Monday, August 03, 2009

Summing up post-Garnett

In Broadcast, Katherine Rushton attempts to summarise the feelings of writers in the aftermath of Tony Garnett's attack on BBC TV drama. It's a good round-up of the differing opinions and ends with an open letter to Jana Bennett, Director of BBC Vision, that includes a call for more respect for writers.
Suppliers want commissioning editors to have more faith that writers and indie execs will do their jobs properly. Yes, they need to debate whether ideas they are working on are already being covered elsewhere, but commissioners should trust them to do their jobs without giving notes for the sake of it. And when the notes do come, they need to be clear and respect the writer’s integrity. One producer says: “If we come to you with an author-driven piece, the notes shouldn’t be about changing the entire plot or character.”


  1. Anonymous5:26 pm

    The only time that the BBC will mend their ways is when government threatens to unplug their pipeline of free cash.


    Please don't underestimate the mountains which can be moved when we stand together. Writers are getting support from all over the industry. We've moved the debate into the open, which is the only way to put things right.

    Together, we can improve things. Alone and afraid, we can achieve nothing.

  3. For what it's worth, the vast majority of people I've worked with at the BBC really do want to do the right thing, and really do want to produce great work. I don't think anyone plays "kick the writer" just for kicks.

    I also think we as writers need to be braver, and maybe tug the forelock a little less. Speaking from personal experience, I hate confrontation and my default setting is passive aggressive but that's not especially healthy when a problem rears its head.

    Edel Brosnan

  4. You're braver and more vocal than most, Edel, because a lot of writers are too afraid even to speak out, and that's not fair. Members should always remember that they can contact the Guild with their concerns and the Guild will speak for them anonymously and collectively. And many thanks to all of the people who have stepped forward already.

  5. Anonymous9:11 pm

    The problem with the BBC is that there are far too many people employed there who have no talent for the business. I have worked for them on several occasions and each has bordered on the farcical, more often than not when a script editor has got involved. What qualifications do these people have in the first place? Script editor seems to have become the entry-level position at the BBC in recent years and the speed at which these people move up the ranks is frightening. Ben Stephenson was a script editor a mere nine years ago and now he holds one of the most powerful positions within the corporation. As far as I can tell from his resume he had no television experience prior to being handed a script editor's role. A desire to work in television isn't a good enough reason to employ someone. We need people in these positions who have a talent for the job.

  6. Anonymous, I agree that script editor should be a role that one is promoted into, not out of. But to a certain extent, good script editors are good from the word go. I've had wonderful experiences with people with very little experience but good instincts and - crucially - the confidence and integrity to argue their case, and mine, in those tricky development meetings where the writer isn't normally present. Like writing itself, the technical skills can be learnt, but to a certain extent, you've either got a natural storytelling aptitude or you don't.

    For legal reasons, I'm not going to share my bad-script-editor stories online...


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