Friday, October 31, 2008

What Guild Members are getting up to

STEVE BAILIE wrote the episode of The Bill, In Deep, going out on ITV1 at 8:00pm on Thursday 6th November.

TRACEY BLACK wrote the episode of Doctors, Daddy Darling, going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Thursday 6th November.

SONALI BHATTACHARYYA wrote the episodes of Silver Street, broadcast daily from 27th October to 31st October at 1.30pm with an omnibus on 2nd November at 4.30pm.

MARK BURGESS’S radio play The Wrong Hero? is going out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Thursday 6th November.

PAUL COATES wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:3pm on Tuesday 4th November.

JOHN CHAMBERS wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Tuesday 4th November.

ANDREW DAVIES’ dramatisation of Little Dorrit continues next week with the 3rd and 4th episodes going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Wednesday 5th and Thursday 6th November.

CHRIS FEWTRELL wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Wednesday 5th November.

JULIA GILBERT wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Friday 7th November.

JONATHAN HARVEY wrote the episode of Beautiful People, How I Got My Globe, going out on BBC2 at 9:30pm on Thursday 6th November.

STEVE HUGHES wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Friday 7th November.

MARK ILLIS wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Wednesday 5th November.

JULIE JONES wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Friday 7th November.

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

JOHANNE MCANDREW wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Wednesday 5th November.

ROY MITCHELL wrote the episode of New Tricks, Wicca Work, going out on BBC1 at 9:00pm on Tuesday 4th November.

ROLAND MOORE wrote the episode of Doctors, Miss Letherbridge, going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Tuesday 4th November.

STUART MORRIS wrote the episode of The Bill, Walk on By, going out on ITV1 at 8:00pm on Wednesday 5th November.

JESSE O’MAHONEY wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Friday 7th November.

ANDY RASHLEIGH’S new play for children, The Crow Scarers, is touring primary schools in England and Scotland until the end of January.

MICHAEL STEWART’S radio play Excluded is going out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Tuesday 4th November.

BILL TAYLOR wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Thursday 6th November.

SUSAN WILKINS wrote the episode of Heartbeat, Living Off the Land, going out on ITV1 at 8:00pm on Sunday 2nd November.

The Guild would like to send its congratulations to ROY WILLIAMS, who has been awarded an O.B.E. this week.

ESTHER WILSON has a multi-media site specific play on at the moment The Quiet Little Englishman (as part of Liverpool's Capital of Culture celebrations) at The Park Palace in Liverpool and her play Ten Tiny Toes has been nominated for best new play at the TMA awards.

COLIN WYATT wrote the episodes of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Monday 3rd and at 7:30pm on Tuesday 4th November.

J. Michael Straczynski interview

For the Writers Guild of America West, Shira Gotshalk talks to J.Michael Straczynski about his new film, The Changeling.
How collaborative was the work with Clint Eastwood after you turned in your final draft?

Clint was given the first draft that I wrote after a year of researching 6,000 pages of documentation. I wrote the first draft in 11 days.

Eleven days?

Well, it is pro-rated over time. One year to think about it and 11 days to write it -- it kind of breaks down as a much more reasonable schedule. I tend not to sit down and write until I have written it in my head so that I have every scene, every line, in my head so that there is this white heat when you run to the keyboard, and you have to get it all out and that process took 11 days. I have a really good typist.

It went to my agent who gave it to Ron Howard, who bought it almost immediately. When he couldn’t direct it because of Frost/Nixon, he gave it to Clint. Clint read the first draft, liked it, and that is what they shot. That is the remarkable thing about it; there were no final drafts, there were no other drafts. Clint shot the first draft, as written. They changed one word, which he then latter omitted.

The Changeling trailer

The Changeling will be released in the UK on 28 November.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Elizabeth Baines blog

A new Guild member's blog for the blogroll, by Elizabeth Baines: subheading "How to be a writer without ending up sozzled, behind bars or insane."

Elizabeth also writes the FictionBitch blog: "Tart thoughts on the nature of fiction - and some sweet ones, too."

Her most recent collection of short stories, Balancing On The Edge Of The World, was on the long-list for the International Frank O'Connor Short Story Award 2008.

Henning Mankell on Branagh as Wallander

Branagh as Wallander BBCIn The Times, Stephen Armstrong talks to Henning Mankell about the new adaptation of his book, The Pyramid, starring Kenneth Branagh as Inspector Wallander.
“My ambition from the beginning was to show a man who was always changing, never fixed,” Mankell says. “That is one of the secrets to his success. He has a working-class background, and to become a police officer, he had to choose his place in society. At that time, you had to be conservative. But he’s not completely sure about what’s right and wrong. I call this changing process the diabetes syndrome. After the fourth book, I asked a doctor friend of mine, ‘Having read the books, what kind of disease would you give him?’ She said, ‘Diabetes.’ Immediately. So I gave him diabetes and that made him even more popular.”
The Pyramid, adapted by Richard Cottan and Richard McBrien, will be shown on BBC One next month.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Causing offence for laughs

In the wake of the Russell Brand/Jonathan Ross phone saga, in The Guardian comedy writer Laurence Howarth reflects on the experience of offending people in the search for laughs - his radio sitcom, Safety Catch, received a number of complaints.
I noticed that nobody who'd complained about the show had themselves been offended by it; they'd merely assumed that great swathes of other people would be. My accuser-in-chief claimed that "many, many people find this show offensive", but even this seemingly baseless assertion was topped by another listener who declared that Safety Catch was "offensive to African nationals". What, all of them? Have you checked?

Google settles out-of-print books dispute

From Stephen Foley in The Independent:
Google has settled lawsuits brought by authors and book publishers, including the UK's Pearson, with a deal that will make millions of out-of-print books available on the internet.

The US-only deal, announced yesterday, creates a Book Rights Registry, which will funnel payments from Google's controversial book search service to the people who hold the copyright. The search company has spent several years making digital copies of all the books held in US libraries so that users can search them, but it has attracted criticism from publishers, who said it was infringing their copyrights. Some have signed up individual deals to share revenue from advertising sold alongside the searches and the sale of the digital copies, but others have fought the entire plan through the US courts.
Full details of the settlement, agreed in response to suits brought by the Authors Guild, the Association of American Publishers and various publishers, are available on the Google Books website.

As The Independent's report says:
Under the deal, which still has to be rubber-stamped by a judge, Google will spend $125m (£79m) compensating the authors and publishers and creating the registry for out-of-print works.
Update (10.26pm): Chris Snyder in Wired magazine has a good account of this story:
With the incentive of being paid something, authors and publishers now have little reason to fundamentally oppose the project few probably did anyway on principle alone.

But by creating a market (and now by settling) Google has provided a bit of a windfall for the content holders, whose out-of-print works were not likely to get back into "print" any other way, with the establishment of a new non-profit Book Rights Registry to manage royalties.

Authors are the ultimate winner, says Laura Martin, an analyst with Soleil Media Metrics, “because it gives them a precedent so that anything that Google puts on there, anything Google does in the digital space, it will have to recognize and pay the copyright owner.”
Update (30.10.08): Blogger Martyn Daniels, however, has some concerns.
A hefty slice of all future revenues will remain with Google and as with any division of money, someone will have to pay for that slice. So what’s in it for booksellers? What will be the relationship between authors and publishers as they become tethered for life with no divorces? What will it mean to consumers as they become faced not with a huge virtual choice but everything ever published at a click?
Update 31.10.08: Writers' Guild of Great Britain General Secretary, Bernie Corbett, says:
“This is hugely significant for our book-writing members and we will ensure they are in on the ground floor. Watch this space for detailed advice on what you need to do to share in this digital-age publishing phenomenon. We will hold meetings to discuss the implications with the Society of Authors, Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society, Copyright Licensing Agency and British Copyright Council."

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The adaptation obsession

On his Artful Writer blog, Craig Mazin examines the apparent preference in Hollywood for adaptations rather than original screenplays.
Books aren’t written to be movies. They’re written to be books. Same for plays and graphic novels and epic songs and video games. They are their own ends. They are, for better or worse, completed works of art.

Screenplays are not. Screenplays are transitional art. They are a theory, an imagining…but of something else.

I’ll argue that studios and producers are occasionally seduced by the notion of adaptation because it grounds them and their risk in something that is very real and permanent.

BAFTA Children's Award nominations

Nominations have been announced for the 2008 BAFTA Children's Awards.

They include:


Tony Collingwood - The Secret Show
Collingwood O’Hare Entertainment/CBBC

Alison Hume - Summerhill
Tiger Aspect Productions/CBBC

Dave Ingham - Charlie and Lola (based on the books by Lauren Child)
Tiger Aspect Productions/CBeebies

Peter Tabern - Clay
Childsplay Television/CBBC


Charlie And Lola Autumn Special
Claudia Lloyd, Kitty Taylor
Tiger Aspect Productions/CBeebies

Eliot Kid
Samka & Safari de Ville/CBBC

Shaun The Sheep
Julie Lockhart, Richard Golezsowski
Aardman Animation/CBBC

Skunk Fu!
Paul Young, Jordan Gaucher, Aidan Harte
Cake Entertainment/CBBC


The Revenge Files Of Alistair Fury
Jamie Rix, Nick Wood
Little Brother Productions/CBBC

The Sarah Jane Adventures
Matthew Bouch, Alice Troughton, Gareth Roberts
BBC Cardiff/CBBC

Stephen Smallwood, Jon East, Alison Hume
Tiger Aspect Productions/CBBC

Young Dracula
Mia Jupp, Joss Agnew, Jo Williams


Eddie Retractorhead
Jean Flynn
Cosgrove Hall Films/Nickelodeon UK

My Say
Mick Robertson, John Butterworth

See Something, Say Something
Jane Laffey
Nickelodeon/Envy/Nickelodeon UK

Stitch Up Showdown
Adam Shaw
Blue Zoo/Nickelodeon UK

Pre-School Animation

Charlie And Lola
Claudia Lloyd, Kitty Taylor
Tiger Aspect Productions/Cbeebies

Little Princess
Iain Harvey, Edward Foster
The Illuminated Film Company/Five

Peppa Pig
Phil Davies, Mark Baker, Neville Astley
Astley Baker Davies Ltd/Rubber Duck Entertainment/Nick Jr/Five

Roary The Racing Car
Owen Ballhatchet, Tim Harper
Chapman Entertainment/Nick Jr/Five

Pre-School Live Action

Go And Be A Grown Up
Sam Potter
Handle & Spout/Cartoonito

In The Night Garden
Andrew Davenport, Anne Wood, Dirk Campbell
Ragdoll Productions/Cbeebies

The Milkshake Show
Clair Duff, Louise Beresford
Milkshake Production/Five

Space Pirates
Tony Reed, Bridget Caldwell

Female playwrights to protest in New York

In The New York Times, Patricia Cohen reports on a planned protest by female playwrights in the city.
Frustrated by what they describe as difficulty in getting their work produced, enough female playwrights to make a standing-room-only crowd are planning to attend a town hall meeting on Monday night to air their grievances with representatives of New York’s leading Off Broadway and nonprofit theaters.

The gathering was organized by the playwrights Sarah Schulman and Julia Jordan, who have rallied their colleagues to the cause, contending that their male counterparts in the 2008-9 season are being produced at 14 of the largest Off Broadway institutions at four times the rate that women are.
Update (30.10.08): On her Guardian blog, Charlotte Higgins asks whether British women playwrights should be making a similar protest.

Monday, October 27, 2008

FX UK commissions new comedy

FX, a Fox-owned channel that has broadcast American drama including The Wire, has commissioned its first homegrown show, reports Jon Rogers for Broadcast.
The 10 x 30 series [a satirical sketch show] is the first TV project for Pete Cain and Louis Bogue, who have written as a team for TV ad campaigns for brands such as British Airways, Carling and Nintendo. It will be produced by their indie, You, Me and Him.

Ian McEwan's first libretto

for youIn The Times, Robert Sandall talks novelist Ian McEwan about writing his first libretto for an opera, For You, with music by Michael Berkeley.
Do you go to the opera much?

I go infrequently. When opera works, it blows me away, but most of the time I find it doesn’t.

Why not?

Because of the terrible plots. The biggest problem with opera, for me, is the disjunction between the sublime quality of the music and the silliness, often, of the drama. When I was thinking about writing this libretto, I was clear that I wanted psychological realism. I also knew what I didn’t want: no supernatural elements, no fairy tales, no folk tales. No Magic Flute.
The Music Theatre Wales production of For You is currently on tour.

Andy Harries interview

In The Guardian, Stephen Armstrong talks to independent drama producer, Andy Harries (formerly of Granada), about the state of drama on TV.
Harries, just back from the Mipcom programming market, sees the BBC's commitment as key in a market where commercial broadcasters appear to be struggling with imaginative high-profile drama. "When I go out in the market I still get a good reaction - there's a desire for stuff, but right now money is pretty tight," he shrugs. "I expect the accent will be more on entertainment and feelgood drama than the harder stuff."

He predicts dramas such as Channel 4's recent The Shooting of Thomas Hurndall will be difficult to find in an industry threatened with the credit crunch and the rise of download culture. "I think Channel 4 would like to keep doing it but I think they will find it hard. ITV is changing and not for the bad necessarily. It's becoming an entertainment channel with the odd piece of quality drama. You can't beat up ITV for their commercial pressures. If they judge they need X Factor for their money and audience and future then you can't blame them for that."

Saturday, October 25, 2008

What Guild members are getting up to

MARTIN ALLEN wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Monday 27th October.

SIMON ASHDOWN wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 7:30pm on Thursday 30th October.

SARAH BAGSHAW wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Tuesday 28th October.

MIKE BARTLETT’S radio play Love Contract is going out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Wednesday 29th October.

RAY BROOKING wrote the episode of Doctors , Here Be Monsters, going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Friday 31st October.

TARA BYRNE wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Wednesday 20th October.

PAUL CAMPBELL wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Monday 27th October.

DAVID CROFT and JIMMY PERRY wrote the episode of Dad’s Army, Keep Young and Beautiful, going out on BBC2 at 6:40pm on Saturday 25th October.

ANDREW DAVIES’S dramatisation of Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens is beggining on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Sunday 26th October.

TIM DYNEVOR wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pom on Friday 31st October.

CAROLINE HARRINGTON wrote the episodes of The Archers going out on Radio 4 at 7:00pm from Sunday 26th until Friday 31st October with each episode being repeated at 2:00pm the day following its original broadcast.

JONATHAN HARVEY wrote the first episode of Britannia High going out on ITV1 at 6:15pm on Sunday 26th October. He also wrote the episode of Beautiful People, How I Got My Tongs, going out on BBC2 at 9:30pm on Thursday 30th October as well as the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Friday 31st October.

JONATHAN HOLLOWAY wrote the episode of Heartbeat, Mother of Invention, going out on ITV1 at 7:15pm on Sunday 26th October.

JANE HOLLINSON wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Friday 31st October.

JULIAN JONES wrote the episode of Merlin, A Remedy To Cure All Ills, going out on BBC1 at 5:50pm on Saturday 25th October.

DAVID MCDERMOTT wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Wednesday 29th October.

IAN MCMILLAN’S radio play Frank is going out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Friday 31st October.

SUE MOONEY wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Monday 27th October.

JONATHAN MYERSON five-part Radio drama Number Ten concludes on Radio 4 at2:15pm on Tuesday 28th October.

DEBBIE OATES wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Monday 27th October.

SHELAGH STEPHENSON’S radio play Wasted is going out on Radio 4 at 9:00pm on Friday 31st October.

HEATHER TAYLOR’S feature film Last Thakur is to have its premier on Saturday 25th October 2008 at 4:30pm at NFT1 and on Tuesday 28th October 2008 at 3:30pm at ODEON WEST END 2.

NICK WARBURTON wrote the episode of Holby City, Or I’ll Never Fall In Love, going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Tuesday 28th October.

PETER WHALLEY wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Wednesday 29th October.

STEVEN WYATT’S Tinniswood Award-winning radio play Memorials To The Missing is going out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Thursday 30th October.

Friday, October 24, 2008

John Updike interview

In The Daily Telegraph, Mick Brown talks to American novelist John Updike about his new book, The Widows Of Eastwick.
The new book finds the women some 30 years on. All have since remarried, and been subsequently widowed, and are now facing the prospect of old age and solitude. They return to Eastwick, where their arrival reawakens old enmities and a final reckoning for the fatal spell they cast 30 years before. Very much a light-spirited entertainment, The Widows of Eastwick, Updike says, was partly conceived as a corrective to the film of The Witches, which was seen much more widely than the book was read, and which, partly thanks to the most hammy performance Jack Nicholson (as Van Horne) has ever given in his career, played much more as camp farce than the sardonic social observation Updike had intended.

'I didn't think it was very good,' he says. 'Under Nicholson's stardom the focus shifted from the women, who are what my book was about. So yes, I did want to respond to that. Writing a sequel is a way of dealing with time; it's an attempt to say something about the long curve of life and what it does to us, and how with any luck we survive it, so in the end, as Proust says, we get on these great stilts of time - tottering around.'

Mark Ravenhill's YouTube competition

Guild member Mark Ravenhill is running a competition in The Guardian, inviting people to make a short film based on a new, specially-written text.
I've written a piece called Old School People. Your task, if you choose to accept it, is to respond to it in a five-minute film. At stake, a once in a lifetime chance to work for a major broadcaster with Channel 4 executive Stuart Cosgrove as your mentor.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Ireland introduces 2% tax levy for writers, musicians and artists

By Anthony Garvey for The Stage:
Ireland’s much envied tax-free scheme for artists, which has been capped in recent years, has been hit another blow, with a 2% levy introduced on the incomes of top-earning musicians, writers and artists.

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan has confirmed the levy, included in last week’s budget to help bridge a growing gap in the national finances, will apply to those covered by the tax-free scheme. It will be charged at 1% on annual income up to €100,000 and double for those earning above that figure

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Writers voices from British Library archive

The British Library has released two new additions to its series of literary spoken word CDs, featuring many previously unpublished recordings of great British and American writers.
The Spoken Word: British Writers and The Spoken Word: American Writers together form the largest survey of historic recordings by English-language authors and playwrights ever published...

Stand-out tracks include:

* The sole surviving recording of Virginia Woolf published in its entirety for the first time

* The sole audio recording of Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes

* P.G. Wodehouse talks about his most famous characters, Jeeves and Wooster

* J.R.R. Tolkien discussing whether he will be remembered for The Lord of the Rings or his academic career

* Noel Coward throwing off witticisms when interviewed at 6 a.m. at Heathrow airport

* Anthony Burgess interviewed as Stanley Kubrick's controversial film of A Clockwork Orange was released

* Harold Pinter speaks to Kenneth Tynan, a meeting of two leading men of the theatre

* Graham Greene talks about playing Russian roulette as a boy

* Joe Orton interviewed a week before he was murdered, observing tragically that a playwright's career is 'very short'

* Ian Fleming's appearance on BBC Radio 4's 'Desert Island Discs'
BBC News has the Virginia Woolf recording online.

Why MJ Rose is giving away her novel online

On The Huffington Post, author MJ Rose explains why, for a limited time, she is giving away her novel free online.
My book is free because my husband always asks me to bring home cookies from Sant Ambrose whenever I go into New York City. It's because I wear one of the L'Oeuvre Noire perfumes by Kilian. And it's because we both use L'Occitane Verbena Shower Gel. And what all those things have in common is at one point in my life as a consumer - or his - we sampled them.

Imison and Tinniswood winners

The Writers' Guild of Great Britain and the Society of Authors have announced the winners of this year's Imison and Tinniswood awards for radio drama, which were presented by Pauline McLynn at a ceremony at the British Academy in London last night.

The Tinniswood Award, for the best original radio drama script broadcast in the UK during the period 1 January – 31 December 2007, was presented to Stephen Wyatt for his play Memorials To The Missing. The judges said of the play:
This is a play about burying the dead – primarily the dead soldiers of the First World War, which had an impact on the disposal of corpses of those killed in all subsequent wars. Interestingly it is based on fact, on the efforts of one man, Major General Fabian Ware, to persuade the authorities, against strong opposition from Church and State, to establish cemeteries of identifiable graves for those killed in battle. This led to the establishment of The Imperial War Graves Commission of which Ware was put in charge and for which, again against strong opposition, ecclesiastical and architectural, Sir Edwin Lutyens provided the design plans.

So much for fact. The fiction imagines the voices of dead soldiers, reading their diaries or thinking their thoughts aloud, who seek the recognition of their buried remains by mourning relatives. We hear too the relatives searching for an identifiable place to mourn over their lost loved ones.

This intermingling of fact and fiction makes for a poignant play which is perfect for radio and a play, not without humour, of great emotional power. All the judges privately confessed that it reduced them to tears – and they are no “softies” either!
Stephen was awarded a prize of £1500, which was donated by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society. Memorials To The Missing will be repeated on BBC Radio 4 at 2.15pm on 30 October 2008.

Colin Teevan’s play Glass Houses was highly recommended by the judges and he received a digital radio, donated by Pure Digital. The judges said of his play:
An exceptionally painful, but beautifully and economically written duologue about the break-up of a marriage between an increasingly psychologically disturbed husband and his much-suffering wife, in which the lives of their two young children are very much at stake. It closes with the father murdering his offspring and his taking his own life.

The play out-Strindbergs Strindberg in its painful exploration of the battlefield some marriages can become as they spiral out of control. It also raises the important question of how children and innocent parties should be protected by the state in cases of extreme verbal and physical abuse.

The story is told obliquely and with great restrained sensitivity. In part it is told through direct scenes between husband and wife, but also through direct-to-audience statement and through indirect reportage. The dialogue throughout is honed to the bare essentials without unnecessary ‘flab’, and the pain is remorseless as it crescendos to it’s terrifying climax. There are no laughs in this justifiably disturbing play.
The judges for this year's Tinniswood Award were Jane Anderson, Radio Editor of the Radio Times, Shelley Silas who has written numerous plays for radio and the stage and John Tydeman, who used to be Head of Radio Drama at the BBC and played a key role radio drama there for nearly four decades.

The Imison Award, for the best play by a writer new to radio, was presented to Adam Beeson for his play The Magician’s Daughter. The judges said of the play:
A lovely, entertaining, amusing, and taut play with a mystery at its heart and wonderfully light characterisation. It travels skilfully in time, making excellent use of radio in its storytelling and plays, as stage magic often does, with notions of what is real and what we choose to believe.
The Imison Award is judged by the Society of Authors’ Broadcasting Committee, led by David Docherty. Adam was awarded a prize of £1500, which was donated by the Peggy Ramsay Foundation. The Magician's Daughter will be repeated on 27 October at 2.15pm.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Stephen Gallagher in the USA

On his blog, Guild member Stephen Gallagher reports from America where both Eleventh Hour (based on his original series for ITV) and Crusoe (for which he is lead writer) are currently appearing in prime time on different networks.
I've just been told that Eleventh Hour's ratings increased in its second week, and Crusoe "topped NBC's season-to-date average in the Friday 8-10 p.m. slot by 23% in 18-49 (1.6 vs. 1.3) and 50% in total viewers (7.3 million vs. 4.8 million)."

Whatever that means.

But hey, maybe now I can get a meeting at the BBC...

Mellon gives $10m for new American plays

In The New York Times, Patricia Cohen reports on the Mellon Foundation's plans to spend £10m supporting the production of new American plays, following a study of the difficulties faced by new writing for theatre.
It turns out that developing plays is not the problem. Producing them is. New playwrights often get stuck in “workshop hell,” as [Diane E. Ragsdale, the foundation’s program officer for theater and dance] put it. Supporting playwrights directly and creating long-term residencies at theaters were among the recommendations that emerged.

“We are more attuned now to some of the critical issues surrounding new plays,” she said, including the importance for theater groups to develop “strong, deep relationships with artists over time and involve them in the culture of the institution.”

BBC iPlayer on Sky Player

From the BBC:
The BBC and Sky have announced that BBC iPlayer can now be accessed via Sky Player, Sky's online TV service.

The new version of Sky Player includes a series of BBC branded sections, with listings information and links to all TV programmes on the BBC iPlayer service.

Sky Player, which offers users access to live and on-demand content from a range of channel providers, will now also offer access to content from all BBC television channels.

Tributes to Pat Kavanagh

Pat Kavanagh, a literary agent for more than 40 years, has died from a brain tumour, reports The Times. She represented many leading British writers, including Margaret Drabble, Julian Barnes (her husband), Ruth Rendell and Andrew Motion, and last year she was among a group of agents who left the pfd agency to set up United Agents.
“She had exceptionally good taste at all levels of literature,” [Ion Trewin, the former editor-in-chief at Weidenfeld & Nicholson said]. “Most agents are known for one author or style of writing but she represented a phalanx of authors from Ruth Rendell and Joanna Trollope to Andrew Motion. As an editor if she came to you, you took her seriously immediately because she never wasted your time with rubbish.”

Monday, October 20, 2008

China Miéville interview

In Horizon Review, Steve Haynes talks to Guild member China Miéville.
You’ve said that you plan meticulously and are ‘Never surprised’ by your characters. This surprises me because I often feel there is something organic about your books, as though there is something playful about how the story evolves? How do you plan? Is there an element of rolling-the-dice or game play?

I have a set of images or scenes in my head in my head, or a certain kind of emotional tone which I know I want to put in. I make a list of those scenes and then I try and string a narrative between them. The characters emerge from that. Then I plot all that out and then go through it. As it changes, as I go down, if I realise I’ve got something wrong, then I’ll stop for it and cascade that change all the way down, so that I’ll change it as I go along if necessary. There is an element of, I wouldn’t say rolling-the-dice exactly, but I do like randomness and I like that kind of element of spontaneous chance. It’s quite like an Oulipo strategy where you put restrictions in place before you go. So for example, in one of my books I’ll ask my partner to invent an alien and present it to me as a fait accompli and then I have to put that in, so that sort of thing. I like those restrictions and then a lot of ideas come from … I’m working on something at the moment which is entirely pegged upon a misheard word. I got really excited about it, realised I misheard it, but decided to take that word very seriously. So there’s an element of trying to tap into those spontaneous moments which I suppose, if you wanted to be self-important about it, you’d say it was a surrealist strategy because it’s that kind of chance juxtaposition.

Re-reading Watchmen

watchmenAs Dave Gibbons, co-creator (with Alan Moore) of Watchmen, publishes a book charting the famous comic book's creation, in The Times Jonathan Ross reflects on re-reading the original.
I'm tempted to declare it Moore's most successful creation - a story that delivers as entertainment on a level playing field with the very best superhero epics out there*. But what makes this a genre-transcending bona fide masterpiece is that, alongside the pulse-pounding action and suspense, the soap-opera style romantic dilemmas and the story of some good but misguided people trying to apply simple remedies to complex maladies, Moore and Gibbons also manage to deliver a devastating critique that cuts to the very heart of the pitiful, timid male fantasy that is the superhero genre at its purest and worst: muscular men and busty women in tight costumes solving all the world's problems with a well-placed punch or a blast of super-breath.

Ian Pattinson: writing for Humphrey Lyttelton

In The Guardian, Ian Pattinson recalls writing gags for Humphrey Lyttelton.
When Humphrey Lyttelton was alive, and I'd meet fans of Radio 4's I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, and they discovered I wrote his scripts, the conversation would invariably go something like this:

"What a genius."

"He's the funniest man on radio."

"It must be such a joy to work with Humph."

"Hang on - what do you mean you write his scripts?"

"He has scripts?"
Pattinson's book, Lyttelton's Britain: A User's Guide to the British Isles As Heard On BBC Radio's I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, is out now.

Friday, October 17, 2008

What Guild members are getting up to

CARY ANDREWS wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Friday 24th October

D.J. BRITTON’S radio play Away Day is going out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Friday 24th October.

GREGORY BURKE’S adaptation of his own play, Black Watch, is going out on Radio 3 at 8:45pm on Sunday 19th October.

RICHARD BURKE wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Monday 20th October.

ANNA CLEMENTS wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Friday 24th Friday.

DAVE COHEN re-launches his award-avoiding blog 'Man Joins Labour' next week with some slightly more ambitious plans.

RICHARD DAVIDSON wrote the episodes of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Monday 20th and at 7:30pm on Tuesday 21st October.

CLIVE DAWSON wrote the episode of The Bill, Fools Rush In, going out on ITV1 at 8:00pm on Thursday 23rd October.

FIONA EVANS wrote the episode of Doctors, Baby I Love You, going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Wednesday 22nd October.

ADRIAN FLYNN wrote the episodes of The Archers going out on Radio 4 at 7:00pm from Sunday 19th until Friday 24th October, with each episode being repeated at 2:00pm the day after its original broadcast.

DAVID GILMAN wrote the episode of A Touch of Frost, Dead End, going out on ITV1 at 9:00pm on Sunday 19th October.

DAVID HANSON wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Tuesday 21st October.

JONATHAN HARVEY wrote the episode of Beautiful People, How I Got My Posh, going out on BBC2 at 9:30pm on Thursday 23rd October.

JULIE JONES wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Friday 24th October.

ANDREW KIRK wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Friday.

DAVID LANE wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Monday 20th October.

BILL LYONS wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Tuesday 21st October.

DIRK MAGGS wrote the episode of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency: The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul going out on Radio 4 at 11:00pm on Thursday 23rd October.

JONATHAN MYERSON wrote the episode of Number Ten going out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Tuesday 21st October.

GARY OWEN has two short plays on this week. Enduring Freedom is at the Swansea Grand, starting at 12.30pm on 25th October. Pete will be on at Trafalgar Studios this Monday, as part of Paines Plough's Later season.

LYN PAPADOPOULOS wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Wednesday 22nd October.

OLLY PERKIN wrote the episode of Doctors, Heston C in da House, going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Friday 24th Friday.

PAUL ROUNDELL wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at7:00pm on Thursday 23rd October.

JOE TURNER wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Friday 24th October.

American Guild disputes

Last week the Writers Guilds of America issued guidance to their members on two disputes, with House Of Payne (which fired four writers because of their efforts to organise there) and with FremantleMedia over a new comedy-variety show featuring Ozzy Osbourne and his family.
WGA East and West members may not write for the Osbourne variety show (working title: The Osbournes: Loud and Dangerous). Any members who perform writing services on that show do so at their own peril as they will be violating WGA Working Rule 8 and could be fined up to 100% of their compensation for that work.

Lynda La Plante interview

In The Daily Telegraph, Judith Woods talks to Lynda Plante about her writing career.
Lynda La Plante is merrily listing the prisons, hostels, bordellos and mortuaries where she has carried out research for her gripping crime thrillers down the years.

There was her first time at a post mortem, when she fainted, bringing down a clattering trolley of equipment as she fell - no one had tipped her the wink that seasoned police officers suck strong mints to reduce the impact of the smell.

Then there was the trip to a Russian morgue, where bodies fished out of the Moscow River were slung down a metal shute from the street, then strung up, naked, from a line, like animal corpses in an abattoir, an identifying number crudely scrawled across each person's flesh.
Lynda La Plante's latest police series, Above Suspicion, will be shown on ITV later this year.

Above Suspicion

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Secret Life Of Bees is a crossover test

In The LA Times, John Horn considers whether The Secret Life Of Bees (written and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood based on the novel by Sue Monk Kidd) will prove that a film with a primarily black cast can be a mainstream hit.
Says "Bees" producer [Joe] Pichirallo: "When the entertainment business puts forth stories with black characters, the assumption is the audience will be largely black. But there is a real opportunity here to get an audience beyond the core African American audience. And if you don't market to the white audience, it is not going to know the movie is out there."
The Secret Life Of Bees opens in the UK next week.

BBC to increase production outside London

Last night Jana Bennett, Director of BBC Vision, gave a speech to the Royal Television Society in which she outlined plans to increase spending on network programming outside London by 50% by 2016.

As the accompanying press release states:
Subject to final funding approval, the out of London plan aims to build vibrant in-house production centres of excellence in seven existing BBC locations in the UK: Glasgow, Cardiff, Belfast, London, Bristol, Salford/Manchester and Birmingham.
Casualty is the highest profile drama being considered for a move. Bennett said:
Casualty is a key part of our thinking. This series is currently produced in Bristol but will require new accommodation in the near future and is likely to move. Strategically, we believe that moving Casualty will play a significant part in fulfilling our commitment to building a creatively and economically sustainable centre of excellence for drama in Wales.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

PAWS events

The EuroPAWS Festival is on 3 and 4 November at the Institute of Physics in central London, with screenings of programmes and new media productions featuring environment issues and science from across Europe (For full listing see The Festival is open to all and free.

There is also a panel-led discussion on the communication issues at 4.30pm, entitled: ‘Images Matter’ : The Changing Role of TV and other Media in communicating modern Science with speakers including John Lynch, BBC Head of Science, Neil Calder, Head of Communication at the world’s “green” Nuclear Fusion project ITER, and BBC Factual Entertainment Producer Jack Kennedy. For the discussion please register with the PAWS/EuroPAWS Office (see below).

A PAWS Science Evening follows the festival on 4 November at 7.00pm, at University College, London. The theme is: Climate Change – Let the Science Speak, with leading women researchers presenting some very different angles on environment impact. A leading programme maker in this area, Fiona Scott, will also reveal how to reach different audiences, with an introduction from the Head of the UCL Environment Institute, Mark Maslin, and a cameo of women scientists on television.

To find out more and register, contact the PAWS/EuroPAWS Office.

PAWS/EuroPAWS Contact details:
Tel: 020 7483 4545

The White Tiger wins the 2008 Man Booker Prize for Fiction

The White TigerAravind Adiga has won the £50,000 Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2008 for his debut novel The White Tiger. Chair of the judges, Michael Portillo, said:
"The White Tiger prevailed because the judges felt that it shocked and entertained in equal measure.

"The novel undertakes the extraordinarily difficult task of gaining and holding the reader's sympathy for a thoroughgoing villain. The book gains from dealing with pressing social issues and significant global developments with astonishing humour."

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tired jokes

On his blog, Ken Levine argues that some common sitcom writing techniques are well past their sell by date.
One reason I contend multi-camera shows are out of fashion is because the joke rhythms are tired and stale. For a long time they worked, and the jokes themselves may be funny but audiences have grown weary of their predictable form...

The “No…(blank)” joke.

COACH: They call me Red.

CUSTOMER: Oh, cause you used to have red hair?

COACH: No, cause I once read a book.

The problem is you’re asking the customer to set up the joke by saying something she probably wouldn’t say. Straight man seeks clarification by asking the seemingly obvious only to learn it’s something else. Plus, it usually makes the set up person seem incredibly dumb.

Walton appointed Artistic Director of Eclipse

From Alistair Smith in The Stage:
Dawn Walton, former acting head of the National Theatre Studio, has been appointed as the first artistic director of Eclipse Theatre.

Launched in 2001, Eclipse is managed by a consortium of three theatres comprising West Yorkshire Playhouse, The New Wolsey, Ipswich and Birmingham Repertory Theatre.
Eclipse Theatre aims to develop the national profile of Black British Theatre and its practitioners.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Writing For Broadcast In The Digital Age

An event looking at the opportunities and pitfalls of writing in the era of the internet Thursday 23 October 6.30pm -8pm Birmingham Conservatoire, Paradise Place, Nr Central Library, B3 3HG

Developments are coming thick and fast in our current digital age: we have blogs, You Tube, Facebook, Twitter, video on demand, printing on demand, not to mention Listen and Watch Again from the BBC.

In the West Midlands there are a number of smaller organisations looking to use these new opportunities, as well as regional presence from the big players. Birmingham is also one of the lead commissioning hubs for Channel 4’s new Four Innovation for the Public fund (4IP) which aims to kick start a wave of new investment in public service digital media content for audiences around Britain.

At this event we will discuss the benefits and challenges of these recent and upcoming developments for writers and organisations who either already have some experience in the field or who wish to find out more.

The event is co-hosted by the Writers' Guild West Midlands Branch and the Royal Television Society Midlands Centre. Representatives from both organisations will speak on the topic and Screen West Midlands will talk more about 4IP. This will be followed by an informal discussion.

Tickets: Free to Guild members. Non-Guild members £5 (£4). Box Office: 0121 303 2323

The Writers’ Toolkit: A Conference for the Writing Industry

Saturday 18 October 9.30am – 4pm South Birmingham College, Digbeth Campus, Digbeth High St, Birmingham

The Writers’ Toolkit is an ‘industry day’ for emerging and established writers to learn about aspects of the business in greater detail, connect with other writers and those working in writer development. Sessions will include: Pitching ideas for stage and screen, teaching creative writing, becoming a business, publishing and using an agent, working with BBC radio, careers in literature development, producing live literature and many more.

In attendance will be: BBC Radio 4, Birmingham REP, Arts Council England, Tindal Street Press, Writer’s Market UK, The Arvon Foundation, The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, National Academy of Writing, Writers in Prison Network, Write On! –Adventures In Writing, and many others.

Tickets: £29 (£23) (includes lunch) For more information or to book call 0121 246 2770 or email

Walcott and Heaney

In The Times, Andrew Billen talks to Nobel Prize-winning poets, Derk Walcott and Seamus Heaney about their collaboration on an operatic version of Heaney's The Burial At Thebes - Heaney write the libretto and Walcott directed for The Globe.
Had they felt like accomplices in the minority activity of versification. “Not really, no. When you meet other poets, that disappears. No paranoia, no sense of minority. Nothing like that,” Heaney said. “The other thing that brought us together was a sense of humour, mockery and that again is young poets’ stuff. And I think there was a sense of sharing and being at an ironical distance from, if you like, the English tradition of English literature and of English culture. Because I’m doing English in Belfast and he’s doing English in St Lucia and we both know English and the English and we’re not English ourselves.”

Amazon UK introduces print on demand

Online retailer Amazon has launched print on demand (POD) publishing in the UK, reports Graham Neill for The Bookseller. The idea is to sell previously out-of-print and foreign language titles, greatly increasing the number of 'new' books available for sale.

Several leading publishers have already signed up, including Faber and Harper Collins. Unlike in the US, publishers do not have to use Amazon's own POD company.

The article also talks about using POD for "innovative new approaches to publishing" - suggesting that new titles will increasingly be published using POD.

Andrew Davies on adapting Little Dorrit

Little DorritMatthew Macfadyen in Andrew Davies's adaptation of Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens Photo: BBC/Mike Hogan

In The Observer, Guild member Andrew Davies reveals the story behind his new adaptation of Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens for the BBC.
Most actors hate readthroughs - they're exposing themselves before they're ready to, and before they've bonded. But I love them because they give us all the first inkling of what the whole show is going to be like, how each part affects every other part, and we won't see that again until it's all edited together. I love it also because I am part of the performance: I read all the stage directions, and do my best to give a sense of the pace and liveliness we are looking for. I feel like the conductor of a great orchestra. And I know it's the last time I can feel in control. From tomorrow, when filming starts, Little Dorrit belongs to the directors, cast and crew.

Friday, October 10, 2008

What Guild members are getting up to

PAUL ALEXANDER co-wrote the episode of The Castle going out on Radio 4 at 6:30pm on Wednesday 15th October.

SIMON BLOCK wrote the episode of Wire In The Blood, From The Defeated, going out on ITV1 at 9:00pm on Friday 17th October.

PAUL COATES wrote the episodes of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Tuesday 14th and Wednesday 15th October.

HUGH COSTELLO’S radio play Conclave is going out on Radio 4 at 2:30pm on Saturday 11th October.

DAVID CROFT co-wrote the episode of Dad’s Army, Uninvited Guest, going out on BBC2 at 6:30pm on Saturday 11th October.

SIMON CROWTHER wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Friday 17th October.

PAT CUMPER’S dramatisation of The Color Purple by Alice Walker continues on Radio 4 at 7:45pm on Monday 13th October.

CHRIS FEWTRELL wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Friday 17th October.

ADRIAN FLYNN wrote the episodes of The Archers going out on Radio 4 at 7:00pm from Sunday 12th October until Friday 17th October, with each episode being repeated at 2:00pm the day following its original broadcast.

HENRIETTA HARDY wrote the episode of Doctors, The Last Time, going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Friday 17th October.

STEVE HUGHES wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Monday 13th October.

PETER KERRY wrote the episodes of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Wednesday 15th, Thursday 16th and Friday 17th October.

MARK DAVIES MARKHAM’S musical Eric’s (a follow up to Taboo) finishes its run at the Liverpool Everyman Theatre on Saturday 11th October.

ANDREW MCCULLOCH co-wrote the episode of Heartbeat, Family Matters, going out on ITV1 at 8:00pm on Sunday 12th October.

JAN MCVERRY wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Wednesday 15th October.

LIZZIE MICKERY wrote the episode of The Bill, Hold Me Tight, going out on ITV1 over two nights at 8:00pm on Wednesday 15th and Thursday 16th October.

JONATHAN MYERSON’S radio play Number Ten goes out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Tuesday 14th October.

JESSE O’MAHONEY wrote the episodes of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Thursday 16th and Friday 17th October.

PHIL O'SHEA wrote and co-directed the feature film Vampire Diary starring Anna Walton which has won best film at the Milan International Film Festival as well as three other major awards. Phil and his co-director Mark James have now been nominated for a British Thunderclap award for the most innovative and interesting work in British Indie film. Please cast your vote at:

MICHAEL RUSSELL wrote the episode of A Touch of Frost, Mind Games, going out on ITV1 at 9:00pm on Sunday 12th October.

EVE SPENCER wrote the episode of Doctors, Pokerface, going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Wednesday 15th October.

Eleventh Hour and Life On Mars...USA

As Stephen Gallagher points out on his blog (see comments), last night two American versions of series created by British writers - Stephen's own Eleventh Hour Life On Mars (created by Mathew Graham, Tony Jordan and Ashley Pharoah) - premiered simultaneously on different US networks.

Up the Brits.

Eleventh Hour (USA) trailer

Life On Mars (USA) trailer

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Follow this blog

Susan Gray
Thanks to Gottawrite Girl (Susan Gray, right) for becoming the first Follower of this blog - until she did so, I hadn't even realised such a function existed.

If you'd like to join her, just click on the Follow This Blog link (top right) and sign up.

BBC comedies - from script to screen

On the BBC Writersroom blog, Micheál Jacob explains the process of getting a BBC comedy from script to screen.
Despite all of the stages, and the different kinds of expertise involved, some shows work very well, some work moderately well, and some become car crash television. The audience decides, and the only way really to judge whether or not your show works is to sit at home and watch it go out. And if it doesn't work, it's too late by then.

The excitement of comedy is its imprecision. No one can guarantee a hit, and an identical writer and production team can follow a massive success with a complete turkey.

Doctor Who scripts to download

Thanks to Katie in the comments to my Doctor Who: The Writer's Tale post a couple of weeks ago for pointing out that free Russell T. Davies Doctor Who scripts can now be downloaded from the Writer's Tale website.

National Poetry Day

Today is National Poetry Day, as decreed by The Poetry Society.

To coincide with the event, in The Daily Telegraph, Poet Laureate Andrew Motion considers the importance of poetry and the ways in which it is taught at school.
How was it for you, learning poetry at school? People tend to answer in one of two ways, depending on age.

Those whose education is a distant prospect are inclined to say the experience stood them in good stead and has since become a source of silent comfort and entertainment. Those still in school, or who left more recently, generally make a face: learning poetry is boooring.

Why such a difference? Is it that poetry works slowly in a lot of us, proving its worth as our experience deepens and widens? Or does the whole business of memorising have a bad reputation these days? Both answers have an element of truth, which in the case of the second is deeply regrettable, since it implies a confusion of "learning by heart" with "learning by rote".

Mick Imlah wins Forward Prize

From BBC News:
Scottish poet Mick Imlah has won the prestigious Forward Prize for Poetry.

The 52-year-old scooped the £10,000 award for his second collection, The Lost Leader, which delves into Scotland's rich history.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Bretons support Cardiff antique books campaign

On the Guild website, Welsh member Gwyn Griffiths reports on support from The Association of Breton Writers for the campaign to stop Cardiff library selling rare antique books at auction.
Bonhams, London, is preparing a list of more than 100 books to be sold at auction in November. It is possible, if Cardiff City is allowed to proceed with its plans, that as many as 18,000 books could eventually be sold, including books from the 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th centuries some of which were donated in 1902 to the Cardiff Library by one of the city’s benefactors, John Cory. This includes a collection of rare pre-1500 books, printed in Venice, Florence, Strasbourg, Basle and other European centres of learning.
Cardiff is twinned with Nantes, the ancient capital of the Dukes of Brittany.

Live webchat with JJ Abrams

JJ Abrams, creator of Lost and now Fringe, will be answering questions in a Live Webchat for The Guardian at 6pm on Friday.

You can post your questions now.

Fringe trailer

Monday, October 06, 2008

A Guide to the Guild’s Contract Vetting Service

The Writers’ Guild provides a basic contract vetting service for Full and Candidate members. It is run by the Guild staff and outsourced to external contract vetters when necessary.

The Guild’s contract vetting service covers:
  • Contracts for freelance writers working in TV, Film, Theatre, Radio, Books, Children’s and New Media
  • Option agreements
  • Agency agreements
  • Collaborators’ agreements (i.e. between writing partners)
When a contract is not covered by the Guild’s basic contract vetting service, Guild staff will do their best to advise members of alternative sources of advice.

This service is run at a cost to the Guild, so in order to make it available to as many members as possible, we ask that:
  • Members read the relevant minimum terms agreement and rates on the Guild’s website before they apply to the Guild’s contract vetting service. This will enable members to identify any potential areas of concern before submitting their contract to be looked at
  • Members provide a list of key questions and/or areas of particular concern, along with their contract. We will do our best to address these issues as well as giving a brief overview of the contract and whether, in our view, it complies with Guild minimum terms and/or general industry standards.
Members will usually receive comments within two weeks of submitting their contract. If you have an earlier deadline, please let us know and we will do our best to comply (although this is not always possible).

Who to contact:

The Guild’s contract vetting service is administered by:
Alternatively, telephone the Guild office on 020 7833 0777 and the staff will be happy to direct you to the correct person. Please do not contact the Guild’s lawyers directly.

New ministers at DCMS

Gordon Brown's ministerial reshuffle has brought two new faces to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

Barbara Follett is the new Minister for Culture, Creative Industries & Tourism, replacing Margaret Hodge.

Stephen Carter becomes Minister for Communications, Technology and Broadcasting, a new role shared between DCMS and the Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform. Carter, a former chief executive of media regulator Ofcom, has been made a Lord in order to enable him to undertake the position.

Andy Burnham remains at DCMS as Secretary of State.

Acting in a post-Sopranos world

James Gandolfini as Tony SopranoIn The New York Times, Virginia Heffernan considers the demands on TV actors in the shadow of James Gandolfini in David Chase's The Sopranos.
In the Chase paradigm, a show’s main character must be fundamentally evil, and this evil must undermine the tenacious American fantasy that there are morally responsible roads to power and moreover that the achievement of power is itself a moral responsibility. Chase once told me in an interview that conventional dramas reassure audiences that “authority figures” — doctors, lawyers, psychiatrists — “have our best interests at heart.” In “The Sopranos,” authority figures hate us. This kind of cynicism is now the industry standard. “Damages,” which is about a devious litigator, suggests that avenging career women are no less savage than mob bosses. “Mad Men,” about hard-drinking, womanizing ad executives, adds charming creative types to the blacklist. The lawyer of “Damages” and the adman of “Mad Men” are sinister, ugly figures. They’re not easy roles, and certainly not easy roles to play on a television shooting schedule, for hours and hours of screen time.

The strange career of Toby Young

In The Independent, Sophie Morris speaks to Guild member Toby Young.
"Journalism in the UK," says Young, "as far as it's a profession at all, is still a profession for ne'er do wells and fuck ups. That isn't the case in America."
A film based on Young's book How To Lose Friends And Alienate People, adapted by Peter Straughan, is out now.

Correction from Gail Renard

By Gail Renard:

When announcing my return to the Guild EC, due to a freak worm hole in space, the e-bulletin wrongly reported that I'd written Hitchhiker's' Guide To The Galaxy.

It's true Douglas Adams was my first writing and performing partner; and few who saw our stage revue, So You Think You Feel Haddocky ever forgot it.

But I'd like to state that my sole contribution to Hitchhiker's was, during one of our writing sessions, to whinge, "What do want to write about hitchhiking for? Just concentrate on the sketch!!"

Enough said.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

What Guild members are getting up to

SARAH BAGSHAW wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Wednesday 8th October.

MATTHEW BARDSLEY wrote the episode of The Bill, Hide and Seek, going out on ITV1 at 8:00pm on Wednesday 8th October.

HELEN BLAKEMAN has written a film adaptation of Jacqueline Wilson’s teen novel Dustbin Baby. It will be directed by BAFTA winner Juliet May and it is expected to be broadcast around Christmas.

SIMON BLOCK wrote the episode of Wire In The Blood, From The Defeated, going out on ITV1 at 9:00pm on Friday 10th October.

MARK BURT wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Friday 10th October.

ANNA CLEMENTS wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Thursday 9th October.

ANGELA CORNER wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:00pm on Monday 6th October.

PAT CLUMPER wrote the first episode of The Color Purple, adapted from the novel by Alice Walker, going out on Radio 4 at 7:45pm on Monday 6th October.

STEPHEN DAVIS wrote the episode of Silent Witness, Death’s Door, going out on BBC1 at 9:00pm on Wednesday 8th October.

FIONA EVANS’S new play Geoff Dead: Disco For Sale, about the deaths at the Deepcut army barracks previews at Newcastle’s Live Theatre on 9th October and runs until 8th November.

STEVEN FAY wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Wednesday 8th October.

LOL FLETCHER wrote the episode of Doctors, Heroes And Villains, going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm Wednesday 8th October.

RACHEL FLOWERDAY wrote the episode of Casualty, Face Up, going out on BBC1 at 8:50pm on Saturday 4th October. She also wrote the episodes of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 7:30pm on Thursday 9th and at 8:00pm on Friday 10th October.

PATRICK HARBINSON wrote the episode of Place Of Execution going out on ITV1 at 9:00pm on Monday 6th October.

JONATHAN HARVEY wrote the episode of Beautiful People, How I Got My Vase, going out on BBC2 at 9:30pm on Thursday 9th October. He also wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Friday 10th October.

STEVE HUGHES wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Friday 10th October.

MARTIN JENKINS has dramatised and produced the radio play The Last Confession based on the book by Roger Crane, going out on Radio 4 at 2:30pm on Saturday 4th October.

JULIE JONES wrote the episode of Merlin, The Mark Of Nimueh, going out on BBC1 at 6:00pm on Saturday 4th October.

MARCY KAHAN wrote the episode of Psmith in the City, Psmith Arranges His Future, going out on Radio 4 at 11:30am on Friday 10th October.

BILL LYONS wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Monday 6th October.

DIRK MAGGS co-wrote the episode of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency – The Long Dark Tea-Time Of The Soul going out on Radio 4 at 11:00pm on Thursday 9th October.

JANE MARLOW wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:00pm on Tuesday 7th October.

ROLAND MOORE co-wrote the sitcom pilot The Diary of Tommy Crisp, which is being shown at the Sefton Short Film Festival. The sitcom is being screened in the evening programme starting at 7pm on 9th October at the Southport Arts Centre. Full details, tickets and other information can be found at

CARMEL MORGAN wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Monday 6th October.

JONATHAN MYERSON’S radio play Number Ten is going out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Tuesday 7th October.

DAVID NICHOLLS’S dramatization of Tess of the D’Urbervilles concludes on BBC1 at 9:00pm on Sunday 5th October.

MARTIN SHERMAN’s new play Aristo has opened at the Minerva Theatre in Chichester and runs until the 11 October.

PAUL SIRETT co-wrote Come Dancing with Ray Davies, former front-man of The Kinks, now on at the Theatre Royal Stratford East.

JOANNA TOYE wrote the episodes of The Archers going out on Radio 4 at 7:0pm from Sunday 5th until Friday 10th October, with each episode being repeated at 2:00pm the day following its original broadcast.

DOUGLAS WATKINSON wrote the episode of Midsomer Murders, Down Along, going out on ITV1 at 9:15pm on Saturday 4th October.

NICK WOOD’S adaptation of Ulf Stark's Can You Whistle, Johanna? is touring until March 2009. It's produced by the Nottingham Playhouse Roundabout Company.

KARIN YOUNG wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Tuesday 7th October.

TOBY YOUNG’S memoirs, How To Lose Friends And Alienate People has been adapted for the screen by Peter Straughan and opened nationwide this week.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Public Service Broadcasting and the OfCOM review

The Performers Alliance Parliamentary Group in association with the NUJ Parliamentary Group and the Federation of Entertainment Unions present:

A public meeting

Public Service Broadcasting and the OfCOM review

UK performers, writers, broadcasters and journalists at the crossroads.

Speakers include: Mark Thompson (Director General BBC) and Tony Robinson (actor and writer).

Chair: Neil Gerrard MP - Secretary, Performers Alliance.

Plus: A range of performers, journalists, broadcasters and industry analysts.

Places are limited. Please book now.

Tuesday 21st October, 10am

The Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House, The Palace of Westminster, SW1A 2LW

Entrance – the Visitors Entrance (on the Embankment).


Outside of last winter's US strike inspired traffic spikes, September was up there with the busiest ever months on this blog - 3,845 unique visitors.

Thanks for dropping by.

Guild members' blogs

Recent postings on Guild members' blogs include:

Nick Elliott: How I'd run BBC drama

On The Guardian's Organ Grinder blog, retired drama supremo, Nick Elliott, explains his approach to commissioning.
For mainstream ITV and BBC1, the key word is empathy. Ordinary viewers need to identify with a sympathetic leading character or set of characters. (These are hopefully played by a relatively small band of actors that inspire loyalty and affection. Usually these actors had some comedy in them and didn't take themselves terribly seriously.) This means avoiding characters (and actors) who are cold, supercilious, cool or trendy.
Meanhwile, outgoing Controller of Ficton at the BBC, Jane Tranter, has criticised the "fetishisation around the single (TV) play" and Janice Hadlow has been appointed as Controller of BBC Two.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Alan Ball interview

For the Writers Guild of America West, Dylan Callaghan talks to screenwriter Alan Ball about his new film, an adaptation of Alicia Erian’s novel, Towelhead.
On the surface, it’s about race and sexual identity, but underneath it all, it’s about how one girl’s spirit would not be destroyed by an experience that would probably destroy a lot of other people. Usually when [these experiences] are depicted in fiction, they do end up destroying the person they happen to. I found that very inspiring and uplifting and redemptive -- all those words I hate when I hear them from studio executives. It’s really genuine in this story, not tacked on in some phony, Hollywood way. Honestly, I’ve actually said this about this movie, and I think it’s the truth -- It’s a story about the triumph of the human spirit.
The date for the UK release of Towelhead does not yet seem to have been confirmed.

Towelhead trailer