‘Going Wireless’ with Julia Mckenzie, Ming Ho, Tim Stimpson & Jack Bernhardt…

At the last festival, Shooting people sent their top reporter Adem Ay, to send daily… no hourly reports on his experience. We will post these over the next few days as it gives a great insight into on delegates experience… Over to Adem…

Howdy Shooters.

It’s time to return to some intrepid London Screenwriters’ Festival reportage. Today I’ll slip you five nuggets from a panel discussion on GOING WIRELESS: Writing For Radio. Sitting on the panel were JULIA MCKENZIE (Head of BBC Radio Comedy), TIM STIMPSON (Lead writer on ‘The Archers’), MING HO (A writer whose plays have aired on BBC Radio 4) and  (a sketch writer for various BBC comedy shows). Here are some highlights…

  • Radio is a great launchpad for new writers. While other media may play lip-service to wanting fresh talent, radio genuinely needs material from new writers, and schedule time is reserved solely for them. Better than that, you do not need an agent to submit your work and get it read. Radio really is the place to start your writing career.
  • The best ways to get your first broadcasting credit? If you are a comedy writer, submit skits to ‘Newsjack’. They are on twitter (@Newsjackbbc) and if your submissions are regularly accepted you’ll get invited to visit the team and potentially submit material for other BBC radio comedy shows. If you are more of a drama person, then Radio 4’s ‘Afternoon Play’ is the place for you – every year play slots are ring-fence for new writers, and they can air to an audience as large as a million listeners. The best way to get your slot is to directly email the producers of those plays you feel most capture your own voice and work.
  • But how to write for radio? Well, the first step is to listen to radio shows! By tuning into radio plays and comedies you can work out what producers want in terms of tone and subject, how the formats work (in comedy sketches this can be very particular), and start to pick up how writers use various tricks to get round the limits of radio, for example how they use dialogue to subtly get across visual information, or use sound effects to portray the passage of time
  • When it comes to picking your own story for radio, remember that it is an intimate medium, and so one that lends itself better to focused stories. Try to stick with small casts (too many different voices can get confusing) and stories where dialogue can carry the action. But on the flip side of that, once radio’s limits are understood, you can do almost anything! Sci-fi – fantasy – historical – any genre is possible with the right sound effects and budget limits do not matter at all!
  • Converting an already written film or play script to radio is often more work than you’d think. Moving from a visual medium to an audio one takes serious redrafting. One option is to send your script as is, just to see if the producer likes your work and thinks you’re worth chasing. However in most cases, a radio orientated spec script is what will win you a commission. Just remember to underline any action description that requires a sound effect.

That’s it on writing for radio – next week I’ll bring you some fine morsels from ED NEUMEIER on writing ‘Starship Troopers’, from LYNNE RAMSAY on writing and directing ‘You Were Never Really Here’, and from a panel discussion on how to write for video games! Cor blimey governor.

You can get £30 off your pass with the code SHOOTERS.

Adem Ay
Shooting People