The comedy writing duo, who were among the winners of 2011's BAFTA Rocliffe New Comedy Writing competition, chart the seven years of hard work and persistency that lead to getting an agent and a script optioned last year.
We started out producing comedy residencies in London where we performed our comedy sketches and songs. Being from a theatrical background, our shows were epic! We had lighting plans, costumes, wigs, music links, props, audience gifts, and we managed all the press, marketing, ticket sales and technicians. Glamorous it was not! We regularly had to change costume in dingy toilets, tripping over venues’ crazy wiring and always went home on public transport looking dishevelled with a suitcase full of props and a giant backdrop over our shoulders. Frustratingly, we could never get industry people to come and see us and inevitably wondered how to reach a wider audience and attract an agent or producer’s attention.
So after honing our material on stage we embraced the emerging worlds of MySpace and YouTube. Armed with a borrowed video camera and tripod we filmed ourselves doing our sketches. Next we went on an editing course so we could edit the clips and upload them online. Then once we’d (sort of) mastered the technical side of things, we entered online competitions and won some of them!
We were both working full-time in ‘day jobs’ and wrote together at weekends and evenings, but still couldn’t see how we were ever going to earn any money from writing. So again, we changed tack and started writing longer narrative pieces, including the script that eventually won the BAFTA Rocliffe initiative – Pregnant Pause. Before long we were completely in love with our characters and knew their lives inside out. The pilot episode was ready to be ‘read’ by someone in TV… but we didn’t know anyone.
Then out of the blue, we got an email from someone who had run one of the online competitions that we’d won and was now working for a broadcaster. She was looking for sketch writers for a project. Not only did she use some of our sketches for the show but she also read the first draft of Pregnant Pause. She liked it and gave us some fantastic notes. Encouraged, we carried on writing, re-writing, editing, planning episode outlines, a series overview, etc and sent copies to various production companies, but despite getting positive feedback they all said they couldn’t take it any further.
Undeterred we carried on writing, then in 2009 we made the huge decision to leave London and move north so we could live more cheaply and concentrate on writing. We had children within a year of each other but still met up regularly to write, sitting at the PC, one of us holding a baby while the other one typed. As our ‘little ones’ began to find life at the keyboard boring (unless they could also bash the keys), we bribed a Grandma to look after them while we wrote in concentrated half hours, 20 minutes, 10 minutes… any spare time we could grab – mostly after they had gone to bed!
Entering the BAFTA Rocliffe competition this year was a last minute decision and we genuinely didn’t expect anyone to notice our script. Little did we realise that within weeks, our work would be praised by esteemed professionals and performed on stage in New York!
Pregnant Pause has now been optioned by a UK production company and we are signed to an agent. Phew! It’s been a long, long journey and we still have a long way to go before we can be considered ‘gurus’ in any way. You may find our journey inspiring/encouraging/depressing/bewildering but we both feel that everything we’ve been through has been valuable. All the stress of the stage shows, the endless free gigs, the mountainous mail-outs, the wobbly tripod filmed sketches, the many polite rejection letters have all made our current success particularly rewarding. So if we have any advice to offer it’s this:
Next we just have to get someone to commission Pregnant Pause – the series! The Grandmas have been primed, we’ve bought the babies their own laptops and we’re ready to write five more episodes. We’ll let you know how we get on!
Anne-Marie Draycott and Charity Trimm had their winning script showcased at the New York Television Festival and, having secured an agent and an option on their script, “are preparing for world domination (though we'd settle for getting the series commissioned and a year’s supply of Jaffa Cakes – to help the creative process... obviously).”