Sunday, 8 June 2008

Sharps and the half hour drama

Well my script for Sharps is ready. I've done the application form. I've got my email. I've bought new print cartridges. There's a stack of crisp, clean paper waiting. I've sacrificed the black cockerel. I've spun three times winnershins. I've raced up the nearest fell and back. OK not the last one. Me… running. I don't think so.

I'd like to thank the wonderful people who's feedback got me to the point. Bloggers Dave, Lucy, Elinor and Chip. Commenter Caroline and Non-bloggers Paul and John. Yes I know that's more than three but I'm really insecure and covering all demographics is my comfort blanket.

I used at least one point from everyone's feedback and they all said I was too subtle in showing the history of the characters relationships. I think I've sorted that now. Problem with subtlety. When all the background is in your head, how can you be certain you have put enough on the page?

I also got to read some of their submissions and I think they are brilliant so competition will be tough.

There seems to have been a lot of drop-outs on this one. And many people have scrapped ideas and started again, myself included. So what made it so tough?

Some felt it was the topic. The Nation's Health. The first thought was a hospital or health centre. Everyone's going to write that right? But health is a big topic and they were encouraging people to experiment so it shouldn't be hard to move well away from those areas while keeping with the theme.

However I think the problem was that they asked for a half-hour drama. You don't get to see many of those these days. Yes we have sitcoms. But BBC said they weren't looking for a sitcom. (I suspect they won't turn their noses up at one that ticks all the boxes though.)

So if you wanted a lighter route then that left comedy drama or dramedy or whatever you fancy calling it. There are some brilliant ones out there and it is my favourite viewing but they are about an hour long.

And for pure half hour drama you have soaps, sorry continuing drama. I hate it when the names change. I still buy Marathons, not Snickers! Anway hardly self-contained, excluding the odd one-on-one specials. All those threads from other episodes. I suppose the closest to a half hour drama in the past few years was the Bill in its short form.

Those of us of a more mature persuasion will remember Comedy Playhouse but that was…well…comedy. So there isn't a lot of half hour pure drama on TV as an example. Unless I'm just missing some brilliant stuff because it is on during the day or at sprog bedtime. Please let me know if I am. So easy to miss the gems in the gravel.

I've seen some lovely examples in short films by the way so I would recommend watching more of these. See Short Films on the sidebar of here for a list of sites.

I can understand why BBC chose half hour. You want it long enough to be sure the writer can sustain the quality but not so long that you double the reading time and costs. However with few examples of the form it seems to have proved an interesting challenge.

I haven't tried to second-guess the reader. It's pointless because they will all be different. Instead I've written something I'm proud of and would want to watch. Even if I get no-where on Sharps it is something I'm happy to add to my portfolio so no wasted time.

Good luck to everyone who's entered. Let me know how you do.


Phil said...

I'm going to agree but be more cynical; the 30-minute length is for lessening the work-load involved in the competition.

30 minute dramas seem quite pointless outside of comedies/soaps; an hour a week is plenty of time for character developments and story-of-the-week, whereas half that time is one or the other.

Lucy said...

I reckon 30 minutes is PLENTY of time to establish drama, character development & a story of the week -scripts can do this in ten pages, even less. The fact is, most don't. 30 minutes may well to be lessen the work involved but it is an excellent time frame to play with as it can really demonstrate a scribe's skill. Many people can write a passable feature; very few can write a really polished 30 minuter free of filler material in my experience. 30 minute scripts are hard.

Rach said...

Hi Phil and Lucy.

I expect 30mins was chosen for practical purposes but it's been an effective way to pare down submissions before they reach them too.

Perhaps better than a jaded reader picking up yet another wad of pages and binning it prematurely because they dread another pile of waffle.

I was standing there ripping apart lettuce and Tales of the Unexpected hit me. Well it would hardly stroll up and tap me on the shoulder with that title.

Episodes were half an hour long. Some were complete pants but a few were amazing. Probably shows how hard it is to write well at this length hey Lucy?

One had a man crawling through a barbed-wire and boobytrapped maze and another had a couple trapped in a room. I remember a puppy got killed in that one. Nasty.

Then you had Twilight Zone and Outer Limits. I'm on a run here. Stopped thinking about straight drama and moved into the more surreal and hit paydirt.

They are all pretty old though and Outer Limits came back at a longer length.

But life is pretty boring without a challenge to get your teeth into.