Saturday, 10 January 2009

Alfred Bradley Workshop

On Thursday I went to one of the Alfred Bradley Workshops. It was hosted by Charlotte Riches with backup from Stefan Escreet. For those that couldn't make a session I've put a little summary here.

In 2006 there were 371 entries. Because you can submit two scripts this means the number of writers was probably less than that. The writersroom read the 1st 10 pages of all entries. So you need to grab their attention in those crucial few pages. Set the world and characters but keep focused.

The long shortlist of 57 scripts were then read in full. If you reach this stage then you will get comments. A rewrite and resubmitting to the writersroom might then be worthwhile.

The shortlist of 14 scripts were then read by the judges. Of that group of 14, commissions were given to 6 writers. The commission were not necessarily for the script they submitted. They also got mentoring from producers and they propose to repeat that.

In other words the odds are good, based on 2006 about 1 in 92. Remember many will fall at the first hurdle because they think they can just knock something out?

The scheme is looking for 44min Afternoon Plays. I assume the extra minute to make 45 is for credits and stuff. These plays will fill the 2.15-3.00 slot from Mon-Fri and get 6000+ listeners. For length the latest advice is 1 minute per page or about 7000 words total.

It isn't a perfect timing method but even just reading it aloud and timing it helps. Just make sure you aren't on a crowded bus at the time or they'll kick you off and you'll have to walk home. Maybe I shouldn't have tested a horror script when the pensioners were off to get their pensions. Anyway they do allow a tolerance of about 5-7mins.

The slot accepts a range of styles but Charlotte gave a list of things to watch out for. You can use them if valid and you can justify them but don't get carried away.
  • Inner voice - they see a lot of this. If you can take it out and the story still works then why do you need it?
  • Setting in the past or future. Why is it important to set the story then?
  • Too much backstory. The odd flashback is OK.
  • Long time frames. For example 20 years.
  • Lots of characters. No more than 6 main ones please. The actors can double up but the audience is intelligent and will spot it. Not too many voices speaking together either. Make the voices different. Remember the audience has no visual clues and are unfamiliar with the characters at the start.
  • Bad language. Oh **&&%%!
  • Sex and Violence. It is a more personal medium and the listener won't accept as much as they will on television.

Another tip was to concentrate on story and think in film terms rather than stage. This means go in late, come out early, good pace and not too much talking heads about the philosophy of life. Ah shucks. And I was going to spend 44mins talking about the deep meaningful discoveries I've made staring into my belly button. Bin that one then.

Finally you need to write in your own voice rather than trying to second-guess what they are looking for. Be original and take risks. Write what you enjoy listening to.

The deadline is 28th February and the entries need to be posted. You can find all the details here. One thing to note is you are currently based, have lived or were born in the North. The website clarifies that condition.

Anyway thanks to Charlotte for braving the chilly fells and to Stefan for not racing home to a warm fire at the end of his working day.

Good luck everyone who has a go at this.


Caroline said...

Hi Rachael,

I'm going to the AB workshop in Leeds next Saturday but am already wondering if I've left it too late to get started :( I find radio very difficult. Good luck with your entry. I'd be happy to do swaps with you if that's helpful....

Rach said...

Love to do swaps. Charlotte said there is still time to write a play from scratch so I'd recommend giving it a go.

One of mine is nearly finished for 1st draft but the other is still blocking out. Couldn't decide between them so I am running with both for the moment.

IZP said...

I don't *think* you could submit two scripts in 2006... I didn't anyway. The Bradley's very good, and I personally think the Writersroom North people are great. They assigned all of us on the shortlist a producer and as a result of that I'm one of the 6 who ended up with a commission a while later.
My Bradley entry was written in a week (very late nights, mind) so there's definitely time still as long as you get the idea sorted at the start of that week!
Good luck! Go for it.

Rach said...


Thanks for that. You wrote your entry in a week? Wow. And I think the chance of mentoring is more attractive than the money. Not that I'd say no to the money of course. Haven't won the lottery yet.

I've decided to stick with one entry now rather than two so I have the time to really give it a battering.

Thanks for the good luck and well done.