Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The evolution of agents

For, Jason Allen Ashlock suggests a new role for literary agents in the digital age.
Rather than resting, invisible, alongside the content in the acquisition category of the chain, the agent must evolve into the work’s inseparable acolyte, accompanying the work across subsequent categories in the chain—development, marketing, promotion, and branding. While publishing is grappling with the consequences of disintermediation in the value chain, I recommend an Agent’s role is one of radical mediation in that same chain.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Tributes to Alan Plater

Tributes have been paid to Alan Plater, scriptwriter, playwright and former President and Chair of the Writers' Guild has died at the age of 75.

David Edgar

It's with huge regret that we heard today of the death of Alan Plater . Guild Chair from 1986-7, President from 1991-5, Alan was a union man to his very marrow. He was also one of very top ranks of television dramatists, and a more than worthy recipient of a Guild lifetime achievement award in 2007.

He wrote the novel Misterioso, and his work for the stage included the seminal Close The Coalhouse Door and plays about the agent Peggy Ramsay, Philip Larkin, and his beloved Hull City.

But his main achievement was in television: cutting his teeth in the glory days of Z-Cars, his subsequent credits include Trinity Tales, The Stars Look Down, The Biederbecke Trilogy, and magnificent adaptations of Trollope's Barchester Chronicles, Olivia Manning's The Fortunes of War and Chris Mullin's A Very British Coup. Oh No, It's Selwyn Froggat! was a foray into sitcom, and Alan continued to move between original signature drama, adaptations and long-running series, including Dalziel and Pascoe and, most recently, Lewis. The all-rounder's all-rounder, Alan was a professional to his fingertips, encouraging to younger writers, and in the great tradition of gusty, no-nonsense, good-hearted northern writing.

In and out of the Guild, he campaigned on issues as various as the cultural boycott of South Africa and proper credits for screenwriters in the Radio Times. He was notably hostile to screenwriting gurus (the imposing of an 'act structure' on television drama particularly irked him). For all his passion, there was always a strain of self-deprecating (and Guild-deprecating) wit: when a militant group accaused the Guild of being a tool of the British government for inviting the then fugitive Salman Rushdie to a Guild awards, Alan told the BBC that he wished the Guild 'was important enough to be used as a tool'. Ever practical, he was convinced that while the Guild retained a reasonable hold on soap writers, it would remain in business as a union.

His last work is still in post-production, and he was writing an essay on his beloved Hull. Including the upcoming Joe Maddison's War, he leaves a formidable canon of work behind him, which will live on. He also leaves the redoubtable and lovely Shirley, his children and grandchildren, and his many friends and admirers in television and the theatre, in the Guild and beyond.

David Edgar is President of The Writers' Guild of Great Britain

Robert Taylor

Alan was in many ways the Father of the Guild. A writer at the very top of his profession who was also a tireless Guild activist saying: 'Divided we haven’t got a chance; united we have got a bit of a chance'. Alan kept writing to the end and never ceased to be anything less than a Guild man to his core.

Television has lost one of its greatest and most original voices and the Guild has lost one of its most powerful fighters. I know I speak for the whole Guild when I extend my deepest condolences to Alan’s partner Shirley and all his family. Alan: the Guild will always remember you.

Robert Taylor is Chair of The Writers' Guild of Great Britain
More tributes

Other tributes have been paid by friends, colleagues and admirers including:

Alan Plater 1935-2010

Alan Plater, one of the UK’s greatest television dramatists and a leading light of the Writers’ Guild throughout most of its existence, died today of cancer, aged 75.

Alan’s formidable credits span the history of British TV from Z-Cars to Lewis. He was equally the master of original ideas and adaptation and his many benchmark plays and series include Fortunes of War, The Beiderbecke Tapes, A Very British Coup and Last of the Blonde Bombshells. He also wrote several novels, film scripts, and plays for radio and the theatre.

He was President of the Writers’ Guild from 1991 to 1995 and remained a Trustee of the Guild until his death. He was presented with the Guild’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007, having picked up numerous awards throughout his career including the Dennis Potter Award at the BAFTAs in 2005. (See He became a CBE in the same year.

If there were any themes that were constant through Alan’s life they were his roots in the North-east and Hull, and his love of jazz (he accepted his Guild lifetime award to the strains of a combo).

Alan Plater is one of the most frequently mentioned individuals in Nick Yapp’s history of the Writers’ Guild, The Write Stuff. The book records Alan’s instinctive support for the cultural blockade against apartheid South Africa in the 1960s and solidarity with Czechoslovakian writers at the crushing of the Prague Spring in 1968. He was just as energetic in more home-grown campaigns, such as the battle to keep writers’ credits in the Radio Times.

Alan’s sly wit informed his writing and his Guild work. When Salman Rushdie made a surprise appearance at the Guild awards at the height of the fatwa, the Guild was accused of acting as “a tool of the British government”. Alan, as President, commented on BBC Radio: 'I wish the British government thought the Guild was important enough to be used as a tool.'

Guild General Secretary Bernie Corbett said: 'Alan was a writer of excellence and a trade unionist to his fingertips. I knew I could always depend on him for the perfect quote or a rousing speech – anything for the writers’ own union or the wider labour movement.'

Ted Willis, the founding father of the Writers’ Guild, once told Alan: 'A TV writer has a working life of 21 years – seven on the way up, seven when you’re the cream of the profession, and seven on the way down.' Whether or not it was true for Willis, it was certainly not the case for Alan, who was never on the way down and was working to the last – his final production, Joe Maddison’s War, is in the can and will be seen on ITV later this year.

What Guild members are getting up to

CAREY ANDREWS wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Wednesday 30th June.

SIMON CROWTHER wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Monday 28th June.

GREGORY EVANS wrote the episode of The Bill "Solace" going out on ITV1 at 9:00pm on Tuesday 29th June.

ADRIAN FLYNN wrote the episodes of The Archers going out on Radio 4 at 7:00pm from Sunday 27th June till Friday 2nd July. Each episode is repeated at 2:00pm the day after its original broadcast.

JONATHAN HARVEY wrote the episodes of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Thursday 1st and at 8:30pm on Friday 2nd July.

MARK ILLIS wrote the episodes of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Wednesday 30th June and Thursday 1st July.

BILL LYONS wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Thursday 1st July.

STEVEN MOFFAT wrote the episode of Doctor Who "The Big Bang" going out on BBC1 at 6:05pm on Saturday 26th June.

ABI MORGAN was commissioned by Ben Stephenson at the BBC to write a six-part series called The Hour, a drama set in a London newsroom in 1956. A passionate love triangle is set against a backdrop of historic events such as the Suez crisis. She said, "The Hour is a challenging new direction for me that offers the chance to return to characters again and again, and see them develop in a series format. I'm excited about the potential of their stories."

DAVID NOBBS'S radio play Silent Nights goes out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Friday 2nd July.

CHRIS O'CONNELL is co-directing an assortment of short plays that are on at the Shop Front Theatre in Coventry on 29th, 30th June and 1st July. Times: 1.00pm – 2.15pm Tickets: £3 per day or£8 for 3 day saver ticket
Box Office: 0845 680 1926 Online: Venue address: Theatre Absolute's Shop Front Theatre, 38 City Arcade, Coventry CV1 3HW. If you require further information about the Shop Front Theatre or Theatre Absolute contact: Julia Negus on 02476158341 or

ANDREW PAYNE wrote the episode of Midsomer Murders "Picture of Innocence" going out on ITV1 at 8:00pm on Wednesday 30th June.

JAKE RIDDELL wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 7:30pm on Thursday 1st July.

CHRIS THOMPSON wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Monday 28th June. He also co-wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Tuesday 29th June.

JOE TURNER wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Monday 28th June.

JAMES WOOD wrote the first episode of BBC2's new comedy "On Your Knees, Forget the Fees" starring Tom Hollander as Rev Adam Smallbone going out on BBC2 at 10:00pm on Monday 28th June.

Meet the Writers' Guild in Glasgow

There is a chance for Scottish members to meet their new Executive Council rep, Julie Ann Thomason, and General Secretary Bernie Corbett at a Writers’ Guild event in Glasgow on Tuesday 13 July 2010.

The venue is Bar Budda, 400A Sauchiehall Street G2 3JD and the event starts at 7pm. Bring your questions, opinions and ideas for the Writers’ Guild, and how we should improve our activities and services for Scottish members.

Guild podcasts available as iPhone/iPad apps

Podcasts from the Writers' Guild are now available as an app for the iPhone/i Pod Touch and iPad

You can also find it in the iTunes store.

The app costs £1.19 ($1.99). Revenue is split three ways between the Guild, Apple and Wizzard Media (the app hosts). So for every person that buys the app around 40p goes to the Guild.

The podcasts, which currently include the recent BBC/Writers' Guild TV drama event and highlights from the recent Guild AGM, can also be downloaded or listened to online.

Thanks to Guild member Dan Alexander for making the podcasts and setting them up online and as an app.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Major theatres lift writers' fees

The Writers’ Guild has agreed a full 3.7% cost-of-living increase on minimum fees and other payments by the leading subsidised theatres – Royal National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal Court.

The agreement brings the basic minimum fee for a new play to £10,654. The table of financial terms and the full text of the Guild agreement can be found on the Guild website.

The increases, which are effective from 1 April 2010, are based on the “headline” Retail Prices Index, which covers a representative range of goods and services including housing costs. There was no increase in 2009 because RPI stood at zero.

'Characters Welcome' at USA Network

For, Sandra Berg examines the the 'Characters Welcome' brand that has helped transform the fortunes of the USA Network.
The network brought in marketing experts who determined that all they had to do was drop the character umbrella over what already existed. They made it more specific and created a “brand filter”: dysfunctional, quirky characters, flawed, but always likeable. It was decided these characters must also be placed in an environment of “blue skies.” Today, everything the network develops—every promo campaign, all of the marketing—is put through the filter and must fit into the brand.

According to head of development Bill McGoldrick (SVP, Original Scripted Programming, USA Network), their development philosophy is, “We try to keep the number [of shows] low enough that we can actually pay attention and develop each script properly. What I’ve hated about the pitch process is—and this is something Jeff Wachtel taught me—is the [thumbs up/thumbs down]. Why does it always have to be pass/fail? Why is it always, either I want this, or I don’t want that? Sometimes I’ll tell a writer this is what works for me, but these six other things don’t, either because we have it, or we tried it last season, or whatever. I try to keep an open door for writers if they want to re-pitch or keep developing. But you’ve got to be careful because you don’t want to bring people back six times and then say ‘no’.”

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Nick Yapp podcast

A podcast featuring Nick Yapp speaking at the Guild's AGM earlier this month about writing the history of the Writers' Guild is now available on the Guild's podcast page.

You can read more about Nick's book, The Write Stuff - a history of the Writers' Guild of Great Britain, on the Guild website.

It is also available on iTunes - search at the iTunes store using the term 'Writers Guild' and then filter by media type to 'podcasts' (left hand menu). If you click 'subscribe' new podcasts will be downloaded automatically.

Thanks to Guild member Dan Alexander for making the podcast.

The writers behind the Doctor Who games

In Variety, a report by Steve Clarke on the new Doctor Who Adventure Games, on the involvement of the show's writers.
All four games -- the remaining three will be released between now and the fall -- have been overseen by the show's chief scriptwriter, Steven Moffat, and Charles Cecil, a veteran of videogame production who worked alongside helmer Ron Howard on "The Da Vinci Code" games.

Matt Smith, who plays the 11th doctor, and Karen Gillan, cast as his assistant Amy Pond, have recorded dialogue specifically for the games.

The games' scripts were penned by "Doctor Who" screenwriters Phil Ford and James Moran.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Guild deplores videogames tax decision

Following today's budget announcements by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Writers' Guild of Great Britain has issued the following statement:

The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, the trade union representing writers in television, theatre, film, radio, books and videogames, deplores the Chancellor’s decision to cancel the planned tax breaks for videogame production.

General Secretary Bernie Corbett said: 'The UK is only hurting itself by abandoning its videogames industry. We were quick off the blocks and established a world-leading industry, but we have allowed other countries to outbid us in development and tax advantages to such an extent that the UK is now experiencing a brain-drain of both technologists and creators. Videogames are seriously big business – bigger than the movies, apparently. We often bemoan our small and struggling film industry, but from the best of beginnings we look set fair to condemn our video games industry to a similar also-ran status.'

But the Writers’ Guild welcomes the news that no VAT will be imposed on printed books.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The threat to radio drama

In The Guardian, Leo Benedictus asks if Radio 4's decision to axe the Friday Play is the beginning of the end for radio drama.
...podcasts still offer genuine hope. (If there's no DIY revolution in radio drama as yet, it's because amateurs do not generally do drama well.) The BBC has only recently begun to podcast The Archers, where it is thriving. And the rumour is that other dramas will follow soon. "Lots of writers and practitioners want to know, 'Why can't I have my play podcast? I know my friends would listen to it,'" says [Alison] Hindell [the BBC's head of audio drama.] "I would love to be in a position where we were podcasting a play of the week."

[Jeremy] Howe [Radio 4's drama commissioner], is keen to see this, too – though he remains adamant that, despite its travails, radio drama is in good health. "Audiences are now consuming things in a completely different way," he says. "Actually, the miracle is that audiences for Radio 4, and drama, have remained roughly stable for the last 12 years. The same," he cannot resist adding, "cannot be said of television channels." No, it can't. But radio can surely dream of better.Who knows: with more podcasts and some fresh writing blood, radio drama might one day rule the airwaves again.

Will Hollywood be taken over by family films?

In The L.A Times, Steven Zeitchik examines the box-office success of films aimed primarily at children and the adults who take them to the cinema.
Almost every big hit among the 2010 releases has been a movie whose primary, if not overwhelming, audience is children 12 and under -- "How to Train Your Dragon," "Shrek Forever After," "Alice in Wonderland." Ditto for the year's biggest sleeper, "Diary of a Wimpy Kid."
Given that many movies aimed at an older audience have failed at the box office, Zeitchik wonders if this will all have a significant impact on the movies that big studios choose to make.
There's no way of knowing how panicky studio executives will react to all this. But if past experience is any indication, they tend to overcompensate in the direction the wind is blowing. So family films that are in development will get pushed up the pipeline; movies aimed at everyone else get pushed back. And before you know it (usually in two or three years, when the winds may have changed direction again), we could see a multiplex full of movies the whole family can enjoy.

Ronald Neame 1911-2010

Ronald Neame, the leading British producer and director and an (uncredited) screenwriter of Brief Encounter (based on a play by Noel Coward) and Great Expectations (with David Lean and Anthony Havelock-Allan) died last week at the age of 99.

There are obituaries on BBC News, in The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian.

BBC News also has a tribute by Peter Bowes who became a personal friend of Neame towards the end of his life.
Ronnie was always extraordinarily good company and active until the final weeks of his life. He enjoyed nothing more than reminiscing about the old days but he said he did not miss being on set.

"I was making films during the golden years, and they were the golden years. We made the films in the way we wanted to film them. We had a benevolent boss in Arthur Rank - Uncle Arthur we used to call him.

"I've had a wonderful innings, a great innings."

Saturday, June 19, 2010

US Guild members approve credits changes

American writers have overwhelmingly approved all proposed amendments to the way that screen and TV credits are given.

Full details can be found on the Writers Guild of America, West website.

What Guild members are getting up to

SIMON ASHDOWN wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 7:00pm on Wednesday 23rd June.

Congratulations to ALAN AYCKBOURN for winning a Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre.

SEBASTIAN BACZKIEWICZ'S radio play Pilgrim, which has gone out in four parts, concludes with Gainst All Disaster which is going out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Monday 21st June.

SIMON BOVEY'S radio play Mountain of Light is going out on Radio 4 at 2:30pm on Saturday 19th June.

MICHAEL CHAPLIN'S radio play Two-Pipe Problem goes out on Radio 4 in two parts, the first of which is Right Old Charlie going out at 2:15pm on Tuesday 22nd June. The second part, The Memory Man Forgets, goes out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Wednesday 23rd June.

Congratulations to BRIAN CLEMENS for having being included in the Birthday Honours List and awarded an OBE for "services to broadcasting and drama".

RACHEL FLOWERDAY wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 7:00pm on Monday 21st June.

ADRIAN FLYNN wrote the episodes of The Archers going out on Radio 4 at 7:00pm from Sunday 20th till Friday 25th June, with each episode being repeated at 2:00pm the day after its original broadcast.

STEWART LOVE'S book of four stage plays was launched at the Linenhall Library in Belfast on 30 April. The Randy Dandy, The Big Long Bender, The Big Donkey, and Me Oul Segocia. Three of the plays were presented on radio and two were also successful TV productions. Selected Plays by Stewart Love, Lagan Press, Belfast, hardback £14.99, Paperback £10.99,

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

PAUL MENDELSON'S radio play I Am I Said goes out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Thursday 24th June.

STEVEN MOFFAT wrote the episode of Doctor Who "The Pandorica Opens" going out on BBC1 at 6:40pm on Saturday 19th June.

CHRIS PARKER wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Friday 25th June.

BILL TAYLOR wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 8:00pm on Thursday 24th June.

JOE TURNER wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Sunday 20th June.

Does the iPad change everything?

On TechCrunch leading American publishers discuss the implications of Apple's new iPad.
Carolyn Reidy, CEO Simon & Schuster

I would say that it has transformed our industry because it is the first reader that has enabled us to combine text with video…It’s the first thing that will enable us to do children books, to make digital children books, to make enhanced e-books, and to actually make a combination of video and reading book that is not an app. In our world it’s very difficult to do an app it gets lost…the audience for a book is not the size for most of these apps that sell hundreds of thousands.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Further DCMS savings announced

Following the recent news that funded organisations will have their grants cut by 3% (more like 4% for Arts Council England) the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has announced that, in addition, a number of planned projects will not go ahead. These include the British Film Institute (BFI) Film Centre.
The Government is still funding the building of a new film store to safeguard the National Film Archive and, although the BFI’s digital access project is not affordable at the present time, is looking for the BFI to examine alternative methods of support and delivery...

Ed Vaizey will undertake a wide-ranging reassessment of Government support for film. Details will be announced shortly. This reassessment will take account of the impact of Government financial support for film, including National Lottery funding, as well as the impact of film tax relief, but neither will be reviewed as part of this reassessment.

The BFI Film Centre is planned to showcase the best of British and world cinema, as well as creating a new space for exhibitions, cultural events, research and study. The total cost has been estimated to be £166 million.

The Screen Heritage UK programme comprises three strands. The Government has decided to fully fund work to secure the national collection (approximately £16.2 million) as this is business critical. Work to revitalise the regional archive collection (approximately £3.7 million) will also go ahead. A programme to deliver digital access will not go ahead, bringing about a saving of approximately £2.5 million. Spend to date on delivering digital access is approximately £1.3 million.
Update: Arts Council England has announced how it will implement cuts to 2010/11 budget.

IMDb tackled over birth dates

In The Wrap, Brent Lang & Sharon Waxman reveals that the Writers Guild of America, West is tackling on what could be seen as an ageism issue.
The Writers Guild of America, West, is leading an effort to convince the massive database -- used by virtually everyone in Hollywood and far beyond -- to permit people to remove their birth dates from the site.

"The Guild has a contract with IMDb to provide credits information and does not release information on age," Neal Sacharow, a spokesperson for the WGA, told TheWrap. "We have raised our concerns with IMDb about its listing of ages."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

TAPS training scheme forced to close

As The Stage reports, TAPS, the long-running writer training scheme has been forced into closure due to lack of funding.
Television Arts Performance Showcase, which is dedicated to finding new talent and which has trained writers such as Peter Moffat and Roy Williams, said it will close at the end of the month.

Keith Richardson, chairman of the board of trustees, said “the current economic climate” and changes in funding opportunities for independent training suppliers had “made the business of sponsoring new talent virtually impossible.”

Emmy roundtable - drama showrunners

For The Hollywood Reporter, Matthew Belloni talks to Emmy-nominated US drama showrunners. T
The Hollywood Reporter: What do you say when people outside the business ask you what your job is?
More awards coverage

Michelle King: That's assuming any of us talk to people outside the business. (Laughs.) I don't think most of us leave the office much.

Matt Nix: I say writer. If they're curious, I say writer-producer. If they're really curious, writer, producer, casting.

THR: "Manager" doesn't make it in?

Nix: You end up sounding like a douchebag if you say "I'm the manager."

Daniel Zelman: I lead with writer. The other stuff would be impossible to explain. Really what I feel like what I do is put out fires constantly. And it would be hard to describe what those fires are and what goes into putting them out. Sometimes I start a few of my own, as well.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Guild Chair Robert Taylor at the AGM - podcast

Here's a podcast recorded at the Writers' Guild Annual General Meeting on June 4th 2010: ​Writers' Guild Chair Robert Taylor proposes a new Guild structure including a new collecting society to receive payments for online use of television programmes – such as BBC iPlayer and video-on-demand – and distribute the money to writers. The proposal was approved unanimously by members - full details here.

Thanks to Guild member Dan Alexander for making the podcast.

Brian Clemens awarded OBE

Guild member Brian Clemens, whose credits include being the main creative force behind The Avengers TV series, has been awarded an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours list for services to broadcasting and drama.
He told the BBC news website: "It is an honour and I am pleased from the point of view of all screenwriters."

He said screenwriters do not always get the recognition they deserve.

"It is an encouragement to the back-room boys - I count myself as one," he said.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Will government act to help save children's TV production in UK?

In Media Guardian, Maggie Brown reports on the concerns over the future of children's TV prodicution in the UK.
Last week Ed Vaizey, the new culture minister, pledged to look afresh at a problem that has been debated for years, and which he was made aware of when he was an opposition spokesman.

The subject is of keen importance to the 50 or so production companies involved in entertaining children – with series such as In the Night Garden for CBeebies, or Horrid Henry, for CITV.

Over the past six years funds for new TV series have fallen dramatically – around £50m a year less is being invested now compared with 2004. This is mainly due to ITV's virtual withdrawal from fresh investment, which was worth around £30m a year, and the reliance by US-owned channels, such as Disney and Nickelodeon, on imported popular global series.
Last month the Save Kids TV campaign put its case to the BBC Strategy Review.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Guild / BBC TV Drama Event - podcasts

Podcasts from the Guild BBC Drama Event on 2nd June are now available, free of charge from

Thanks to Guild member Dan Alexander for making the podcasts.

Gail Renard, Chair of the Guild's TV Committee, has also written the following short report about the event:

The Guild wants to thank Ben Stephenson, John Yorke and Kate Harwood for taking the time to talk to writers about telly. As ever, writers want to know what’s happening in the marketplace. Stephenson, BBC Controller of Commissioning, explained his goal was to maintain a creative environment for writers to do their best work without commercial pressures. He stressed that there’s room for all different kinds of drama, from singles to six or eight part series; and he’s looking for a broader range of series with more regional voices and settings, with more roles for women. Stephenson also broke down the remit of the four BBC channels:

BBC 1 - Mainstream but great scope within that. The focus is 9pm series and serials but long running series play an essential role.

BBC2 - The amount of drama on the channel has increased and will continue to. This channel’s about new approaches and new angles, with room for filmic single dramas.

BBC3 - Concept and genre driven; grown-up, imaginative and unique. Again the focus is on the 9 PM series; Being Human (by Toby Whithouse) is one of their biggest successes.

BBC4 - Celebrates and reflects arts and culture. The recent single dramas on BBC4 have been largely biopics of influential people. BBC4 works on a tiny budget and makes the most of it.

John Yorke, Controller of BBC Production is trying to make long-running series more writer-centred and writer-friendly. Recent changes on EastEnders, Casulaty, Holby City & Doctors mean that there are 33% fewer producers; 60% fewer script editors and 30% fewer drafts. The lead times have also decreased and 60% of the writers are now on a contract. On a darker note, Yorke explained that the amount of drama across all the broadcasters has decreased by 400 hours a year, which makes it tougher for talented writers to get jobs.

Meanwhile Yorke continues to work with the Guild to improve writers’ working conditions and has recently re-issued the BBC’s own Code of Conduct. Added to that, observers from the Guild have been invited to attend the long-running series story conferences to view the process and talk with the writers. The Guild and BBC will also be appointing an independent ombudsman to deal with writers’ complaints which can’t be resolved elsewhere. The BBC also planned to eliminate unpaid work if at all possible, which the Guild feels very strongly about.

Kate Harwood, Head of Series and Serials, explained that for in-house drama she has nine producers, all with different tastes and styles, and 12 script editors. Harwood felt that progress had been made in her department in the last few years. When she arrived projects were generated by producers, not writers, which she felt was wrong. Now the ideas are coming from the writers.

The evening ended on a positive note with writers and the execs talking informally over wine. Now we all eagerly eagerly wait to see what this new phase of BBC Drama brings.

Update: The podcast is now available through iTunes - search at the iTunes store using the term 'Writers Guild' and then filter by media type to 'podcasts' (left hand menu). If you click 'subscribe' new episodes will be downloaded automatically.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Writers’ Guild Awards 2010 – Call for nominations from Guild Members

It is time to send in your nominations for the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain Awards 2010. All members of the Writers’ Guild are entitled to nominate in all categories – so don’t miss this opportunity to nominate any great writing you have come across in the past year, whether in theatre plays, films, books, radio, television or game scripts.

The award categories are as follows:
  • Book (Fiction) *
  • Book (Non-Fiction) *
  • Feature Film Screenplay
  • Feature Film Screenplay – Best First Feature Length Screenplay
  • Radio Comedy / Light Entertainment
  • Radio Drama
  • Television Comedy / Light Entertainment
  • Television Drama Series
  • Television Short-form Drama **
  • Television Soap / Continuing Drama ***
  • TV Children's Drama
  • Theatre Play
  • Theatre Play for Children and Young People
  • Videogame Script
* Submissions for the Book Awards will also be sought from publishers (see below).

** Short-form drama is defined as being broadcast in a maximum of five parts.

*** Soap / Continuing Drama is defined as high-volume long-running TV drama series with one or more new episodes broadcast per week.

Television Short-form Drama and Drama Series may include adaptations.

Awards are made to the writer(s), not the production as a whole, so please make your nominations based on the quality of the writing, not the standard of production.

Nominated writer(s) must be British or work in Britain.

To be eligible programmes / plays / games, etc. must have been first released, published, performed or broadcast during the period 1 June 2009 to 31 May 2010 inclusive. If you have any questions about this, please contact the Guild office.

Please send nominations in any or all of the above categories by email to with your full name and Guild membership number. Please make it clear which writers you are nominating in which categories. Please nominate only one title in each category.

Nominations may also be submitted by post to the Guild office. Please mark envelopes “Award nominations”, Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, 40 Rosebery Avenue, London EC1R 4RX.

The deadline for nominations is Friday 3rd September 2010, and the shortlist will be announced on Friday 1st October 2010. The winners will be announced on Sunday 21 November 2010.

The shortlists and winners in each category will be chosen by the relevant Guild Craft Committee or an appropriate jury appointed by the Guild’s Executive Council. There will also be a special award - which can change from year to year - that will be awarded by the Executive Council.

Writers' Guild Awards for Books

The Writers’ Guild is inviting submissions from UK publishers for the Best Book Awards (Fiction and Non-Fiction). These will be judged not only on the quality of the writing - though that may well be of primary importance - but also on their imaginative content (in the case of fiction), the extent to which they fulfil their brief (in the case of non-fiction), and the extent to which they offer a good read.

Each publisher can make a maximum of two submissions (one fiction; one non-fiction).

The entry fee is £50 per submission.

The criteria for eligibility for the award is as follows:

Nominated writer(s) must be British or work in Britain. Eligible books must have been first published and released between 1 June 2009 - 31 May 2010 inclusive.

Submissions should be made to:

The Writers’ Guild Best Book Award 2010, Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, 40 Rosebery Avenue, London EC1R 4RX

The deadline for submissions is Wednesday 1 September 2010. Please send FOUR COPIES of each book you wish to nominate for the award.

Cheques should be made out to the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain or paid directly into WGGB Awards account no. 34042212. Sort Code: 08-60-01.

The Best Book Awards will be presented, along with awards for television, theatre, film, radio and videogames, at a reception in November 2010 to which the nominated authors and their guests will be invited.


Guild General Secretary in Brighton for New Writing South event

Bernie Corbett will be speaking about the Guild's new Books Co-operative at the Writers at Large event organised by New Writing South on Saturday 19th June 2010 at the Jubilee Library, Brighton, from 11.10 until noon.

The event offers a chance to meet an exciting array of speakers and guests, including literary agents, publishers, e-publishing experts and professional development guides - all aimed to help you get your work out into the world. Writers at Large is an opportunity to learn effective marketing strategies, gain professional tips and insights into the publishing world, such as how to approach agents and how mentoring and manuscript reading can help you. Plus there will be sessions on PR, how to gain valuable sources of market information and if you’re after a little 1:1 attention for your writing, Writers at Large will be offering short intensive surgeries with professionals.

For more details visit

What Guild members are getting up to

SEBASTIAN BACZKIEWICZ wrote the episode of Holby City "Thursday's Child" going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Tuesday 15th June. His radio drama Pilgrim continues on Radio 4 with the episode No Foes Shall Stay His Might" going out at 2:15pm on Monday 14th June.

ANNA CLEMENTS wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Monday 14th June.

STEVEN FAY wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Friday 18th June.

KATE GLOVER’s play Judenfrei: Love and Death in Hitler’s Germany - a passionate love story of Hanna and Philipp, two gifted young lawyers who happen to be Jews in 1930s Berlin - will be staged at the Jewish Museum, Camden Town, London NW1 on 14th and 15th July, the Church of All Hallows by the Tower, Byward Street, London EC3 on 16th July, the Market Place, Henley-on-Thames, on 17th July, and Henley Town Hall from 21st to 24th July. For more information contact Catherine Price, Artistic and Executive Director, Historia Theatre Company, 8 Cloudesley Square, London N1. Tel: 0207827 8008 or 07811 892 079, or visit

JONATHAN HARVEY wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Thursday 17th June.

MARK ILLIS wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Wednesday 16th June.

Beefeaters, a feature film scripted by MARK JACKSON, has been selected as a top ten finalist at the Burbank International Film Festival in California.

JULIE JONES wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Monday 14th June.

ANNE RISARIA LANGLEY is running a series of Constellation Workshops for creatives in Derby and Gateshead. This largely non-verbal way of working is well recognised in Europe and used for creative solutions in business. For more information visit Next session at The Shed, Gateshead, on Monday 14th June from 7.00-8.30pm

IAN MADDEN wrote and directed the episode of Taggart "Fact and Fiction" going out on ITV1 at 9:00pm on Thursday 17th June.

CHINA MIEVILLE will be in conversation with Cory Doctorow at Clerkenwell Tales Bookshop, Exmouth Market, London EC1 on Tuesday 20th July at 7pm. Free. Email or tweet to reserve a place. China MiƩville's seventh novel, Kraken, was recently published by Macmillan.

DAVID NOBBS’s new novel, Obstacles To Young Love, is published by Harpers on Thursday, June 10th at £7 99. You can now follow David on twitter

JULIE PARSONS wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Monday 14th June.

JANE PEARSON wrote the episodes of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm and 8:00pm on Thursday 17th June.

DARREN RAPIER’s short film Blind Man's Bluff is now on the Film London website: Please take a look and, if you like it, pass on the link to anyone else you think might enjoy it.

GILLIAN RICHMOND wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 7:00pm on Friday 18th June.

ALISTAIR RUTHERFORD 's latest stage play, An Island Between Heaven and Earth, will be performed in the Leith Festival, Edinburgh, from Friday 11th June to Sunday 13th June. The play was originally written for BBC Radio 4 (broadcast in 2004) and has been extended into a full-length version for the stage.

Full details available from

ERIC SAUNDERS’s book Secret Operations - From Music to Morse and beyond will be launched on 17th June at the Commonwealth Club, 25 Northumberland Avenue,
London WC2N 5AP.

PETER WHALLEY wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Wednesday 16th June.

DOUGLAS WATKINSON wrote the episode of Midsomer Murders "Blood Will Out", which concludes on ITV1 at 5:00pm on Sunday 13th June. He also wrote the episode of Midsomer Muders "Death and Dust" going out on ITV1 at 8:00pm on Wednesday 16th June.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Jonathan Harvey interview

With his new play, Canary, now on tour, Guild member Jonathan Harvey talks to us about writing plays, Coronation Street and the state of TV comedy.
What led you to write Canary?

I had a desire to write a stage play that documented how life has changed for gay people in Britain over the years. To thank the pioneers who went before me and fought for the relative freedoms I enjoy today. Now I know how dry that sounds so my challenge was to also make it a compelling and dramatic story. I have not had a new full-length play on for nine years, so I knew that when I returned to theatre I wanted to come back with something full of big ideas, and to repel the myth that I am just a purveyor of camp froth!

Robert Adams on the Guild Books Co-op

Robert Adams, Chair of the Writers' Guild Books Co-operative, talks about the ideas behind the recently launched project.

Will eBooks make midlist authors extinct?

By James McGrath Morris for The Huffington Post:
Digital books create a retailing bypass that diminishes the exposure of midlist books to potential readers. Supermarkets have long understood the importance of this aspect of sales, arranging their stores so shoppers have to pass through aisles filled with tempting items in order to pick up a quart of milk. So while eBooks will offer publishers an easier and more economic means to sell more works by leading authors it will increase the challenge of marketing books by others.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Ravenhill: theatre must learn from modern art

Guild member Mark Ravenhill thinks UK theatre is too conservative, writes Matthew Hemley in The Stage.
[Ravenhill said] there was a “common understanding” that theatre today should look like the theatre of a century ago, and this had led audiences to expect plays to be narrative-based.

He said: “I think it’s still the case that there is a strange kind of disparity between what audiences expect in theatre and what they expect from, say, contemporary art. When you go to the Tate Modern you go with a very open mind, expecting something to be strange, shocking, playful and different. Whereas an audience still goes to the theatre and gets quite angry if there is not a clear story and clear characters. It’s a bit like going to the Tate Modern and asking which are the landscapes and which are the portraits.”

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Red Planet Prize 2010

Guild members Danny Stack and Tony Jordan are working together once again to run the Red Planet Prize for scriptwriting, with a first prize of £5,000 and a script commission.

All the details are on the Red Planet website, and you can join the discussion about the contest on Danny's blog.

The closing date for entries is 31st July 2010.

Roy Williams interview

In The Guardian, Simon Hattenstone talks to Guild member Roy Williams about his new play Sucker Punch which opens at the Royal Court in London on Friday and is set in 1985.
As much as anything, Williams wanted to capture the selfishness of the Thatcher era. Every character betrays somebody close to them. "They're all dispensable at some point. This is what the 1980s did to people. It made them behave that way." He doesn't do heroes and villains; he prefers the grey areas. So Charlie, who walks out on Leon when he discovers he is going out with his daughter, is basically a good man, struggling with changing times. In his 2002 play Sing Yer Heart Out for the Lads, Williams even gave an incendiary white supremacist some charm and a load of intelligence. "I wouldn't know how to write a hero," he says. "I wouldn't know where to start. I'm certainly no hero. I've done my share of stupid things." Such as? He talks about all the times he bunked off school or did his best to screw up his future.

The Bechdel Test for women in films

Via screenwriter John August's blog, a 'test' first published by Allison Bechdel that asks whether two female characters in a film ever speak to each other about a subject other than a man.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Writers' Guild AGM supports new structure

The Writers’ Guild AGM today gave a strong endorsement to proposals put forward by the Chair, Robert Taylor, for a new structure that can take the organisation forward in the digital age.

The proposals, passed unanimously by Guild members, allow for the creation of:
  • A charity that will carry on the benevolent work of the Writers’ Guild Welfare Fund, but also enhance the status of writers by arranging educational and cultural events such as seminars, showcases and awards
  • A new collecting society to receive payments for online use of television programmes – such as BBC iPlayer and video-on-demand – and distribute the money to writers
  • The Books Co-op, which will help members to produce and market self-published books, concentrating on print-on-demand and ebooks
  • A new trustee company, with the existing trustees as directors, to take responsibility for the Guild’s finances, assets, premises and its responsibilities relation to the new companies.
Outlining the case for the changes (which were also set out in detail before the meeting ), Robert Taylor explained that the new structure was similar to the organisation of the writers’ guilds in America and Australia and would allow the Guild to extend its services to members without losing focus on its core work as a trade union.

The proposed creation of a new collecting society for digital payments was not intended as any kind of threat to ALCS, he explained – indeed, ALCS and the agents body the PMA have both been involved in discussions about the idea – but was a response to requests from broadcasters to find new, more efficient ways to distribute money in this growth area.

As Guild General Secretary, Bernie Corbett, added, the agreements that the Guild has made with broadcasters for digital payments will soon expire and it is important to develop a new model that while secure the best possible deal for writers. While the amounts of money involved are currently relatively modest, digital distribution is growing fast and the sums involved will increase.

Following the vote at the AGM, the Guild will now seek to take forward the proposals in discussions with other interested parties. (The Books Co-op has, in fact, already been set up)

There were no other major rule changes during the AGM, but Guild President, David Edgar, was returned for a second three-year term and Bernie Corbett was confirmed as General Secretary for a third five-year term.

Radio writing workshop - Cardiff

The Writers' Guild of Great Britain is pleased to announce a workshop with the BBC's Head of Audio Drama Alison Hindell.

The workshop will take place at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, on Friday 18th June 2010 at 7pm. Participants should register their interest with Othniel Smith (

Please note that this is an event for writers new to radio and the opportunity is NOT open to writers with radio drama credits.

What Guild members are getting up to

SEBASTIAN BACZKIEWICZ'S radio play Pilgrim, which goes out in four parts, continues with Then Fancies Flee Away going out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Monday 7th June.

SARAH BAGSHAW wrote the episodes of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Wednesday 9th and Thursday 10th June.

SIMON BOVEY'S radio play The Iceman goes out on Radio 4 at 2:30pm on Saturday 5th June.

GARY BROWN'S radio comedy Prospero, Ariel, Reith and Gill goes out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Wednesday 9th June.

PAUL COATES wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Thursday 10th June.

RICHARD CURTIS wrote the episode of Doctor Who "Vincent and the Doctor" going out on BBC1 at 6:40pm on Saturday 5th June.

MATT EVANS wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Monday 7th June.

CHRIS FEWTRELL wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Monday 7th June.

JAYNE HOLLINSON wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Thursday 10th June.

DAVID KANE wrote the episode of Taggart "Grass" going out on ITV1 at 9:00pm on Friday 11th June.

JOHN KERR wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Friday 11th June.

ROB KINSMAN'S radio play High Hopes goes out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Thursday 10th June.

JIMMY PERRY and DAVID CROFT wrote the episode of Dad's Army "Shooting Pains" going out on BBC2 at 5:55pm on Saturday 5th June.

JAN McVERRY wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Monday 7th June.

SUE MOONEY c0-wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Tuesday 8th June.

DEBBIE OATES wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Friday 11th June.

PAUL ROUNDELL wrote the episodes of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 8:00pm on Thursday 10th and at 7:00pm on Friday 11th June.

BBC radio consultation launched

The BBC Trust has launched a review and public consultation on the future of Radios 3, 4 and 7. The closing date is Thursday 26th August.

The Guild has strongly criticised the BBC in recent months for damaging cuts to radio drama, most recently in the submission to the BBC Strategy review, in which the Guild said:

'We have seen two excellent soaps – Westway and Silver Street – killed off when they might well have been saved by offering them to mainstream audiences. The matchless BBC World Service drama productions have gone. The Friday Play is being cancelled, leaving real doubts about the future of more challenging, risk-taking radio drama.'

The Guild’s Radio Committee will be meeting later this month to consider a formal response to the latest consultation. Members of the public are also invited to have their say. If you do, please let us know your thoughts as well at