The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)

Writers Assemble!

Writers Of The World Unite in Sheffield

By Denise Cassar,

Award Winning Children's Scriptwriter

 


The Children’s Media Conference is a superb opportunity for writers to creep out from behind our screens, shed our coffee stained cardigans (just me?) and see what’s happening in the wider kids’ media industry. Each year we scour the timetable for events tailor made for us. This year writer Darren Jones assembled a panel of writers, a writers’ agent and a development executive in a working lunch session entitled Writers Assemble!

It was a relaxed forum chaired by BBC writer, producer and director Dominic MacDonald which offered a chance to share some of the “challenges, pitfalls and possible secrets to success that lie along any writer’s career path.” It aimed to answer questions like, ‘What are the best ways in for new writers?’ ‘How can you create and sell your own shows, or expand into different markets?’ ‘How should writers future proof their careers in a rapidly changing media world?’

It was pretty much a full house. I suspect the numbers of writers attending is rising year on year and this is reflected on the increasing popularity of writer-centric sessions. For me the overwhelming takeaway from a session like this is the sense that you are not working in a vacuum. It can often feel that way but your fellow writers are beavering away in their own far flung sheds, facing the same challenges as you.

I think newcomers to the industry would have found the session useful and hopefully quite encouraging. As the panellists revealed their routes into the industry it became clear there is no single point of entry but there are certain pieces of advice which are universally relevant to anyone wanting to be a kids’ writer.

Writers’ agent Annette van Duren stressed the importance of making yourself familiar with the kids’ media landscape and doing your homework- watching and absorbing as much as you can. All the panellists talked about networking and building and maintaining personal relationships. Omari McArthy said that as a newcomer to the writing side of the business he found signing with an agent meant he was taken more seriously. BBC Writersroom Development Executive, Simon Nelson stressed the importance of remaining true to your own stories rather than trying to second guess the broadcasters (cue wry chuckles from people who had just been to a Meet the Commissioner session) Writer Emma Reeves was a strong voice for the Writers Guild of Great Britain addressing the issue of whether to do work ‘on spec’ – the panel acknowledged that it’s sometimes a tricky issue when you are building a relationship with a new producer. But agents and the WGGB guidelines are there to help navigate this.

It was a lively session, chaired expertly with plenty of audience questions and observations. Towards the end of the session a cracking bit of advice came from a script editor with the BBC sitting in the audience.  If you are a great writer but no-one can find you, you may as well be writing shopping lists. To be fair she didn’t actually say that, but I’m pretty sure the slight frustration in her voice reflected it. What she actually said was:
“Writers, please! Be ‘Google-able’ in under 5 seconds!”  ...You know what to do.

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