(Heads-up, this was written to cover series one of the show. A lot of it still applies to the new series but ignore anything about writing topical or there not being a live audience. I’ll get it updated soon… but should probably start my submission first!)
Okay, here we go! FINAL week of DMs are Open series 1!
Whether you’re hoping to land a one-liner, a sketch, or a voicenote it’s still very possible. Like I said a bunch of times in my previous blog, a BIG part of success is not giving up. If you’ve been submitting all through this series, there is ZERO point in stopping now.
But there is more to getting a credit than just being persistent. Here are a few tips from me and a collection of writers from Twitter.
Use your time
Even if you’re not going to write until Sunday, start looking for ideas (or at least being passively receptive to them) from Thursday. What’s trending on Twitter will change multiple times a day, but the stuff that was trending Thurs-Sat will likely still be valid inspiration.
Episode 5 has now been broadcast. You know what was covered (probably don’t bother submitting a Donkey Kong or E.T. sketch this week) and that means everything else is fair game. Unlike Newsjack, DMs isn’t about being hyper-topical. Keep an eye out for stories/ideas/themes from now until deadline. The sooner you find something that sparks an idea, the better.
My goal is to have at least three ideas by the end of Saturday (if not before). This gives me time to get drafts down that I can then edit throughout the weekend and early morning on Monday.
Although there are some writers out there (particularly those with experience in improv) who are able to bang out a brilliant sketch last minute.
You know your writing style and your schedule so do what works best for you, but whatever that looks like – use your time well!
Writing a terrible sketch and editing it into shape the day after is an infinitely better process than trying to write a perfect sketch in one day.
I’ve had a couple of one liners on the show and what’s helped me is treating it like a job. I’ve kept to a schedule each week and submitted the full amount every time.
The scope for what they cover (and not) is very different to Newsjack. Take a non-obvious approach! Some of the sketches have taken some really great angles off of the starting news inspiration.
A key point throughout these blogs has been that DMs is its own show. It runs in a very similar way to Newsjack in terms of admin, but the show itself is quite different.
One of my sketches that made it to broadcast was originally about a Canadian coffee shop that was tracking customers through its app. The team stripped the news story out from the setup and it became a more general sketch about our relationship with data.
You may find that a news story gives you a jumping off point for a sketch, but you may also find it useful to reflect on life in 2022. What are the issues and concerns that we’re facing? What makes you angry? What funny observations about modern life do you have?
If you’re really struggling for inspiration, I recommend using the News app on your phone. Follow a range of publications with conflicting perspectives and add in categories such as science, technology and entertainment, then add some really specific things that you know could give you potential stories (like TikTok, McDonald’s or dogs). What you’ll end up with is a really diverse timeline that will bring stories to you – often ones that a lot of writers miss as they don’t feature on the big news sites.
Once you have your feed, you can bookmark stories to refer to later. It’s a great habit to have. Whenever you have a couple of spare minutes, have a scroll and save some stories. Then when you sit down to write, you have a pool of handpicked headlines ready to go! If you’re concerned that you’re going to forget what it was about the story that interested you in the first place, use your Notes app and bullet point your thoughts. Don’t trust yourself to remember.
And remember that DMs is aimed at a young audience. Don’t punch down on the audience. Your sketches should speak to them and connect with their worldview. This doesn’t mean you have to agree, in fact you could point out how ridiculous elements of their lifestyles are, but do it in a ‘laughing with’ way rather than just being a dick.
Find your voice (literally!)
Writers are constantly told that they need to find their voice. For once this show ACTUALLY means it.
The voicenotes feature is another opportunity to get your submissions onto the show (it also pays a bit extra and credits you as an actor as well as a writer!). If you’ve not been brave enough so far, maybe now’s the time to step out of your comfort zone. You might even enjoy it! At this stage in the series it’s all about doing whatever you can to grab that credit.
Try something you’ve never done before. In my case this was recording my own voice, but it could be writing a sketch, or having a go at one-liners if you’ve never done that before. Step out of your comfort zone! Record as many takes as necessary! Took me over twenty attempts to get my Gervais one ‘right’ (or at least in the ballpark)
Ep 3 was my 1st time submitting and I quickly learned how to delete a Voicenote and try again. It becomes a tad less embarrassing each time you record one.
No matter how funny your voice note is, they’ll not use it if it sounds bad. Record in a quiet room with soft furnishings, remove the clock (no ticking!), and record plenty of takes. I run mine through audacity to clear out any white noise and make it sound as good as I can.
The stuff I’ve got on both DMs and NJ that stuck with me, is stuff that still makes me laugh to think about. Try writing something you find funny, rather than what you think they want (within reason). If it makes you laugh, it’s got to have something to it.
This one’s easy to forgot. We can get so caught up in the process of searching for stories and submitting, that we forget about the importance of fun!
If you’re struggling to write a sketch, it may not be right for you. Find a topic that really excites you and look for a take that makes you laugh. You’ll find it flows so much more naturally.
It resets every week
After having my first time in the room recently, EVERYTHING is read and just because you’re not getting material in the show does not mean you’re not being noticed.
A thing to remember about DMs are Open is that it resets every week. By midday Friday it doesn’t matter who did or didn’t get credits the night before. We all start over again from the same place, with a blank screen and the feeling that there’s no way we’re going to find anything to write about by Monday.
Stay confident and don’t be disheartened. This could be your week.
Like many others have said, just keep going! It took me four weeks of submitting to get something on, and it felt so satisfying when I did!
Send the full amount
Go big this week. Send 3 sketches, 2 one-liners, and a voicenote. It’s your final chance this series. Increase your odds by sending the full amount.
Don’t forget – a strong idea that’s delivered with clarity trumps everything else. Even if your script isn’t perfect, if the concept shines, the team may run with it.
Is there ever any better tip than listen a lot and write a lot?
Listen to the show (like I said before – once as audience and a second time to study) and then write.
Pay attention to the intros, the language, the jokes, the endings. Listen to the techniques used in the one-liners. Think about why the producers picked these voicenotes over everything else that was submitted.
I highly recommend reading @TwonRue‘s excellent analysis blogs where he breaks down and evaluates each episode. Find them here.
If a sketch/joke isn’t working and you’re really struggling with it, put it aside and go live your life for a bit.
This is a show about life in 2022, it’s hard to capture that if you’re not out in the world experiencing it.
It’s important to put a lot of time and effort into your submission and you want it to be as strong as possible. But you probably have a day job and a family – make sure you have a weekend, too.
Good luck, ENJOY and please don’t be hard on yourself if your inbox is empty on Thursday! I know it’s crushing, but there will be more opportunities. All you can do is try your best.
Oh and hey, if you found this useful, I have a Ko-Fi and enjoy coffee and appreciation from strangers.