Thursday, December 23, 2004

Parsons and Naylor (update)

It appears that the Guild's impression that Radio 4 comedy series Parsons and Naylor was not being recommissioned (see below) was false. Assurances have been given that it will return in 2005. The Guild was concerned about the loss of the show since it provides the only current opportunities for non-commissioned comedy writers on Radio 4.

Behzti (update)

Further to earlier reports on this blog, the Writers' Guild has set out its full position in support of the writer of Behzti, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti. The Guild has also signed the following letter written by Ben Payne, Associate Director of Birmingham Rep:
“We, the undersigned, deplore the violent events that have very regrettably led to the cancelling of the remaining performances of BEHZTI (DISHONOUR) by Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti at Birmingham Repertory Theatre on grounds of the safety of the audience, performers and staff of the theatre.

“We all have the right to be protected from abuse on the grounds of our race or religion. We also have the right to peacefully protest if a work of art offends us. We do not have the right to use violence and intimidation to prevent that work of art from being seen by others.

“We particularly deplore the stance of those community and religious leaders of whatever faith who have condemned the production of this play, misrepresented it in clear ignorance of its intent and content, but have not condemned those who have used their faith as an excuse for hooliganism.

“To verbally and physically threaten a writer, audience members, performers and theatre staff is unacceptable. To attempt to censor a play because some incidents in it would thereby be rendered less offensive to some people if they were set elsewhere is unacceptable. To stop the production of a work of art by means of force and continued threats of force is unacceptable. To make death threats against a writer and a writer’s relatives is unacceptable.

“Doubtless, some will see the fact that the play’s production has been brought to an end by this campaign of intimidation as some kind of victory. The reality is we all lose by it. The violent abuse of power to silence the individual in a community is one of the main themes of this writer’s play. It is a sad irony therefore that the violent actions of some of the protestors on Saturday have actually only served to confirm the play’s relevance to us all.

“It is a legitimate function of art to provoke debate and sometimes to express controversial ideas. A genuinely free, pluralist society would celebrate this aspect of our culture. Those who use violent means to silence it must be vigorously opposed and challenged by all of us, whatever our faith, belief or opinions.”

Comedy Award for Dominic Minghella

Guild member Dominic Minghella emerged triumphant last night from the British Comedy Awards, after his series Doc Martin won Best TV Comedy Drama. The show, starring Martin Clunes and made by Buffalo TV, made its premiere this year and attracted both high ratings and critical praise.

The full list of Comedy Award winners can be found on BBC News.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Radio review of the year

Nick Smurthwaite in The Stage looks back on a good year for talk radio.
In a recent interview, Jenny Abramsky, the BBC’s director of radio and music, spoke of “the resilience of radio” and its ability to reinvent itself.

Because of the primacy of television in our mass culture, there have been Jeremiahs in the higher echelons of broadcasting, predicting the marginalisation of radio for some years. But the hands-on champions of radio, such as Abramsky and Melvyn Bragg, are dedicated to its survival as a force to be reckoned with.

As an example of its outreach

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

BBC Get Writing (update)

Our report earlier this month that the BBC's Get Writing website is to close has been confirmed by a Guild member, Chris Page, who spotted the announcement on the site itself.

Chris writes:
This week, posted on the BBC Get Writing Website, was a notice that Get Writing would be closing in April 05 due to funding, and a community of over two hundred thousand people will be scattered to the four winds. As you might imagine, we are not happy with this decision.

Get Writing is a very valuable home for published authors, authors who seek publication and other writers, whether they aspire to write for a living or scribble for a hobby. It is a place of like-minded individuals whose aims are to create written works ranging from short stories, non-fiction and other popular genres – it is our home in a very competitive world.

We like it here. Get Writing provides not only a platform for our own ideas, but also a support place for other writers and a lifeline for many of us that can’t work through disability and a chance to have some influence in a world that seems to have forgotten all about us. It is an essential place for those of us that have to create and bring enjoyment to others – a place of the ‘word’.

It is our understanding that the BBC’s mandate is to promote creativity – to push the mind along, after all the BBC are world famous for the training they give to their staff, so why on earth would you start moving backwards when you have twenty thousand creative minds trying to push the BBC into this century? We believe in Get Writing and believe that was should keep our voice – our creativity alive.

So please support our attempt to keep something truly magical alive, help us to write, to create, to be one community – we are your future, we are writers!

Download the Maltese Falcon

The Screenwriters' Store has a new selection of scripts available for download, including The Maltese Falcon.

Behzti dropped after protests

Violent protests by Sikhs in Birmingham have led the Birmingham Repertory Theatre to drop Gurpreet Kaur Bhatt's play Behtzi, reports BBC News. The theatre dropped Behzti, which depicts murder and sex abuse in a temple, on safety grounds after protesters clashed with police.
Neil Foster, of the Birmingham Stage Company, said the decision to cancel the play had been made by "cowards".

He said he was now looking at staging the performance at the Old Rep Theatre.

Mr Foster told BBC Radio 4's PM: "I think it's one of the blackest days for the arts in this country that I've ever experienced."
Update: The Guild has been busy defending the rights of writers (Gurpreet Kaur Bhatt has, reportedly, gone into hiding). Guild General Secretary Bernie Corbett, quoted in both The Independent and on BBC News, said that the decision to withdraw the play could lead to other theatres becoming reluctant to stage risky material.
"If you can get a big enough crowd, then you can suppress something. That's a terrible principle. Over the next months and years, it makes it less likely that they're going to take the plunge with anything slightly challenging or controversial, about any subject at all, where a mob might be whipped up."

Parsons and Naylor

News has reached the Writers' Guild that Radio 2's topical comedy show Parsons and Naylor is unlikely to be recommissioned. This means that, for the first time in 34 years, there are now no topical radio programmes open to new writers on the entire radio network.

Indeed there is only one programme that takes non-commissioned material, Radio 4's Bearded Ladies, which is not scheduled to return for several months, and only runs for six shows a year. BBC Radio comedy department is always trying to develop new formats, but attempts to bring on new programmes over the last few years have all ended in failure.

Guild General Secretary, Bernie Corbett, has written to the Controllers of Radio 2 and 4 complaining about the situation:
"It is worth pointing out that many of the most successful writers of the last 30 years began their careers on shows like Week Ending and News Huddlines, for example David Renwick (One Foot In The Grave, Jonathan Creek), Andy Hamilton & Guy Jenkin (Drop the Dead Donkey, Bedtime), Ade Edmondson (Bottom, Bad News), Andrew Marshall (2.4 Children), Ian Brown & James Hendrie (My Family), Mark Burton, Pete Sinclair & John O’Farrell (Spitting Image, Have I Got News For You).

The Writers’ Guild hopes you will give urgent attention to this and consider whether Radio 2 ought to introduce a new vehicle for topical comedy contributions by non-commissioned writers, before an already endangered species becomes an extinct one."
Update: Good news! It appears that the rumours were false and that Parsons and Naylor has in fact been re-commissioned. Apologies for the misinformation.

Friday, December 17, 2004

The Oxford Samuel Beckett Theatre Trust Award 2005

The Oxford Samuel Beckett Theatre Trust Award 2005 aims to help the development of emerging practitioners in the field of experimental theatre and, in general, to encourage the new generation of creative artists.

Support is aimed at assisting artists in the transition from fringe to studio spaces. A grant of up to £30,000 and a three week run at The Riverside Studios (Studio 3) in November 2005 will be awarded to an individual or company for a production of their choice. Bold, innovative and challenging projects will be favoured.

Full details are available on their website.

Menagerie competition for young writers

Menagerie Young Writers Development Programme is committed to opening up writing for the theatre to a diverse range of new young voices. Their aim is to discover, support and develop the best first time young writers from the eastern region of the UK and beyond.

They are looking for six first time writers for bursary places on a series of four interconnecting intensive weekend workshops over a period of two months, beginning in April 05.

These workshops will aid the development of a one act play from initial idea through to completed first draft. The plays will be given a script-in-hand performance to the general public alongside work being developed by established professionals at Menageries 'Heat' showcase at the beginning of June 05.

Full details of how to apply are on the BBC's Writers Room website.

Arts funding cuts (2)

The theatre world has been left reeling by the news (reported below) that funding for the Arts Council was being cut in real terms, reports The Stage.
“We knew it would be bad but not that bad” was the response from the performing arts to the news that government funding of Arts Council England is to be frozen at £412 million for the next three years - a cut of £30 million in real terms when inflation is taken into consideration.
Richard Pulford, joint chief executive of the Theatrical Management Association and the Society of London Theatre, warns that the cuts will be “keenly felt in the quality and range of productions"
“We know that the £25 million has worked. It has improved the quality of work, it has improved morale immeasurably. The improvement has begun to be felt in West End theatre and at the same time we have been able to do something to address the endemic problem of low pay in the theatre. It is deeply dismaying,” he said.

“I can’t see how the arts council can be safeguarded from the effects of this and the effects are going to be felt in the most devastating way. There is no question of making up this money from anywhere else. We can’t undo, and wouldn’t want to, the improvements in wages - there’s no question about that. That amount of money in Exchequer terms is the copper in the pocket of a rich man.”

Spooks credits

Spooks, the highly successful BBC 1 drama series, will no longer be quite such a mystery to viewers following an agreement between the Guild, the BBC and the independent producer Kudos.

From now on credits will appear on digital repeats of Spooks, DVD releases, and the Spooks website. The BBC has promised never again to produce or commission drama series without a guarantee of writers’ credits.

For more than a year the Guild has been complaining that Spooks carries no writers’ credits – in contravention of the Guild’s agreements with the BBC and the independent producers’ trade body PACT. It is also an offence against the BBC’s internal producer guidelines.

The idea behind Spooks was that viewers should believe their TVs had been taken over by alien forces – and credits would have ruined that illusion. Guild General Secretary Bernie Corbett commented: “It was always rubbish to pretend that intelligent viewers regarded this as anything other than high-quality drama entertainment.”

As a settlement of the issue the following agreement has been reached:

1. After each episode has been broadcast on BBC One a preview of the following episode will be broadcast on BBC Three. The broadcast on BBC Three will have an end title sequence which will credit the writer (and other key contributors) of that episode in the usual way.

2. The “Spooks” website will continue to carry full credits information but the site will be reviewed to ensure better orientation to the credits as well as improved presentation of the credits on the site.

3. Subsequent DVD releases (from season two onwards) will include full credit information as per the website as an additional feature of the DVD. It has not proved feasible for technical reasons to include credits for viewers on digital platforms via their red button.

The following joint statement by the BBC, Writers’ Guild and Personal Managers Association, has been agreed:

“A disagreement between the BBC, Kudos Film and Television and the writers' representative organisations (the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain and the Personal Managers Association) concerning the absence of the writers' credit on "Spooks" has been resolved by agreement on a package of measures in relation to this programme which address the concerns raised.

“During the discussions on this matter, the BBC acknowledged that the absence of credits on this specific programme had been the result of unique circumstances and established no precedent concerning the standard provisions dealing with the writers' entitlement to a credit.

“The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain said it had agreed to treat “Spooks” as a special case on the understanding that writers’ credits would appear on all future BBC productions and commissions.”

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Guild protests against cut to arts funding

Writers' Guild General Secretary Bernie Corbett has written to the Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell to protest against the "standstill" in funding for the Arts Council that will amount, in real terms, to a £30m cut.

In his letter Corbett says that:
Only recently we were saluting the Government on its arts funding settlement, which enabled much-needed new funding to be agreed. While this left the UK far behind many other European countries, we could welcome a significant step in the right direction. In particular there was a shot in the arm for local and regional theatre (although the Writers’ Guild does not believe a fair share of the new money was ever spent on new writing).

Now, before the new spending has even had a chance to bed down, we are back into a depressing spiral of cuts. This will mean closures of theatres and companies, fewer commissions of new work, more restrictions on cast numbers and production values, etc., etc.

Bad sex prize for Wolfe

American author Tom Wolfe has received this year's Bad Sex Prize from the Literary Review, reports BBC News. The award recognises the worst descriptions of sex in literature.
Wolfe, 74, whose Bonfire of the Vanities epitomised 1980s power and excess, was nominated for three passages in his latest publication. One included the line: "...moan moan moan moan moan..."

Monday, December 13, 2004

Evening Standard Theatre Awards

Guild member Harold Pinter was honoured at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards today. The playwright, along with actress Judi Dench and the South Bank institution were each given Special Awards, honouring their unique contributions to the nation's cultural life and marking the Standard awards' own half-century.

Alan Bennett won Best Play with This History Boys and The Charles Wintour Bursary for New Playwriting, worth £30,000 went to Owen McCafferty for his play Scenes from the Big Picture, seen last year at the National Theatre.

Sylvia Plath's Ariel, revisited

A new edition of Sylvia Plath's collection of poems, Ariel, has been published, reports The Economist. Some have claimed that the original editor, Ted Hughes, made his selection "in ways which would favour his own reputation and manipulate hers," but on the basis of the newly published poems The Economist ses no evidence for this.
Plath left a manuscript of 40 poems in a black folder. Of those 40 poems, Hughes removed 13 and substituted others, many of which were written in an extraordinarily fertile month towards the very end of Plath's life. The poems which Hughes removed from the manuscript are, generally speaking, inferior to the new ones that he chose to include. They are slacker and more anecdotal, and their rhythms drive forward less compulsively. They are no less savage in their subject matter, but they lack the force and concentrated power of the ones that replace them. In these rejected poems, we feel that Plath is writing around a subject rather than emerging from deep inside it.
Away from the Plath-Hughes controversy, The Economist reminds us just how powerful the poems remain.
Can any poet have asked so many unanswerable questions of God, the self and a chilly, inhospitable world within the space of a single slim volume?

First books

In The Times, leading writers remember the excitement of their first published work. Margaret Attwood writes:
The book consisted of seven poems — short poems, luckily — for which I had won a university prize. It was printed in a cellar, on a flatbed press owned by a friend and colleague. Along with a fellow poet, I set the type. We had to do each poem separately, as there was a shortage of letter As.

Arts Council Wales to be run by Assembly

Arts Council Wales will soon disappear in all but name, following the decision by the Welsh Assembly to take on all of its important fucnctions, reports The Stage.
To oversee the future, the government is establishing a culture board to be chaired by the minister - currently Alun Pugh - with membership from the arts council, National Library, National Museums and Galleries, local government and the Welsh Books Council. The directly funded bodies will be the Welsh National Opera, BBC National Orchestra, Academi, Diversions, Clwyd Theatr Cymru in Mold and the Welsh language Theatr Genedlaethol.

No date has been set for the changeover, although it is thought that April 2006 is the most likely date since this is when the Welsh Development Agency undergoes a similar move.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Writing as therapy

Dan Harris goes back to his childhood in an article for the Writers Guild of America west's magazine, Written By.
As a writer, I think I've cleared one of the first major hurdles. I've written a film that is personal to me, and miraculously it's been made. I can only hope that my "therapy session" connects with other people. Life is hard, and it often pulls no punches. Sometimes when you think it cannot get any worse, it does. Sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel dies just as you approach it. But sometimes there is healing in catastrophe. Sometimes people are given a second chance.

Movie Plot Generator

Movie Plot Generator, 27,000 plot possibilities in a single book. Fortunately it's tongue in cheek. I think.
Whether it’s “a single mom fighting crime with a wise-cracking robot” or the story of “an orphaned grizzly cub trying to lose his virginity to an all-star ‘80’s soundtrack,” your favorite combination is sure to be the next big blockbuster.

Writers Passage West Midlands - deadline reminder

The deadline for Writers Passage West Midlands is 17 December. The Script Factory and Screen West Midlands are looking for eight writers to take part in a nine-month development programme.

The programme is only open to writers who live or work within the West Midlands and have completed a first draft screenplay.

Full details are on the Script Factory website.

Plays struggle on Broadway

Only five new plays opened on Broadway this season, reports Jesse McKinley in The New York Times, as musicals continue to dominate the stage.
"The disappearance of the Broadway play poses a significant problem for anyone whose wants to make a living writing plays," said John Weidman, president of the Dramatists Guild, "which, by extension, poses a problem for anyone who cares about the future of the American theater."

With big-name musicals and star-studded, limited-run revivals considered the only relatively safe bets in a famously risky industry, the roster of those producing new plays has shrunk to a precious and wealthy few who are driven by artistic idealism, personal vanity or, very often, both.
It's a similar story in London. The opening of Mary Poppins means that for the first time in history there are now more musicals than plays in the West End.

Getting published

The New Writing Partnership, a new literary arts organisation in East Anglia, ran its first programme of workshops and events this month for "emerging writers, publishing professionals and others in the literary world", reports Christina Patterson in The Independent. The aim of the event, according to its director, Trevor Davies, was to "create a new interface between writers and the writing world".
"Nobody should be publishing all these books," says Andrew Franklin, publisher of the mega-selling Eats, Shoots & Leaves. "I wish fewer people would write and fewer people would publish books." Others on the panel are less gloomy, but the fur flies when the discussion moves to money. Franklin calls agent David Godwin "a Thatcherite" and Godwin's cheeks go scarlet. Eyes shine with excitement. Next year, we agree, it should take place in a gladiatorial arena.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

"Freedom" award for John Deery

Guild member John Deery is to be honoured by the US National Board of Review of Motion Pictures for his debut film Conspiracy of Silence.

Along with Farenheit 9/11 and The Passion of the Christ, Conspiracy of Silence, a film about corruption and abuse in the Irish Catholic church, will receive a "Special recognition of Films that Reflect the Freedom of Expression”.

John Deery was presented with the Hartley-Merrill International Screenwriting Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2001. As a result of this he was invited to attend the Sundance Screenwriters’ Lab where he developed the story and raised finance to make the film.

Sate of Play - the movie

Writers' Guild member Paul Abbott's award-winning BBC drama series, State of Play, is set to be a mjor film, reports BBC News. The film rights were sold to Universal Pictures by Abbott, who will also be the executive producer on the film. "It's a blistering political thriller and we want to make an equally blistering movie," said US producer Andrew Hauptman.

Children's BAFTA winners

The winners of the 2004 Children’s BAFTA Awards have been announced. They include:
  • Animation: Brush Head (Jonathan Boseley, Andy Williams, Dan Berlinka for Toon
  • Disney/Dandy Productions/Disney Channel UK)
  • Drama: Featherboy (Peter Tabern, Dermot Boyd for Childsplay/BBC1)
  • Pre-school animation: Yoko! Jakamoko! Toto! (Christopher O'Hare, Tony Collingwood, Andrea Tran for Collingwood O'Hare Entertainment/CiTV
  • School drama:The Illustrated Mum, based on the book by Jacqueline Wilson (Julia Ouston, Cilla Ware, Debbie Isitt) Granada/C4
  • Writer (adapted): Debbie Isitt - The Illustrated Mum
  • Writer (original): Tony Collingwood - Yoko! Jakamoko! Toto!

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Thompson announces BBC cuts

Around 3,000 jobs will go at the BBC, says Director General Mark Thompson. Most will be in professional services, including human resources, training, finances and legal services. In addition, several departments including Children's TV and Radio will move to a new home in Manchester.

BBC News has a good summary of the changes, while The Stage concentrates on a pledge that more money will now be spent on original programming.

Unforgiven analysed by John Truby

If you're a fan of screenplay analysis you will be interested in John Truby's analysis on Unforgiven on the Screenwriters Store website.
If you're like me, the opening of a new Western - our national genre - is news for rejoicing. When I heard that David People's script is thematically ambitious, I was even more excited to see this film. But all of that just made Unforgiven a bigger disappointment. Unforgiven is a textbook example of what happens when you don't track your theme through the structure.
You can also download a copy of the screenplay and judge for yourself.

Patrick Marber

As the film of his play Closer is released in America, British playwright Patrick Marber talks to the Writers Guild of America, west.
I was very open to how we were going to do it. There was one part of me that wanted to rip up the play and start again... and then there was another part of me that thought, well, this is an interesting shape and an interesting way of telling a story and it worked on stage so why shouldn't we make it work on film. Mike was of the latter view. He loved the play, and a lot of the time he was persuading me to keep stuff in that I wanted to cut. It was kind of the reverse of the cliché writer-director relationship. I was all for rewriting it and he was always trying to preserve stuff I wanted to cut. I did do a lot of rewriting with lots of new material in the screenplay that's not in the play, but it all stems from the play.

Monday, December 06, 2004

BBC Comedy Wales

BBC Wales Comedy department are looking for narrative comedy scripts for radio and television broadcast.

The brief
Writers are expected to be either Welsh, based in Wales or for the characters/situations to have a Welsh flavour. This does not mean they are looking for sitcoms about rugby, sheep or miners but are seeking situations that are funny and just happen to be set in Wales or that the main characters are Welsh. The overriding concern is that the scripts are funny.

The outcome
The department is looking to pilot six sit-coms for BBC Radio Wales early next year with two of the best being commissioned for a series on the station. BBC Wales are also looking to develop narrative TV comedy that has the potential to go network.

Please send scripts by post to:
BBC Wales Comedy Department
Room M1010, Ty Oldfield, Llandaff
Cardiff, CF5 2YQ

For more information, you can call the Comedy Department on 029 2032 3516

The bodging of the BBC

Another "circle of life" begins at the BBC with Mark Thompson's reign as Director General, but why is their no prospect of returning power to the programme makers, asks Peter Preston in Media Guardian (free registration required).
Sometimes, as you patrol the pavements outside the plastic-shrouded building site called Broadcasting House, the governance of Britain and the voice of Britain blend symbolically into one. One day the covers will come off. One day the blessed, beating heart of radio will return where it belongs. One day - and countless millions on - we'll be right back where we started from.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Caryl Churchill

Caryl Churchill, celebrated British playwright, profiled by Sarah Lyall in the New York Times.
If Ms. Churchill's plays have one signature, it is their highly stylized conceits. The works are as creative in form as they are varied in content, as if she wants to push the boundaries each time. They feature, in different instances, flashbacks, twisted chronologies, huge leaps of logic, elements of absurdity, overlapping dialogue, different actors playing the same character in different scenes, interjected songs and, in the case of "Serious Money," dialogue written almost entirely in verse. "She is a structuralist," said Max Stafford-Clark, director of the Out of Joint theater company and longtime director of Ms. Churchill's work. "It's not just the range of subject matter, but also the form which is continually surprising to critics and audiences."

Saturday, December 04, 2004

History lessons

Why are British theatres neglecting the past, asks Michael Billington in The Guardian.
We have been taught, by a series of dreary, knee-jerk textbooks, that virtually nothing happened in British drama between 1945 and 1956. In fact, there were plays like John Whiting's Saint's Day, lately revived, that foresaw violent social disintegration. There were also intriguing post-war works on private dilemmas and our sexual hypocrisies: not least Emlyn Williams's Accolade, dealing with the double life of a famous writer who, on the eve of being knighted, is discovered to have had sex with a 14-year-old girl. And, at a time when the issue of whether Alexander the Great was gay is back in the news, it might be worth a second look at Terence Rattigan's Adventure Story, which drops heavy hints as to its Grecian hero's bisexuality.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Wood brings Acorn Antiques to the stage

Guild member Victoria Wood is bringing her Acorn Antiques sketch to the stage in a new musical, reports BBC News.
Speaking at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, in London, Wood said she first mooted the idea for a musical back in 2001.

"I wanted to write a musical and it was just like a brainwave," she said.

"I thought 'why not make it about Acorn Antiques?' It is something that people may recognise."

Jokingly described by Wood as a "modern morality tale", the musical is set in a small theatre in Sutton Coldfield where the director - played by Neil Morrissey - is hoping to rehearse his new work.
Acorn Antiques will open at London's Theatre Royal Haymarket in February 2005, directed by Trevor Nunn.

BBC will not back-track on digital services

BBC governors have said that No radical changes will be made to BBC digital TV and radio services, despite criticism from government-commissioned reviews, reports BBC News.
The reviews concluded that low viewing figures meant BBC Three and Four were poor value for money and needed to become more mainstream.

But BBC chairman Michael Grade said innovation was as important as improving audience reach.

Governors said digital services must be given more time to develop.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Tinniswood Award

The first Tinniswood Award for radio drama scripts, named after the late, great Peter Tinniswood, has been won by Christopher William Hill for his play Killing Maestros.

The Award, run by the Writers' Guild and The Society of Authors, was presented by Richard Eyre at a ceremony last month.

There's a full report by Guild Radio Committee Chair, Alan Drury, on the Guild's website.

Playwrights keeping it short and sweet

There is a growing trend among playwrights for short plays without intermissions, reports Charles Isherwood in the New York Times.
Oddly enough, as plays seem to have grown shorter, movies have ballooned. Hollywood doesn't appear to be heeding the conventional wisdom about the American population's decreasing attention span. Over the last couple of decades, the average running time of a movie seems to have inched upward from that appealing benchmark of 90 minutes. Now, even the most formulaic action pictures run a full two hours, if not more. Blame the auteur theory, if you like, which enshrined the director as the sole author of a movie and led to the consolidation of power in directors' hands.

Perhaps it's time theater producers began more aggressively exploiting this disparity. They could promote their shows' running time as a selling point. "Half as long as 'Alexander!' " "Guaranteed to be shorter than a Steven Spielberg movie!"

Verity Bargate winner

Matt Charman has won the prestigious Verity Bargate award with his first full-length play, reports The Stage.

The award, run by the Soho Theatre, aims to find and promote new talent from across the UK. Charman's play, A Night at the Dogs, was inspired by his time working in a crash repair shop in West Sussex.
“I had made scribblings before but it is my first full-length play. I was in pantomimes as a kid and always doing things in the back garden but then got to university and grew up and was more interested in producing and getting new stuff together. When I left university I worked with these guys at the garage one year and it occurred to me they were incredibly interesting people and I just wanted to get it down.”

BBC Get Writing site to close

MediaGuardian (free registration required) reports that staff have been told that the Get Writing site, which cost around £400,000 to launch with an attendant nationwide campaign of creative writing workshops, will close down just months after it was relaunched.
The site, aimed at adults who want to develop their creative writing skills, was launched in September 2003 and relaunched a year later as one of the centrepieces of the BBC's online learning strategy.
As we reported on this blog a few months ago, the site is aimed more at beginners than writers wanting to submit work to the BBC, but it was always rather unclear what it's relationship was with the BBC Writersroom.

Public service the key for BBC

The BBC should focus on public service broadcasting, an independent panel set up by the government has said. There's a full report from BBC News.
Value for audiences and consistent high quality programming were the priorities, it said.

The panel, headed by Lord Burns, has published a paper on the clarity of the BBC's public purposes and remit, and how it is funded.

It will be discussed on Friday in the last of a series of debates on how the BBC might be run and regulated in the future.

The debates have been held before an invited audience and broadcast over the internet.

There was general support among the panel for the continuation of the licence fee for the next few years.


Entries are invited for the 2005 Scriptapalooza film writing contest. It's one of the best known competitions, and is endorsed by the Writers Guild of America, west. The closing date is 15 April 2005.

Technical problems

There were some pretty severe technical problems at yesterday, so apologies if you came to the blog. At the moment the last two days posts have been lost. Hopefully they will be recovered today.