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“Out Loud” – The Sequel

At IMIS, we decided to build on the incredible spirit of the first “Out Loud” that culminated in a magical night that performed the winning scripts in a Table Read to an audience.

For the second “Out Loud”, we, again, offered it free to enter, free to attend, and did not place a condition on previous experience, because we recognise the barrier lack of funds can be for participation in the arts.

I also assessed the scripts as they came in and announced winners literally days after the deadline, rather than making writers wait around needlessly for months.

I was pleased to read a lot of really promising scripts with a real diversity of style and approach. However, I wanted to add a few more thoughts on the trends I saw coming through:

Format

Again, a surprising number of scripts, either partially, or completely, did not follow standard script format. When this happens, you distract the reader and make their job harder. Let me be blunt. If you do not follow the format rules, together with the codes and conventions, you really are shooting yourself in the foot.

A script entry is not just a piece of art, it is also an application form. You would not apply for a job using anything other than the potential employer’s standard process and so you should view your script entry the same way.

I go into some more detail about this in my article on the first event.

Comedy

I noticed a number of comedy entrants which shared a similar habit of inserting a gag or one-liner too regularly. This is a similar trend I’ve noticed in much recent British comedy, particularly the BBC, for example in Fleabag.

Although Fleabag built up a loyal following, this was not reflected in the ratings (S2 E1 was 25% below the average for that time slot, according to Chortle) and the show ultimately ended after only two seasons. I think they could have avoided this by making the situations and world-believability king rather than the gags and asides to camera (although the ‘where did you go’ moments were clever).

For another comedy on BBC iPlayer which is still going strong and into its third season, may I humbly submit for your consideration the aptly titled Pamela Adlon-vehicle, Better Things.

Anyone looking to hone their comedic writing in London could do worse than to go to the London Comedy Writers Group. Great people, very supportive atmosphere.

Gender of applicants

Female entrants made up approximately 30% of the first callout and this dropped to roughly 20% for the most recent callout. This split is broadly reflected elsewhere in the industry in available data from other competitions such as the BBC Writersroom, the Nicholls Fellowship and The Black List. Stephen Follows recently conducted a study of the Screencraft competitions which found that female applicants formed only 23.7%.

So my message is clear, it would be great to have many more female applicants!

In Summary

There are clearly a lot of talented writers in the UK and I remain dedicated to helping them focus on and enhance their skills, to give them a real shot in a hyper-competitive business.

I hope more people will enter future call outs – please tell your friends. IMIS is a very cool non-profit which does a lot of tireless work behind the scenes supporting people and the business in general, let’s build together the kind of industry in which we want to operate. Dealing with some organisations often feels like confronting a big wall, but IMIS aim to be approachable, friendly and to demystify both the craft and the business of screenwriting.

The Event

On the 29th June, a table read took place of the winning scripts, sweltering through the hottest day of the year at 33 degrees. It is a testament to the quality of the work that the audience stayed so thoroughly engaged to the end and networked at the end and my big wish is that useful connections were made and the scripts advanced towards production in some way.

Those winners again

Misapprehended – Dorcas Agbogun

2 Shrugs and a Hug – Rasheka Christie

The Sun Will Set – Kevin McCarthy

Flesh and Blood – James Murphy

Reflection – Nick Padmore

Sweet Spot – Yoav Rosenberg

Spatium – Devin Tupper

A big thank you to the actors whose talent and passion brought those scripts to life. I can tell you it is magical watching your script assume form for the first time.

Reflections on Running a Screenplay Competition

I am proud to have facilitated the Screenwriting Community within IMIS for the last year.

This Community was set up to offer something powerful for Screenwriters, with a focus on skills and opportunities.

It has become clear to me over this time how much this initiative is needed, particularly as an alternative hub to current big-hitters such as the BFI and BAFTA. How does a Screenwriter with little or no connections – but with a really original well-written project – breakthrough? Our purpose is to tackle that question head on.

Screenwriters have to navigate a mass of “opportunities,” many of which have strong brand recognition, that offer hope – but little else. A profit-making cottage industry of middlemen have come to dominate the space and this is why I feel non-profits such as IMIS can really make their presence felt and start to facilitate exciting writers, scripts and projects.

In an industry and culture that has yet to fall out of love with reboots, remakes and franchises – “copyright exploitation” to give it its technical, somewhat sinister, term – we aim to identify, and provide platforms for, the truly original voices of the future, with a singular passion. We want to spark a new golden age of British Cinema, which is why @IMISWriters uses the hashtag #britishfilmrenaissance

In the last year, the Screenwriting Community has hosted events led by Leah Middleton, agent at Marjacq, Rick Harvey, MA Course Director at Raindance, workshopping theme and others. We always aim to give Screenwriters practical tools to advance their writing and career, while eschewing hollow platitudes.

The Table Read Event was a continuation of that purpose and was meant to provide a platform for and feedback to a select number of promising scripts with an unerring focus on encouraging originality and driving excellence in the craft side of screenwriting.

With “craft” in mind, I also want to provide some general feedback to everyone on some of the major trends which cropped up from the 70 entries we received.

(And by the way, as a Screenwriter, I’m sure I have made all of these mistakes and many more, besides!)

What to Do and What Not to Do:

Format

This was undoubtedly the most noticeable issue.

A mandatory industry standard layout has evolved, the purpose of which is to help the reader focus on the story elements of each script consistently. It dictates, for example, that the font be 12-point Courier, with a whole set of very specific rules around spacing, indents and elements.

As there is an important reason for this format, my recommendation is simple – write in industry standard always. To help you in this, use software such as Final Draft or Celtx so you minimise the chance of any errors. Your individuality should be in the story, not the layout.

Rules

Not story rules, but screenplay rules. A series of ‘best practice’ conventions have sprung up around writing a screenplay, which, if not followed, can be equally distracting for the reader. A few examples:

Passive vs Active Voice

Screenplays should be written in “Active Voice,” where the subject is the person that performs an action, usually in present tense. This is the most immediate way of writing – important, because screenplays rely more on action and less on description than other mediums.

Passive Voice version: He is slapped by her.

A reader reads that sentence “he IS slappED BY HER” – this formulation JOLTs the reader out of the spell you are casting.

Active Voice version: She slaps him.

As a general rule, avoid the verb ‘to be’ and -ing words as much as you can.

Believe me, you can tell a professional-standard script from this alone, in the first few sentences.

Action Description

As a general rule, you only describe what the viewer can see and hear, because of the nature of the medium. Some writers wrote, “she feels” or “he remembers.” There is no way we can know what someone “feels” unless you describe the physical effect of that, or what he “remembers,” unless you include a flashback, or they talk about it, or it otherwise produces an observable physical effect.

Character Intro

First time is in CAPS. Again, you cannot describe their personality directly, you can only describe what we can see and hear. And what is seen and heard should mainly be that which indicates the kind of character they are.

Someone who fidgets may indicate a nervous person. This will also create a useful Active Question – in the audience’s head – why is this person fidgeting? Let’s find out…

“We”

This is a particular bugbear of Robert McKee’s and once you notice it, it, again, becomes a distraction for the reader. When you write “we see” or “we hear” in the action description, you put the reader in the story, you break the “fourth wall.” Find another way, don’t break the spell.

Titles

Maybe this is my personal taste, but I love clever titles, specifically ones which have a double meaning, one of which relates to some kind of theme. If a script is called “Penny” because it is about a protagonist called “Penny,” this usually does not bode well, unless “penny” also relates to some kind of story, let’s say about money or luck. But there are notable exceptions to this in the film world, such as “Carrie,”. Like I say, this could be my personal taste.

Story

Of course, there are all sorts of rules, conventions, principles and theories about how to write the story part of the screenplay, too. This is much more subjective, so all I have to say about this is in the scripts I read, where there was a sense of surprise – a great twist, or an intrinsically poetic approach, or dialogue pregnant with subtext it pushed a script to the top of the pile. This is where you can subvert audience expectation and/or cast a magical spell.

Summary

In order for the spell to stay, the format and conventions need to be adhered to dogmatically. This is so that it is in the story itself that you set your voice free and take us on a journey that will move us emotionally and transport us to another realm.

It was a pleasure to read these scripts and I hope that we run another event such as this one, soon. We want to make London a global centre of excellence for Screenwriting. #britishfilmrenaissance. Join us.

The Event

On February the 21st at Zero One, Soho we hosted a table read of the winning scripts, which enjoyed a very positive reaction from the audience and the participants. Bringing together quality writers and actors is only one stage in the process, but we hope to have facilitated the future production of these scripts into stunningly realised projects. The winners again:

  1. No Man’s Land by Tom Canning
  2. The Big One by Michael Lavers
  3. The Pact by Olu Alakija
  4. Psalm of the Sawist by Asia Nichols
  5. The Talk by Jonathan Hughes

Our sincere thanks also to the Actors who came down and brought these scripts to life and to Zero One for their support.

Events

Out Loud – The IMIS Screenplay Table Read

Come join us at our exciting new event which features a table read of short screenplays and extracts from our second table read contest!

Selected for Table Read:

Misapprehended – Dorcas Agbogun

2 Shrugs and a Hug – Rasheka Christie

The Sun Will Set – Kevin McCarthy

Flesh and Blood – James Murphy

Reflection – Nick Padmore

Sweet Spot – Yoav Rosenberg

Spatium – Devin Tupper

 

Why Should You Come?

  • Identify flaws in your own work in the read-through
  • Get and give valuable constructive feedback
  • Sharpen your screencraft skills
  • Support your colleague’s work
  • Be inspired by storytelling
  • Network and meet other screenwriters, producers, directors and filmmakers!

Tickets Available:

  1. This is a FREE event to anyone who would like to attend so please invite your friends!

Out Loud – The IMIS Screenplay Table Read

We are presenting a great opportunity in which your written material can come to life for the first time! Come join us at our exciting new event which features a table read of short screenplays and extracts, and give a voice to your characters. Submit your work on our website and take a shot at being picked for reading or simply join us on the evening and support your colleagues. Submissions and attendance to this event are free!

Submissions Are Now Closed!

Selected works will:
  • be read out loud to an audience by a professional cast or readers
  • receive constructive feedback on the night
  • come to life in a supportive environment

Why do a Table Read?

  • Identify flaws for yourself in the read-through
  • Get and give valuable constructive feedback
  • Sharpen your screencraft skills
  • Network

And most important of all: The joy of hearing your words come to life!

Tickets Available:

  1. This is a FREE event to anyone who would like to attend.