A few months ago new writer Alex Taylor-Smith was delighted to find out that his/ her script had reached the finals the BBC Writersroom’s search for new comedy writers. However, his/ her celebrations were cut short when Alex discovered that he/ she was a made-up character, hastily created by the BBC script reader Sally Stott.
Fuelled by a cynical desire to get an honest opinion on a Radio 4 Afternoon Play she’d written, Sally used Alex as a pseudonym to anonymously enter her work in the BBC’s comedy writing talent ‘sift’, and was subsequently invited to take part in a development course. Having finally come to terms with the fact he/ she doesn’t exist, Alex now gives his/ her side of the story, in this exclusive guest blog*:
Q: Alex, how did you feel when you discovered that Sally Stott had made you up?
Annoyed. In particular, I was really irritated to find out I didn’t have arms, legs or a face. Also, that I’d been given a ‘gender neutral’ name when I’m clearly a man. However, by far the worse thing was realising a script reader had taken my place on a BBC comedy-writing course. Literally taken my place! Even though I didn’t write a word of her script…
Q: As far as I know, there aren’t a set number of places on the course…
That’s not the point. I don’t know what the script is about or why it’s supposedly good, but my name was on the cover! Not to mention the fact there are also probably hundreds of other writers the BBC is desperate to develop – people like Dennis Potter, Stephen Poliakoff and The Queen – but now they can’t, all because Sally’s there.
Q: Why shouldn’t script readers enter competitions they’re judging, as long as they don’t read their own work?
Because they will obviously burn all the good scripts so they can win! I know this for a fact because if I were in their position I’d do the same. I’d also definitely do loads of other bad things if I knew I could get away with them – like robbing a Spar or putting my neighbour’s freaky-looking cat in a blender. Because, at the end of the day, who wouldn’t?
Q: Can’t script readers be writers too?
Duh! They are script readers, not writers. If they can’t stop themselves from writing, they should cut their hands off. And if they don’t have enough hands to cut their hands off, they should quit their script reading jobs – the ones that perhaps inspired them to start writing in the first place – and live off their good looks and style like the rest of us.
Q: What do you say to the claim that Sally Stott entered a script in the comedy ‘sift’ to experience what it was like and get an honest opinion on her work?
Why would she do that? She clearly just wanted to win. Life’s all about winning, not ‘having a go’ or experiencing things. It’s about getting people to say, “You’re a talented genius, Alex” (for example) and achieving your dreams by the age of 27, before you keel over in A&E and die of exhaustion.
Q: Why can’t the BBC develop talent wherever they find it?
Why can’t the BBC not develop talent wherever they find it? Why can’t they be brave and take the difficult decision to keep me happy? What am I paying my licence fee for if it isn’t to support the BBC not doing their job?
Q: Do you think reading thousands of scripts helped Sally to write a prize-winning one?
No. She won because all the other script readers were her friends, even though they had no idea she’d written her script. She probably covered it in gold glitter to alert them to its presence. The fact she has had numerous scripts rejected over the past two years isn’t a sign that script reading is subjective or that some of her ideas are better than others; it just means The Party Shop ran out of the sparkly stuff.
Q: Is there anything you’d like to say directly to Sally?
I prefer to talk about her in the third person, but if I have to: “Sally. This is not a personal attack, and I’m sure you’re a really nice person with great friends and a boyfriend who has more hair than most men of his age, but…”
Q: You sound like you know her?
I’ve never met her before in my life.
Q: Are you sure?
Definitely. I’m also not using a fake name in order to complain about her using a fake name. That would be silly.
Q: She’s offered to write about her experience of doing the BBC Writersroom comedy course on this blog
#Dislike! I definitely don’t want her doing that or giving any useful insights that might help me with my writing. She clearly hasn’t got any integrity otherwise she’d just maintain a dignified silence and go away.
Q: Do you have a message for any other script readers thinking of having a go at scriptwriting?
Know your place: reading my script. That’s reading. Not writing. Don’t ever write anything ever again – except script reports. PS Hope you like my work, thank you for taking the time to consider it and looking forward to hearing your thoughts. With best wishes, kind regards, and a free doughnut sellotaped to the envelope, Alex (SCREENWRITER) #nevergiveup
*The opinions listed here are those of Alex Taylor-Smith. The owner of this blog would like to make it clear that she doesn’t necessarily endorse anything he/ she says. Except perhaps #nevergiveup