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25 Words or Less: The Debate

For those of you who don’t read the Shooting People List any more because of the amount of cyber whining that seems to go on, there’s a “debate” raging at the moment about whether it’s fair that the UK Film Council exclude non-repped writers from the 25 Words or Less Scheme. Oh, and yet another accusation has been levvied at Adrian Mead. I love Shooting People, it’s a fabulous resource, yet people are being put off posting – even their grammar and spelling is under scrutiny! This is crazy. Anyway, I waded in this morning: you know me, I can’t keep my big gob shut…

So, Adrian Mead’s a “Spammer”. The UK Film Council are fascists who won’t let people in on their scheme. On other lists, blogs etc: The BBC Writing Academy are being unfair by only allowing people who have a produced film or have completed Skillset-approved courses. People shouldn’t expect others to work on their films or at their agencies, companies etc for nothing. The BBC Writers’ Room take too long to get back to people. Only people with perfect grammar and no typos are allowed to post.

As I’m fond of saying on my blog: WTF?!

I’ve not met Julian, but I have met Adrian and as Andy says, he’s one of the “good guys”. He’s personable, approachable and his classes are cheap, fun and you’ll get a lot out of it. He disseminates information readily in an engaging way – and yes, it’s your choice if you sign up for it. No one forces you to add yourself to his email list.

I totally concur with Julian on his assertion that the UK Film Council wants “quality, not quantity”. It’s a sad fact of life that when one first starts writing scripts, they’re not going to be your best work. You’re working through you understanding of what a story is and trying to find your voice. My very first script was a scary mess of mad structure, bizarre character motivation, on-the-nose dialogue and freaky arena choices. Not because I had no talent, but because I had no experience.

No one expects to be able to make the perfect table the first time they pick up a few tools, yet it would seem there are a lot of people who believe they can write a brilliant script first time by reading a few books, internet sites or going on a two-day course. Like any craft, screenwriting is something you have to practice and hone. It can’t be perfect, “just like that”. It’s something one has to invest in heavily, over a period of years – not just through the actual writing, but as Julian says, through networking and studying the industry as well.

A year ago I was unable to enter 25 Words or Less. I made it my mission for the year ahead: I would get an agent and enter the next year. Guess what? I’m entering this year. Maybe I’ll get through, maybe I won’t, but I’ll have had my chance and this is (in part) what the business is about: chance. Because it’s about chance then (among other things obviously, like commerce), bodies like The Film Council want a more steadfast guarantee to counter-balance that chance, like the writer’s experience. That does not seem all that unreasonable to me.

So, if you want something, go get it… No one and nothing is standing in your way. Make those “barriers” your goal.

…No doubt a few accusations will be chucked my way tomorrow. I’ll let you know! ; )

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18 thoughts on “25 Words or Less: The Debate”

  1. British writers like to whine (I am British by the way). Living in the US, one thing I love about Americans is the fact that if they want something, they stop at nothing to get it. This can be a bad thing sure, but when we’re looking at something like SCREENWRITING (as opposed to politics, war etc), then this can only be good, surely? We live in a meritocracy. We are lucky already. We should build on that luck instead of whinging how hard done by we are.

  2. Ooh, well said.

    I used to get shooting people when it was free but stopped because it was all spam at that time. If it’s still lots of spam now I maybe won’t bother 🙂

  3. Chris! You cheeky bugger! ; )

    Sorry David – forgot your aversion to italics, coloured fonts etc – guess it’s age, right? : O

    Anya, you like to start a scrap with ANYONE don’t you – why not try the entire British nation for size girl?? Isn’t that a sweeping generalisation that we ALL whine? Although I suppose I could be whining about people whining…

    Laura – I love Shooting People, it’s a fantastic resource in getting people together. However, too often I feel the list is high-jacked in this manner by people who think it’s their outlet to complain. Whilst accountability is important in all professions, there is a danger that it turns into a moanfest which ultimately means people are AFRAID to post – then what’s the point?

  4. Whether the Shooting People list is a “moanfest” or not is immaterial – the issue here is whether it’s unfair the UK Film Council exclude non-repped writers. Which it is. If new writers are as bad as all that, they won’t get through: what’s the problem? Afraid that those Readers for The Film Council might actually have to work for their money?

  5. I don’t really know what the whinge is about either. The UKFC ran a 25 words/less here scheme in SA. I was ineligible as a non resident and a Brit. Right now, I don’t fulfil the criteria for the UK one either!
    BUT there aren’t many restrictions for writers applying for UKFC script development…

  6. Artiste – it is annoying when you feel excluded, but why not actually work your way up to something, instead of demanding it as your right? I don’t mean to sound funny and I’m not neccessarily including you in this, but seems to me like some new writers expect to get all the opportunities given to them when it seems in every other profession that it’s recognised you have to train properly first. I mean, you’re hardly going to open someone up with a scalpel without any training, are you?

  7. Blimey! I wouldn’t just open someone up with a scalpel even if I HAD training Anya! This what you do with your evenings…?

  8. Non-repped writers can apply to the UK Film Council at any time they like for the Development Fund, and you get the same prize – £10k. The 25 Words of Less scheme is to develop a genre script for commercial cinema, so for some reason, whether they’re right or not, they want writers who have an agent. The rules for eligibility may be frustrating for some, but there are similar opportunities open to all at the same organisation.

  9. Dom: you wanna start something?

    Good point as always Danny. I have the Development Fund Docs downloaded on my desktop and was looking through them to see if there was any exclusion there for non-repped writers and couldn’t find one but didn’t dare put it in my SP post in case there were HOWLS OF DERISION about it if I was wrong! ; )

    Perhaps all the furore is about the perceived notion that 25 Words or Less is somehow “easier” to get through than the Development Fund? I’m just guessing here…

  10. agents will often endorse writers specifically for the 25 words thing as like a one off thing.

    Janet Fillingham do it. I think it’s called bespoke services or something.

  11. Good point Potsy! Can’t believe I forgot – about 4 years ago a Literary Agent did the same for me for a Film Council treatment-writing comp thing called NEW WORLDS BEYOND or something. Didn’t have a hope in hell of course, I was too wet behind the ears…

  12. You VOYEUR Jason! ; )

    If you log into your account, click on “bulletins” at the top. And then click on SCREENWRITERS: READ IT. Think you should be able to see about a week’s worth…

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