I’ve been an industry reader since 2000 and have read/covered thousands of scripts over the years. I’ve also been involved with the Red Planet Prize since its inception in 2007 as a reader/judge, where I’ve read thousands of the first ten pages of scripts. In my own script comp success, I was a BBC writersroom winner in 2014 with my script Space Man (top 10 out of 3000 entries, you can read the first ten pages here, and some interesting reaction/follow up here).
Like it or not, it’s an industry standard that readers/execs make their all-important value judgement on a script (and a writer) on the first ten pages of your script. Here’s a video of my top 5 tips (click link), but in this blog post series, I break down my top 5 tips if you’re working on a TV spec and thinking of sending it to a script comp, and how you can craft your first ten pages to the best they can be.
1. CORE CONCEPT
Is your idea original? Or an original twist on a familiar but popular genre? ‘Cops and Docs’ shows are always in vogue but you want to dress to impress not rehash old fashions, so what’s your take on the genre?
If your idea/genre is more ambitious, like sci-fi or supernatural or a period piece, then what is it about the idea that will get us excited? Does your core concept have a neat ‘irony of character’ that can generate a reliable format for returning series?
Most of the time, scripts read too samey. No idea is truly unique any more but an original take on a familiar concept will stand out. For the Red Planet Prize, the reader will have probably read your logline before they start reading your script, which already conjures up some expectations. Make sure the script starts with the right tone and approach based on the promise of the premise. Occasionally, the appeal of the core concept can take the reader beyond the first ten pages even if not much has seemingly happened in the opening scenes.
So, it’s worth spending time on your core concept. What’s the hook? What’s the genre? How will the premise/format generate story ideas beyond episode one, and beyond? It’s usually easy to say what happens in episode 2, but what happens in episode 52?