Hitting the bull’s eye


EARLY last year, in this supplement (the Weekender), I offered some tips on scriptwriting, and that was mainly for films, as in screenwriting.
By then I was learning from sources online on scriptwriting (and screenwriting) and sharing what I had learned.
Later in the year, I was made aware of an international radio playwriting competition hosted by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), British Council and their partners. I also heard about it on BBC World Service’s radio programmes, which I listen to on weekends.
The competition opened from Oct1, 2015 to Jan 31, 2016.
Towards the end of last year, I started toying with the idea of entering the competition. By then I had a number of themes on my mind.
But one came stronger, so I decided to develop it. It is called The Confessions and is based on a fictitious sorcery-related attack in a small village in the highlands.
On the last day in Jan, at the eleventh hour, I submitted my script for the radio play competition online.

News in June
On June 14, when I turned up for work, I noticed in my email that Marion Nancarrow, from BBC, had emailed me regarding the BBC World Service/British Council International Playwriting Competition. It was an announcement on the shortlisting of entries in the competition.
The email read:
Dear Thomas,
I am delighted to write to tell you that your play The Confessions has been shortlisted in this, the 25th BBC World Service/British Council International Playwriting Competition, co-produced with The Open University and in partnership with Commonwealth Writers. You have been shortlisted in the 2nd language category. There are 7 shortlisted entries in this category.
Scripts are now being sent to our judging panel and we hope to know the winners within the next 2 months.
Meantime, please accept our huge congratulations for getting to this stage. With over 1,000 entries from 112 countries there was a lot of competition.
With warmest good wishes,
Marion Nancarrow
Executive Producer
BBC Radio Drama

My reaction and response
I was extremely happy upon receiving that email. The faith I had in a local PNG story being appealing to an international audience was confirmed by the judgment of experienced scriptwriters and editors.
I replied to the email thanking Nancarrow and BBC for passing on the news to me, as well as the fact that that was a major boost in my pursuit in writing scripts with PNG themes. That has definitely motivated me to write more scripts.

Main aim of this article
The main aim of this article is not just to inform you about me being named as one of the regional prize winners but to encourage you to start writing with the aim of submitting your piece in a writing competition.
It is my firm belief that we in Papua New Guinea have some very unique stories that the world would want to read about – or even hear, or see them performed.
The BBC radio playwriting competition is such a competition.
If you look around online, you will find others.
There is a short story competition running at the moment. It is run by the Commonwealth Writers. Go to their website and find more information on how to enter.
Unlike other international competitions, the BBC radio playwriting competition and short story competition run by the Commonwealth Writers do not charge an entry fee.

Put away self-doubt
If you ask me if I had doubts about making it anywhere to the top of the hundreds of other scripts that were submitted, my answer is going to be in the affirmative – “yes”.
There was this nagging doubt that kept saying:
What is a journalist used to writing news and feature stories doing, trying to write a full-length script?
However, the good thing was I did not entertain that doubt. I did not listen to it. I shut it out. I wanted to try my hand in completing a full-length script, something I have never done before.
I knew that participating in the competition was going to be a challenge, but I have read many stories of people who took a shot in a dark, as it were – doing something off one’s beat – because they wanted to take on a challenge. And for some them, they did do well, they hit the bull’s eye, or somewhere close to it.
So, be encouraged to try.
All you need to do is learn a little on how to write a good story and start writing a story that is close to your heart about our unique ways in PNG. If you want to learn to write scripts for radio plays, stage plays or even a screenplay, do your research online. Find sites where you can also find scripts of movies or plays that you can read and learn.
BBC has some good resources posted (as well as the format they’d prefer) on how you can write a good radio play. Make use of those and try penning your story as best as you can.
Do not worry about not learning how to write scripts in school or university. Just do what you can – and do that as best as you can.
If it can be of any consolation to your effort in writing a script, I must tell you that I am self-taught in scriptwriting.
I did my homework and learned. And The Confessions is my first full-length script of any kind.
I hope you learn and do the same.
You can be a teenager, university dropout or professional who wants to take on a challenge.
Whatever you do, start writing.
I end this article with words from the great American novelist Ernest Hemingway to his pal F. Scott Fitzgerald: “Write the best story that you can and write it as straight as you can.”

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