Events — 26 October 2012
NYTVF Primetime 2012: BAFTA Rocliffe New Writing Forum – Importing the Funny: Catch the Future of British Comedy

Blog: NYTVF Primetime 2012: BAFTA Rocliffe New Writing Forum – Importing the Funny: Catch the Future of British Comedy

The 2012 New York Television Festival has been a treat for the tube nerd in all of us here at Where else can you spend hours hearing the creators and writers of some of your favorite programs? Yet it is of the utmost importance to harness an understanding of how television works globally, especially directly across the pond.  Over the past decade, British comedy series like “The Office,” “Spaced,” and “Peep Show,” have blown away American audiences ushering in an age of respect and emulation. In June, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) and Rocliffe launched a nationwide search for the comedy writing stars of the future. A top team of British comedy greats came together to select the best scripts submitted and out of hundreds of submissions, three of the top manuscripts were chosen. If that wasn’t enough of an honor, the winners were asked to present segments of these works before a sold out NYTVF audience. The LocalBozo was front row center to watch these up and coming writers show off their crafts!

And if it wasn’t earth shattering enough to have your work performed at one of New York’s biggest festivals, these talented and lucky screenwriters also got a huge name in the business to both act as host and defacto critic of the work. Enter Jenni Konner, show runner for the highly popular HBO series “Girls.” The hit show is entering its second season making Ms. Konner the perfect person to critique these budding writers’ works. Konner started out her career working on Judd Apatgow’s beloved but canceled show “Undeclared.” Since then, Jenni like many other highly talented television professionals has been under the Apatow wing, following the celebrated producer, writer, and director to many of his current projects.  And after each script segment was performed by a live cast, each writer or team would sit down with Konner and Farah Abushwesha of the Rocliffe Forums to have a lively discussion.

Each of the three pieces had plenty to enjoy and applaud but it was truly the first two that spoke to yours truly. First up, “Grey” written by Kayleigh Llewellyn and Matthew Barry asked what happens when a gang of aging friends decide to start living for themselves? Can they really begin again in the winter of their lives? I know this sounds like a heavy premise, but the reality of it was the complete opposite. The live performance was staged by casted females in their senior years. Each of them had distinct and strong personality types that easily conveyed the humor and exposition to the viewer. Be it the no bullshit woman in the mechanical wheelchair telling it like it is, or the ones hilariously trying to hold the group together after a car breakdown, you had a real winner here. A ton of credit must be given to this diverse cast of women for taking risks with a script dealing with aging. When it came time to speak with Konner, the writers were more than happy to take any type of criticism, both positive and negative. Konner mostly praised the piece, backing up the fact that the writing quickly explained who each of the women were without some drawn out explanation dragging down the piece. Her advice was direct and seriously motivating. She spoke candidly to the team as to how they saw this segment translate into the rest of the series, and ultimately which approach she would take.

The other piece that stood out was titled “Happy As Larry,” written by Nicolas Small. This comedic tale tells the story of “Larry,” a suicidal self-help guru who begins to invert his own advice in an attempt to change his life. Listen, I don’t want to sound too biased here but as soon as the piece started I recognized the gentleman playing the lead of Larry as Stephen Barker Turner, one of the stars of “Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2″ the follow up to the original cult classic. I thought his manic work in the horror flick was excellent and the same goes for his comedic turn in this staged reading. Turner shined along with the rest of the cast in this quirky and sometimes uncomfortable piece about a man who in theory should have a it altogether, but truly does not.

While it goes without saying that these two pieces stuck with me the most, it is very important to mention that most of the cast was American.  Since these writers were showing their respective works before a New York City audience, the casting and some of the script was altered for us to digest. Unadulterated talent was on display Wednesday night, and this writer can only hope these talented voices are given the respect they deserve and ultimately have these works turned into a series.

- Jay Rubin

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