I'm often asked how I started as a sitcom writer - I think 5 times counts as 'often' - and why I think I'm able to teach others how to write them.
I used to write sketches for television and just send them in, with the hope that someone would buy them. You could do that back then. I sold sketches to, amongst others, Hale and Pace, Freddie Starr and The Real McCoy. Some of my sketches appeared in "The 100 Greatest Sketches Of All Time Ever...." Or something
I then wrote my first sitcom script and sent it in to a producer. He came back to me within a month - that happened back then - and told me how much he liked it. He said he was going to pass it on to his boss and he'd get back to me about writing a series. Very exciting! I then waited. Six months later, after a number of calls and letters (no emails of course) I had a reply from his assistant informing me that this producer was not taking my idea further as he himself had something similar in development. 9 months later a sitcom came out, based completely on my idea, and written by that producer. I sought legal advice but was told that I would lose any case.
I still see that writer/producer's name around. He knows who he is. Suffice to say the programme was awful and only ran for one series.
Surprisingly this didn't put me off writing, it actually made me more determined. The stubbornness of youth!
My next sitcom script, Pros and Cons, won the TAPS Comedy Writer of The Year Award and led to my first literary agent as well as membership of BAFTA and The Writers' Guild of Great Britain. The script also gave me my first proper commission - to write an episode of a new children's sitcom called Genie in the House.
Two years later and I had written over 20 scripts for the series - which became the highest rated sitcom on Nickelodeon - and a TV movie.
Since then I have had several other sitcom scripts produced and worked as a script editor on many others some of which won BAFTA's
Over the years I have had some odd meetings with producers and commissioners. Here is one of my favourites:
INT. HIGH-RANKING PRODUCER'S OFFICE - DAY
BENNETT (a tall, thin, good-looking man) sits opposite the PRODUCER.
We like your writing very much, and would like to chat to you
about new sitcom ideas
Okay. Thank you.
We are really looking for the next Gavin and Stacey
Okay, well I do have a love story idea about.....
No, we don't want a love story
Alright. Well I have something than is based in both
London and Wales and....
We don't want anything based in London and Wales
Er... so which bit of Gavin and Stacey do you want?
I have other stories too, some of which I talk about during my Sitcom Writing Workshops.
I have been running the Workshops for the past 4 years and previous students have their scripts in development with production companies.
The workshops have had some great feedback from the industry...
"A brilliant introduction to the principles of sitcom writing and actually a whole lot of fun too" Iain Coyle, Commissioning Editor UKTV
"We have used Bennett as a script consultant many times. You will learn tons about writing, and selling, really successful comedy scripts"
Elaine Cameron, Producer of Sherlock
The Workshops include;
How To Start From a Blank Page
How to submit scripts to producers....
If you'd like to be informed of future workshops, please email me via my website www.bennettarron.com
Don't just think about it, do the write thing...