British Comedy Guide

Sitcom Mission 2020 Page 3

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Alfred J Kipper

  • Sunday 15th November 2020, 10:44am [Edited]
  • Aldershot, England
  • 6,259 posts

Then please name me one that has, in these last ten years or so of major sitcom comps. Because I still see the actual commissions as being tied up by known faces, and I mean faces rather than pens. I see these comp prizes much more as putting you in the mix, getting your name out there, but at a very junior level, probably at best being invited into 'writers rooms', not even partnerships.

So that dream of your own sitcom on TV will be no less a dream, especially if written by you only. With so many of the commissions going to professional comedians who increasingly demand sole authorship, there is very little on offer for other writers, especially amateurs discovered in competitions. Sorry for depressing you all. :(

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Lazzard

  • Sunday 15th November 2020, 10:58am
  • Ludlow, England
  • 4,772 posts

I agree with all the above.
And you're right - comps are not the route to glory.
But still - I think the organisers of these comps are duty bound to pick the most 'commissionable' pieces of work.
Which means having one eye on the industry as it is today.

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Alfred J Kipper

  • Sunday 15th November 2020, 11:24am
  • Aldershot, England
  • 6,259 posts

Then that's me out, I'll stop wasting my time, as I will not write material I will never believe is true sitcom, in the way it was for over 50 years until Gervais came along. Pirate (imo The Office was a great sitcom but his sub standard league of imitators have mangled it into something that definitely isn't, so much so it's largely redefined the concept into a soapy mush.)

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Lazzard

  • Sunday 15th November 2020, 12:41pm
  • Ludlow, England
  • 4,772 posts

I sort of agree with that (not the SitCom bit, which is silly) - but you should only write what you like to write.
The chances of getting anything made are lottery-slim anyway, on-trend or not, so you should at least make sure you enjoy the process.
Otherwise, you're right , don't bother.

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simon wright

  • Sunday 15th November 2020, 2:03pm
  • London, England
  • 454 posts

A sore loser who whines about the election process? Ring any bells?

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kate to the party

  • Sunday 15th November 2020, 4:25pm
  • England
  • 56 posts

I feel like entering a sitcom script into a competition with the sole expectation of getting a commission out of it at the end is not the best way to approach a comedy writing career. If your end goal is getting your series made, entering competitions will help but it's not the only thing you should be doing.

To me, things competitions are useful for are:

-getting yourself into the habit of meeting deadlines and actually seeing projects through to the end

-generating a sample script which you can then send to people (whether you make the longlist or not) be it production companies or agents -who you should be contacting/sending stuff to anyway, competition or no competition

-if you do make the longlist/shortlist, even if you don't get commissioned on the spot (imagine!) it just looks really good on your CV/personal statement (which you are also sending to lots of agents, not just ones who may be linked to the competition)

-I think I'm correct in assuming it is generally just good for networking/has lead to other writing jobs for previous finalists (even if these jobs aren't necessarily their own 'pet projects', finalists have gone into writer's rooms/I think a couple of SM finalists have gone on to write for cartoon network shows?)

I've entered the Sitcom Mission a couple of times; never made it to the final (not that I take it too personally*). I've never regretted entering, because I like writing scripts and having samples ready to bung over to industry-related people when they ask if I have anything I can show them. I also like seeing other writers I know (or whose names I recognize) do well!

I think it also helps that I have had some writing work through other methods and am not pinning all my hopes on this/other competitions. But I do think it's important in general to be doing other things/having a wider view than just competitions, otherwise, statistically speaking, not enough people will see your script (or even be aware that you are out there). It would be like if you wanted to be a musician but just auditioned for BGT, instead of also booking gigs or functions/playing open mics/plugging your SoundCloud/Bandcamp (MySpace??) -you also just have to put the work in, to an extent.

*any more

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Alfred J Kipper

  • Sunday 15th November 2020, 4:42pm
  • Aldershot, England
  • 6,259 posts

I hope your reading of scripts is not as bad as your reading of posts, but I'll never know. Tell me where exactly I criticised your selections? I never expected mine to be in, on the process itself I only suggested a longer longlist may have benefited the near misses, knowing mine wasn't one of them. I just wish these initiatives could be a little more inclusive, now they are so popular.

Mostly I was quite amiably asking if there was a preferred style or subgenre of sitcom the Final judges were wanting to see. You and BR never reveal this and there are so few finalists' scripts ever shown, that the average annual punter of these comps doesn't know if they are in the right or wrong camp or even if there is a right or wrong camp. I know one thing about business though, criticising your customers for giving honest reviews won't go down well. If you think silence is a good thing on a commercial product, think again - You learn nothing as a business and it often means punters are too scared to pose such questions, thinking it'll show them up. I'm not one of these, nor am I unfairly critical, but I'll let others be the judge.

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Alfred J Kipper

  • Sunday 15th November 2020, 5:07pm [Edited]
  • Aldershot, England
  • 6,259 posts
Quote: kate to the party @ 15th November 2020, 4:25 PM

I've never regretted entering, because I like writing scripts and having samples ready to bung over to industry-related people when they ask if I have anything I can show them. I also like seeing other writers I know (or whose names I recognize) do well!

Kate it sounds like you are already in, well done. Can you tell me then what type of sitcom the prod co.s want to see? Thanks.

Quote: kate to the party @ 15th November 2020, 4:25 PM

-generating a sample script which you can then send to people (whether you make the longlist or not) be it production companies or agents -who you should be contacting/sending stuff to anyway, competition or no competition

Can you please tell me which prod co.s are excepting unsolicited spec scripts then, as I have yet to find one. Agents won't touch you unless you've had a referral, in my experience they are more dismissive than prod co.s tbh. That leaves two options, open competitions or the most surefire way to commissioning success of all, being a professional comedian, advisably a popular one. At the mo, I couldn't tell you which is the harder route, but both are impossible to me.

This is maybe for a broader thread but never mind - Something has gone badly disfunctional with the system. If the writers of the past had had such a difficult, closed door route to getting aired we wouldn't have the treasure trove of British sitcoms we do.

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kate to the party

  • Sunday 15th November 2020, 5:52pm
  • England
  • 56 posts
Quote: Alfred J Kipper @ 15th November 2020, 4:57 PM

Kate it sounds like you are already in, well done. Can you tell me then what type of sitcom the prod co.s want to see? Thanks.

I'm only "in" in the sense that I've been in a couple of writers rooms and have had broadcast credits, but they've been for other formats of comedy (one was for a CBBC sketch show, one was the writers room for a panel show and I've done a couple of sketch podcasts) -but in terms of what types of sitcoms people are looking for, I have absolutely no idea -sorry!

Each broadcaster has a commissioning section of their website, so that kind of tells you a bit about what they're after and when in the year they are after it (here is the BBC one for example: https://www.bbc.co.uk/commissioning/how-we-commission ) -but I think the main thing to focus on is writing the comedy you find funny and the kind of show you want to see/hear, finding out who is currently producing things you enjoy and sending your script/part of your script to them (being polite and respectful about it obviously) and generally building up professional relationships over time. This is what I'm trying to do (albeit very slowly) in any case.

I wouldn't want to do it the other way round -instead of using what producers want as a starting point, start with finding out which producers want things that speak to you/your tastes.

But this is all stuff I've had to figure out over a long, long time; I still have to work min. wage jobs alongside writing jobs and have by no means 'made it' or anything like that. And still no hit sitcom yet, haha. I'm very much learning about the industry as I go (and I think more of this information should be more readily available to writers at every level tbh!)

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kate to the party

  • Sunday 15th November 2020, 6:15pm
  • England
  • 56 posts
Quote: Alfred J Kipper @ 15th November 2020, 5:07 PM

Can you please tell me which prod co.s are excepting unsolicited spec scripts then, as I have yet to find one. Agents won't touch you unless you've had a referral, in my experience they are more dismissive than prod co.s tbh.

Cold emailing companies is a tricky one. I think it's probably better to contact individual producers directly (whose names you have found from the credits of shows you enjoy/the BCG listings) rather than the production company itself,
let them know you enjoy their work and ask them politely if they have time to take a look an extract of your script. If they say no, they say no! But if they are interested, they may say yes (even if the company's website says they don't accept unsolicited).

With agents, the times I have had successful interactions have been when they have tweeted that they are actively looking for new writers (although this is not really a proactive way to do things!) and then I have emailed them off the back of that. So being on twitter helps. I also look through 'submission guidelines' for various agencies and try to respond to these as much as I can. But again, this takes a long time.

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Alfred J Kipper

  • Sunday 15th November 2020, 6:34pm
  • Aldershot, England
  • 6,259 posts

Thanks for that Kate and good luck with yours.

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Lazzard

  • Monday 16th November 2020, 9:58am [Edited]
  • Ludlow, England
  • 4,772 posts
Quote: Alfred J Kipper @ 15th November 2020, 5:07 PM

If the writers of the past had had such a difficult, closed door route to getting aired we wouldn't have the treasure trove of British sitcoms we do.

The key words here are 'the past'.
That was then, this is now.
The world has changed irrevocably.
If you're trying to write comedy that is like it was 40 years ago, then you'll be ploughing a lonely furrow.
It doesn't mean SitCom is dead - just your painfully narrow definition of it.
"Curb Your Enthusiasm" is a SitCom.
It's brilliant. It's funny. It's successful. It's modern.

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simon wright

  • Monday 16th November 2020, 1:38pm
  • London, England
  • 454 posts

REQUESTS FOR SCRIPTS

We've had an unusually high number of requests for us to put the longlisted scripts online.

It's not our decision; anything submitted to us is the writers' exclusive property, and we'll never put anything into the public domain without their permission.

We can contact the writers involved and see if they're happy for their work to be shared this way, but if I were them I'd be wary of saying 'yes'.

Here are links to two sites where you can read lots of scripts - absolutely free:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/writersroom/scripts

And for US pilots:

https://sites.google.com/site/tvwriting/us-comedy/pilot-scripts?authuser=0

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Alfred J Kipper

  • Tuesday 17th November 2020, 8:16am
  • Aldershot, England
  • 6,259 posts

Well I wasn't one of them. Anything I want to say I say it on here, not on secret emails. And if these people used the forums more we'd all get a better sense of people's niggles and concerns and maybe help find solutions, although as I've stated, it's a mug's game, comedy script writing, be under no illusions. Doesn't stop me moaning about it though.

It's understandable punters want to see what it takes to win these sought after opportunities (as meagre as they may or may not be). But it's also a bit cheeky to expect it, and the writers would be indeed be nuts to agree to it. But the free scripts links misses the point here, as useful (and confusing as they can be - they prove there IS NO ONE SINGLE DEFINITIVE FORMAT LAYOUT, as much as these experts tell you there is. Pirate)

Punters want to know what it is that's beaten their efforts in THIS comp, (so hopefully they can learn and not copy!) and personally I'd be happy with a thin marker list, like 6 were dramedies, none were studio sitcoms, 4 were domestic sitcoms, 4 workplace set, 3 Radio, 7 TV with themes ranging from a to z to and the average number of central characters was x. That sort of thing.