Adrian Mead, screenwriter, with the final part of a four-part series on how to sell screen rights.
By JJ Marsh
Do you think agent representation is essential?
I know plenty of writers that work without an agent. Agents cannot make you a better writer or guarantee you a career. However, if you have an agent with a good reputation they can get you into meetings to pitch your work. Then it is up to you to convince people that your ideas and you are worth backing.
In the event a writer’s idea is picked up, what to expect next?
Depends on the project and the writer. If it is a novel the company will circulate a pitch doc based on the material to broadcasters or financiers to see if there is any interest. If they gain a positive response they may interview a number of screenwriters to read the book or material and see what their approach would be to adapting it. They would then hire one of them to do an outline, followed by a treatment and then possibly a script.
If the original author of the work wants to be the adaptor they must be able to show examples of scripts they have written and make a compelling argument as to why they should be hired. There is no guarantee a producer would want you of course and if this is a deal breaker you must be clear when first negotiating selling the rights.
What are the Deadly Sins of approaching film/TV companies? Or what are the routes guaranteed to land you straight in the bin?
It is always a challenge striking a balance between being tenacious and a pest. Be polite.
Always do your research first. Make sure you approach an appropriate company - your teen romance will not work if they specialise in horror films.
Call up and get a name - Dear sir/madam e mails never get read.
Speak to people who have already been successful. How did they do it?
Get others to champion you - awards, important critical reviews, sales figures.
If you read Making It As A Screenwriter you will see this is the stuff I cover in depth.
I know you’ve been directing as well as writing. Can you share what’s coming up?
Just completed directing four episodes of the second series of EVE, a sci-fi drama for CBBC. It’s a really ambitious show for kids TV and great fun to work on. Here’s a link to last year’s series that I also directed. http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbbc/watch/eve-meet-eve
And what’s next in the pipeline?
I have a bunch of my stuff with companies who are busy trying to raise interest and I am attached to direct two films which are making steady progress towards raising the necessary finance. I have a couple script ideas which I am itching to get written up, so these will be my work on the train as I travel back and forth to edit Eve over the next few weeks. At the same time I will be taking meetings with companies and hopefully lining up other work!
As someone who’s taken control of their career and achieved a dream, can you sum up your advice in one sentence?
I would offer the following that I use for myself whenever I feel stuck or in need of a kick up the backside.
If you want something you must take action.
Adrian formerly worked as a nightclub bouncer and a hairdresser before stumbling upon the world of film and television. His writing credits include ITV’s “The Last Detective” “Blue Dove” “Where The Heart Is”, BBC’s “Paradise Heights”, “The Eustace Brothers”, “Waking The Dead” and “River City”.
He’s also written for animation for the legendary “Dennis & Gnasher” for Nine Network Australia and CBBC in the UK and Iconicles for CBBC and ABC (Australia). He has directed episodes of MI High (Series 7) and Eve (series 1 and 2) for CBBC.
“Night People” was Adrian’s feature debut as writer director and went on to win the BAFTA Scotland and Cineworld Audience Award and was also nominated for Best Screenplay at the same awards.
His book Making It As A Screenwriter launched in September 2008 and was hailed by leading industry professionals as the definitive career guide for aspiring screenwriters.
For more useful, comprehensive and targeted information on selling to screen, Making It As A Screenwriter is available at www.meadkerr.com
All proceeds go to ChildLine – the UK's free, 24-hour helpline for children in distress or danger. Trained volunteer counsellors comfort, advise and protect children and young people who may feel they have nowhere else to turn. www.childline.org.uk
Images courtesy of Benjamin Balázs (Creative Commons)