Voyage To The Red Planet

I haven’t written about writing for what seems like forever, so let’s correct that.

There are many people out there who really like entering writing competitions. Personally I’ve never got into them, but they do seem to provide one way to “get into” the industry for the lucky few. I did enter one once, waaaaaaay back in the day, when I was in my early twenties. It was the first year of BBC Talent, and they were after new sitcoms, asking for a pilot script and outlines for the remaining episodes of the series. I wrote something called The Freshers, which was about a group of students in their first year of university (surprisingly enough). It was pretty rubbish really, and so got nowhere. Then again, if I recall correctly, the winners didn’t get anywhere either.

And that’s kind of the problem with these competitions whenever I’ve looked at them since. They all promise cool judging panels and excitement, adventure and really wild things for the winners, but off-hand I can’t think of any project that’s ever actually come out following a competition, or a writer who’s won one who’s been really successful. Maybe I’ve just been looking in the wrong places.

Anyway, for the first time in an age I’m actually thinking of submitting something to one of these things. The Red Planet Prize has piqued my interest, mainly because of the involvement in partnership of Kudos Film And Television, makers of such fare as Spooks and Ashes to Ashes. Now there’s a company I’d like to say hello to.

The entry requirements for this competition change slightly every time it’s held, and this year they’re asking for a 60 minute television script – either for a one-off drama or the pilot episode for an ongoing series. I happen to have the latter in a drawer. It needs some work – the initial submission has to be the first 10 pages, and they’re (oh so typically) by far the weakest in my script. There was some pretty nice stuff thereafter, though, and it was written a while back, so having a bit more experience under my belt in terms of thinking my way around story problems will hopefully enable me to sort out the start.

The script is for a series I talked about at length with a few friends (hello, Chris! Hello, Raze!) called Jump. In a nutshell, it’s Quantum Leap meets 24 meets Lost. The lead character, in trying to save his girlfriend from being killed right in front of him, is forced to embark on an odyssey across multiple realities, each populated with slightly different versions of the people he knows, and in each one he has to solve a particular dilemma before he falls asleep and is trapped in that reality forever. If he can make right all the things that are strangely wrong with the universe across dimensions, then he can finally get back to his own reality, with his girlfriend alive and well. That’s the deal.

The idea was to have a show which could hop genres depending on the episode, and give the 6 or 7 regular actors subtly different things to play each week while keeping the same characters. It’s an inexpensive character drama with a ticking clock and various genre elements, basically. No doubt I’m explaining this all very badly here, which is where the required work comes in.

Anyway, I have a month to sort it out (and saying that I’m going to do it on here means that I will actually do it), and it should give me a bit of respite from my epic wait for final feedback on that other thing. Of which, I found out today that the agency concerned are no longer accepting submissions. How that affects the prospects for my existing material (if at all) remains to be seen. I’m getting that sinking feeling, but then again I always have that.

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