Andy Riley | misterandyriley.com

Mentoring scheme for new/newish POC comedy writers – open for applications until 15th June 2022

It’s time to start a new cycle of the comedy writing mentoring for 2022-2023.  Here’s what’s on offer:

A year’s free mentoring, primarily by email, for UK-based comedy writers who are POC (people of colour), and who are either at the start of their careers or who very much want to be. There are up to four mentoring places on offer. The window for submissions is open from 13th May 2022 until 11pm on 15th June 2022.

The comedy writing business doesn’t yet represent the ethnic make-up of the UK. I use the most recent UK census as my reference point, and also recent figures about the profession from the Writer’s Guild of Great Britain. This scheme is a small effort to move things along a bit, and up the number of professional or semi-pro POC writers.

I started doing this on my own in 2016, and since the scheme’s mentored ten new writers who are now enjoying success in the industry. One of them who you’ve likely seen is Sophie Duker, now all over your tellies on Taskmaster, House of Games and lots of other shows. Since 2020, there’s more mentors; I’ve been joined by Sarah Morgan, Tim Reid and (operating as The Dawson Brothers) Andrew Dawson, Tim Inman and Steve Dawson. They’re all massively experienced comedy writers. I’ve been around a bit too. My own credits include the forthcoming movie Seize Them!, Year Of The Rabbit, Veep, Black Books, Tracey Ullman’s Show, Armstrong and Miller, and – what the hell let’s mention it – Gnomeo & Juliet. 

It’ll work like this. Your mentor/mentors will read any comedy stuff that you write over a twelve month period, and offer notes on the script and advice on where to take it. We can be a sounding board, to offer advice in a more general sense about any aspect of the profession.

We may be able to give the mentees useful introductions; this happened a few times on the most recent cycle, leading to script commissions for two writers and a three-month job on an HBO show for another.

This time around, there’s an extra incentive; the production company Objective Media have kindly got involved, so every mentee has the option to write a treatment for a new comedy show for Objective, which Objective will pay them £750 for. If you don’t know the terminology, don’t worry – a treatment is just a proposal for a TV series you’ve thought up, telling people what it’s about, who the main characters are, etc. Important to say that if a broadcaster is interested and a full script is commissioned, you’ll do a different deal and get paid a good deal more to write that – the 750 is not an buyout, it’s just putting some of the money up front to recognise that putting a treatment together is proper work. 

Objective are one of the big players in comedy TV production and are the force behind Peep Show, Fresh Meat, Toast of London and plenty more. They’re exactly the kind of people you’ll want to meet, so it’s a great opportunity.

I’d prefer each mentee/mentor pairing to have at least one face-to-face meeting, as soon as possible, as I’ve found that really helps the mentoring process, which will then mostly be online for ease. We’ll be as regionally unbiased as we possibly can. If you don’t live anywhere near any of us (London and Manchester), there’s always Zoom.

A few words about what the scheme isn’t

It’s not an internship. We won’t ask you to help us with our own writing work. You’re not working for us; we’re working for you.

It isn’t a course, with set work to do and accreditation at the end. Everything’s informal. But it can be a big help to somebody starting off, and when you’re starting off, any help’s a good thing. Breaking into this field is never easy for anyone.

So if you’ve read this far and you’re a POC comedy writer – or you’d like to be – and you like the sound of it, here’s how to apply. Use the email luckyheathercomic@gmail.com to send us:

(i) a paragraph or two introducing yourself. You don’t need any experience to apply, but if you do have some, why not tell us any credits you have, either professional or amateur. You can say anything you like about yourself here, it’s not a formal CV. But don’t sweat too hard over this bit, because the main thing 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. We don’t really mind which, so long as there’s enough to give us a good sense of what you write. But it must be a script or scripts written for screen, radio or the stage. And it must be comedy.

(iii) (THIS BIT’S OPTIONAL) – any links to videos you’ve done that you want to show us, on YouTube or Instagram or anywhere else you’ve put them. But please don’t send us just video links – we need a script too, so we can compare everyone on the same playing field. So (ii) is essential, (iii) is not.

Important – 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 we have everything we need right there if we want to get back to you. Having to refer back to covering emails is very fiddly when you’ve got to look at a whole lot of them.

Please title the email ‘Mentoring 2022’. Just makes it easier for me to find everything.

We won’t consider anything in the form of blog posts, articles, or poems. You may well be a great blogger or journalist or poet, 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.

The time frame: it depends how much we get sent and how long it takes us to read it all, but ideally, we’d like to have the new mentees all arranged by the end of July, so every script we’re sent before the window closes will definitely be read and considered. After that date, I can’t take more submissions because the reading process is already under way. We will make our final selections some time in July.

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. I’ve got no assistant and I’m not getting a grant. I’ve had more and more scripts to read each year – a hundred last time – and it all takes time.

After we’ve made our final choices I will contact everyone, so you’ll hear from us then. We know how shitty it is to be left dangling without an answer, so we promise we won’t do that to you.

Some provisos – please read these before you send –

– You must be eighteen or over.

– You should be based in the UK. I’ve had a few applications from people in the USA over the years. Although I’ve done a fair amount of work there, I don’t live there, and none of us claim to know the professional terrain as well as we do for the UK.

– 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 a script on a previous cycle, you’re absolutely welcome to give it another go. Of the ten people mentored since 2016, two have become mentees on the second crack. They had new writing samples which will really made us sit up. Maybe yours will too.

– I’ll announce on twitter (@andyrileyish) and on this blog when we don’t need any more script samples, and when we’ve made our selections.

– Just to restate the key point: this is only open to POC writers. There are people who send me things without noticing that.

I’m sorry if you find the term ‘people of colour’ annoying. I’m not totally happy with it either, for all the google-able reasons I won’t go into here. But nobody much likes BAME any more, and BIPOC makes no sense in a European context because of that ‘I’, and none of the other alternatives are much good… so until something better comes along, POC it is.

A point I have to cover, because this can come up; there’s a chance we’ll be sent something that’s in a similar setting to a project one of us is currently developing. This sort of coincidence happens absolutely all the time. 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 a building site, or a therapist’s office, or a zoo, or whatever…) 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 we think there’s a chance your stuff is too close to something we’re doing, we’ll stop reading.

Anyway: send us your scripts!

To: luckyheathercomic@gmail.com, with the email titled ‘Mentoring 2022’.

Cheers

Andy Riley