250 to 1 – The Terrible Script Pitching Gameshow

They say the chances of anything getting on TV are as low as anything coming from Mars. But, just like those pesky Martians in War of the Worlds, still they come. Now play dramatic futuristic chords and Richard Burton’s apocalyptic voice in your head.

Last week I saw a tweet from TV and literary agent Julian Friedmann from the Broadcast Commissioning Forum and it stuck in my head…

Screenshot 2015-11-10 07.56.04

Okay, so those odds are actually a lot lower than the chances of inter-planetary invasion, but the telling point is that these are scripts coming from producers.

I’m not flagging this up to put you off. If you want to be a comedy script writer and you do what needs to be done – write a script, then rewrite it until it’s brilliant, write another, repeat process – then you won’t be put off. And you shouldn’t be. It’s a rejection business, but still they come. It’s simply useful to know the reality in the hope that it both ups your game and helps you to avoid descending into bitterness. If you get some interest from a producer in your script then this shows you are already doing well. Producers do pick up on good work and they want to get shows made. After that it’s a case of timing.

The reasons why those 249 scripts get rejected are many and varied. It’s all subjective, but those scripts will almost all be of very good quality. It’s very rare that I get a response from a commissioning editor that tells me the script I’ve sent is a load of balls. And often I’ll be told that they love the script, but…

a) It doesn’t fit the channels needs. Different broadcasters are looking for different kinds of shows and those needs change over time as shows get picked up or cancelled.
b) There is something similar in development – this can be very vague and can reference shows that don’t seem very similar at all, but this is because the channels have to look at the mix of shows. So what seems very different to you, isn’t to them.
c) There just isn’t a slot. There aren’t many slots for sitcoms, so they get filled.
d) They love it but can’t convince the genre boss / the channel boss / the marketing people (in the case of commercial channels).
e) The talent isn’t big enough. Channels are talent obsessed. And with understandable reasons. Of course it is very difficult to attach talent to your script and if you think it’s easy for even big production companies, it’s not. There’s probably a whole other blog on this, but there isn’t time here.
f) Insert other nebulous factor.

There are probably loads of other reasons, but that’s everything that’s come into my head right now.

I’m not sure what there is to learn from this, but it is useful to know. It doesn’t deter me and it shouldn’t deter you. It makes me want to develop more interesting ideas and find shows that are brilliant, different, and will make a mark.

As ever, good luck.

Got to go now, a Martian’s just turned up with a spec sitcom script. What are the chances?

High as a Kite – new music video

This is a re-recorded and mastered version of my most popular song on Spotify (largely due to confused fans of Norwegian indie band highasakite listening to it, but if it works for Adele…) I wrote it after my girlfriend and I went up on Plymouth Hoe to see if a prop kite she’d made would fly. I filmed our attempts on my old phone and here’s a re-cut video to accompany it. The song is also available as a free download on Bandcamp. It’s the first track I’m releasing that will be on an album which will be out in 2016…


My Toe Job Hell

I had an email a short while ago asking this….

‘Hi, I have a question. I am wondering if sitcom development/production companies ever search for story ideas or character development.

I worked in many joe-jobs and have a keen eye for observation. I am sure I could give extremely detailed descriptions of offbeat workplaces and the people who work there.’

Not sure what a joe-job is, but my correspondent is from Canada. Maybe it’s a typo and she actually meant toe-job. I hope not, although a sitcom about a toe-job obsessed employee in an offbeat workplace sounds like a winner. Thanks for the inspiration.

I’m guessing joe-jobs means average joe type occupations, yes? Anyhow, the answer to the question is, not really. Most writers and development producers work on ideas they come up with themselves, inspired by their own lives, characters they encounter or things they’ve seen or read. And if they come up with an idea set in a workplace they don’t have knowledge of then they’ll do their own specific research.

So there isn’t a job as such providing this kind of service in comedy. But then I spotted this today and thought it was interesting…

Holby City Researcher Job

Of course this is for a very specific type of show and a drama not a comedy, but it reminded me that there are a variety of jobs out there and experience on a continuing drama is a great way into the industry.

I thought it was interesting anyhow and if you didn’t, well whatevs, I’m getting back to my toe-job comedy. I’m worried it’s a bit cheesy though. Oh dear. It’s a Monday. Give me a break.