Scripted Ink deal bangs on closed doors

Scripted Ink prototypes a way of breaking open the doors to big production companies and broadcasters with the Drama Hothouse program.
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Image:  Screentime’s latest show, Pine Gap, was created by the familiar Greg Haddrick and Felicity Packard. Haddrick runs Rainfall Creations, though he worked for Screentime until recently. Via Lisa Tomasetti.

‘It came from a discussion I had with Rory Callahan at Screentime and Andy Ryan at Channel Nine when we happened to be in the same vicinity. I said we need to find to a way to pool our resources and they were very accomodating.’

Tim Pye, head of development for Scripted Ink, the development company closely associated with the Australian Writers Guild whose mission is to rescript the relationship between writers and the industry, is describing the casual way in which doors can open to opportunities.

As he says on the phone, there are loads of opportunities for emerging writers through Scripted Ink. Here is trying to deal with one of the most frustrating problems in a television writing career. As you get good at it, you think of new ideas. But nobody wants them. 

Says Pye, ‘There are plenty of experienced writers trying to get ideas up with networks, but they can’t get ideas in front of decision makers.’

The Drama Hothouse program links Scripted Ink, Screentime and Nine. Scripted Ink offers an opportunity to participate to writers in the existing Pathways Program, and invites other suitable writers to join as well. 

‘This initiative is for writers with seven hours of one hour drama or narrative comedy or more. It is open to senior or mid career writers, he says. ‘ We don’t want to teach people how to be in a writers’ room. We want people who know how it works because its only six weeks and those six weeks will go quickly.’

Then Screentime puts up the money to support the successful writers on the program at industry rates. The three chosen writers spend three days a week in the writers’s room for that six weeks to hothouse six ideas, which seems to be two per person. People from all three organisations are also in attendance. One of the points of the program is to take the writers through the commissioning process according to production company and broadcaster – those elements which are usually concealed from outsiders and require substantial research. 

Then the writers go off to create a formal bible and write the first draft of the initiating episode. Remember they are experienced writers and the hothouse has done a lot of work on each project. At the end, Nine will take one of the six and the writer forwards into the development process. 

According to Pye, ‘There’s not a hundred percent commitment they will commission but somebody is going to get a run at having that happen. When you talk about the blue sky of potential seasons, who knows what could come.’

However, Screentime remains involved with all six. ‘The projects not chosen will be optioned by Screentime under shopping agreements.’ It is possible they could be picked up internationally.

‘I think the opportunity will widen the horizons of all involved. The writers and Screentime and Scripted Ink and Channel Nine. Depending on how it goes I like the idea of replicating with other companies and other networks. I think it is a great example of Scripted Ink money to create opportunities for all industry stakeholders – for companies and network to minimise development risks. At the moment funds are hard to come by and we are oiling the cogs of development.’

The parties plan to complete the selection process by late September and run the writers’ room across October and November, with S for Selection date in early December. 

It is a pretty good deal. For Tim Pye, it is part of ‘the general plan to just keep pushing wedges into the industry to make it apparent how writers should be treated.’  

David Tiley was the Editor of Screenhub from 2005 until he became Content Lead for Film in 2021 with a special interest in policy. He is a writer in screen media with a long career in educational programs, documentary, and government funding, with a side order in script editing. He values curiosity, humour and objectivity in support of Australian visions and the art of storytelling.