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Dear West End Producer: ‘Would making unproduced scripts available online be a better system than submitting scripts?’

West End Producer West End Producer. Photo: Matt Crockett
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Anything that makes potential new work more accessible and gives it a bigger reach can only be a good thing. Technology is changing all the time – and has already seen big advancements in the way the industry works.

For example: lazy directors can now Skype-call into rehearsals (allowing them to stay in bed – it’s called ‘bedirecting’ – the newest craze), theatre productions can be viewed online or at the cinema (meaning you can buy decent popcorn at the interval and not be embarrassed about going to the loo), and actors can get their iPhones to do the job for them (apparently the next show at the Donmar Warehouse involves three iPhones. And nothing else).

I jest. It’s time the old system of submitting scripts was updated, mainly because you have to wait 15 years until you get an answer (due to existing literary teams being short-staffed).

Having a whole collection of work online would be useful as it could be viewed instantly, and available to all organisations to read, as opposed to having to submit to each place individually. And that’s an important step forward. There is so much competition between each company to find the next big play – wouldn’t it be nice if they all pooled together and searched for new work as a collective?

Of course, putting stuff online has problems of its own, as work can be illegally copied and viewed by all. But it would be a brilliant way to create a writer’s community – allowing people to make connections and perhaps help each other in developing their work.

However, saying that, the old submission system certainly still works – only last year the National put on Natasha Gordon’s thrilling debut play Nine Night – that quickly transferred to the West End. And London theatres such as Theatre 503, Arcola, Finborough and Royal Court all actively strive to find and support emerging writers – so as a starting point would be to send your work to them.

Nine Night author Natasha Gordon: ‘Where are our opportunities? The answers lie with the gatekeepers’

In terms of whether technology can make genuine artistic connections – it can up to a point, but there is still nothing better than making contacts face to face. Over email, Twitter, and other social media it is possible to make connections, but the ones that prove really positive, and have longevity, are the ones made in real life. Yes, use the internet to make the first initial contact – and then arrange a meeting as quickly as possible.

The internet is not tangible – you can’t look into its eyes and sell your idea. But meeting someone and showing your real inspiration, passion and story is how people communicate not only their ideas, but themselves. And that is just as important as the material you are offering.

So yes, a new method of having unproduced scripts online would be useful – I hope you’re trying to put something together? Let me know.

It may even be worth approaching some independent theatre publishers for input – try Nick Hern Books (they’re my favourite, and – completely coincidentally – publish my books…) Good luck, dear.

Send questions to your dear agony aunt via Twitter @westendproducer. Read more of West End Producer’s weekly advice columns every Wednesday at thestage.co.uk/author/westendproducer

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