Sunday, November 30, 2008

Screenwriters' Festival 2009

The Screenwriters' Festival 2009 will be taking place in Cheltenham, 26-29 October 2009.

Tickets will be on sale from 5pm Tuesday 9 December.

Themes will include:
  • Conversion - how do you go from writing in one industry sector to another?
  • Time Lord Day - Doctor Who in all its formats of
  • Short films - from writing to dsitribution
  • UK vs. US - the differences between writing for a UK and a US audience.

What Guild members are getting up to

JOHN CHAMBERS wrote the episodes of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Monday 1st and Tuesday 2nd December.

IAN CURTEIS’S radio play Boscobel is going out on Radio 4 at 2:30pm on Saturday 29th November, concerning the real life escape of Charles II. Following the execution of his father, the future King must flee England or die.

ANDREW DAVIES wrote the episode of Little Dorrit going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Wednesday 3rd December.

FIONA EVANS wrote the episode of Holby City “About Last Night” going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Tuesday 2nd December.

STEVEN FAY wrote the episode of Hollyoaks Later going out on C4 at 11:15pm on Wednesday 3rd December.

ALISON FISHER wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Friday 5th December.

PETER FLANNERY wrote the episodes of The Devil’s Whore going out on C4 at 9:05pm on Saturday 29th November and at 9:00pm on Wednesday 3rd December.

RACHEL FLOWERDAY wrote the episodes of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 7:30pm on Tuesday 2nd and on Thursday 4th December.

SIMON FRITH wrote the episodes of The Archers going out on Radio 4 at 7:00pm from Sunday 30th November until Friday 5th December, with each episode being repeated at 2:00pm the day following its original broadcast.

ADRIAN HODGES wrote the episode of Survivors going out on BBC1 at 9:00pm on Tuesday 2nd December.

NICK KING wrote the episode of Doctors “Changes” going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Monday 1st December.

DAVID LANE wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Monday 1st December.

JESSICA LEA’S episode of Hollyoaks Later is repeated on Channel 4 at 10.30pm on Thursday 4th December.

JANE MARLOW wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 6:30pm on Friday 5th December.

DEBBIE OATES wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Friday 5th December.

JESSE O’MAHONEY wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Thursday 4th December.

PETE SINCLAIR co-wrote the episode of Lead Balloon “Karma” going out on BBC2 at 10:00pm on Thursday 4th December.

COLIN WAKEFIELD'S new stage version of The Snow Queen, with music by KATE EDGAR, has been published by Josef Weinberger Plays. The musical was commissioned and first produced by the Merlin Theatre, Frome, last Christmas.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

BBC appoint Edwards acting head of radio comedy

From Kate McMahon in Broadcast:
Comedy producer and writer Gareth Edwards has been appointed acting head of radio comedy at the BBC, while a permanent replacement is found for Paul Schlesinger.

Edwards TV credits include the Bafta award-winning That Mitchell and Webb Look, and series four of Dead Ringers, both for BBC2. His radio credits include Bleak Expectations, Vent, and That Mitchell and Webb Sound, all for Radio 4.

Publishing to Amazon Kindle

On his blog, horror novelist Aaron Ross Powell describes the experience of publishing a book to Amazon's Kindle electronic reader.
I did not price the book at anywhere near retail, as I couldn’t imagine doing so for something that wasn’t yet retail quality. On the other hand, I knew people enjoyed reading it — this based on the enthusiasm the web serialization had garnered — so I figured there was nothing wrong with charging a little. After all, I do write to (eventually) get paid and the story was available for free to those who wanted to browse through my blog to read it. Having it on the Kindle was value added. So I set the price at $3.49. Amazon knocked twenty percent off to $2.79. That put the book firmly in the impulse buy category.

The novel has sold relatively steadily since publication, with a slight bump in October (people like to buy horror stories around Halloween, oddly enough). ”Relatively steadily” means roughly a copy a day—which is far better than I expected, actually, and an encouraging number for first outing.
Link via Galley Cat, which also has a report about the upcoming Kindle 2.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Will Project Kangaroo fly?

On the Writers' Guild website I've written a piece about Project Kangaroo, the working title for a proposed video-on-demand partnership between BBC Worldwide, ITV and Channel 4.

And Guild General Secretary, Bernie Corbett, explains how Guild agreements apply to such services, ensuring that writers are paid fairly for their work.

John Michael Hayes obituary

John Michael Hayes, the American screenwriter best known for adapting screenplays to be directed by Alfred Hitchcock, including Rear Window and To Catch A Thief, has died at the age of 89. There's an obituary by Margalit Fox in The New York Times.
In interviews over the years, Mr. Hayes was forthright about what it was like to write for Mr. Hitchcock. “I enjoyed working with him professionally, but off the screen he wasn’t so likable,” he told The Worcester Telegram & Gazette in 1999. “He was egotistical to the point of madness.”

Promoting children's TV production

With the results of Ofcom's review of Children's TV pending, in The Guardian, Maggie Brown considers the possible recommendations.
Ofcom sees fixing children's television as part of a broader package for all public service content. Behind the scenes it is working on refining a scheme for contestable funding with a new mission statement: "long-term transferable funding".

Under this proposal, programmes could be financed via a new model akin to the BBC World Service, or Teachers' TV, which are government-funded. Alternatively, strands such as news or drama could be franchised out to a number of suppliers, who could be invited to bid - but marketing and scheduling would be critical. A proposal from Channel 4 for older children had been virtually mothballed - but this could rescue it. Channel Five has offered more children's programming, and even a new digital channel, if Ofcom would provide free spectrum. But there remains a big question - where will the money for contestable funding come from: the BBC, the digital surplus assets, spectrum freed up after digital switchover, or an industry levy?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

WGGB supports French protest

Bernie Corbett, General Secretary of the Writers' Guild of Great Britain, has written to the French Ambassador in London and the French Minister of Culture to express the Guild's support for French writers' opposition to the proposal to remove advertising from France Télévisions.

In his letter Corbett said:
We do not oppose this in principle, because in the UK the services of the BBC are free of advertising and we would not wish this to change. However the BBC is well financed through a licence-fee system. It appears that the current French proposals will cut FT’s income by 800 million Euro. Such swingeing cuts will severely damage FT’s ability to commission and broadcast programmes of quality and threaten its ability to continue as a meaningful Public Service Broadcaster.
He continued:
We are also concerned that in this situation the ability of screenwriters in France to earn a living in the television industry will be seriously affected, both by a reduction in the amount of programming commissioned and by undermining the general level of payments to writers.
Yesterday French writers staged a one-day strike in protest against the proposals.

CBeebies orders first web show

From Chris Curtis in Broadcast:
CBeebies has commissioned its first standalone web project based around letters that come to life.

Alphablox is aimed at 4-to 6-year-olds and features wordplay, short comedy clips and a world that children can create by joining letters together. It was ordered by Michael Carrington and is a Magic Lantern production.

Adrian Hodges on Survivors

A new version of Survivors (from the novel and series by Terry Nation) started on the BBC last night, and, in The Times, lead writer (and Guild Member) Adrian Hodges insists that the message of the drama isn't as bleak as some imagine.
Hodges takes a cheerful view of the human spirit. Each character has their own personal road to redemption, and a group purpose underpins their tiny clan – although there are a number of very unpleasant events. “It’s about hope,” he insists. “It’s about what it takes for the best of us to endure.”
There's another interview with Hodges on the BBC Writersroom, where they've also got the Episode One script (pdf).

The second episode of Survivors is on BBC One tonight. Last night's opener can be seen on BBC iPlayer.

Brits triumph at International Emmys

British writers were behind numerous successes at the International Emmy Awards in New York last night. Winners included:

Children and young people
Shaun the Sheep - written by Ian Carney, Glenn Dakin, Trevor Ricketts, Richard Goleszowski, Rob Dudley

The I.T. Crowd - written by Graham Linehan

Drama series
Life On Mars - written by Matthew Graham, Ashley Pharoah, Chris Chibnall, Julie Rutterford, Guy Jenkin, Mark Greig

David Suchet won the Best Actor Award for his performance in Maxwell (written by Craig Warner) and Lucy Cohu was named Best Actress for her part in Forgiven (written by Paul Wilmshurst and Neil Biswas).

Monday, November 24, 2008

Writers' Guild Awards 2008 - the winners

The winners of the Writers' Guild Awards 2008 were announced last night.

Gwyneth Hughes - Miss Austen Regrets (Best Short Form TV Drama)

The writers of The Bill, Season 23 - Geoff McQueen (series deviser), Richard Ommanney, Neil Clarke, Steve Griffiths, Emma Goodwin, Julian Perkins, Steve Attridge, Clive Dawson, Peter G. Morgan, Andrew Taft, Chris Murray, Tom Higgins, Julia Wall, Maxwell Young, Jane Marlow, Sally Tatchell, Si Spencer, Matthew Bardsley, Jonathan Rich, Matthew Leys, James Hall, Chris Murray, Stuart Morris, Nicholas McInerny, Chris Ould, Alan Pollock, Simon Moss, Nicholas Martin, Scott Cherry, Doug Milburn, Steve Trafford, Stephanie Lloyd Jones, Steve Baillie, Frank Rickarby, Andrew Alty, Will Shindler, Chris Dunn, Sarah-Louise Hawkins, Len Collin, Gregory Evans, Tom Needham, Patrick Homes (Best Soap / Continuing Drama Series)

Heidi Thomas - Cranford (Best TV Drama Series)

James Corden and Ruth Jones - Gavin and Stacey, Series 2 (Best TV Comedy / Light Entertainment)

Lucinda Coxon - Happy Now? (Best Play - Theatre)

Mike Kenny – Electric Darkness (Best Play for Children and Young People - Theatre)

Ronald Harwood - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, based on the book by Jean-Dominique Bauby (Best Screenplay - Feature Film)

Sanjeev Kohli and Donald McLeary – Fags, Mags and Bags (Best Radio Comedy / Light Entertainment)

Chris Harrald - Mr Larkin's Awkward Day (Best Radio Play)

Kate Clanchy – What Is She Doing Here? (Best Book)

Rhianna Pratchett - Overlord (Best Videogame Script)

Also recognised at the ceremony were:

Tony Collingwood - An Award for Outstanding Contribution to Children’s Writing

David Croft and Jimmy Perry - A Lifetime Achievement Award

All photos by Simon Denton.

Update 20.30: Some reflections on the night from Gareth McLean in The Guardian.

Update 25.11.2008: A news report in The Stage focuses on the number of female winners this year - women took eight of the eleven main categories.

Friday, November 21, 2008

What Guild members are getting up to

MARTIN ALLEN wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Monday 24th November.

MARK BURT wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Friday 28th November.

ANDREW DAVIES’S dramatisation of Little Dorrit continues on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Wednesday 26th and Thursday 27th November.

ARNOLD EVANS wrote the episode of Doctors “Treatment” going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Monday 24th November.

PETER FLANNERY’S Channel 4 drama The Devil’s Whore continues with the second episode going out at 9:00pm on Wednesday 26th November. If you missed the first episode, it is being repeated on Saturday 22nd at 9:10pm.

CHRIS GILL wrote the episodes of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Thursday 27th and Friday 28th November.

JONATHAN R. HALL wrote the episode of Doctors “From the Ashes” going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Thursday 27th November.

DAVID HANSON wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Wednesday 26th November.

JONATHAN HARVEY wrote the episode of Britannia High “Go Your Own Way” going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Sunday 23rd November.

ADRIAN HODGES’S new BBC1 drama Survivors (based on the novel by Terry Nation) begins on Sunday 23rd November at 9:00pm. It follows several survivors of the aftermath of a devastating virus that wipes out most of the world’s population. The second episode goes out on Tuesday 25th November at 9:00pm.

LISA HOLDSWORTH wrote the episode of New Tricks going out on BBC1 at New Tricks “Ice Cream” going out on BBC1 at 9:00pm on Wednesday 26th November.

MARTIN JAMESON wrote the episode of Casualty “Reality Bites” going out on BBC1 at 8:20pm on Saturday 22nd November.

BILL LYONS wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Monday 24th November.

GRAHAM MITCHELL wrote the episode of Holby City “The Weaker Sex” going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Tuesday 25th November.

PETER MOFFAT wrote Einstein and Eddington, the BBC2 drama starring David Tennant and Andy Serkis.

CHRISTOPHER REASON’S two-part radio adaptation of The Good Soldier Svejk by Jaroslav Hašek is going out on Radio 4 at 9:00pm on Saturday 22nd November, the second part of which goes out on Sunday 23rd at 3:00pm.

PAUL ROUNDELL wrote the episodes of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Wednesday 26th and Thursday 27th and Friday 28th November.

PETE SINCLAIR co-wrote the episode of Lead Balloon “Fax” going out on BBC2 at 10:00pm on Thursday 27th November.

JO TOYE wrote the episodes of The Archers going out on Radio 4 at 7:00pm on Radio 4 from Sunday 23rd till Friday 28th November, with each episode being repeated at 2:00pm the day following its original broadcast.

JOE TURNER wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Wednesday 26th November.

IEUAN WATKINS’ short film, In Deep, will be screened on ITV Wales on Wednesday 26th November, at 11 p.m.

PETER WHALLEY wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Monday 24th November.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

All BBC TV to be live online

From the BBC press office:
BBC One and BBC Two will be available to watch live online from 27 November, Jana Bennett, Director of BBC Vision, announced today.

The channels join BBC Three, BBC Four, CBBC, CBeebies and BBC News which are already simulcast.

They can all be watched online via their channel sites on through a wide range of internet enabled devices. They can also be watched through BBC iPlayer.

Jana Bennett said: "The launch of BBC One and BBC Two online completes our commitment to make our portfolio of channels available to watch on the internet.

"From 27 November licence fee payers will be able to watch BBC programmes, live, wherever they are in the UK on their computers, mobile phones and other portable devices.

"Through iPlayer and series stacking, they'll have the option to catch up with them later."

Australian Guild attacks Screen Australia guidelines

The Australian Writers’ Guild has expressed alarm at Screen Australia’s draft guidelines covering development support and production financing.
One of Australia’s most successful screenwriters, Oscar nominated Jan Sardi (Shine, The Notebook, Mao’s Last Dancer) says “Far from taking the Australian film industry in a new direction, Screen Australia's proposed guidelines spell disaster for an industry already on its knees.”

In initial consultations Screen Australia acknowledged the importance of quality scripts in the creation of outstanding film and television, and expressed a commitment to supporting writers with the time and money necessary to write them. Their proposed guidelines however show an abject failure to fulfill these commitments.

If their draft guidelines are put into practice, future funding eligibility requirements for screenwriters will be so high they will exclude all but a small handful of professional writers and force others into potentially unproductive partnerships before the first draft is even written.

Funding for first-time and emerging screenwriters will also be completely abandoned and a total disregard is shown for the basic rights of writers through the proposed insistence on early transfer of copyright without any mandated protections.

“Abandoning emerging screenwriters and inflicting shotgun weddings on experienced writers, directors and producers reeks of a government bureaucracy all too eager to divest itself of responsibility and accountability for where Australian taxpayers money goes - it is not the way forward,” says Sardi.

Australian Writers’ Guild Executive Director, Jacqueline Woodman, says “In their eagerness to establish sustainable businesses and let the marketplace develop and promote projects, Screen Australia appears to have forgotten that before there can be a ‘project’ to be developed, a script must first be written.”

Product placement poll

What do you think about product placement on terrestrial TV?

Vote now in the poll (top right of this page).

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Product placement - the Guild's submission to Ofcom

As the debate about product placement on TV intensifies, here's the submission made to Ofcom by Edel Brosnan on behalf of the Guild's TV Committee earlier this year.

Proposed rule change on product placement on TV - a response from the Writers' Guild of Great Britain

Edel Brosnan, 26 May 2008

The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain has been following the debate surrounding the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, and proposed changes to the rules governing product placement in scripted television programming with interest.

In an ideal world, the Guild would support retention of the status quo, which is clear and un-ambivalent in its prohibition of product placement.

However, the Guild recognises that at the present time, income from traditional advertising and programme sponsorship is in a state of flux. The Guild also recognises that the current ban on product placement may potentially lead to difficulties in funding future scripted television content.

At present, product placement is not permitted in terrestrial or digital television programming. It is permitted in programming produced and distributed online – for instance, it features in a teen drama distributed online. Viewers are also familiar with product placement in television shows from overseas, such as Sex and the City.

The recent ban on junk food advertising aimed at children has had an inadvertent and unintended negative impact on the production of children’s television. We support the Save Children’s TV campaign, and we also believe that arguments in favour of product placement need to be considered carefully, and pragmatically, to avoid jeopardizing the future of British-made scripted television programmes for an adult audience.

At present, funding for television drama, comedy, drama documentaries, and children’s programming comes from many sources: the licence fee, programme-specific sponsorship, paid-for advertising on analogue and digital channels and, increasingly, from online advertising on broadcasters’ associated websites.

In principle, we remain cautious about the advisability and workability of product placement as a source of funding. In practice, we hope that clear guidelines and conscientious regulation will ensure that the benefits of product placement outweigh the potential difficulties.

We have a number of questions and comments about the practicalities of the proposed rule changes.

a) Definition

How will product placement be defined; what are the parameters surrounding acceptable and unacceptable use of product placement?

b) Regulatory control

Parliament should enact legislation to define, monitor and regulate product placement activities; a voluntary code of practice is unlikely to be sufficient.

c) Editorial control

How will product placement affect the programming with which it is associated? Will sponsors and advertisers purchase the right to have a product, such as a soft drink or brand of clothing, featured in a scripted show? Or will they also purchase a right to exercise editorial control over the humorous and/ or dramatic content of the show? We would caution against any changes that fundamentally change the editorial decision-making process.

d) Diversity

At present, writers, commissioners, producers and broadcasters in the UK endeavour to create high quality television, reflecting the lives and lifestyles of the whole nation. Characters and stories are drawn from high-income, middle income and low-income groups. We need to ensure that product placement does not lead to an over-reliance on aspirational programming, or a reluctance to tell stories about marginalized, unpopular or lower-income groups. Natural realism has a long and honorable tradition in British film and television, from the “angry young men” of the 1950s, to Shameless, Eastenders and Coronation Street today. British television needs to engage with and reflect the lives of all our television viewers, regardless of income, age, disability, sexual orientation and racial or national identity. Product placement tends to favour shows with an aspirational dimension – where characters enjoy a relatively high income and associated lifestyle. It is vital that programming about, and for, lower-income groups continues to be made.

e) Transparency

There will inevitably be some audience resistance to the introduction of product placement. If handled in a less than frank and open manner, it may reduce the bond of trust between broadcaster and viewer. Where product placement does take place, there should be clear and un-ambivalent acknowledgement of the fact. The need for openness, transparency and accountability must outweigh any arguments in favour of commercial confidentiality. In other words, if a company wishes to engage in product placement, the viewer must be made fully aware of this at all times.

f) Exceptions

A child’s media literacy is less developed and sophisticated than an adult’s, therefore product placement is not appropriate in children’s television. Programmes that are directly funded through the licence fee, under current guidelines on advertising and sponsorship, should not enter into product placement agreements.

To conclude, while the Guild remains cautious about the benefits of product placement, we welcome the current debate on the risks and opportunities associated with product placement. We urge all stakeholders and decision makers to ensure a climate of transparency, robust regulation and accountability if the rules on product placement are relaxed.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Center for Future Storytelling

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Laboratory has opened a Center for Future Storytelling in partnership with Plymouth Rock Studios.
Research will range from on-set motion capture to accurately and unobtrusively merge human performers and digital character models; to next-generation synthetic performer technologies, such as richly interactive, highly expressive robotic or animated characters; to cameras that will spawn entirely new visual art forms; to morphable movie studios, where one studio can be turned into many through advanced visual imaging techniques; to holographic TV. It will draw on technologies pioneered at the Media Lab, such as digital systems that understand people at an emotional level, or cameras capable of capturing the intent of the storyteller.
Reflecting on the new 'Center', in The New York Times, Michael Cieply asks whether the whole concept of story in film is under threat.
A common gripe is that gamelike, open-ended series like “Pirates of the Caribbean” or “Spider-Man” have eroded filmmakers’ ability to wrap up their movies in the third act. Another is that a preference for proven, outside stories like the Harry Potter books is killing Hollywood’s appetite for original storytelling.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Producers draft product placement code of conduct

From Alistair Smith in The Stage:
Independent TV producers and ITV have laid out a code of conduct for product placement on television, which they would follow if the practice becomes permitted in the UK.

The British government is currently consulting on the AVMS Directive, which would permit EU member states to allow paid-for product placement in drama and entertainment, but not in news, current affairs, consumer advice or children’s programmes. The practice of product placement is already widespread on US-originated TV programmes.

What not to get a writer for Christmas

On his Artful Writer blog, Craig Mazin takes a look at a gift catalogue for writers. He's not overly impressed.
Shakespeare Naughty Pillow - $29.95
This is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a pillow with a bunch of “bawdy” Shakespeare quotes.

So you’re a writer…overweight, slouchy posture, pallid skin, bad eyesight…but don’t worry. Once you get those four Long Island Ice Teas into that girl at the bar and bring her back ’round your sweet Valley Village love pad, she’s going to stumble to the bed, catch a glimpse of the naughty pillow and read something like:

But that I will have a recheat winded in my forehead or hang my bugle in an invisible baldric all women shall pardon me.


You know what’s great about the Shakespeare Naughty Pillow? It pretty much guarantees you will never have sex for the rest of your fertile life, ensuring the end of every genetic line predisposed to buy stupid crap like a Shakespeare Naughty Pillow.

Might take a few generations, but Darwin is patient.
Of course, we all know what writers really want for Christmas.

Laura Mackie interview

In The Guardian, Gareth McLean interviews ITV's Controller of Drama, Laura Mackie.
ITV has followed BBC1 into Saturday teatime family drama (adding the imminent Demons, starring Philip Glenister, to Primeval), and ITV2 will be home to a third series of Secret Diary of a Call Girl and a new show, Trinity, which Mackie mind-bogglingly describes as "American Pie meets Brideshead Revisited". But the ITV1 weeknight 9pm slot remains "absolutely crucial" to her strategy.

"Our strategy is very simple and is something that Peter [Fincham, ITV director of television] has been very clear about since he came in. We want to deliver a broad range of popular, quality series."
On his blog, McLean reflects on the interview.
Speaking to people about Mackie and ITV, I realised there's an enormous amount of generosity towards her and a will for ITV drama to succeed – for more than purely selfish reasons. If nothing else, it keeps the BBC on its toes and goodness knows it needs the exercise...

There is, of course, plenty still to be done at ITV but I think Mackie is the person to do it. She said she wasn't interested in the BBC head of Fiction job. I really hope she meant it – unless she plans to go and dismantle it. But let's not get me started on that one.
Update (18.11.08): A more downbeat message in a report by Kate McMahon in Broadcast:
ITV chief operating officer John Cresswell has hinted that the broadcaster could scale back its drama output to focus on entertainment shows as the economic crisis deepens...

Asked about the future of drama, Cresswell said: "Will drama programming change? Well, Peter [Fincham] has got some really interesting ideas. The mix is always up for review. Drama plays an important part in the appeal of ITV to advertisers as it has a reach very much targeted at ABC1s, but for us, we may get more value from other big entertainment shows and perhaps even more specialised factual shows."

The power of fans

In The Guardian, Sarah Hughes considers the power that fans of a TV show can wield online, whether they're campaigning for a drama to be re-commissioned, or lobbying for certain storylines.
It can be hard for writers to ignore a strong fanbase, however. "The internet definitely has a growing effect on television," says the TV writer Phil Klemmer. He was part of the team on the now-cancelled teen detective drama Veronica Mars - and "it got to the stage where we'd be logging on after each episode to see what grade we'd received".

But the relationship soured three seasons in. "We found ourselves facing a backlash," Klemmer says. "People would be posting 'save our show', and accusing us of having destroyed it. They'd email the writers saying what we were doing wrong. It was a bit like a really bad break-up."

Online Video: Where’s The Money?

On TechCrunch, Erick Schonfeld analyses the revenues (or lack of them) of online video providers and concludes that, as business model, it is less viable than some suggest.
TV and media companies can make ten times as much by putting a video on TV than they can by putting it on the Web, even if that video attracts the same size audience. Online video startups can look at that as an opportunity to close that gap, but they should also realize that the Web is not the only game in town. In fact, cable companies are striking back by gradually shifting up their video-on-demand channels to a bigger mix of free, advertising-supported video. Cable’s answer to Youtube will be more video-on-demand channels with better videos that advertisers will line up to buy ads for at ten times the price they are willing to pay for ads on YouTube, or Hulu for that matter.

Smackdown: Life On Mars vs. Eleventh Hour

As mentioned here before, American versions of two British dramas cretaed by Guild members are currently playing in prime time in the USA - Eleventh Hour (created by Guild Stephen Gallagher) Life On Mars (created by Mathew Graham, Tony Jordan and Ashley Pharoah). But which one is best? In Wired magazine, Hugh Hart presents a 'smackdown' to find a winner.
Round 3: The Running-Around-in-Underwear Scene
"Life on Mars": A thug in boxers races out of a fitness club, chased by Keitel, also in trunks, in a madcap dash that ends in a Central Park pond.

"Eleventh Hour": Rachel races from her room into a hotel lobby dressed only in a robe and lingerie while responding to an accidental emergency call from her new-on-the-job science adviser.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

News from the West Midlands

An update from the Guild's West Midland's branch:

There had been some anxiety in the West Midlands that the BBC review of TV production and their ambition to move programme making out of London might also have meant out of Birmingham. To be seen to put TV production into Salford and Cardiff, the BBC might have raided what little drama Birmingham had left. West Midlands Writers’ Guild joined forces with other unions to lobby MPs and the BBC to keep the daytime drama Doctors in the region.

We wrote officially as the West Midlands branch of The Writers’ Guild and got members to write individually. Additionally, three separate early day motions were put down in Parliament. We are delighted that this effort appears to have been successful as the BBC has now announced that Doctors has been re-commissioned from Birmingham for a further three years.

The West Midlands Branch of The Writers’ Guild has now been active since the spring. In March there was a lively meeting with Jeremy Howe, the commissioning editor for Radio 4, attended by around 60 local writers and out of that meeting came the idea for forming a regional branch of the guild. About 80 writers attended what we saw as the inaugural branch meeting. The event was titled ‘Scripting The Future’ and held at Birmingham Rep to discuss the withdrawal of Arts Council funding from the regional drama writing development agency, Script, and to consider thoughts on how the needs of writers might be served in the future.

The Writers’ Guild was involved in three events as part of October’s Birmingham Book Festival. Michael Frayn was in discussion with Guild President, David Edgar; members and officers of the Guild were panellists at ‘The Writers’ Toolkit: an industry day’ (with keynote speech from David Edgar) and a Guild meeting ‘Writing in The Digital Age’ was held jointly with the Royal Television Society.

The next West Midlands Writers’ Guild meeting will be in mid December (details to be announced soon).

What Guild members are getting up to

BERNARD ASHLEY’S new teenage novel Solitaire is published by Usborne this week. An adventure story set on a remote Indian Ocean island, it takes a hard hit at the arms trade.

SARAH BAGSHAW wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Tuesday 18th November.

HELEN BLAKEMAN wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Friday 21st November.

This week's episode of 15 Minute Musicals, written by DAVE COHEN with Richie Webb, 'Cleggerella' sees the Lib Dem leader given a TV makeover in an attempt to get him recognised.

MARY CUTLER wrote the episodes of The Archers going out on Radio 4 at 7:00pm from Sunday 16th till Friday 21st November, with each episode being repeated at 2:00pm the day following its original broadcast.

ANDREW DAVIES’S dramatisation of Little Dorrit continues on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Wednesday 19th and on Thursday 20th November.

CHRIS DUNKLEY’S radio play The Architects is going out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Wednesday 19th November.

MATTHEW EVANS wrote the episodes of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Monday 17th and at 7:30pm on Tuesday 18th November.

STEVEN FAY wrote the episodes of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Tuesday 18th and Wednesday 19th November.

JONATHAN HARVEY wrote the episodes of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm and at 8:30pm on Friday 21st November.

JAYNE HOLLINSON wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Monday 17th November.

JULIE JONES wrote the episode of Britannia High, Fame, going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Sunday 16th November.

BILL LYONS wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Friday 21st November.

PAUL MCKENZIE wrote the episode of Dani’s House going out on BBC1 at 4:35pm on Friday 21st November.

JULIE PARSONS wrote the episodes of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Wednesday 19th and Thursday 20th November.

CHRISTOPHER REASON’S dramatisation of Jaroslav Hasek’s novel The Good Soldier Svejk is going out on Radio 4 at 3:00pm on Sunday 16th November.

HEATHER ROBSON wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Thursday 20th November.

PETE SINCLAIR co-wrote the episode of Lead Balloon “Panda” going out on BBC2 at 10:00pm on Thursday 20th November.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Melissa Rosenberg on adapting Twilight

In The L.A. Times, Denise Martin talks to Melissa Rosenberg about adapting Stephanie Myer's book, Twilight, for the big screen and the response to the final book in the series, Breaking Dawn.
As a writer yourself, what did you think of “Breaking Dawn”? Fans were pretty divided.

I was utterly compelled by it, first of all. I understand why there's uproar, but I respect Stephenie for having made the choices she did. She easily could have played it very safe. She could have had the series go on for another eight novels, but she took a risk. And she blew it out! She just completely went wild. I just think that that's such bold storytelling. She turns the series upside down.

Here's the thing: If you're playing it safe, you're not going to offend any of the fans. If you take a risk, you risk losing your entire audience, you risk destroying your entire series. We deal with that on "Dexter" all the time [the series on which Rosenberg writes). Every time you take a risk, you have a 50-50 chance of choosing wrong. We've all seen series take that risk and fall flat on their asses and everyone cries, "What have you done to my series?" And then you're the most hated person. But I think Stephenie was true to herself and her story and that's what is important.
Twilight trailer

Twilight will be released in the UK on 19 December.

Barrington Bayley obituaries

Science fiction writer Barrington Bayley died last month at the age of 71. There are obituaries on Locus Online, The Times, and by Michael Moorcok in The Guardian.
Barrington Bayley, who has died aged 71, was a writer of metaphysical, absurdist "space opera" - the science-fiction subgenre of epic adventure/romance stories set in space. He was perhaps best known for those he inspired, among them the writers M John Harrison, Iain M Banks, William Gibson, Bruce Sterling and the so-called "cyberpunks".
There's lots more information about Barrington Bayley on this fan site.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Why writers have cats

On The Guardian Books Blog, David Barnett claims that writers seem to prefer cats to dogs, citing a Google image search on "author with cat".
Perhaps cats are important totem animals for writers. Perhaps writers hope their independence and mystique will rub off on them, and seek to emulate the slightly magical moggy's feigned disinterest when those bad reviews roll in.
Or perhaps we just need a tough critic from time to time.

Words by Sherry. Photo by Julie. From

Poetry reading cancelled after Christian Voice threat

In The Western Mail, Steffan Rhys reports on Waterstones cancelling a reading by the poet Patrick Jones following plans for a protest by Christian Voice. Jones said:
“I’m proud of this book There are poems about the state of society, poems about war.

“I also exercise the right to free speech and criticise certain religious practices like female circumcision, George Bush’s use of religion, as well as Christians’ treatment of homosexuality and the treatment of women, especially in Islam and Catholicism.

“People have obviously felt threatened about this and activated a religious protest and Waterstone’s have bowed to it.”

Waterstone’s spokesman John Howells said: “We have cancelled the planned event involving Patrick Jones this evening at our Cardiff Hayes branch as we felt it was not appropriate to go ahead in the light of potential disruption.

“However, his book remains available at the store.”

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

C4 drama budget to be cut

From Jon Rogers in Broadcast:
Channel 4's head of programmes Julian Bellamy has confirmed that C4's programming budgets will be cut by "at least" £25m next year, with daytime and drama to be hit hardest.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

David Evans - Return of a native

On the WGGB website, Guild member David Evans reports on going back to Durban for the Time Of The Writer Festival earlier this year.
In 1963 in the city of Durban the South African government halted my career as a writer by imposing a ban which forbade me any form of publication, performance or public speaking. A year later I was imprisoned for opposing apartheid, and five years after that house arrested on my release. Living in the UK since 1970, first as an exile then as a citizen, I’ve seen my poetry, short stories and a novel published and work for stage and television performed, but have remained unpublished in South Africa.

So it was an emotional and somewhat triumphal moment on an evening this March to be on a public platform in the city where I was banned – and to be reading a poem as part of a week-long writers’ festival.

Peter Flannery - The Devil's Whore

In The Sunday Times, Stephen Armstrong talks to Guild member Peter Flannery about his new drama, The Devil's Whore, set during the Civil War.
“I can’t for the life of me understand why we’re not more proud of the civil war,” Flannery argues. “In our schools, we’re taught that the Cavaliers wore their hair long and had fun, while the Roundheads wore their hair short and banned Christmas. And that’s about it. Regicide, interregnum and restoration, and there you have it. We’ve been invited to feel that England lost its wits for a little while, courtesy of some rather dour men. Actually, it’s the crucible for all the subsequent European revolutions. It radicalised a lot of people and left a legacy of ideas that we’re still battling over. We should, as a nation, be informed about that and take a proud interest in it. Also, for a writer, it’s the most glorious landscape for love and action.”
Michael Fassbender as Rainsborough and Dominic West as Cromwell in The Devil's Whore (Photo: C4/Giles Keyte)

The Devil's Whore starts on Channel Four on 19 November. There's another interview with Peter Flannery on the C4 website.

Tranter: TV drama budgets at breaking point

From Ben Dowell in Media Guardian:
The departing BBC Fiction controller, Jane Tranter, has said today that budgets for British television drama are at breaking point and that broadcasters are in danger of showing "theatre and not television".

Tranter added that the majority of drama is made is at the limit of "what we can ask the production teams to do" and that "budgets cannot keep on falling".

She said: "There's really not much more we can cut without endangering not just the quality of the work, but also the quality of the lives of the people who work on these things."

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Curve Theatre, Leicester

In The Independent, Jay Merrick explores Leicester's new Curve Theatre, by the architect Rafael Viñoly, which opens this month.
The architecture does not so much demonstrate the modernist form-equals-function mantra, as act it out. At the Curve, the usual demarcations between on-stage and backstage, promenade spaces and operational spaces, actors and punters, have been erased. It was unsurprising to learn that Viñoly’s original sketches for the theatre amounted to theatrical, public and operational spaces divided only by curtains.

Andy Hamilton on Outnumbered

outnumberedWith his sitcom Outnumbered (co-written with Guy Jenkin) returning to BBC One on Saturday, in The Guardian, Andy Hamilton reveals the secret of writing comedy for child actors.
...our top priority was to keep it all feeling natural, so we opted for some radical measures. Firstly, to avoid the children sounding scripted, we decided not to give them a script. We would write a script - otherwise we would not get paid - but we would only give it to the adult actors. The kids would not be allowed to see it. We would tell them the gist of a scene, then wait to see what came out of their mouths.
The first series of Outnumbered has won Hamilton and Jenkin a nomination for a Writers' Guild Award.

Friday, November 07, 2008

What Guild members are getting up to

MARTIN ALLEN wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Wednesday 12th November.

STEVE BAILIE wrote the episode of The Bill “Proof of Life” going out on ITV1 at 8:00pm on Wednesday 12th November.

PERRIE BALTHAZAR wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Friday 14th November.

ABI BOWN wrote the episode of Holby City “We Said Some Things” going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Tuesday 11th November.

TARA BYRNE wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Tuesday 11th November.

ANNA CLEMENTS wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Wednesday 12th November.

DAVE COHEN co-wrote the episode of 15 Minute Musicals “Sweary Todd, The Demon Carver of Meat (featuring Gordon Ramsay!)” which is going out on Wednesday 12th November at 11:00pm on Radio 4. You can listen again to last week’s episode on the Listen Again service until Wednesday 12th November.

SIMON CROWTHER wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Monday 10th November.

MARY CUTLER wrote the episodes of The Archers going out on Radio 4 at 7:00pm from Sunday 9th until Friday 14th November with each episode being repeated at 2:00pm the day following its original broadcast.

ANDREW DAVIES’S dramatisation of Little Dorrit continues on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Wednesday 12th and on Thursday 13th November.

JOHN FLANAGAN and ANDREW MCCULLOCH co-wrote the episode of Heartbeat “Guilty Secrets” going out on ITV1 at 8:00pm on Sunday 9th November.

JULIA GILBERT wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Monday 10th November.

STEVE HUGHES wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Friday 14th November.

MICHAEL JENNER wrote the episode of Taggart “The Caring Game” going out on ITV1 at 9:00pm on Friday 14th November.

RICHARD MCBRIEN wrote the episode of Spooks going out on BBC1 at 9:00pm on Monday 10th November.

PAUL MYATT wrote the episode of Doctors “Safe Haven” going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Tuesday 11th November.

HOWARD OVERMAN wrote the episode of Merlin “The Beginning of the End” going out on BBC1 at 7:20pm on Saturday 8th November.

BERNARD PADDEN wrote the episode of Doctors “Trapped in Space” going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Friday 14th November.

LYN PAPADOPOULOS wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Monday 10th November.

JULIE PARSONS wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Tuesday 11th November.

PETE SINCLAIR co-wrote the first episode of the new series of Lead Balloon “Gas” going out on BBC2 at 10:00pm on Thursday 13th November.

CHRIS THOMPSON wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Thursday 13th November.

ANDREW VINER’S book, Venn That Tune: Bringing the Poetry of Maths to the Magic of Pop is published on November 13th by Hodder & Stoughton. It’s a book of classic song titles drawn as Venn diagrams and graphs.

KATHARINE WAY wrote the episode of Doctors “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Thursday 13th November.

KARIN YOUNG wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Wednesday 12th November.

Books gift to Globe from playwright Wolfson

From BBC News:
A collection of rare texts by William Shakespeare is to be donated to the London theatre that bears his name.

US playwright John Wolfson has pledged more than 450 works, including a first folio of 18 Shakespeare plays, to be handed over after his death.

Wolfson said he was "fortunate to have found a place as appropriate for my books as Shakespeare's Globe".

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Recorded For Training Purposes - sketches wanted

Recorded for Training purposesOn BBC Writersroom, an invitation to sketch writers to submit work for the new series of Recorded For Training Purposes.
Recorded for Training Purposes is a sketch show for BBC Radio 4. Its remit is to be about "modern communication" - a wide brief, that can cover anything from straightforward sketches involving unhelpful helplines to parodies of modern types of TV/Radio.

The first series went out in January 2007, with a second series broadcast the following September. For the first series there was a national search for new writers who would write the series alongside a few more experienced writers and script editors. For the second series, the amount of material from these new writers was increased, with the more experienced writers taking a back seat.

It has a cast of six - three men, three women - who can, collectively, play most ages.

For the third series, there will be a core writing team of people who've written on the first two series. However, the show will also be opened up to, well, anyone. Anyone who sends stuff in will have their stuff read (which is why there's a limit of three sketches; sorry, we don't have time to read any more than that), and the best stuff will work its way into the recordings. If the audience like it, it'll get on air, and you'll get paid and credited for your work.
The deadline for the submission of no more than three sketches per writer is 17 November 2008. Full details from BBC Writersroom.

Michael Crichton obituaries

Michael Crichton, best-selling novelist and creator of TV series ER, has died at the age of 66. As BBC News recalls:
In the 1990s he simultaneously had America's number one movie (Jurassic Park), its number one bestseller (Disclosure) and its top TV series (ER).
In The New York Times there's an appreciation of his work by Chalres McGrath.
All the Crichton books depend to a certain extent on a little frisson of fear and suspense: that’s what kept you turning the pages. But a deeper source of their appeal was the author’s extravagant care in working out the clockwork mechanics of his experiments — the DNA replication in “Jurassic Park,” the time travel in “Timeline,” the submarine technology in “Sphere.” The novels have embedded in them little lectures or mini-seminars on, say, the Bernoulli principle, voice-recognition software or medieval jousting etiquette.
There are also obituaries in The Guardian, The Times and The Daily Telegraph.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Radio Drama Q & A

From BBC Writersroom:
Writing for Radio

Kwame Kwei-Armah and Sarah Daniels talk about writing for radio in London on Thursday 20th November

Kwame Kwei-Armah is currently writer-in-residence for BBC Radio Drama. His play Elmina's Kitchen was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play, and won the Evening Standard's Charles Wintour Most Promising Playwright Award, and his work includes Statement of Regret, Fix Up, and Let There Be Love.

Sarah Daniels has written for Radio, Television, and Theatre, including episodes of EastEnders and Grange Hill. Her plays have been performed at the National Theatre, the Royal Court Theatre, and the Royal Exchange. The script for her radio play The Sound Barrier can be downloaded from the BBC writersroom Script Archive.

Sarah and Kwame will answer questions on Radio Drama in London on Thursday 20th November from 6pm onwards.

The address is:

Maylebone Conference Centre
35 Marylebone High Street

To book your free ticket, email with the subject line Radio Drama Q and A.

Alan Davey speech

On The Guardian Theatre Blog, Lyn Gardner reports on a speech by Alan Davey, chief executive of Arts Council England, that set out some of his thinking.
...the Arts Council will be looking to create new-style funding agreements. "I want us to look at loosening the uniform three-year cycle, and examine instead a range of funding possibilities, with some bodies on longer term arrangements than now, and some on more flexible, shorter term arrangements," declared Davey.
He also introduced a new consultation on self-assessment and peer review.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

British Comedy Awards 2008: The story so far

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

The British Comedy Awards will be back on telly this December, given a prevailing wind and a bit of luck. And the Guild will once again be associated, presenting our Writer of the Year award, which is solely in our gift.

But there have already been some changes. Jonathan Ross seems to have remembered a previous engagement and won’t be presenting the awards this year. And there was a compliance officer in the room with the jury; rather like Mr. Mackay watching Fletcher.

The jury consisted of the heads of comedy from BBC, ITV and C4, as well as journalists and three Guild members, Steven Moffat, Jonathan Harvey and myself. We did our best to speak up for all that’s grand in comedy and to make sure that the awards go to the people who deserve them.

However after a day of doing jury service, I’m afraid I still don’t know the new British Comedy Awards presenter - or the new Dr. Who.

Steven Moffat, Gail Renard and Jonathan Harvey

Monday, November 03, 2008

Peter Morgan interview

In The New York Times, Sylviane Gold talks to British writer Peter Morgan about how he has turned his play Frost/Nixon into a film.
...a few years before his screenplays for “The Queen” and “The Last King of Scotland” propelled him to the head of the class, Peter Morgan was so fed up that he was ready to try anything — anything! — that wasn’t a film script.

A special section featuring Daniel Craig and Brad Pitt, clips of breakthrough performances, an interactive look at “Frost/Nixon,” a movie calendar and more.

He considered bungee jumping and mountain climbing, he said not long ago from his home in London. But he chose something even riskier. He wrote a play about the landmark 1977 television interviews that David Frost conducted with Richard M. Nixon. Relying on the accounts of participants and fictionalizing here and there for effect, he made sure to write it, he said, “in a way that breaks every single rule of screenwriting.”
Frost/Nixon trailer

Frost/Nixon will be released in the UK in January.

The Bill meets SOKO Leipzig

In The Times, Stephen Armstrong reports on a partnershipe between ITV's The Bill and German police drama SOKO Leipzig to produce two episodes to be shown later this month.
This two-parter is jointly funded and filmed by ITV1 and the German state broadcaster ZDF; touchingly, both channels will show the same version. Online chatter from Bill lovers has expressed regret the show didn’t twin with CSI — which, as CSI costs roughly $3m (£1.5m) an hour to make, suggests the fanbase haven’t quite understood their show’s place in international television’s ecosystem. But you can understand their wishful thinking. CSI is a prolific master of the twinned show, crossbreeding with other locales in its franchise and also with the FBI agents of Without a Trace and the sleuths of Cold Case.

Bond breaks UK box office records

The latest Bond film, Quantum Of Solace, written by British screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade along with American Paul Haggis (based on a story by Ian Fleming and starring Daniel Craig, pictured above), has broken the record for highest box office receipts on its first day, reports BBC News.

According to Sony Pictures, the film took £4.9m, breaking the record held by Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire.

US showrunners' power increases

In The Hollywood Reporter, James Hibberd argues that since the US Writers strike, which ended in Feburay, showrunning writers on American TV series have become increasingly powerful.
Studios still largely see showrunners as another form of employee. But the clout on display during the strike evidences a recent subtle shift in television. Once anonymous workmen leading their writing staffs, showrunners increasingly have become CEOs of their creative product, showered with accolades when the shows do well but forced to deal with challenges like budget crunches and the industry-wide concerns over falling ratings and the slowing ad market.

Tim Kring, creator and showrunner of NBC's "Heroes," says he acts as a "brand manager and spokesman" for his show.

"It's such a nice phrase, and nobody knows what the hell it means," says David Wild, author of "The Showrunners: A Season Inside the Billion-Dollar, Death-Defying, Madcap World of Television's Real Stars." "They're the quarterback and the head coach, the person calling the shots. Usually it's a writer who is the creative and general force behind any show. But there are nonwriting showrunners. The irony is there's a built-in conflict: If you're coming up from the ranks of writing, you celebrate creativity unbound, and it seems the real showrunners are the ones who have that creative spirit -- but with organizational skills."

Abdulrazzak wins Meyer-Whitworth Award

From Lalayn Baluch in The Stage:
Hassan Abdulrazzak has won the 17th annual Meyer-Whitworth Award for new writing for his first play Baghdad Wedding, which premiered at the Soho Theatre in June 2007.
Ashley Meyer, Hassan Abdulrazzak and Lisa Goldman at the Meyer-Whitworth Award presentation.

Iraqi-born Abdulrazzak, who is a microbiologist, beat off competition from four other short-listed finalists to receive a cheque for £10,000 during a presentation ceremony at the National Theatre.