Tuesday, October 30, 2007

You've met the agents...now meet the writers

The second of the Guild's Meet The Agents events last night was another resounding success. A full house, personal consultations for those Members who applied quickly enough, and an excellent and very helpful panel.

So, having met the agents, Thursday brings the chance to meet some writers. Some really good writers (Ashley Pharoah, Adrian Hodges and Philip Palmer). And a script editor, Phil Ford.

The focus will be on sci-fi and fantasy, but it should be of interest to all scriptwriters. Tickets are still available: it's too late now to send a cheque but you can email Moe@writersguild.org.uk to reserve a place.

See you there.

Update (31/10/07): As well as talking about the genre and answering questions, Ashley Pharoah and Phil Ford will, respectively, be talking through scenes from Life On Mars and The Sarah Jane Adventures.

David Eldridge's annus horribilis

On his blog, David Eldridge looks back to the year when his play Under The Blue Sky was rejected by everyone except, finally, The Royal Court.
...nothing devastated me more than the knock back The Bush gave 'Under the Blue Sky' in September 1999. What was so incredibly hard to deal with and turned it in to a kind of existential crisis of doubt and confusion was I knew it was my best play so far and to be something genuinely new and worthwhile. To add insult to injury just after I received the bad news from W12 I bumped in to senior playwright I knew on the street and I suffered the indignity of him seeing me in tears.

Free (and legal) script downloads

Thanks to Piers Beckley on the BBC Writersroom blog for pointing out that Universal have made six scripts they consider worthy of Oscar consideration available for download. The scripts are:

Kwame Kwei-Armah interview

In The Times, Brian Logan talks to Kwame Kwei-Armah about his new play, Statement Of Regret which opens at the National Theatre in London next month.
When Tony Blair made his “statement of regret” about Britain’s role in the slave trade, Kwei-Armah thought: “I’ve got to write something around that.” What fascinated him was that the Government’s legal advisers vetoed an apology lest Britain be rendered liable for damages. (The African-American community is currently suing the United States for $77 trillion in reparations). “If the legal department of Government is worried,” Kwei-Armah says, “then there must be an element of truth in the claim. So let us explore that. What happens when one seeks to repair? We often think it’s just money: every black person will be given five grand to buy a new BMW. I’m not thinking of that. I’m thinking of reparation as healing.”

Monday, October 29, 2007

Peter Kosminsky on Britz

Britz trailer

In The Times, Jasper Rees talks to writer and director Peter Kosminsky about his new two-part drama, Britz, which starts on Channel 4 on Wednesday.
You can always tell when Kosminsky has turned in a new film from the fulminating of the Establishment. Britz will be no different. He has already asked himself whether it is appropriate to humanise suicide bombers. “Does it show any kind of consideration for the relatives of people who died on 7/7? I ended up thinking, well, yes – we don’t do them a service by portraying these people as insane. That would be as silly as saying the entire German nation was in the grip of a mass psychosis during the latter half of the 1930s. It’s clear there are second-generation Muslims who are contemplating extreme action who are not monsters. I think the way to do a service to the relatives and friends of those who died on 7/7 is to try to stop it happening again. And the first step is to try to understand how it could have happened in the first place.”

Stephen Poliakoff interview

In The Guardian, Paul Hoggart talks to writer and director, Stephen Poliakoff, whose new films, Joe's Palace and Capturing Mary, will be shown on the BBC next month.
"If you ask why I have got creative freedom, there's a very simple answer," he says. "They wanted me to speed up Shooting the Past. They said, 'Cut 35 minutes.' And I said, 'No! I'm going to slow it right down. If I never work in television again, I'm not doing that!' And because that series had such an impact, nobody has tried to interfere again. Everybody knows that show would never have reached the screen if I hadn't fought like a tiger to protect it. It had an amazing hold on its audience." He was told that the retention rate matched that year's climactic Christmas episode of EastEnders.

"We had a lot of international success too," he says. "It was a lucky place to find myself. After that I could do my own stories and cast who I want.
Michael Gambon in Joe's Palace by Stephen Poliakoff (Photo: Lawrence Cendrowicz/BBC)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Imaginary Worlds event

The Writers’ Guild presents Imaginary Worlds on Thursday 1st November from 7pm – 8:30pm at the Writers Guild Centre, 17 Britannia Street, London WC1X 9JN (Nearest tube: King’s Cross).

British science fiction and fantasy writing is huge at the moment - with hit TV series like Primeval, Dr Who and Life On Mars riding high in the ratings, and literary SF storming the fiction best-seller charts.

Imaginary Worlds is a special one-off Writers' Guild event to celebrate the renaissance in home-grown science fiction and fantasy writing. This is your big chance to talk to the writers behind the boom!

From coming up with the big idea, to crafting a scene in an imaginary world, we'll be exploring the challenges and opportunities of writing in Britain's other great literary tradition. If you want to know what it's like to write for a primetime TV show with big creative ambitions and a CGI budget to match, or if you're hoping to pen your own SF or fantasy novel, then don't miss this chance to talk to our panel of successful, experienced writers.

Ashley Pharaoh has created numerous TV series and is one of the creators of Emmy Award-winning time-travel TV series Life on Mars.

Adrian Hodges has written for film and television and is a co -creator of ITV's acclaimed series Primeval.

Phil Ford has written for Torchwood and the Sarah Jane Adventures.

Philip Palmer is a screenwriter and novelist. His first SF novel, Debatable Spaces, published by Orion, is a humorous, action-packed future history that starts in AD 2004 and ends in 3000 AD. He is currently working on his third science fiction novel.

British science fiction and fantasy has a long and illustrious tradition - from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, 20th century classics by John Wyndham, H.G. Wells and Nigel Kneale, to the recent boom in graphic novels and surprise box office successes of Dog Soldiers and 28 Days Later.

Tickets cost £5 for Guild members and £7.50 for non members.

To book your tickets for this unique and exciting evening, please call 0207 933 0777 or post a cheque to: Imaginary Worlds, Writers' Guild, 15-17, Britannia Street, London WC1 X 9JN. Please make the cheque payable to: "Writers' Guild of Great Britain".

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Face2Face with Stephen Poliakoff

BBC Writersroom and The Royal Court are hosting Face2Face with Stephen Poliakoff on 19 November 2007 at 5pm. Tickets are free and are available from the Royal Court Box Office - Tel. 020 7565 5000.

The difficult new series

In The New York Times, Edward Wyatt looks at how two American TV series, House and Prison Break, have approached the challenge of a new series.
The producers of “House” set up a compelling “Survivor”-like competition among potential replacements for the absent assistants, who themselves soon reappeared, providing fans with a comforting continuity in the program’s fourth season.

On “Prison Break” the producers’ planned story line for the new season resulted in a dispute with one of the show’s central actors, foiling many of the writers’ plans. Two years of teasing romance between Sara and Michael ended shockingly with her head in a box — causing an uproar among some dedicated fans.

Social issues in TV drama

In Media Guardian, Alexandra Topping talks to Lesley Henderson about her new study into the social impact of TV drama.
Soaps, she says, are hugely significant in shaping public views. "You are talking about a genre that [can] attract around 10 million viewers per episode, and a lot of them are young viewers - people who wouldn't normally sit down and watch a news programme or a documentary about breast cancer or mental illness."

That power, she says, can sit uneasily with "making good telly". Henderson, lecturer in sociology and communications at Brunel University, says: "The programme makers have an enormous social responsibility. But, at the end of the day, they want to make good drama, and that combination can be difficult."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Stephen Fry writes Old Vic panto

Stephen Fry has written a new version of Cinderella for the Old Vic, reports BBC News.
"It may sound wearingly like an attempt to be cool, hip and relevant to say that pantomime is interactive, but as something of a computer and a gadget geek, I've yet to find any gizmo from the digital age that can match pantomime for genuine interactivity," he said.

"'Look behind you' and 'Oh no, it isn't' still can't be beat for getting a child involved."
Fry follows in the steps of Mark Ravenhill, who last year wrote a version of Dick Whittington for The Barbican.

BBC drama runs to be cut

From Matthew Hemley in The Stage:
Popular BBC drama series such as Spooks will have their runs slashed as part of a cost-cutting drive at the Corporation.
Rupert Penry-Jones, Peter Firth and Hermione Norris in Spooks on BBC One

The move comes after director general Mark Thompson unveiled his six-year plan for the BBC, which called on every part of the organisation to make efficiency savings. The savings are being made in a bid to stem a £2 billion shortfall caused by a smaller than expected licence fee settlement.
The report adds that some shows usually brought back once a year will now be commissioned every 15 to 18 months instead.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

On the BBC and ITV...

A guest post by Gail Renard, Chair of the WGGB TV Committee

I’ve been asked to comment on all the current ITV/ BBC fiascoes but there aren’t enough hours in the day. Just some quick thoughts:
  • Please will the BBC stop moaning that about not getting the licence fee they wanted, which they, you, I and even remote hermits living high atop mountains with no contact with the outside world for 30 years knew they wouldn’t get? I didn’t get the fee I wanted for my last BBC series either but with the aid of support groups and EST, I’ve learned to cope. Deal with it.
  • Ditto the “Cookie”/ “Socks” crisis which has accounted for more TV hours than the current Children’s TV programming output.
  • Some TV stars are paid how much?
  • The BBC said they’ll make fewer shows, but of greater excellence and quality. What does the BBC think that we writers have been doing all these years? We’re not exactly holding back our best work, though I refuse to answer for “Anthea Turner: Perfect Housewife.”
  • No, really. Some TV stars are paid how much?
  • Also, can someone please explain to me, and to them, what executive producers do?
  • Is there some new definition of “zero tolerance” which seems to apply to some ITV series and not to others? Discuss. Illustrate. Draw map.
  • Free the Ant and Dec two.
  • And whilst the BBC claim that many of their financial woes come from bringing new technology and digital channels to a grateful nation and they need to be cut some slack, may I respectfully point out the incredible array of services quietly and impressively offered to us by Channel 4? Let me count the ways: there’s C4 itself, C4 + 1, E4, E4 + 1, More4, More4 (all together now:) +1, Channel 4 on demand, C4 catch up service, 10 new C4 radio channels (count ’em, 10!) and I’ve not yet seen what they’ve launched today. Do you get the picture? All launched smoothly and professionally without excuses, tantrums or a licence fee in sight. C4 just deliver their services to appreciative customers who know what they’re getting, in the same user-friendly way that they’ve learned to order pizza and pole dancers. It’s not rocket science. Okay it’s almost rocket science, but C4 still manage to do it.
Don’t get me wrong. I love television and want to go on loving it even though it's not been made easy lately. British television used to be envied internationally as the best in the world, thanks to its talent, integrity, inventiveness and pure joy. Please let’s get back to the raison d’être of all writers and TV companies: making original programmes of which we and the viewers are proud. Now there’s a novel thought.

Best New Play for Stenham at TMA Awards

First-time playwright Polly Stenham has won Best Play for That Face (Royal Court) at the 2007 TMA Awards, reports Lalayn Baluch for The Stage.

Douglas Coupland interview

In The Independent, Matt Thorne talks to Canadian novelist Douglas Coupland.
The best description of Douglas Coupland is by the author himself in the novel JPod, where he depicts himself as having eyes that look like "wells filled with drowned toddlers". Of course, this is the fictional version of Coupland (in the novel he hints to the main character that he has a body to dispose of), and at the time it seemed like this evil version of himself was intended as a deliberate contrast with the more lovable Doug who wrote the early books and is worshipped by a fan-base who drive great distances for his readings (which are more like one-man comedy shows than the usual stilted events) and have been visiting his website ever since the author established himself as an early internet presence. But his last two novels, JPod and this month's The Gum Thief, to my mind far and away the best novels he's ever written, have seemed like exactly the sort of books an "evil" novelist might write.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Scottish theatre rides high

On The Guardian's Theatre Blog, Michael Billington is impressed by the vitality of theatre in Scotland.
...talking to Julie Ellen who runs Playwrights' Studio Scotland, I heard about the seething creative activity around the whole country: over the last three years Julie has offered advice and encouragement to 189 individual writers. You'd have to live in Scotland to understand why this is happening. But, as an occasional visitor, it strikes me that Scottish theatre's exuberance is a product of a resurgent nationalism. Whether this will lead to total severance of ties with Westminster is not for me to say. But one thing is clear: Scottish theatre reflects the country's growing sense of independence and is noisily on the march.

Alan Loeb interview

On the Writers Guild of America West website, screenwriter Alan Loeb tells Dylan Callaghan why giving up gambling saved his career.
Quitting gambling really did help me redirect a lot of my energy toward writing. I was writing, but the gambling habit was very intense and draining.

The other thing was kind of an epiphany. I always really wanted to sell things. If I'd finished a spec script, I'd need to sell it to have any money. That was scary and often the focus. When the script didn't sell, the depression would kick in and so on.

So I kinda changed that paradigm and said, “Okay, I'm not gonna worry if this script sells or not. The goal is to make each script I write better than the last. If I feel like I'm getting better with each script, then I'll be okay.” I held on to that and it was kind of an epiphany in a way.
Things We Lost In The Fire trailer

Anthony Sher's new play

In The Sunday Times, Anthony Sher recounts the research he undertook for his new play, The Ginat, about Michelangelo and Leonarardo.
Both Michelangelo and Leonardo were gay – this is generally accepted now – yet they seem to have led celibate lives. Why? I became intrigued by the link between sexuality and creativity. And their link to power – for Machiavelli was also in Florence at the time, and a friend of Leonardo’s. Three giants of the Renaissance – two of art, one of politics: wouldn’t it be interesting to try putting them onstage together?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Bartlett and Joyce share Tinniswood

Mike Bartlett (Not Talking) and Rachel Joyce (To Be A Pilgrim) were announced as joint winners of the 2007 Tinniswood Award last night.

The Tinniswood Award, set up by the Writers’ Guild and the Society of Authors in memory of Peter Tinniswood, honours the best original radio drama script broadcast during 2006. The prize of £1,500 is donated by the ALCS and judges were Gordon House (Chair), Jan Etherington and Lynne Truss.

At the same ceremony Mike Bartlett was also presented with the Society of Authors' Imison Award, for the best first radio play.

Michael Morpurgo interview

In The Daily Telegraph, Michael Morpurgo writes about the adaptation of his novel War Horse that has just opened at The National Theatre.
The seeds of War Horse were sown a long time ago. April 17 2008 will be the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Merkem, or the Battle of the Kippe. The Belgian army retook the hamlet of de Kippe. To mark the occasion of a victory much celebrated by the Belgians, my grandfather, Emile Cammaerts, a great poet and Belgian patriot, named my mother, who was born on April 18 1918, Kippe. It is the name by which I've known her all my life. This is the first of many diverse influences that contributed War Horse.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Some Mothers goes to the US

Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em, created by Raymond Allen, is to be remade by Fox in the US, reports James Macintyre in The Independent:
The extraordinary and somewhat unlikely news was greeted with glee by Raymond Allen, the creator of the original, which ran from 1973 to 1978 on BBC1 and embedded the brilliant, painfully awkward performances of Michael Crawford to the nation's psyches, if not hearts.

"I never would have dreamt 35 years ago when I originally wrote the series that dearly loved but disastrous Frank would be creating havoc on American soil," said Mr Allen, barely able to contain his jubilation. "It's a very exciting time... and a treasured moment of glory for Frank!"
A new pilot will be scripted by Philip Stark, whose credits include Dude Where's My Car and several episodes of South Park.

But will the new Frank Spencer do his own stunts?

BFI gets £25m for archive

The government has pledged £25m to the BFI towards the upkeep of its film and TV archive, reports BBC News.
Culture secretary James Purnell said the archive, held in Hertfordshire, was "a national treasure" that constituted "a visual history of Britain since the moving image again".

"From the earliest newsreels to CinemaScope to 3D, the BFI archive is one of the greatest collections of film and TV in the world. It's vital that we safeguard its future."

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

US strike talk hots up

As Michael Cieply reports in the in The New York Times, members of the Writers Guild of America West are voting on whether to authorise their leadership to call a strike, as contract talks turn increasingly bitter.
What began as a dispute over compensation for future use of programming on the Internet, over cellphones or in media yet to be invented has unexpectedly turned into a brawl over a decades-old residuals system. That formula pays writers and others when movies and television shows are sold on DVD or on cable television.
The Hollywood Reporter also has extensive coverage, while, on his Artful Writer blog, screenwriter Craig Mazin, who has been critical of the WGA in the past, turns his fire on the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.
The AMPTP...has been acting atrociously. For those of you who don’t know, the proposal they currently have on the table isn’t just bad.

It’s immoral.

Comedy pilots take off

There's a growing trend for British TV comedy to be piloted before a series is commissioned, reports Stephen Armstrong in The Sunday Times.
In the past year or so, British television has started embracing a new way of developing comedy, and this autumn we will see the results. The reason for this revolution is clear. “The days when you could put a half-hour comedy with David Jason or Robert Lindsay at the heart of the schedule and have the audience stay with you ended about 10 years ago,” says Paul Jackson, director of comedy and entertainment at ITV. “Real-com shows like The Office were critical hits, but didn’t bring in a third of the audience of Only Fools.”

Monday, October 15, 2007

Guild Awards Best Soap/Series (TV)

The full list of writers for the shows shortlisted for Best Soap/Series in the 2007 Writers' Guild Awards have now been announced. They are:
  • Chris Chibnall, Paul Cornell, Russell T. Davies, Stephen Greenhorn, Steven Moffat, Helen Raynor and Gareth Roberts - Doctor Who, Series 3
  • Joe Ainsworth, Lisa Holdsworth, Nigel McCrery, Charles McKeown, Roy Mitchell, J.C. Wilsher and Richard Zajdlic - New Tricks, Series 4
  • Chris Chibnall, Mark Greig, Matthew Graham, Guy Jenkin, Tony Jordan, Ashley Pharoah and Julie Rutterford – Life on Mars, Series 2
The winners will be announced at the Awards Ceremony at BAFTA on 18 November. Tickets (£25 for Guild members) are still available for what is sure to be a memorable event, but numbers are limited so early booking is advised.

4Talent Pilot

Channel 4 have launched a new TV series writing competition, Pilot.
We're inviting exciting, talented writers to submit a treatment for a six-part drama series, an outline for a pilot episode for that series, and a script for a sample scene from that episode.

12 writers will be selected to take part in a packed weekend of industry workshops and masterclasses. They will then be hot-housed in one of three Scottish independent production companies, where mentoring producers and Channel 4 script editors will help them develop their series idea and complete a first draft script. After eight weeks of paid training, each writer will pitch to a selection panel. Only one idea from each production team will be selected. These three writers, along with their producers, will hotfoot it down to Channel 4's HQ in London to pitch to 4Talent and the Channel's Commissioning Editor for Drama, Sophie Gardiner.

One creative team will head home with a £90,000 commission to produce a pilot episode of their drama series, including a fee for the winning writer to complete a final draft script.

Tony Jordan in Sheffield

Tony Jordan's Writers' Guild-supported talk for the Off The Shelf literary festival in Sheffield will be held on Monday October 22nd at 7.30pm, in the Pennine Theatre, Sheffield Hallam University, Howard Street, Sheffield.

Tony Jordan is one of the UK's most successful television writers. He created some of the most memorable characters in EastEnders, while recent series credits include Life On Mars (co-created with Matthew Graham and Ashley Pharaoh) and Holby Blue.

Tickets for the event cost £8/£6 (cons) from Sheffield Theatres box office on 0114 249 6000.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Doris Lessing wins Nobel Prize

Doris Lessing has won the Nobel Prize for Literature, reports BBC News.
The Swedish Academy, which awards the prize, described Lessing as "that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny".

"Oh good, did they say that about me?" she replied. "Oh goodness, well obviously they like me better now than they used to."
There's coverage across the media, including in The Guardian, The Times and The Daily Telegraph and from Boyd Tonkin in The Independent.
The novelist and poet Helen Dunmore welcomed a "fantastic" choice. "It's a recognition of the range and depth of her work – which is hugely enjoyable, but she has also rearranged everyone's mental furniture," she said. To the novelist Michèle Roberts, Lessing's Nobel should inspire writers "to believe that you can get to grips with the very, very complicated world we live in and make pictures of it. And it's great to see a woman writer doing that."

Oxford slashes hyphens

The new edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary has done away with hyphens in about 16,000 words, reports Simon Rabinovitch for Reuters.
Bumble-bee is now bumblebee, ice-cream is ice cream and pot-belly is pot belly.

And if you've got a problem, don't be such a crybaby (formerly cry-baby).

The hyphen has been squeezed as informal ways of communicating, honed in text messages and emails, spread on Web sites and seep into newspapers and books.

"People are not confident about using hyphens anymore, they're not really sure what they are for," said Angus Stevenson, editor of the Shorter OED, the sixth edition of which was published this week.
There's comment on several sites, including from Russell Smith in the Canadian Globe and Mail, and, from Ben Zimmer on the Oxford University Press Blog.
Some compounds are in no danger of losing their hyphens. It’s hard to imagine the standard spelling of mother-in-law changing to mother in law or even more strangely motherinlaw (though there are no doubt some people somewhere who choose to spell it that way). And we seem to like using hyphens to set off certain prefixes like all-, ex-, quasi-, and self-, as in all-encompassing, ex-wife, quasi-legal, and self-esteem. Moreover, when it comes to prefixes, the hyphen is favored when the root word is capitalized (anti-American, pre-Christian) or when two vowels need to be separated (anti-intellectual, pre-eminent). But with prefixes too, there are no straightforward guidelines for when to hyphenate, and some hyphens simply fade over time as a word becomes more common. Yesterday’s post-modern is today’s postmodern.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Writing Control

On The Guardian's Film Blog, Matt Greenhalgh (who won the Guild/List prize at the Edinburgh Film Festival) talks about writing the film Control, about Ian Curtis of Joy Division.
In the research phase, I had a hitlist of people who knew Ian to go to see to get it right. As a biographer, you've got to be right. Some can try to bully you into presenting their version of Ian - we'd have a showdown and I was just waiting to get "well, you didn't even know Ian" thrown into my face. But Tony Wilson just said: "Fuck 'em, go write the myth". I felt free after getting his permission.

Relief for arts after spending review

From Alistair Smith in The Stage:
Gordon Brown’s first spending review as prime minister has been met with relief by the cultural sector after it was confirmed that Arts Council England would receive an inflationary increase in funding for the next three years.
Gordon Brown

Many within the industry had feared ACE would be hit by standstill funding or worse. However, Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling confirmed this week that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s allotment would increase from £1.68 billion to £2.21 billion in 2010/11, a settlement which he said “guarantees an inflation increase for the arts”.
Update: on The Guardian's Theatre Blog, however, Lyn Gardner is not impressed.
...while it is probably right to feel relieved, I for one am not going to be sitting around feeling grateful for a cash settlement that will keep many surviving by their fingertips and many more talented artists unable to even get a foothold in their chosen professions. Over the next few years we are likely to lose an entire generation of theatre-makers who simply won't get the necessary funding to make those first steps. While we are about it, let's remember that the money that the government gives to the arts is not a handout but an investment. The arts gives more back to the economy than it takes in subsidies, but what cannot be measured is what it gives back in nurturing the imaginative health and well-being of the nation.

Alan Moore interview

In The Daily Telegraph, Susanna Clarke talks to comic-book writer Alan Moore about his career and his sexually explicit new work, Lost Girls.
'Frankly,' says Moore, 'creating a piece of pornography that men will respond to isn't rocket science. Charlie Brooker wrote in The Guardian that men get aroused simply by glancing at a crude charcoal sketch of a single boob scrawled on the side of a shed. Quite wretched, and probably true. Most visual pornography is lit as if for brain surgery – the most repulsive strip-lighting imaginable. Every pore, every hair visible. Not in any way sensual. But thanks to Melinda [Gebbie]'s artwork, there was almost no conceivable scene that, if it were approached with enough layers of soft, beautiful colour, could be said to be obscene.'

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Diederick Santer interview

In Media Guardian, Stephen Armstrong talks to EastEnders' executive producer Diederick Santer.
What he is hoping to do is bring a bit of realism to a depiction of the East End that was criticised by the Commission for Racial Equality for being excessively white. "You have to be careful about being too realistic," he cautions. "It could be argued all these characters wouldn't go to the launderette - they might have washing machines. But then you wouldn't have the same show. Having said that, we have to diversify. We're doing that with the background artists, we've opened a sari and fabric shop, and in ambient ways we're making the show feel more 21st century."

Harold Pinter on Sleuth

In The New York Times, Sarah Lyall talks to Harold Pinter about his approach to writing and his screenplay for the remake of Sleuth (opening in the UK on 23 November), based on the play by Anthony Shaffer.
Mr. Pinter acknowledged that his plays — full of infidelity, cruelty, inhumanity, the lot — seem at odds with his domestic contentment.

“How can you write a happy play?” he said. “Drama is about conflict and general degrees of perturbation, disarray. I’ve never been able to write a happy play, but I’ve been able to enjoy a happy life.”
Sleuth trailer

The O-word

In The Guardian, Guild President David Edgar says that while the organising committee for the London Olympics have decided not to take action to prevent novelist Robert Ronson calling his new book Olympic Mind Games, we should be wary of any attempts to copyright language.
Most expression involves reference to something real in the world. Most of our "experience" and indeed our "imagination" are formed from the image-making of others. Writers and other artists are rightly concerned about protecting their own copyright, but they should be equally concerned with the shrinking of the public domain. Ronson's refusal to be cowed into changing the title of his novel is a victory for the idea that there is more to free expression than the right to advertise.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Meet The Agents 2

The Writers’ Guild presents the second in its series of Meet the Agents events which will be held on Monday 29th October at the Writers’ Guild Centre 17 Britannia Street, London WC1 X 9JN - nearest tube: King’s Cross.

The main event will commence at 7:30pm with a discussion and Q & A where the panellists will talk about everything from how to get an agent to what their agencies can offer to clients. The evening will end with a networking session from 8:15 to 9pm.

The panellists will include:

Chris Calitz from Creative Media Management

Creative Media Management was formed in July 1999 by Jacqui Fincham to represent a select group of writers, directors and technicians in Film and Television. They are a boutique agency interested in building a list of new writers.

Lucy Fawcett from Sheil Land Associates Ltd

Sheil Land Associates Ltd welcomes approaches from new clients either to start or to develop their careers. They handle full-length general, commercial and literary fiction and non-fiction as well as theatre, film, radio and TV scripts.

Nick Turner from Linda Seifert Management

Linda Seifert Management is an international management company representing writers, directors and producers for film and television. The creative team work with their clients to secure development and packaging of their projects with access to international finance and co-production. Linda Seifert Management currently has a client base ranging from the highly established to the next generation of emerging talent.

Simon Williamson from the Jill Foster Ltd

Jill Foster Ltd deals with theatre, films, TV and sound broadcasting. They are particularly interested in film and TV comedy and drama but do not deal with novels or short stories. The agency was founded in 1978.

All the agents have kindly agreed to have one on one meetings with participants of this event. There are 20 places available for five minute sessions with an agent from 7:00pm - 7:20pm. The meetings are only open to members of the Writers' Guild and will be allotted on a first come first come basis, early booking is recommended to avoid disappointment. If you are interested in this opportunity then please list the agent that you would like to meet with in order of preference when you book. Please note we cannot guarantee that you will be given your first choice.

To book for this event, please post a cheque to: Meet the Agents 2, Writers’ Guild, 15-17, Britannia Street, London WC1 X 9JN. Please make the cheque payable to: “Writers’ Guild of Great Britain”. Tickets cost £5 for Guild members and £7.50 for non members.

Imaginary Worlds

The Writers’ Guild presents Imaginary Worlds on Thursday 1st November from 7pm – 8:30pm at the Writers Guild Centre, 17 Britannia Street, London WC1X 9JN (Nearest tube: King’s Cross).

Celebrate the recent resurgence in British science fiction and fantasy, by talking to the writers behind the boom.

Britain's other great literary tradition has always been a hit with the public - from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Arthur Conan Doyle's Lost World, 20th. Century classics by John Wyndham, H.G. Wells and Nigel Kneale, to the recent boom in graphic novels and even more recent box office successes such as Dog Soldiers and 28 Days Later.

Critics and cultural commentators have finally realised what writers, readers and audiences have known for years - that fantasy writing can - and does - tackle adult themes in a unique and exciting way, and that imaginary worlds are not just for children.

Confirmed panellists for the discussion include Guild members Ashley Pharaoh, one of the creators of Life on Mars and Adrian Hodges, a co-creator of Primeval. Further speakers will be confirmed closer to the date.

To book for this event, please post a cheque to: Imaginary Worlds, Writers’ Guild, 15-17, Britannia Street, London WC1 X 9JN. Please make the cheque payable to: “Writers’ Guild of Great Britain”. Tickets cost £5 for Guild members and £7.50 for non members.

Possessed: the blog

Guild member Teresa Howard has launched a blog to trace the development of her musical, Possessed (music by Steven Edis). Possessed tells the story of Jane Burden, the real woman behind the painting and poetry of the Pre-Raphaelites.
Today I have to atttack the last scene of POSSESSED and am procrastinating, because it is the most difficult part of the musical. My youngest daughter is upstairs in bed with flu. Having someone in the house while I am working has always been inhibiting. It feels so much more difficult wandering around, singing (very badly) and emoting lines from the script when there is someone around to hear.

Audio drama goes straight to CD

A new adaptation of Robert Rankin's novel The Brightonomicon, written by Neil Gardner and Elliott Stein, will go straight to CD and be distributed by BBC WorldWide, reports John Plunkett for Media Guardian.
The Brightonomicon is a fantasy comedy drama in the style of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy and The Mighty Boosh. It is being co-produced with BBC Audiobooks and Hokus Bloke Productions, which was set up by Gardner and [actor, David] Warner for this project.

"The market in comedy sci-fi and fantasy is huge, and radio is the only current medium that doesn't embrace it," said Gardner.

Row over Holby drinking scene

From BBC News:
BBC One drama Holby City is to be investigated by media regulator Ofcom, which has received eight complaints about a scene showing heavy drinking.

In last month's episode, a medic asked bar staff to "line up" tequila for her, before telling a male colleague: "Neck these and back to mine."

Drinks industry body The Portman Group said the "graphic portrayal of harmful drinking behaviour was gratuitous".

Friday, October 05, 2007

Michael Henshaw 1930-2007

Michael Henshaw, accountant to many writers, actors and directors, has died at the age of 76. There's an obituary by Barry Miles in The Guardian.
Michael waged a one-man crusade against what he saw as the unfair treatment of artists and writers by tax inspectors. He insisted that the arts made a substantial contribution to the economy and, as far he was concerned, for a poet to go on a walking tour of the Lake District was just as valid a business expense as a visit to a factory by a businessman - a concept the Inland Revenue had trouble understanding. But many artists and writers were delighted to discover someone who appreciated what they were doing and was prepared to take on their financial problems, and his reputation quickly spread.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Ofcom's review of children's TV

Communications industry regulator Ofcom has published a review of children's television in the UK, and expressed concern about the decline in the volume of home-grown programming:
...the future provision of new UK-originated programming for children, particularly drama and factual, looks increasingly uncertain other than the BBC’s output. Investment in first-run original programming by the commercial Public Service Broadcasters (PSBs) – ITV1, GMTV, Channel 4 and Five – has halved in real terms since 1998.
However, when homegrown programming is available, children tend to prefer it:
Children still strongly prefer programming made in the UK, the majority of which is commissioned by the Public Service Broadcasters. While UK children’s programmes accounted for 17% of total children’s hours, they delivered a 38% share of viewing.
Concluding that "the public purposes for children’s programming are not fully being met in some areas", Ofcom has invited responses to the review. Comments must be submitted by 20 December 2007.

Moffat gets Tintin job

British scriptwriter Steven Moffat, best known for creating the comedy series Coupling, has got the job adapating Herge's Tintin for the big screen, says the Hollywood Reporter.

The intention is to make a trilogy of films, with the first two directed by Peter Jackson and Steve Spielberg.

O'Brien wins third Forward prize

From Richard Lea in The Guardian:
Sean O'Brien has pulled off an unprecedented third victory in the Forward prize, cementing his place as a Forward favourite by winning the £10,000 prize for best collection with The Drowned Book. Daljit Nagra, who won the prize for best single poem in 2004, has gone on to win the £5,000 prize for best first collection. This year's £1,000 prize for best single poem goes to Alice Oswald.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Patrick Marber interview

In The Daily Telegraph, Dominic Cavendish talks to Patrick Marber about the revival of his play Dealer's Choice and his success as a Hollywood screenwriter.
Having his moment in the spotlight in LA is all very well, all good fun, he says, "but the real business of my life is getting another play out. That's what concerns me and that's what I mustn't concern myself with. I can't put it another way. Another couple of years and I'm officially blocked."

Is it that bad? "Every play is back to square one. It's a waiting game. They come slowly or not at all. I have to be patient. You're either a conscious or an unconscious writer, and I'm an unconscious writer. I'm a loafer. I dawdle and go for long walks, then I write with feverish intensity, late at night, in sustained four- or five-hour bursts. Once they appear, they appear very quickly."

BBC Films restructured

From the BBC Press Office:
Jane Tranter, Controller BBC Fiction, today announced the new structure for BBC Films, and reaffirmed the BBC's commitment to the development and production of feature films.

The day-to-day management of BBC Films and decision-making will now be the responsibility of a newly-established BBC Films Board, comprising:

  • Christine Langan (Commissioning Editor, BBC Films)
  • Jamie Laurenson (Executive Producer, BBC Films)
  • Joe Oppenheimer (Executive Producer, BBC Films)
  • Jane Wright (Commercial Affairs and General Manager, BBC Films).

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Keep your contracts

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

Whenever you sell any work, always ask your agent for a photocopy of your contract, then file it or keep it safely under your pillow. It might come in handy one day, especially if you change/ get dumped by/ mislay your agent.

Firstly, (and here's a novel thought) one should always read all one's contracts, no matter how splendid your agent. The more a writer knows about his or her own business, the more confident and empowered he or she will be - and less likely to be cheated by anyone.

Secondly, in this multi-media world, old shows are being re-released willy-nilly through new technologies; often without clearing the rights first - a cute trick which the TV Committee is now investigating.

So when a Portuguese blogger wrote to tell me how much he's enjoying the DVD of my first comedy series, when I didn't even know it had been released on DVD, it gave me a great sense of satisfaction to hand the 25+ year-old contract to my present agent. And would you believe there was no mention of DVD rights? It's all the ammo we needed.

So save your contracts. It not only helps your agent. It's yet another way to protect your work and your rights.

Adrian Pagan

A memorial service was held last month in honour of Adrian Pagan, who died in August at the age of 39.

Pagan's play The Backroom won the Verity Bargate Award in 1996 and was staged at The Bush in 1999. He went on to write for several TV series including Family Affairs, The Bill and Holby City.
Alex Gammie, a former colleague from the Bush and friend of Pagan’s for many years, commented: "Adrian was hugely talented in so many areas, but most of all great company and a wonderful friend. He is going to be missed by an extraordinary number of people."

Film Council Development Fund changes

Tanya Seghatchian, Head of the Development Fund at UK Film Council, has announced changes to the way the Fund will work. Writers will now be entitled to apply as individuals, without needing to have a producer or director attached to a project.

There are two programmes through which money will be awarded:
  • The First Feature Film Development Programme – which aims to identify and support emerging filmmakers (including screenwriters)
  • The Feature Film Development Programme – a dedicated industry funding programme for producers, production companies and filmmakers, with a demonstrable track record.
One-off "Signature Awards" will also be made to "world-class writers and directors".

Full details are available on the Film Council website.

Monday, October 01, 2007

BBC winners at Prix Italia

Two radio dramas and a TV film won prizes for the BBC at the Prix Italia international radio, television and web competition.

The award for Best Radio Drama went to The Incomplete Recorded Works Of A Dead Body (Radio 3), written by Ed Hime (who, apparently, had never heard a radio drama when he wrote it). You can download the script (pdf file) from the BBC Writersroom.

Peter Straughan's adaptation of Metropolis (Radio 4, based on the film directed by Fritz Lang from a screenplay by Lang and Thea von Harbou) won the Best Adapted Radio drama prize.

Shoot the Messenger
(BBC Two), written by Sharon Foster, won the award for Best Single TV Play.

Neil Gaiman: "Writers are otters"

In The Guardian, Michelle Pauli talks to genre-hopping writer Neil Gaiman.
"Writers are otters," states Neil Gaiman, firmly. And indeed, there is undoubtedly something otterish about this author, with his trademark dark jeans and black leather jacket, and just a hint of whiskerishness - though his shaggy moptop makes him perhaps a little less sleek than your average otter. No matter, Gaiman warms to his theme.

"Otters are not trainable," he explains. "Dogs are trainable - if you want them to sit you train them and give them rewards and they sit each time. But otters... if they do something cool and you give them a fish, the next time they'll do something even cooler. Or they'll try to do something completely different. I think that most writers - or at least a lot of us - are otters."

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award

Online retailer Amazon has teamed up with Penguin to launch a new writing award:
Amazon editors and top Amazon customer reviewers will read submissions and select authors for the semi-final round, beginning January 15, 2008. Each semi-finalist will receive a full review of their manuscript by Publishers Weekly and a book page on Amazon.com featuring a short excerpt from their novel that customers can download, read, and review. Penguin will select manuscripts to read from the semi-final round based on customer feedback and Publishers Weekly reviews and announce the Top Ten finalists on March 3, 2008. Amazon.com customers will then select the winner of the Amazon Breakthrough Award, to be announced on April 7, 2008.

Register now and break through! Only the first 5,000 submissions will be accepted. The registration deadline is November 5, 2007.