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View Full Version : Being a scriptwriter (for a character, not me)



Earthling
03-31-2016, 12:17 AM
I have a character who realises her dreams of being a scriptwriter with her show on TV. I'm not sure how long this would take her.

Let's say everything goes really really well: her scripts need hardly any editing/rewriting, the decision-makers all say yes quickly, things go smoothly in general. What's the minimum feasible timeframe from her scripts landing on the desk of...whoever takes on scripts...to the show airing on TV? She's in the UK, if that makes a difference.

None of this is detailed in the book (it all happens "off screen" and she sudden reappears as a successful scriptwriter), so my complete ignorance of the process isn't a problem. It's just the timescales I need to get right.

Any advice appreciated!

cornflake
03-31-2016, 12:26 AM
I'm confused - did she get a job or did someone agree to produce a show she created? These are wildly different things.

Cyia
03-31-2016, 12:30 AM
You might check the BBC's website. They used to have an open door policy for people to submit scripts and the like. If the policy is still in effect, then there might be some kind of timeline to go along with it.

Earthling
03-31-2016, 01:24 AM
I'm confused - did she get a job or did someone agree to produce a show she created? These are wildly different things.

Whichever applies to the scenario Cyia talks about, where you'd have written a script and then submit it to be made into a TV show.


You might check the BBC's website. They used to have an open door policy for people to submit scripts and the like. If the policy is still in effect, then there might be some kind of timeline to go along with it.

Thank you, I'll check it out! If the BBC no longer do it, I'm sure some other companies will.

cornflake
03-31-2016, 01:42 AM
That's writing a pilot and shopping it, which can be a hugely lengthy and generally non-successful endeavour, heh. It's a serious one-in-a-million shot. Which isn't to say it's impossible, but it's close, just so you know.

Other companies don't do what the BBC does in that regard, afaik - most networks run camps that you can get into with a sample, but you're not getting a pilot produced out of that; you're getting a job. The BBC program may also result in jobs but it was, at least, a scheme that seemed to be looking for creators.

waylander
03-31-2016, 01:59 AM
Or did she get hired to write for one of the ongoing dramas e.g Eastenders? Not sure how this happens. but she maybe could write scripts on spec and make a connection to the production team.

Earthling
03-31-2016, 02:16 AM
That's writing a pilot and shopping it, which can be a hugely lengthy and generally non-successful endeavour, heh. It's a serious one-in-a-million shot. Which isn't to say it's impossible, but it's close, just so you know.

Other companies don't do what the BBC does in that regard, afaik - most networks run camps that you can get into with a sample, but you're not getting a pilot produced out of that; you're getting a job. The BBC program may also result in jobs but it was, at least, a scheme that seemed to be looking for creators.

What job would she get? There must be some way to end up with your own pilot, right? *crosses fingers*


Or did she get hired to write for one of the ongoing dramas e.g Eastenders? Not sure how this happens. but she maybe could write scripts on spec and make a connection to the production team.

I could change it to that if it's the only way to make it feasible. That's a good idea! Does anyone else know how/if that would work?

cornflake
03-31-2016, 02:26 AM
What job would she get? There must be some way to end up with your own pilot, right? *crosses fingers*

I could change it to that if it's the only way to make it feasible. That's a good idea! Does anyone else know how/if that would work?

A job writing for an existing show. That's what I was asking about - did you want her to get a job as a writer writing scripts or get her own pilot made, which is possible, like winning the lottery is possible. Most people who get a pilot produced are working writers in the industry, and even then, it can take years. In theory, yeah, a newbie can come in with a pilot and get it produced but it's such a miracle....

Salt: I'm in the U.S., and know about the BBC's program because it's that famous. It's also, like network camps here (mentioned above), very hard to crack, but people do. I don't know whether getting a pilot made would be the same there as here (where it's close to lottery level); I'm kind of assuming it'd be worse, because fewer outlets, but also smaller general population, so I dunno.

Earthling
03-31-2016, 12:29 PM
Ideally she'd win the lottery, but it works if she writes for an existing show too.

Assuming the latter, could she go from camp to her episodes being on TV within a year?

Cyia
03-31-2016, 05:46 PM
The easiest way would be for her to take a class given by (or have some other interaction with) someone who could see her writing and get her a job on an existing show. One where that someone has pull.

The thing with pilots is that the odds are worse than 1:1,000,000. Selling a pilot is one thing, getting it greenlit and then filmed and then picked up by a network is a whole other ordeal. Plenty of pilots get sold, but only a fraction ever go into production. Of the ones that do, an even smaller fraction make it to air.

It's difficult to get a pilot filmed and on the air within a year, and that's one that's a surefire purchase from a network. Directors and producers have to be lined up. Cast has to be hired. Behind-the-scenes guys have to be hired. Assistants even have to be hired. You've got to secure a sound stage and get it properly lit. You've got to do the advance readings of the script with the actors while designing and building sets. All of the permits have to be in place, and if any of the actors are from out of country, then you've got to make sure all the work visas are properly filed and valid. Even trucks and catering have to be secured. After the fact, there's editing and test audiences and marketing for promotional effect.

A production company is an enormous thing with many moving parts that all have to come together in order for a show to make the air.

Episodes are easier, as they're done in a matter of weeks or months, depending on the show's shooting schedule and how involved the scenes are. Most of the sets will be in place, and the hiring / ground work is already finished.

cornflake
03-31-2016, 07:14 PM
Ideally she'd win the lottery, but it works if she writes for an existing show too.

Assuming the latter, could she go from camp to her episodes being on TV within a year?

Sure - to get into a camp, you have to be very, very good. They're competitive. So if she went to one and got hired, she'd be in the room, writing.

slhuang
04-03-2016, 11:54 AM
One of the writers of "Leverage" has blogged extensively about writing for the show. Might help: http://kfmonkey.blogspot.jp/search/label/leverage

I think other people have alluded to this but I'll try to clarify a bit -- you can have your character be actually part of the writing staff for a show, OR trying to shop a pilot, OR write a single episode for a show (like Neil Gaiman writing 1 Doctor Who episode, for instance). In the last case, this could be on spec, although my understanding is that is MUCH harder than it used to be.

Be aware that writing for TV is generally collaborative and many changes get made; the episode rarely goes to air exactly as the writer wrote it without contributions of other people along the line.

cornflake
04-03-2016, 06:35 PM
Spec scripts (from new writers) are part of your portfolio and not meant, or even remotely likely, to be sold. You're also not supposed to spec any show you want to write for.

I'm sure back in the day this was different and you could maybe have sold the Mary Tyler Moore Show a script outright, but I believe it just doesn't work that way anymore. Big-name writers do write standalones for shows, but that's different situationally.

Earthling
04-03-2016, 06:44 PM
Thanks all. In the finalised version she met a producer through a friend, showed him some of her scripts, and he got her a place writing on a long running show. :)