Wednesday, 31 July 2013


It's all about first impressions! How often are we told that? 

It is as true with people as it is with the first sentence of your work — it quite literally sets the stage for a lasting opinion. 

With the introduction to an extract - it is the first time an audience gets to see what the extract is about. It fast-tracks us to where this sample of your work begins and leads into two or three sentences that provide background details about your script. 

It is an opportunity for a writer to illustrate where their extract comes within the body of the entire script. Used effectively it can also create the entire atmosphere of the piece - horror, comedy and thriller.  It is not about a writer saying what they want to achieve or why they were driven to write the script but about contextualising the extract. 

Think of the intro as a prologue to the extract. 

Our Ten Rocliffe Tips:
  1. It must engage the listener - think of the first line of your intro as a hook that draws the audience in. It is your big chance to be so clever that your everyone's eyes are locked on the performance and ears are pricked up to your words - waiting to see what will happen next.
  2. Explain where the extract comes in the script - is it the beginning, middle or end of the script. Don't refer to act one, two or three - give us drama, conflict, comedy. Tell us what has happened before so we understand the lead up to this scene. Be brief.
  3. Allow the personality of the piece to come across - creating humour, tension, suspense where needed. 
  4. Start with the title, genre is and where it is set - dates, country if relevant.
  5. Don't use it as a homage as to why you wanted to tell the story. Create the set up, atmosphere and flavour of the piece. Keep the energy of it high.
  6. Do say if it is based on a true story, inspired by real events or based on a book. This allows the audience to relate to it. 
  7. Once you complete a first draft, go back to re-construct your introduction - be sure to check your it relates to the extract and the treatment — then double check your first sentence to give it some punch.
  8. Don't tell the audience what to expect but write it in a way that makes them want to sit up and watch what you have written. 
  9. Keep the intro to 100 words. It should be written in third person, prose and present tense.
  10. Should your extract be an amalgamation of scenes that have been adapted for the showcase then here is where best to say it.  You could say something along the lines of: This extract has been adapted for the purposes of this showcase. Bridging narration is being used to link non-consecutive scenes which show... and describe the story strand.  
  11. My writing quote of the week:
      The past is prologue - William Shakespeare 

    Keep writing. 

    Friday, 26 July 2013


    Over the last few years, writers and writer-directors have asked “how to get it right?”. I often meet people who want to know what it is that makes some artists great.

    I think it is down to approach.

    In any creative field, whether writing, directing, acting, it’s about developing and harnessing your innate talent but also making sure you are professional at all times and a positive generous collaborator to work with.

    The journey to being a writer, director, producer or actor is a hard one – it takes time, money, effort, obsessiveness, research, rejection and an utter resolute belief in oneself. Anything is possible if you believe you can do it.  You have to remain positive at all times and have a ‘can-do’ attitude. 

    1. Practise your skills; develop a trust in your own work.  It’s not just about writing a script – you need to develop your craft.  Writing is rewriting.
    2. I read once that a good writer is a good reader. It astounds me how many writers, particularly new writers, don’t read scripts. When you are feeling burnt out by your own words – be inspired by others. See how they structure their worlds.
    3. Passion is important but passion and desperation are two different things.  A passionate filmmaker will see that only with failure comes success. A desperate writer is afraid to let go. Move forward, write more and then come back to your original work with fresh eyes.
    4. You need to commit to a career not just one script. To be successful you have to be more than one idea. 
    5. The first draft of anything is never any good, so don’t send out the first draft of anything. On your title page it isn't relevant to the reader how many drafts you have written. Read your work aloud and cut dialogue – less is always more.
    6. Writers need to write, directors need to direct, but whether you are being paid or not doesn’t mean you have to give away your work for free. That is not necessarily applicable to shorts which are a great way of collaborating, building up a showreel and making a name for yourself - most people work on them for free. If it is a feature, negotiate a small fee - even £100. Also don't pay anyone to represent you.
    7. Don’t pitch in social situations, and if you do be able to sum up your idea in one line.  I went to a birthday party recently and was introduced to a new writer. It led to a fifteen minute pitching session on his great ideas and I hadn’t even taken off my coat. Had he asked to meet for coffee to discuss some of his ideas - I would have met him and been left with a much better impression. I still remember all the great people who have made time for me.
    8. Being paranoid that your idea will be stolen, that all competitions are stitch-ups and everyone in the industry is a wolf in sheep’s clothing which is why you won't reveal the ending of your script or let anyone read your script. It's not the idea that's of value but the telling. I believe ideas are in the ether - use them or someone else will! Loads of ideas are similar – look at Men Behaving  Badly and Peep Show, a few years ago there were two films about Truman Capote. 
    9. People want to work with new writers and talent. Caroline Norris, a producer, told me that most producers are looking for and want to work with new writers because all the best ones are busy. 
    10. Fall seven times, stand up eight! Feedback and rejection are part and parcel of a writer, actor, director and producer’s life. Not everyone is going to like your project; your work may not be for them. Criticism of any nature is hard and painful, being rejected can be humiliating but you have to develop thick skin and move on. Some notes can be useful, highlighting an aspect of your work that isn’t working - YET!  If you write, if you create films, if you perform, accept that it will be read, watched, reviewed. Opinions will differ and vary. Take from it what you will – don’t nitpick with what is said. What use is feedback that tells you what you want to hear? How useful is that to you and progressing your work? Unless someone has been abusive towards you, there is no reason for them to see your anger. Share your disappointment but leave that door open. Next time those people who rejected you the first time round, may this time be in a position to help you. Whatever you do don’t act unpleasantly and don’t burn bridges! People will forget that an early script of yours wasn't great when presented with a better one, but they won't forget an unpleasant exchange.
    My quote of the week: 

    I think that you have to believe in your destiny; that you will succeed, you will meet a lot of rejection and it is not always a straight path, there will be detours - so enjoy the view ~ Michael York, actor

    We open for submissions in August 2013. 
    Watch our website for new calls - 
    & follow me on twitter @farahabushwesha or @rocliffeforum

    Keep writing - Farah

    Wednesday, 17 July 2013


    It is so thrilling to announce who is to be featured at our events. It was incredible to see such a diverse group of comedy writers and writing. For me personally, it was particularly exciting to read entries from those who had never written before - everyone loves to discover new talent, especially us. The decision of who to pick is never easy but what I love about this initiative is the mentoring aspect and ongoing support those selected will have be given and the help they get to forge careers as comedy writers.

    We don't want to keep them all to ourselves so meet the talented comedy writers selected by BAFTA & Rocliffe to showcase their scripts at the New York Television Festival and Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival in 2013. Following the BAFTA and Rocliffe search for the UK’s most promising comedy writers as part of a nation wide competition. 

    Andrew Newman, Chair of BAFTA’s Television Committee and Chief Executive of Objective Productions, said: “BAFTA is pleased to be able to bring such exciting new scriptwriting talent to international attention. Their future in the industry looks very bright. The standard of entries to the BAFTA Rocliffe New Writing Forum is always impressive, so even to be shortlisted is a fantastic achievement.”

    Five winning scripts were selected and soon the emerging writers will be showcasing their work in front of the cream of the UK and US television industries at one of two major international television festivals.  

    Christiana Brockbank

    Christiana BrockbankChristiana Brockbank (aged 26) is from Bolton and recently moved to Ealing in London. She studied Film & TV at the University of Warwick and completed a Masters in Writing for the Media at Bournemouth University in 2010. A former copywriter and script editor, Christiana is currently working in the world of retail. She has written scripts for various small projects as well as working on her own comedy material.

    Andrea Hubert & Ryan Cull

    Andrea HubertAndrea Hubert (aged 34) is a writer and stand-up comedian from Harrow, who now lives in Finsbury Park, north London. She studied English Literature at Leeds University. Since 2010, Andrea has performed at top venues all over the UK, including Komedia Brighton, Covent Garden Comedy Club, The Glee and Downstairs at the King’s Head. She has been a finalist in several national stand-up competitions, acted in sketches with “Top Ten on Twitter” comedian Bec Hill, and performed in 2012 as part of the prestigious Big Value Edinburgh Festival Showcase. She was commissioned by the BBC to provide voiceovers and sketches for a taster episode of Walk on the Wild Side Series 3, and is a regular contributor to the Guardian Guide, specialising in film interviews and features.
    Ryan CullRyan Cull (aged 34) is a Canadian stand-up comedian now living in Finsbury Park and working in London. In Canada, he was a regular weekend headliner at the world famous Yuk Yuks, and The Second City. He is a regular performer at comedy clubs across the UK, including The Glee, Highlight, Komedia, The Comedy Store, Covent Garden Comedy Club, Downstairs at the King’s Head and others. He was a comedic contributor to the pilot gameshow TriviaLIVE that was broadcast on a Sky channel and, as an actor, has appeared in several online sketches, including a recent promo with the award-winning Beta Males Picnic sketch group.

    Stewart Thomson

    Stewart ThomsonStewart Thomson (aged 34) was raised in Milngavie, near Glasgow. He graduated from the National Film and Television School in 2008, before returning home to Glasgow. His graduation film, Bill’s Visitors, was nominated for a BAFTA Scotland Award in 2008. The following year, Parliamo Glasgow, his first television commission (part of Channel 4’s Coming Up initiative) was nominated for a BAFTA Scotland New Talent Award. His feature Beating the Drum is currently being developed by BBC Films and Creative Scotland. Rocket Surgery, a comedy feature has recently been selected for lo-fi, the Scottish low-budget film initiative, and will go into production later this year.

    Lizzie Bates & Anna Emerson

    Lizzie BatesLizzie Bates and Anna Emerson (both aged 30) are comedy writers and actresses who have been working together since 2006. Lizzie is originally from Ashendon in Buckinghamshire and now lives in Bethnal Green, east London. Anna was raised in Thame, Oxfordshire and now lives in Holloway, north London. The pair both studied at Bristol University. As two-thirds of sketch trio The Boom Jennies, Lizzie Bates and Anna Emerson have taken several critically-acclaimed shows to the Edinburgh Fringe and featured in hit BBC Radio 4 show Sketchorama.
    Anna Emerson
    In 2012, The Boom Jennies co-wrote and co-starred in their debut BBC Radio 4 sitcom, Mission Improbable, and a second series is due for broadcast in 2014. Lizzie has played a zombie princess in the short film Misguided and starred in the pilot for primetime BBC1 hidden camera show Richard Hammond's Secret Service. Anna is a frequent feature of cult podcast The John Dredge Nothing To Do With Anything Show and is due to star in her first solo show, An Evening With Patti DuPont, at this year’s Camden Fringe.
    Pictured: Lizze top, Anna bottom

    Brona C. Titley & Tony Cooke

    Brona C TitleyBrona C Titley (aged 32) is an actress and comedy writer from Dublin, currently living in Walthamstow in London. She studied Drama and English at Trinity College Dublin, and Professional Acting at LAMDA. Brona's first play Effigy won Best New Writing at ISDA, went on a full national stage tour and was produced by RTE Radio 1. Brona was the co-writer/performer of comedy Jobless Satisfaction (Edinburgh, Dublin, Portlaoise) and the co-creator/writer of Desperate, a sitcom pilot script for BBC Comedy. Brona writes/performs in online comedy sketches such as The Potential Wives of Prince Harry, which was a finalist for BeActive Digital Comedy Award in 2012. Also in 2012 Brona wrote The Parlour, a new pilot script for Grand Pictures.
    Tony Cooke
    Tony Cooke (aged 35) is a comedy writer from London and lives in Enfield. He studied Geography at Nottingham University and did a postgraduate course in Journalism at Cardiff University. In 2006 he was a finalist in the BBC’s Last Laugh sitcom writing competition, and since then he has written for both comedy and children’s TV shows. His comedy credits include: The Armstrong & Miller Show, Mumbai Calling, Dead Ringers, The Kumars at No. 42, and commissioned original sitcom scripts for BBC1 and BBC3. His kids’ credits include: The Revolting World of Stanley Brown, Hounded, and BAFTA-nominated episodes of The Legend of Dick and Dom and Diddy Movies. In 2009 he was shortlisted for the Breakthrough Talent Award at the British Academy Children’s Awards.

    Thursday, 11 July 2013


    The Rocliffe New Writing Forums started with a posting on Shooting People. I was searching for work and material to perform and finding it a very solitary task. I wanted to meet other writers and actors. My goal was to bring people together to read, discuss scripts and work collectively. Nine people turned up to the first meeting (mostly friends of mine) but I kept going. Three weeks later 30 people turned up and then 40. Directors joined in. I found the networking after, just as enlightening as the read-through. It opened doors to an underground network of filmmakers and opportunities that I didn't know existed. Everyone was hungry for information, fresh material, a network and a safe haven for feedback. We grew to 100 people - all squished together above a pub in Islington so I started a booking system. We kept it casual but structured and it grew with feedback. In 2001, I asked amazing execs to come along and share their thoughts on the scripts. Our first guest was Ollie Madden followed by Ed King, Nik Powell and Michael Kuhn. Their insight and understanding of how the industry worked was so useful - this was new to us. Suddenly this world seemed accessible. 
    In 2007, I moved the event to BAFTA and it became BAFTA Rocliffe New Writing Forum. These days the Forum is a very polished event but its heart and soul still retain the spirit of that pub in Islington. The Forums have a wonderful energy to them - they validate your opinion, open your mind to how the industry thinks and are a shared common experience. It is encouraging to hear other people’s work and give them feedback. For us all, it’s an opportunity to get away from the solitude of working alone – which is exactly writing can be. 14 years later the fundamental structure remains the same - a ten page extract is performed by actors who have had only a few hours to read and rehearse the script with a seasoned director. An industry guest gives feedback about the projects to each writers. The evening is rounded off with networking and mingling in the bar.   
    As writers it is hard not be a hermit, working on your own for hours but our work is meant to be read and needs feedback. Talking with other writers, sharing opportunities and interacting is essential. So is the feedback you give and receive. I can think of no better way, than to set up your own script reading group by distributing scripts, reading them and giving fellow writers feedback. I had no idea what a commitment Rocliffe would become (it’s probably been my longest relationship) but it’s a great buzz getting people together and seeing them make connections.
    My Ten Rocliffe Tips
    1. Set realistic goals of meeting once a month on a particular night. Be consistent. Weekday nights suit most people ie Tuesdays or Wednesdays. Lots of people ask about running them weekly or every two weeks. From first hand experience, enthusiasm will burn out and people will drop out. It is a huge undertaking and commitment.
    2. Invite a specific number of people. You don't want it to be too big, I suggest 6-10 people. This allows for dropouts (life happens) but also that everyone gets a fair crack at receiving feedback. You don’t have to take the lead every meeting, appoint a different leader who are responsible for organising their allotted meeting.
    3. Ask writers you know but also widen the net to meet other writers. Put a posting on Shooting People, tweet using the hashtag scriptchat, ask the Writers Guild, BBCWritersroom to RT to their mailing lists. Ask people to send you an email if they are interested in joining. Use facebook and other social media outlets to attract other writers. 
    4. Let the group decide the group etiquette and goals. Be clear about this from day one. Group dynamics can be extremely powerful. Everyone should know how to give and receive feedback and what is acceptable and not – the last thing you want is to kill someone’s confidence! For example, start with what you like about a script before highlighting what isn't working for you. Rocliffe has a feedback template sheet and some useful guidelines for writing groups. It lists simple questions and a few suggestions that you can adapt for your reading group. Email here now for the pdf.
    5. Will everyone read the script in advance or on the night?  Will you focus on one or two scripts each meeting? Rotate when and who gets their material read. There has be to give and take. Different people should get turns at getting feedback and giving feedback. Mistaking mistakes is a great way to grow as a writer. Everyone should have an opportunity for feedback. Create a timetable.
    6. Reading scripts on the night will restrict your time. Decide on the structure of the evening how much time is given to each script and how much time each person should spend giving feedback. I would recommend you limit the time given to each script. If individuals give feedback - no more than 4 minutes of feedback per person or if a general discussion keep it to 30-40 minutes per script per evening. If you do two scripts then this may take 90 minutes which is quite a long time. Do you also want to include writing exercises or just give straight feedback?  
    7. You can also use the writers group to create work. Setting goals such as you all write a 5 minute short film – circulate in advance or read on the night and give feedback or a one page treatment for a film or tv idea. Then graduate to feature films.
    8. Set deadlines so everyone knows when they have to circulate a script and when they need to have read it. Use this meeting to share knowledge about competitions and schemes.
    9. Picking a venue is crucial. Many pubs and coffee shops will be up for the business you will bring them. They have upstairs or back rooms you can use. Try a local museum cafe.  In London I recommend The British Library or The British Museum cafes. Keep it centrally located with access where possible and not just central to you. Avoid using people’s houses better to be on neutral territory.
    10. After the meeting whoever is the leader should send out an email to everyone who attended so they can keep in touch too. You shouldn’t be afraid to go out once in a while and a writer’s group is a great focus point for a writer.

    My writing quote of the week:

    It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no one can sincerely try to help another without helping himself - Ralph Waldo Emerson

    We open for submissions in August 2013. Watch our website for new calls - & follow me on twitter @farahabushwesha or @rocliffeforum

    Keep writing...

    PS I'm often asked where the name came from. Rocliffe was a road I lived on.