Monday, February 28, 2005

The politics of criticism

Are newspaper proprietors taking an unhealthy interest in the views of their theatre critics, asks Anthony Field in The Stage.
What is of concern about any cursory dismissal of a drama critic is the warning it might give to the successor that it is important to toe the line. Even more so, these days one must be increasingly disturbed about the political and social views of a proprietor, editor or critic when it comes to assessing productions and performances. With recent political documentaries being passed off as plays, the political complexion of a newspaper might well influence a drama critic’s reaction to such productions. Even further, stories abounded about certain critics’ assessment of performances by Ian McKellen before he came out and after. Further, there is obviously a hidden agenda prevailing about actors such as Derek Jacobi and Kevin Spacey.

The forgotten British Oscar

Disappointing though it was that Mike Leigh, Imelda Staunton and Clive Owen failed to win an Oscar, the British media seems to have almost completely overlooked what must be one of the stories of the night. Winner of the best live action short film was Wasp, written and directed by Andrea Arnold. Her acceptance speech was pretty good, too.
This is truly overwhelming. I'm not really used to this kind of thing. I'd like to thank everyone who worked on the film. Everyone worked extremely hard. They know who they are. The beers are on me when we get home. In English, we'd say -- I'd say that this is the dog's bollocks. Thank you very much.
The Oscar for Writing (Adapted Screenplay) went to Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor for Sideways, from a novel by Rex Pickett. The award for Writing (Original Screenplay) went to Charlie Kaufman for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Story by Charlie Kaufman & Michel Gondry & Pierre Bismuth).

The first time

Six authors on the verge of their publishing debut tell The Observer how it feels. They include Charles Chadwick:
The book and whatever may be to come were rescued from certain oblivion by the sheer good fortune of finding an agent who before taking me on had gone to the trouble of offering real and specific encouragement. A first novel of 300,000 words by a 72-year-old sounds like someone trying to be funny. Acceptance by Faber and then by Harper Collins in the US - the recognition that all along one had been some good at it - took a lot of getting used to. Still does.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Ofcom allows ITV to reduce programming for children

ITV has consulted Ofcom on its proposals for a reduction of children's programming from around 11.5 hours a week, as transmitted in 2004, to at least 8 in future (although the total for 2005 will be higher than this). ITV proposed that religious output should move from 2 hours to 1.

The Ofcom Board and Content Board have concluded that these changes would afford ITV a greater degree of flexibility in the delivery of its public service obligations in line with recommendations made by Ofcom's Review of Public Service Broadcasting.

The Review identified that the provision of public service broadcasting objectives by the public service channels should be “taken together” and that the level of provision remains substantially the same.
A full statement is available on the Ofcom website.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Kate Harwood takes over at EastEnders

Kate Harwood is taking over as executive producer of EastEnders, reports BBC News. Harwood, who has been working on the forthcoming BBC One drama Elizabeth, The Virgin Queen, is expected to take up the EastEnders post within two weeks. Her predecessor, Kathleen Hutchison left after just four months in the job.

Theatre faces DDA prosecution

Dartford’s Orchard Theatre will become the first venue in the UK to be prosecuted under the Disability Discrimination Act after it refused to offer a free ticket to a carer who was required to assist a disabled person at one of its events.
There's a full report in The Stage.

Are "Scratch Nights" bad for theatre?

A debate in The Guardian about the pros and cons of "Scratch Nights" for workshopping new plays.
Originally, Scratch represented an unreproachable attempt by a producing venue to alleviate the anxieties of a performer creating new work. But rather than pursue the cause of those anxieties in the context of an artistic inquiry, Scratch culture soothes their symptoms by encouraging artists to make statements that are at best provisional or hypothetical ("What if I did this?") and at worst almost existential ("Is this anything, or not?").

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Open Door for radio writers

After the demise of Week Ending a few years ago there had been concern that the BBC Radio was weakening its commitment to non-commissioned writers.

Happily, as we reported last week, two new series will be open for submissions as part of BBC Radio Entertainment's Open Door Writers Policy.

The policy, along with some hints and tips, is explained on the BBC Writersroom website.

Richard and Judy winners

The Richard and Judy Show on Channel 4 has announced the winners of their first literay talent hunt, reports The Independent.
First prize went to Christine Aziz, 52, who left school at 15 with a single O-level in English, won the Channel 4 show's competition and will receive a £50,000 advance for her first novel. She beat more than 46,000 other viewers who were asked to submit a synopsis and the first chapter to the show's How To Get Published contest.
The four runners-up have also been offered £20,000 advances by Pan Macmillan, who ran the contest.

The copyright fight

An interesting analysis of the international debate about copyright, from Bill Thompson for BBC News.
In legal terms, the basic argument is between those who see creative works as just another type of property, with what are increasingly presented as inalienable property rights, and those who see copyright as a deal struck with creative people by the state, one which is intended to benefit both sides.

Hunter S Thompson in his own words

A selection of the best-remembered quotes from the legendary journalist, in The Guardian.
"I have no taste for either poverty or honest labour, so writing is the only recourse left for me."

Monday, February 21, 2005

BBC puts £9m into comedy

The BBC is to invest £9m in developing new comedy and entertainment programmes outside London, reports BBC News.
A number of new roles are being created...including a head of comedy commissioning based in Glasgow.

The new person will be in charge of the £9m budget and their role will be to develop shows outside the capital, both within the BBC and with independent production companies.

TV violence linked to child agression

A review of the influence of media violence shows that both “passive viewing” of television and film and “interactive viewing” of video games have substantial short-term effects on children’s emotions and increase the likelihood of aggression.
A full report is in The Times.

WGA Awards winners

The Writers Guild of America, west and East (sic) have announced the winners of the 57th Annual Writers Guild Awards.

Charlie Kaufman won the gong for Best Original Screenplay (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) while Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor won Best Adapted Screenplay (Sideways).

Friday, February 18, 2005

Radio sketch writing

Radio 2's Parsons and Naylor and Bearded Ladies on Radio 4 are both set to record new series, and both are looking for sketches from non-commissioned writers.

You can download the writers' briefs for both series from the Writers' Guild website.

Big Break screenwriting contest

Final Draft, who make screenwriting software, have launched their sixth annual Big Break international screenwriting contest. The first prize winner will receive $10,000, round-trip airfare to Los Angeles and 3 nights' hotel accommodations, and will meet industry executives and agents.

The entry fee is $40 if you apply before 15 March 2005, rising to $60 if you submit just before the deadline on 15 June.

Berlin film fest, last day

Amongst the gleaming highrises of the Postdamer Platz and lone autograph hunters waiting for Godot, nature is taking centre-stage. Snow has covered Berlin with a white blanket, while at dusk hundreds of black crows squawk from the naked trees. The crowds have thinned out. The festival is in its death throes. Next year the Platz will be buzzing again.

British writer/director Rachel Mathews had a similar experience at the Talent Campus' Script Clinic. She was one of 37 writers whose work had been selected for a session with an experienced script consultant.

"I came with a project that was moribund," she says. "Now I can't wait to resurrect it." Rachel credits Hungarian script editor Gaby Prekop for her renewed enthusiasm. "Previous editors I worked with didn't even like my script, but they just went through the motions because they were paid for it. Gaby switched a light on by asking me what I liked about the script. She found out my script changes from comedy to melodrama. But like any good script editor, she made me feel like I had arrived at that conclusion myself."

Click here to find who wins the usual assortment of Golden and Silver Bears, Teddies and other cute statues. Judging by the standing ovations at the press conference of Hotel Rwanda it may come away with a shiny bear of its own.

Who leads for Theatreland?

Sheridan Morley in The Stage laments what he calls "a terrible trend towards theatrical anonymity" in the theatre. Apart from Nicholas Hytner at the National, he says, there seem to be no high profile leaders to put the case for theatre.
In the brave new world of spreadsheets we have lost that all-important figurehead, the man (or woman, this is not a sexist argument) with whom the buck can be seen to stop. Nobody is really accountable for anything, because in the end nobody is really there, they have disappeared into the crowd, no longer targets for the brickbats but equally undeserving of the bouquets. I still wish that, anywhere in the subsidised theatre since Olivier, we could point to an actor in charge of a company. In America, Roger Rees has just been appointed director of the Williamstown Theatre Festival, which is more than he or any other actor can expect to achieve over here in the foreseeable future.

Late writers

Blake Morrison in The Guardian considers the approach of publishers to authors who fail to deliver on time.
In 1997 I received a letter from Christopher Reid, then poetry editor at Faber & Faber. Urged to do some reminding about old, unfulfilled contracts, he had come across one his predecessor, Craig Raine, had made with me, for a book about plagiarism. I was now 11 years overdue on the agreed delivery date: did I still plan to write the book or should he contact my agent for a return of the advance?

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Channel 4 will spend more on drama

Channel 4 is planning to spend more money on original drama, reports The Stage.
Speaking at a Royal Television Society dinner, chief executive Andy Duncan said he was keen for greater investment in drama, particularly as more money had become available through the channel losing its cricket coverage to Sky last year. While the current drama strategy mixes continuing series such as Shameless and No Angels with quarterly drama ‘event’ pieces such as Omagh and Sex Traffic, Duncan said the channel planned to improve on this and have such event programmes every month from 2006.

Berlin film fest, day 7

Most of the tables in the QIU bar of the Hotel Madison are sighing under the weight of screenplays being pitched by hopeful writers to an international assortment of producers. This is the 'real' industry schmooze-fest.

Back in the huge Fifties-era building - Berliners call it the Oyster - where the Talent Campus takes place, young filmmakers are taking their first steps into the professional world. One of the European organisations that helps them do that is the Amsterdam-based Binger Institute, a post-graduate screenwriting 'finishing school' that prepares its students for the debutante ball that is the film industry (see Qiu bar).

Last semester's belles met with prospective producers at the recent Cinemart at the Rotterdam film festival. Binger director Dick Willemsen, also present in Berlin, is happy to report that at least one deal has resulted from that. Polish writer Kasia Klimkiewicz sold her script Daughter to Flying Moon Productions of Germany. "We're talking to some other European organisations to see if we can launch a pitching event at the Swiss Locarno festival," says Willems. "But the idea would be to showcase the writers' capacities and skills as a whole, not just their screenplays."

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

EastEnders under attack

With the BBC's flagship soap suffering from poor ratings and critical hostility, Caitlin Moran in The Times twists the knife.
EastEnders is anything but quiet at the moment. Everyone is still talking about it. It’s just that now, they’re talking about how awful it is. They’re talking about how, after 20 years of plots more or less based in the real world, the storylines have become increasingly more ludicrous — gangsters, rapes and Dirty Den back from the dead, impregnating stroppy teenagers again in some kind of weird BBC Groundshag Day.

Berlin film fest, day 6

British writer-director Pawel Pawlikowski screens his adaptation of Helen Cross's novel My Summer of Love in Berlin. Pawlikowski reminisces about his early years as a struggling journalist to the festival daily produced by trade mag Screen International.

Twentythree years ago, he drove to the Berlinale in an ailing Mini carrying 1,000 magazines. "I went with a friend of mine who had started a film magazine," says Pawlikowski to reporter Leon Forde. "I stayed in a squat with no running water and during the day I wangled some interviews with Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Wim Wenders and all these people."

These days Pawlikowski is polishing the BAFTA award for Best British Film he received last weekend and he's working on an adaptation of DBC Pierre's novel Vernon God Little for FilmFour.

Doctors and Family Affairs make Rose d'Or short-list

Doctors and Family Affairs have both made the prestigious Rose d'Or competition short-list for best soap, while better known UK rivals EastEnders, Coronation Street and Emmerdale have all missed out.

There are numerous UK nominations in other categories, including six for best sitcom.

The Rose d'Or Festival for Entertainment Television takes place in Lucerne in the first week of May.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Berlin film fest, day 5

The award for Most Provocative Panel Contribution goes to British script editor David Wingate He did his best to shake up the two-hour long discussion on Storytelling and Cultural Identity. Sadly, by the time he arrived on the stage, due to snow-storms in his adopted country of Sweden, the two panelists who could have shed some light on the cultural identity bit, Indian critic Meenakshi Shedde and South African producer Cristian Mungiu had already left due to other obligations.

"The idea that scriptwriting is storytelling is sloppy thinking. Storytelling is a post-analysis thought process that is only visible in the finished product - the film. Europe wastes millions of Euros in development money every year. The filmmakers are obliged to put down their stories into scripts first, and then they have to 'translate' them into film. Life doesn't always have a plot and some films don't even have scenes. You have to be careful to seperate finished films and the creative process. There is no necessary connection. Storytelling might be useful if you're stuck, but never, ever forget that you're making a FILM."

Monday, February 14, 2005

Berlin film fest, day 4

Stephen Frears spoke to a roomful of screenwriters and directors from all over the world at the Talent Campus in Berlin. Some of the Young Auteurs were shocked to find out he has no ambition to write himself and that he will happily work with someone else's material.

On adaptating Nick Hornby's High Fidelity: "John Cusack, who's been a friend of mine since we worked together on The Grifters, called me to say he had the rights to the book. John and his friend who co-wrote the script are from Chicago and they had written their own biography into it, which is good. John's script made me see the good bits in the novel, which is quite stream-of-consciousness. But Nick really was the secret weapon. You don't want to muck up his book."

Lorraine Heggessey to leave BBC One

BBC One controller Lorraine Heggessey is quitting the corporation to work for an independent television company, reports BBC News.

Heggessey will leave later this year to take over at top independent company Talkback Thames.

There's an assessment of her legacy at the BBC in today's Media Guardian (free registration required).

Update: BBC News outlines the favourites to replace Heggessey, with Jane Tranter, the controller of BBC drama commissioning, the favourite.

Writing jukebox musicals

The jukebox musical, where a new story is woven around existing hit songs, poses a particular challenge for writers, says Jesse McKinley in The New York Times. Mama Mia!, based on Abba songs has had huge success, and Elvis and John Lennon are soon to get a similar treatment.
[Judy] Craymer [producer of Mama Mia!] admits there is a certain madness in the method of making catalog shows. "It's really doing things upside down," she said last week by telephone, adding that she would very likely never try another one. "Usually you write the story first and then the songs are inspired by the story," she explained. "This is a whole different way of doing things."

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Berlin film fest, day 3

While some Berliners were watching Keanu Reeves on a huge screen at the Potsdamer Platz, a nearby press conference for Hotel Rwanda
turned to more pressing matters. This film about the real-life story of a Kigali hotel manager who saved a thousand lives durning the Rwandan genocide in 1994 has been nominated for three Oscars.

Writer/director Terry George (writer of In the Name of the Father) was asked what he thought of the Berlinale's penchant for putting political films in the limelight. "I hope there is a political interest. My main reason to do this project was the enormous avoidance of the subject by Hollywood cinema, which I was trying to correct. Initially I was writing a film about the Liberian civil war because I was so inspired by the courage of some civilians. In the middle of that, my agent sent me a script by a former Rwandan hotel manager called Paul Rusesabagina. I wanted to show the pain and the hope that can be generated by that kind of disaster. Hopefully films like Hotel Rwanda will help people realise what's happening in Darfur."

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Berlin film fest, day 2

What better place to organise a schmoozefest for introspective screenwriters than in a bar called Oxymoron? The Denmark-based MEDIA programme North By Northwest threw its first ever Berlin bash. An excellent way to catch up with writing folk from all over Northwestern Europe who followed the programme along with me five years ago.

I ran into NxNW director Anette Funch, freelance script editor Jane Williams (ex NFTS Beaconsfield, ex Binger Institute), screenwriter and Talent Campus-participant Rachel Mathews and German producer Babette Schroeder.

We all sampled a Berlin delicacy involving prosecco wine, soda water and ice cubes, which the locals undoubtedly call Schnoerrle or something like that. It was a merry reunion, but with 200 hungry writers in one room the networking potential was minimal.

Arthur Miller obituaries

There are numerous obituaries and tributes in all today's newspapers for Arthur Miller who died on Thursday. For example, The Independent, The Times, and the LA Times.

The New York Times, as you would expect, has probably the most comprehensive coverage.
The author of "Death of a Salesman," a landmark of 20th-century drama, Mr. Miller grappled with the weightiest matters of social conscience in his plays and in them often reflected or reinterpreted the stormy and very public elements of his own life - including a brief and rocky marriage to Marilyn Monroe and his staunch refusal to cooperate with the red-baiting House Un-American Activities Committee.

However, it's a short piece by Michael Billington in The Guardian that caught my eye, with it's analysis of Miller's work in the context of both American and European theatre.
Arthur Miller helped to define American drama.

Although there were notable American dramatists before him, most famously Eugene O'Neill, he did not have a rich tradition on which to draw. Along with his contemporary, Tennessee Williams, Miller in the immediate postwar period gave American theatre maturity, dignity and an enduring record of the frustrations of contemporary man.

And, even though Miller latterly fell out of fashion, he never gave up: astonishingly, at the age of 89, he saw his most recent play premiered in Chicago last autumn.

In one sense, the absence of a living tradition of American drama worked in Miller's favour. Most of the serious inter-war playwrights, such as Clifford Odets, Elmer Rice and Maxwell Anderson, were either dead or defunct by the time Miller started writing. In consequence, he looked to Europe: especially to the ancient Greeks and Ibsen, both of whom left a profound, and beneficial, impact on Miller's work.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Berlin International Film Festival

In our first attempt at international coverage we've signed up Dutch writer Thessa Mooij to blog for us from the Berlin International Film Festival. She'll be sharing some thoughts over the next few days, and here's her first post:
Under the aegis of festival director Dieter Kosslick, the Berlin International Film Festival has embraced urgent global issues (antiterrorism, tolerance and football) as well as first-time filmmakers, who are generously included in the competition alongside well-known veterans.

This year's competition includes David Mackenzie's Asylum, the follow-up for his debut Young Adam and the US/UK coproduction Heights, a debut feature by Chris Terrio.

Some 500 young filmmakers from 90 countries, including dozens of UK screenwriters, are participating in the Talent Campus - where they can hear Stephen Frears talk about development, test-drive their pitches in a Global Speed Matching session and have their work analysed in a Script Clinic.
You can find out more about Thessa on her blog

Arthur Miller dies

American playwright Arthur Miller has died at the age of 89.

Widely acclaimed as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, Miller was also a strong advocate of writers' freedom and famously withstood the pressure to name names at the McCarthy hearings.

BBC News has a brief obituary. We'll post more links as articles are written over the next couple of days.

Wilson tops PLR league

For the second year running, Jacqueline Wilson has topped the league of most borrowed authors from British libraries. According to figures released by the PLR children's author Wilson's books were borrowed over 2 million times from public libraries in 2003-4.

The annual PLR payment remains a crucial source of income for many writers and other rights holders whose earnings, on average, are far less than the minimum wage. For 2003-4 the payments made by PLR to authors rose to a record 5.26p per loan (from 4.85 pence in 2002-3).

PLR celebrated its 25th Anniversary in 2004. In 1979 an Act of Parliament established the right for authors to receive remuneration for the public’s use of their work through public libraries.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

In praise of TV drama

Rupert Smith in Media Guardian (free registration required) says that drama is the best thing on TV.
Thank God and the commissioning editors for popular drama. At a time when television seems to be swirling inexorably down the celebrity plughole, it's good to know that you can still trust the old formats of one-offs and continuing dramas to deliver something amusing and even thought-provoking. Drama can do this because it has writers. They don't have much status in the improvise-and-edit world of reality voyeurvision, but without them we might as well pack up our toys and go home.

Film still a (white) man's world

Women working in the film industry earn less than their male counterparts, despite being better qualified, and most people working in the industry get their jobs through word of mouth and live in London and the South East, according to the most in-depth survey ever of the UK’s film production workforce published by The UK Film Council.
Women make up 33% of the [film industry] workforce and earn less than men. 35% of women earn less than £20,000pa compared to 18% of men. In the higher salary brackets 30% of men earn £50k+ compared with 16% of women.
The survey found that industry is also lacking ethnic diversity.
Film production is also predominately white with only 1 in 20 from a minority ethnic background. This represents just 5% of the workforce. In London, where the survey found the majority of the workforce was concentrated, minority ethnicity groups make up 24% of the working population.

Penguin chief resigns

Anthony Forbes Watson has resigned as chief executive of leading publisher Penguin UK, reports The Book Standard. John Makinson, Penguin Group chairman and CEO, who has taken over the management of Penguin said that Forbes Watson left following "genuine differences of view on the way forward."

However, Forbes Watson's departure is being seen as linked to the recent troubles Penguin has had implementing a new distribution system.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Writing and therapy

The links between writing and psychotherapy discussed by Blake Morrison and Susie Orbach in The Guardian.
Blake Morrison: I want to start by asking you whether you feel there is some overlap between our professions. When I started writing I was told, with some vigour, that writing is very different from therapy - that a real writer did not use poetry, fiction, memoir, whatever, to work out feelings. People tend to be snobbish and dismissive about writing as therapy, and you'll hear creative writing tutors, in particular, discourage students from being 'confessional'. How do you see it?

Susie Orbach: Just as you have prejudice coming from writing which isn't about catharsis and therapy, I am prejudiced against people who insist on seeing therapy as catharsis without an aesthetic. What seems very similar to me about the two processes is that what I'm struggling for is some kind of understanding that will be helpful to the person I'm with. We do that together in the therapy and I do it myself when I'm writing, so in that sense there are similarities, in that writing is sort of therapeutic as well.

The Stage at 125

The Stage newspaper is 125 years-old and they've put their special supplement online. It includes an article by David Hare on the state of British theatre:
What has undoubtedly deteriorated over the years is the quality of writing about the stage. When my play Teeth 'n' Smiles was revived at the Sheffield Crucible, I looked back at the reviews of the original production and I was struck by what the late Ronald Bryden wrote about it in The Observer. There was an acceptance in his notice that my intentions in writing the play were worthy of discussion. Since the days when Bryden 'discovered' Tom Stoppard via Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead on the Edinburgh Fringe, there has not been a single critic whose name can be identified with a single writer in the way that Tynan championed Osborne and Harold Hobson supported Beckett.

The Screenwriter's Thirteen Commandments

I started trying to write for the screen in 1999. Six years on, I am actually being paid money to write for it. Yes, it took that long. And what have I learned, in all that time? What accumulated wisdom - and I use the term very loosely - could I possibly pass on?
Jack Dickson on The Screenwriter's Store website, lays down the law.
Thou shalt entertain - if you don't, your scripts will be boring diatribes and no-one will want to read them let alone make them a reality. Your audience is comprised of a huge cross section of individuals and they are not there to be patronised, talked down to or lectured. They are there - primarily - to be amused and / or diverted. Any informing or educating comes a definite second. No-one wants to be preached at. Remember the screenwriter's mantra (thank you, Jimmy McGovern): make 'em laugh, make 'em cry, make 'em think.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Digital Spy

If you're a TV addict, and/or a TV industry addict, you might already know Digital Spy. Lots of gossip and breaking news, as well as very lively and entertaining discussion forums.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Authors wants cut of second-hand sales

Leading authors including A.S. Byatt are demanding a cut from second-hand sales reports The Times. Second-hand sales are booming on websites such as Amazon and in charity shops such as Oxfam, but authors don't make a penny in additional royalties.
Dame Antonia Byatt has called for new rules to protect novelists using a system known as droit de suite, which guarantees artists a payment for each subsequent sale of their work. The rule is already scheduled to be introduced for visual art next year to ensure that painters receive a payment for second-hand sales of their work.

Droit de suite is a very good way to protect us,” she said. “I hope they do something because earnings for an author can be absolutely pitiful.”

Abbott and Wood

Two of the Guild's most prominent members, Paul Abbott (free registration required) and Victoria Wood, interviewed (separately) in The Guardian.

Abbott talks about Shameless and his writing career:
The 21-year-old Abbott was not impressed by his colleagues [on Coronation Street]. "Some people had been working there since episode six. This was 1983! They had started two decades before!" Like them, though, he stayed and became comfortable. "I was there for eight-and-a-half years. Soaps are great - they teach you how to write a lot, but that's it. It's opposed to writing. It's a succubus." So why did you stay so long? "Two hundred grand a year."

Wood speaks as her new musical is previewing in the West End:
"I've always wanted to do a proper musical," says Wood, who has written an entirely new book and songsheet for the occasion. "I had the idea at the back of my mind for years, but I was so busy with TV and stand-up that I never had time. When I finally got round to it, I just thought that Acorn Antiques was the strongest brand in my back catalogue, and that the words 'Acorn Antiques - the Musical' would look very funny on a poster."

Sunday, February 06, 2005


Apologies - I've had to re-install haloscan commenting, so previous comments have been lost. Should all work fine now.

TV online

TV-on-demand, via time-shifted recordings and downloading via the internet, is spreading fast, reports BBC News.

Full-time manager of Edinburgh city of literature

THE Edinburgh Unesco City of Literature initiative has appointed a new full-time development manager, reports The Scotsman.

Sophy Dale will join the team on March 7 and will work in partnership with other organisations such as the Edinburgh City Council, the Scottish Executive and Scottish Arts Council.
After Unesco officially designated Edinburgh as the first City of Literature in October, the project is now entering a crucial phase.

Ms Dale will identify and co-ordinate activities and initiatives associated with the designation, and help to build a new international network of cities of literature under Unesco’s Global Alliance programme.

In the coming months the project will be announcing some of the confirmed core projects, which include an international seminar and a city-wide reading campaign.

Secret of my success

Jim Crace in The Guardian offers some (slightly) tongue-in-cheek advice to aspiring novelists.
One of the rewards of being a novelist of even limited success is that several times a week, by phone, by email, in person, you will be approached by complete strangers - unpublished writers - keen to obtain your help and advice. It would be truculent and unfriendly not to respond.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Censorship in America

"Let us be grateful that Janet Jackson did not bare both breasts," says Frank Rich in The New York Times.
Public television is now so fearful of crossing its government patrons that it is flirting with self-immolation. Having disowned lesbians in the children's show "Postcards From Buster" and stripped suspect language from "Prime Suspect" on "Masterpiece Theater," PBS is editing its Feb. 23 broadcast of "Dirty War," the HBO-BBC film about a terrorist attack, to remove a glimpse of female nudity in a scene depicting nuclear detoxification. Next thing you know they'll be snipping lascivious flesh out of a documentary about Auschwitz.

Record advance for debut novel

Warning: do not read this post if you have recently had a manuscript rejected.

Michael Cox has been given an advance of £430,000 for his debut novel, The Meaning of Night, reports BBC News. It is believed to be the highest advance ever paid to a first-time novelist.
Mr Cox, 55, admitted: "The ironic thing is I probably wouldn't have done it if I hadn't been ill. I'd had the novel in my head for 30 years but never had the time to sit down and write it.

"Over the years I've drafted a few pages and then discarded them. It's been swirling around in potential form all these years.

"Then at the beginning of last year I had a tumour behind my left eye and I started to lose my sight. As part of the treatment I was put on a corticosteroid called Dexamethasone, which relieved the pressure on my optic nerve.

"The side effects of the medication left me fizzing with furious creative energy. I couldn't sleep and didn't know what to do with myself.

"I got a discarded first chapter out and started to work on it again. I couldn't stop - day after day, night after night."

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Sideways to success

Rex Pickett, author of the novel Sideways, tells Oliver Burkeman in The Guardian about his struggle to get the book published and how it came to be made into an award-winning film.
In the mid-1990s, Rex Pickettconsidered himself a failure: a never-published novelist, depressed, penniless and miserably divorced, who used an interest in wine to mask what was really, if we're being honest about it, a drinking problem.

And so, with nothing left to lose, he wrote Sideways, a novel about a never-published author, depressed, divorced, and drinking too much, who takes his closest friend - a hopeless womaniser who's about to get married - on a pre-wedding wine tour that almost ends in catastrophe. Most of that really happened, too.

The main difference is that Miles, the central character in Sideways, never does get his book published. Whereas Sideways itself was made into a film, released in the UK last weekend, critically adored, and has now been nominated for the Oscar for Best Picture.

"It has changed my life a little bit," Pickett says, with a hint of sardonic understatement. "I drive a car now that, when you get in it, it smells like it's going to start."

Download The Omen

February's screenplay of the month from Screentalk is The Omen, written by David Seltzer. It's available to download for free as a pdf.

Film adaptations in the West End

Many recent successes in the West End have been adaptations of books and films. And film critic Peter Bradshaw, in The Guardian, is impressed.
When I embarked on my cinematic tour of the West End, I expected nothing but tacky, obtuse plunderings of movie gold. What I got was some slick, clever, insightful versions that kept a creative faith with the celluloid original, and in some cases even improved on it. Any fastidious qualms about adapting films into plays are groundless; my cine-snobbery has been quite upended.

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Publishing's continental drift

A pronounced continental drift characterizes U.K. publishing nowadays—ownership of the big groups has moved across the Atlantic to Europe. The battle for supremacy is now between the Germans, the French and the British, waged by Bertelsmann, Hachette and Pearson. It is only a matter of time before this struggle moves to the U.S., where the vulnerability of groups such as Simon & Schuster and Time Warner could prove tempting to the expansionist Europeans.

From The Book Standard.