Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Is Google Book Settlement a rip-off?

In The Wall Street Journal, Lynn Chu argues that the copyright deal reached by Google and industry 'representatives' in America threatens to undermine fundamental principles.
We already have a good system. It's called the system of private property and free contract, designed for dispersed, autonomous individuals -- not command-and-control centers. The U.S. Constitution grants authors small monopolies in their own copyrights. Author market power is talent-based and individual, not collective. This class action seeks to wipe all this out -- just for Google. But U.S. law does not grant any single publisher monopoly power to herd all of us into its list.

For private gain, the Google parties now seek to destroy the health in the system that individual bargaining preserves. Disputes will be fixed in arbitration with no access to federal courts which have often shown mercy to authors. Arbitrators will be "you sign it you eat it" line-parsing bureaucrats.

Say goodbye to your rights, forever, authors, if this mess goes through.

BBC College of Comedy

The BBC College of Comedy is inviting applications for its second year:
The scheme will run for 12 months, and six successful applicants (writing pairs will be treated as a single applicant) will be attached to an existing production, and will also be mentored in the creation of original work.

The scheme is open to writers of half-hour narrative comedy, and to sketch writers from the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland.

Applicants will have had their work broadcast; had work commissioned for development by a broadcaster or production company; or had their work performed professionally, either as a writer or a writer/performer. Applications which do not meet these criteria will not be considered.
The deadline for submissions is noon on 24 April 2009. Full details can be found from BBC Writersroom.

You can read about the College of Comedy's first year in Micheál Jacob's posts for the Writersroom blog.

Patricia Parkin obituary

Patricia Parkin, a much-admired literary editor, has died at the age of 64.

The Guardian has an obituary by the novelist Patrick Gale.
A notable working relationship at HarperCollins was with Fay Weldon, whose books she nurtured for 15 years. "Patricia edited without you really noticing," Weldon claimed. "She was a very light-handed editor, very subtle in how she made you change things or see things you might be doing wrong. And she was so widely read that she gave you the flattering feeling you were in the company of good writers."

Monday, March 30, 2009

BAFTA vote - Drama Series

Just for fun, and totally unofficial, a poll (right) to see who users of this blog would choose for best Drama Series from those nominated for this year's TV BAFTAs.

Voting closes 9am Monday 6th April. Feel free to argue your case in the comments...

Response to proposal for a digital rights agency

The Writers' Guild has submitted its response to the government discussion paper, What Role for a Digital Rights Agency? (pdf), that follows on from the Digital Britain Interim Report.

The Guild's response (pdf) welcomes some aspects of the proposals and also raises some concerns, including that:
We are concerned that the idea of a Rights Agency is introduced in the Digital Britain consultation documents mainly as a resource for rightsholders that are sizeable companies such as film and TV producers, broadcasters, etc. For this initiative to be truly democratic and effective it needs to be equally open to individual creators who either hold copyright and moral rights in their works, or have assigned/licensed/waived those rights in return for monetary or other rights under commercial contracts. This could be partially achieved by involving representatives of such creators – for instance, trade unions (such as the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain), collecting societies, and other associations, but to be entirely democratic and open, the Rights Agency will need to give full access to individuals.

Richard Ford on Frank Bascombe

BascombeIn The Guardian, novelist Richard Ford explains why he never intended that the central character in his Sportswriter novels, Frank Bascombe, should be considered as an American 'everyman'.
In nearly 40 years of writing stories of varying lengths and shapes and, in the process, making up quite a large number of characters, I've always tried to abide by EM Forster's famous dictum from Aspects of the Novel that says fictional characters should possess "the incalculability of life". To me, this means that characters in novels (the ones we read and the ones we write) should be as variegated and vivid of detail and as hard to predict and make generalisations about as the people we actually meet every day. This incalculability would seem to have the effect of drawing us curiously nearer to characters in order to get a better, more discerning look at them, inasmuch as characters are usually the principal formal features by which fiction gets its many points across. These vivid, surprising details - themselves well-rendered in language - will, indeed, be their own source of illuminating pleasure. And the whole complex process will eventuate in our ability to be more interested in the characters, as well as in those real people we meet outside the book's covers. In my view, this is why almost all novels - even the darkest ones - are fundamentally optimistic in nature: because they confirm that complex human life is a fit subject for our interest, and they presume a future where they'll be read, their virtues savoured, their lessons put into practice. (I should add, as a counterweight to Forster, that I have also taken to heart Robert Frost's advice meant specially for writers: that what we do when we write represents the last of our childhood, and we may for that reason practise it somewhat irresponsibly.)

BBC National Short Story Award

The BBC National Short Story Award 2009, the largest award for a single short story in the world, has been launched. The prize is £15,000 for the winning story, £3,000 for the runner-up and £500 for the three other shortlisted stories.

This year's panel of judges are: singer-songwriter Will Young, broadcaster and journalist Tom Sutcliffe (chair), author Dame Margaret Drabble, Orange Prize winner Helen Dunmore and BBC Radio 4’s Editor Di Speirs.

The shortlist will be announced on Friday 27 November with the five stories broadcast on BBC Radio 4 each weekday before the winner is announced. The five stories will also be published in a special collection.

The deadline for entries is 5pm on 15 June 2009.

Full details can be found on the Story website.

David Simon interview

As The Wire finally comes to network TV in the UK (it starts tonight at 11.20 on BBC Two), its creator, David Simon, tells Oliver Burkeman in The Guardian about his approach to screenwriting.
The key principle of Simon's storytelling was encapsulated in a remark that caused raised eyebrows when he uttered it, late last year, on BBC2's Culture Show: "Fuck the average viewer."

When you want to write the truth, Simon argues, writing for those who know nothing sets the bar too low. "That's how they taught us to write at the Baltimore Sun: 'For the average reader with a seventh-grade education.' " But when he took a leave of absence to write Homicide, his account of a year with Baltimore murder detectives - it later became an acclaimed TV drama of the same name - he realised it was time for a new approach. "There came this point where I sat down with all my notebooks and I had to start to write," he says, "when I thought: this whole notion of writing for the person who understands nothing, the average reader ... He has to die! I can't have him in my head. And so the person I started writing for was the homicide detective." He wasn't aiming to please his subjects themselves, he insists; many of the detectives emerge from the book as racist, homophobic, sexist or some mixture of all three. "My guy in my head was some guy in Chicago I'd never met. Not the average reader. Fuck him! I want to write for the guy living the event. When I criticise him, I want him to think, 'That was fair.' When I don't criticise him, I want him to think, 'He gets it.'"

Government responds to PLR petition

The government has issued its official response to an online petition arguing that the current level of Public Lending Right (PLR) should be maintained.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport does understand how many authors significantly depend on Public Lending Rights (PLR) payments for income. The Government remains firmly committed to the PLR scheme, and since April 2008 has worked with the PLR on a number of efficiency measures to ensure that the organisation spends the minimum amount possible on administration. Consequently, in 2008/09 the rate per loan has been maintained.

It is now not possible to reopen the PLR’s funding allocation until the next Government Spending Review. Making funding allocations always involves weighing priorities, and in the circumstances of the last spending round, the allocation made to the PLR represented a fair settlement given the broad range of competing pressures. The Government has demonstrated its support for PLR and for writers through significant increases in previous spending rounds - in 2002/03 funding was increased by 35%, from £5.2m to £7m, and in 2000/01 the rate per loan increased by 58%, from 2.67p to 4.21p.

Friday, March 27, 2009

What Guild members are getting up to

SIMON ASHDOWN wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 7:30pm on Thursday 2nd April.

PERRIE BALTHAZAR wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Friday 3rd April.

TRACY BRABIN wrote the episode of Shameless going out on C4 at 10:00pm on Tuesday 31st March.

RAY BROOKING wrote the episode of Doctors "Strange Little Girl" going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Monday 30th March.

MICHAEL CHAPLIN wrote the first episode of the new series of Robin Hood "Total Eclipse" going out on BBC1 at 6:50pm on Saturday 28th March.

PAUL COUTES wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Tuesday 31st March.

MARY CUTLER wrote the episodes of The Archers going out on Radio 4 at 7:00pm from Monday 30th March till Friday 3rd April.

TIM DYNEVOR wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Wednesday 1st April.

JOHN FINNEMORE wrote the episode of Cabin Pressure "Fitton" going out on Radio 4 at 6:30pm on Tuesday 31st March.

EMILIO DI GIROLAMO wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Friday 3rd April.

ROB GITTINS wrote the episodes of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Monday 30th and Tuesday 31st March.

DEBBIE HORSFIELD wrote the first episode of All the Small Things going out on BBC1 at 9:00pm on Tuesday 31st March.

JULIE JONES wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Monday 30th March.

JESSICA LEA wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Thursday 2nd April.

JANE MARLOW wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Wednesday 1st April.

NEIL McKAY has been commissioned by Channel 4 to write a drama based on the life and times of politician Mo Mowlam.

GRAHAM MITCHELL wrote the episode of Holby City "Locked Away" going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Tuesday 31st March.

JULIE PARSONS wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Tuesday 31st March.

ALAN PLATER wrote the episode of Lewis "The Quality of Mercy" going out on ITV1 at 8:00pm on Sunday 29th March. His new Jazz musical Looking For Buddy is on at the Bolton Octagon and from May 6th will be at the Live Theatre, Newcastle. The last week of the current tour of Blonde Bombshells of 1943 is next week at the New Theatre, Hull.

MARC PYE wrote the episode of Waterloo Road going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Wednesday 1st April.

EMMA REEVES wrote the episode of Half Moon Investigations going out on BBC1 at 4:35pm on Monday 30th March.

HEATHER ROBSON wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Monday 30th March.

DAVID STAFFORD co-wrote the episode of Hazelbeach going out on Radio 4 at 11:30pm on Monday 30th Monday. He also co-wrote the radio play Tony's Little Sister and the Paradox of Monasticism going out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Friday 3rd April.

BILL TAYLOR wrote the episodes of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Thursday 2nd and Friday 3rd April.

JOE TURNER wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Monday 30th March.

NICK WARBURTON wrote the episode of Witness: Five Plays from the Gospel of Luke "Outsiders" going out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Tuesday 31st March.

TREVOR WOOD'S new play Maggie's End is being performed from Tuesday 7th April till Saturday 18th April at The Shaw Theatre, Euston Road

STEPHEN WYATT'S dramatisation of Ripley Under Water is going out on Radio 4 as part of The Complete Ripley series at 2:30pm on Saturday 28th March.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Berthoud appointed Head of Radio Comedy

From the BBC Press Office:
BAFTA award-winning comedy producer Jane Berthoud has been appointed Head of Radio Comedy at the BBC, it was announced today by Mark Freeland, Head of Comedy, BBC Production. She will be the first woman to hold the post.

Jane has worked in BBC Comedy for 14 years, six of which have been spent exclusively in radio, and her credits are varied and numerous, including – for TV – Ideal (BBC Three) and Help (BBC Two).

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

In The Motherhood

In The New York Times, Brian Stelter reports on how an idea started online by a marketing company became In The Motherhood, a network sitcom that will debut on America on ABC tomorrow - and why the Writers Guild of America has got involved...
On the MSN.com edition of “Motherhood” (since discontinued), short segments about funny, frazzled mothers were inspired by the real-life stories that viewers submitted via an Internet forum. ABC, similarly, asked for story submissions on its Web site (itm.abc.go.com) and said that they “might just become inspiration for a story by the writers.”

But ABC’s call for ideas from moms drew the attention of the Writers Guild of America, which said this type of request for submissions was “not permissible” under its contract with the network. This week ABC abruptly removed the language about “inspiration” from its Web site, effectively saying that the writers may not be listening to viewers’ ideas, after all.

The last-minute changes are a telling demonstration of the differences between the Web video world — a mostly low-budget, short-form medium — and the traditional television industry. Just as most publishing companies don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts, most TV and movie studios don’t accept scripts, ideas or jokes submitted by viewers. Unless the proper waivers are signed in advance, something as innocent as a fan e-mail message with a suggested joke can provoke a copyright-infringement lawsuit later.

Jez Butterworth interview

In The Guardian, Mark Lawson talks to playwright and screenwriter Jez Butterworth.
Admirers of Jez Butterworth tend to connect him with London, the location for his play Mojo, or with St Albans, the setting for Birthday Girl, his film with Nicole Kidman. But Butterworth, unexpectedly, turns out to be a Somerset farmer: "We've been breeding and eating our own pigs for five years now," he says. He has been supervising rehearsals of his latest play on day trips to London. Burly, with a sleek black-and-grey beard, Butterworth certainly looks the part, though he asks: "Actually, can you put smallholding instead of farm? Otherwise, the proper farmers around us will laugh themselves silly."

BBC Drama Writers Academy

From BBC Writersroom:
The 2009 Writers Academy will accept applications from Monday 6 April...

The Writers Academy is a major initiative aimed at discovering and training the next generation of writers for BBC One’s flagship drama series: EastEnders, Casualty, Holby City, and Doctors.

Eight writers are selected out of hundreds of applicants, to undergo an intensive 15-month programme designed to equip them with all the skills necessary to write successfully for BBC Drama. The course entails classroom training, lectures from the country's best writers, instruction in all aspects of television production, and direct writing experience on the four Continuing Drama shows...

You are eligible to apply if you have had your work broadcast on television or radio, or performed professionally at the theatre. You will need to send in an original sample of your writing.
This will be the Academy's fifth year. Full details, including the entry requirements and how to apply, are on the BBC Writersroom website.

There are also a number of posts about the Academy on the Writersroom blog.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

BAFTA TV Awards nominations

The nominations have been announced for the 2009 BAFTA TV Awards. They include:

Single Drama
  • Einstein and Eddington (written by Peter Moffat - BBC2/Company Pictures)
  • Hancock and Joan (written by Richard Cottan - BBC4/World Productions)
  • The Shooting of Thomas Hurndall (written by Simon Block - C4/TalkbackThames)
  • White Girl (written by Abi Morgan - BBC2/Tiger Aspect)
Drama Series
  • Doctor Who (writing credits - BBC1/BBC Productions)
  • Shameless (writing credits - C4/Company Pictures)
  • Spooks (writing credits - BBC1/Kudos)
  • Wallander (written by Richard Cottan and Richard McBrien, from the books by Henning Menkell - BBC1/Left Bank)
Drama Serial
  • Criminal Justice (written by Peter Moffat - BBC1/BBC Productions)
  • Dead Set (written by Charlie Brooker - C4/Zeppotron)
  • The Devil's Whore (written by Peter Flannery - C4/Company Pictures & Power)
  • House of Saddam (written by Alex Holmes and Stephen Butchard - BBC2/BBC Productions & HBO)
Continuing Drama
Comedy Programme
  • Harry and Paul (created by Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse - BBC1/Tiger Aspect)
  • The Peter Serafinowicz Show (cretaed by Peter and James Serafinowicz - BBC2/Objective)
  • Star Stories (C4/Objective)
  • That Mitchell and Webb Look (BBC2/BBC Productions)
  • The Inbetweeners (written by Damon Beesley and Iain Morris - C4/Bwark Productions)
  • The IT Crowd (written by Graham Linehan - C4/TalkbackThames)
  • Outnumbered (written by Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin - BBC1/Hat Trick)
  • Peep Show (written by Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong - C4/Objective)
The Awards will be presented on Sunday 26 April.

NB: I've added written by credits where I can find them, or links to credits if there are a large number of writers.

Watching Doctor Who with Tom Baker

tom bakerA curious tale from the Lancashire Evening Post:
A playwright is on the hunt for a Preston family who invited Doctor Who star Tom Baker into their home to watch an episode of the cult sci-fi series.

The star arrived at their front door on November 13, 1976, as he was travelling back from a fan convention in Blackpool.

He could not wait until his return to London to see the latest episode and so found himself sitting alongside a stunned family as they watched him on screen.

Now, Scottish writer Simon Farquhar is researching the incident for a new production he is penning for the BBC, titled Teatime with Tom Baker, and is asking for the help of Evening Post readers.

Guy Hibbert interview

On the Writers' Guild website I've put up the interview with screenwriter Guy Hibbert that appears in the most recent issue of the Guild's magazine, UK Writer.

He talks mostly about the extraordinary story behind his new film, Five Minutes Of Heaven, that will be shown on BBC Two next month and released theatrically outside the UK.
After Omagh, I was asked by BBC Northern Ireland to write something about the legacy of violence. I wasn't sure how to approach it but then came across a BBC documentary about the Troubles in which the perpetrators of crime were to meet the families of their victims. Through this I heard about Joe and Alistair. In 1975 Joe Griffin was 11 when Alistair Little, who was then himself just 17, drove up to Joe's parents' house and shot Joe's brother three times in the head. Joe witnessed the killing. Thirty years later both men were asked to appear in this documentary; Joe refused saying that "if I am ever in a room with that man I will kill him". I immediately knew this was my story and so set about meeting both men.
Update (25.03.2009): Five Minutes Of Heaven will be shown on BBC Two on Saturday 4 April

Monday, March 23, 2009

Jen Hadfield interview

On the RSA Arts & Ecology website, William Shaw talks to this year's T.S. Eliot Prize For Poetry winner, Jen Hadfield.
It's a silly thing to say to any poet, but language is obviously very important in your work.

I have a bit of anxiety about my own ability to read because I find it quite hard to sit still. At the moment I'm trying to learn to read while walking. But the flipside to that is that my appreciation of poetry is more the spoken end of things - not necessarily poetry in performance, but the stuff in books which is honest and attentive to what spoken language is. Certainly that's what lights me up. The spoken word is haphazard. It veers from the formal to the irreverent and the sophisticated to the downright childish, and I like doing that.
William Shaw has also blogged about the interview.
...it’s inevitable that anyone with Hadfield’s subject matter becomes political, in the sense that - as Siân Ede was saying - nature is no longer just out there as the ineffable, unstoppable force. “It is tainted. It is sad. It is ending.” It’s something broken, and if you write about it now you are inevitably writing about catastrophe. Hadfield sees herself as writing from within the ecopoetic tradition, but with that modern knowledge

Polly Stenham interview

In The Observer, Lynn Barber talks to playwright Polly Stenham, whose new play, Tusk Tusk, opens at The Royal Court next week.
It's so strange, when every twenty-something in the world seems to want to write for movies, to find one who wants to write for theatre. But she says her father took her to the theatre from a very young age and she always loved it. "And theatre's more for the writer really, isn't it? It's more your vision, whereas writers get sacked on films, or they have 17 different writers, and you're much more a hired hack. I'm not saying that I won't go there – and I am doing the screenplay of That Face – but I love the simplicity and kind of groundedness that you just write a play and send it in and they say yes or no, and then you get some actors and rehearse it for four weeks and it goes on. No crap about money, no million people involved, no diluting it – oldest form of storytelling in the world, you know?"

Sunday, March 22, 2009

An ER post-mortem

As the final series of medical drama ER draws to a close, in The New York Times, Bill Carter talks to some of those behind its long-running success, including the first executive producer John Wells
There are so many versions about what happened at the pilot screening for NBC, but this is what I remember. Warren Littlefield [the president of NBC Entertainment] came out and said, “We’re never going to put it on the air.” Les went crazy and started yelling, saying we were going to test it ourselves. We called NBC after we tested it, and they didn’t believe our results. So we suggested a focus group. That went so well they then tested it. I was shocked at the results. It was the best-testing show they’d ever had.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Damazer on Caryl Churchill play

Further to the rejection of Caryl Chruchill's play Seven Jewish Children by BBC Radio, about which the Guild has expressed concern, I notice that Mark Damazer, the Controller of Radio 4, blogged about the subject last week.
The BBC's obligation to impartiality is not restricted to factual programmes only. It apples to drama. That may seem odd to some - on the grounds that we are not dealing with matters of observed fact - but nevertheless if the BBC set aside its impartiality concerns when dealing with fiction we could end up with a particular 'take' on an issue that would amount to partisanship.
As Damazer's blog post points out, Guild President David Edgar spoke about his concerns on Radio 4's Media Show on Thursday 18th (available on iPlayer until Thursday 25th).

Friday, March 20, 2009

What Guild members are getting up to

NAZRIN CHOUDHURY wrote the episode of Waterloo Road going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Wednesday 25th March.

STEPHEN CHURCHETT wrote the first episode of the new series of Lewis "Allegory" going out on ITV1 at 9:00pm on Sunday 22nd March.

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

SIMON CROWTHER wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Monday 23rd March.

CHRIS FEWTRELL wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Monday 23rd March.

JOHN FINNEMORE wrote the episode of Cabin Pressure "Edinburgh" going out on

ALISON FISHER wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Monday 23rd March.

JONATHAN R. HALL wrote the episode of Doctors "The Right Time" going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Friday 27th March.

MARK ILLIS wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Wednesday 25th March.

PETER KERRY wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Tuesday 24th March.

KAREN LAWS wrote the episode of Doctors "Keep It in the Family" going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Wednesday 25th March.

PENNY LEICESTER wrote the episode of This Book Will Save Your Life going out on Radio 4 at 7:45pm on Monday 23rd March.

JONATHAN RICH wrote the episode of The Bill "On the Money" going out on ITV1 at 8:00pm on Wednesday 25th March.

PAUL ROUNDELL wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Thursday 26th March.

DAVID STAFFORD co-wrote the episode of Hazelbeach going out no Radio 4 at 11:30pm on Monday 23rd March.

JACK THORNE has been commissioned by Channel 4 to create a new mockumentary about six disabled characters spending a Shipwrecked -style year on a desert island.

NICK WARBURTON'S radio play series Witness: Five Plays from the Gospel of Luke, the first episode of which is going out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Tuesday 24th March.

ANDREW S. WALSH wrote a chapter on Writing for platform games in Writing for Video Game Genres : From FPS to RPG. This third book is the latest in IGDA’s guides to writing for video games written by full time video game writers. Published by A K Peters Ltd, it is available from Amazon and all good bookshops now.

PETER WHALLEY wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Friday 27th March.

COLIN WYATT wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 7:30pm on Thursday 26th March.

STEPHEN WYATT'S radio play The Boy Who Followed Ripley is going out on Radio 4 as part of The Complete Ripley series at 2:30pm on Saturday 21st March.

Breaking the screenwriting rules

Another insightful blog post from writer and script reader Billy Mernit, following on from his analysis of 'the genius of bad writing'. Its titled: Half the rules you learned are wrong.
Your spec doesn't have to suck. But it helps to acknowledge that it is a sell. It's not a work of art, it's not a priceless pinnacle of writing perfection, it's a draft of a story that wants to be movie. And if letting go of some rules you were taught is what it takes, to get people to see the movie you see in your head... have at it, I say. You have nothing to fear but another rewrite.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Cussler's $14 million legal bill

As Eriq Gardner reports for Reuters, novelist Clive Cussler has been ordered to pay a $14 million legal bill after his attempt to sue the producers of an adaptation of his book, Sahara.
According to some news outlets, the damage for Cussler could be even more significant, with reported legal fees to his own lawyer, Bert Fields, tagged at $8.5 million.

Total pain for Cussler? More than $27 million [including damages to the producers] and counting. After all, Fields plans to appeal the decision for his client, which will probably cost more money. Few would have ever guessed that a controversy over script approval could ever get to be so expensive.
The case was decided back in May 2007, with both sides claiming victory.

Watchmen screenwriters Q&A

For Creative Screenwriting Magazine, an Mp3 interview by Jeff Goldsmith with David Hayter and Alex Tse, the co-writers of the Watchmen film (based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons).

(Link c/o Screen Rant)

Free books on Sony Reader

From Brad Stone for The New York Times:
Aiming to outdo Amazon.com and recapture the crown for the most digital titles in an e-book library, Sony is announcing Thursday a deal with Google to make a half million copyright-free books available for its Reader device, a rival to the Amazon Kindle.

Since 2004, Google has scanned about seven million books from major university and research library collections. For now, however, Google can make full digital copies available only of books whose copyrights have expired.

The books available to Reader owners were written before 1923 and include classics like “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,” by Mark Twain, and “The Awakening,” by Kate Chopin, as well as harder-to-find titles like “The Letters of Jane Austen.”
Until recently I'd never seen anyone using a Sony Reader. Then, last week, I saw two different people using one on consecutive days. Are you tempted to get one?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The difficult second novel

In The Times, Luke Leitch considers the problem of Second Novel Syndrome.
First novels, goes the orthodoxy, are the fruits of years of thought shaped into words at the writer's leisure.

Stephen Fry explained this when presenting the Encore Award - a £10,000 biannual literary prize for second novels.

He said: “The problem with a second novel is that it takes almost no time to write compared with a first novel. If I write my first novel in a month at the age of 23, and my second novel takes me two years, which have I written more quickly? The second of course. The first took 23 years, and contains all the experience, pain, stored-up artistry, anger, love, hope, comic invention and despair of that lifetime. The second is an act of professional writing. That is why it is so much more difficult.”

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Guild concern over BBC's rejection of Churchill play

Following reports that the BBC has rejected the possibility of a radio production of Caryl Churhcill's play Seven Jewish Children, the Guild has issued the following press release:
The Writers' Guild expresses its concern that the BBC has turned down a proposal to broadcast a stage play criticising Israel's invasion of Gaza on the grounds that, if it did so, it would need to broadcast another play giving the opposite point of view.

Caryl Churchill's ten minute play, Seven Jewish Children, aroused controversy when it was performed at the Royal Court earlier this year. In an email to the producer who proposed the idea, Radio Four's drama commissioning editor Jeremy Howe said that, although he and the head of Radio Four thought it was a "brilliant piece", the BBC could not broadcast the play "on the grounds of impartiality". Howe said that "it would be nearly impossible to run a drama that counters Caryl Churchill's view".

Guild President David Edgar comments: "The BBC has a right to employ its editorial judgement in accepting or rejecting proposals for dramas, and it has a duty to be impartial across the range of its output. But to reject what it regards as a 'brilliant' play on the grounds that it would need to balance it with another play putting the opposing point of view establishes a dangerous precedent.

"In future, does this mean that Radio Four will have to balance a play critical of complacency about global warming with another play arguing that the risk is grossly exaggerated? Will plays attacking sexism be complemented by plays promoting it? Would a drama claiming that Margaret Thatcher was a great prime minister be necessarily followed by another arguing that she was a national disaster?

"There is an alarming increase in spurious arguments for censoring controversial subject matter in drama.. The BBC should be proud when the dramas it chooses to broadcast contribute to important national and international debates".

Millard Kaufman dies

American screenwriter Millard Kaufman has died at the age of 92.

Not only did he write the Oscar-nominated screenplays Take The High Ground! and Bad Day At Black Rock, he also scripted the first appearance of Mr Magoo. And, at the age of 90, he published his first novel, Bowl Of Cherries.

There's an obituary by Dennis McLellan in The L.A. Times.
Christopher Knopf, a screen and TV writer who met Kaufman at MGM in the early '50s, said that "the greatest facility for him was he was absolutely unafraid to face a blank page with no guarantee of anything."

"A lot of writers today cannot write unless somebody will call up and say, 'You have an assignment,' and that was not Millard; he wrote," said Knopf.

Minghella Movie Marathon

As BBC News reports, former colleagues, family and friends gathered for the Minghella Movie Marathon on the Isle of Wight last weekend to mark the first anniversary of writer and director (and Guild member) Anthony Minghella's death.
The director's sister Gioia, who hosted the weekend with her brother Dominic, said they were "overwhelmed" by the response to the event.

"I wanted to create something which would be very beautiful and memorable and a way of rediscovering Anthony's character through his creative output.

"The idea for showing all his films together just seemed to me to be a way of immersing ourselves in him.

She added that she was hopeful of creating an annual event in Anthony's memory.

Guillermo Arriaga interview

On Digital Spy, Ben Rawson-Jones talks to screenwriter and director Guillermo Arriaga about his new film, Burning Plain (above).
Did you make any decisions or changes in the editing room with regards to the fractured structure of the story?

"It's in the screenplay. Everything is in the screenplay. All of them have been written the way you have seen them, including 21 Grams. It's not editing room decisions, it's writing, narrative decisions. The structure of the film is exactly as it was written."

What is the writing process like for you, especially in terms of slotting the story together in a non-linear way?

"First of all, I do not map any kind of thing. I do not write the story separately and then put them together. I write exactly in the order you see them, because these structures will never work if you don't write it in that way. You have to sense where you have to make the cut, where you have to have the dramatic question. It's draining for me because I have a lot of problems to concentrate when I'm writing because I am wondering all the time, and in order to get myself right it's difficult. For example, I write from 10pm to 5 in the morning and I will not stand up from my computer until I have written at least half a page."

Monday, March 16, 2009

Ron Moore interview

For the Hollywood Reporter, James Hibberd talks to Battlestar Galactica showrunner, Ron Moore, about the series finale (broadcast in America last week) and some the issues facing serial drama in the US.
HR: There’s a push among broadcast networks toward close-ended, non-serialized shows - like crime procedurals - the idea being that serialized dramas are increasingly high-risk.

Moore: I think they’ve always been high-risk and networks have always had an aversion to it. Network executives generally live in fear, and their fear is always that (the viewer is) going to be confused. It’s unfortunate because some of the greatest shows have been serialized and featured continuing characters. Audiences of serialized shows tend to become avid and dedicated viewers interested in exploring the show’s universe online and consumers of additional merchandising. I think network executives are somewhat myopic because they go for the easiest answer. “Let's make it tidy and all wrapped-up so the audience doesn't have to remember what happened last week.” The audience is smart. They like catching up on things. They have a wide menu of ways at this point to catch up on shows. It just doesn’t seem like it's the big scary monster a lot of networks would have you believe.

Radio 4 rejects Churchill's Gaza play

According to a report by Ben Dowell in The Guardian, BBC Radio 4 has rejected an unsolicited manuscript of Caryl Churchill's recent play Seven Jewish Children over fears that it would compromise the corporation's impartiality.
BBC sources suggest that a significant factor in the decision was awareness of the controversy stirred by Seven Jewish Children during its theatre run and the fact that the BBC has only recently survived the onslaught of criticism for its refusal to broadcast the Gaza appeal. In an email seen by the Guardian, Radio 4's drama commissioning editor Jeremy Howe said that he and Radio 4 controller Mark Damazer thought Churchill's play was a "brilliant piece".

But Howe wrote: "It is a no, I am afraid. Both Mark [Damazer, Radio 4 controller] and I think it is a brilliant piece, but after discussing it with editorial policy we have decided we cannot run with it on the grounds of impartiality – I think it would be nearly impossible to run a drama that counters Caryl Churchill's view. Having debated long and hard we have decided we can't do Seven Jewish Children."
Update (17.03.09): The Guild has issued a press release expressing concern over the BBC's decision.

Guild response to Digital Britain report

The Writers' Guild has submitted its response to the government's outline plans for the transition to a 'digital economy'. The Digital Britain interim report contains a series of recommendations, including specific proposals on:
  • Next generation networks

  • Universal access to broadband

  • The creation of a second public service provider of scale

  • The modernisation of wireless radio spectrum holdings

  • A digital future for radio

  • A new deal for digital content rights

  • Enhancing the digital delivery of public service.

The Guild's response (pdf) addresses these and argues that the key role of content creators must be recognised.

We welcome the emphasis on the fact that the digital information and communications sector is one – alongside energy and financial services – upon which the whole economy rests. We would go further and suggest that with the North Sea past peak production and the uncertain future for financial services, the digital sector, with the inclusion of the important creative industries, may be the strongest hope for the UK economy over the foreseeable future. If that is right then this debate is of the highest importance to all our futures. Creators (including writers) make up only a tiny minority of the jobs in the sector and indeed in many cases do not actually have jobs in the conventional sense, because they work as freelances. But although only a small fraction of the workforce, creators are important because their output is what makes the creative industries possible, and allows hundreds of thousands of other jobs to exist. Therefore it is imperative that creators’ interests are safeguarded and enhanced – our creators are the geese that lay the golden eggs.

You can have your say on the report through the Digital Britain discussion site.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

What Guild members are getting up to

SIMON ASHDOWN wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Friday 20th March.

ROY BOULTER wrote the episode of Missing going out on BBC1 at 2:15pm on Monday 16th March.

D.J. BRITTON'S radio play Welcome to the Wasteland is going out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Wednesday 18th March.

RICHARD BURKE wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Tuesday 17th March.

MARK BURT wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Friday 20th March.

JOHN CHAMBERS wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Wednesday 18th March.

JADEN CLARK wrote the episodes of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 7:30pm on Tuesday 17th and Thursday 19th March.

ANNA CLEMENTS wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Wednesday 18th March.

HUGH COSTELLO'S radio play Smoke and Daggers going out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Friday 20th March.

LISA EVANS', adaptation of Melvyn Bragg’s best-selling story of romance and betrayal in 19th century Cumbria The Maid of Buttermere takes to the stage this month at Theatre by the Lake in Keswick, Cumbria. This world première opens on Saturday 21 March and runs until Saturday 18 April .

SIAN EVANS'S drama Seeing Is Believing is going out on Radio 4 at 7:45pm on Monday 16th March.

JOHN FINNEMORE wrote the episode of Cabin Pressure "Douz" going out on Radio 4 at 6:30pm on Tuesday 17th March.

PETER FLANNERY will talk to Paul Allen about his theatrical adaptation of Burnt By the Sun at the National Theatre (Lyttelton Theatre) on Tuesday 24th March at 6.00 pm.

BILL GALLAGHER wrote the episode of Lark Rise to Candleford going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Sunday 15th March.

LUCY GOUGH wrote the episode of Doctors "Skin Deep" going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Monday 16th March.

ISABELLE GREY wrote the episode of The Bill "Decision Time" going out on ITV1 at 8:00pm on Thursday 19th March.

JONATHAN HARVEY wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Wednesday 18th March.

LISA HOLDSWORTH wrote the episode of Waterloo Road going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Wednesday 18th March.

JAYNE HOLLINSON wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Monday 16th March.

ALAN MCDONALD'S radio play Ripley's Game (part of The Complete Ripley series) is going out on Radio 4 on Saturday 14th March.

SUE MOONEY wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Tuesday 17th March.

STUART MORRIS wrote the episode of The Bill "Leap of Faith" going out on ITV1 at 8:00pm on Wednesday 18th March.
DAVID STAFFORD co-wrote the episode of Hazelbeach going out on Radio 4 at11:30pm on Monday 16th March.

BRIAN B. THOMPSON'S new series of Trueman and Riley, staring Robert Daws and Duncan Preston, is broadcast on Radio 7 from Mon 16th to Friday 20th March.

CHIRS THOMPSON wrote the episodes of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Thursday 19th and Friday 20th March.

KARIN YOUNG wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Monday 16th March.

Friday, March 13, 2009

TV drama commissioners' wishlists

At the Broadcast TV Drama Forum in London last night, the drama commissioners for BBC One, ITV1 and Channel 4 revealed what they're looking for.

The genius of bad writing

From Billy Mernit's must-read blog, Living The Romantic Comedy, a must-read post on why 'bad' screenwriting is the best way to sell scripts.
Good screenwriting is supposed to appeal to a reader's intelligence. Be clear, be precise, and they'll get what you intend in a given scene. Your prose should be as spare and smart as a Raymond Carver story.

But as a writer who's been a story analyst and script consultant in the studio system, and thus has read something like 6,893 screenplays over the past 17 years, most of them agented, many of them since sold and developed, I say:

He continues:
The Big Boys and most of the less heralded writers who get their movies made observe a less well-known rule of the screenwriting trade: The fundamental job of a selling screenplay is to get the reader to empathize with its protagonist.
And that, Mernit argues (with examples to support his case), typically involves screenwriting techniques that so-called experts teach students to reject.

Michael Morpurgo interview

In The Guardian, Mark Lawson talks to Michael Morpurgo ahead of the West End transfer of Nick Stafford's adaptation of his book, War Horse.
Many writers have been encouraged by adaptations of their work to attempt a script of their own. Morpurgo was inoculated by previous experiences. In 1989, he wrote a screenplay of his novel Why the Whales Came, set in the Scilly Isles during the first world war. Curiously, the first word of the title was changed to When. "They seemed to believe that this would make people come to see it," Morpurgo smiles. But despite a cast that included Paul Scofield and Helen Mirren, people didn't. He says it taught him that "dramatic dialogue is inherently different from speech in novels".

Thursday, March 12, 2009

BAFTA Video Games Awards

The winners of this year's BAFTA Video Games Awards were announced on Tuesday.

Winners included:
  • Game Award - Call Of Duty 4
  • Best Game - Super Mario Galaxy
  • Story & Character- Call Of Duty 4
The writer of Call Of Duty 4 is Jesse Stern, who also writes for TV and film. Here's an interview with him on Crispy Gamer last year.
When I went in to meet with them [the developers], they had a kind of outline of the story they wanted to do, but said they were somewhat stuck because there were some discrepancies within the team about which way to go and how best to tell it. So I went home, read what they had, and sent them a two- or three-page treatment of what I would do. "I'd lose this part, I'd move this part later," stuff like that. But then I didn't hear from them at all. I actually thought it was kind of funny; I was thinking "Okay, I guess that didn't work." Five or six months later I got an offer from them: "Okay, we're ready for you now." It's funny, I've come to realize that's the way things work in the videogame world: You either hear from them a lot or not at all.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Government maintains product placement ban

Culture Secretary Andy Burnham has announced that, following a period of consultation, the Government will maintain the ban on product placement on television.
On balance, and mindful of the need to maintain public trust in television broadcasters and British television’s reputation for high standards, the Government has concluded that no conclusive evidence has been put forward that the economic benefit of introducing product placement is sufficient to outweigh the detrimental impact it would have on the quality and standards of British television and viewers’ trust in it.

Therefore, the Government has decided to maintain the status quo so that product placement will continue to be prohibited in television programmes made by and for UK television broadcasters...

We will review the position on television product placement in 2011/12, taking into account the conclusions reached by Ofcom on the quantity and distribution of television advertising, changes in viewing habits, and any new evidence about the impact and potential benefits of product placement.

Medicine and Machines

Public Awareness of Science and Engineering (PAWS) is holding an event on 23 March - Medicine and Machines.

Venue: The Institute of Physics, 76 Portland Place, London W1B 1NT

Speakers include:

Dr E. Louise Thomas
Imaging Department Imperial College

Dr Sandra Shefelbine
Lecturer in Musculoskeletal Medicine, Department of Bioengineering, Imperial College

Professor Karen Kirkby
Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences, University of Surrey

Tony McHale
Executive Producer, Holby City

Tickets are free. Contact: pawsomni@btconnect.com

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Screenwriter Tullio Pinelli dies

Eight and a halfFrom Nick Vivarelli in Variety:
Italian screen and stage scribe Tullio Pinelli, the longtime Federico Fellini collaborator best known for co-penning Fellini's "La Dolce Vita," and "8 1/2," died March 7 in Rome.

He was 100.

Nominated for four Oscars, all for Fellini works, Pinelli was the scribe with whom Fellini worked with the most in what has been considered an almost symbiotic rapport. But Pinelli also worked with other Italo greats including Roberto Rossellini, Pietro Germi, and Mario Monicelli.
At the moment I can't find a full obituary in English, but will post a link if I find one. Here are Tullio Pinelli's credits on IMDB and a short entry on Wikipedia.

Update: Here's an obituary in The Guardian.

Update (11.03.09): And a photo c/o Flickr.

Archive partnership between BBC and BFI

From the BBC Press Office:
The BBC and BFI today announced a partnership to work together to develop plans for increasing public access to their respective audio, film and TV archives.

This agreement draws on the opportunities presented by the development of digital technologies, in particular the expansion of the UK's broadband infrastructure, which allows both the BBC and the BFI to continue to contribute to the building of Digital Britain.

The BBC and BFI's intention is to explore new ways of making archive content and material available to all UK audiences, across the widest possible range of distribution platforms, while developing an industry standard approach to the management, storage and distribution of archive content and related assets.

The first stage of this partnership has been formalised by the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU), which outlines key areas for joint strategic thinking, including public access, rights management and digitisation.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Mark Ravenhill - Over There

In The Guardian, Philip Oltermann talks to Guild Member Mark Ravenhill about his new play, Over There.
Ravenhill's play was originally co-commissioned by the Royal Court in London and the Schaubühne theatre in Berlin, and was meant to be about something closer to home. "They thought I would write something about the fall of Thatcherism, the fall of Blairism, blah blah blah," Ravenhill says. "But then I thought, if you talk about collapsing ideologies, the German situation is so much starker. The changes in German history over the last 100 years are so massive; English history doesn't really have anything to compare."
Over There is at The Royal Court Theatre in London until 21 March.

Lesbian Vampire Killers

We all know how few British feature films get made each year, so what can set your project apart?

The title can certainly help. Take Lesbian Vampire Killers, for example.

According to Wikipedia:
The writers [Stewart Williams and Paul Hupfield], who at the time were both working in the comedy development team at MTV, were challenged to come up with the most commercial film project and title ever to pitch as a £50k direct-to-dvd project, starring Stewart and to be directed by Paul. Lesbian Vampire Killers was the end result.
Following the links you see that in 2006 the film was taken to Cannes by AV Pictures as little more than the title and a poster (left) - yet it was the project that BBC News website readers were most eager to learn more about.
Sitting on his balcony in Cannes, AV Pictures managing director Vic Bateman says: "It's a great poster."
Now, with James Corden and Matthew Horne in the lead roles (and on the revised poster), it's set to open nationwide on 20 March.

Julian Fellowes on The Young Victoria

In The Daily Mail, David Wigg talks to Julian Fellowes about his script for The Young Victoria.
'I've tried to be truthful,' he says. 'I've only changed two elements of fact for the screen.'

The first was an assassination attempt made on the young Queen as Victoria and her husband Prince Albert were riding in an open carriage up Constitution Hill. Spotting the gunman raise his pistol in the crowd, Albert immediately pushed his young wife down into the well of the carriage to protect her. By doing so the bullet injured Albert. But did it?

Fellowes agrees there are differing accounts of what really happened. 'One is that the bullet was fired, but missed him, and the other is that the gun jammed. But the event itself certainly happened.

'I felt that this was fantastically brave of Prince Albert and that if the gun had jammed, we would lose how brave his action was. I believe Victoria was so impressed that he was prepared literally to take the bullet, that it changed something in her.

'She realised how much Albert truly loved her. You see this change in her immediately after the assassination attempt, with her moving his desk into her own study at the Palace so they could be side-by-side throughout each day.

'I know I will be criticised, but in the end a movie has to deliver the right emotions. And I felt it would not be possible to represent that as the act of bravery and selflessness that it was, without showing the gun going off.'

4 Talent: Extra - Coming Up

On his blog, Danny Stack notices that Channel 4 are inviting applications for Coming Up, "The only talent scheme currently in the UK where emerging filmmakers have the opportunity to make an authored drama with a guaranteed network broadcast."

The scheme is open to writers, directors and writer-directors.
This is not an entry level scheme - but for writers and directors building a track record and a career in film and television drama. Submissions from multi-cultural and regionally-based filmmakers are encouraged.
Channel Four's partner in the scheme is Touchpaper TV. The closing date for applications is 17 April 2009.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

What Guild members are getting up to

CAREY ANDREWS wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 7:30pm on Thursday 12th March.

JESSE ARMSTRONG and SAM BAIN wrote the episode of The Old Guys "The Courtesan" going out on BBC1 at 9:20pm on Saturday 7th March.

SARAH BAGSHAW wrote the episodes of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Wednesday 11th and Friday 13th March.

TRACEY BLACK wrote the episode of Doctors "Road to Recovery" going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Tuesday 10th March.

MARK BURT wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Wednesday 11th March.

GABY CHIAPPE wrote the episode of Lark Rise to Candleford going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Sunday 8th March.

ARNOLD EVANS wrote the episode of Doctors "The Thirteenth" going out on BC1 at 1:45pm on Friday 13th March.

STEVEN FAY wrote the episodes of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Thursday 12th and Friday 13th March.

CHRIS FEWTRELL wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Friday 13th March.

JOHN FINNEMORE wrote the episode of Cabin Pressure "Cremonia" going out on Radio 4 at 6:30pm on Tuesday 10th March.

ADRIAN FLYNN wrote the episodes of The Archers going out on Radio 4 at 7:00pm from Monday 9th till Friday 13th March with each episode being repeated at 2:00pm the day after its original broadcast.

JONATHAN HARVEY wrote the episode of Coronation Steet going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Monday 9th March.

RICHARD HOLMES'S radio play Anaesthesia is going out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Tuesday 10th March.

MARTIN JAMESON wrote the episode of Casualty "Before a Fall" going out on BBC1 at 8:30pm on Saturday 7th March.

IAN KERSHAW wrote the episode of Shameless going out on C4 at 10:00pm on Tuesday 10th March.

ALAN MCDONALD'S radio play Ripley Under Ground is going out on Radio 4 as part of The Complete Ripley series at 2:30pm on Saturday 7th March.

DEBBIE OATES wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Friday 13th March.

LYN PAPADOPOULOS wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Tuesday 10th March.

ASHLEY PHARAOH wrote the episode of Wild at Heart going out on ITV1 at 8:15pm on Sunday 8th March.

PAUL ROUNDELL wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Monday
9th March.

SI SPENCER wrote the episode of The Bill "Matters of the Mind" going out on ITV1 at 8:00pm on Wednesday 11th March.

JOE TURNER wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Monday 9th March.

ANDREW S. WALSH wrote Prince of Persia : Epilogue, which is now available for download on X-Box 360 and PS3. ‘Epilogue’ continues the story from the end of Prince of Persia taking the Prince and Elika into an underground palace as they race to escape Ahriman’s spreading influence.

KATHERINE WAY wrote the episode of Doctors "A Life in Pictures" going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Wednesday 11th March.

STEPHEN WYATT wrote the episode of The Yellowpush Papers "My Debut in Society" going out on Radio 4 at 11:30am on Monday 9th March.

KARIN YOUNG wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on 10th March.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

UK Writer Spring 2009

UK Wrtier Spring 2009Guild members should have received their latest copy of the WGGB magazine, UK Writer, this week.

Thanks, as ever, to everyone who contributed.

Feel free to post any comments relating to the articles and interviews.

Non-members, keep an eye on the Guild website for articles from the magazine over the coming weeks.

Ann McManus interview

In The Guardian, Peter Wilby talks to Ann McManus, creator of series including Waterloo Road (pictured, above).
...she insists that the series is fundamentally pro-teacher. "At its heart is the view that good teachers matter and can make a difference. Teaching is a hard, hard job to do, you can't let slip for a second, and we try to show how difficult that is and how easy it is to make a mistake. I think most of our teachers withstand the test of scrutiny."

ITV and Five cut jobs

With advertising revenues falling sharply, both ITV and Five are cutting jobs.

Drama output on ITV is being reduced from eight hours per week to seven.

With production of Heartbeat and The Royal now on hold, ITV Yorkshire's Leeds studios will be closed, with the loss of 192 jobs. As The Yorkshire Post reports, its the end of 40 often glorious years of programme-making.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

American TV seeks new business models

In The New York Times, Tim Arango explores how US networks are being forced to change their approach.
For decades, the big three, now big four, networks all had the same game plan: spend many millions to develop and produce scripted shows aimed at a mass audience and national advertisers, with a shelf life of years or decades as reruns in syndication.

But that model, based on attracting enough ad dollars to cover the costs of shows like “Lost” and “ER,” no longer appears viable. Network dramas now cost about $3 million an hour.

The future for the networks, it seems, is more low-cost reality shows, more news and talk, and a greater effort to find new revenue streams, whether they be from receiving subscriber fees as cable channels do, or becoming cable networks themselves, an idea that has gained currency.
Meanwhile, also in The New York Times, David Carr explains how Matt Stone and Trey Parker, creators of South Park, have forged their own new approach to broadcasting.
I stopped by the studio to talk to Mr. Stone because he had some news: the two men and their partner Comedy Central had consummated a deal with Netflix to stream the first nine seasons of “South Park.”

... At a time when newspapers, Hollywood and the network business are struggling to find the future, two goofy guys who put foul words in the mouths of cartoon cutouts seem like visionaries.

Although perhaps the real prophet was their lawyer, Kevin Morris, who struck a deal 12 years ago that gave Mr. Parker and Mr. Stone a 50-50 split with Comedy Central on all non-TV revenue. In 1997, that was no big deal. Ten years later when it was time to renew, it was a very big deal.

Do writers enjoy writing?

After novelist Colm Tóibín's claim that he doesn't enjoy writing , The Guardian asks leading writers if they, too, find it a chore.
AL Kennedy: The joy of writing for a living is that you get to do it all the time. The misery is that you have to, whether you're in the mood or not... I'm with RLStevenson – having written – that's the good bit.

Vox Pops for Laura Solon

Writers are being invited to submit themed one-line gags for Laura Solon: Talking And Not Talking on Radio 4. Full details: BBC Writersroom. The deadline for the first recording is 9 March 2009.

Red Riding on Channel 4

David Peace's Red Riding quartet of novels come to Channel Four from Thursday, adapted by Tony Grisoni (who was nominated for a Writers' Guild Award in 2007 for his screenplay for The Lives Of The Saints).

In The Times, Benji Wilson talks to Grisoni about how he approached the task.
Throughout, his screenplays pick out a few small acts of individual heroism from the pervading gloom, and his final film has a coda that Peace’s novel does not — a striking shard of light. “It was an emotional reaction to the material,” he says, with a sigh. “An emotional reaction to two and a half years of being in this inferno that David Peace had constructed. David doesn’t save anyone. Whereas I needed to.”

Monday, March 02, 2009

Amazon retreats on Kindle text-to-speech

As Alana Semuels reports in The L.A. Times, following criticism by the US Authors' Guild over the 'text-to-speech' capability of the new Kindle 2 electronic reader, Amazon has given publishers and authors the power to disable the function.
Amazon made it clear Friday that its reversal didn't mean it agreed with that interpretation of copyright law.

"Kindle 2's experimental text-to-speech feature is legal: no copy is made, no derivative work is created and no performance is being given," the company said. "Nevertheless, we strongly believe many rights holders will be more comfortable with the text-to-speech feature if they are in the driver's seat."

Ben Sheffner, a Los Angeles copyright attorney and author of the blog Copyrights & Campaigns, said Amazon probably reversed course to maintain good relationships with authors, not because of legal concerns.

Sheffner said that Amazon probably wouldn't need different rights to sell an e-book with the text-to-speech function enabled, but that book contracts could differ dramatically so there was no way to know for sure.

Equal representation of women in drama

As mentioned here last week, many writers are supporting Equity's campaign to achieve equal representation of women in TV and film drama.

In The Observer, writer Amy Jenkins has become the latest to protest about the inequality.
This lack of women characters is hardly surprising, though, when you think about it. We might all talk about high-end drama such as Cranford, but the meat and potatoes of TV dramas are the so-called precinct shows - cops and doctors, spooks, lawyers and vets. And the fact is that women are under-represented in these real-life professions, just as they are on television.
You can add your support to Equity's campaign by signing an online petition.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Guild blog survey results

Thanks to everyone who completed the survey about the Guild's blog last month. A summary of the results (pdf) is now available.

The results suggest that TV drama and film drama are the most popular topics, although there is strong interest in all areas of writing.

More than a quarter of respondents say that writing is their main source of income, while a further 35% have been paid for writing at least once in the past two years.

About half of those completing the survey are Guild members - if you left your email address asking for more information about joining, you will be contacted soon (if you haven't been emailed already). The Guild website also has lots of information about the benefits of membership and the criteria for Full and Candidate membership.

Industry news was cited as the most popular content, but Guild news and links to feature articles were not far behind.

Writing opportunities were also very popular, and was the content that most people wanted to see more of. We do post opportunities regularly and will continue to do so, but there are other sites, such as the BBC Writersroom, that focus on this and there's no point duplicating them.

Overall, 90% of survey respondents said they thought the blog was either good (70.8%) or excellent (21.7%) so it seems the current balance of content is about right.

There's still plenty of room for improvement of course and thanks for all the suggestions. They included having more 'how to' articles about writing, posting more links to Guild members' blogs and generating more original content.

I'll be looking at all those things in the coming months. If anyone has any further suggestions or pieces they'd like to contribute, please do drop me a line.

The future of copyright

The Guild has submitted its comments in response to the Intellectual Property Office's (IPO) consultation on the future of copyright (pdf).

The Guild's response to the consultation (pdf) can be downloaded in full. It starts by welcoming the chance to engage in a debate about copyright and then highlights the importance of protecting creators' rights.
We welcome the emphasis on the fact that the creative industries generate over 8 per cent of UK GDP and in 2006 accounted for over 1.9 million jobs. We would comment that creators (including writers) make up only a tiny minority of these jobs and indeed in many cases do not actually have jobs in the conventional sense, because they work as freelances. But although only a small fraction of the workforce, creators are important because their output is what makes the creative industries possible, and allows those hundreds of thousands of jobs to exist. Therefore it is imperative that creators’ interests are safeguarded and enhanced – our creators are the geese that lay the golden eggs.
Each of the IPOs consultation questions are then addressed before the final paragraph argues against over-simplification:
There is a line of thought through this paper that seems to say that everything is too complicated and should all be made much simpler. In fact the principles of copyright and related rights are simple. What is complicated – and inevitably so – is the way the principles are applied in detail to different kinds of work – say a piece of music, a television programme, a computer game, a theatrical performance. In all these cases and many others, creators, their representatives, and exploiters have over time evolved practices and forms of contracts and licences that mostly work, and deal with a wide variety of eventualities. They are already doing just the same in the digital environment. We fear that a misguided attempt at “simplification” would result, paradoxically, in a more complicated and less effective system than we have now.