Monday, June 30, 2008

TMA rates rise

The Writers’ Guild has negotiated a 4.3% increase (in line with RPI, published on 17th June) in the various minimum rates under the Theatrical Management Association (TMA) Writers Agreement with effect from the anniversary date (i.e. contracts entered into on or after Monday 23rd June 2008).

Full details can be found on the Rates and Agreements page of the Guild website.

Criminal Justice

Criminal JusticeBen Wishaw in Criminal Justice (Photo: Todd Anthony/BBC)

Peter Moffat's new five-part drama, Criminal Justice, starts on BBC One at 9pm tonight and it looks like it's going to be worth staying in for.

Here are previews from Erwin James in The Guardian and Jasper Rees in The Times.
Moffat's desire to dramatise the workings of a system compromised by human frailty and economic imperative was initially stimulated by his own memories of defending clients of whom he knew nothing. “It is a very odd one. You meet your client only once, probably only for an hour before you represent them at a trial, and then your relationship is shaped by what you need them to be saying in order to fit what the defence is going to be.” As for his relationship with the police, it was restricted to cross-examination. “You're trying to make them look stupid or appear to be a liar. If you're defending as I was that's where your relation with police begins and ends.” Not that relations between police and prosecuting barristers are on a much firmer footing: policemen, he adds, refer to the crown's lawyers as the Can't Prosecute Service.

Frank Cottrell Boyce's screenwriting rules

From The Guardian:
A while back, I was on Radio 4's Film Programme the same day as Simon Pegg. We were asked what we thought of screenwriting manuals. I dismissed them as get-rich-quick compendiums of cliche. Pegg said he thought they were really useful. Our films opened that weekend. His vacuumed up money. Mine tanked. It may well be, I thought, that I've been missing something.

What Members are getting up to

Taken from the Guild's weekly e-bulletin. Guild members wanting to be included should contact Erik in the Guild office.

JESSE ARMSTRONG and SAM BAIN can be found giving some helpful advice to writers on the Culture Show website.

MARTIN ALLEN wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Friday 4th July.

ANNA CLEMENTS wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Thursday

MAT COWARD’S new children's novel, Soother's Boy, has just been published by Alia Mondo Press - proprietor, M. Coward. This first experiment in "enhanced self-publishing" was inspired by an article last year in the Guild magazine.

GREGORY EVANS wrote the episode of The Bill, Gun Runner: Trigger Happy, going out on ITV1 at 8:00pm on Wednesday 2nd July.

DAVID GILMAN wrote the episode of A Touch of Frost, Hidden Truth, going out on ITV1 at 9:00pm on Friday 4th July.

STEVE HUGHES wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm o Thursday 3rd July.

PETER KERRY wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Wednesday 2nd July.

ROB KINSMAN’S radio series Dickens Confidential continues with “The Deal” going out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Monday 30th June.

DAVID LANE wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Wednesday 2nd July.

KEVIN MCCANN has a new book of poems out called I Killed George Formby.

ANDREW MCCULLOCH co-wrote the episode of The Royal going out on ITV1 at 8:00pm on Sunday 29th June.

JONATHAN MYERSON’S radio series The Way We Live Right Now continues on Radio 4 at 7:45pm on Monday 30th June.

DAVID NOBBS wrote the episode of The Maltby Collection going out on Radio 4 at 11:30pm on Monday 30th June.

GARY OWEN'S play Big Hopes will premiere at the Pethybridge Youth Centre in Cardiff on Thursday 3rd July before transferring to the National Theatre for one afternoon only on Saturday 5th July.

LYN PAPADOPOULOS wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Friday 4th July.

JULIE PARSONS wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Monday 30th June.

NICK SALTRESE wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Wednesday 2nd July.

TIM STIMPSON wrote the episodes of The Archers going out on Radio 4 at 7:00pm from Sunday 29th June until Friday 4th July, with each episode being repeated at 2:00pm the day after its original broadcast.

RICHARD STONEMAN wrote the episode of Doc Martin, In Loco, going out on ITV1 at 9:00pm on Tuesday 1st July.

MARTYN WADE adaptation of Robert Browning’s The Ring And The Book goes out of Radio 4 at 3:00pm on Sunday 29th June.

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

EDWARD WINDUS’S feature film screenplay Doll was a semi-finalist in the Washington DC-based Blazing Quills screenwriting competition.

NICK WOOD’S adaptation of Arthur Ransome's We Didn't Mean To Go To Sea produced by Eastern Angles opens on Thursday 3rd July on the waterfront at Ipswich as part of the IpArt Festival before touring the region until August 10th.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Next generation iPlayer launched

The BBC has launched a new version of its online video player, BBC iPlayer. As well as various new features, such as programmes automatically picking up from where you left off, the new iPlayer also hosts BBC radio programmes. From the BBC press release:
Erik Huggers, the BBC's Group Controller for Future Media and Technology, says: "The next generation of BBC iPlayer allows UK licence fee payers to catch up on their favourite BBC TV and radio programmes in one place – a completely unique on-demand service.

"Audiences are now able to experience the full range of BBC content – some 250 TV programmes currently available each week as well as all the BBC radio networks – in a new and more accessible way, and all for free.

"On-demand radio from the BBC has been a phenomenal success since it was first launched in 2002, with around 600 million hours listened to via streaming or the 'listen again' function.

"The full integration with iPlayer is a natural evolution for the audio service and an exciting step for audiences."
Like TV episodes, radio programmes are now getting unique pages with information and links to playback online.

RISE Films Summer Challenge

A new competition for unrepresented screenwriters, from RISE Films:
RISE films and Casarotto Ramsay & Associates, together with Sight & Sound, bring you the ultimate film challenge: write a script this summer and then get it made.

We will bring your film from the page to the screen and give you the opportunity to secure representation from a leading literary agency.

Whether it’s comedy, action, horror, sci-fi, or thriller, we want to read your work. So, if you’ve been carrying around that big idea but don’t know where to put it, unburden yourself this summer.

We will select one script and develop it further with the writer, eventually to be financed and produced.

Deadline: 26th September 2008
Thanks to BBC Writersroom for the link.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


A new film about the life of Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo opens in America this week. There doesn't seem to be a UK release date yet, but even the trailers are worth watching. And The New York Times has a longer extract starring Nathan Lane.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Knowing John Lennon

Guild TV Committee Chair, Gail Renard, will be joined by publisher Tom Maschler to talk about John Lennon at a special event in aid of the War Child charity at Christie's on 8 July. Tickets cost £10.

Two days later, Christies will be auctioning the handwritten lyrics of Give Peace A Chance that Gail was given by Lennon in Montreal in 1969.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Arts Council England chief at the ITC

Alan DaveyFor The Guardian Theatre blog Lyn Gardner reports on a speech by new Arts Council England(ACE) chief executive, Alan Davey (pictured, left), at the Independent Theatre Council conference in London.

Gardner concludes:
Can Davey succeed in changing the culture at the Arts Council and rebuild trust in the organisation? Does he really want to? I hope so for all our sakes, but I reckon he hasn't got long to do the job. With an election (which might well see the Tories back in power) no more than two years away, probable increased pressure on lottery money from Olympic budgets looming, and a recession squeezing public spending, time is not on his side. But after the deafness and arrogance of the dying days of Hewitt's regime (a CBE in the honours list for his "services to the arts") Davey shows all the signs of genuinely trying to listen to what the theatre community is saying. It's up to us as much as to him to make sure that the channels of communication are kept open so that a real dialogue can develop.

This opportunity may not come our way again, so we should seize the moment. Don't be shy.
Aside: Earlier on in her post, Gardner objects to Davey's "intimation that innovative theatre is 'new writing'(it is, but it is a great deal of other stuff too)"

Fair enough, but many playwrights will feel glad to hear someone senior at ACE mention new writing at all.

Bain and Armstrong on TV

Peep Show creators (and Guild TV Committee members) Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong will be interviewed on the Culture Show at 10pm tonight.

It will be on the iPlayer after broadcast.

In search of 9pm drama hits

In The Daily Telegraph, Neil Midgely looks at the how British broadcasters are continuing to search for hit returning drama series for 9pm weekday slots.
Life on Mars launched on BBC1 in January 2006. With its combination of traditional cop show, time travel mystery and the inimitable DCI Gene Hunt, it quickly caught fire as a critical and ratings success. BBC1 made two series, and followed it with a successful spin-off, Ashes to Ashes.

But in the intervening two and a half years, BBC1 and ITV1 between them have come up with only one other contemporary weekday drama that can be called a hit – BBC1’s Mistresses.

Given that the two broadcasters between them spend in excess of £500million a year on drama, viewers and critics are rightly starting to wonder why the schedules from Monday to Friday are so unenticing – particularly in that important nine o’clock slot.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Matthew Weiner interview

Matthew WeinerThe press can't get enough of Matthew Weiner's series, Mad Men, and I've probably posted more than enough links to stories about the show over the past twelve months. But here's one more: a doorstop of an interview by Alex Witchel for The New York Times.
So, after working for 18 years, most recently as a writer and executive producer for “The Sopranos” (the episode in which Tony murders his nephew Christopher was his), Weiner, who is 42, has become an overnight success in a very particular, Hollywood way. He is suddenly a “genius,” a meal ticket and the 800-pound gorilla in every room he’s in. It is already show-business legend that he wrote the pilot of “Mad Men” in 1999 while working on the Ted Danson sitcom “Becker.” In 2002, Weiner sent the pilot as a writing sample to David Chase, who created “The Sopranos,” which is how he was hired. That HBO, under its previous leadership, passed on “Mad Men” while Weiner worked on its biggest hit, leaving the field open for the upstart AMC to reap the glory, is one of those stories that give underdogs of all breeds in this town a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

Internet TV

In The Times, Dominic Wells argues that while 'Internet TV' is attracting viewers, money is still in short supply.
In fact, the whole of internet TV is pretty hand-to-mouth at the moment. Kate Modern broke new ground by selling product placement in its “webisodes”. But on the whole, as's [Paul] Berrow puts it, “the advertisers have yet to come to the party”. When YouTube makes only $80 million profit a year, despite controlling 60 per cent of the market, you know there's precious little revenue left among the sites scrapping for that other 40 per cent. And, ironically, the more viewers they attract, the more it costs them in web-servers to support the demand.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

What members are getting up to

Taken from the Guild's weekly e-bulletin. Guild members wanting to be included should contact Erik in the Guild office.

GARY BROWN’S radio play Beat the Dog in His Own Kennel will be going out on Radio 4 at 2:30pm on Saturday 21st June.

RICHARD BURKE wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Monday 23rd June.

SIMON CROWTHER wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out no ITV1 at 7:30pm on Monday 23rd June.

DEBORAH DAVIS’S radio play Dickens Confidential will be going out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Monday 23rd June.

MATTHEW EVANS wrote the episodes of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Monday 23rd and at 8:00pm on Tuesday 24th June.

JONATHAN HALL’S script Fireworks, co-written with Hannah Robinson, has won the grand prize in the American Screenwriters Association International Script Competition.It was the first ever international winner.

JONATHAN HARVEY wrote the episodes of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Wednesday 25th and Thursday 26th June.

JAYNE HOLLINSON wrote the episodes of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm and 8:30pm on Friday 27th June.

JESSICA LEA wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Thursday 26th June.

TONY MCHALE wrote the episode of Holby City, New Lands, going out on BBC1 at 7:30pm on Tuesday 24th June.

DOMINIC MINGHELLA co-wrote the episode of Doc Martin, Old Dogs, going out on ITV1 at 9:00pm on Tuesday 24th June.

JONATHAN MYERSON’S dramatization of The Way We Live Now (Part 6/15) is going out on Radio 4 at 7:45pm on Monday 23rd June.

CHRISTOPHER NEAME has co-written the book and lyrics for the opéra bouffe Lyssi which debuts on 1st July in concert with the Sarajevo Philharmonic Orchestra during the city’s popular annual festival – Baščaršijske noći.

DAVID NOBBS wrote the episode of The Maltby Collection going out on Radio 4 at 11:30pm on Monday 23rd June.

GAIL RENARD will be appearing on ITV's This Morning programme with Phil and Fern on Monday 23rd June at 12:15pm. She will be discussing the auctioning of John Lennon’s hand written lyrics to “Give Piece a Chance”, which were given to her by John and which she has kept for thirty years. For more information about Gail’s fascinating story see The Guardian.

GILLIAN RICHMOND wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Friday 27th June.

TONY ROBINSON’S series Crime and Punishment concludes with the episode “Have I got Noose for You” going out on C4 at 7:00pm on Sunday 22nd June.

PAUL ROUNDELL wrote Emmerdale: Puff Of Smoke going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Tuesday 24th June.

MARGARET SIMPSON wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Wednesday 25th June.

DAVID STAFFORD’S radio play The Day The Planes Came is going out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Tuesday 24th June.

CATH STAINCLIFFE’S radio play Look Sharp is going out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Friday 27th June.

TIM STIMPSON wrote the episodes of The Archers going out on Radio 4 at 7:00pm from Sunday 22nd until Friday 27th June, with each episode being repeated at 2:00pm the day following its original broadcast.

BILL TAYLOR wrote the episodes of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Thursday 26th and Friday 27th June.

KARIN YOUNG wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Monday 23rd June.

In defence of chick lit

For BBC News, Emma Jones reports from the Melissa Nathan Awards for Romantic Comedy.
Best-selling chick lit writer Sophie Kinsella, who sat on the judging panel, said: "There is some snobbery which I try to rise above. "

But in the end it's authors like Kinsella that are having the last laugh. She has the biggest backlist sales out of any female author in the UK, mainly thanks to the popular Shopaholic series which is currently being made into a film.

"I'd like to show people that this prize is about what people love to read - not what they feel they ought to read," she explained.

"I think people look at the pastel jackets and the swirly writing on the cover and dismiss it because it's about love. But really - what's more important in life than love?"

Friday, June 20, 2008

Matt Ember and Tom J. Astle interview

For the Writers Guild of America West, Dylan Callaghan talks to Matt Ember and Tom J. Astle about their new feature length adaptation of the 1960s TV series Get Smart (created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry).
You both have strong and varied experience in television. Did that prove helpful with this material, as it was adapted from the small screen?
Matt Ember: I don't know if it helped us with this particular project. I think the experience of having worked in television for a lot of years and getting used the idea that there is no time for writer's block and you have to get the work done. If you don't have an idea at the moment, you just have to come up with one. That has been really helpful for us as feature writers.

Tom J. Astle: [Television] basically beats the idea of writer's block out of you because you can't have it if there are actors waiting on a stage.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

In the footsteps of Lonelygirl15

On the Guild website I've posted my article from the latest issue of the Guild's magazine, UK Writer, looking at the state of online drama.
In general, UK broadcasters have tended to use online distribution to complement conventional transmission rather than replace it. Channel 4’s Skins (created by Jamie Brittain and Bryan Elsley), for example, has previewed episodes on MySpace as a way to drum up interest and engage the younger audience that can be hard to reach.

More experimentation from broadcasters is in the pipeline, however. Some will be interactive, but that isn’t necessarily the key. "My biggest demand is for a good writer,” Geoff Goodwin, head of BBC Switch (the Corporation’s youth brand) told Broadcast earlier this year. “In the past, the technology has tended to come first and the story has been second fiddle.” He’s developing several new multi-platform dramas that should be seen in 2008.

Puzo estate sues over Godfather game

Heirs of Mario Puzo, author of The Godfather, are suing Paramount for allegedly cheating them out of shares of profits from a video game based on the best-selling novel that became a hit film, reports Harriet Ryan in The L.A. Times.
According to the suit, Paramount and Puzo, who died in 1999, agreed that he would receive a "significant share" of "audiovisual" products derived from his Mafia saga. Puzo's son and executor, Anthony, contends in the suit that "The Godfather" video game is covered by the deal because it includes characters from the films.

"You hear them. You see them. That's audiovisual to me," said the estate's lawyer, Bert Fields.

Fourth Story

In Publishers Weekly, Lyn Andriani reports on the launch of Fourth Story Media - combining children's publishing with games and the internet.
“I’ve always been interested in online,” [Fourth Story founder, Lisa] Holton told PW last month. “As each new generation comes up, they interact with technology and the Web in a totally different way than adults do. And what we call multitasking is not, to them. They move in and out seamlessly. They can be listening to music, chatting with their friends, looking at something online, reading. They did not grow up pre-Internet. I continue to think about where books fit into their lives.”

The challenge of treatments

On his new blog, Guild Member Jeremy Paul ponders the challenge of writing treatments.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Neil consortium buys PFD

A consortium of investors led by Andrew Neil has completed the purchase of leading talent agency PFD from CSS Stellar, reports Stephen Brook for Media Guardian.
The agency's chief executive, Caroline Michel, and her team will stay with the company and become shareholders.

"It is a really good investment opportunity. It has had a rough time recently but it has an excellent team led by Caroline Michel, who is the best in the business, and a back book which generates a strong stream of royalties," Neil said.

"PFD will offer a one-stop shop for talent, which makes it unique in London. The agency's senior management will become stock holders in the company and share in future rewards. The rough times are over and they can now be secure with a new ownership and a forward-looking vision."
Earlier this year 35 ex-PFD agents left to form United Agents.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The arrival of ebooks

In The Guardian, an editorial argues that books read on electronic devices are hear to stay.
In important ways they are better than traditional books: they save paper and can be reproduced at low cost; users can increase the type size and read while eating, using a finger as a page-turner; hundreds of books can be downloaded from the web. On the downside, they are expensive, difficult to lend, easier to steal and could be destined for oblivion if formats change in the future.

Monday, June 16, 2008

David Simon interview

In The Financial Times (7th June), Peter Aspden has lunch with David Simon, the creator of The Wire.
I say the first time I watched The Wire , it reminded me of Shakespeare. Simon is not in the least cowed by the grandiose comparison, but corrects it.

"We stole from the earlier dramatic tradition of the Greeks. Shakespeare began the process by which thinking men and women exerted some degree of control over their actions, markedly changing their ends. Hamlet and Macbeth are concerned with the interior psychological construction of their characters. They are more Tony Soprano than The Wire .

" The Wire transposed the idea of Greek tragedy by using institutions in place of the Olympian gods. And those institutions are our political and economic constructs.

"Now some people don't want to watch that, to be told that the game is rigged. It is disturbing news. But those that do watch it will respond to the profound pessimism of the show. The people who watched Antigone or Medea were comfortable with that degree of pessimism. That was the ancient view of the world. And I'm not so sure it is so wrong in the 21st century." Simon found himself immersed in the works of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides as the series' first season unwound. "We stole big," he confesses. "If you steal, steal big."
The Wire

BBC Programmes

Further to our report last week that the BBC was planning to create a web page for every TV episode they've ever made, here's the site where it will be happening - BBC Programmes.

Casualty is one of the first dramas to be have individual programme pages, although so far only for the current series and the previous one.

It's clearly a work in progress and, presumably, credits for writers and directors will be coming soon. (If not, I'm sure the Guild's TV Committee will be on the case!)

Links to where episodes can be purchased online are also promised.

Update (27.06.08): NB Radio programmes will also be given unique pages.

Third annual Screenwriters' Festival

There's still time to book tickets for the third annual Screenwriters' Festival in Cheltenham, 1-3 July. There's a really impressive line-up. Here's the official press release:
A staggering line-up of film and television industry luminaries will attend this year's Fesitval . Guest speakers include multi-award winning silver screen heavyweights MIKE LEIGH (Vera Drake/Happy Go Lucky), JULIAN FELLOWES (Gosford Park), CHRISTOPHER HAMPTON (Dangerous Liaisons/Atonement), RONALD HARWOOD (The Pianist/The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) and bestselling author TERRY PRATCHETT (Discworld).

The list does not end there. In a major coup, the Festival has also secured arguably the most influential creative forces in British broadcasting, Controller of BBC Fiction JANE TRANTER and Director of ITV Drama LAURA MACKIE, who will proffer their wisdom and vision for 21st Century drama to eager delegates from across the globe.

'Innovation is a Must', according to prolific TV writer BARBARA MACHIN (creator of the EMMY award winning Waking the Dead), who will discuss the need for constant originality when writing for television in this year's opening speech. Other major events include writer/director PETER KOSMINSKY (Britz), writer/producer KAY MELLOR (Band of Gold/Cracker), writer/producer TONY JORDAN (Eastenders/Life on Mars), script editor KATE LEYS (The Full Monty/Girl With a Pearl Earring), novelist DEBORAH MOGGACH (adaptations include Love in a Cold Climate) and writer LUCY PREBBLE (Secret Diary of a Call Girl).

Festival director David Pearson comments: "The Screenwriting Festival is dedicated to the art, craft, education and business of writing for the screen. It attracts writers, producers, developers, financiers and executives from across the breadth of the screen and broadcasting industries for three invigorating days of keynote speeches, screenings, debates, case studies, seminars and workshops. We are delighted at its growth in just three years, and honoured to present such a powerful line-up of guests."

This year highlights include:
  • Author Terry Pratchett and director Vadim Jean reveal how they collaborated to adapt the hugely popular and successful Discworld novels for SkyOne
  • Mike Leigh offers a fascinating insight into his writing and directorial style. Known as the king of improvisation, is this really the case?
  • Christopher Hampton the Oscar winning writer of Dangerous Liaisons takes a look at his recent adaption of Atonement
  • Ronald Harwood, the renowned screenwriter will be 'In the Psychiatrist's Chair' with Dr Raj Persaud, discussing how writers can succeed in film by changing their mental attitude to overcome obstacles
  • Lucy Prebble discusses adapting a hugely controversial internet blog into a drama series, in her very own 'Secret Diary of a Scriptwriter'
  • Nic Ransome of Hammer Films, interviews professors Richard Hand and Mike Wilson to dissect which scripts 'give us the willys' and which don't
  • Actor Riz Ahmed quizzes writer/director Peter Kosminsky on the character he portrayed in the award-winning Britz
  • A Pitch in Time - the astoundingly popular competition returns; ten fresh delegates pitch their ideas to a live audience and panel of top industry personnel, following a pitching masterclass with experts in the field. Last year's winners have been getting busy in the business following their 2007 success. An event not to be sniffed at.
Full details at :

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Writers honoured in Queen's list

Among those receiving gongs in the Queen's Birthday Honours List announced today are Russell T. Davies, Lynda La Plante, Margaret Drabble and Victoria Wood.

Davies said of his OBE: "I'm delighted to accept, and I hope it does the whole industry a bit of good, for the writing of television drama to be recognised."

Online drama guidelines revised

The Guild's recently published Guidelines for online drama and content have been revised slightly.

You can download the full text from the Guild website.

What Members are getting up to

Taken from the Guild's weekly e-bulletin for Members.

SARAH BAGSHAW wrote the episode of Emmerdale, Dog’s Life, going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Tuesday 17th June.

MARK BURT wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Friday 20th June.

MARY CUTLER wrote the episodes of The Archers going out on Radio 4 at 7:00pm from Sunday17th until Friday 20th, with each episode being repeated at 2:00pm the day following the original broadcast.

DAVID GILMAN wrote the episode of A Touch of Frost, Near Death Experience, going out on ITV1 at 9:00pm on Friday 20th June.

TONY GREEN wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Monday 16th June.

MARTHA HILLIER wrote the episode of Holby City, Doctor’s Dilemma, going out on BBC1 at 9:00pm on Wednesday 18th June.

JAYNE HOLLINSON wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Friday 20th June.

REGINALD D. HUNTER is performing at the Temple as part of a Sabotage stand-up comedy night on 26th June.

MARTIN JAMESON wrote the episode of Casualty, Is She Really Going Out With Him?, going out on BBC1 at 8:45pm on Saturday 14th June.

PENNY LEICESTER adapted Beijing’s Slowest Elevator by Xiaolu Guo, to be broadcast on Radio 4 at 2:15 on Thursday 19th June.

JONATHAN MYERSON’S dramatisation of The Way We Live Right Now begins on Radio 4 at 7:45pm on Monday 16th June.

DAVID NOBBS wrote the episode of The Maltby Collection going out on Radio 4 at 11:30am on Monday 16th June.

JESSE O’MAHONEY wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Friday 20th June.

TONY ROBINSON’S series Crime and Punishment continues with the episode New King on the Block going out on C4 at 7:00pm on Sunday 15th June.

HEATHER ROBSON wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Wednesday 18th June.

JOHN ROONEY’S critically acclaimed six-part comedy drama series High Times receives a repeat airing on Scottish Television starting on Thursday, June 12th and will be immediately followed by the second series.

ERIC SANDERS’S book, Emigration ins Leben, Wien-London und nicht mehr retour, published by the Czernin Verlag, was launched in Vienna on the 14th and 15th May.

BILL TAYLOR wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Wednesday 18th June.

KATE WOOD wrote the episode of The Inspector Lynley Mysteries, Playing for the Ashes, going out on BBC1 at 8:30pm on Sunday 15th June.

KARIN YOUNG wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Friday 20th June.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Hachette takes on Amazon

Following reports last week that Amazon was removing the "Buy now" button from leading authors published by Hachette Livre in order to press for better terms, Roger Tagholme in Publishing News reports that the company is fighting back.
Hachettes's dispute with Amazon is being watched closely by the entire industry and, in particular, by other publishers who admire the stance being taken by Hachette Livre UK CEO Tim Hely Hutchinson.

One publisher told PN: “It needs someone like Hachette or Random to stand up to Amazon and say 'no more'. Otherwise, Amazon are going to continue to pick people off, getting half a percent here, half a percent there.”

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Burnham speaks against product placement

Culture Secretary Andy Burnham has spoken against product placement on TV. As Ben Fenton reports for The Financial Times, he told a media industry audience in London yesterday that there was a danger of product placement further eroding trust in TV. It's a viewpoint that the Guild's TV Committee agrees with and has lobbied for to Ofcom and others.
[Burnham's] opposition to product placement was bound to have been badly received at ITV. Michael Grade, executive chairman of the UK’s largest broadcaster, and Rupert Howell, his commercial director, have extolled the possibilities involved in allowing advertisers to pay for the inclusion of their products in high-profile, mass audience programmes such as Coronation Street.

The product placement issue has arisen because of a European Commission directive on audio-visual industries. It requires EU member states to say by the summer whether they will permit product placement. Mr Burnham said he was willing to hear counter-arguments but made clear where he stood.

“There is a risk that product placement exacerbates this decline in trust and contaminates our programmes,” he said. “There is a risk that, at the very moment when television needs to do all it can to show it can be trusted, we elide the distinction between programmes and adverts.”
ITV shares fell by nearly 3% following the news, and were down further this morning.

There's a debate on the issue of product placement on The Guardian Organ Grinder blog.

Update 09.39: Coincidentally, screenwriter John August has just blogged on the subject of 'product integration'.

BBC3 faces £10m budget cut

From Maggie Brown in Media Guardian:
Digital youth channel BBC3 is to have £10m lopped off its annual budget, reducing it to around £83m for the current financial year.

This is believed to be the largest single cut to any one BBC service in the current financial year and because it represents more than 10% of BBC3's budget, had to be agreed by the BBC Trust.

BBC3's budget is expected to stay at £83m for the next BBC financial year, the 12 months to March 31 2010.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Launch of Directors UK

By Matthew Hemley for The Stage:
UK film and television directors this week unveiled a single trade group to campaign and collect royalties on their behalf.

Directors UK will combine the roles previously played by collection body the Directors’ and Producers’ Rights Society and the Directors Guild of Great Britain.

The guild, which deregistered as a union last year, passed responsibility for industrial matters concerning its theatre members to Equity and for film and TV members to the DPRS. But the DPRS opted to rebrand itself as Directors UK before assuming its new responsibility.

It will represent more than 3,500 members, working closely with the guild and broadcasting union Bectu to improve the conditions and terms under which directors are employed.
Directors UK doesn't yet have its own website, but information can be found on the DPRS site.

Jana Bennett at Banff

jana bennettJana Bennett, the Director of BBC Vision, gave a long speech at the Banff World Television Festival yesterday. Much of it hymns the praises of the Corporation, for example in the development of shows like Gavin And Stacey.
To give you a sense of just how much artistic space we've given these new writer-performers, in the three years since they brought Gavin And Stacey to us there have been nine emails between the BBC and its authors. Just nine emails in three years. Read them and weep.
(Sadly she doesn't actually name the 'new writer-performers', James Cordon and Ruth Jones, but never mind)

Later on in the speech, however, comes what looks like a significant announcement, picked up by Leigh Holmwood for Media Guardian - that the BBC will create "a permanent [web] page for every episode of every programme the BBC has ever broadcast."

The online BBC iPlayer has shown, Bennett argues, that audiences will seek out shows after they have gone off air. A web page for every episode will direct them to where they can find more information or view online once the initial iPlayer window has closed.
...these permanent pages will always direct the audience to the programme – wherever it may be on the web – first in iPlayer, then elsewhere on or on iTunes or on any number of other on demand services including Kangaroo.

Each page and clip will be promotional for that programme in perpetuity. They will offer the possibility of hits that go on and on, or are re-discovered when the time is right.

There are already over 160,000 individual pages. Eventually, we will add our programme back catalogue to produce pages for programming stretching back over nearly 80 years – featuring all the information we have on the richest TV and radio archive in the world.

The BBC is committed to releasing the public value in that archive and these pages are going to play a central role in allowing us to do that.
Her speech culminates in an assertion that, as far as the BBC is concerned, big really is beautiful.
For the BBC, the TV hit matters because we are charged with connecting with as wide an audience as possible, with bringing people together in moments of shared experience – to entertain, inform and educate – to promote understanding, to contribute to the national and international conversation, and always to create fresh and distinctive experiences – surprise and delight across all our platforms.

Because the TV hit is more than merely an industry success story. It forms part of a battle against the forces of division and fragmentation within our countries and in our world.

Bigness is necessary for collective experience. That's why Big TV is Beautiful. The world needs it.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Bebo links with Universal for online drama

By Mike Shields for Media Week:
Bebo has announced plans to launch an original branded entertainment series in conjunction with Universal Music U.K. centred around a fictional employee at the music firm who establishes his own record label from company’s mail room.

The upcoming show, The Secret World of Sam King, will blend scripted drama (lead character Sam must team with a disagreeable post and a potential romantic interest) and contributions from the Bebo community. In a pair of unique twists, viewers will be invited to influence the direction of Secret World’s plot—as the show is seeking contributions from the creative community, including video producers, engineers, stylists, designers and the like. Plus, actual Universal artists will make appearances in the series, which will be set at Universal’s West London headquarters.

Bestselling authors feel the strain

In The Boston Globe, David Mehegan reports on why bestselling authors are feeling the strain of having to produce a new book every year.
"It's no problem, as long as you don't have a life," said Patricia Cornwell, the Massachusetts-based author of the enormously successful Kay Scarpetta crime thrillers. "The Scarpetta [manuscript] that's due out Oct. 7 is due in a few weeks, because they have to reserve the storefront real estate and pay for it. If I don't get the book turned in on time, they'll be freaking out. If I miss my deadline, I miss the entire year. Sometimes there's an overwhelming feeling of panic. It's like a rock 'n' roll concert, and what if I don't show up?"

Monday, June 09, 2008

New TNC rates

The Guild has agreed an increase of 2.75% for rates for writers working with TNC theatres (the National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal Court).

The headline rates are now:
  • Commission Fee £3,442 (except for Royal Court Upstairs £2,569)
  • Delivery Fee £3,442 (except for Royal Court Upstairs £2,055)
  • Acquisition Fee £3,390 (except for Royal Court Upstairs £1,541)
  • Total Fee (relevant to non-commissioned Plays only) £10,274 (except for Royal Court Upstairs £6,165)
The full 2008 rates can be read on the Guild website (pdf).

What Guild Members are getting up to

For those of you who aren't Members, this information goes out as part of the weekly e-bulletin sent by the Writers' Guild office. I thought it was about time we started publishing it here, too.

ANNA CLEMENTS wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Tuesday 10th June.

PAUL COATES wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Thursday 12th June.

MICHAEL FRAYN’S new play, Afterlife, opened at the National Theatre’s Lyttelton Theatre this week and will run until 16th August. His new book, Stage Directions: Writing on Theatre, 1970-2008 was recently published by Faber & Faber.

DAWN HARRISON wrote the episode of Doctors “A Step Too Far” going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Wednesday 11th June.

MARTHA HILLIER wrote the episode of Casualty “Have a Go” going out on BBC1 at 8:35pm on Saturday 7th June.

MARK ILLIS wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Tuesday 10th June.

MARTIN JAMESON wrote the episode of Holby City “Love You” going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Tuesday 10th June.

JULIE JONES wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Wednesday 11th June.

NICK KING wrote the episode of Doctors “Expectations” going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Tuesday 10th June.

ROB KINSMAN has written two episodes of Doctors going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm – “The One” on Monday 9th June, and “Endless Love” on Thursday 12th June.

BILL LYONS wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Monday 9th June.

JANE MARLOW wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Monday 9th June.

STEVEN MOFFAT wrote the episode of Doctor Who “Forest of The Dead” going out on BBC1 at 7:00pm on Saturday 7th June.

DAVID NOBBS wrote the episode of The Maltby Collection going out on Radio 4 at 11:30am on Monday 9th June.

DEBBIE OATES wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:00pm.

JULIE PARSONS wrote the episodes of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Wednesday 11th and Thursday 12th June.

STEWART PERMUTT’S Many Roads to Paradise, directed by Anthony Bigg, is being performed at the Finborough Theatre from 11th June until 5th July. The cast includes legendary actress Miriam Karlin and Amanda Boxer, Gillian Hanna, Daniel Hill, Elizabeth Uter and Jason Wing.

ALAN PLATER was back on his feet this week to deliver a monologue at the Georgian Theatre Royal, Richmond as part of the Swaledale Festival in Yorkshire.

PHILIP QIZILBASH has written next weeks episodes of the BBC Asian Network's daily soap, Silver Street. It is broadcast Monday 9th June to Friday 13th June at 1.30pm, with an omnibus edition on Sunday 15th June at 4.30pm.

EMMA REEVES wrote the episode of Young Dracula going out on BBC1 at 4:10pm on Wednesday 11th June.

TONY ROBINSON’S new series Tony Robinson’s Crime and Punishment continues on C4 with the episode “Guilty as Charged” going out at 7:00pm on Sunday 8th June.

ALISTAIR RUTHERFORD's new stage play received a staged reading in Leith, Edinburgh on Tuesday 3rd and Wednesday 4th June. The play is part of this year's Leith Festival and was commissioned by the Festival.

GERT THOMAS wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 7:30pm on Tuesday 10th June.

JOANNA TOYE co-wrote the episodes of The Archers going out on Radio 4 at 7:00pm from Sunday 8th until Friday 13th June.

The rise of comic books

In The Times, Michael Saler reviews new books by David Hajdu and Michael Chabon that reflect on the irresistible rise of comic books.
Hajdu focuses on comics and the triumph of youth culture, but the medium is no longer child’s play: today’s comic books are pitched well above the heads and purchasing power of most children. Following Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prizewinning account of the Holocaust, Maus (1992), “graphic novel” has become the preferred term for many of the medium’s most exciting and original works. A castaway art form that began in the “funny papers” now finds a welcome berth in the New Yorker, while Chris Ware’s challenging Jimmy Corrigan won the 2001 Guardian First Book Award. Fredric Wertham must be turning in his grave (no doubt in horror-comic fashion), but as Michael Chabon declares in Maps and Legends, “the battle has now, in fact, been won. Not only are comics appealing to a wider and older audience than ever before, but the idea of comics as a valid art form . . . is widely if not quite universally accepted”.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Faber's print on demand plans

In The Daily Telegraph, Faber & Faber chief executive Stephen Page explains how the publisher is using print on demand technology to revive thousands of out-of-print book.
Traditionally, to reprint a book economically meant printing at least 2,000 or 3,000 copies - occasionally fewer, but not easily. Many good books have gone out of print as their audience has dwindled.

Excellent books, however small their audience, deserve an ongoing life. Much that is published is not excellent, nor does it need to be to turn the wheel of the books industry. However, at the heart of Faber's new imprint, Faber Finds, is the thrilling thought that the digital revolution holds the key to the resuscitation of many high-quality titles by good writers as printed books, not digital files.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Guild AGM 2008

A good turn-out for yesterday's Guild AGM as members spent a constructive day discussing the Guild's past year and future plans, as well as voting on a succession of rule change motions.

A full report will be published in due course, but the headlines are that new criteria for Full Membership were accepted, but a proposed increase in subscription rates was not.

The change to membership criteria means that, now, according to the Guild Rule Book:
(a) A Full Member shall be any person who has accumulated 8 Membership Points
(b) Membership points shall be allocated as follows, subject to the discretion of the Executive Council:

For each single piece of written work of any description for which reasonable payment has been received under written contract, in terms not less favourable than those existing in current minimum terms agreements negotiated by the Guild (where such agreements exist) - 8 points

For each single piece of marketed written work produced or published other than under the terms of the previous paragraph - 4 points

For each completed year of Candidate membership (up to four years) - 1 point.
Guild Chair, Katharine Way, said that the change, proposed by the Guild's Executive Council, is intended to reflect changes in various areas of work that Guild members undertake - particularly the rise in self-publishing.

A rise in the cost of subscriptions for Full Members was defeated, following a call for the already very successful recruitment campaign to be allowed more time to run.

Mad Men to return to the BBC

Mad MenGood news for fans of quality TV drama: the second series of Mad Men, created by Matthew Weiner, will be shown on the BBC next year.

Perhaps inspired by this news, in The Guardian, Mark Lawson sings the praises of Weiner, (as well as of David Renwick and Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong).
In a generally outstanding series, episode five of Mad Men (BBC4/BBC2) - written by the show's creator, Matthew Weiner - was a masterclass in drama scripting. Two lines - impressively given to a relatively minor character - are typical of Weiner's subtlety. When Trudy (Alison Brie) reads a short story by her husband, Pete, her comment "I just think it's odd that the bear is talking" skewers his pretentious style.

After Pete bullies Trudy into taking the manuscript to a former boyfriend who is now a publisher, he is disappointed with the low-grade magazine in which his work is placed. "I could have gotten you in the New Yorker," his wife replies, a simple line that strongly suggests that she submitted to a sex-act, but not sex, with the ex.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Radio 4 will producer fewer, longer-running series

The BBC published its Statements of Programme Policy 2008/2009 today, including that, on Radio 4:
There will be a greater focus on fewer, longer-running drama series to create high impact, for example A Dance to the Music of Time, a six-part dramatisation of Anthony Powell's epic series of novels.

Showrunners talk ratings

On The Hollywood Reporter Video Network, US drama series showrunners talk post-strike ratings.

This Friday on the Square

On the BBC Writersroom blog, Abi B[r]own looks forward to her EastEnders episode airing this week.
I had some reservations about my second trip into Albert Square - could I do this? Would I have chosen this to happen? Was it fair? How would I write it? But I am in the hands of the storyliners, and EE is a tight ship with some 200 or so episodes to produce, not much space for manoeuvring.

Like any artiste worth their salt, I rose to the challenge. The biggest challenge making R 'n' R look like a swinging hep joint and not like your front room with a couple of neighbours dropping in for Karaoke under a 100w light bulb...
See what you think this Friday. I am credited (again) as Abi Brown in the Radio Times, I am seriously thinking of adding that 'r' to my surname and have done with it...
And please pay attention to the last line of the ep, I sweated over it.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Frith Banbury

In The Guardian, Peter Gill remembers the director Frith Banbury who died last month at the age of 96.
Frith had been in the thick of London theatre since his youth. As a schoolboy he went to tea with Mrs Campbell; he was at the first meeting of the Camargo Society; he was at Oxford with George Devine; and at Rada with Stephen Haggard and Joan Littlewood. He ran a company with Peter Bull and Robert Morley; he was a fan of the Compagnie des Quinze, and a vocal defender of Binkie Beaumont's reputation. He was helpful to many writers financially and as a champion, particularly to Rodney Ackland.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Treasurer hunt

A guest post from Gail Renard, Chair of the Guild's TV Committee:

Robert Taylor has been the Guild’s esteemed Treasurer for the past seven years and frankly, he’d do less time for murder. He’s agreed to do one more year out of duty to the Guild and because no new candidates have stepped forward. But after 2009, Robert deserves to move on, so I propose the Guild’s own version of The Apprentice, but without the photogenic sackings at the end.

I’m asking for people to step forward to shadow Robert this coming year. Try it; you might like it. You don't need to be an accountant, book-keeper or entrepreneur. You need to be able to plan budgets and make sure that they are kept to, with the help of our experienced staff, officers and EC. You also need to be able to read the accounts and make decisions; and attend various meetings with your colleagues.

We’re not asking for any commitment over and above shadowing Robert for a year and you don't need any previous experience. This will also look impressive on the CV of anyone who may have aspirations to run a business or become involved in production. If you want to give it a go, please e-mail

I’ve always had a very simplistic approach to finance:

"Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery."

Hmm. I wonder what Dickens is doing?

Sci Fi Channel to make online game

From Geoff Boucher for The L.A. Times:
Can two alien cultures coexist in one writers room? Sci Fi is entering a brave new world by teaming television writers with video-game designers to create a franchise that is both a television series and a massive multiplayer game on the Internet -- more than that, the fans who play the game will actually help shape the show's story arc with their virtual exploits.

"This is the Holy Grail for us, without a doubt," said Dave Howe, president of the Sci Fi Channel, which has teamed with Trion World Network, an on-the-rise gaming company based in Redwood City, Calif. "This is groundbreaking, and I don't say that lightly."

Sci Fi Channel executives are mum about the title of the show and game and their premise, but they do hint that it will be set 80 to 100 years in the future on an Earth that looks very different from today. The team has summer 2010 as the targeted launch; more details are expected to be announced in July at Comic-Con International in San Diego.

Michael Patrick King interview

For the Writers Guild of America West, Danis Faye talks to the writer-director of the Sex And The City film, Michael Patrick King.
Structurally, it was quite a challenge for me because I can't think of any other movie with four female storylines that are all arced. Usually, it's Kate Hudson and her sidekick at the Starbucks who has two scenes -- and if you get long, you cut one of the sidekick's scenes and no one says boo. But I have four characters that represent four factions of the viewers. Everyone has their girl. So, I was, like, “I don't know how I'm going to do this, tell four stories in this structure that is a movie.” I had to play some hard facts, like everyone only gets one story -- which is Movie Writing 101, and as it is, it's still over 2 hours and 15 minutes.
Sex And The City trailer

Authors rebel against age ranges on books

By Richard Lea and Nell Boase in The Guardian:
The controversy over plans to put recommended age ranges on the covers of children's books ignited at the Hay festival yesterday, with authors speaking both for and against proposals due to be implemented by a wide group of children's publishers later this year

Marcus Sedgwick, who won last year's Booktrust teenage prize with a sinister vampire tale, My Swordhand is Singing, described the initiative as a "disaster", while Carnegie medal-winner David Almond called it "silly". Francesca Simon, author of the bestselling Horrid Henry series, said the proposals were "ridiculous", while the Carnegie medal-winner Mal Peet, called them a "very bad idea".