Wednesday, February 28, 2007

ITV lines up a summer of drama

ITV are planning to replace reality show Love Island with a number of dramas this summer, reports Liz Thomas in The Stage.
A spokeswoman told The Stage: “Traditionally in the summer we have not aired very many first run, original dramas, but this year that is the plan. The message is that actually, instead of being the part of the schedule which is traditionally lighter this year, the summer line-up looks more like a spring or even an autumn one.

“It is absolutely a conscious decision to opt for more drama, and also more entertainment, rather than come up with another reality-type show. Drama has always been a strength at ITV and we know that we are defined as a channel by our drama - that is what the audience likes.”

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Oscar winners

Just in case you missed it, the winner of the Best Original Screenplay Oscar on Sunday was Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine). Best Adapted Screenplay went to William Monahan (The Departed, based on a screenplay by Siu Fai Mak and Felix Chong).

Little Miss Sunshine Trailer

Philip K. Dick

The fame of the science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick, who died 25 years ago next week, has grown in the years since his death, thanks largely to films based on his work, but also to changes in the world, or at least to our perception of it, that were prefigured in his writing.
More from Lisa Tuttle in The Times.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Eurpean Screenwriting Manifesto

Earlier this month at the Berlin International Film Festival, The European Screenwriters’ Manifesto was launched with the backing of 21 national writers’ guilds representing around 9,000 writers.

Finalised at the European Conference on Screenwriting last November in Thessaloniki, the Manifesto is a bold declaration of beliefs about the role of screenwriters and calls on others to recognise their contribution.

Read more on the WGGB website.

Friday, February 23, 2007

David Eldridge's first night

If you've ever wondered what it would be like to have a new play (or, in this case, a new version of an Ibsen play) opening at a major London theatre, read playwright David Eldridge blogging about press night for John Gabriel Borkman at The Donmar.
Tuesday night's press night was particularly crazy, and not particularly full of the glitterati as there were so many reviewers and journalists there. The Donmar Warehouse holds approximately 250 audience and on our opening night about 60 of those seats were taken by the press. I had had three or four Jack Daniels to steady my nerves and in a theatre as intimate as this one the critics literally encircle you. As I said Jane Edwardes and Matt Wolf were to my left, to my right and only a couple of yards away were Nicholas de Jongh and John Peter and a couple of yards in front were Michael Billington, Charles Spencer and Susannah Clapp.

Verity Bargate Award 2007

Soho Theatre has launched the 2007 Verity Bargate Award, one of the most prestigious competitions for unproduced plays.

The winner will receive £5000 (in respect of an exclusive option), a residency at Soho Theatre and the chance to have their play produced at Soho Theatre.

The deadline is 6 July 2007.

Radio gaga

In The Guardian, Zoe Williams launches a broadside on Radio 4's Afternoon Play.
It's all very well calling Radio 4 drama inexplicably bad, but someone must be able to explain it. So I am going to make a stab at this. And then later, I am going to stab the person who commissions these plays.

Are good authors always good people?

Why do we so often assume that good authors should be good themselves, asks on The Guardian Books Blog?
It is not only that we expect writers to navigate the choppy waters of moral confusion; we expect them to be good in private. The Bloomsberries slept with everyone with a pulse; now, there is a huge fuss if a writer so much as changes his agent. William Boyd is almost as famous for his happy marriage as he is for his novels. If Zadie Smith decided to make like the Beats, ingesting every substance known to man and getting into bar brawls, there would probably be questions asked in the House.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Publicists for scriptwriters

You didn't realise scriptwriters used Hollywood publicists to help win awards, did you? In the LA Times, J.A. Fernandez explains how it works.
Ronni Chasen has long represented such writers as Robin Swicord ("Memoirs of a Geisha"), Jim Sheridan ("In America") and Julian Fellowes, whom she helpfully steered to an Oscar win for his "Gosford Park" screenplay in 2002. "We tried to create a very focused campaign that illuminated for people the fact that this was such an intricately crafted screenplay on every level," Chasen says. "It was important for people to be able to hear from him how this was created. For me, it's bringing into focus the writer's contribution."

Pinter in Pinter

A date for the diary of all Harold Pinter fans: the man himself will be appearing in The Homecoming on Radio 3 on Sunday March 18. The rest of the casting - Michael Gambon, Sam West and Rupert Graves - isn't too shabby either.

More details from Media Guardian (free registration required).

Amanda Ross

In The Times, Stefanie Marsh meets Amanda Ross, the woman behind Richard and Judy's Book Club.
Irony is a time-honoured literary device, any writer can tell you that. And it’s ironic that publishers – traditionally fussy Oxbridge types with English degrees – are having to suck up to someone who studied drama at Birmingham University and who cheerily admits that “I don’t really know anything about books at all”. When 44-year-old Ross, a powerful TV producer, founded the Richard & Judy Book Club three years ago, publishers barely deigned to look up from their proofs. Daytime TV, they assumed, was the domain of council-house illiterates and Daz adverts. Another nail in the coffin of Britain’s literary culture, they lamented.

But Ross had a hawk’s eye for storytelling.

Of the 100 bestselling titles last year, 21 were by authors discussed on the Richard & Judy Book Club – all chosen personally by Ross. Publishers couldn’t console themselves with the thought that she had dumbed down Britain’s bookshops because in fact she had done the opposite. “I don’t know what a literary book is. As long as it has a good story, who cares?” she has said.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Hotel Dusk: Room 215

In Wired magazine Clive Thompson reports on a new novel/game.
I was thrilled when Nintendo began advertising its new title Hotel Dusk: Room 215 not as a game but an "interactive mystery novel." Sure enough, it's pretty much what I'd dreamed of: You hold your DS sideways like a book, and watch as the pages come to life. Specifically, Hotel Dusk tells the noir tale of Kyle Hyde, a 33-year-old cop who shot his turncoat partner, hit the bottle and now works as a washed-up private dick who "finds things that don't want to be found." In the eponymous hotel, Hyde finds clues that seems to lead to his former partner.

More Peter Morgan

It's not every day that a British screenwriter becomes the talk of the town, but after scooping this blog's highly prestigiouswriter of the year accolade, Peter Morgan goes from strength to strength.

After yesterday's appearance in the LA Times (see below), today he's interviewed by Victoria Lindrea on the BBC News website.
Hollywood insiders "love to mock their own", explains Morgan, but he claims that, in reality, Tinseltown is a far cry from the Hollywood of screenwriters' imagination.

"It's far more sober here than one imagines. It's full of people who are very abstemious and workaholic - and it feels like a community of lawyers rather than that Hollywood of drug-taking excess.

"Everybody is very young, very thin and no-one eats puddings."

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Oscar nominees in conversation

In The LA Times, J.A. Fernandez talks to the writers nominated for this year's Original Screenplay Oscar.
There has been talk of a "crisis" in storytelling. Now that the types of stories you've all told in these scripts are being honored, do you feel that there is greater hope?

ARRIAGA: I think that the capacity of fictionalizing life is diminishing. It's less and less and less, because we are losing our inner life. We are losing our capacity of dialogue, of understanding human beings. We are more and more alienated, and the more alienated a society is the more difficult it is to fictionalize something.

DEL TORO: I think that the problem you have with the screenplay is a particular problem of the form. When you toil on a screenplay, you come out with a document that most people refuse to read. It's not an easy form to write or to read. I think there are millions of stories, but the people that can tell them are choosing other forms.

YAMASHITA: I think the problem is also the system, because the studio system encourages the nonoriginal. Everything is an adaptation or something that they're familiar with, and you come up with something that they're unfamiliar with and they don't know what to do with it.

MORGAN: I don't know why we're all so down on ourselves. I don't think it's so bad. I don't think there are many good directors — why don't we talk about that?
[Everyone laughs]

EastEnders to run five nights a week?

The BBC has refused to rule out the possibility that EastEnders could run five episodes a week, reports Leigh Holmwood in Media Guardian.
Rumours of an extra episode have abounded for years and BBC1 controller Peter Fincham is said to be keen.

A weekend report in the Sun said soap chiefs were planning to ramp up production in a bid to take on ITV1's Coronation Street, which also airs five episodes a week.

A BBC spokesman refused to rule out the move, but said nothing was planned presently.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Robert Jones - Party Animals and Rough Diamond

Clemency Burton Hill and Shelley Conn in Party Animals. Photo: Nick Briggs (World Productions/BBC)

On the WGGB website, Robert Jones talks about his two new BBC series: Party Animals (co-created with Ben Richards) and Rough Diamond.
I was pleasantly surprised by the reaction to Rough Diamond. It’s a prime-time Sunday night family drama and critics could have picked it apart but, on the whole, they’ve engaged with it on its own terms. The ratings have been pretty good too, in a tough slot. I thought Party Animals would get a better response from the critics. Journalists took a huge interest in it from the start and it’s the only time I’ve been interviewed for the Today programme! In fact, we were interrogated as if we were MPs ourselves. Perhaps that should have given me an inkling about what to expect, because once it aired people either seemed to love it or hate it. Again, though, the ratings have held up okay.

Arts Council policies

Ivan Hewett in The Telegraph attacks Arts Council England's new policy documents.
A new swagger, mingled with staggering hubris, is the hallmark of the ACE's first policy document. This contains a set of six priorities for developing all the different art-forms over the next five to ten years. It wants to widen participation, and involve youth (with much emphasis on young offenders). It wants to boost the creative economy, and build vibrant communities. And it wants to foster internationalism and celebrate diversity.

The ACE isn't quite brazen enough to announce this without at least a show of modesty. Last Monday it launched a three-month survey of the nation's views on public support for the arts. But the fact that the policy document hasn't waited on the results suggests the ACE already knows all the answers.
You can join the debate about the arts and the Arts Council on their website.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Hot Fuzz - Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright

Hot Fuzz, written by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, opens today. You can go behind the scenes thank to their video diaries.

Meanwhile, in The Times, Kevin Maher talks to Pegg and co-star Nick Frost. And there's a profile of Simon Pegg by Neil Norman in The Independent
Pegg's secret is that he likes the genres he is parodying, which allows him a little more dramatic licence than someone who holds them in contempt. Thus, Shaun of the Dead was not just a great comedy about suburban slackers; it was also a rather good zombie horror movie or, as the tagline put it, the first romantic zombie comedy or "rom-zom-com". Whether he can pull off the same trick with Hot Fuzz remains to be seen, but so far the entrails are reading well.

Going to America

Many aspiring screenwriters have dreamed of doing it, but Lisa Marks has actually taken the plunge, sold her house and moved to LA. She's blogging about the experience for The Guardian.
I want to crack Hollywood as a scriptwriter - and I have given myself a year to do it. I have sold my flat in North London and left behind the security of my job, family, friends and a life I know inside out to see if I have what it takes to make it in this town.

Even writing it down looks cheesy. I haven't written the film script yet - well, I'm 12 pages in - but the idea's been buzzing around in my head for a year or so.

I'm not a complete novice. Nine years ago I sold my first film script, written with my then writing partner, to Ginger Productions. It was a romantic comedy and we were told by everyone within touching distance of Soho that we were the "next big thing". (As it turned out Guy Ritchie was). We were snapped up by William Morris, landed a couple of development deals and signed with Sky Pictures to write a book adaptation. Everything looked rosy. Then Chris Evans fell out with his producer, who left the company with our film tucked under his arm, the Sky deal went into turnaround and the development deals stalled. We quit William Morris and, totally skint, my writing partner and I went our separate ways.

BBC commissions online drama

In Media Guardian (free registration required), Mark Sweeney reports on the BBC's plans to take drama online.
The BBC has commissioned Endemol to create an ambitious interactive online show that aims to tap the youth audience that is increasingly turning away from TV.

Ashley Highfield, the BBC's director of future media and technology, described the show, to be called Signs of Life, as the BBC's "most ambitious internet format to date".

Speaking at the Broadcasting Press Guild lunch he said, "The internet is a new creative medium but original content ideas are still thin on the ground."

He added that the £800,000 budget for the series, which consists of eight 20-minute episodes, is a comparable budget to a typical TV drama.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Bard on the Beeb

On The Guardian's TV and Radio blog, Guild member John Morrison asks why BBC TV seems to have given up on Shakespeare's plays.
There are many reasons the BBC should be ashamed of its neglect of Shakespeare on television. One of them is the excellent record of BBC radio with Shakespeare. But Jane Tranter, who runs BBC Fiction, believes "you can get your Shakespeare in the theatre. Television has other jobs to do." It may be news to Tranter, but not everybody can pop down to the RSC at Stratford or the National Theatre on the South Bank whenever they feel like it.

Mark Thompson, in a speech in 2005, made the sensible point that TV drama audiences are in many ways more sophisticated than they used to be, and have no problem coping with multilayered stories that challenge the little grey cells. It's time for the BBC to justify its shiny new licence fee by overcoming its fear of Shakespeare and starting to produce his plays.

The Radio Play's The Thing

From the people behind Channel 4's The Play's The Thing, comes a radio drama competition for new writers. The competition is open to: "anybody over the age of 18 on 12 February 2007 who has not had any previous screenplays, stage, radio and television scripts and/or treatments professionally commissioned, published, staged, optioned and/or produced in any format."

As is often the case with this sort of competition run by a broadcaster the terms and conditions mean that entrants give up most of their rights.
Entrants now grant C4 (and third parties authorised by C4) a worldwide and irrevocable licence (which shall be exclusive from the date that the Entrant sends their Submission to C4 until 31st December 2007 and thereafter non-exclusive) (for the full period of any rights in the Submission and Entrant’s Participation) to use, display, publish, transmit, copy, make derivative works from, edit, alter, store, re-format, sell and sub-licence the Submission and/or Entrant’s Participation for such purposes.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Ofcom reviews children's TV

Media watchdog Ofcom has begun a scheduled review of children's TV programming.
Ofcom will begin its review with a research project focusing on:
  • the current state of children’s television and other children’s media in the UK;
  • the role of public service broadcasting in providing content to children;
  • the prospects for the future delivery of a wide range of high quality and original content for children and the factors which are likely to influence this;
  • and relevant international perspectives or examples.
Ofcom intends to publish the findings of its research in summer 2007.

Lending authority

The most-borrowed books from libraries, argues Kathryn Hughes in The Guardian, have qualities that are too often ignored.
Catherine Cookson, Josephine Cox and Maeve Binchy all write with the kind of craftsmanship often missing from more lofty literary titles. The worlds their books inhabit - the north country in the case of Cookson and Cox, and Ireland for Binchy - are intimately known and deeply understood. Their narrators display not a jot of fashionable unreliability (they are usually working girls with no time or space in their lives for whimsy). If, in the end, things generally work out for the best - that is, with a marriage - there is no hiding the fact that there has been loss and suffering along the way. The realism here is strictly of the non-magical kind. Dogs do not suddenly sprout wings, a recipe for stew remains a recipe for stew rather than an enchanted potion, and no one turns out to be an hermaphrodite. It is life, and it is exactly as we know it. Which is why library users - perhaps the purest kind of readers - simply can't get enough of it.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Paul Abbott's Desert Island Discs

If you missed Paul Abbott's Desert Island discs on Sunday, you can
catch them again on Friday at 9am on Radio 4.

Unfortunately the online Listen Again facility is not available for this show.

Other writers who've been castaways in recent years include Jacqueline Wilson, Margaret Atwood, Nick Hornby, David Edgar , Arnold Wesker (who, like Paul Abbott asked for his luxury to be pen and paper), Alexander McCall Smith and Jack Rosenthal.

Radio drama from Wales

With five plays from BBC Wales due to air on BBC network radio over the next two months, the BBC is celebrating the strength of a drama department that has also produced Doctor Who and Torchwood for network TV.
"It is not just the volume of BBC Wales's radio drama output over the past 12 months that has been so impressive, but also the variety," said Clare Hudson, Head of English Language Programmes, BBC Wales.

"The writers featured have come from Wrexham to Rhayader and from west Swansea to Western Australia... Some of the writers have been writing for decades; some are comparatively new writers whose talents have been developed through the BBC's partnership with Ty Newydd, the National Writers' Centre for Wales."

Monday, February 12, 2007

WGA award winners

The award season rumbles on, with the winners announced yesterday of the Writers Guild of America Awards 2007.

Among the winners were The Sopranos (Best Dramatic Series), written Mitchell Burgess, David Chase, Diane Frolov, Robin Green, Andrew Schneider, Matthew Weiner, Terence Winter.

The Sopranos
Best Comedy Series went to the American version of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's The Office, written by Steve Carell, Jennifer Celotta, Greg Daniels, Lee Eisenberg, Brent Forrester, Ricky Gervais, Mindy Kaling, Paul Lieberstein, Stephen Merchant, B.J. Novak, Michael Schur, Gene Stupnitsky.

Love lives of women writers

Why have so many great female novelists had such disastrous love lives, wonders Frances Wilson in The Independent.
How can we account for the high level of emotional casualties among those who have given us our most enduring love stories? It is well documented that the pressure of the job makes writers, male and female, famously hard to live with, but the cost for the woman writer has always been greater than it is for her male equivalent; not only is success harder to come by, but she suffers many more blows to the heart along the way. Do women writers have higher expectations than the rest of us when it comes to their own relationships, or is it that a commitment to writing leaves no room for anyone else?

Edinburgh Fringe Roadshows

If you're thinking of taking a show to the Edinburgh Fringe this summer, you might want to visit one of the Roadshow events taking place around the country over the next few weeks.

BAFTA Film Awards

Among the BAFTA film award winners last night were Michael Arndt for Little Miss Sunshine (Original Screenplay) and Peter Morgan and Jeremy Brock for The Last King Of Scotland(Adapted Screenplay, from the book by Giles Foden).

Friday, February 09, 2007

American negotiations

The Writers Guild of America west and East are gearing up for the latest negotiations to renew their Minimum Basic Agreement. As explained by writers and bloggers, Craig Mazin and Ken Levine, the issues at stake - notably royalties and residuals in the digital age - are similar to those being addressed by the WGGB.

Who really made Babel?

BabelRinko Kikuchi in Babel, written by Guillermo Arriaga, directed by Alejandro González Inárritu.

In The Guardian, Jo Tuckman looks at the dispute between director Alejandro González Inárritu and scriptwriter Guillermo Arriaga. After collaborating on Amores Perros, 21 Grams, and now Babel, the two men are barely on speaking terms following a dispute over the origination of their films.
"It is not true to say that this is Alejandro González Inárritu's trilogy," Arriaga says. He insists they all stemmed from ideas he [Arriaga] had "a long time before we even met"...

Arriaga says he believes that audiences would do well to pick their films from the writing credit. He points to Paris, Texas as more the work of Sam Shepard than Wim Wenders, and applauds Charlie Kaufman's progress into the spotlight.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Jacqueline Wilson report

Jacqueline WilsonPhoto of Jacqueline Wilson by Anne Hogben/WGGB.

What an impressive person Jacqueline Wilson is. I suppose that's no surprise, given her achievements, but everyone at her talk at the Writers' Guild Centre earlier this week seemed to share the sense that she really is something special. She was delightfully informal and keen to help fellow writers with frank advice and lots of encouragement.

Highlights of the evening included the revelation that her first paid writing job had been for a story for the very first Jackie magazine ("No payment has ever meant as much to me as that £3!") and the story of J.K Rowling having to hitch a microphone pack to her knicker elastic before giving a reading at Buckingham Palace.

Jacqueline also spoke about how different the publishing world has become. When she started, she told us, publishers seemed quite happy to let new authors develop over three or four books without making their advances back. But now, new writers are expected to make money from the very start or else face getting dropped.

Jacqueline's latest book, Jacky Daydream, will be published in March.

Update: Guild member Frances Lynn has written an account of the event for her blog.

The next event at the Writers' Guild Centre will be an interview with playwright David Edgar on 22 February.

Horror books on the rise

Horror is set to be the hottest literary genre of 2007, argues Danuta Kean in The Independent.
According to Nielsen BookScan, which compiles the nation's book charts, sales of titles classified as horror and ghost stories almost doubled to just over £7m by value in 2006 from £3.8m in 2005. The number of copies sold increased from 566,000 in 2005 to almost one million (892,000) over the same period. Though old-school writers including Herbert, Dean Koontz and Shaun Hutson continue to dominate, new names are emerging, though not all are classified as horror.

Mark Shand wins the Bradley Bursary

Mark Shand has won the eighth biennial Alfred Bradley Bursary Award for new radio writers with his play Abigail Adams, reports the BBC Press Office.
Jeremy Howe, judge and Commissioning Editor, said: "Drama on Radio 4 has launched the careers of hundreds of writers - it is a part of what we do and we are very proud of our track record: in the last year we have commissioned over 20 first time writers for the Afternoon Play alone.

"We are delighted to be premiering Mark Shand's delightful, witty, life affirming play Abigail Adams on the network. He is a writer to watch, I'm sure the kind of writer Alfred Bradley himself would have championed."

Cooke at the Court

On The Guardian Theatre Blog, Michael Billington analyses the comments of Dominic Cooke, the Royal Court's new artistic director, about his plans for the theatre.
What do we want to see when we go to the theatre? A reflection of our own world or someone else's? I suspect the honest answer is a mixture of both. We like recognition. We also like social exploration. But when Dominic Cooke this week held a press conference to announce his first season as the Royal Court's artistic director, he astonished everyone by talking about putting on stage "a world of privilege and power" and dealing with our "unconsciously aspirational values."

Stef Penney wins Costa Book of the Year

London author Stef Penney has won the Costa Book of the Year award for her debut novel, the Tenderness of Wolves, reports BBC News.
The book is set in Canada - a country the author has never visited because she had agoraphobia.

The award - formerly the Whitbread Prize - pits five winners of separate categories against each other for the Book of the Year.

Penney, aged 37 and a screenwriter, won the "first book" award before scooping the top £25,000 prize.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

US Network pilot orders 2007-08

American networks are moving away from long-running serialised dramas in their orders for pilot shows for 2007-08, reports Nellie Andreeva in The Hollywood Reporter.
Dubbed as "the season of serialized dramas," 2006-07 yielded only one big hit in the genre, NBC's "Heroes," and one modest success, CBS' "Jericho." With a number of high-profile, heavily serialized new shows such as ABC's "The Nine" and "Six Degrees," NBC's "Kidnapped" and Fox's "Vanished" long gone, the networks opted for more close-ended dramas for next fall.

A record four British drama concepts have landed pilot orders: "Life on Mars" and "Football Wives" (the latter based on "Footballers' Wives") at ABC, "Viva Laughlin!" (based on "Viva Blackpool!") at CBS and a project based on "Wild at Heart" at the CW. They have attracted impressive auspices, with David E. Kelley writing and executive producing "Mars," Bryan Singer directing and executive producing "Wives" and Hugh Jackman executive producing and guest starring in and Gabriele Muccino directing and executive producing "Laughlin!"

Adrian Hodges - Primeval

As he looks forward to the premiere of his new ITV series, Primeval (trailer above), on Saturday night, Adrian Hodges talks on the WGGB website about the challenges of writing prime-time drama.
It’s great that ITV are getting back into prime-time fantasy drama and I think there’s a feeling that they’re really committed to creating a new raft of fresh, lively and innovative shows. Writing for prime-time Saturday night ITV is probably one of the biggest challenges a TV writer can face but the network has given Primeval fantastic promotional support and, obviously, I really hope that we get the viewing figures to justify their confidence in the show. I’m really proud of it, so fingers crossed.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

BBC Programme Catalogue

Guest post from Gail Renard, Chair of the Guild's TV Committee:

If you don't have a deadline (otherwise you'll never be able to drag yourself away) have a look at the new BBC Programme Catalogue.

It's an experimental prototype which has not yet been publicised and, in the words of Michael Caine, not a lotta people know that. For statistical anoraks, the catalogue carries details of 981,322 BBC radio & TV programmes, dating back 75 years. It also covers 503,193 subject categories from 1,238,322 contributors (count 'em all.)

The programmes themselves are not available but, as Torchwood tells us, everything changes in the 21st century. You've got to be prepared. The BBC also state that this is a vast catalogue, but it's not comprehensive. There's no guarantee of accuracy and there are some mistakes.

The biggest one of all is, despite the fact it gives all of the info under the sun, writers as a rule are not listed. Why not drop the BBC an e-mail and let them know just how we feel about that?

Update (07/02/07): ITV Catalogue

Just in case we didn't flitter away enough writing time surfing the BBC Catalogue yesterday, here's another tip top work displacement activity. Alert reader and writer Rory Clark has informed me of the equivalent ITV website :

Alas there are no Thames shows listed, as those are owned by Fremantle, so you might actually get some work done today.

Joe Carnahan - Smokin' Aces

On Creative Screenwriting, Ben Rock talks to Joe Carnahan about his new film, Smokin' Aces (above).
How did you go about fine-tuning the dialogue in Smokin' Aces so everyone sounded different?
That was a conscious effort. Like anything else, you have to stay on it, give it real veracity and truth. With Smokin' Aces, I wanted to be able to write, [for instance] two young African-American women from Oakland. Is that possible? Do I know enough culturally or can I educate myself to the point where I feel comfortable doing that? The FBI stuff—that's a different kind of a lingo.

There are all these different kind of freaky people that populate this world, I wanted them to have signature styles of speech and their own kind of slang and their own way of relating to one another. I'd write stuff and I'd say, "That's a great line, but that does not fit with this character so it's gotta go." I'm sure all of us have these gigantic files that have snippets of other scenes that didn't work that we lockbox away in the hopes that someday we'll say, "Oh my God! I've got a great line for this!"

Trevor Lloyd - Desperados

David Proud (left) and Reece Pantry in Desperados, created by Paul Smith.

On BBC Writersroom, Trevor Lloyd talks about writing for the new CBBC series, Desperados.
How aware were you of new territory being covered?

Very much; mostly from the theatre experience that I've had I knew this was new territory. It's about being aware of it but not letting it limit you in any way. That's what's really exciting about this project; it's about people's perceptions of disability and wheelchair users. In the episode I write, the team are trying to fundraise so there's a lot of stuff about how people perceive you as a disabled person and the resistance of some of the characters to reinforce that 'pitiful' stereotype by going out with a collecting tin. Of course that's not the case at all, they're being incredibly proactive, but how they deal with that misconception and come to terms with it is incredibly interesting. And in a broader way it's what the series is all about.

I've been out on tour before and if two or more people in a wheelchair are gathered together people do assume you're on some kind of outing, and will talk to the able bodied person - or sometimes the wheelchair. It's awkward but a lot of that is lack of exposure, people are unaware of how to react. And that exposure is a really important part of what this series is going to do, in a really sparky, pacy and entertaining way.
Desperados is on BBC One on Wednesdays at 5.30pm.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Norman Mailer

In The Observer there's an enjoyable piece by Robert McCrumb on Norman Mailer, for whom self-doubt has never been much of a problem.
If he wasn't such an enthralling conversationalist, you'd call the man a world champion narcissist. But he'll always beat you to that punch. As he wrote in his Esquire interview with Madonna in 1994: 'There is nothing comparable to living with a phenomenon when the phenomenon is you and you observe yourself with a cool intelligence, your own, and yet are trapped in the cruellest pit of the narcissist - you not only are more interested in yourself than anyone else alive, but suffer from the likely suspicion that this might be justified. You could be more interesting than anyone you've encountered.'

V.S. Pritchett Memorial Prize

The V.S. Pritchett Memorial Prize for unpublished short stories is open for entries. Run by the Roayal Society for Literature, the first prize is £1,000. There is an entry fee of £5 and the closing date is 28 February 2007.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Arts Council funding

On The Guardian's Theatre Blog, Lyn Gardner questions the Arts Council's funding policy.
The announcement by the Arts Council of a new £1.5m three-year Young People's Participatory project which aims to provide support and training for those working in youth theatre is undoubtedly welcome, particularly in an area which is very much a Cinderella in the arts. But it is also a sign of an increasing trend to fund participatory projects and education work rather than art itself.

Even the Grants for the Arts section on the Arts Council's own website talks not of funding artists but of providing funding for those "who use arts in their work". Theatre companies frequently tell me that while they can access money for education and access projects or go on courses to learn how to be better bureaucrats, it is increasingly difficult to get money to make theatre. In recent years the Arts Council has taken to funding too many umbrella organisations, and not enough artists.

How can you tell if an actor's funny?

On his blog, comedy writer Ken Levine ponders the question of casting for laughs.
At the end of the day, I’ve always gone by the Nat Hiken test. Hiken, a brilliant comedy writer, created and wrote THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW and CAR 54 WHERE ARE YOU? He used to say that if an actor auditioned and he wanted to go right home and write twenty minutes of dialogue for him, THAT’S the actor you hire.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Jacqueline Wilson at the Writers' Guild Centre - reminder

Tickets are still available to see Jacqueline Wilson at the Writers' Guild Centre in London next Tuesday, 6 February 2007, 6.30 - 8pm

It will be a fantastic opportunity to meet the Children’s Laureate and hear about her experiences working as a children’s writer.

Free refreshments will be provided before and after the event along with the opportunity to mingle with fellow guests.

Tickets for this event are £10 for Writers' Guild members £20 for non-members.

To book, contact Moe Owoborode at the Guild office.

British Library under threat

In The Telegraph, Sam Leith states the case for the defence of the British Library.
Nobody who uses the British Library in St Pancras can have read this weekend's reports on the subject without horror.

Facing the prospect of a seven per cent cut in its £100 million annual budget, the library has announced (not without a certain amount of calculation) that it might have to start charging readers for entry, reduce its opening hours, and/or – most horrifying of all – cut its collection of books and manuscripts by 15 per cent.

The British Library is an absolute paradise on earth. It is warm, clean, comfortable, accommodating and quiet. Its on-site catering, like its wireless internet access, might be extortionately priced and only intermittently satisfactory. But what it is supposed to do, it does – and does so brilliantly it could make you weep.

Patrick Marber interview

Screenwriter and playwright Patrick Marber, who was recently nominated for a best adapted screenplay Oscar for Notes On A Scandal (from the novel by Zoe Heller, trailer below), talks to BBC News.
"[The studios] have suddenly realised that these films, arthouse films, make money for them and they take them very seriously," he says.

"Every studio has its own independent division, so people like me who would have once been abused as artsy-fartsy idiots are quite respected.

"They recognise that good scripts attract the talent. And there's a whole generation of stars who genuinely want to be in good projects."