Channel 4 have announced this:
PILOT is an opportunity for drama screenwriters to win the chance to have their work produced and screened on Channel 4. We're inviting exciting, talented writers to submit a treatment for a six-part drama series, an outline for a pilot episode for that series, and a script for a sample scene from that episode.
Tell me more...
12 writers will be selected to take part in a packed weekend of industry workshops and masterclasses. They will then be hot-housed in one of three Scottish independent production companies, where mentoring producers and Channel 4 script editors will help them develop their series idea and complete a first draft script.
One creative team will head home with a £90,000 commission to produce a pilot episode of their drama series, including a fee for the winning writer to complete a final draft script.
Ninety grand is a lot of money. But in the context of TV drama, all it’s probably going to buy is a half hour of Neighbours.
By way of comparison, the BBC drama genre tariff for independents is here.
Borrowing liberally from the BBC website, this is the band under which £90k falls:
Daytime and Low Cost Drama - Indicative Tariff Range: £50k - £500k per hour
Within this range, programmes tend to fall into the following categories:
Drama 1: Up to £375k per hour
This category covers a range of low cost output primarily for Daytime together with long running series for BBC ONE; BBC TWO and BBC THREE.
Producers will use innovative techniques and clever ideas to maximise the funds available especially for BBC FOUR. New talent will launch and grow here.
£90,000 might seem a lot of money, but in an environment where an hour of TV drama can cost up to £900,000 plus (the ‘Drama 7’ category), it starts to look like pocket money – especially when direct comparisons are being made to Skins and Shameless. What ninety grand means is essentially a maximum of two locations, a contemporary setting and a small cast. It can be done of course, but ninety grand seems a ludicrously small budget for any production company to chase after.
And what’s more...
PILOT is a 4Talent Scotland project in partnership with Scottish Screen, supported by The National Lottery, and by Highlands & Islands Enterprise.
The opportunity itself is of course great news, but behind the scenes, perhaps the way it has been funded is the whole point – Channel 4 would be delighted if a high quality drama could be produced from such a low cost base; no doubt this initiative is being looked at as a ‘double whammy’, as it appears that Channel 4 haven’t had to stump up much of the cash at all (thanks to our friend the humble tax payer).
And before everyone in every far flung corner of the United Kingdom steams in, bear this in mind:
Amanda Millen, screen and broadcast industries development manager at Highlands and Islands Enterprise, said: “Highlands and Islands Enterprise is very excited to be part of this fantastic initiative and is looking forward to discovering and developing some strong screenwriting talent from the Highlands and Islands.”
Not something that is made terrifically clear on the Channel 4 website!