Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Bristol Sitcom Trials Q & As

Discussion of the forthcoming Bristol Sitcom Trials is taking place over on the British Comedy Guide Forum. Do please join in. Here are some recent Qs and As:

Marc P: Shame there is a limit to only four characters. Presumably writers performers can bring more to the party if they are doing it themselves?

Kev F: We've used the standard template from the Trials, where the stipulation of four characters proved to be a great discipline and a pragmatic move when it comes to staging. Dec & Si and James (Parker) relaxed the rules when they ran their seasons of the show, and if Vince is willing to handle the extra logistical problems of more characters, then he's welcome to. But I would urge writers to stick to the four characters if they can. You've only got approximately eight minutes, that's not very long to make proper use of two characters, let alone more than four.

Writer-performers, if they come in a gang of five, would get to bend the rules as, I suppose, would anyone who brings their own complete cast. But, hey, why am I butting in? Vince is the boss.

Remember, if it's funny that's what counts.

evan rubivellian:...I'm having second thoughts about entering scripts that have already been part of previous sitcom trials. Both scripts made it to the finals, so it's fair to say they've had their moment.

Is there any potential clash if I rework this year's sitcom mission entry and submit that?

Kev F: I don't think so. In the past (when I produced the shows, 99-06) the Sitcom Trials were all about testing out sitcoms and developing them for potential sale to telly and radio. This meant we regularly re-wrote things after their first performance, learning from the lessons of the audience test, and re-performed them. We staged different episodes of favourite sitcoms (see these scripts for The Lavender Millbank Mob, created by Rich Johnston and written by Rich, myself, Brainstopping and various others), encouraged team writing (see this collaboration between myself and Geoff Whiting, Didn't You Used To Be..?[) and made use of the format of the show to keep the audience involved while not losing sight of the important aim of developing comedy, making it better through seeing our writing performed live. (See also Situation Murder, an attempt to mix sitcom and murder mystery, developed in 04/05 by the then Bristol Sitcom Trials team).

With the Edinburgh Fringe shows (2001-4) the format slightly took over, and with the TV series the emphasis moved to showcasing different scripts every week and giving new writers a break. In 2007-9, under Dec & Si, the Trials became a tournament with a grand prize, and the idea of concentrating on developing individual sitcoms was left behind.

Whether the new Bristol group sets itself up as a tournament or a workshop, a showcase for scripts from around the world or a hotbed for the comedy talents of the West Country is entirely dependent on Vince and how the meetings go, starting on Feb 12th. Let's see what happens.

As for whether there's a clash with the Sitcom Mission, I don't know if there's something in their contract that precludes involvement with another show. But since they only shortlist a very small number of scripts (and we're assuming they've had another 100 entries this year), err on the side of keeping your script out there. If they choose you and tell you you have to pull your script from the Trials, I think we'll cope.

Next Sitcom Trials March 30, Wardrobe Theatre, Bristol
Script deadline Feb 29 - enter here.

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