Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Writing The Simpsons Movie

The Simpsons Movie Trailer

In The L.A.Times, Geoff Boucher meets some of the men who wrote The Simpsons Movie, including James L. Brooks.
"... with the movie we started with the old gang of writers and we kept on shifting our personalities and new people would come in.... Some of us were always at the table no matter what and it was a very long period of time. A lot of it was to shake loose of what everyone was saying about the show" — here he put on the voice of a haughty and wheezy critic — 'This show, after all these years....' The main thing is we wanted to have fun. And make a movie we could be proud of."

Ingmar Bergman 1918-2007

Ingmar Bergman, who has died at the age of 89, wasn't just a great film director, he was also a great screenwriter. Indeed, his first success came with the script for the 1944 film Hets (Frenzy), directed by Alf Sjöberg and a major prizewinner at the Cannes Film Festival in 1946.

In addition to writing the screenplays for most of the films he directed, including classics such as Wild Strawberries and The Seventh Seal, he also wrote for other directors. The Best Intentions, screenplay by Bergman and directed by Bille August, won the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 1992.

There are obituaries for Bergman in all the major newspapers and film sites. The Guardian, has a whole section devoted to him, including tributes, archive articles and an obituary by Brian Baxter.
His films had a grim obsession with physical confrontation (he once remarked that he would like to have made a film entirely in close-up) made possible by his collaborations with two great cameramen and his team of skilled performers, and Bergman literally astonished people with his willingness to recognise cruelty, death and above all the torment of doubt.

Monday, July 30, 2007

TV eclipses film at Comic-Con

In The Hollywood Reporter, Borys Kit reports that at Comic-Con in Los Angeles, TV shows were creating the biggest buzz.
Thanks to NBC's "Heroes" presentation, the 2007 San Diego Comic-Con International, which took place this weekend, will be remembered as the Con at which TV shows eclipsed feature films.
There's more on Comic-Con on the Risky Biz blog, including news of a favourable reaction to the premiere of NBC's Bionic Woman pilot.
Exec produced by "Battlestar Galactica's" David Eick, the "Bionic Woman" reboot is similar to that show in its darker take on a slightly campy genre show from the 1970s.
Bionic Woman preview

The future of the Absurd

As the Donmar Warehouse prepares to open a new season of Absurdist plays, in The Times, Benedict Nightingale asks whether the movement associated with Eugene Ionesco and N.F. Simpson has a future.
Whether or not you agree with those Absurdists who think the Universe void, you must admire the humour with which they (Ionesco again) “exteriorise anxiety and project visible images of fear, regret, remorse, alienation”. You can quarrel with the content while relishing the form. Conventional plot, narrative logic and characterisation are mostly missing. Instead, you get dream, nightmare, hiccups from the subconscious, such as heads protruding from funeral urns (Beckett’s Play) or a giant corpse bursting into a living room (Ionesco’s Amedee).

Sunday, July 22, 2007


This blog is taking a short holiday. See you in a week or so.

Friday, July 20, 2007

In defence of publishers

Following the news that 18 publishers were, apparently, unable to recognise Jane Austen's work, in The Independent, Andrew Franklin, managing director of Profile Books, defends his trade.
If an editor commissions 20 titles a year, which is probably about average, they are being asked to consider around 500 manuscripts a year. That is an awful lot of words. No one can be surprised to learn that not every manuscript gets the careful attention it deserves. It should not come as a shock that many manuscripts are returned unread to the sender. We need to clear our desks in order to look after the authors whom we do sign up, and the unsolicited manuscripts are often a chore to be dealt with at the end of the day by an overworked intern.

Mad Men - Matthew Weiner

Mad Men preview

In The New York Times, Jacques Steinberg talks to former Sopranos writer-producer, Matthew Weiner, about his new series, Mad Men which premiered on American cable station AMC last night.
Though nobody is killed, at least early on, Mr. Weiner’s lead character, an archetypal advertising man named Don Draper, is surrounded by a supporting staff of misogynistic executives who engage in enough lying, backbiting, drinking and sexual shenanigans during the industry’s golden age to rival the bad behavior of the crew at the Bada Bing club.

There is also a disproportionate amount of spirited conversation in office hallways in the series’s initial episodes — as if “The West Wing” had been restaged in a haze of cigarette smoke, among neat rows of desks topped with typewriters — though not necessarily a lot of action, beyond a low-speed car crash and some overt flirting.

“Talking can be heroic,” Mr. Weiner said in an interview here on the studio set serving as Mr. Draper’s living room, arrayed with linen drapes, needlepoint pillows and copies of Flair, the popular ’50s magazine. “I loved ‘The Sopranos.’ But not every problem can be solved by killing someone. When you take that out of the mix, talking is kind of what you have left, although a lot of problems on this show are solved by sleeping with people.”
Some reviews: from L.A. Weekly and Variety.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Coelho's pitch to his readers

Best-selling novelist Paulo Coelho is inviting people to make films based on different the different narrative perspectives in his book The Experimental Witch and post them to YouTube.

The makers of the best films will win €3,000, but won't retain any rights over their film. The closing date for entries is 19 March 2008.

Adapting Harry Potter

For the Writers Guild of America West, Dylan Callaghan talks to Michael Goldenberg about adapting J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix for the film that opens in the UK tomorrow.
Order of the Phoenix is not only darker and more adult, but, despite a good amount of action, it's loaded with drama. If you were forced to narrow it down, what was the most crucial element of this story for you?

To me it was always a coming-of-age story, in the sense that it was about Harry's journey from seeing the world with a child's black-and-white simplicity to a more nuanced, complicated world view. The key scenes that jumped out to me in the book, where Harry sees [in a mind reading exercise with Snape] that his father was not the idealized character he thought he was. That's that striking loss-of-innocence moment where you realize your parent is just a flawed human being. And then he learns that Dumbledore has made a huge strategic mistake later... So life is more complicated than you think it is when you're a kid and that you're much more complicated than you thought you were.
Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix Trailer

ITV expands drama department

From Tara Conlon in Media Guardian:
ITV has created a new post of drama commissioning executive and appointed World Productions executive Victoria Fea to fill the role.

The move expands the drama department, which is directed by Laura Mackie.

Ms Fea will work with the department controller, Sally Haynes, and the head of continuing drama, Corinne Hollingworth, to commission and develop groundbreaking shows.
Elsewhere, as Matthew Hemley reports in The Stage, Tony Jordan’s Red Planet Pictures has appointed producer Claire Phillips as its first senior drama executive.
Phillips, whose credits include Waterloo Road and Footballers’ Wives, will be responsible for producing the company’s second series of HolbyBlue, as well as overseeing the production house’s drama development slate. She will executive produce future commissions the company receives.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Brian Finch 1936 - 2007

Screenwriter Brian Finch has died at the age of 70. There are obituaries in The Independent, The Daily Telegraph, and The Guardian.

Brian Finch wrote 151 episodes of Coronation Street, as well as contributing to other series including All Creatures Great And Small and Heartbeat. Perhaps his best known work of recent years was his adaptation of Michelle Magorian's Goodnight Mr Tom (1999), starring John Thaw.

The great poetry binge

In The Guardian, Sarah Crown explains how being a judge for the Forward Poetry Prize changed the way she reads.
I found that, by immersing myself in poetry, I read with far greater incisiveness and clarity. I no longer needed to make the gear shift that is generally required when you pick up a volume of poetry after reading prose; my ear was attuned to poetry's rhythms, and my eye - accustomed to the sight of poetry on the page - became far quicker at detecting themes, echoes and linguistic flourishes (reading the collections back to back also, of course, allowed me to arrive at qualitative judgements with far greater speed and conviction). As the days passed and the pile of "read" volumes grew taller, I also became increasingly aware of what a rare privilege it was to read a year's worth of poetry - I felt as if I was being given an insight into the country's collective conscious. Words resurfaced from collection to collection - caul, clarity, fetch - and themes emerged, of which the most prevalent was water: poets from every part of the British Isles - and beyond - turned again and again to rain, rivers, seas and floods.
The shortlist for the 2007 Forward Poetry Prize was announced yesterday.

Mark Freeland to head BBC Comedy

From the BBC Press Office:
Mark Freeland is to take up one of the key creative roles in the BBC...when he returns to the BBC as its newly appointed Head of Comedy for Vision Studios.

Mark joins from Hartswood Films and takes up his post in September, bringing with him over 20 years of experience in TV and comedy. He will be in charge of in-house comedy production across all four television networks as well as radio comedy and entertainment, working with some of Britain's most acclaimed producers, writers and performers.

Between 2002 and 2005, Mark was Head of Comedy Commissioning at the BBC, and responsible for commissioning, executive producing and developing comedy across the four BBC channels – working closely with in-house and independent production teams.
The appointment follows the departure of Jon Plowman, who is leaving after 27 years at the Corporation.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Guild website

We're currently experiencing some technical problems with the Guild website. We're working on fixing it as soon as possible.

Update: It's now fixed and working fine.

LA Features and Spark 2007

Two new opportunities, with thanks to BBC Writersroom for the links.

The LA Features Scheme, being run by Northern Film and Media, is looking to support experienced regional writers to develop a full length feature screenplay aimed at the American market. The scheme is only open to submissions from individuals who have had a script commissioned before, either regionally or nationally, and are willing to commit to a rigorous scheme and work within the tight deadlines specified. Full details are available on the website. The deadline for applications is 13 August 2007.

The Spark Scriptwriting Scheme is run by Screen Yorkshire and offers the chance to participate in a development programme of workshops and tutorials. Applicants must be aged 18 or over and live or work in the Yorkshire and Humber Region. The closing date for applications is 15 August 2007.

Stoppard on the radio

In The Daily Telegraph, Gillian Reynolds celebrates the BBC's season of Tom Stoppard plays on the radio.
The test of this season for me was Arcadia. I saw it first at the National Theatre, admired it more than I liked it until the very last scene when, quite suddenly, I got it (or thought I did), the past fused with the present and the tears came to my eyes. What was I crying for? Happiness, I think.

The next time I saw it on the stage, in an amateur production, I thought it wouldn't happen again because I'd see it coming. I didn't. Nor did I with the radio version, on Radio 4's Saturday Play a couple of weeks ago. Out of the blue again came that feeling of mysterious resolution, of being plaited into the workings of time, feeling that all was clear and right, if only for that moment.

Margaret Atwood's new play

Novelist Margaret Atwood has adapted her novel, The Penelopiad, into a play that will open at The Swan next month. In The Times, Lucy Powell asks her about what it was like adapting her own work.
Margaret Atwood is about to join the long list of famous novelists who have turned playwright – a list that she’s the first to admit does not make encouraging reading. “They had this idea that beautiful actors would speak their wonderful lines and everybody would swoon,” says Atwood in her Canadian drawl, on the line from her home in Toronto. George Eliot? “Awful.” Charles Dickens? “A dabbler.” Henry James? “Well, yes.” Tennyson’s verse dramas? “Frankly pretty dreadful. Apparently it’s because they’d never worked in theatre.”

Monday, July 16, 2007

Fringe press

In The Times, Ian Macmillan enters the world of the small publishing company.
It's hard to find appropriate language to describe those who run literary small presses, but they are the true heroes of literature, sailing into stormy seas when others prefer the flat, flat calm; they are the grassroots football of literature, playing on muddy pitches in front of small but enthusiastic knots of people, as opposed to the prawn sandwich, big-money Premiership of the mainstream publishers. Maybe neither of these hits the exact spot, but you get the drift.

Julia Donaldson interview

In The Daily Telegraph, Judith Woods talks to author Julia Donaldson, creator of The Gruffalo.
Picture books are where her heart really lies.

"The Gruffalo was written at a time when a lot of picture books were about unconditional love; 'I love you, little so-and-so', that sort of thing," she says. "Then along came The Gruffalo with this exciting, dramatic story and was very different.

"Picture books are such a wonderful thing, I love them. They're much more grown up and imaginative than other fiction. A picture book can be a fable or poetry or convey a deep truth; they capture children at that point before they get into the predictable territory of pony books or football books. A picture book really can break the mould."

Tony Jordan interview

In Media Guardian, Owen Gibson talks to TV writer, Tony Jordan.
Sometimes, says Jordan, you have to wait for the climate to change before a show can get made. "I was born for this era. I'm 50 next week, but I wish I was 25 again. Because I was born for this era of high-concept, bold ideas. The six ideas I pitched this week I would never have got made or even got through the door before," he enthuses.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Hollywood gears up for writer contract talks

Strike talk is rumbling around Hollywood again. With the Writers' Guild of America West (WGAw) due to start formal talks with the industry about a new contract next week (the current one expires in October), talk is turning to memories of the 1988 writers' walkout.

One of the big issues up for discussion could be the distribution of residuals, reports Michael Cieply in The New York Times. At a recent meeting of top Hollywood executives, he writes, they:
...were emphatic in calling for the dismantling of a system under which specific payments are made when movies and programs are put on DVD, shown abroad or otherwise resold.

Instead, all such revenues would be pooled and companies would be able to recover their costs before sharing profits with the performers, writers and directors. “There are no ancillary markets anymore; it’s all one market,” said Barry M. Meyer, chief executive of Warner Brothers. “This is the time to do it.”
The WGAw rejected the idea, however.
In a statement, John F. Bowman, who will lead the writers’ negotiating committee in the talks, flatly rejected the idea of replacing residuals with a profit-based formula. “Our members can’t rely on Hollywood accounting,” Mr. Bowman’s statement said. “The companies have lost the right to talk about a profit basis for residuals.”
In the L.A. Times, meanwhile, Richard Verrier profiles the producers' lead negotiator, J. Nicholas Counter III.
Counter's tactics often involve putting opponents on the defensive, portraying their positions as unreasonable while rattling off statistics showing the industry's economic woes. When leaders of the Writers Guild of America recently telegraphed their demands, including securing "fair compensation" for entertainment distributed over emerging technologies, he publicly blasted them as an "assault on the industry."

Guild leaders dismiss such remarks as ploys to unnerve the rank and file.

"That's the sort of thing he does," said Patric M. Verrone, president of the Writers Guild of America, West. "It's worked well for him in the past, but I don't know that it worked this time."
Update: more on the WGAw's perspective in The L.A. Times.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Doubts raised over Channel 4 radio plans

From Matthew Hemley in The Stage:
Channel 4’s plans to take on BBC radio with a slate of new dramas on its forthcoming digital stations have been met with scepticism from independent producers, who fear the organisation may not have the budget to fund quality productions.

The broadcaster last week won a licence from regulator Ofcom to launch three branded radio stations, including Channel 4 Radio and E4 Radio, which are expected to include new dramas and comedies.
In The Daily Telegraph, Gillian Reynolds also casts her eye over Channel 4's radio plans.

Joseph Delaney interview

In The Times, Amanda Craig talks to author Joseph Delaney about his best-selling children's books, the Wardstone Chronicles.
Delaney is a master story-teller, as rooted in his native Lancashire as Alan Garner is in Cheshire. He has sold more than 500,000 copies in 20 countries, and deserves every bit of his success.

“My partner Marie got up at 4am to go to work, so I’d write between 6.15 and 7.30 every morning before going to teach,” he recalls. “Carolyn Whittaker, the only agent I approached who didn’t turn me down, never earned a penny from me for ten years while I was trying to write for adults. So, like Tom [narrator of The Spook’s Apprentice], I had a long apprenticeship,” he says wryly.

BBC TV long-running drama review

From Leigh Holmwood for Media Guardian:
The BBC1 controller, Peter Fincham, is considering the future of several long-running drama series, including Dalziel and Pascoe and The Inspector Lynley Mysteries.

Mr Fincham has already taken the decision to axe The Chase and New Street Law and is reviewing other BBC1 returning dramas.

The future of titles such as The Inspector Lynley Mysteries and Dalziel and Pascoe is also uncertain as the channel looks to refresh its drama output.

Senior BBC drama executives, led by the controller of fiction, Jane Tranter, met at an away day last week where it is thought they discussed their strategy and plans for new shows.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

TMA rates increased

The Writers’ Guild has agreed a 4.3% cost-of-living increase in the minimum fees paid by regional theatres. The agreement (pdf) with the Theatrical Management Association (TMA) and the Scottish Society of Playwrights is one of several that the Guild has to secure minimum terms and conditions for theatre writers - see the Guild's website for details.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Stephen L Carter interview

In The Independent, John Freeman talks to American lawyer and best-selling novelist, Stephen L Carter.
At the offices of his New York publisher, Carter appears to be fighting another lawyerly battle with the forces of literalism. New England White (Jonathan Cape, £17.99) has just earned two trenchant, mostly positive reviews in The New Yorker and the online journal Slate, the latter commenting on Carter's "painfully cynical perspective on American race relations". Carter serves up a disclaimer about ideas in general as they appear in his fiction. "The opinions expressed by my characters are not necessarily my opinions," he says with a grin which disappears as quickly as a man puts away his wallet in a crowded room. "But I try to create characters who are complete enough, so that they have ideas that – whether you agree with them or not – sound natural".

Monday, July 09, 2007

David Storey interview

In The Daily Telegraph, Japser Rees talks to David Storey ahead of the West End revival of his play, In Celebration.
Storey fell into theatre in 1967 when the Court finally staged a play he'd submitted eight years earlier. The Restoration of Arnold Middleton earned him a share of the Evening Standard's award for most promising playwright. It took his co-winner, Tom Stoppard, four years to come up with a full-length follow-up to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. In four months, Storey wrote several of the plays on which his reputation still rests.

"I don't think I'd been to the theatre more than a dozen times in my life," he says.

"All the plays were written out with no knowledge of the theatre at all. The only plays that have ever worked are when I start with the first line and a vague idea of what they might be about and they write themselves."

Veterans' benefits

A guest post by Wally K Daly.

At a recent meeting of the Guild Welfare Committee - a committee that comprises the Guild Treasurer Robert Taylor, doyen comedy writer Dick Sharples, the General Secretary Bernie Corbett and myself - after having settled all outstanding matters, discussion turned to one of the benefits of working in the industry that is not widely know.

There is a club for technicians of any discipline in the industry (except acting) that allows for free cinema entrance to the club member and a guest at specified times, which are very generous. The first two weeks of a new film being screened are usually excluded but that apart most days and times seats are available at no cost, at the discretion of the cinema manager, all over the country.

To join, an application must be made and if accepted by the committee which meets on a bi-monthly basis, the membership generates a fee of £20 per year – a cost of course recovered after one visit to a cinema with a friend. On being accepted for membership you will be issued with a very nice lapel pin, of camera and clapper board design, and a tie so garish and awful that you are guaranteed never to wear it.

The only slight fly in the ointment is the major membership requirement. Membership is only open to those who have been in the industry for at least 30 years.

Make your application to the British Cinema & Television Veterans, 22 Golden Square London W1F 9AD. Or Telephone :020 7287 2976 for an application form. (Office not open on Friday or Monday)

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Good Writing Will Find Its Way

On the final day of the International Screenwriters’ Festival, Abi Morgan, writer of Sex Traffic and the film version of Brick Lane, and Diana Ossana, Oscar-winning writer of Brokeback Mountain and the Lonesome Dove miniseries, were asked about their experiences as women in the industry. Both agreed that, in the end, it comes down to the work – that’s all the matters.

It seems to be generally accepted, both in the UK and the US, that while working in the film industry can be damaging and oppressive to a writer’s spirit, in TV the writer is much more highly regarded. It would have been interesting to have heard from successful British TV writers such as Andrew Davies, Lynda La Plante, Russell T Davies, Paul Abbott and Kay Mellor about their experiences.

It seemed to me that what came out of the four days in Cheltenham was this: If you are a good writer and if you write with intelligence and passion about something you care about, then your work will get noticed. Sure, if you work in the film industry, you may get screwed along the way. But writing and getting paid for it can be a wonderful way to make a living. You don’t have to do it and you have to take responsibility for the choices you make. When you write a script (as Michael Goldenberg put it) you are making a series of tiny little choices about how to tell a story. And if you want to see that script become more than a pile of paper, you have to choose your collaborators carefully, stay true to your vision and know when to walk away. But you should never get discouraged. Never give up.

As Diana Ossana said, ‘Good writing will find its way’.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Advice from International Screenwriters' Festival

If you are a writer, the advice emerging from the International Screenwriters' Festival seems to be this: If you want to make money, write for TV. If you want to be the author of a work, write books or plays. If you want to get your heart broken, write a film.

The four days of the festival (which is not really a festival but a conference) has been broken into two parts. The first two days give hints and tips to emerging talent on how to break into the industry. The second two days discuss strategies for professional writers on how to survive in the industry, particularly the film industry.

Advice from the ‘Rising Talent’ days seemed to be this: Write a spec script that is original and intelligent. Even if the script is not perfect, if you are good at writing, someone will spot that talent. People are looking for writers, not scripts. If you are a new writer, you can be helped to fix anything in a script except the characters. If you can’t write characters, you are not going to make it as a writer. So if you are writing a spec script, start with the characters. Paul Ashton of the BBC writersroom had lots of advice but basically it boiled down to this: write a script that only you could write. It was implicit in the advice from several speakers that if you watch TV and think some of the shows are rubbish, don’t think you can get away with writing a rubbish script to get on that show. The people who get hired are the ones who write brilliant spec scripts.

The Rising Talent days also saw the launch of two competitions – one to help you to get into TV, one to help you get into the film industry. Details in earlier posts, below.

Advice coming out of the Professional days is this: You need to negotiate and communicate. If you’re no good at either of those, buy a book or go on a course – you need to be able to do it. Collaborate but don’t compromise your vision. You were hired because (to go back to Paul Ashton’s words) someone thought that you were going to write a script that only you could write. Michael Goldenberg, writer of Contact, Peter Pan and the fifth Harry Potter, said ‘stay true to your vision’. He also said working on a project should fun – otherwise how can you be creative and anyway if you don’t have fun, what’s the point? William Nicholson, writer of Gladiator, Shadowlands and The Golden Age, said that you need to think of yourself as a film-maker rather than a writer. David Hare embodied this when talking about films he had worked on – using the words film-making and writing interchangeably to describe his part in the process.

Everyone seemed to agree that film-making can only work if the writer and director want to make the same film. There is not necessarily a good or bad way to tell the story – but you will have an opinion about the way you want to tell it, which is why you got hired. You need to discover if your way is also the director’s way by talking about it as much as possible early on. If you don’t see the film the same way, then if you are in a position to do so, you should walk away. If you don’t, you’ll probably get fired. In film, writers get fired all the time – both William Nicholson and David Hare had been fired, but only during development, not during production. When working on a film, both they and Tony Grisoni, writer of Queen of Hearts and In This World, described a process that involved endless drafts and rewrites, endless conversations with the director and even with the leading actors if they fancy themselves as writers and want to rewrite scenes and dialogue, and being available during shooting and editing. In other words, they do whatever it takes to get the film made. Film-making is difficult and William Nicholson said that if you want to get hired to make the next film, you need to become known as a problem-solver.

As we go into the fourth day of the International Screenwriters’ Festival (day two of the professional days), discussions continue, with contributions from, among others, Anthony Horowitz, writer of Stormbreaker, Misomer Murders and the Alex Rider books, and Stephen Frears, director of Dirty Pretty Things, The Queen and High Fidelity.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Jana Bennett's proposals for kids' TV

From Ben Dowell in Media Guardian:
BBC Vision director Jana Bennett has proposed the introduction of film production-style tax breaks to help the UK's struggling children's TV sector.

Ms Bennett's tax breaks proposal was one of three ideas she floated today in a speech at the the youth film festival Showcommotion in Sheffield.

She said that children's TV may need a "significant intervention" to avoid what she calls the current "crisis".

In addition to tax breaks for children's TV production, similar to those enjoyed by the UK film industry, Ms Bennett asked whether all public service broadcasters should be forced to commit to children's production.
Update: Here's the full text of Jana Bennett's speech.

BBC radio drama scripts

The BBC Writersroom is quietly going about building up a useful script archive.

The latest to be added, as highlighted by Piers Beckley on the Writersroom blog, are four radio plays.

They include The Incomplete Recorded Works Of A Dead Body (pdf) by Ed Hime, nominated for the Prix Italia for best original radio drama.

Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber

For the Writers Guild of America West, Bridie Lee talks to scriptwriters Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber (The Butterfly Effect, Kyle XY) about their long road to success.
I had given myself 10 full years. By year six, I fly back to New York and I'm eating with my Dad and my dad says, “Eric, what are you doing with your life? It's never too late to go back to law school.” At the same time, I don't even think my brain could retain information like it used to in school. I'm ruined. I'm damaged goods over here. I don't know what else to do. It was a big idea to think 10 years, but by the time we got to year seven, we were ready to crack. There are only so many times, month after month, where people can ask, “How much longer are you going to keep this up before you turn into a real person?”

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Screenwriter Development Competition

Oscar-nominated screenwriter William Nicholson launched South West Screen's Development Competition at the International Screenwriters' Festival in Cheltenham today.

If you've written a feature length screenplay with commercial potential, the competition could help you to take your script to the next stage,

The winner will receive £3,000 and mentoring from William Nicolson (writer of Gladiator and Shadowlands).

Deadline for applications: 12 noon on Thursday 16th August 2007. The winner will be announced on Monday 1st October 2007.

For full details of how to apply, including eligibility criteria, visit the South West Screen website.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Tips for New Writers from Tony Jordan

While launching Red Planet Pictures writing competition at the International Screenwriters' Festival today, Tony Jordan had plenty of advice for new writers about the craft of writing, how to get your script noticed and how to cope with rejection.

The craft
  • Start with character.
  • Write from the heart - put everything into the script.
  • It's not your job to worry about budget. If you want a helicopter in your script, put one in. Someone else can always take it out.
  • Don't second-guess what you think people want.
  • Don't write something that is like a successful show that's already on. Be first, don't follow - you'll be too late.
  • There is no secret. Just write.

How to get noticed
  • Be nice to people. Script editors are on a career path. The script editors and secretaries you meet today are the commissioning editors of tomorrow.
  • Use the same creativity you put on the page to get your script made - Tony used to put sweets in the jiffy bags when he delivered his scripts. People remembered him. Do something creative that will make sure people remember you.
  • Scan the credits of your favourite shows - write to the script editors and producers of the kind of show you'd like to make
  • Red Planet Pictures has an open policy - if you've got a script you want them to read, send it.
  • If you believe in your script, you have to get people to look at it - pursue them.

How to survive rejection
  • Don't let anyone tell you that you can't write - how do they know?
  • Remember that Tony Jordan still gets rejected. It hurts - every time he vows to give up writing. But he always goes back to it - and he gets shows commissioned.
  • Never give up.

Red Planet Pictures Competition Launched

Writers Tony Jordan and Danny Stack launched an annual writing competiton at the International Screenwriters Festival in Cheltenham today which will result in a new writer getting a £5,000 prize, representation from an agent and a commission from Red Planet Pictures, the production company Jordan set up last year.

Tony Jordan explained that the prize reflects the preoccupations of new writers that he remembers from his days starting out in the business 1) I'm skint 2) How do I get an agent? 3) How do I get a break?

Details of the competition are available on the Red Planet Pictures website but in brief, you need to submit ten pages of a script - any script - and a covering letter with a half page synopsis by email to redplanetprize@redplanetpictures.co.uk by 1st September. Shortlisted writers will be invited to submit the full script some time in October, with a winner to be chosen - by judges including Stephen Fry and Mark Gatiss and Julie Gardner, Head of Drama Commissioning at the BBC - just before Christmas 2007.

No-one is excluded from entering the competition, although essentially Red Planet Pictures are looking for new writers rather than those who have been writing for top show for the last ten years. If you already have an agent, you can still apply. And -as Tony Jordan put it - if you're rich and you don't want the prize money? Well, you don't have to have that, either. But if you want a commission - whether for an existing show such as Holby Blue or to develop an original show - then this competition may be your way in.

Tony Jordan's advice to those thinking of submitting their work? Write from the heart. They're looking for good writers and if you can write, they'll spot it.

International Screenwriters' Festival

There are still a few tickets left for the International Screenwriters' Festival that's getting underway today in Cheltenham - you can go for a single day if you want.

For those of you who can't make it, Guild member Helen Smith will be posting here about the events of all four days (assuming she can get online).

If anyone else is blogging from the Festival, feel free to let us know in the comments.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Inside the Writersroom

Kate Rowland and Paul Ashton from the BBC Writersroom will be in conversation with Guild website and magazine editor, Tom Green, on Thursday 13th September at the Writers’ Guild Centre in Kings Cross.

The event will be held from 7-9pm and will focus on how the BBC Writersoom finds and develops writers for radio and TV drama.

Tickets for this event will be £5 for Guild members and £7.50 for non-members. Please join us after the event for a complimentary glass of wine.

Places are limited so please book in early and advance. If you would like to attend this event please send a cheque payable to the Writers' Guild, and address the envelope to ‘BBC Writersroom ’, Writers' Guild of Great Britain, 15-17 Britannia Street, London, WC1X 9JN .

Radio 4’s Poetry Slam

Radio 4 has announced that it will broadcast the final of it's first-ever Poetry Slam from the Bristol Poetry Festival in September.
Radio 4’s first-ever Poetry Slam will bring together some of the best-known and most popular spoken word performers from all around the country to battle it out for the title of Radio 4 Slam Winner 2007. The competition will be fierce, the rhymes will come thick and fast and the energy will be positively humming for three high-octane programmes that showcase the best and most exciting acts in slam poetry right now.

Woody Allen's fiction

In The Independent, Boyd Tonkin celebrates Woody Allen's comic fiction and introduces a new short story, Nanny Dearest.
Impatient critics have often accused Allen's movies of bypassing the dirt, diversity and even danger of the real Manhattan (in the 1970s and 1980s, if not now) in favour of a seductive bourgeois fantasy. He has admitted that "The New York in my films is the way I'd like it to be." But then he's no sort of social realist, but an auteur who spins a witty, almost pastoral dreamland of love and loss, sushi and cocktails, showtunes and therapy. This self-created world hovers somewhere above and beyond the grime and din of actual city streets.

His stories are equally delicious confections: virtuoso turns, tipsy on their own linguistic ingenuity. They owe something to his idol SJ Perelman, the comic genius behind the Marx Brothers' best scripts, and to the poetic New York street patter of Damon Runyon's yarns. But the erudite knockabout is all Allen's own.

Roger Crane interview

In The Daily Telegraph, Jasper Rees meets Roger Crane, an American playwright who is having is first work staged (in the West End) at the age of 61.
He is sitting in the back row of the stalls of an empty Theatre Royal Haymarket. Compact and trim in off-duty sport casuals, whatever playwrights are meant to look like, Crane doesn't.

"Each of the people in the programme has a biography a page long of all their achievements. And mine is one line. If you did a movie of it, no one would believe it," he says.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Tough Times for Screenwriters

In the Sunday Times Culture magazine, Richard Brooks comments on reports that Raj Persaud will be among the speakers at the Screenwriters' Festival in Cheltenham next week:
At the Cheltenham Screenwriters’ Festival, which starts on Tuesday, there are talks from David Hare, William Nicholson and Raj Persaud. Why the psychiatrist? He is there to expand on his theory, based on research, that film writers have a tougher time than directors or producers: apparently, award-winning screenwriters die earlier than other film folk. He blames anxiety about perfection and lack of recognition. I would have thought it’s constantly having your script rejected.