Sunday, May 28, 2006

A week off

We won't be able to update the blog for the next week. But it will be back to normal from Monday week.

Cannes 2006 - Prize day

It's a strange feature of the Cannes Film Festival that as the speculation and excitement about the competition grows, so the journalists and delegates start to leave. In fact, in terms of the market, the Festival peaks over the first weekend.

However, while there is a slight sense of anti-climax around the Palais this morning, it will soon be gearing up for what is one of the most important events in the French calendar.

Apparently the Jury for the main competition has complete discretion over what awards are given. There are conventions (Best Film, Director, Actor, Actress, Screenplay etc), but they can choose to give more than one in a category, or none at all.

I saw Cronica De Una Fuga (written and directed by Israel Adrian Caetano) yesterday. A very powerful account of the experience of four Argentinians held hostage by the military junta in the late 1970s, it's thought by some to be a late contender for the Palme d'Or. There'll be some embarrassment if it does win - most non-French journalists had left before it screened.

While some critics (especially from the UK and America) have complained that it has not been a vintage year, the standard of films that I've seen has been very high.

Even if you don't have any interest in the market side of the Festival I would recommend coming simply to watch films. Full Members of the Guild can get accreditation and it's quite possible to get tickets for most screenings (apart from the evening premieres).

It is not traditionally a Festival for writers but more and more Guild members are coming each year and most seem to find it worthwhile. We'll carry more advice and information about coming to Cannes early next year, in time for the 2007 Festival.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Cannes 2006 - Grand Cru winner

At the Cannes Critics Week Award last night, the first ever Grand Cru Award for the best short film screenplay went to Esmir Filho from Brazil for Alguma Coisa Assim (Something Like That).

The Guild, through our magazine UK Writer, is a partner in the Award.

Making the presentation Claire Dixsaut, editor of La Gazette des Scénaristes, stressed how important it was for writers to get recognition at Cannes, where they are so often overlooked.

Esmir is currently working on his first feature length screenplay.

Owen Atkinson is new ALCS Chief Exec

The Board of the Authors’ Licensing & Collecting Society (ALCS) have announced that Owen Atkinson is its new Chief Executive Officer.
“ALCS is a focused and hard working organisation and I look forward to working with both the Board and our excellent team of staff”, says Owen. “ ALCS’ aim is to promote and protect authors’ rights, ensuring that the voice of the writer is heard and that they receive fair remuneration for the vital role they play in the creative economy, at home and abroad. One of the immediate challenges we face is the development of an equitable licensing framework for the digital environment; we must safeguard the interests of writers, along with all other parties, in disseminating the written word in all its forms.”

Monica Ali interview

The phenomenal success of Brick Lane has allowed Monica Ali to spend more time actually writing. She tells Mick Brown about growing up as a semi-immigrant, learning how not to put a story together and the contrasting lives in her second book, set in a remote Portuguese village.
More from The Daily Telegraph.

Hay Festival

Had enough of Cannes? Now there's another Festival to follow...

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Cheltenham Screenwriters' Festival

The Cheltenham Screenwriters' Festival (27-30 June) has announced Film Four as its major sponsor.
"We all know that there can be no great film without great writing", says Heather Rabbatts, education advisor to Channel 4 and board member of The Film Council. "Developing good writing skills is of fundamental importance to this industry and so it is fantastic news that for the first time ever we have a Festival dedicated to the art of screenwriting. This Festival will not only help to develop that key talent, but will also help to support writing in the future."

New Writers Day has confirmed speakers including Oscar winner Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park), new writer / director Dan Reed (Straight Heads) on Surviving Your First Feature, agents Mathew Bates & Julian Friedmann, and comedy legends Laurence Marks & Maurice Grans (Bird of A Feather, News Statesman, Nightingales).

Amazon books on demand has started a program with publishers that allows out-of-print titles and lower-volume books to be printed and shipped on demand when consumers place orders.

"Customers are coming to detail pages and find they can't buy" an out-of-print book, Greg Greeley, vice president of worldwide media at, said in an interview. "We think this is a great proposition for publishers to address that," said. "It unlocks this great content that is out there that customers haven't been able to buy."
More from The Seattle Times.

Cannes 2006 - Indigènes

Another genre film with a twist.

Indigènes, written by Rachid Bouchareb and Olivier Lorelle and directed by Rachid Bouchareb, is an old fashioned war film - the camaraderie, the harsh realities, death of friends, bravery, final battle etc. It's well constructed, well shot and well acted, but what makes it special is that we are following an African Unit in the French army.

Fiercely patriotic to "mother France", they are met with injustice and bigotry by their own side, even when contributing to major victories. Even after the War they are treated appallingly.

The story does not need much elaboration - the resonances are strong enough to speak for themselves. Given the continuing racial problems that France has, seeing the heroism of African troops fighting under the French flag met with racism and injustice carries a powerful massage for today.

The audience at the screening I attended clapped long and hard.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Cannes 2006 - La Raison Du Plus Faible

Another film in the main competition at Cannes and, based on what I've seen so far, a real contender (written and directed by Lucas Belvaux).

From a writing point of view the real interest is how the script makes use of genre conventions in a very non-genre film. In fact, it starts as a study in small-town Belgian boredom - which promises to make for a very long two hours.

But then the heist story kicks in. Completely convincing, and without the bother about the mechanics of the job that so many mainstream heist films get caught up in. This film is all about character - four men who feel, for very different reasons, marginalised by society. The pacing is great and you could feel the whole audience sitting up in their seats wanting to know what was going to happen next.

I think writing experts can sometimes go overboard on the over-riding importance of genre. But this film showed how tried and trusted methods of storytelling can, along with properly motivated characters and an interesting context, give any life to even the most art-house of films.

Cannes 2006 - Marie Antoinette

One of the great things about watching a press screening is that you are able to arrive at a film without having read any reviews. Often you don't even know what the film is about.

With Marie Antoinette, however, it was hard not to have pre-conceptions. It's written and directed by Sofia Coppola, and since her last film was the brilliant Lost In Translation everyone was excited to see what she'd do with an historical epic.

Unfortunately, though the film looks great, for my taste there just wasn't enough story. Some people at the screening seemed to like it, but it felt to me like watching a child's history book on screen, with some rock music to liven things up.

It made me think how brilliant The Madness Of King George (written by Alan Bennett) is - an historical film that manages to feel contemporary whilst also saying things about the past.

Cannes 2006 - Flandres

The other film I saw yesterday was Flandres, written and directed by Bruno Dumont.

Dumont is from Flanders itself and the film is an extremely unflattering portrait of its inhabitants, or, at least, a selection of them. People hardly speak. They have emotion-free sex in fields. Four young men have to go to (an un-named) war; only a handful of people wave them off.

It's a tough watch. Even at war the men hardly speak and the only real glimmer of emotional warmth comes at the very end. But there is definitely something to it. About what makes us human and how deeply buried real feelings can be.

It was cheered and booed at the press screening - I had sympathies with both sides.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

UK films' US market share

[New] Film Council figures show that UK films, with US co-production status, enjoyed a 15.8% market share in the US.

However, UK projects made without US involvement had just a 0.8% share of that market.

Only one of the top 20 biggest-earning UK films of 2005 - The Constant Gardener - was funded without any money from the US.
More from BBC News.

The Play's The Thing

In The Observer, Brian Logan goes behind the scenes of Channel 4's upcoming reality playwriting series.
'There's almost a fear of being selected,' says a young writer, shifting nervously from one foot to the other. 'Because, you might actually get your play put on in the West End. Which six months ago none of us had imagined.'
It's hard to be critical of a project promoting new writing, but you do wonder if putting a brand new writer on in the West End is almost inevitably setting them, up to fail for the sake of TV. The producer Sonia Friedman almost admits as much herself.
'So am I panicking?' asks Friedman. 'No. Have I got a great play? Probably not. Do I have a theatrical event?' Pause, for dramatic effect. 'Probably.'

The Play's the Thing starts on Channel 4 on 12 June. Preview performances of the winning play begin on the same day at the New Ambassadors Theatre, London WC2.

Cannes 2006 - Babel

Having arrived in Cannes last night I was able to see my first film this morning at 8.30 - Babel, directed by Alejandro Inarritu and written by Guillermo Arriaga.

It's a multiple narrative, with four separate stories that overlap and interlink, and for me it highlighted both the strengths and weaknesses of an increasingly common genre.

As in the Oscar-winning Crash, Babel's multiple stories allow a number of big name actors to have powerful storylines - it's a great way to get Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Koji Yakusho and Gael Garci­a Bernal in the same film. Each storyline is compelling in its own right and the performances are very strong. Jumping from story to story and country to country means that you're unlikely to get bored.

The concern is whether it adds up to anything very much. Common humanity separated by different languages (hence the title)? Maybe. But for me it felt like four totally separate stories no one of which was entirely satisfying.

Short Cuts, adapted and directed by Robert Altman from Raymond Carver's stories, which started the modern craze for multiple narratives in 1993, seemed to add up to more than the sum of its parts. I'm not sure the same could be said for Babel, even though it already seems to be generating an award-winning buzz

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Move over Hollywood

In The Guardian Weekend, John Patterson and Gareth McLean celebrate the current Golden Age of American TV.
Today, US television is where cultural debates are sparked, and where popular culture renews and reinvigorates itself. Over the past 10 years, TV has slowly seized the creative initiative from the movies and run with it, all the way to the Emmys - and to the bank. With entire seasons of TV shows available on DVD and cheap iPod downloads of popular shows online, television is now teeming with beautifully written, well-made programmes, including The Sopranos, Deadwood, Law & Order and its many spin-offs, Lost, 24, Six Feet Under, The Shield and Nip/Tuck. Umbilically connected to the internet, TV is also able to attach itself swiftly to new currents in subterranean culture and bring them to viewers in a matter of days. This inventiveness affects all areas, from news to drama. And it is because of the sudden upsurge in TV drama, along with the immense fortunes to be made in it, that so many names we associate with the cinema are moving to television.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Film school

In The Guardian John Patterson lays into (American) film schools.
Since film school costs as much as a regular degree nowadays, film school is packed with precisely the people who have the fewest interesting things to say: those with parents who can sponsor them in education until they turn 30, and for whom the one transformative locale in life has been ... a college campus.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Brits compete for Tony Awards

Alan Bennett’s The History Boys, Martin McDonagh’s The Lieutenant of Inishmore and Conor McPherson’s Shining City scooped three of the four slots in the Best Play nominations for the 2005-2006 Antoinette Perry (Tony) Awards announced on May 16. The fourth spot was filled by Rabbit Hole, written by David Lindsay-Abaire
More from The Stage.

More Cannes links

In addition to the links posted earlier this week, you can also find good Cannes coverage from:
If you're going to Cannes, or are there already, Wendy Idle in The Times has a guide to the best parties.
According to a Fox spokeswoman, there will be no party after the out-of-competition screening of X-Men: The Last Stand because the talent are flying out immediately to attend the US premiere. This means either ta) there is no party. Or b) there is a party and it will be the most extravagant shindig yet, with barmen who can mix drinks using only their telekinetic powers. But, sorry, riffraff are banned.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Black theatre in Britain

In The Guardian Bonnie Greer assesses the state of black theatre in Britain.
Today's theatre houses several outstanding, award-winning young black playwrights, such as Roy Williams, Kwame Kwei-Armah and Debbie Tucker-Green. But two decades since I was first inspired by British theatre, the black presence is little more than marginal. In the late 1980s I would have predicted, based on the promise clearly apparent then, that the 21st century would have produced a handful of major, mature black playwrights, nurtured and supported through commissions and productions - just as the late August Wilson was in the US and, say, David Hare has been in this country. I would have expected to see black actors - particularly women - regularly appearing in leading roles. Black directors, costume and scenic designers, producers and an artistic director or two should all now be part of the level playing field that should be a characteristic of this, the best theatre in the world.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Akiva Goldsman - writing the Da Vinci Code

Akiva Goldsman is one of the world's highest profile screenwriters and his latest adaptation, of Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code, premieres in Cannes tomorrow. He talks to Rachel Abramowitz in The LA Times.
There are few screenwriters who are as commercially successful as Goldsman — he's practically the Jerry Bruckheimer of the genre — churning out popcorn entertainment as fast as he can type — everything from his early oeuvre of Grishams ("The Client" and "A Time to Kill") and Batmans ("Batman Forever" and "Batman & Robin") to his more recent Ron Howard canon of "A Beautiful Mind" (for which he won his Academy Award), "Cinderella Man" and, now, "Da Vinci."

Conor McPherson interview

Irish playwright Conor McPherson talks to Jason Zinoman in The New York Times.
Anyone familiar with Mr. McPherson's career shouldn't be too surprised to discover that he was once an alcoholic, since his darkly comic plays are filled with early-morning hangovers and late-night binges. ([His new play] "Shining City" is unusual in that it includes only a few sips of wine.) His first was called "Rum and Vodka," and his most famous, "The Weir," which ran on Broadway for eight months in 1999, is set in a pub.

Cannes Film Festival 2006

If you're off to Cannes this week, or just want to follow the Festival from home, here are some sites that might help. Feel free to recommend any Cannes websites you like or to offer any tips or advice.
This blog will be coming from the Festival next week.

US networks turn to drama

Following the ratings success of recent series the US TV networks are commissioning an increasing number of new dramas. Leading the way, reports The New York Times, is ABC.
ABC, a network with some of television's biggest hits, as well as a lot of misses, will announce a new prime-time schedule today populated with a raft of new series.

It has ordered 12 new scripted series, the most of any network this season, clearly searching for some shows that will be able to match its existing hits, like "Desperate Housewives," "Lost" and "Grey's Anatomy."
NBC, currently bottom of the ratings pile, is following suit.
In an unusual commitment to adding new drama to its schedule, NBC ordered six series out of the seven drama pilots it made during this development season. The network had already announced it would bring back several that had been considered on the fence for renewal, including "Las Vegas," "Crossing Jordan" and "Medium," and the six new hours will tip the network heavily in drama's direction.
The triumph of reality TV was, it seems, exaggerated.

Lyric's new season has no written plays

Hammersmith’s Lyric Theatre is to strenghten its links with innovative, physical storytelling this year, with an autumn/winter programme containing no traditionally-written work.

...[Artistic director David] Farr told The Stage: “We have built a really strong links with artists who are experimenting with how you tell stories, embracing everything theatre can do and really thinking the impossible."
More from The Stage.

Real jury will judge drama suspects

A jury made up of members of the public will decide whether a character in a new drama about date rape on digital channel More4 is guilty of the crime.

The 90-minute programme, in which a date rape scenario will be followed through from the alleged crime to the outcome of the trial, will also feature real-life barristers questioning the accused.

Independent producer Century Films is making the drama, which will begin with a scripted segment chronicling two colleagues who go on an away day and end up in bed together. The woman claims she was raped but the man says the sex was consensual.
More from Leigh Holmwood in Media Guardian (free registration required).

Guild's Wales Committee

The next meeting of the Guild's Wales Committee will take place tomorrow (17 May) at 7.30pm at in the Caio Arms, Cathedral Road, Cardiff. There will be a distinguished guest speaker, Lleucu Siencyn, Deputy-director of the Welsh Academy. All Guild members are welcome.

For more information, contact the Guild office.

Charlie Kaufman analysed

In The LA Times, David L. Ulin looks at the work of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and the artistic status of screenwriters in general.
The notion that screenwriters are artistically legitimate is hardly a new one, although it's been out of vogue for quite a while. "I think it used to be more true," says novelist Steve Erickson, who edits the literary journal Black Clock and is the film critic for Los Angeles magazine. "People like Billy Wilder and Preston Sturges were known for the films they wrote. In fact, they became directors to protect their screenplays." Earlier this year, National Endowment for the Arts literature director David Kipen published a book titled "The Schreiber Theory," which argues that movies should be categorized by writer, not director. "Imagine a library of novels alphabetized by editor," he writes. To some extent, Kipen means to be provocative; the problem with looking at movies as writer-driven is that film is a profoundly collaborative art. "It's a very interesting situation," says Jonathan Lethem, whose novels, not unlike Kaufman's screenplays, use dark humor, pop culture and a touch of homegrown surrealism to get at deeper fascinations of his own. "I can understand the impulse to consider screenwriters as writers, but at the same time, the whole nature of screenwriting is to relinquish control. Even from the perspective of the audience, movies are different. You don't experience the story in the direct and intimate way a reader does on the page."
Thanks to Billy Mernit for the link - he has his own reflections on Kaufman's work.
I've hung out with Charlie on at least half a dozen occasions -- he and his wife are friendly with a couple near and dear to me -- but to say I "know" him with any great conviction would be to kid myself. He's famously difficult to get to know, a wary, guarded kind of fellow, and despite a number of conversations with the guy, he remains as mysterious to me as ever.

But I think I do know where he's coming from. It's not from trying to follow industry trends, or from how do I get an agent and sell my script for a million dollars? It's not from "what page is my first act turning point supposed to be on?" or from trying to second-guess What They're Looking For. He comes from, you know, a personal place.

Where the passion lives.

Monday, May 15, 2006

World Cup Tapes

Capture the magic, the mystery and the mayhem of the World Cup in a 2-3 minute monologue and win the chance to have it broadcast on BBC Radio Five Live with a star actor.
Full details from BBC Writersroom.

Text book success

How Naomi Simmons has sold almost 90 million books worldwide, by Jack Malvern in The Times.
Ms Simmons, from Shenley in Hertfordshire, is the author of New Standard English, a series of text books for primary school children that has sold 105 million copies in China.

But unlike [Dan] Brown, who has earned £250 million from royalties for his novels, Ms Simmons took a fixed payment of £160,000.

Ms Simmons and her co-authors became a phenomenon in China after the Chinese ministry of education decreed in 2001 that English should be taught in schools. Her book — published by Macmillan English and FLTRP, the publishing house of Beijing University — has inspired a generation of Chinese schoolchildren to sing songs about how the British use knives and forks rather than chopsticks.

The race to adapt

With the movie version of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code set to open in Cannes on Wednesday, Eric Pfanner in The International Herald Tribune looks at how studios are trying to hunt down the next big adaptation.
"There's more and more desire to see things that people haven't seen before, and a need for interesting source material, for films that don't fit a category," said David Livingstone, head of marketing at Working Title Films, the British production house behind "Pride and Prejudice."

"That's why literary adaptations are big," he said.

Friday, May 12, 2006

A new skin

As part of an overhaul of the Writers' Guild online, we've re-skinned this blog. No major changes but some sharpening up from what was previously very much patched together.

Credit to Talia Hussain from Edition for both the blog design and the new-look website.

NB Full Members of the Guild can log-in to the site and enter their credits to the Find A Writer database. It's still in beta, so if you have any questions or comments contact me c/o the Guild office.

ITV faces "Clause IV moment"

Speaking at the Royal Television Society last night, ITV director of television Simon Shaps admitted the broadcaster had neglected its main channel, reports Owen Gibson for Media Guardian (free registration required).
ITV's £300m spending on drama needed to be channelled into the best writers and be "more contemporary and less predictable". Mr Shaps said the drama reinvention would be accompanied by a "painful but necessary process" by which popular programmes including Celebrity Fit Club, Footballers Wives and Rosemary and Thyme would be dropped. It was, he said, "a kind of clause IV moment for ITV", referring to Tony Blair's reinvention of the Labour party.

Critics Awards for Theatre in Scotland

The new National Theatre of Scotland heads the field with eleven nominations for the 2005-06 Critics Awards for Theatre in Scotland.

The winners will be announced at a ceremony in Dundee on 4 June.

The appeal of docs

In The Times Stephen Armstrong examines the enduring appeal of medical dramas.
The debuts of Grey’s [Anatomy] and Vital Signs mean there are now 14 medically related shows on air at the moment — if you include M*A*S*H reruns on cable. The curative couple join Casualty, ER, House, Bodies, Nip/Tuck, Holby City, Kingdom Hospital, No Angels and Silent Witness, as well as the comedies Green Wing and Scrubs, in supplying us with white coats and hormones to an astonishing level. It’s currently possible to absorb almost 24 hours of doctor-related telly in your average viewing week. Why? Of course, in dramatic terms, the advantage of a medical setting is clear. “It’s far easier for people to relate to the human- interest element in a medical drama than in a legal drama simply because they come across them every day,” says John Forte, the creator of Vital Signs. “I wanted to tell a family story, but the medical world was an immensely useful vehicle for Rhoda. It made the emotions attached to her work life far more intense.”

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Murakami accuses editor over manuscript

Writer Haruki Murakami in the March issue of a monthly magazine accused one of his editors of selling several of his manuscripts to bookstores without his permission.

The accusation has raised questions in the publishing industry as to who has ownership rights to manuscripts and whether such unpublished writings should be on the market at all.

In the article, Murakami, the noted author and translator whose most recent novel is "Kafka on the Shore," described the behavior of the now-deceased editor, who was a longtime acquaintance, as a type of theft.
More from Arata Sugimoto in The Japan Times.

BBC Writers Academy reminder

Remember, if you're planning to apply for the BBC Drama Series Writers Academy the closing date is 15 May.

Finds in translation

In The Guardian literary translator Eric Dickens argues that the British publishing industry should be creating and publishing more translations.
At the London Book Fair we were treated to soothing words that told us that it was quite normal that only three per cent of books published in Britain are translations. At the Leipzig Book Fair a few days later, a Ukrainian intellectual spoke about the state of his culture. Yuri Andrukhovych has written one of the few Ukrainian postmodernist novels to have been translated into English - Perverzion, translated by Michael Naydan - but he is also a blunt purveyor of home truths when it comes to central and eastern Europe. At Leipzig, Andrukhovych suggested that Ukrainians should be afforded visa-free travel to western Europe. But are they being afforded such travel into the minds of British readers?

Starbucks New Voices at The Old Vic

The Old Vic is inviting applications from 18-25 year-olds in Greater London to take part in their next 24 Hour Play Challenge, sponsored by Starbucks.

The closing date for applications is 9 June 2006.

Andrew Davies interview

You can't get away from Andrew Davies at the moment. But why would you want to? This week, with his new adaptation of Alan Holinghurst's In The Line Of Beauty launching on Sunday, he's interviewed by Jan Moir in The Daily Telegraph.
Andrew Davies remains the man with the golden script, who can command upwards of £200,000 per project. At least in his case, it looks like BBC money well spent and even Davies is bemused at recent revelations that the corporation spends millions on payments to disc jockeys such as Jonathan Ross and Terry Wogan: "I think they ought to be punished rather than paid well. I don't want to listen to them. I'd try to arrange it so that there wasn't anybody talking bollocks in between the records. Or having inane competitions and f---ing phone-ins."

That's one thing that makes him angry. Hollywood executives who treat him badly are another. "Oh, it's dreadful, infuriating and humiliating! I've got a monstrous ego to keep in check and a list of bastards I won't work with again, although they probably feel the same way about me," he says, then laughs.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

David Shore interview

David Shore, creator of House, talks to John Doyle in the Ontario Globe and Mail. Thanks to Denis McGrath for the link.
In my opinion, Canadian television so often fails for the same reason American movies so often fail: They're not controlled by writers. Now I'm biased on this one and there are obviously great, smart directors out there and great, smart producers but no one knows the story like the writer. American movies are controlled by directors; Canadian television is controlled by producers; American television is controlled by writers.

US Guilds sign mobisodes agreement

The Writers Guild of America, west (WGAw) and the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) have reached a landmark agreement with Touchstone Television covering the writing of mobisodes for ABC's television series Lost, creating a framework for future industry mobile-content and other new technology agreements.

The agreement was reached after WGA members working on Lost insisted that proposed mobisodes be guild-covered. Their stance was supported by members of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the Directors Guild of America (DGA), and the three talent guilds coordinated negotiations with Touchstone. While the agreement covers mobisodes the network had ordered to supplement the Lost series, the new deal provides a flexible template for future negotiations, when the Companies and content creators address issues related to emerging technological platforms.
More from the Writers Guild of America, west.

Looking back at Osborne's Anger

Fifty years after the premiere of John Osborne's Look Back In Anger at The Royal Court, the theatre is hosting a week of special events under the heading of The Angry Brigade.

Neil Smith for BBC News also looks back at Osborne's legacy.
It [the Court week of events] is the cause of some satisfaction for Osborne's biographer John Heilpern, who aims to challenge critics who have questioned the play's significance.

"It was Look Back in Anger that opened the gates to other playwrights and put the Royal Court on the map," he says.

"The revisionists have tried to make out John made no contribution whatsoever and was a lousy playwright.

"As his biographer, I'm thrilled his reputation is being re-established in this way."

Sony Radio Awards 2006

As always, Radio 4 programmes won both the comedy and drama awards at the Sony Radio Awards last night.

The drama winner was No Background Music, by US playwright Normi Noel, based on interviews with American nurses in the Vietnam war.

The Comedy award went to The Ape That Got Lucky, Chris Addison's adaptation of his own Edinburgh Fringe show.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Rounders lawsuit

A landmark case is finally making its way to a courthouse near you (if you live in L.A.), and it could potentially affect how every screenwriter does business in this town. Possibly for the better, but possibly for the worse.

Call this one a case of “be careful what you wish for.”
Craig Mazin looks at the issues around the lawsuit being brought in LA by screenwriter Michael Grosso who claims that Miramax stole his ideas when making the film Rounders.

Doing it for money

John August reflects on the anonymity of screenwriters.
There are no famous screenwriters.

There are rich screenwriters with houses in Malibu. There are acclaimed screenwriters with awards on their mantels. But none of them are actually famous. Your aunt in Pittsburgh can’t name a single screenwriter — except for you, her little champ, working so hard to make it in Hollywood.

BBC dominates BAFTAs

BBC dramas dominated the BAFTA TV Awards last night. Winners included:
  • Single drama: The Government Inspector (Channel 4, written by Peter Kosminsky)
  • Drama serial: Bleak House (BBC One, adapted from Charles Dickens's novel by Andrew Davies)
  • Drama series: Doctor Who (BBC One, lead writer Russell T Davies)
  • Continuing drama: EastEnders (BBC One)
  • Situation comedy: The Thick Of It (BBC Four, created by Armando Iannucci )
  • Comedy programme or series: Help (BBC Two, written by Chris Langham and
    Paul Whitehouse ).
Russell T Davies also won the Dennis Potter Award.

Cannes Grand Cru Award

Short films are the accepted way to make a splash as a director, but what about the writers? Too often scriptwriting for short films is undervalued or just ignored.

That's why the Writers' Guild has teamed up with the French Guilde des Scénaristes and screenwriting magazines across Europe to launch the Grand Cru Award at Cannes Film Festival 2006.

The Award will go to the best screenplay from short films selected for Critics Week at the Festival, with a jury chaired by Mexican screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga (The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, Amores Perros).

The Award will be presented in Cannes on 25 May and is supported by the MK2 Group, the SACD, UGS, the EICAR school of television and film, Editions Montparnasse, and Arane.

Friday, May 05, 2006

BBC Film Network downloads

BBC Film Network will make selected short films available as downloads for a trial period of 12 months.

The download application, which will be available to the first 10,000 visitors to sign up, will allow users to watch a selection of the very best shorts in full screen, at a quality similar to a DVD.
More from the BBC Press Office.

Jay Presson Allen obituary

American screenwriter and playwright Jay Presson Allen has died at the age of 84. She was best known for adapting work for the screen, including Marnie, The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie and Cabaret. There is an obituary by Ronald Bergan in The Guardian.
Based on a pulp novel by Winston Graham, Marnie, one of Hitchcock's most bizarre psychological/sexual thrillers, was Allen's first screenplay. "Hitch taught me more about screenwriting than I learned in all the rest of my career, and I think of his flair for visual shorthand whenever I get verbose," she recalled. "I think one of the reasons that Hitch was fond of me, and filmed a lot of the stuff I wrote, was that I am frequently almost crippled by making everything rational. There always has to be a reason for everything. And he loved that."

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Skip Press

Hollywood screenwriting coach Skip Press, profiled by Patricia B. Gray for Fortune Small Business.
Letters pour in from all over the world - France and Israel and Russia - heartbreaking in their naivete and earnest ambition to make it big in the movie business. Lloyd "Skip" Press answers them all, dispensing encouragement by e-mail deep into the night from his small three-bedroom bungalow in Burbank, Calif.

One of the busiest screenwriting coaches in Hollywood, he's selling a dream - and he has found buyers across the globe. "I like laying out the red carpet for newcomers to the business," Press says. "Everyone wants to get to Hollywood."

ITV desperate for a comedy hit

ITV director of entertainment and comedy Paul Jackson has vowed there will be a prime time sketch show or sitcom on ITV1 by next year, in order to salvage the network’s ailing reputation in the genre.

The broadcaster is desperate to find a hit comedy that will appeal to ITV1 viewers and attract mass audiences and Jackson has pledged that he will do whatever is needed to get a series in the genre on to the channel in prime time.

He said: “There is no doubt that there will be a big comedy on ITV1 between 8 and 10pm by next year. Either a sketch show or a sitcom. I don’t know what it will be yet but I do know there will be one.”
More from The Stage.

BBC Comedy Soup

Almost unnoticed (by me anyway), the new BBC comedy website, Comedy Soup, has gone live. As we reported before, it's the BBC's attempt to get people uploading comedy clips to create a comedy-only YouTube.

BBC Three are doing their bit by running a Funny Hunt offering "exclusive access to some of Britain's top comedy writers, performers and producers at a series of special masterclasses held in Manchester" for people uploading the funniest stuff.

McGovern's Street recommissioned

Guild member Jimmy McGovern's series, The Street, has been recommissioned by the BBC half-way through its first run, reports Media Guardian (free registration required). Other writers, such as Guild member Marc Pye, have also written episodes of the drama.
John Yorke, the BBC joint head of independent drama, said of the recommission: "It's incredibly reassuring that in this day and age there's still an appetite for single plays and for voices as uncompromising as Jimmy McGovern's. The fact that The Street has found a mass audience and touched a chord with so many people is true testament to Jimmy's talent."

ITV Productions' executive producer of the show, Sita Williams, said: "What is exciting and continues to be exciting about The Street is not only Jimmy McGovern's writing, but his work with new writers who bring their raw talent to project.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Microsoft to create original web shows

Nearly 10 years after wholeheartedly but prematurely embracing original entertainment programming on the Web, Microsoft is re-entering the fray. But instead of attempting to contort itself into a media company by hiring scores of relatively unknown writers and producers and go it virtually alone, this time Microsoft has chosen to team up with some high-profile Hollywood talent.

The first deal for its MSN Originals initiative is an alliance with Ben Silverman, one of the prime movers behind importing the reality show craze to the United States and the producer of shows like "The Office" and "The Biggest Loser" on NBC.

The one-year, multimillion-dollar deal calls for the creation of 10 Web pilots for MSN, each tailored to one or more strengths of the Web. Four shows have already been given the go-ahead, including a short-form comedy that can be described, in classic high-concept Hollywood style, as "The Office" meets "Reno 911" meets "Airplane," doled out in two-and-a-half minute bits starting this fall. Adding to the sitcom verisimilitude: Tom Arnold is close to signing on to star as the lovably flawed pilot for a commuter airline.
More from Lorne Manly in The New York Times.

Has Michael Frayn retired?

In The Guardian, Mark Lawson talks to playwright and novelist Michael Frayn.
In the study of his Surrey home, the low hum of a word processor hints reassuringly at potential future titles. But is it true that a second leading British dramatist is following Harold Pinter into retirement? "Well," Frayn says. "If you don't actually have a job, it's very hard to know if you've retired from it. Nobody comes in and gives you a clock." The newspaper story had suggested that Frayn's next book, The Human Touch - a volume of philosophical reflections out in September - would be his final publication. "Yes, it may well be. It's extremely difficult to know. I've always felt, throughout my working life, that I'd be quite unable to write again as of next Monday."

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Sex in video games

Brenda Brathwaite tells Kathleen Craig in Wired about what parents should and shouldn't worry about when it comes to video games.
I believe it's not fair to be forced to have a Disneyesque palette for your games. If somebody said to an artist you couldn't have any nudes in a museum, you have to take them all down because kids might see them, then artists would be in an uproar. If that happened to the movie industry? Actors would walk. Everybody would.

When novelists get personal

Is all fair in love, war and novels? Peter Carey's wife, Alison Summers, thinks not, as she tells Anthony Barnes in The Independent.
Alison Summers believes, like a number of others, that passages in the book depicting a marital break-up are a thinly-veiled attack on her and part of an attempt to smear her following the couple's divorce nearly three years ago.

The phrase "alimony whore", repeated within the pages of Theft: A Love Story, has left her feeling "devastated" by Carey's version of events.

US TV market list

If you're harbouring ambitions to write for an American series, you can find out who to contact (through your agent) from the WGAw published TV market list. You'll probably need to move to LA, too.

Monday, May 01, 2006

John Hopkins remembered

On the eve of a retrospective at the National Film Theatre, Alan Plater in The Guardian remembers TV scriptwriter John Hopkins.
Hopkins was way ahead of the game in writing about dysfunctional families; about racism, in both Z Cars and his 1965 play Fable; about sexuality, in Horror of Darkness, also in 1965, starring Nicol Williamson and Glenda Jackson; and about police brutality, in his stage play, This Story of Yours.