Monday, August 30, 2004

Georges Simenon

Paranoia is both cause and subject of many deeply satisfying cinematic styles: lucid and elegant, (Hitchcock); stylized and explosive, (Scorsese); absurdly debonair (Fellini); florid and witty (Woody Allen); austere and frostbitten (Bergman); murderous and spiked with quotations from Japanese comic books (Tarantino). But movies were not the first medium to offer paranoid enactments as entertainment. And no writer has provided as many scenarios for suspense films — a genre that arguably provides the purest expression of excruciating paranoia — than the great master of unease, Georges Simenon.
An enjoyable profile by Marcelle Clements in the New York Times (free registration required).
The author of more than 400 books, translated into 50 languages, Simenon, who died in 1989, was outsold only by the Bible and the works of Lenin. Certainly, his volubility, his obsessional excess and his sexual weirdness are not in question. He wrote some 80 pages a day, and, to boot, he claimed that he'd had sex with more than 10,000 women — and let's face it, boasting of such a thing is as psychologically outlandish as actually doing it.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

DM Thomas

On day a writer will tell how pleasurable it has been to have their book made into a film.

Until then, here's the latest in the very long line of painful culture clashes where novelist meets Hollywood, this time from DM Thomas in The Guardian.

We were, of course, endlessly discussing actors and actresses. There is scarcely a star of either sex in Hollywood or elsewhere who has not appeared in the imagined movie. Boy-actors, once considered to play Lisa's step-son Kolya, are now too old for any part.

Heggessey defends EastEnders

BBC1 controller Lorraine Heggessey has said that EastEnders' recent difficulties are the result of cast problems, reports MediaGuardian (free registration required).

Ms Heggessey said producers had been forced to string out a storyline that was mauled by TV critics involving the Ferreira family because of the absence of key members of the cast.

"When you have a cast where one is ill, one pregnant, one who may be in rehab and another in a car crash, that's when you end up being overdependent on a storyline about a kidney transplant," she said.

"EastEnders has had a very very slight decline, there are always 50% of the available audience watching, I would suggest that is not a serious decline."

Friday, August 27, 2004

Booker long-list

Let the hype begin...

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Peter Pan, the sequel

Peter Pan by J M Barrie, is to have a sequel.

The Special Trustees of Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity, who own the copyright to the work, came up with the idea of a competition for authors to write a follow-up to the original as part of the celebrations marking the centenary of the first performance of the play on which the book was based, reports Publishing News.

Publishers and agents are being invited to put forward the names of up to two authors each. Entry forms and briefing notes are available from Colman Getty, and all those nominated must submit a brief synopsis and sample chapter to the charity by 31 January 2005. These will be judged by a panel of experts,including Liz Attenborough, formerly of Puffin Books, now consultant to the National Literacy Trust; Daisy Goodwin, presenter of BBC2’s Essential Poems (To Fall in Love With) and editor of several poetry anthologies; and Mariella Frostrup, former Man Booker judge and presenter of Open Book on Radio 4.

American satire

Shock, horror. Might the Americans now be better at satire than the Brits?

Bryan Appleyard in The Times is particularly impressed with US website, The Onion.

Started as a student paper at the University of Wisconsin in the 1980s, it is modelled on USA Today, America’s abysmally lowbrow “national” newspaper. Its writers have developed an eerily perfect ear for the mindless chatter that masquerades as news, not just in the United States, but around the world.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Caroline Raphael at the Fringe

The Guardian's Leo Benedictus spends the day talent spotting with Radio 4's comedy commissioner, Caroline Raphael.
Raphael is the fairy godmother of the Fringe. She has the power to make almost every comedian's dream come true by discovering them for the BBC.

Friday, August 20, 2004

25 words or less

UK Film Council have announced the winners of its latest round of "25 words or less" funding. They are:

  • Act Your Age by Jonathan Evans (Comedy of Disguise) - To finance his daughter's wedding, unemployable middle-aged baldy fakes it as hip 20-something advertising trendspotter but ends up best man and father of the bride.
  • Kindness by Matthew McGuchan (Ghost Story)- A traumatised teacher helps a sinister child lurking in the shadows of her class but discovers she has jeopardized the souls of her young charges.
  • Fairy Fever by Richard Vincent (Animation) - When an ancient tribe of fairies are stolen by humans, it’s up to a band of disgruntled teen fairies to restore them to their kingdom.

The scheme invites pitches for development funds of £10,000. The categories for the next round are

  • Action adventure
  • Love stories
  • Comic odd couples

Standing up for women

Is the alternative comedy establishment deeply sexist? Arabella Weir and Shazia Mirza, writing in The Guardian, certainly think so.
I don't mean to sound ungracious, since I was mostly very happy doing the Fast Show, but a lot of the time it felt very similar to what I fancy it's like being imprisoned in a lap-dancing club with a rugby team after they've downed 20 pints - not that much fun, even for a very un-girly girl.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Emin's 'Bill' tribute

'The Bill' has been the first break for many TV writers, who may now be delighted to discover that Britart sensation Tracy Emin is among their biggest fans.

In fact, she's stitched an artwork to commemorate 21 years of the show. It will hang in the canteen at the South London studios where the series is filmed.
Emin said: "I get up at 7am and make a pot of tea, feed the cat and then write letters and things while I watch The Bill on UKTV Gold."

Full story here on the BBC website.

Why 'Making Waves' sunk ...

Ted Childs, executive producer of Royal Navy on-board drama 'Making Waves' writes in the Guardian about the travails of getting the show on air.

But then it was postponed until early 2004, and then again to the spring. In fact, it was rescheduled five times in all, "scheduled to death" as we say in the trade.

So, after development hell comes scheduling hell?

Edinburgh funds for graduate productions

The Stage reports a new £1000,000 fund for graduate productions at Edinburgh's Pleasance theatre:

Pleasance director Christopher Richardson has announced plans for a £100,000 fund that will go towards an annual production by drama graduates, set up in the name of actor and writer Charlie Hartill, who died earlier this year.
Eligible shows will have more than five people on stage and of those 40% must be less than five years out of full time education, says the report.

Friday, August 13, 2004

US freelance opportunities

Founded this week in New York, the online 'Freelance Marketplace' aims to connect freelancers wanting jobs with editors wanting copy. Visit the site here.

Writers and other US media professionals can post their CVs and review jobs (some fees apply).

The Guardian used to run something similar - does anyone know if it still exists?

£5,000 for new writers

The writers of 'Shirley Valentine' and 'Calendar Girls' are stumping up £5,000 for new writers who are unable otherwise to stage their work at the Edinburgh fringe.

Willy Russell and Tim Firth are putting up the money for an annual prize aimed at fostering new talent. Read more from the BBC website here.
Russell said: "Talent, artistry, creativity, tenacity and strength of character - all essential qualities in the process of making a play. But the inescapable fact is that theatre is also a brutally practical business - especially when it comes to money. No money, no show. In 1972, I blagged, begged and borrowed until I had enough - just enough - to produce my first Edinburgh show. Without the faith of those who invested in a very fledgling talent I might have eked out my years as the worst hairdresser in the world!"
David Pugh, the theatre producer behind 'Art' and 'The Play What I Wrote', will administer the award.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Oldie but goodie

Over fifty? Worried that agents, producers and publishers are only interested in twenty-something phenomenons?

Well, here's some good news, care of Saga magazine, the journal for the over 50s. They've sponsored the 'Saga Award for Wit,' also known as 'The Silver Booker.' The prize is aimed at more mature writers who are enjoying the peak of their careers.

Nominees include Julian Fellowes, the award-winning screenwriter of Gosford Park and author of 'Snobs' and Simon Gray, the playwright, for 'The Smoking Diaries.'

The winner gets £20,000 to spend on pipes and slippers.

There's a full story in The Independent

Edinburgh pays tribute to persecuted writers

Authors including Muriel Gray, Iain Banks, Melvyn Bragg and Julian Barnes will read the work of oppressed and imprisoned writers, in a series of events at the Edinburgh festival organised by Amnesty Scotland.

The BBC has more ...

'Eastenders' scripts nicked

Six month's worth of 'Eastenders' scripts and story lines have been stolen, according this report in the Guardian.

Best selling author hangs around for inspiration

Chances are you have views about 'The Da Vinci Code' by Dan Brown even if you haven't read it. With over 8 million copies sold, it's one of the best selling books of all time. The plot mixes mythology, symbology and a conspiracy theory that goes to the heart of the Vatican. The book has outraged church traditionalists and spawned at least a dozen counter-volumes that refute many of Brown's "facts". All good publicity, no doubt.

How does Dan Brown work? Here's what he says on his personal website:
If I'm not at my desk by 4:00 A.M., I feel like I'm missing my most productive hours. In addition to starting early, I keep an antique hour glass on my desk and every hour break briefly to do pushups, sit-ups, and some quick stretches. I find this helps keep the blood (and ideas) flowing. I'm also a big fan of gravity boots. Hanging upside down seems to help me solve plot challenges by shifting my entire perspective.
For more on the controversy surrounding 'The Da Vinci Code,' there are articles on the BBC website, and the Guardian.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Screenwriting courses

The London Screenwriters' Workshop has posted its schedule of autumn courses, covering everything from writing comedy to securing a deal.

All details are here.

Edinburgh festival

It's that time of year again when writers, agents, actors, comics, directors, producers, stage managers, promoters, critics, designers, and anyone else vaguely connected with showbiz head forthe Scottish capital.

The Guardian has a web page dedicated to the festival. Note the article that begins, 'How many mad missions have been launched with the words: why not take a show to Edinburgh?'

The Stage also has a dedicated Edinburgh section on its website.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Pinter wins Wilfred Own prize

Guild member Harold Pinter is to receive the Wilfred Owen award for poetry, named after the man acknowledged as the most influential war poet in English, reports The Guardian.

The most quoted poem - and most vilified by the American right - on Iraq is God Bless America:

"Here they go again
The Yanks in their armoured parade
Chanting their ballads of joy
As they gallop across the big world
Praising America's God.
The gutters are clogged with the dead."


The Daleks are coming back to our screens, thanks to a last minute deal between the Beeb and the estate of Terry Nation, their creator. Previously, the BBC had said that the forthcoming series of Dr Who would not feature the evil tin trundlers, owing to disagreements over editorial control.

Read more here in the Guardian, and here on the BBC website.

The Guardian reports:
"As well as coming face to face with a number of new and exciting monsters, it's good news that the Doctor will also do battle with his arch enemy, the Daleks, in a series which promises to surprise and entertain a new generation," said Mal Young, the BBC controller of continuing drama series."
Writers on the revived show include: Russell T Davies (Queer as Folk and The Second Coming), Mark Gatiss (League of Gentleman), Steven Moffat (Coupling), Paul Cornell and Robert Shearman.

ITV1 autumn drama

ITV1 has published details of its autumn schedule, including several high-profile new dramas, reports The Stage.

Leading the way is a 90-minute drama, Tunnel Of Love, from Guild member Simon Nye with Jack Dee playing a fairground handyman who is sued for damages after a series of accidents on his rides.

ITV1 will also be launching its first fire-fighting drama since London's Burning - Steel River Blues - which follows a fictional Teeside fire brigade.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

How to be creative

Advice from an American ad man.

A lazy list of truisms? Or genuine insights?

You decide...

Monday, August 02, 2004

Good stuff in The Guardian

So much good stuff in The Guardian (still far and away the best online newspaper from the UK) that it makes sense to put it in one post.

Mark Lawson has an interesting critique of Tony Grounds's new TV play, When I'm Sixty-Four.
You sometimes feel that Grounds would have had a bigger reputation in the 70s,
when strange and gracefully written single plays were treated as an event rather
than scripts that failed to become a movie.
Playwright David Farr explains the problems that arose when his play Crime And Punishment In Dalston was produced in Israel. ("The specificity, the politics have all been drained from the piece.")

Plus, in MediaGuardian (free registration required) there's an interview with Will & Grace creators, David Kohan and Max Mutchnick. And David Liddiment gives an insider's account of how ITV's new (and recently dumped) drama Making Waves was commissioned:
Did we make the wrong decision? Obviously. But I suspect the real truth is that in the five or so years that it took to come to the screen, Making Waves' time had simply come and gone.

Guild variety night

The Writers' Guild is holding its first Variety Night in the RADA bar on Friday 27 August from 7.30pm onwards. Tickets will now be just £1 on the door - but please book in advance and get your name on the guest list by emailing or by telephoning Naomi in the Guild office on 0207 833 0777 ext. 204.

All performance slots have been taken and it looks to be a varied and interesting programme. We will hear excerpts of members' stories, scripts, poems and songs.

This will be an informal event, giving writers a chance to share a snippet of their work - or simply come along for a few drinks and a chat. There will be a Happy Hour at the bar from 7.30-8.30pm. Performances (in five-minute slots) will run from 8.30-9.15 and then 9.45-10.30.

This event will take place in the RADA bar, Malet Street, London (nearest tube: Goodge Street).

Top 10 films

Tired of other people's "best of" lists? Now's a chance to have your own say.

As part of the new film skills strategy, A Bigger Future, Skillset is strengthening the infrastructure to support industry led and focused film skills development and education.

Amongst the many education projects they are currently working on, there will be an established network of Screen Academies, UK centres of excellence for film production, accredited film courses at colleges of further and higher education and a post-graduate Film Business Academy. These courses will have a far greater industry input and focus and will consequently provide the industry with the brightest and best graduates.

One element they are creating to support this work is the Required Viewing List - a list of feature films that key industry professionals believe to be pivotal in educating people about feature films. To create this list they are approaching the Guilds and high profile practitioners and asking them for their Top Ten must see films.

The Writers' Guild have been contacted in order to provide the writers' perspective. We will be sending our Top Ten films to Skillset on 1 September 2004.

If you are a Guild member and would like to contribute to the Guild's list, then please email your Top Ten films to by 31 August. Please quote "TOP TEN FILMS" in the subject box of your email.