The founders of a new competition are looking for children’s stories that could be adapted not only into books, but also films, TV shows, plays or computer games. The Big Idea project was dreamt up by publisher Barry Cunningham and agent Neil Blair, and came out of conversations about how to find new talent.
“I’d been talking to Neil about wanting something more wide open and exclusive, something not just for literary people but also people from films, TV, games—all the other things Britain is so good at,” said Cunningham. “The thing everyone always says is: ‘I’ve got this great idea, I just don’t know what to do with it.’ We want to use our skills to mentor these people.”
The competition launches on 7th July; entrants have to submit an original story idea in 750 words or fewer, describing what happens in the story, who is in it, where it takes place, and the type of audience for which it is intended. Cunningham and Blair will both sit on the competition’s judging panel along with film producer Debra Hayward, theatre producer Sonia Friedman, children’s author Philip Ardagh and a soon-to-be-announced celebrity judge.
The judges will choose six winning ideas, the authors of which will each receive a £1,000 prize. One overall winner will be offered a publishing contract with Chicken House and presented with the opportunity for their story to be developed by a well-known author. However, all six winners could see their work adapted for TV, gaming, films, television or the stage, and they will be paid a commensurate royalty share in any successful venture.
Blair said the aim of the project was to find something commercial that can be realised in different formats. “If something is relevant in only one media, it is less likely to succeed [in this competition],” he said.
For Cunningham, the winning idea will show “truly unusual” ways of thinking. “Often what works are classic stories with a twist, where something unexpected happens with familiar ingredients.”
When asked if the competition marked a shift towards multi-platform properties, Cunningham agreed. “Kids nowadays spend time with all different types of media and we would be mad not to recognise that; children get stories from all over the place. Story and narrative are still killer but we are not alone . . . We have to embrace other media.”
Blair pointed out the success of the Harry Potter brand—Blair is J K Rowling’s agent and a director of Pottermore, and Cunningham published the first Harry Potter book—and how the idea of developing a children’s story into a multitude of properties is being taken up by lots of other publishers.
Competitors can find more information on how to enter the competition at The Big Competition website. Entries must be submitted by 2nd September; the winning ideas will be announced in early November.