A guest post from Guild member Gregory Evans:
I had mixed feelings when I heard Casualty had "triumped" (to use the word, and spelling, from the show's official website) at the recent BAFTA Television Awards. The BAFTA for Best Continuing Drama, as I understand it, is awarded for a particular episode submitted by the producers (in this case it was the Christmas two-parter), but is also in recognition of the overall high quality of the series throughout the preceding year.
Part of me was pleased Casualty won its BAFTA - because I think it's a great show; because I know quite a few of the team who worked on it in 2006 - I know how hard-working and talented they are, how genuinely nice, how deserving of the honour - and also because I wrote two episodes last year, so I feel I played a small part in its success.
But another part of me (the meaner, nastier part) didn't give a shit about the award because that's how Casualty has treated a lot of its regular writers over the last few months.
I was one of those writers. I've written Casualty scripts (among other things) for the past five years, usually about three episodes a year, and I was considered one of their "core writers".
I delivered my last script in December. It went through smoothly, as usual, and everyone was pleased with it – especially the director, who did a superb job, and the producer, who was making her final episode after being with the show for about four years.
A couple of weeks later, I asked the series editor when I might be commissioned again. A lot was changing in Casualty around that time: the executive and series producers were both being replaced, along with several script editors and episode producers. It was more than the usual job-churn you get in any long-running tv show, it was a change of management.
In light of this, the series editor told me she couldn't say for sure when I'd be commissioned again - it was likely the new producers would want to bring in "new blood", would want to "reinvent" the show - but she assured me I was a "valued writer" and that I'd be commissioned for an episode some way into the new series, which was just about to go into production. "Several seasoned Casualty writers are understandably unhappy about this," she wrote.
Actually, I wasn't unhappy at all. I was busy with other things, so I was in no hurry to start another script, but I wanted a rough idea. She told me I'd probably get an episode sometime in February, and I left it at that.
That was the last I heard. Since that email early this year, no one from Casualty has been in touch with me, or my agent - either to offer me a job, or to tell me they don't want to work with me any more.
A while ago, on the advice of another writer, I emailed the new series editor (who I knew when he was a researcher) to find out what was going on. I didn't get a reply.
It's some small consolation to know I'm in excellent company: the new management at Casualty seem to be treating all their "seasoned" writers in a similar way.
Shortly after the BAFTA was announced I had an email from a fine and vastly experienced writer, who wrote four superb episodes of Casualty last year. He wrote to me: "I appear to be persona non grata with Casualty these days. I did think when they won their BAFTA I might have got some acknowledgement but not a peep." And he ended up: "I watched the BAFTAs and heard Andy Harries' advice to producers: Treasure your writers. If only!"
I had a similar email a couple of months earlier from another Casualty casualty, also a "core writer", who's written some of the finest episodes over the past few years (including several in 2006). He told me that, since the arrival of the new management, no one had bothered to tell him what was happening: "I haven't even had the courtesy of an email," he wrote. "Any loyalty I had to the show is now gone. In fact, I think that being so loyal to them was stupid. [...] I don't think they realise how priceless it is to have a bunch of experienced writers on hand to guarantee quality."
Another writer, who I met at the leaving do for the executive producer, had recently been fired from his episode after the second draft, something that had never happened to him before in a long and distinguished career.
Like these writers, and others, I once felt enormous affection and loyalty towards Casualty. Whenever I stepped into the warehouse in Bristol where it was produced, I felt included and valued, part of the team.
I'm not complaining about what has happened at Casualty. Producers can use the writers they choose, of course; long-running series need reinventing from time to time; "new blood" is a good idea (we were all new blood once). It's how it's been handled that's been so crass. For a show that's all about sympathy and professionalism, it's been heartless and unprofessional.
Gregory Evans is currently writing for The Bill