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Sarah: BAFTA Rocliffe Blog 02

12 October 2012

Sarah Courtauld shares the advice that she's been given so far after becoming a BAFTA Rocliffe winner in her second blog...

This week, I visited various production companies and channels, and got lots of script feedback and advice from people who probably know what they’re talking about, including Jill Offman at Comedy Central, and Shane Allen (Head of Comedy at Channel 4, soon to be Head of Comedy at the BBC). At times I felt a bit out of my depth. Luckily I had Farah from Rocliffe very patiently answering all my questions along the way.

Here’s some advice I picked up:

1) Listen to people. Give your script to as many people as possible and get their feedback. If I tell everyone about my AMAZING sitcom, Plasma (featuring a bunch of witty twentysomething blood cells – there’s the nice, but boring white blood cell, the depressive red blood cell, the zany antibody…) – and everyone says: “Please. Just stop. Why are you still talking?” Then probably, they have a point.

2) Don’t listen to people! If you end up thinking about too much about broad appeal, you may end up writing My Family. And then crying quietly in a cupboard for quite a long time.

3) Shamelessly flatter important people. Shane Allen (Head of Everything) told me to do this. I didn’t know what to reply to that. “Thanks for the tip, Shane. And may I say, you have lovely elbows. I admire your jumper choice”?

4) Shane Allen has amazing elbows. Just saying.

5) Don’t just send people your scripts. Put on rehearsed readings, buy some cheap wine, invite producers. Apparently producers, like humans, are fond of alcohol, and may turn up.

6) If you are a woman, do not apologise.

7) Write for radio! On the radio you can have elephants. You can have explosions… You can have an apocalypse in which all the striped beasts turn on each other! I’m now planning to flood the Radio 4 script department. And also send them lots of scripts.

8) Don’t write a script about the media. No-one will want it. I personally, have already done this. But maybe you can save yourself in time.

9) Befriend people with dysfunctional lives, and ruthlessly use them for material. Apparently everything in Peep Show was based on stuff that actually happened to people. I’m now just taking a moment to think about that dog/BBQ scene...

10) When choosing a production company to work with, I think it’s really important to meet people, and pick up the atmosphere of a place, and then go with your gut. Since I know about as much about this industry as “Dr” Leo Spaceman (from 30 Rock) knows about science (see picture above)… then going with my instinct seems like a good idea.

11) Most importantly, like Mark in Peepshow, I discovered: “The world's just people walking around, going into rooms and saying things.” I was quite nervous about the meetings. I kept thinking someone would ask me to do a Rubik’s cube, or ask me how many Sikhs live in Wales. However, there were no scary cross examinations. Just really friendly people giving me lots of feedback and helpful advice.

Finally, if you are reading this and considering whether to enter your stuff into a Rocliffe Writing Forum, DO IT. BAFTA/Rocliffe have an immense reputation - it’s like an actual golden ticket.