Friday, September 28, 2007

Our Friends on stage

In The Independent, Lynne Walker talks to Peter Flannery about putting his celebrated TV drama, Our Friends In The North, back to the stage.
Long before it came to the small screen, Jarrow-born Peter Flannery's epic story of four friends from the North-East was a stage-play. "When I was in my late twenties," says Flannery, "and resident writer with the RSC in London, I began to think of a play which might concern itself with the growing cynicism of my parents' generation about our political life. The research and execution of Our Friends began my own long journey towards the almost pitch-black scepticism with which I now observe our political culture. "
The play is being produced by Northern Stage, who have put a rehearsal diary on their website.

BBC's new multiplatform strategy

Simon Nelson, the BBC's 'Controller of Portfolio & Multimedia', has announced a new strategy for multiplatform commissioning.
"We can use the two-way nature of new media platforms to transform our relationship with licence fee payer ... collaborat[ing] with audiences in the creation of content and participative experiences."

Spooks online

Kudos, the production company behind BBC TV's Spooks, created by David Wolstencroft, has launched an online game to tie-in with the series. According to Robin Parker in Broadcast (subscription only):
A new mission will be added after each TV episode and the game storyline will stand alone while also rewarding users by offering extra insights for followers of the TV plot.

"Events in the episode will be referred to in the online experience, leaving users a little more in the know," [Kudos's digital content producer, Linda] Paalanne said. "It's designed so that people can join at any point, go back later to complete missions or play everything in sequence after the series has finished.

"We're very excited that the BBC has supported us in wanting to create a ground-breaking project of this scale."

Thursday, September 27, 2007

ITV boosts drama department

From Metthew Hemley in The Stage:
ITV has boosted its in-house drama production team by hiring three new members of staff, including BBC senior producer Kate Lewis. Lewis, who has worked on shows such as Blackpool and The Alan Clarke Diaries, will join ITV Productions’ drama department as an executive producer. The department has also hired script editor Julia Walsh as the department’s new head of development.

Putting Precious on screen

In The New York Times, Michael Wines talks to Anthony Minghella about adapting Alexander McCall Smith's novel, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, for the big screen.
Mr. Minghella, who writes the screenplays for all his films, said he regards himself as much as a screenwriter as a director. But for this movie he teamed with Richard Curtis, who wrote “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” and helped write the screen version of “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” to bring a light touch to the characters. The novel’s fans will recognize the cadence of Botwanan English, with its charming formality and and “ehs” and “izzists?” that punctuate everyday conversation.

But the screenplay is considerably funnier than the book, in a gentle, wry way, and Ms. Rose’s Grace Makutsi, in 1950s eyeglasses and fright-wig hair, takes on a major role as the comic anchor. Mr. Minghella also moves much of the action outdoors, where Botswana’s scenery and charms like a troupe of native dancers can be shown to best effect.

Davey to take over at Arts Council England

Alan Davey has been appointed as the new Chief Executive of Arts Council England.

Davey, currently Director of Culture at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, will take up his new appointment in early 2008 – succeeding Peter Hewitt, who will have been in post as Chief Executive for ten years.

Meanwhile, according to Michael White in The Guardian, word at the Labour Party Conference is that arts funding cuts seem likely to be avoided.
The kind of folk loutishly referred to as "luvvies" are greatly relieved, the National Theatre's Nicholas Hytner admitted at the Arts Council's fringe meeting. They had expected their budgets to be clobbered. But no, the Calvinist from the North has been quietly going round the arts circuit saying he loves them really. They expect an inflation-proofed deal.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Lynda La Plante interview

In The Independent, Danuta Kean meets Lynda La Plante, whose new novel, Clean Cut, has just been published.
Lynda La Plante is raging. She is furious, her temper as fiery as her flame red hair. "How many Romanians are in? How many Polish are in?" she splutters in the midst of a diatribe about the NHS, over-crowded prisons and illegal immigration. "They are congregating like cockroaches into our major city centres, which are unable to deal with the crime that they bring."

She doesn't see me flinch. My name is Polish but I am too shocked to say anything: the woman who showed us that there is more to female cops than Cagney & Lacey has turned into Alf Garnet. Her pint-sized body – small even in precarious high heels – shakes with all the indignation of a Daily Mail editorial.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Brian Way Award 2008

Applications are invited for the Brian Way Award 2008, funded by Theatre Centre.
Submitted plays should be suitable for young people up to the age of eighteen and be at least forty-five minutes long. They must have been produced professionally between 1 July 2006 and 31 August 2007. This may be a first, second or third production of a play written within the past ten years. The playwright must either be resident in the UK or Republic of Ireland or have had a writing association with a theatre company or group based in the UK or Republic of Ireland. Previously submitted plays will not be considered.
The first prize is £6,000. Thanks to BBC Writersroom for the link.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Writers' Circle Networking Event

The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain is pleased to announce that the first ever WGGB Writers’ Circle will begin on Monday 8th October 2007 at 7pm with a networking session. The event will be held at The Writers’ Guild Centre, 17 Britannia Street, London WC1X 9JN (Nearest station: King’s Cross). Meetings for all groups will be held every other Monday from this date onward. Candidate Members' sessions will be held at 7pm and Full Members' sessions in the afternoon.

If you are interested in joining up for a future group then you are also welcome to attend this event. Please book by sending a cheque for £5 to : WGGB Writers' Circle event, ’ Writers' Guild of Great Britain, 15-17 Britannia Street, London, WC1X 9JN.

The Guild is still inviting applications for the first round of this initiative which is being set up to provide Guild members with a forum to discuss and develop their work. There will be two groups available for applicants to join: one for Full Members and one for Candidate/Student Members. Writers in these groups will also be separated according to genre: TV/ Film and Theatre/Radio. Please specify when you apply which genre you are interested in.

At each group meeting writers will be given feedback about their work from their fellow participants. After six months two writers from each circle will be selected by a panel of judges to present their work at a showcase. Following this event, each group will be disbanded and new applicants will be invited to form a new Circle.

Applicants will be asked to pay £60 for 6 months in advance. (This works out as £5 per session and will cover the administrative costs of the meetings.) If you are interested in joining please send a cheque payable to the Writers' Guild, to ‘WGGB Writers' Circle ’, Writers' Guild of Great Britain, 15-17 Britannia Street, London, WC1X 9JN. Please remember to include your contact details so we can get in touch with you!

The Guild is keen to have WGGB Writers ' Circles set up all over the U.K , so if you are interested in establishing one outside London then please get in touch with Moe Owoborode:

Laverty on It's A Free World

It's A Free World - Angie played by Kierston Wareing Kierston Wareing in It's A Free World, written by Paul Laverty and directed by Ken Loach (photo: Channel 4)

In The Guardian, Guild member Paul Laverty talks about the issues behind It's A Free World, the film that he scripted and Ken Loach directed, about migrant workers in the UK. It's A Free World is on Channel 4 tonight at 9pm.
We tell our story from the viewpoint of Kierston Wareing's Angie, who opens an employment agency in the hinterland of "illegality lite". Despite their "deep concern", our supermarkets depend on the Angies of this world to lubricate the long lines of subcontracts until brutality is safely over the horizon. Ken Loach, the director, imagined that Angie might one day be businesswoman of the year.

PFD crisis rumbles on

As the crisis at PFD rumbles forward, the media world watches on in fascination, report Gavin Knight in Media Guardian:
While the nation talks about the McCanns and Jose Mourinho, in publishing and media circles there is only one story - the mass resignation of the leading agents at PFD, the UK's largest talent and literary agency. "We are all gripped," one publishing director tells me. "We can't talk about anything else," says an excited rival agent. When the departing agents set up their as yet un-named agency after Christmas in new premises, they could take with them a glittering conga of British talent ranging from Keira Knightley to Richard Curtis, Kate Winslet to Tom Stoppard, Ricky Gervais to Alan Bennett. A conga worth 75% of PFD's income.
In The Financial Times, Jan Dalley also provides an interesting insight into the affair.

Meanwhile, in The Guardian, Martin Wagner says that, whoever their agent is, for a writer the relationship can often be a let-down.
Most young writers, keen for their first break, accept any offer from an agent, no questions asked. But right from the beginning the odds are stacked against them. An agent has many writers to look after - of course, how could an agency be profitable otherwise? - but a writer has only one career. So for a writer to be with the wrong agent can be lethal, while the agent has not much to lose, apart from a few wasted phone calls and stamps, and maybe a minor dent in his or her reputation. But like a bad marriage, a poor match between an author and agent can result in a lifetime of disappointment - for the author, at least.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Guild Awards shortlists announced

The shortlists for the first Guild Awards in ten years have been announced.

The Awards will be presented at a ceremony on 18 November, hosted by Jeremy Hardy. Thanks to generous sponsorship from BBC, ITV and Working Title, the Awards will now be held at BAFTA (David Lean room) 195 Piccadilly, London W1J 9LN.

The support provided from sponsors has also enabled ticket priced to be reduced to £25 for members and £50 for non-members. There is an early bird offer on group bookings available until Monday 1st October: buy a pair of members’ tickets for £40 or non-members’ for £75. Only 100 tickets are available for sale so early booking is recommended.

If you wish to book, please send a cheque with your name and membership number (if applicable) written on the back. Please make the cheque payable to the Writers' Guild, and address it to the 'Writers’ Guild Awards Tickets ', Writers' Guild of Great Britain, 15-17 Britannia Street, King’s Cross, London, WC1X 9JN. " You should also include a covering letter detailing any special requirements you might have for the event.

If you miss out on the 100 tickets for sale but still wish to attend, you will be added you to the waiting list for spare tickets. In this case, priority will be given to Guild members.

Gallagher's Eleventh Hour bought by CBS

Eleventh Hour, the series written for ITV by Guild member and blogger, Stephen Gallagher, has been bought by CBS and will be produced in America by Jerry Bruckheimer.

When I contacted Stephen yesterday he said:
I'm really pleased at this news, as you can imagine. Not least because when I was laying out the template for Eleventh Hour I made a close study of the way that stories in the Bruckheimer science-based procedurals were developed and put together. Research driving story, not merely embellishing it. I've yet to find out what the new team intend to take from the original and what they plan to change, but in the meantime I'm just enjoying the coverage. Not that any of it has managed to mention the show creator's name...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Authors' blogs

On her blog, journalist Danuta Kean offers advice to publishers about authors' blogging.
A blog is about branding. The brand is not the host publication or publisher, it is the individual. You are attempting to market the individual as an authentic voice. Beware: the net community hates inauthenticity, and if you set up a blog cynically, then it will generate bad word-of-mouth and will have a long term negative effect - netheads do not forget or forgive. They also hate anything that looks blatantly commercial.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Tanya Lees: Often Bemused

Guild member Tanya Lees has started a blog: Often Bemused. Tanya recently secured a bursary from Screen West Midlands to help develop her feature film script Translations, a romantic tragedy set during the 1941 occupation of Ethiopia.
I wrote my first book when I was two and a half.

I have since mislaid it, but I seem to remember that it was a single sheet of paper, folded and carefully filled with random letters in imitation of the mysterious and wonderful volumes around me.

Coventry's new Belgrade

In The Guardian, Alfred Hickling reports on the re-opening of Coventry's Belgrade theatre, under the leadership of artistic director Hamish Glen.
He admits that 14 productions in as many months of mostly unfamiliar work is quite a gamble. "The Arts Council heavily advised me against it," he says. "But it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to establish a theatre with a completely new identity. It's like spraying urine - we're staking a claim and marking out our patch."

Emmy for Frank Deasy

Tucked away beneath the news in the British press that Helen Mirren and Ricky Gervais won acting prizes at the American Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday was the briefest of mentions for the winner of the Emmy for "Outstanding Writing For A Miniseries, Movie Or A Dramatic Special".

Step forward Guild member Frank Deasy, who won with his script for Prime Suspect: The Final Act.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Writers on film

Californication trailer

In The Telegraph, Matt Thorne questions the accuracy of Hollywood's depiction of writers. The latest novelist on screen is played by David Duchovny in TV series Californication (which starts in the UK on Five from 11 October).
As he struggles to write a blog for a magazine, he makes up for his lack of inspiration by pursuing an endless stream of LA women (four in the first episode alone) all of whom think having sex with a novelist is the most desirable prospect imaginable.

Not all male novelists look like Duchovny, but even attractive ones might blanch at his seduction technique: going into Borders and reading his own novel.

Instead of being jeered at by passing customers, it's not long before a beautiful 16-year-old comes up to him and goes back to his place for violent sex.

The lad-lit novelist Mike Gayle, who once got fan mail from the Broadway Showgirls strip club in San Francisco promising him a free lapdance, doubts this pick-up technique would work: "I can barely look my books in the eye, let alone stand by them."

Crisis looms at PFD

There appears to be a growing crisis at top literary (and entertainment) agency, PFD, with reports in The Independent that top authors are set to seek alternative representation following the appointment of Caroline Michel, previously of William Morris.
There are now concerns that...authors and actors will follow agents including Pat Kavanagh and Anthony Jones... to set up a rival agency. Last week Caroline Michel, a successful and charismatic force in entertainment and publishing, was appointed chief executive of PFD. Directors at the firm had been trying to push through a £4m management buy-out after it was bought by CSS Stellar in 2001. But the appointment of Ms Michel was taken as a sign that this sale is no longer possible.

Now that a tranche of agents has resigned, authors are beginning to express their doubts about the changes at PFD.

Hunt leads Five drama push

From Jessica Rogers for Broadcastnow:
Five's new director of programmes Jay Hunt has been given the task of finding a long running UK drama for the channel.

Hunt, who officially starts her new job today (Monday 17 September), will be tasked with commissioning a cost-effective high volume soap or drama by the end of next year.

The move is a direct result of Five managing director of content Lisa Opie's strategy to no longer commission short-runs of drama for the channel.

The multistory novel

In The Guardian, Julian Gough argues that, while the traditional outlets for short story publishing have declined, the form itself survives within longer works.
What contemporary readers don't seem to like are short stories that don't connect to each other. Why? Perhaps because our lives feel fragmented enough already. Television too has almost abandoned the single, self-contained drama. People like art to make sense out of chaos but without denying the chaos. That demand is a tremendous opportunity for the natural short story writer, who merely needs to come up with an organising principle. It's just another technical challenge. Story itself is infinitely flexible, and doesn't much care how you tell it or what you call it. These stacks of stories, reinvented for the urban 21st century, could be called the multistory novel.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The biggest rom-com cliché

On his blog, author and script analyst Billy Mernit is fuming against a rom-com cliché.
Boy has lost girl, and where has she gone? Where-oh-where, do you suppose? That's right, my little rom-com chick-o-lettes. And learning of this, what, pray tell, whatever does the poor boy do? Can you possibly imagine? Yuh-huh!

If you've ever succumbed to this cliché in your own writing, feel free to 'fess up. It worked for me.

Guild recruitment offer

A special offer from the WGGB:

The Writers' Guild has launched a major campaign to recruit new members. The more writers who join us, the stronger we become in our efforts to negotiate better minimum terms agreements, secure better deals as technology develops, and confront difficult and inefficient management.

As part of the Writers' Guild's Recruitment Campaign 2007, we are offering Full and Candidate members the chance to win a free gift for every new writer you can persuade to join the Guild. And, in addition, that writer will also receive a free gift. You can choose one of the following £20 gift tokens: National Book Token (redeemable in any chain or independent book shop); HMV; The BBC Shop; Samuel French; Theatre Token. You will receive a gift for every new member you bring in to the Guild.

All you have to do is persuade a writer to download a Full or Candidate application form , fill it in, mention you as the person recommending them for membership, and send it back to us stating which gifts you and the new member would like.

If you have any queries about this, or you'd like us to send you some recruitment material and/or the application forms via post, please contact Naomi MacDonald at or on 020 7833 0777.

Deadline for receipt of applications: 31 December 2007.

Please note: this offer does not apply to student members, whose membership is already discounted. This offer cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer.

Tinniswood shortlist announced

The Tinniswood Award, set up by the Writers’ Guild and the Society of Authors in memory of Peter Tinniswood, honours the best original radio drama script broadcast during 2006. The prize of £1,500 is donated by the ALCS and judges are Gordon House (Chair), Jan Etherington and Lynne Truss.

The 2007 shortlist is:
  • Mike Bartlett - Not Talking
  • Thomas Crow - The Internet Wants a Chat
  • Pearse Elliott - Last Suppers
  • Rachel Joyce - To Be A Pilgrim
  • Marcy Kahan - Twenty Cigarettes
  • Richard Lumsden - Man in the Moon
The presentation of the awards, by Leslie Phillips, will take place on the evening of 18 October. Plays will be rebroadcast on BBC Radio 3, 4 and 7 and will be available from the BBC website 7 days on-demand. Scheduling details will be confirmed nearer the time.

RSC chief calls for big plays

From Dalya Alberge in The Times:
The head of the Royal Shakespeare Company gave warning that contemporary theatre would not thrive unless it addressed the most challenging political and social issues of the day, with “big plays in big spaces”.

Michael Boyd, the artistic director, said: “We have come to rely on the hard-hitting play in smaller spaces. There is a danger with contemporary theatre, as with contemporary music, of a defeatist return into ‘boutique art’, what I call ‘studio-itis’.”

Five new plays – by Anthony Neilson, Marina Carr, Leo Butler, Roy Williams and Adriano Shaplin – will be premiered next season, on themes from religion to the war in Iraq.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Writersroom at the Guild

There was a good turnout last night for the latest Guild event - inside the BBC Writersroom with the BBC's Creative Director of New Writing, Kate Rowland.

Kate explained how the Writersroom has developed over recent years to be the central entry point for new writing across the BBC. Anyone can submit a script and it will be read. Or, at least, the first ten pages will be read and, if they think there is some merit in the writing, the whole script will be considered. It's very rare for unsolicited scripts to be made into programmes, but, Kate, said, from the 10,000 submissions made each year, contact will be made with several hundred writers.

The idea is that a relationship is built up with a new writer so that they can be steered towards an area of the BBC that would suit them best. In some ways, Kate explained, Writersroom operates as an internal talent agency for the BBC, suggesting new writers to departments or producers who are looking for them.

The Writersroom also helps run numerous competitions - another good chance to get your script read and, perhaps, to try a format that you've not previously considered.

The key thing, Kate stressed, is for a new writer to submit an original script that really demonstrates their talent. "In the end," she said, "whatever the platform, it is character and story that matter."

The other speaker was Guild member Darren Rapier, providing an insight into what it's like to write for BBC daytime series, Doctors, one of the shows that has been most open to new writers. His main advice was to be persistent. The process can be lengthy and sometimes frustrating, he explained, but, if you can get commissioned, it's a great opportunity to write what is, essentially, an original TV play that will be seen by several million people. As with other BBC shows, if you want to write for Doctors but don't have any previous credits, the best approach is to submit an original script to the BBC Writersroom.

Information about submitting scripts, as well as lots of other information and advice, is available on the BBC Writersroom website.

Ofcom's Second Review of PSB

Ofcom, the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries, has published the terms of reference for its Second Review of Public Service Broadcasting (PSB). It's not the most immediately thrilling document but the Review itself, due to be completed in early 2009, will be significant.
The specific objectives of this Review will be:
• To evaluate how effectively the public service broadcasters are delivering the purposes and characteristics of PSB, particularly in the light of changes in the way TV content is distributed and consumed;
• To assess the case for continued intervention in the delivery of TV content to secure public service purposes;
• To consider whether and how the growth of new ways of delivering content to consumers and citizens might create new opportunities for achieving the goals of public service broadcasting, as well as posing new challenges; and
• To assess future options for funding, delivering and regulating public service broadcasting, in light of these challenges and opportunities, and uncertainty about the sustainability of existing funding models.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

At The Sharp End

At The Sharp End - One Day Conference at the University of Portsmouth, Saturday September 15 - 9 am to 6.30 pm.

Organised by Guild member Peter Billingham who is a playwright and Reader in Drama and Performance at the University of Portsmouth, At The Sharp End brings together some of the leading modern dramatists, critics and academics to discuss the present state of British theatre.

Key Speakers: David Edgar, Edward Bond, Aleks Sierz, John Bull.

The event also features a production by Big Brum Theatre Company of Edward Bond's latest play for young people 'The Tune'.

For full details and ticket information, please visit the website.

Stephen Volk in conversation

BAFTA-winning screenwriter Stephen Volk will be in conversation with Eileen Elsey (who runs the Screenwriting M.A. at the The University of the West of England) on 27 September. They will be discussing Volk's background, his work in the horror/paranormal genre, and his experiences as a screenwriter in both the UK and the USA.

The event, at The Watershed Media Centre in Bristol is free, with tickets available from the box office on the night.

Thanks to BBC Writersroom for the link.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Michael Davis - Shoot 'Em Up

For the Writers Guild of America, West, Denis Faye talks to writer-director Michael Davis about his new film, Shoot 'Em Up (opening in the UK on Friday).
How do you go about conceiving your action sequences and how does that tie into plot and character?

I think you should, within an action sequence, try to move the story and the character along. Clive Owen, in my movie, is the angriest man in the world. The little injustices in life irritate him. If someone in front of him is a bad driver, he gets angry and he does something, running the guy off the road.

In the opening scene, I wanted to establish he is this angry man, so not only is he delivering a baby in the middle of a gunfight, but right as that is happening, he shoots off a guy's ponytail because he thinks the guy's trying to look young and cool when he's an old fart. In killing the guy, it's not just a kill, it reveals character. He shoots the ponytail off and blows off the back of the guy's skull, so within action, I'm learning who this guy is.
Shoot 'Em Up trailer

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Dubplate Drama gets second series

In Media Guardian, Kate Bulkley reports on the recommissioning of DubPlate Drama (written and directed by Luke Hyams) by Channel 4.
The second series, set against a soundtrack of street music called grime and dubstep - a hybrid of step, hip-hop and drum'n'bass - continues with the theme of stories from the streets, which involve young, predominantly black, kids living and breathing the London music scene, and their battles with the drug culture that surrounds them. It is innovative because the characters use the language of urban rap, the actors are not professionals and the storyline denouements are decided by the audience.

Lee Hall interview

In The Daily Telegraph, John Whitley talks to playwright and screenwriter Lee Hall about his new play, The Pitmen Painters, which tells the story of miners who became artists in the 1930s.
"Virtually all the events in the play are true," says Hall, sturdy, bespectacled and himself Newcastle born and bred.

"They really did go to London and hang out with famous artists and their work did attract big collectors. They learned the language of that world.

"Their lives seemed to make a good subject for this theatre, a way of investigating some of the problems that culture brings if you're coming from outside of it, as these guys clearly were. It's a sort of parable. Of course, having written about miners and ballet, this didn't seem too big a stretch!"
The Pitmen Painters opens at the Live Theatre, Newcastle-upon-Tyne on 20 Sept.

Being adapted, by Susan Minot

One day an author will write about what a wonderful experience it was having a book adapted into a Hollywood movie. But until then, here's another story of painful development - although the adaptation of Susan Minot's novel Evening seems to have turned out OK in the end, as Martyn Palmer reports for The Times.
If Susan Minot could pass on one piece of advice to any writer whose book is snapped up by Hollywood it would be short and sweet.

“I would tell them ‘let it go’,” she says. “Just stand back and enjoy the ride.” It is easier said than done. And there were times when she had to remind herself of her own counsel as her novel Evening undertook a tortuous nine-year journey to the big screen including, finally, handing over her own version of the screenplay to another author, Michael Cunningham, to rewrite.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Slush Pile Reader

A new website, Slush Pile Reader, based in America, is inviting authors to submit manuscripts online so that others can vote to see which should be published.

It's not the first website of its kind, but it looks to be well laid out, there don't seem to be any hidden fees or catches and published authors will get US Authors' Guid terms.

A tribute to Clive Exton

Further to our round-up of obituaries for Clive Exton, Guild TV Committee Chair, Gail Rennard, has written this tribute:

Since Clive Exton died last month, I've read various obituaries, but I'd like to add a tribute from a Guild perspective. I didn't have the pleasure of knowing him, but from everything I've heard from fellow Guild members, I wish I had.

Aside from being an enviably talented writer, Clive Exton was joint Deputy Chair of the Guild (along with Michael Baker) from 1991-1993. Exton was also fundamental in getting the Guild's awards relaunched after a period of financial hardship...sound familiar?

Former Guild Chair and Treasurer Mike Sharland had known Clive since they were young writers at Associated London Scripts, when they used to have offices opposite each other (alongside Eric Sykes, Spike Milligan, and Galton and Simpson.) Sharland explained that Exton was "one of a few staunch members who brought back the Guild awards... even offering to cover any financial losses himself." You can't say fairer than that.

This November the Guild will once again be re-instating our awards and let's hope this time it's permanent. But what better time to thank Clive Exton and all the hard-working members who came before us? Without them, our awards or even our Guild wouldn't exist today. Goodness knows there's still lots of work to be done and other equally dedicated members are doing it, but it's made all the easier because we're standing on giants' shoulders.

British film-makers missing a trick

In The Guardian, John Patterson wonders why it took a French film-maker to adapt Ted Lewis's novel, Plender (released as Le Serpent), directed by Eric Barbier) and suggests it's not an isolated case.
Without getting too culturally nationalistic about it, why is Le Serpent not a British movie? Why did it take a foreigner to discern a superb film property within an out-of-print novel written three decades ago in another language? I only ask because it happens a lot. As foreign film-makers merrily plunder the nooks and crannies of our culture, nosing around like truffle dogs for the suitably scented kernel of an idea, we - the British - seem almost resolutely clueless about the riches strewn all around us.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Poetry, Style and Verse at the Guild

Mixing readings, performance and discussion, Poetry, Style and Verse (4 September 2007) was the Guild's first poetry event at the Writers' Centre in King's Cross.

Chaired by Alan Brownjohn, who began with readings of his own work, the first stage of the evening progressed with poems in a wide variety of styles from OneNess, David Morgan, Jonzi D, Leo Aylen and Peter Sansom.

The subsequent discussion centred on the significance of different ways of performing poetry.

There's a report on the event on the Guild website.

Bebo to launch second interactive drama

As Matthew Hemley reports in The Stage, social networking site Bebo is to launch its second interactive drama, Sofia's Diary, this autumn, following the success of Kate Modern last month.
Bebo international president Joanna Shields said: “Sofia’s Diary takes drama to the next level by embracing the web as a new medium for storytelling. It’s not enough for a piece of content to exist on a single medium - broadcasters, producers and writers need to consider the potential of telling multifaceted stories using multiple media.”
The drama will be written by UK writer and blogger, Danny Stack.

Update (17/09/2007): Danny points out on his blog that "Sofia's Diary itself is written and created by Nuno Bernardo, and the format has already been successfully adapted in several countries."

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The future of royalties

On his blog, Richard Charkin, Chief Executive of Macmillan, argues that a new system needs to be devised for paying royalties to authors.
...the concept of royalties is a fair one but that the changes in our business have made it, in its present form (a percentage of the UK published price of a book), unwieldy and unrealistic.

The percentage is linked to a price which applies in only a minority of cases. It doesn't apply to all sales overseas; it doesn't apply to nearly all sales made in supermarkets, Internet bookshops and many bookshop chains.
Charkin argues that payments should be based on publishers' gross income rather than retail price.

He returns to the subject in another post, with a link to a radical proposal for abolishing royalties altogether (sort of).

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The sitcom is not dead

On his blog, comedy writer Ken Levine argues that reports of the death of the sitcom have been greatly exaggerated.
There is no other genre of television programming that is a bigger cash cow in success. Warner Brothers will make more off of FRIENDS than their big summer blockbusters combined. How much moolah do you think 20th Century Fox has raked in from MASH? It has been paying off jackpots for over thirty years with no signs of stopping or even slowing down.

Graham rejects "self-censorship" jibe

On The Guardian's Organ Grinder blog, scriptwriter Matthew Graham rejects the allegation made by Mark Lawson that he and fellow Life On Mars creators Ashley Pharoah and Tony Jordan exercised self-censorship by moderating Gene Hunt's racism.
Did we self-censor when having heard some of Hunt's extreme racist lines read out at rehearsals, we decided to cut them? I would argue that we made a judgment call. One of a thousand judgment calls that we had to make at various stages in the development of the show. Not born out of fear, but out of an instinct for what worked best for the story.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Judging the BSSC

Does The British Short Screenplay Competition have the longest long-list of any writing competition? The First Round Qualifiers, announced last month, looked to number something in excess of 500 (from around 2,000 entries). Even the recently announced Second Round - has only narrowed things down to something around 250. Apparently there are normally four qualifying rounds...and then the semi-finalists.

Hopefully it's a sign of a particularly through judging process. And, of course, it means that each time a writer's script makes the cut they can enjoy a small moment of triumph.

Online giveaway

If you can't get a book deal, might it be worth giving work away for free online? Jon Evans, on The Guardian Books Blog, thinks so. quote the publisher Tim O'Reilly, "the greatest threat an artist faces is obscurity, not piracy". I don't worry about people who read my work without paying. I worry about people who don't know my books exist. An online release reaches a potentially enormous audience, gets free publicity (because a free book from an established author still seems perverse and hence notable) and attracts readers by letting them try before they buy. If my writing is good enough - and I'm confident it is - people who read one of my books for free will be willing to buy the others.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg interview

Superbad trailer

For the Writers Guild of America, West, Dylan Callaghan talks to the writers of hit comedy film, Superbad, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.
To what extent is Superbad a high school confessional/ autobiography?

Seth Rogen: It's not autobiography, but it's definitely inspired by our lives. I was a loudmouthed dick in high school, and Evan was slightly less of a loudmouthed dick. We both really wanted to get laid, which was not happening. So there are a lot of little things that are similar.

Evan Goldberg: Definitely. When friends and family see it, they almost all say, “That's a good Seth, and that's a good Evan.”
Superbad opens in UK cinemas on 14 September.

South Park creators' online deal

In Media Guardian, Anthony Lilley argues that an online distribution deal between South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker and Viacom could be the shape of things to come.
The interesting thing about the new South Park deal is the terms. Parker and Stone have got a big cash advance and a 50/50 split of ad revenues, which are clearly seen as the major way that profit is going to be made. Now this deal clearly has a lot to do with the fact that it also bundles in a commitment to three more seasons of Comedy Central's most iconic show. Let's not get carried away that any old producer could demand terms like these, but it's indicative of the way the wind is blowing.