Mentoring scheme for a new/newish POC comedy writer – open for applications
It’s time to start the 2019-2020 cycle of the mentoring scheme. Here’s what I can offer:
A year’s free mentoring, primarily by email, to one POC comedy writer (or POC writing partnership) who is/are either at the start of their career or very much wants to be.
The comedy writing business doesn’t represent the ethnic make-up of the UK. It’s hardly alone on this respect – the same goes for a lot of the media – but writing’s my bit. In the 2011 UK census, 14% of the population were people of colour. Reliable stats for ethnicity in the scriptwriting trade don’t seem to exist yet (though I know there’s people compiling them now). But things are way below 14%, I’ll tell you that.
The situation’s improving, but not fast enough, so this scheme is my small effort to move things along a bit and up the number of BAME working writers. I’ll keep doing it until the writing profession roughly reflects the most recent census.
I’ve been doing this a few years now, and I’ve mentored four people so far; Nikhil Parmar, Christine Robertson, Sammy Wong and Sophie Duker, and they’re all doing very well. Christine’s been writing half hours for Sky’s Trollied and CBBC’s The Dumping Ground. Sammy’s been working in the film business. Nikhil recently acquired an agent. Sophie’s had credits on Famalam and Frankie Boyle’s New World Order amongst others- and as I write this, I’ve just found out she’s a panellist on this week’s 8 Out Of 10 Cats.
I’ll read any comedy stuff that the mentee writer/writers send me over twelve month period, and offer notes and advice on it. I can also be a sounding board, to offer advice in a more general sense about any aspect of the profession. I may be able to give the writer useful introductions to producers – I’ve managed this a few times, but it kind of depends on what’s coming up that I happen to hear about. We’ll talk regularly, and I’ll see what I can do for you. I’ve written comedy for ages now; since the nineties. Imagine that. I’ve experienced every aspect of the job, from creating sitcoms and films to writing sketches and one-liners. I’ve written on Emmy and Bafta winning shows. Some of my credits are on this site and on my Wikipedia entry. I’ve got a lot of experience, and I can put it to use for someone else.
It would be lovely take on more that one person (or a partnership) per year. But well as being a scriptwriter, I’m a cartoonist and a children’s author. I’ve got scripts and pitches and books to write, and pictures to draw. I’d like to take on more but I want to make sure I don’t spread myself too thin.
Ideally I’d prefer to have at least one face-to-face meeting, as soon as possible, as I’ve found that really helps the mentoring process. I’m based in London, so it may not be practical, depending on where you live, but we’ll cross that bridge when we find it. I will be as regionally unbiased as I possible can.
A few words about what the scheme isn’t…
It’s not an internship. I won’t ask you to help me with my own writing work. You’re not working for me, I’m working for you. It isn’t a course, with set work to do and accreditation at the end. No money will change hands in either direction. Everything’s informal. But I think it would be a help to somebody starting off, and when you’re starting off, any help’s a good thing. Breaking into this field is hard.
So if you’ve read this far and you’re a POC comedy writer who likes the sound of it, here’s how to apply. Use the email firstname.lastname@example.org to send me:
(i) a paragraph or two introducing yourself. You can include any credits or experience you’ve got, or anything you’d like to say about yourself really. But don’t sweat too hard over this bit, because the main event is part two, which is….
(ii) a script sample of your comedy writing work, in PDF, Word, or Final Draft. This could be some sketches, a sitcom script, or something longer, up to feature film length. I don’t really mind what, so long as there’s enough to give me a good sense of what you write. But it must be a script or scripts written for TV, film, radio or the stage. Links to Youtube videos you’ve written are okay too – but as a bonus, because I’ve got to see some script too, so I can compare everyone on the same playing field.
I won’t consider anything in the form of blog posts or articles. You may well be a great blogger or journalist, but this thing’s all about scriptwriting.
There’s no upper limit to the length of your sample, but there is a lower limit. At least eight or ten pages of script. Any less and it’s hard to get a rounded view of how you write. So if it’s sketches you’re sending, please send three or four minimum.
Don’t worry about formatting or fonts. Just lay out your script however you normally do it.
Please put the words ‘mentoring 2019′ in the email title. Just makes it easier for me to find everything.
A word about plays, because I got quite a lot of those on each cycle. I will read them all of course, but they’re not usually my favourite kind of sample, because they keep meandering into drama. There might be some humour along the way but the payoff always seems to be serious rather than comic, so if I ask myself “is this a piece of comedy writing, or is it really drama?” plays are often borderline cases. Having said all that; if your play is my favourite thing I read, I’ll be in touch. I’m well aware that Chewing Gum and Fleabag started life in the theatre.
Please put your name and email on the script sample itself. Use the headers or footers, or just stick it at the top of page one. That way I have everything I need right there if I want to get back to you. Having to refer back to covering emails is fiddly when you’ve got to look at a whole lot of them.
When I find something I’m sent that I really like, and makes me go yes, I’d love to read more from this person, I’ll be emailing you. I won’t go ahead until I’ve got that feeling.
The time frame: it depends how much I get sent and how long it takes me to read it all, but ideally, I’d like to have a new mentee all arranged by the start of June 2019, so every script I’m sent before 20th May 2019 will definitely be read and considered. Anything after that date, I might still get the chance to read, but I might be making my final pick.
When you send me your sample, unless it was bounced back, assume I got it. I don’t want to get into sending receipt emails, just to cut down in the admin part of things. This is just me doing this. I’ve got no assistant and I’m not getting a grant. I’ve had more and more scripts to read each year and it all takes time. But after I’ve made my final choice I will contact everyone, so you’ll hear from me then. I know how shitty it is to be left dangling without an answer, so I promise I won’t do that to you.
Some provisos – please read these before you send –
– You must be eighteen or over.
– You should live in the UK or Ireland.
– You should intend comedy scriptwriting for TV, film or radio to be your main creative focus over the next year at the very least – and preferably beyond.
– If you’ve sent me stuff on a previous cycle, you’re absolutely welcome to give it another go. Maybe you’ve got a new writing sample which will really make me sit up.
– I’ll announce on twitter (@andyrileyish) and on this blog when I don’t need any more script samples, and when I’ve found someone for the 12 months.
– Just to restate the key point: this is only open to POC writers.
A point I have to cover, because this can come up; there’s an outside chance I’ll be sent something that’s in a similar setting to a project I’m currently developing. This sort of coincidence is much more common than most people think. There’s only so many situations in the world, and if you’ve thought “I’ll write about some characters who work in a Greggs!” (or on a cruise ship, or in a museum, or who form a quirky family) you can be sure other people have too. Some years back, Jeremy Hardy and Stewart Lee both wrote – independently and simultaneously - stand up material about hairdressers asking Apollo astronauts where they were going for their holidays.
If I think there’s a chance your stuff is too close to what I’m doing, I’ll stop reading.
SEND ME YOUR SCRIPTS!