler plots are better in radio, because people are generally listening to it while doing something else - driving, cooking, emailing Feedback.