Thursday, April 30, 2009

BBC 2 planning 'event drama'

By Matthew Hemley for The Stage
New BBC2 controller Janice Hadlow has revealed she plans to make original drama “the major event of the week” on the channel and draw inspiration from its previous successes including literary adaptations and series such as Our Friends in the North.

Speaking exclusively to The Stage, Hadlow, who was previously controller of BBC4 and replaced Roly Keating as head of BBC2 at the end of last year, said she was looking for dramas that audiences know “no one else is going to do”.
Let's hope she heeds the words of Guy Hibbert (whose work she praises), and allows writers to write without interference.

Google Book Settlement delay

From Ryan Singel for Wired:
Google’s attempt to build the digital library of the future was slowed down significantly Tuesday, as the judge overseeing a landmark court settlement between the search giant and all U.S. copyright holders gave authors four more months to decide whether to join, fight or opt-out of the deal.
There's more background about the Google Book Search Settlement, including Guild advice to UK writers, on the Guild website.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

BBC "right not to replace Tranter"

On his Guardian blog, Gareth McLean argues that the BBC is right not to replace Head Of Fiction Jane Tranter and commends their pursuit of a "flatter, simpler editorial structure".
...from the outset, the head of fiction post was a folly, an entirely unnecessary and anti-creative construction, an unhealthy concentration of power in the hands of one person. Who that person was is actually irrelevant. Such a consolidation of control over scripted comedy, drama, film and acquisitions is improper, irrespective of what you think of the person who wields the power. It was too big a job for one individual, regardless of how "good" their taste.

All Together Now? British Theatre after Multiculturalism

Michael Boyd, Richard Eyre, Vicky Featherstone, Kwame Kwei-Armah and Stewart Lee are among theatre practitioners who will be gathering at the Warwick Arts Centre near Coventry in June to discuss whether theatre has a role in defining Britishness and bringing communities together.

Titled All Together Now? British Theatre after Multiculturalism, the conference will be held over the weekend of 13-14 June 2009.

Under Labour, the arts were charged with challenging social exclusion, celebrating diversity and reasserting Britishness. But is there a contradiction between diversity and national identity? Should theatre foster cohesion or challenge it? If multiculturalism is dead, should theatre be promoting it? Is the theatre's role to encourage tolerance or provoke outrage? What has been the experience of the National Theatre of Scotland and the National Theatre on the south bank?

These and other questions will be debated during panel discussions, whose subjects will embrace national arts policy, how repertory theatres should relate to their communities, whether identity politics still has a role in drama's agenda, and if theatre should be allowed or even encouraged to offend. The conference will begin with a discussion on Shakespeare and history, led by the artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and it will end with a panel consisting of a former director of the National Theatre in London, the current director of the National Theatre of Scotland, and the chair of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

The current line-up of speakers includes playwrights Richard Bean, Howard Brenton and Kwame Kwei-Armah , comedian and writer Stewart Lee; directors Richard Eyre, Simon Reade, Michael Boyd (RSC) and Jonathan Church (Chichester); Barrie Rutter of Northern Broadsides and Vicky Featherstone of the National Theatre of Scotland; Stuart Rogers of the Birmingham Rep, and Lisa O'Neill-Rogan of the Bolton Octagon; academic Lynette Goddard, commentator David Aaronovitch and writer Kenan Malik; Barbara Matthews of the Arts Council, Conservative arts spokesman Ed Vaizey MP and 2012 Cultural Olympiad chair Jude Kelly.

The conference organisers are playwrights Steve Waters, Julie Wilkinson and Guild President David Edgar, playwright/academic Dan Rebellato and Janelle Reinelt of Warwick University. In December 2007 the organising group produced a sell-out one day conference on the last decade of British Theatre (How was it for us? Theatre under Blair) at the Writers' Guild Centre in Kings Cross.

The Warwick Arts Centre conference starts at 11.00am on Saturday 13 June and finishes at 4.00pm on Sunday 14June. The registration fee is £100 (£50 student rate) which includes attendance on both days and a conference banquet on Saturday evening. Onsite accommodation for the Saturday night is available at a supplement of £50. Bookings can be made at the conference website.

For other booking methods and enquiries, please contact Janelle Reinelt at j.reinelt@warwick.ac.uk.

The conference is supported by generous contributions from Royal Holloway University of London, the University of Warwick, and Warwick Arts Centre.

Apple rumoured to be planning 'Mediapad'

Despite the relative success of Amazon's Kindle e-reader in the US, it might take a company like Apple to bring such devices to the mainstream. Rumoured plans for a 'mediapad' - like an iPod Touch but with a larger screen - could be the start, reckons David Coursey for PC World.
The larger screen would be a more pleasant way to view movies or the Internet than an iPod or iPhone and the device could have decent speakers, too. By using a touch screen, Apple could save space necessary for Kindle's keyboard, resulting in a smaller device.

While not pocket-sized, the Apple mediapad would be easy to carry and offer an entertainment experience a smaller device could not match. Reading a book might be such an experience, right?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Adopt a playwright

For the second year OffWestEnd.com is running an 'adopt a playwright' scheme, inviting patrons to "buy time for struggling new playwrights to write".
The aim is quite simply to encourage new voices from every corner of our multifaceted society by buying them the time to write. We want to make sure that talented new writers from backgrounds that offer them little encouragement or financial support do not give up but are given a fair chance to prove themselves and take their place among our culture's storytellers.

Every year an Advisory Panel of 'talent scouts' and 'experts' will recommend and short-list new writers who show talent and need help. One writer will be chosen for adoption each year.
In The Guardian, Alfred Hickling considers the merits of the scheme.
Adopting a playwright is a fine idea. But if you really want to subsidise unpublished authors and out-of-work actors, you could always go down the established route and open a restaurant.

DVRs - the revolution that wasn't

Unusually, some good news for the TV industry: it seems that Digital Video Recorders, frequently predicted to have a devastating effect on commercial TV revenues by allowing viewers to skip adverts, seem to have had little impact.

From The Economist:
Families with DVRs [in America] seem to spend 15-20% of their viewing time watching pre-recorded shows, and skip only about half of all advertisements. This means only about 5% of television is time-shifted and less than 3% of all advertisements are skipped. Mitigating that loss, people with DVRs watch more television.

Monday, April 27, 2009

BAFTA TV Awards winners

Winners at last night's BAFTA TV Awards included:
  • Single Drama - White Girl (written by Abi Morgan)
  • Drama Series - Wallander (written by Richard Cottan and Richard McBrien, from the books by Henning Menkell)
  • Drama Serial - Criminal Justice (written by Peter Moffat)
  • Continuing Drama - The Bill ( see writing credits)
  • Comedy Programme - Harry and Paul (created by Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse)
  • Sitcom - The IT Crowd (written by Graham Linehan)
  • Audience Award - Skins (created by Jamie Brittain amd Bryan Elsley)

Webby honour for Brothers McLeod

Sticks, a series of animations by the Brothers McLeod (including Guild member Myles), has been named an Official Honoree of the 2009 Webby Awards to recognise its "standard of excellence".

Guild members can look forward to an article by Myles in the next issue of UK Writer.

Here's the first Sticks. The other two are also available online.

Andrew Motion steps down

On the BBC News website the Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion, talks about his ten years in the role.
You wrote eight special poems while laureate. Are there any of which you're particularly proud?

Overall, I think of them as left-handed poems written by a right-handed poet. Some of them don't work at all well.

I tried to write something for Prince William's 21st birthday in the style of a rap, because I thought "he's a young person and I'll do it in a kind of humorous way" and I wish I hadn't done it really, I wish I'd stayed on the higher ground.

New ITC rates

The new rates payable to writers under the WGGB agreement with the Independent Theatre Council (ITC) has been announced. You can download the new ITC rates (pdf) from the Guild website.

Martin Baum on the phone-in experience

On the Writers' Guild wesbite, Martin Baum recounts the experience of taking part in Richard Bacon's BBC Radio 5 Live phone-in talking about his book, To Be or Not To Be, Innit – A Yoof-Speak Guide To Shakespeare.
There was another guest. A traditionalist who held a different view to mine who was sat on her own in an unmanned studio in Liverpool - and this taught me the valuable broadcasting lesson that out of sight is out of mind, especially if you’re not actually in the studio at the time of transmission. Unfortunately for the lady ’cross the Mersey, the balance of air time given was very much tipped in my favour.

Friday, April 24, 2009

What Guild members are getting up to

ABBY AJAYI wrote the episode of Holby City "Running on Empty" going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Tuesday 28th April.

SARAH BAGSHAW wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Tuesday 28th April.

MARK BURGESS'S radio play A King's Speech is going out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Thursday 30th April.

RICHARD BURKE wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Wednesday 29th April.

MICHAEL CHAPLIN'S radio play Two Pipe Problems going out in two parts on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Monday 27th and Tuesday 28th April.

ANNA CLEMENTS wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Tuesday 28th April.

TIM DYNEVOR wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Thursday 30th April.

JEREMY FRONT wrote the episode of Murder Unprompted: a Charles Paris Mystery, staring Bill Nighy its going out on Radio 4 at 11:30am on Wednesday 29th April.

DIANA GRIFFITHS' radio play Therese Raquin concludes on Radio 4 at 9:00pm on Radio 4 at 9:00pm on Saturday 25th April.

DAWN HARRISON wrote the episode of Doctors "Someone to Watch over Me" going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Wednesday 29th April.

JANE HOLLOWOOD wrote the episode of Heartbeat "Looking for Isabelle" going out on ITV1 at 8:00pm on Sunday 26th April.

DEBBIE HORSFIELD wrote the episode of All the Small Things going out on BBC1 at 9:00pm on Tuesday 28th April.

KAREN HUGHES wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Monday 27th April.

JULIE JONES wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Wednesday 29th April.

DAVID KANE wrote the episode of Taggart "Grass" going out on ITV1 at 9:00pm on Thursday 30th April.

NICK KING wrote the episode of Doctors "Playing Away" going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Monday 27th April.

ROB KINSMAN wrote the episode of Doctors "Lucky" going out on BC1 at 1:45pm on Tuesday 28th April.

KAREN LAWS wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Monday 27th April.

JANE MARLOW wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Friday 1st May.

JIMMY MCGOVERN wrote the episode of The Street going out on BBC1 at 10:45pm on Wednesday 29th April.

DAVID NOBBS co-wrote the episode of Reggie Perrin going out on BBC1 at 9:30pm on Friday 1st May.

MOYA O'SHEA is performing in fellow Guild member Mark Burgess's radio play A King's Speech going out on 2:15pm on Thursday 30th April.

CHRISTOPHER REASON wrote the episodes of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 7:30pm on Tuesday 28th and Thursday 30th April.

HEATHER ROBSON wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Monday 27th April.

DAN TETSELL co-wrote the episode of Rudy's Rare Records "Take Me Home, Country Roads" going out on Radio 4 at 11:30am on Monday 27th April.

JOANNA TOYE wrote the episodes of The Archers going out on Radio 4 at 7:00pm from Sunday 26th till Friday 1st May.

Arts Council England to invest extra £44.5 million

From The Arts Council:
Arts Council England will invest an extra £44.5 million in artists and arts organisations over the next two years to help maintain artistic excellence during the economic downturn.

These counter-recessionary measures were announced by Chair Dame Liz Forgan, in a speech at an Arts Council sponsored seminar, Maximising the importance of arts and culture through the economic downturn, today 24 April 2009, in London...

The new funds have been made available by the Arts Council radically reducing its Lottery cash balances over the next two years.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Wired edited by JJ Abrams

Wired
The latest (US) issue of Wired magazine is guest edited by writer and director JJ Abrams.

As you might expect from the creator of Lost, it contains some hidden messages (none of which, apparently, work online).

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Can a writer be too famous?

With The Lost Symbol, Dan Brown's follow-up to his global bestseller The Da Vinci Code, set for release later this year, Hillel Italie asks if fame can damage a writer's work.
"Lost Symbol" took far longer to complete than his previous books. In his increasingly rare public statements, Brown has lamented that he can no longer fly on commercial planes because of autograph seekers and expressed shock at the vehemence of the questions he faced while promoting the book.

Like other celebrities, he has learned the meaning of being sued. His most extended comments in the past few years came in a 69-page court statement he submitted for a copyright infringement case filed against him (and eventually rejected) in London.

"As soon as 'The Da Vinci Code' was published and had become a runaway success, I found myself in a firestorm of controversy," Brown wrote in his statement. "I had never experienced this kind of media attention, and it was very difficult at times (especially the criticism from Christians). Often at my book signings, I found myself interrogated publicly by an angry Christian scholar who quizzed me on details of Bible history from the novel."

Blue plaque commemorates Stewart Parker

From BBC News:
A blue plaque marking the birthplace of Belfast playwright and poet Stewart Parker has been unveiled by his niece.

Lynne Parker performed the ceremony at the house in Larkfield Road, Sydenham, in the east of the city where her uncle spent his early years.

Stewart Parker died in 1988 after battling cancer. He was 46 years of age.
Among the works for which he is best known are the plays Spokesong and Catchpenny Twist.
Update: Also, the winners of the annual Stewart Parker awards for new playwrights have been announced.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Rhianna Pratchett interview

On the Guild website I've put up the interview with video games writer Rhianna Pratchett that was the cover story in the most recent issue of the Guild's magazine, UK Writer.
How does writing a game story compare to say, a TV series or feature film?

I’d say it has a little more in common with TV writing, rather than film writing, because you’re trying to tell a story in a small space while executing scenes and establishing characters quickly and succinctly. That’s while still trying to squeeze colour, personality, imagination and good writing into the mix! Ultimately you’re not dealing with a linear medium, nor one in which the needs of story are particular well established or respected. That can be pretty challenging, even for experienced games writers. Understanding how games work and what gamers want from them is actually not something you can walk in from another medium and just know. You have to have had some experience of games and, ideally in my opinion, be a gamer yourself, even if it’s just casually. No one would expect to write a movie having never watched one or read a screenplay.

Gregory Burke's new play

In The Guardian, Mark Fisher talks to playwright Gregory Burke about his new play, Hoors
Until recently, Burke, now 41, was touting Hoors as the "disappointing follow-up to Black Watch" - displaying the self-deprecating humour typical of this man brought up in the tough expat naval community of Gibraltar, and in a working-class area of Dunfermline during the miners' strike. But he does have a point: it will be tough for Hoors to match the success of Black Watch, his riveting story of "The Gallant Forty-Twa", as the now-amalgamated Scottish regiment was known. Based on interviews with soldiers who served in Iraq, Black Watch hurtled its cast from a smoky Fife pool room to a world of bullets, bombs and brutal death. Last month, it picked up four Olivier awards, including one for best new play.

Today, Burke is feeling much more positive about Hoors, which opens at Edinburgh's Traverse next month before touring the UK: "I really like the script. It's funny and it's done all the things I wanted it to do." There are several reasons why Burke chose the play's title. "It's not a searing verbatim exploration of the sex industry. It's a metaphor. We're all whores. We all believe in what we believe at the time, and say what we want to get somewhere. How often do we reveal our true feelings?"

Monday, April 20, 2009

Martin Baum on Richard Bacon show

Guild member Martin Baum will be on the Richard Bacon phone-in programme on BBC Radio Five Live tonight from midnight, talking about his book,To Be Or Not To Be, Innit - A Yoof-speak Guide to Shakespeare.

The book, as those of you who read Martin's article in the Guild magazine last year will remember, was self-published and has become a huge hit that has attracted a massive amount of publicity - including an appearance on Richard and Judy.

JG Ballard 1930-2009

ballard
Writer JG Ballard has died at the age of 78. Best known for his books Empire Of The Sun and Crash, both of which were turned into high-profile feature films, Ballard described the majority of his work as "picturing the psychology of the future".

BBC News has a series of tributes from readers, and there are obituaries in The Guardian, The Independent, The Telegraph and The Times.

The Guardian also has tributes by fellow writers, including Michael Moorcock.
JG Ballard was one of my closest friends for 50 years. Together with Barry Bayley, who died last year, we "plotted" the revolution in science fiction which led to the so-called New Wave and he was a regular contributor to New Worlds, which spearheaded that movement

US deal brings movies to YouTube

It might still be best known for showcasing unlikely talent, but Google's YouTube is increasingly looking to establish partnerships with established content providers.

Last week, as Brian Stelter and Miguel Heft report for The New York Times, YouTube signed deals with Hollywood studios including Sony, Lions Gate and MGM (the content will currently only be available in the USA).
“We think the prime-time slot of the future is very much user-programmed,” Shiva Rajaraman, a senior product manager for YouTube, told reporters in a conference call Thursday. He said users could come home to a mixture of TV shows, music videos and amateur videos.
For Wired, Chris Snyder wonders whether the deal represents a fundamental shift in strategy.
The moves signal a significant evolution for YouTube away from its beginnings as a platform for homegrown video — roots that helped catapult the site to mad popularity while also creating friction with copyright holders over thousands of unauthorized video clips submitted by the YouTube community.

The changes will not impose download or streaming fees for premium content, although Google CEO Eric Schmidt hinted at the possibility down the road in an earnings call on Thursday. ("We do expect over time to see micropayments and other forms of subscription models coming," he said.)

Rather, YouTube said it will offer new technology, dubbed Google TV Ads Online, to insert ads in the middle of video clips, rather than just at the beginning or the end. It will also allow partners for the first time to use their own video players on the site.

Friday, April 17, 2009

What Guild members are getting up to

ROY APPS wrote the episode of Penelope's People "Divorcing Grandpa" going out on Radio 4 at 3:30pm on Tuesday 21st April.

PAUL CAMPBELL wrote the episode of Holby City "No Legacy So Rich" going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Tuesday 21st April.

JOHN CHAMBERS wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Wednesday 22nd April.

MARK CLOMPUS wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Monday 20th April.

RICHARD DAVIDSON wrote the episodes of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 7:30pm on Thursday 23rd and at 8:00pm on Friday 24th April.

BBC Radio 2 are re-running the entire first series of KRIS DYER'S On the Blog on Thursday nights at 10.30pm. It began on Thursday 16th April

LISA EVANS' adaptation of Melvyn Bragg’s best-selling story of romance and betrayal in 19th century Cumbria The Maid of Buttermere, has its last night at the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick, Cumbria, on Saturday 18th April.
STEVEN FAY wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Wednesday 22nd April.

MICHAEL FRAYN's play Alphabetical Order is now back at the Hampstead Theatre where it was first produced in March 1975. It transferred to the West End and won the Evening Standard Award for Best Comedy.

PETER GIBBS wrote the episode of Heartbeat "Return Crossing" going out on ITV1 at 8:00pm on Sunday 19th April.

DAVID GOODERSON'S play The Killing of Mr Toad which tells the extraordinary story behind The Wind in the Willows will be at the Finborough Theatre on April 19th,20th,26th,27th, and May 3rd,and 4th.

LUCY GOUGH wrote the episode of Doctors "Innocence" going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Tuesday 21st April.

DIANA GRIFFITHS'S dramatization of Theres Raquin is going out on Radio 4 in two parts at 9:00pm on Saturday 18th and at 3:00pm on Sunday 19th April.

JONATHAN HARVEY wrote the episodes of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm and 8:30pm on Friday 24th April.

DEBBIE HORSFIELD wrote the episode of All the Small Things going out on BBC1 at 9:00pm on Tuesday21st April.

ALEX JONES' play about global flooding finishes its tour with Oxfordshire Touring Theatre on 24th April.

ROBERT JONES wrote the episode of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency "A Real Botswana Diamond" going out on BBC1 at 9:00pm on Sunday 19th April.

JESSICA LEA wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Thursday 23rd April.

MIKE LEIGH's televised interview about his life and career with Mark Lawson will go out on Sunday 19 April at 10.30 pm on BBC Four

DOUGLAS LIVINGSTONE'S radio play Road to Durham staring Timothy West is going out on Radio 4 at 2:30pm on Saturday 18th April.

DAVID MCDERMOTT wrote the episodes of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Thursday 23rd and Friday 24th April.

JIMMY MCGOVERN wrote the episode of The Street "Twin" going out on BBC1 at 10:50pm on Wednesday 22nd April.

ROLAND MOORE'S one-act play Lonely Hearts has been selected as a finalist in the Congleton One Act Play Competition

PAUL MOUSLEY wrote the episode of Primeval going out on ITV1 at 6:55pm no Saturday 18th April.

MAEVE MURPHY'S new feature Beyond The Fire, which she has written and directed, will be showing at the London Independent Film Festival at the Curzon Mayfair on Wednesday 22nd April at 6.30pm. It has been nominated for Best UK Feature and Best Director and will be released around the UK by Met Film in June, kicking off at the ICA (date to be confirmed).

DAVID NOBBS' much-loved character Reginald Perrin returns to our screens next week and will star Martin Clunes and Fay Ripley. David co-wrote the first episode of the new series which will be going out on BBC1 at 9:30pm on Friday 24th April.

DEBBIE OATES wrote the episodes of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm and 8:30pm on Monday 20th April.

JULIE PARSONS wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Monday 20th April.

ASHLEY PHAROAH wrote the first episode of the new series of Ashes to Ashes going out on BBC1 at9:00pm on Monday 20th April.

ALAN PLATER'S radio play The Gallery is going out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Wednesday 22nd April.

PAUL ROUNDELL wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Tuesday 21st April.

DAVID STAFFORD co-wrote the episode of Hazelbeach going out on 11:30pm on Monday 20th April.

TIM STIMPSON wrote the episodes of The Archers going out on Radio 4 at 7:00pm from Monday 20th till Friday 24th April.

SANDY TOKSVIG is giving an exclusive, after-dinner performance of her witty new show England, Shakespeare &St. George at the Holland House Hotel, Redcliffe Hill, Bristol, BS1 6SQ at 7:30pm for 8:00pm on Wednesday 22nd April.

NICK WARBURTON'S radio play Available Means is going out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Tuesday 21st April.

TOBY YOUNG will be the guest speaker at the Last Tuesday Society's lecture on Tuesday 28th April in the Romanesque splendour of the Tabernacle, Powis Square, Notting Hill. 6.30 for 7.00 pm. Tickets £10. Complimentary cocktails delightfully concocted by Hendrick’s will be served afterwards.

Royce Ryton dies

As The Stage reports, playwright Royce Ryton has died at the age of 84.

His best know work was Crown Matrimonial, which opened in 1972, and has enjoyed numerous revivals around the world.

Update (18th April): There's a nice obituary today by Michael Coveney in The Guardian.
Ryton was a burly man, with a mass of orange, curly hair. He was devoted to his family - he was married to the actor Morar Kennedy (Ludovic's sister) - and was incorrigibly camp in manner. His daughter admits that he had the most appalling taste in clothes, often wearing lots of red with plenty of glitter and frills. For much of the year, he went around looking like a Christmas tree but, like Quentin Crisp, he couldn't care less. He spoke in clipped, aphoristic sentences, a style he carried through in his work. Like Oscar Wilde, he was always "on" in public, and like Nöel Coward, whom he admired inordinately, he was given to a lot of finger-wagging, both on and off stage.

The Virginia Prize for Fiction

To celebrate 20 years as a small independent publishing house based in Richmond-upon-Thames, Aurora Metro is launching a new competition to encourage and promote new writing by women.

The Virgina Prize is open to any woman over 18 who has written an unpublished novel in English. The shortlist will be compiled in October 2009 and the £1000 prize will be awarded in November as part of Richmond’s Book Now! Literary Festival. The winning entry will be published by Aurora Metro Press in the following year.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Quest for 'gequality' on stage

A new project, 50:50 Quest For Gequality, is holding meetings in Cardiff on 21st April 2009 and Aberystwyth on 22nd April to explore ways of achieving gender balance on stage.

For more information about the meetings or the project in general contact fiftyfiftygroup@ymail.com

When Spielberg calls

For the Writers Guild of America Foundation, screenwriter Diablo Cody recounts how a call from Stephen Spielberg, before her first script Juno had even gone into production, led to the TV series United States of Tara.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Arts Council funding threat

From Lalayn Baluch in The Stage:
Industry leaders have warned of “disastrous” consequences for the culture sector if Arts Council England is forced to axe up to £14 million of its 2010 government funding package.

Cuts across unprotected government agencies, such as the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, are expected when Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling announces his second budget on April 22.

In expectation that cuts could be passed on from DCMS, the arts council last week announced that it was preparing for three scenarios - a 1.5%, 2.5% or 3% drop in its third and final year of allocated funding for 2010/11, which equates to £7 million, £9.4 million or £14 million.
In The Guardian, Lyn Gardner has blogged on the same subject.
"The arts," declares [Culture Minister, Andy] Burnham," have to live in the real world." I would say that the arts always have lived in the real world — in fact, much more so than the bankers and politicians. Most arts organisations are already nimble, lean, fleet of foot and ingenious. With proper investment, and with schemes to lease to artists the empty premises that are blighting town centres, the arts could play a major part in reviving the economy, and, as I've said before, give people reasons to be cheerful.

Theatre's bright young things

As Michael Billington warns of the danger of theatre succumbing to directors as auteurs, in The Sunday Times, Ed Caesar talks to 22-year-old playwright Polly Stenham and profiles other leading young British playwrights.
“The first play [That Face] was, in many ways, so easy,” she says. “It felt like a massive blag. I wrote it in four months, I only did three or four drafts, and it all happened so quickly.

“With this one [Tusk Tusk], it was so hard to write. It took 18 months, and 17 drafts. It was real blood, sweat and tears. I knew that I wanted to write about siblings, and I knew my characters, but

I didn’t stand back like an older writer would have done, and think, ‘What is the best way of dealing with these people and their situation?’ I just kept running and running at it like a demented pony.”

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Disney's research into boys

In The New York Times, Brookes Barnes looks at Disney's new research led by Kelly Peña into what makes boys tick.
Children can already see the results of Ms. Peña’s scrutiny on Disney XD, a new cable channel and Web site (disney.go.com/disneyxd - not available in the UK). It’s no accident, for instance, that the central character on “Aaron Stone” is a mediocre basketball player. Ms. Peña, 45, told producers that boys identify with protagonists who try hard to grow. “Winning isn’t nearly as important to boys as Hollywood thinks,” she said...

In Ms. Peña’s research boys across markets and cultures described the television aimed at them as “purposeless fun” but expressed a strong desire for a new channel that was “fun with a purpose,” Mr. [Rich] Ross [president of Disney Channels Worldwide] said. Hollywood has been thinking of them too narrowly — offering all action or all animation — instead of a more nuanced combination, he added.

Amazon back-tracks on 'adult' books

In the face of widespread protests, online retailer Amazon has re-instated a number of 'adult' titles from its sales rankings that had been removed last week, reports Publisher's Weekly. Books affected apparently included numerous 'gay' titles such as James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room, Annie Proulx's Brokeback Mountain and Jeanette Winterson's Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit.

American writers and publisher Mark R. Probst reports that Amazon told him:
In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude "adult" material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature.
However, they now claim that it was all a terrible mistake and have offered an apology:
This is an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error for a company that prides itself on offering complete selection.

It has been misreported that the issue was limited to Gay & Lesbian themed titles – in fact, it impacted 57,310 books in a number of broad categories such as Health, Mind & Body, Reproductive & Sexual Medicine, and Erotica. This problem impacted books not just in the United States but globally. It affected not just sales rank but also had the effect of removing the books from Amazon's main product search.

Many books have now been fixed and we're in the process of fixing the remainder as quickly as possible, and we intend to implement new measures to make this kind of accident less likely to occur in the future.
Update (16 April 09): More on this from blogger Meg Pickard, including the role of Twitter in the controversy.
In classic internet style, the voices of the Twittering community - so keen to call Amazon homophobic or start an immediate boycott or googlebomb just 36 hours ago - aren’t apologising for misunderstanding, or admitting they were wrong to lump a fairly liberal internet bookseller (which, let’s remember, still stocks all sorts of literature to cater for every persuasion) in with the Nazis.

Instead, they’re pouring suspicion and scorn on the explanation, criticising Amazon for not fixing the problem, or allowing it to happen, or speaking up earlier - essentially, blaming Amazon for all their hysteria.
Link courtesy of The Guardian Technology blog.

Friday, April 10, 2009

What Guild members are getting up to

MARTIN ALLEN wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Monday 13th April.

ALAN AYCKBOURN'S radio play Man of the Moment is going out on Radio 4 as part of his 70th birthday celebration at 2:30pm on Saturday 11th April.

PERRIE BALTHAZAR wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on C4 on Friday 17th April.

ABI BOWN wrote the episode of Holby City "Too Much to Ask" going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Tuesday 14th April.

KAREN BROWN'S radio play I'm the Boss is going out on Radio 4 at 9:00pm on Friday 17th April.

RYAN CRAIG wrote the episode of Robin Hood "Lost in Translation" going out on BBC1 at 7:45pm on Saturday 11th April.

ARNOLD EVANS wrote the episode of Doctors "Got the T-Shirt" going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Tuesday 14th April.

MATTHEW EVANS wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 7:30pm on Tuesday 14th April.

DIANA GRIFFITHS'S dramatisation of Therese Raquin is going out on Radio 4 at 3:00pm on Sunday 12th April.

JAYNE HOLLINSON wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Friday 17th April.

DEBBIE HORSFIELD wrote the episode of All the Small Things going out on BBC1 at 9:00pm on Tuesday 14th April.

ROBERT JONES wrote the episode of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency "Beauty and Integrity" going out on BBC1 at 9:00pm on Sunday 12th April.

PETER KERRY wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Wednesday 15th April.

DAVID LANE wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Wednesday 15th April.

DAVID NOBBS'S adaptation of What a Carve Up! continues on Radio 4 at 11:30pm from Monday 13th till Thursday 16th April.

JESSE O'MAHONEY wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Thursday 16th April.

LYN PAPADOPOULOS wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Monday 13th April.

JULIE PARSONS wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Friday 17th April.

GILLIAN RICHMOND wrote the episodes of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 7:30pm on Thursday 16th and at 8:00pm on Friday 17thApril.

ADAM ROLSTON'S debut play, A Sentimental Journey. The Story of Doris Day, a stage musical based on the life and songs of Doris Day has had its full professional premiere run at The Mill at Sonning Dinner Theatre in Berkshire. It has run for six weeks from February 25th and will run for a further two weeks until April 19th.

DAVID STAFFORD co-wrote the episode of Hazelbeach going out on Radio 4 at 11:30am on Monday 13th April.

CHRIS THOMPSON wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Thursday 16th April.

NICK WARBURTON'S radio play series Witness: Five Plays from the Gospel of Luke
concludes with "Beginnings" going out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Tuesday 14th April.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Mark Wilkinson wins Red Planet Prize

Congratulations to Mark Wilkinson whose script Ropes has won this year's Red Planet Prize, run by Tony Jordan's Red Planet Pictures.

Mark won £5,000 and a script commission from Red Planet.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Choose What You Read


In The Financial Times, screenwriter and one-time Guild employee Claire Wilson explains how she and some friends decided to challenge the tyranny of the freesheets with Choose What You Read.
It’s quite sad to get on the tube and see the whole carriage reading the same paper. I remember when the novel White Teeth by Zadie Smith came out – everyone was reading that. You could pretty much read the whole book over a few weeks just by looking over somebody’s shoulder. That hasn’t happened for a long time. You never see everyone reading the new Booker winner, because they’re all reading Metro. We’re missing out on so much.
You can find out more from the Choose What You Read Facebook Group.

Mike Leigh's early work

mike leighIn The Daily Telegraph, writer-director Mike Leigh talks about his first films for TV.
The weather was particularly uncooperative during the [Nuts In May] shoot, he recalls. “There was one scene where the couple are meant to get caught in a serious rainstorm in Lulworth Cove and, of course, whenever we wanted to shoot it it was really lovely weather. So we’re definitely not at Lulworth Cove here.”

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Writing scene description with John August

On his blog, American screenwriter John August has posted a video tutorial, "Writing better scene description":

Sony Radio Awards shortlists

Another day, another awards announcement - this time for the Sony Radio Academy Awards 2009.

In contention for The Drama Award are:
  • Cavalry - By Dan Rebellato (BBC Radio Drama for Radio 4)
  • Goldfish Girl - By Peter Souter (BBC Radio Drama for Radio 4)
  • Mr Larkin's Awkward Day - By Chris Harrald (BBC Radio Drama for Radio 4)
  • The Color Purple - By Pat Cumper from the novel by Alice Walker (BBC Radio Drama for Radio 4)
  • The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists – By Andrew Lynch from the novel by Robert Tressell (Above the Title & Woolyback Productions for BBC Radio 4)

Shortlisted for the Comedy Award are:
  • 606 with Danny Baker - Campbell Davison Media for BBC Radio 5 live
  • Adam and Joe - BBC Audio & Music for 6 Music
  • Count Arthur Strong's Radio Show! - Komedia Entertainment & Smooth Operations for BBC Radio 4
  • Miranda Hart's Joke Shop - BBC Radio Comedy for Radio 2
  • The Now Show - BBC Radio Comedy for Radio 4
The awards will be presented in London on 11 May.

Monday, April 06, 2009

BAFTA Craft Awards

Short-lists for the BAFTA Craft Awards have been announced. In the Writer category it's between:
  • Sam Bain, Jesse Armstrong (Peep Show)
  • Simon Block (The Shooting of Thomas Hurndall)
  • Russell T Davies (Doctor Who - Midnight)
  • Peter Moffat (Criminal Justice)
In addition, two writers have been nominated in the Breathrough Talent category:
  • Charlie Brooker (Dead Set)
  • Tony Saint (Margaret Thatcher: The Long Walk to Finchley)

As you can see from the poll (right), Doctor Who won the vote for Best Drama Series from readers of this blog. I've now put up a poll for the Best Writer...

Josh Schwartz's new web drama


Last month Josh Schwartz, the man who created The OC, launched his latest series, Rockville CA, online. Unfortunately it goes out on thewb.com which is not available in the UK but there is a preview on YouTube (above).

In The New York Times, Schwartz spoke to Ari Karpel about the show.
Warner Brothers is hoping the duo can grab the attention of the coveted female 18-to-34 demographic in particular. The studio allowed them a creative freedom not typically given to producers at the network level.

“They said, ‘Here’s what your budget is, here’s how many episodes we’d like,’ ” Mr. Schwartz said. “I gave them a rough shape of what the show would be, and then we got to go discover it, cast who we wanted to cast and write the scripts without notes.”

The bite-size episodes presented Mr. Schwartz with a new challenge. “It’s not like you’re doing an hourlong soap where people are dying,” he said. “It’s smaller. Part of the excitement of doing it was figuring out how to tell stories in this format. It’s less incident-driven and more observational.”
The New York Times also has a round-up of some of the highest profile web series so far.

Five Minutes Of Heaven

five minutes of heavenIf you saw Five Minutes Of Heaven on BBC Two last night, a reminder that there's an interview with the writer, Guy Hibbert, on the Writers' Guild website.

If you missed the drama (starring Liam Neeson and James Nesbitt, directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel) you can watch it for the next seven days on BBC iPlayer.

Friday, April 03, 2009

What Guild members are getting up to

PAUL ABBOTT has just signed a three-year, first-look distribution deal with FremantleMedia Enterprises and his new company, Abbott Vision. Paul said that FME's approach to project development was "spot on." He said: "Too many industry people are reacting to the economic situation by diving for their emergency media survival manuals. That's the opposite of where I stand. It's wrong, it's destructive and it will force creative talent into a tailspin. We should all be investing in imagination now. It's a lot more fun and it's the only credible asset that can rescue the screen drama industry."

SIMON J. ASHFORD wrote the episode of Robin Hood "Cause and Effect" going out on BBC1 at 6:25pm on Saturday 4th April.

SAMINA BAIG wrote the episode of Holby City "Careful What You Wish For" going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Tuesday 7th April.

RICHARD BURKE wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Wednesday 8th April.

RICHARD CURTIS wrote and directed the film The Boat that Rocked, now on general release nationwide.

MARY CUTLER wrote the episodes of The Archers going out on Radio 4 at 7:00pm from Monday 6th till Friday 10th April with each episode being repeated at 2:00pm the day following its original release.

HELEN FARRALL wrote the episode of Doctors "One for the Road" going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Wednesday 8th April.

RACHEL FLOWERDAY wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 7:30pm on Thursday 9th April.

JULIA GILBERT wrote the episodes of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Monday 6th and at 7:30pm on Tuesday 7th April.

DAWN HARRISON wrote the episode of Doctors "Hole" going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Tuesday 7th April.

GUY HIBBERT'S award-winning drama Five Minutes of Heaven is going out on BBC2 at 9:00pm on Sunday 5th April. Starring Liam Neeson and James Nesbit, it explores aspects of Northern Ireland's troubled past.

DEBBIE HORSFIELD wrote the episode of All the Small Things going out on BBC1 at 9:00pm on Tuesday 7th April.

STEVE HUGHES wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Thursday 9th April.

ROBERT JONES wrote the episode of The No. 1 Detective Agency "Problems in Moral Philosophy" going out on BBC1 at 9:00pm on Sunday 5th April.

MIKE LEIGH: The BBC Collection DVD boxset will be released on 6 April. In six DVDs it contains all of the BBC's surviving Mike Leigh works, from 1973's Hard Labour to the Long Goodbye in 2000 , including classics like Abigail's Party, Nuts In May and Grown-Ups. It includes his own director's commentaries, a booklet, documentaries and a few rarely-seen short films from 1975.

BILL LYONS wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Tuesday 7th April.

DAVID MCDERMOTT wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Wednesday 8th April.

DAVID NOBBS'S adaptation of What a Carve Up! begins on Radio 4 at 11:30pm on Monday 6th April.

JESSE O'MAHONEY wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Monday 6th April.

DAVID STAFFORD co-wrote the episode of Hazelbeach going out on Radio 4 at 11:30am on Monday 6th April.

CHRIS THOMPSON wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Monday 6th April.

JOE TURNER wrote the episodes of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm and 8:30pm on Friday 10th April.

NICK WARBURTON'S radio series Witness: Five Plays from the Gospel of Luke continues on Radio 4 with Jerusalem going out at 2:15pm on Tuesday 7th and Tested on Thursday 9th April.

PETER WHALLEY wrote the episodes of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Monday 6th and at 7:30pm on Wednesday 8th April.

Adapting The Bridge On The River Kwai

In the latest issue of Cineaste magazine there's an article by Joseph Dmohowski about how blacklisted screenwriter Michael Wilson came to adapt The Bridge On The River Kwai (from the novel by Pierre Boulle and after a script by Carl Foreman). The article is online courtesy of The California Chronicle.
In September 1951, after he had completed the script for George Stevens's A Place in the Sun, Wilson, who, like so many other college students during the Great Depression, had joined the Communist Party, was subpoenaed to appear before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC). He refused to cooperate or answer any questions from members of the committee. He would not incriminate himself or become an informer and identify acquaintances that may or may not have been fellow members of the Communist Party.

It didn't matter to the film industry that, six months after his HUAC appearance, Michael Wilson won the Oscar for Best Screenplay for his work on A Place in the Sun. By then he had already been blacklisted as an "unfriendly witness." He immediately became officially unemployable and the promising career of one of Hollywood's most talented young screenwriters seemed over just as it was beginning to flourish. Michael Wilson's career as a blacklisted screenwriter, however, one forced to work "under the table," had just begun.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

BBC drama wishlist

Further to a similar piece earlier this month, BBC TV drama commissioning controller, Ben Stephenson, has been telling Broadcast about his wishlist for new dramas across all four channels. For example:
"We are going to evolve what we do on BBC2 a little bit [with dramas that are] author-led, ideas-driven and entertaining. What am I looking for? I like the word saga - something that takes a number of characters and follows them over a number of years."
Update (09.36): The BBC has also announced that Anne Mensah is to expand her role to become Head Of Independent Drama.
While remaining Head of Drama, BBC Scotland, her new role will bring together all independent drama output under one cohesive strategy, whilst individual commissioners will retain their own development slates.

Anne will lead a much more co-ordinated approach to all development and commissioning for the independent drama community across BBC Wales, Northern Ireland and London indies (England) as well as Scotland.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

GF Newman on TV cops

As The Wire comes to BBC Two (hadn't you heard?!), in the BBC News Magazine, screenwriter G.F. Newman, who created Law And Order in the 1970s, calls for a new wave of British cop shows.
The group I'd most like to see influenced by The Wire is that minority of TV executives which signs off on all commissioning.

As a result they might think it safe at last to venture into similarly murky waters of realism here, rather than relying on imports from the US.

How and by what means we get to that point I don't much mind. That we get there and break out of this non-radicalised, non-politicised straightjacket television writers have been encouraged to wear under a surreptitiously repressive and watchful government, is essential to the very survival of drama on the box.

Guild website and email

There's a technical problem with the Guild website at the moment. Hope to have it fixed soon.

Update (2nd April):
Problem with website and Guild office email is ongoing, I'm afraid. Will post here when it's sorted.

16.48: All fixed. Apologies for any inconvenience.

Iain Howe interview

killzone 2On Gamezine (part one of two), Iain Howe, who wrote Killzone 2, discusses the best ways to combine narrative and gameplay. Part two of the interview is here.
There's a balance between narrative depth and narrative flexibility that has to be maintained. Major characters don't die randomly - their deaths have to be given proper meaning and, in order for the player not to find them uncomfortably jarring, they need proper foreshadowing as well. I'm not sure that a character that can be plucked easily from the story at any point, can actually be defined as being major...

Most 'multi-arc' stories actually branch and then rejoin down the line, creating a much simpler story tree than their name suggests. I'll have to see how the folks making Heavy Rain manage all their narrative arcs and their character arcs and handle having things messed with on the whim of the player before I make any judgement though.

I'm certainly in favour of the idea of dynamic storytelling, but I'm also skeptical about anyone paying the exorbitant cost of creating large sections of game that they know half of the players will never see. Whether players find the upsides overwhelming or not is a question that will be settled in the market place. Success is always emulated.