Staying in: Inside the tube

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The Independent Culture
Potter's Proteges

Whenever there is a debate about the erosion in the quality of television drama, the name Dennis Potter is held up as an example of how good things used to be. Quite right, too. Before a tailing off towards the end of his career, Potter was a unique talent, bringing a new vernacular to TV drama with startlingly original work such as Pennies From Heaven and The Singing Detective. It is fitting, then, that his name lives on with the Dennis Potter Play of the Year Award.

Tessa Ross, Head of Independent Commissions for BBC Television Drama, is chairing the jury that will select this year's winner, who will be "a writer of exceptional promise whose work has not been previously produced as a full-length television single drama or film." Ross says: "In the spirit of Dennis Potter's legacy of writing, the judges are looking for writers with a strong, individual voice that is used in an exciting new way."

Entries must be channelled through an independent or BBC producer, but the carrot for the winner is seeing their half-hour script made into a TV film. Given that most up-and-coming writers would sell their grannies for a commission, that is no mean prize. Half-hour scripts must be submitted by 31 January to Roger Hyams, Room C213a, Centre House, 56 Wood Lane, W12 7SB.

Another incentive (as if it were needed) is that a previous winner, Richard Cameron, saw his entry about a faltering affair between a middle-aged couple, Stone, Scissors, Paper, made into a successful 1997 BBC2 film starring Juliet Stevenson and Ken Stott. Get that word-processor whirring now.

Shooting Sarajevo

The phrase "based on a true story" often conjures up images of dreary American "issue of the week" TV movies. Although taken from real-life events, Shot Through the Heart (below) is actually several notches above that.

This BBC drama, to be transmitted in January, charts the relationship between Vlado (Linus Roache from The Wings of a Dove), a Croat, and Slavko (Vincent Perez from The Crow), a Serb. Best friends in a professional Yugoslavian shooting team, they find themselves pitted against each other when war breaks out in Sarajevo.

Directed by David Attwood (Moll Flanders), the film has already aired to acclaim on HBO in the States. The Hollywood Reporter called it "an absorbing and gut-wrenching tale of friendship destroyed by war's insanity".

Shot Through the Heart may be accused of portraying a still painful conflict too soon after it has ended. But, like Michael Winter-bottom's Welcome to Sarajevo, the film has the raw immediacy of a story ripped from the latest news-paper headlines.