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Thursday, 27 June 2013

Want to write the next hit comedy? Read on...

This year’s Festival programme is absolutely packed to the brim with an eclectic mix of sessions, masterclasses, debates and talks. One session that particularly stands out as an Edinburgh first is the BAFTA Rocliffe Sitcom Showcase. Taking place on the Thursday afternoon, this session  will be the culmination of months of searching, judging, and most probably laughing quite a bit too. Two comedy scripts, selected from almost 500 entries by an expert jury of famous names in comedy, will be performed live on stage by professional actors in front of a Festival audience. Our panel, including comedian John Bishop and BBC Controller of Comedy Shane Allen, will offer a BBC script commission to one of the writers on the day.

With an overwhelming number of entries, what separates the humorous from the hideous? Here Chris Sussman, Executive Editor at BBC Comedy (and member of the Festival Advisory Committee) has some tips for aspiring comedy writers: 

1. Get on with it. You can spend ages thinking about an idea, driving yourself crazy, tying your brain in knots. But you won't know if your script is going to be any good or not until you actually sit down and start writing it.

The Sitcom Showcase will be a first for GEITF
2. Don't bother with a treatment. It's almost impossible to tell from a treatment how a script is going to turn out. If you want to prove to people that your idea is funny, write the script and show it to them!

3. Keep drafting and redrafting. You'll probably only get one chance to impress people with your script, so make sure it's in the best possible state it can be before you send it out there.

4.  Arrange a read-through. There's nothing like hearing your script read out aloud to see which jokes work and which don't. Why not ask your friends to come round one night and read your script out loud for you? You'll be amazed how useful it'll be.

5. Write a second episode. You might find it's even stronger than the first because you know the characters and the world better and that's the one you end up sending out. Or it might give you ideas that will inspire you to go back and change your first script. Either way, it won't be a wasted exercise.

6.  Trust your instincts. If you think a joke's not working, then it probably isn't. If you think your story is flawed or clich├ęd or boring, the chances are other people are going to think that too.

On stage at NYTVF last year
7.  Know the marketplace. If there are four sitcoms on TV already set in a school, don't write a sitcom set in a school!

8.  Get an agent. A lot of production companies won't read scripts unless they come through an agent. I know it's hard but if your script is good you'll find someone who likes it and wants to take you on.

9.  Don't give up. You're probably going to hear the word 'no' a few thousand times before you hear 'yes', so make sure you keep going.

10. Broadcasters aren't turning down loads of brilliant scripts every day. We want to read the next great script as much as you want to write it!

The BAFTA Rocliffe Sitcom Showcase will take place on Thursday 22nd August at 13.45. Haven't bought you Festival ticket yet? Buy before June 30th to save £105!

For more information on the BAFTA Rocliffe New Writing Forum click here.