Write the next Death in Paradise – yourself

How the tropical drama got made because of a contest - which you can now enter, too

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You can’t win a job writing BBC1 detective dramas – but you can earn the chance to get your idea heard and have it backed by Tony Jordan of Life on Mars, EastEnders and Hustle fame. That’s exactly what happened with Robert Thorogood’s Death in Paradise and it’s what could happen for you as the Red Planet Prize competition reopens.

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“It’s almost unheard of to get a new writer launching his TV career with his own eight-part BBC1 primetime series,” said Tony Jordan. “We’re thrilled that Robert came through the Red Planet Prize competition. It proves that it’s a real competition, that it works and that we can find the next generation of TV screenwriters.”

It’s a real competition in that anyone can enter and anyone could win, but it’s more a genuine search for new writing, because Thorogood says he didn’t even win – he just got to the finals. “I was at a stage in my career where I was getting occasional script commissions but it was proving impossible to make my script stand out enough so that it would be my one that was turned into a TV show rather than someone else’s.”

Tony Jordan’s TV company, Red Planet Productions, runs the contest in conjunction with Kudos, makers of Hustle and Spooks. It was devised by Danny Stack, who writes for EastEnders and children’s series Roy, and who also wrote and directed the horror film Origin. “It can be so hard and demoralising for a new writer,” he explained, “so the idea was not only to offer a great prize but to focus on helping writers afterwards so that they didn’t just slip off the industry radar. All hail Tony Jordan!”

The winner gets £5,000, representation with an agent, a development commission with Red Planet and workshops with Tony Jordan. For details of this year’s contest – deadline 16 January 2012 – and what you have to enter, see the Red Planet Prize website.

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You can also read Danny Stack’s own blog about the contest, with advice and links to reams of industry information, plus a particularly good screenwriting podcast on iTunes. Read scripts, including one of Robert Thorogood’s Death in Paradise episodes, at the BBC writersroom collection.