Friday, October 30, 2009

Writers' Guild Awards shortlists

The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain has announced the shortlists for its 2009 Awards. The winners will be revealed at a reception on Sunday 29 November 2009 along with individual awards for Lifetime Achievement and Special Contribution to Writing for Children.

Television comedy / light entertainment
  • Outnumbered, by Andy Hamilton & Guy Jenkin
  • Peep Show, by Sam Bain & Jesse Armstrong
  • The IT Crowd, by Graham Linehan
Television drama series
  • Being Human, by Toby Whitehouse.
  • Doctor Who, various writers
  • Little Dorrit, adapted by Andrew Davies from the novel by Charles Dickens
Television soap / continuing series
  • Doctors, various writers
  • Casualty, various writers
  • Coronation Street, various writers
Television short form drama
  • The Devil's Whore by Peter Flannery and Martine Brant
  • Criminal Justice by Peter Moffat
  • The Long Walk to Finchley by Tony Saint
Best feature film screenplay
  • The Damned United, adapted by Peter Morgan from the book by David Peace
  • Hunger, by Enda Walsh, Steve McQueen
  • In the Loop, by Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Ianucci, Tony Roche, (additional dialogue by Ian Martin)
Feature film screenplay – newcomer
  • Is Anybody There? by Peter Harness
  • Shifty, by Eran Creevy
  • Summer, by Hugh Ellis.
Best theatre play
  • Apologia, by Alexi Kaye Campbell
  • At the Gates of Gaza, by Juliet Gilkes Romero
  • Relocated, by Anthony Neilson.
Best theatre play for children and young people
  • Knock Against my Heart, by Oladipo Agboluaje
  • Red Fortress, by Carl Miller
  • Scarlet Ribbons, by Brendan Murray
Radio comedy / light entertainment
  • The Now Show, by Steve Punt, Hugh Dennis, Laura Shavin, Jon Holmes et al
  • 15 Minute Musicals, by Richie Webb, David Quantick and Dave Cohen
  • Bleak Expectations, by Mark Evans
  • Cabin Pressure, by John Finnemore
Radio drama
  • A Prayer for Owen Meany, adapted by Linda Marshall Griffin from the novel by John Irving
  • The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, adapted by Andrew Lynch from the novel by Robert Tressell
  • The Gunshot Wedding, by Katie Hims.
Video games award
  • Prince of Persia, by Andy Walsh
  • Fable II, by Mark Hill
  • Routes, by Tom Edge
The Writers’ Guild Awards are sponsored by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society, BBC Writersroom, BBC Talent Rights, and H.W. Fisher & Company, the accountants with many media and trade union clients.

The 2009 Awards reception will be held at the Free Word Centre in Clerkenwell, central London, the newly-opened home of English PEN, Free Word, Index on Censorship, Arvon Foundation, Literary Consultancy, Reading Agency Apples & Snakes, Article 19, Booktrust and Dalkey Archive.

Update (6.11.09): Apologies, the TV short form drama category was missing when this post was first published.

What Guild members are getting up to

JESSE ARMSTRONG co-wrote the episode of The Thick of It going out on BBC2 at 10:10pm on Saturday 31st October.

SARAH BAGSHAW wrote the episodes of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm and 8:00pm on Thursday 5th November.

SONALI BHATTACHARYYA wrote the episode of Doctors "Worst Critic" going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Wednesday 4th November.

PAUL CAMPBELL wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Monday 2nd November.

NAZRIN CHOUDHURY wrote the episode of Doctors "Great Expectations" going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Thursday 5th November.

LESLIE CLAIRE O'NEILL wrote the episodes of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Monday 2nd and Wednesday 4th November.

RICHARD DAVIDSON wrote the episodes of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 7:30pm on Thursday 5th and at 8:00pm on Friday 6th November.

FIONA EVANS wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 7:30pm on Tuesday 3rd November.

STEVEN FAY wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Wednesday 4th November.

ADRIAN FLYNN wrote the episodes of The Archers going out on Radio 4 at 7:00pm from Sunday 1st November till Friday 6th November with every episode being repeated at 2:00pm the day following its original broadcast.

JONATHAN R. HALL wrote the episode of Doctors "Family Values" going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Monday 2nd November.

JONATHAN HARVEY wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Friday 6th November.

MARTHA HILLIER wrote the episode of Holby City "The Professionals" going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Tuesday 3rd November.

LISA HOLDSWORTH wrote the episode of New Tricks "Communal Living" going out on BBC1 at 9:00pm on Thursday 5th November.

NICK HORNBY co-wrote the episode of The Richest Man in Britain going out on Radio 4 at 11:30am on Friday 6th November.

IAN KERSHAW'S radio comedy Pick-Ups continues with the episode "All Bar Nun" going out on Radio 4 at 11:00pm on Thursday 5th November.

DAVID LANE wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Thursday 5th November.

KAREN LAWS and FIONA EVANS'S BBC Radio 3's drama Beware the Kids is now available on BBC i-player until Sunday 1st November. This new drama tackles the family head on. When should the State intervene and where does the line between personal and public responsibility lie?

GRAHAM LESTER GEORGE wrote the short film WASHDAYS, which has been nominated for a BIFA. Earlier this year, Washdays won Best Film at the Rushes Soho Short Film Festival.

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

OLLY PERKIN wrote the episode of Doctors "Doctor Who?" going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Friday 6th November.

DIANE SPEAKMAN'S play Taliswoman is to have a production at Leicester Guildhall from the 17th to the 27th of November 2009, directed by Heather Taylor.

RICHARD STONEMAN wrote the episode of Doc Martin "Do Not Disturb" going out on ITV1 at 9:00pm on Sunday 1st November.

SUE TEDDERN'S five-part Woman's Hour comedy-drama serial,, is on BBC Radio 4 from Monday November 2nd to Friday November 6th, at 10.45am (repeated 7.45pm). It stars Maxine Peake and Kris Marshall and is the story of the developing friendship between two single parents who correspond via a parenting advice website.

HEIDI THOMAS has been commissioned by Ben Stephenson and Jay Hunt (Controller, BBC 1) to bring the legendary TV series Upstairs Downstairs back to life. It will not be a remake but a completely new version, set in a different era with a whole new cast of characters. She will also be executive producer along with Piers Wenger. Jean Marsh will reprise her role of Rose, the parlourmaid, returning to the same house in Eaton Place as housekeeper to its new residents, the wealthy and well-connected Holland family. A new role will be created for Dame Eileen Atkins. Filming begins early next year.

MIKE WALKER wrote the last episode of the series Dickens Confidential "Why Are We in Afghanistan?" going out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Tuesday 3rd November.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Jack Thorne wins Best British Newcomer at London Film Festival

Congratulations to Guild member Jack Thorne who has won the Best British Newcomer award at the BFI 53rd London Film Festival for his script for The Scouting Book For Boys.

You can read Jack's notes about the film on the Film4 website. A release date for the film has not yet been announced.

Thomas Turgoose in The Scouting Book For Boys

Norman Painting 1924-2009

Norman Painting, who played Phil Archer in the BBC radio soap The Archers, has died at the age of 85. As BBC News reports, as well as being an actor, Painting also wrote for the series "under the pen name Bruno Milna, and was responsible for more than 1,100 episodes, receiving a Writer's Guild Award in 1967."

There are obituaries in The Guardian, The Telegraph and by Jenny Booth in The Times.
The show’s editor, Vanessa Whitburn, described Mr Painting as a consummate professional.

“Under his sure hand, Phil graduated seamlessly from young romantic hero to serious farmer and father - holding Brookfield together in good times and bad, handing over the farm to eldest son David in 2001," she said.

“Norman then gave us the delighted grandfather; enjoying astronomy with Daniel, music with Pip and finally always there when needed to give advice about farming methods of the past to son David.

“Norman always wanted to remain working on The Archers until he died - and I am delighted and proud of him that he achieved his wish.”

Ben Stephenson on drama series

In Broadcast, Ben Stephenson, controller of BBC drama commissioning, says that drama series are undervalued.
I worry that there is residual snobbery in the UK surrounding drama series. That somehow making something that is there to entertain isn’t quite good enough. The best of entertainment isn’t fluffy, silly or undercooked - the best entertainment is innovative, authored, intelligent, shocking and emotional.

I believe the writers and directors in this country are world class. Across the networks, they are already producing some of the finest series we have ever seen. But I feel we can all do more to foster an environment in which multi-episodic television is king.

Screenwriters Festival: Day Four

By Piers Beckley

And to finish with, some thoughts on the fourth day of this year's screenwriters festival. (Or conference, if you prefer.)

While there are always going to be talks which aren't aimed at your skill level - there's no real point in someone with a few pieces of work behind them going to the sessions aimed at first-time writers - there are four concurrent streams throughout the day, so there should always be something interesting going on for you to check out.

It can be a little intimidating for first-timers, especially if you don't know anyone else here. But the writers are a friendly bunch, and it's easy to get chatting to someone in the tea queue. After all, you already know that you have a lot in common.

Over lunch, many of the guests volunteer to sit in the canteen for something called a scriptbites session, where anyone can gather round the table with them for an open and informal Q&A - no stuffy lecture halls, no waiting-for-the-mike-to-get-to-you, just honest answers to questions about the business.

Over the last few days I've listened to Ben Stephenson, Phil Collinson, Bob Baker, and others give their time and advice generously to help new and emerging screenwriters during these sessions - and there were many more people who I would have liked to listen to that I just didn't have time to see.

The Screenwriters' Festival plays a vital role in finding out what's going on in the UK writing community - and in helping you to reconnect with friends and colleagues both old and new.

See you here next year.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Screenwriters Festival: Day Three

By Piers Beckley

A very BBC-centric day today, with Ben Stephenson, Christine Langan and Kate Harwood all dropping in to give talks and Q&As.

Ben answered one particular question from the floor to which I've never had a satisfactory explanation - until now. That's: Why don't we have longer runs of UK drama series?

As usual, it comes down to money. A 13- or 22-part US series is deficit-financed. What that means is that for the (say) 4 million dollars that it costs to make an episode of a US drama, half is paid for by the channel, and half is paid for by the studio making the drama.

So the studio loses money on every single episode that they make, and the only way this loss can be recovered is if the series runs for a hundred episodes - at which point it can be sold into syndication. It says a lot about the cash available from syndication that they'll more than make their money back if this happens.

But the broadcasters here can't fully-finance such long runs, and no studio here has pockets deep enough to deficit finance. So it looks as if six and eight episode series will be the standard in the UK for some time to come.

The most popular past-time among the writers here at the moment is speed-dating. Not each other (amusing though that would be) but producers and agents. Most everyone who asked to be on the speed-dating has been assigned three people who will hopefully be able to move their projects along. Just as in the ordinary-dating equivalent they have to sit at a table, try to impress the person on the other side in less than five minutes, and then move swiftly on to their next person when their time is up.

Everyone I've spoken to so far has said that despite their initial nervousness they've managed to make at least one good connection with their dates, and several have been asked to pass on their scripts.

And like any dating, we'll see over the next weeks or years how many of these relationships last.

Imison and Tinniswood Radio Award winners

The Writers' Guild and the Society of Authors have announced the results of the 2009 Imison and Tinniswood Radio Awards:
  • The Tinniswood Award Winner (for the best original radio drama script broadcast during 2008) - Goldfish Girl by Peter Souter, produced by Gordon House for BBC Radio Drama.
  • The Tinniswood Award Highly Recommended - Far North by Louis Nowra, produced by Judith Kampfner, Corporation For Independent Media
  • The Imison Award Winner (for the best original radio drama script by a writer new to radio, broadcast during 2008) - Girl From Mars by Lucy Caldwell, produced by Anne Simpson for BBC Northern Ireland
Awards of £1,500 (sponsored by the ALCS and The Peggy Ramsay Foundation) and digital radios (donated by PURE) were presented to the two winning writers by film director and writer Mike Hodges at a ceremony in London last night.

Girl from Mars was Lucy Caldwell's first radio play. As a playwright she has won the George Devine Award 2006 and as a novelist she was shortlisted for the inaugural EDS Dylan Thomas Prize.

Peter Souter was formally the Worldwide Creative Director of one of the biggest advertising agencies in Britain. Goldfish Girl was his second radio play.

A number of the winning and shortlisted plays will be repeated in the Afternoon Play slot on Radio 4 in the week beginning 23 November. All the plays will receive a further broadcast on BBC7 over January 2010.

Working With Writers - a good practice guide for TV programme makers

Gail Renard, Chair of the Guild's TV Committee, introduces a new publication

In response to our members’ many problems and queries, the Guild is proud to launch, Working With Writers (pdf), our new good practice guide for TV programme makers.

It can be seen as a companion piece to Making Film (pdf), the good practice guide recently produced by the Guild's Film Committee, but the problems in our two industries are very different.

Television production and its personnel are constantly changing and it’s imperative we’re all singing from the same hymn sheet. The guide was compiled by the Television Committee over the course of a year (for which many thanks) and follows the fine example set by Tony Read in his original guide of more than 20 years ago.

The new version explains what members can expect every step of the way of the production process. It also advises how TV production personnel should work with writers, so there can be reasonable expectations on both sides... though writers should always remember that professionalism is a two-way street.

The Good Practice Guide is just that and covers everything from a writer’s first ideas, to progressing to treatments, outlines and scripts. It also advises on commissions, rewrites and, importantly, explains when you should be paid (or sadly not.) It outlines the writer’s role in production and post-production, including screenings and awards ceremonies, though it’s up to members to write their acceptance speeches themselves.

The Guild asks that everyone, both writers and all production personnel, read and respect our new TV Guide. Our common goal, as always, is to make the best television programmes possible and to enjoy the journey along the way. We’re hoping the new Guide makes that easier.
Article published: 28.10.2009

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Screenwriters Festival: Day Two

By Piers Beckley

Yesterday I looked mostly at the craft and networking aspects of a festival. But for screenwriters there's another part to this equation that novelists and poets, for the most part, don't have to worry so much about: getting hold of the money required to put your film into production.

Fortunately here at Cheltenham there's also a business track. So today I've mostly been going to seminars and talks about the business end of screenwriting from producers (who'll make your film) and sales agents (who go out and sell it to different countries across the world) to find out what the current state of the market is.

The current recession means that things are particularly difficult for straight dramas. For a drama to sell right now you're going to need A-list stars, a great director, and a great writer. Preferably award-winning.

And even those are difficult to sell at the moment. Passion projects are being deferred right now until the market improves.

What is selling are genre pieces. Comedies, Thrillers, Horror, Romcom, Action-Adventure. Something that it's easy to find on the DVD shelves or in a category at the online retailers.

The cycle will turn, of course, and it'll be easier to make the odd pieces, and the downbeat pieces, and the straight dramas.

But right now the advice for a piece of writing you're trying to sell is: know what your film is about, and what genre it's in. And make sure it's a bulletproof piece of writing for that genre.

BAFTA Children's Awards nominations

Nominations have been announced for the 2009 BAFTA Children's Awards.

The nominees in the Writer category are:
  • Helen Blakeman – Dustbin Baby (Kindle Entertainment Ltd/CBBC)
  • Phil Hall, Neville Astley, Mark Baker – Peppa Pig (Astley Baker Davies/E1 Kids/Channel Five/Nick Jr)
  • Ross Lee, James Defrond – Ross Lee’s Ghoulies (Running Bare/Nickelodeon UK)
  • The Writing Team - Horrible Histories (Lion Television/CBBC)
The Awards will be presented on Sunday 29 November.

Update (30.10.2009): Among the nominees is Guild member Myles McLeod who, along with his animator brother Greg (as The Brothers McLeod), has been shortlisted in two categories for the work they did with the Tate.

Sam Lavender to head Film4 development

From Broadcast:
Film4 has promoted Sam Lavender to head of development. He replaces Katherine Butler, who was promoted to senior commissioning executive in September.

Eisner sees future online

In Variety, Cynthia Littleton reports on former Disney boss Michael Eisner's plans to produce content exclusively online.
"We’re going to put the foot to the metal. We’re trying to show that high-quality content with a promotable hook can get an audience on the Web," Eisner told Daily Variety. "If you can get an audience, you can get advertisers. I think the big upside in the entertainment business in the future is probably not the movie business or other existing businesses. I think it’s going to be story-driven content delivered through the Internet."

Monday, October 26, 2009

Screenwriters Festival: Day One

By Piers Beckley

The screenwriters' festival is being held in a new venue this year, but despite that the red-shirted runners were able to direct people around the place without one single monster-related incident. Which is rare, as connoisseurs will know.

In a way the word "festival" is a bit of a misnomer, suggesting screenings and awards - or, if you prefer, drugs and lasers - but what it really is, is a four-day screenwriting conference.

Which is actually a lot more useful to a writer.

This year there are more than a hundred speakers over the four days. There are panels, lectures, launches (such as the Guild's own good practice guide for screenwriters - more of which anon) and networking both formal and informal.

There are two main reasons for coming to any conference, whether it's for science, art, literature, barbering (according to our taxi driver last night, Cheltenham recently hosted a barbers' conference), or screenwriting.

One is to find out best practice and news - that's mostly covered by the lectures.

The second is networking. And contrary to what many people believe, networking isn't trying to find someone with money and pushing your masterpiece into their hands - it's learning craft from those further along than you, and talking about it with other people at the same level you are, whether that's someone with a dozen credits or someone who's only just set pen to paper.

That's what really happens at a conference of any sort, whether it's for science, art, literature, barbering, or screenwriting. Talking with people you know and don't know in the gaps between lectures, and in the pub after the day is over, about your work, and theirs, and what's going on in the world in which you all work.

And it's those conversations that make an event like this worth coming to.

Digital Theatre launches download site

As Alistair Smith reports in The Stage, a new website, Digital Theatre:
...will see full length versions of stage shows filmed in high definition using multiple camera angles made available to download and keep at the cost of £8.99 each. The films will be copy protected and only be playable through specific software which is free to download from the site.
A partnership between a number of leading British theatre companies, Digital Theatre's first offering is the English Touring Theatre company's Far From The Madding Crowd, adapted by Mark Healy from the novel by Thomas Hardy. New, original work will also feature.

It seems an interesting initiative, although it's annoying (and surprising) that the website is all in flash.

Google on track to dominate online video ads

In Broadcast, Michael Comish suggests that, following a new deal with Channel 4 and the launch of an auction-based sales model, Google is set to dominate the market for online video advertising.
At its core, Google is an advertising company and it has successfully dominated paid search advertising in almost every market where it competes. Going forward, it intends to dominate online video advertising as well. The strategy is all too familiar: build an advertising product where people bid for words associated with video programming by taking your existing, hugely successful search technology and modifying it to create a unique product for video ads. Build a large market share and you will not only drive up the price people will pay for the adverts, but also dictate the terms of how the revenue is shared with programme makers. By so doing, you will capture the majority of the value in an online video advertising market, which is estimated to reach £4b+ by 2013 in the US alone.

Friday, October 23, 2009

What Guild members are getting up to

PAUL ALEXANDER wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Wednesday 28th October.

JADEN CLARK wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 7:30pm on Tuesday 27th October.

PAUL COATES wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Wednesday 28th October.

TIM DYNEVOR wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 8:00pm on Thursday 29th October.

CAROLINE HARRINGTON wrote the episodes of The Archers going out on Radio 4 at 7:00pm from Sunday 25th till Friday 30th October with each episode being repeated at 2:00pm the day following it's original broadcast.

VICKY IRELAND has won a place as one of five international playwright observers to be invited to The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts 11th New Visions/New Voices festival to be held in Washington DC in May 2010. This is a biennial workshop and festival dedicated to developing new plays and musicals written for young people and their families.

ROB JOHNSTON has written and produced the play Human Habitation which is on at Studio Salford (Salford, Manchester) from 4th-7th Nov at 8PM.

JOHN KERR wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Thursday 29th October.

IAN KERSHAW wrote the episode of Pick-Ups "Stags and Bucks" going out on Radio 4 at 11:00pm on Thursday 29th October.

DARAN LITTLE wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Wednesday 28th October.

P.G. MORGAN'S radio play Lifeline is going out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Monday 26th October.

JESSE O'MAHONEY wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Tuesday 27th October.

JULIAN PERKINS wrote the episode of The Bill "Show of Force" going out on ITV1 at 9:00pm on Thursday 29th October.

MARK RAVENHILL's new play, Nation, an adaptation of Terry Pratchett's coming-of-age novel about two teenage castaways in 1860 who must forge a new nation will be played at the National Theatre's Olivier Theatre from 11 November - 21 February 2010. Now booking: 0844 847 2270

CHRISTOPHER REASON wrote the episodes of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 7:30pm on Thursday 29th and at 8:00pm on Friday 30th October.

HEATHER ROBSON wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Monday 26th October.

STEPHEN RUSSELL wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Monday 26th October.

PATREA SMALLACOMBE wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Monday 26th October.

CHRIS THOMPSON wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Thursday 29th October.

JOE TURNER wrote the episodes of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm and 8:30pm on Friday 30th October.

NICK WARBURTON wrote the episode of Holby City "Myself, Coming Back" going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Tuesday 27th October.

PETER WHALLEY wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Monday 26th October.

JOY WILKINSON wrote the episode of Doctors "Slice of Life" going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Tuesday 27th October.

KARIN YOUNG wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Monday 26th October.

Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary

If you've got a big enough stocking to hang up, and Santa can afford the £250 price tag (it's a bit less if he uses Amazon), you might want to put in a Christmas request for the new Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary.

It's the largest thesaurus in the world and the first historical thesaurus for any of the world's languages. It provides a "complete sense inventory for English from Old English to the present day, based on the Oxford English Dictionary".

In The Telegraph, Henry Hitchings pays tribute to "a monumental feat of scholarship":
The work enables microscopic study of almost all our recorded vocabulary. We see words not in isolation, but through their relationships. To quote the linguist David Crystal: "The OED gave us individual trees, but never a sight of the whole forest or helpful pathways through it. The Thesaurus does precisely that."
On BBC News, Professor Christian Kay, 69, one of four co-editors, explains that she began working on the book in the late 1960s when she was 27.
"We include obsolete words which are no longer in use or are only found in very special contexts.

"Words have different survival rates, so there are maybe 7,000 words which have been in English since the very early days and there are other words that maybe only lasted for a few years."

...Broadcaster and novelist, Melvyn Bragg said: "The Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary will be outstanding and indispensable and so much fun.

"Who would have thought that 'Smacker' - one who gives loud kisses- came in 1611 at the same time as the first King James Bible."

E20 - EastEnders online

From the BBC Press Office:
EastEnders is set to venture beyond the television screen as Walford takes a big step into the wider world of the web with its first online spin-off series next year.

BBC Vision Multiplatform has commissioned the EastEnders online spin-off to go live in January 2010 in the run-up to EastEnders celebrating its 25th anniversary on February 19th.

As part of the BBC's drive to develop and nurture new talent, EastEnders: E20 has been written by 13 new London writers aged between 17 and 22 who attended a summer school where they created and wrote the online drama.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ali Taylor wins Meyer-Whitworth Award

From Lalayn Baluch in The Stage:
Ali Taylor has won the 18th annual Meyer-Whitworth Award for his new play Cotton Wool, which premiered at Theatre 503 in April 2008.

The former journalist was presented with a cheque for £10,000 by award judge and Chichester Festival Theatre artistic director Jonathan Church, at a presentation ceremony today at the National Theatre.

Accepting the award, Taylor paid tribute to Theatre 503 for “promoting the next generation of writers”.
The award is for a playwright who has had no more than two plays produced professionally.

Allen named C4 comedy boss

From Lisa Campbell in Broadcast:
Channel 4 has promoted commissioning editor Shane Allen to head of comedy and acting head of entertainment.

He will report to Julian Bellamy, head of C4, who decided to split the roles when former comedy and entertainment head Andrew Newman moved to Objective Productions last week.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Writing Film - a good practice guide

A new good practice guide for screenwriters (pdf) produced by the Writers' Guild and to be launched at this year’s Screenwriters’ Festival, calls for writers and producers to be partners not enemies.

The comprehensive 'how-to' document aims to bridge the gap between the art and the business of screenwriting. It stresses that to be a success in the industry you need more than just a great script. Careful collaboration with other key players is imperative to ensure a script’s successful completion and financial viability.

“With this Guide, we’re encouraging screenwriters to roll up their sleeves and get involved”, says Olivia Hetreed, the screenwriter behind Girl with a Pearl Earring, and Chair of the Guild's Film Committee. “It's not enough to be good at writing scripts to be successful in the industry. In order to see your work through from first draft to completed film, and be appropriately acknowledged for your involvement, you need to know the business and build strong working relationships."

You can read more about the guide on the Writers' Guild website.

Update (23.10.09): Coverage on

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Countdown to the Screenwriters’ Festival 2009

This year’s Screenwriters’ Festival in Cheltenham will be getting underway next Monday 26th October and, at time of writing, there are still some tickets remaining.

Speakers will include screenwriting heavyweights Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire), Catherine Johnson (Mamma Mia), James Schamus (Brokeback Mountain), Armando Iannucci (In the Loop), Mark Tonderai (Hush), Ashley Pharoah (Life on Mars), as well as a whole host of writers and producers from decades of Dr Who.

The festival will bring together the figures and organisations responsible for commissioning the vast majority of all original TV and film drama in the UK including Ben Stephenson (Controller of BBC Drama Commissioning), Christine Langan (Creative Director BBC Films), Kate Harwood (Controller of Series and Serials, BBCDrama) and Tessa Ross (Controller of Film and Drama at Film4/Channel 4).

Also in attendance will be key figures from leading independent production companies like Warner Brothers, Focus Features, Kudos, Company, DNA, Aardman, Optimum releasing, Slingshot, Warp X, Origin Pictures, Artists Studios, Mammoth Screen, FAME and Big Talk, providing an opportunity to find out why mainstream audiences get the shows and films they see on TV and at the cinema.

Festival director David Pearson says: “The Film and TV industry’s key decision makers will be joining the UK’s leading writers, producers and directors, and this year there will be more market-focused meetings and networking that will once again lead to new projects being progressed and made. With our extended public events like Armando Iannucci’s ‘Funny Bits’ and Catherine Johnson’s ‘Musical Magic’, we are giving an even wider audience the chance to hear from the world’s leading screen story tellers.”

Other highlights include:
  • Speed Dating – a unique event where selected writers get a chance to sit down opposite some of the UK’s most prolific producers and agents and pitch either themselves or their projects.
  • Son of a Pitch – ten finalists receive a pitching masterclass from agent Julian Friedmann in preparation for a live pitching competition where they will have the chance to present their ideas to industry experts in front of an audience.
  • Scriptbites – throughout the festival, speakers and various guests will be available to sit and chat with delegates in a relaxing and intimate environment.
  • Scriptmarket – 30 shortlisted writers will have private meetings about their scripts with key players in the industry.
  • Scriptlibrary – Delegates can upload their taglines, synopses and first 10 pages of a script into a virtual wonderland of screenwriting, which anyone at the Festival can browse, providing an unmissable opportunity to get new projects seen, heard and known.
  • BAFTA Rocliffe New Writing Forum – Three 7-8 minute script extracts are selected, cast by a casting director and performed by professional actors to an audience of producers, development execs, directors and literary agents, allowing writers to see their new work in action and receive invaluable feedback from the industry.
In addition, the Festival will see the launch of the Writers' Guild's new guidelines: Writing Film – A Good Practice Guide (more on this soon)

A full programme of events and speakers can be found at

FlashForward writers

For the Writers Guild of America West, Dylan Callaghan talks to David S. Goyer and Marc Guggenheim about their new TV series FlashForward (co-created with Brannon Braga).
Marc Guggenheim: We have a lot of story to tell. One of the very first things that David and I decided on was that, the more cynical members of the audience would think, “Oh, they’re going to show me the future in the premier, and then they’ll tread water for six months, and I can just tune in for the season finale and find out what came to pass and what didn’t.” So one of the very first things we decided was that we had to defy those expectations right out of the gate and basically make episodes two through 21 destination viewing. What that means is...

David S. Goyer: You burn through story faster.

Marc Guggenheim: Exactly. We burn through so much story.

In the UK, FlashForward is on Five and can also be watched online.

Publishing in the digital age

On The eBook Test blog, Mike Cane suggests 11 axioms of 21st Century Book Publishing.

For example: "Readers are no longer passive customers".

Monday, October 19, 2009

£45 Colin comes to the big screen

In The Telegraph, a preview of Colin, written and directed by Marc Price and made for just £45.
Welsh-born Mr Price, who now lives in Tooting, south London, wrote and edited his script during night shifts manning the phones at a courier company.

A friend who works at a television researcher gave him some used MiniDV tapes, and professional make-up artist Michelle Webb offered her services for free, ably assisted by Mr Price's flatmate Justin Hayley, 28.
Colin will be screened at the Prince Charles Cinema in London's Leicester Square on Friday, and the DVD will be released three days later.

More on Colin in The Times.

Bean-counters are ruining literary fiction

In The Observer, Robert McCrum argues that people with no concern for originality are ruining the publishing of literary fiction.
Ezra Pound's injunction to writers was "make it new". But if the dice are loaded, and the people who are calling the odds are not readers but marketing people, what hope for new fiction? In the circumstances, the Booker shortlist looks less like the renewal of fiction's lease, more an extraordinary miracle.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Social media contract controls

On The Hollywood Reporter's blog, Andrew Wallenstein and Matthew Belloni report on the growing trend for film and TV contracts that curb the use of social media.
A recent talent contract from Disney includes a new clause forbidding confidentiality breaches via “interactive media such as Facebook, Twitter, or any other interactive social network or personal blog.”

Over at DreamWorks, a writer’s deal cautions not to jump the gun on studio press releases via “a social networking site, blog or other Internet-type site.” An agent spotted a talent deal with a stricture that forbids bashing any element of a production with social media.

Friday, October 16, 2009

What Guild members are getting up to

MARTIN ALLEN wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Thursday 22nd October.

CAREY ANDREWS wrote the episodes of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 7:30pm on Thursday 22nd and at 8:00pm on Friday 23rd October.

JESSE ARMSTRONG and SAM BAIN co-wrote the episode of Peep Show going out on C4 at 10:00pm on Friday 23rd October.

PERRIE BALTHAZAR wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Friday 23rd October.

MARK CLOMPUS wrote the episode of Doctors "Soul Mates" going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Tuesday 20th October.

JOAN COLLINS thinks British women have let themselves go, and she wants to make them glamorous again. She recently made a documentary for ITV called Joan does Glamour to show how it is done. It was broadcast on ITV1 on Wednesday 17th October and can be viewed again on

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

CLIVE DAWSON wrote the episode of The Bill "That's Love for You" going out on ITV1 at 9:00pm on Thursday 22nd October.

MATTHEW EVANS wrote the episodes of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Monday 19th and at 7:30pm on Tuesday 20th October.

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

LOL FLETCHER wrote the episode of Doctors "The Hunter" going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Wednesday 21st October.

RACHEL FLOWERDAY wrote the episode of Casualty "Love is a Sacrifice" going out on BBC1 at 8:10pm on Sunday 18th October.

LUCY GOUGH wrote the episode of Doctors "Baby Love" going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Friday 23rd October.

RAHILA GUPTA is on the board of Clean Break Theatre Company which works with women offenders and those at risk of offending and she urges everyone to go to see the wonderfully titled play "It felt empty when the heart went at first but it is alright now" (on prostitution and trafficking) written by Lucy Kirkwood.


JONATHAN HARVEY wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Monday 19th October.

JOHN KERR wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Monday 19th October.

PETER KERRY wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Friday 23rd October.

IAN KERSHAW wrote the episode of Pick-Ups "The Angel of Death" going out on Radio 4 at 11:00pm on Thursday 22nd October.

ROB KINSMAN wrote the episode of Dickens Confidential "The Deal" going out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Tuesday 20th October.

ANDREW KIRK wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Monday 19th October.

JANE MARLOW wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Tuesday 20th October.

ROY MITCHELL wrote the episode of New Tricks "Couldn't Organise One" going out on BBC1 at 9:00pm on Thursday 22nd October.

DAVID STAFFORD co-wrote the radio play The Day the Planes Came going out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Friday 23rd October.

TIM STIMPSON wrote the episodes of The Archers going out on Radio 4 at 7:00pm from Sunday 18th till Friday 23rd October with each episode being repeated at 2:00pm the day following its original broadcast.

BILL TAYLOR wrote the episodes of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm and 8:00pm on Thursday 22nd October.

Radical TV Drama Before and During Thatcher

An upcoming season of screenings at BFI Southbank will examine "how 'Radical' drama has explored the divisions in British society since the 1960s and responded to the Thatcherite revolution." The films to be screened include Made In Britain (above) written by David Leland.

Thanks to a special arrangement with the BFI, Guild members will be entitled to purchase tickets for films at for £6.25 rather than the normal non-member rate £9.00.

The season is being run in collaboration with the Department of Media Arts, Royal Holloway, University of London and with the support from the London Centre for Arts and Cultural Exchange.

Part One of the season, which runs throughout November, offers a chance to see the very best in radical drama across three decades before and during the Thatcher years, and to assess the impact the Thatcher government had on television drama. November highlights include a focus on some of the early productions of the 60s by Ken Loach, Tony Garnett, and Dennis Potter, finishing in the mid 80s with works by Stephen Poliakoff and Alan Bleasdale and culminating in the debate TV Sold to the Highest Bidder - Thatcher’s Television Revolution, a panel discussion focusing on how Thatcher changed the television industry and the consequences for radical TV drama.

On the panel will be Michael Grade, Tony Garnett, David Rose and Alasdair Milne, all of whom experienced at first hand the changes the Thatcher government imposed on broadcasters, particularly with regards to perceived hostility to the BBC and the restructure of the ITV franchises.

There will also be an illustrated lecture in November, with film and television historian John Hill considering how television drama responded to the industrial conflicts of the late 1960s and early 1970s – through an examination of The Big Flame and Leeds United!

The season continues in December (United Kingdom! Part 2: Radical TV Drama, Thatcher and Beyond) by looking at Thatcher’s legacy and the way television drama responded to Britain at war (The Falklands Play and Tumbledown).

It moves on to examine the mistrust and cynicism engendered by the reaction to New Labour and the sense of betrayal as evidenced in The Deal and The Government Inspector.

One of the highlights of December will be After Thatcher: The New Radical Drama, a panel discussion examining the response of radical dramatists to the rise of New Labour and the changing definition of what it means to be a “radical” TV dramatist now.

On the panel will be writer Paul Abbott, director Peter Kosminsky, Head of Drama Channel 4 Liza Marshall, Producer Kenith Trodd, and the writer/creator of Skins, Brian Elsley. Many screenings will include talks by writers, producers and directors such as Ken Trodd, Colin Welland, Peter Flannery and Margaret Matheson.

The Festival runs through November and December. Full details are on the BFI Southbank website.

Tony Harrison awarded PEN/Pinter Prize

English PEN, which promotes literature as a means of greater understanding between cultures, has awarded the first PEN/Pinter Prize to the poet Tony Harrison.
In a ceremony at the British Library, which holds the late Harold Pinter's archives, Harrison delivered his acceptance lecture entitled The Inky Digit of Defiance - a digit which he said symbolised his commitment 'to a vote in favour of the dumb or the silenced being given a voice, of totally free speech'.

Following the economium delivered by Nicholas Hytner, Artistic Director of the National Theatre, Lady Antonia Fraser, Harold Pinter's widow, spoke movingly about her husband's commitment to English PEN and his love of prizes, which she said he described as 'salutations to literature'. She said there could be a no more fitting first recipient of this prize in her husband's memory, before presenting Tony Harrison with a framed cartoon featuring Harold Pinter, drawn by Steve Bell on the occasion of Pinter winning the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Channel 4's YouTube deal

From Mark Sweney in Media Guardian:
Channel 4 has signed a landmark deal with YouTube, becoming the first broadcaster worldwide to make full-length TV shows such as Skins, Hollyoaks and Peep Show available to users of the Google-owned video-sharing website.

The deal, which has been under negotiation for the last six months, will see Channel 4 make its existing 4oD online video catch-up service available via YouTube shortly after shows have aired on TV.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

US Guild's seminar for war veterans

In The New York Times, Michael Cieply reports on a seminar for war veterans run by the Writers Guild of America, East Foundation.
The meetings grew from an effort by guild writers to get in touch with what Tom Fontana, president of the foundation, likes to call “America’s stories.” The plan is to train those who wish to write — with no vetting for talent or professional ambition — in settings far from the entertainment corridors of New York and Los Angeles.

Speaking briefly before the latest workshop began on Friday, Mr. [playwright, Michael] Fontana, a writer-producer on “The Philanthropist,” “Oz” and other series, said that Mr. Weller had urged the foundation to begin with military veterans. The next step might be to counsel auto workers in Detroit.

Hilary Salmon interview

In Broadcast, Katherine Rushton talks to BBC drama producer Hilary Salmon.
Salmon admits she looks at Channel 4’s Coming Up strand with envy because there is nothing quite like it at the BBC - while new writers can develop on continuing drama series, it is difficult for them to get their own, authored pieces off the ground. “A lot of my early work was done for those single film strands. I’m not sure something like Play For Today is required, but a new writing strand - I’d love to have something like that, something that was specifically for them.”

It would be hard to know what to drop to fund it, she notes, but all the same “there is a gap” between the BBC’s public service obligation to cater for audiences now, and its equally important obligation to develop writers for the future. Starting out is hard enough already.

Kindle concerns ahead of European launch

From Jim Milliot and Rachel Deahl in Publishers Weekly:
Amazon has given the international publishing community plenty to ponder as it gathered this week for the Frankfurt Book Fair. The pending (Oct. 19) release of a $279 Kindle [an electronic reader] that will be available for sale in more than 100 countries has raised a variety of questions. Here are the most pressing. How will the integrity of territorial rights be maintained? What will be the impact of digital editions on the open market? And how will the international selling of English-language editions be priced and released?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Watson's Wind Up open for sketch submissions

Watson's Wind Up, a topical sketch show for BBC Radio Scotland, has just started its 15th series. The show is recorded every week in front of a live studio audience and a new series of 13 episodes began on Friday 9th Oct at 6.10pm.

Though the show has a core of established writers who have worked on it for many years it does have an open submission policy, as radio has always been a great way to blood new writing talent.
Full details from BBC Writersroom.

Gaiman's crowd-sourced Twitter story

From Lynn Andriani for Publisher's Weekly:
Fantasy writer Neil Gaiman is writing a new crowd-sourced short story on Twitter. Starting [today] at noon EDT, the author—and well-known Twitter fan (@neilhimself)—will Tweet the first line of a new story, and fans can continue it with their own 140-character contributions. BBC Audiobooks America will then compile the contributions—they expect about 1,000—into a short story that will be recorded by a professional narrator.
Update: More background from BBC Audio Books America (BBCAA) who are organising the whole thing. And @BBCAA on Twitter is where the story tweets should go.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Phil Lord and Chris Miller - Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs

Has there ever been a better book (and now film) title than Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs?

In The New York Times, Deborah Schoenemen meets Phil Lord and Chris Miller who wrote and directed the adaptation of the children's book written by Judi Barrett and illustrated by Ron Barrett.
Soon after graduating, they scored a development deal with Disney and moved to Los Angeles. They first worked in television writing for shows, including the CBS sitcom “How I Met Your Mother.”

About six years ago, the team pitched Sony, which owned the rights to their favorite children’s book, “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs,” written and illustrated in 1978 by Judi and Ron Barrett.

“We wanted to do it as a serious action movie,” Mr. Lord said.

“Like Roland Emmerich,” Mr. Miller added, referring to the director of "The Day After Tomorrow" and “Independence Day,” “but silly on purpose.”

Rutger Hauer Filmfactory

On the Writers' Guild website, Anton Damen speaks to the writers who provided the scripts at this year’s Rutger Hauer Filmfactory for young filmmakers.
The Rutger Hauer Filmfactory is not a film school, it's a crash course. The participants are thrown in at the deep end, because it is Hauer’s firm belief that everybody has a film in them; ‘trust your guts, make a movie,’ is his mantra. The international experts are there to ensure that none of the participants accidentally drown in the sometimes immense experience of making a film with limited resources and, even more so, limited time. The five groups this year each consisted of a director, producer, director of photography, editor and an actor. Together, they managed to overcome dramatic deadlines, logistical nightmares and internal conflicts and at the end resurface with two films shot in just one week.

More importantly than the end results, in Hauer's eyes, is that they enjoyed the creative process. In order to get the teams off to a flying start, the Filmfactory commissioned two scripts by young screenwriters: Lili Forestier from France and Dirk Achten from Belgium. They each wrote a special screenplay for a five-minute short based on the pitch ‘my one and only’. Each screenplay formed the basis for the films of two of teams (the remaining fifth team got a poem to sink their teeth into), whilst Rotterdam High School students also got the same screenplays to toy with.

Sergey Brin defends Google Books

In The New York Times, Google co-founder Sergey Brin defends Google Books and the settlement with the Authors Guild and American publishers that is still awaiting approval from the US courts.
If Google Books is successful, others will follow. And they will have an easier path: this agreement creates a books rights registry that will encourage rights holders to come forward and will provide a convenient way for other projects to obtain permissions. While new projects will not immediately have the same rights to orphan works, the agreement will be a beacon of compromise in case of a similar lawsuit, and it will serve as a precedent for orphan works legislation, which Google has always supported and will continue to support.
As the Frankfurt Book Fair gets underway, however, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has added her voice to those opposing the way Google is approaching their book scanning project.

Update (16.10.09): At the Frankfurt Book Fair, Google announced plans for "a new online service for booksellers next year called Google Editions, which will let readers buy books and read them on gadgets ranging from cell phones to possibly e-book devices."

Saturday, October 10, 2009

What Guild members are getting up to

JESSE ARMSTRONG and SAM BAIN co-wrote the episode of Peep Show going out on C4 at 10:00pm on Friday 16th October.

SARAH BAGSHAW wrote the episodes of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm and 8:00pm on Thursday 15th October.

RICHARD BURKE wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Thursday 15th October.

ANNA CLEMENTS wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Tuesday 13th October.

DEBORAH DAVIS wrote the episode of Dickens Confidential "Dickens and Dizzy" going out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Tuesday 13th October.

KEVIN FEGAN'S new stage play, "Fireflies, a love story waiting to happen", is premiered at The Lowry, Salford Quays, from 16 - 31st October. It is a Lowry Production, Directed by Noreen Kershaw, starring Naomi Radcliffe and Paul Simmonds. For info visit

EIRENE HOUSTON wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Friday 126th October.

JULIE JONES wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Friday 16th October.

IAN KERSHAW'S new radio series Pick-Ups begins on Radio 4 with the episode Little Grey Cells at 11:00pm on Thursday 15th October.

KAREN LAWS wrote the episode of Casualty "Comfort Zone" going out on BBC1 at 9:25pm on Saturday 10th October.

BILL LYONS wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Tuesday 13th October.

CAROLINE MITCHELL wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Wednesday 14th October.

SUE MOONEY wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Monday 12th October.

ROLAND MOORE'S series Land Girls concludes with the episode "Destinies" going out on
BBC1 at 6:10pm on Sunday 11th October.

HOWARD OVERMAN wrote the episode of Merlin "Lancelot and Guinevere" going out on BBC1 at 6:15pm on Saturday 10th October.

STEWART PERMUTT: Following a sell-out run at The Finborough Theatre last year Stewart Permutt`s play Many Roads to Paradise is being presented at The Jermyn Street Theatre from Ocober 9-Nov 14. Tues-Sat at 7.30. Sundays at 5:00pm.
Directed by Anthony Biggs. Cast: Thelma Ruby, Amanda Boxer, Gillian Hanna, Elizabeth Uter, Jason Wing, Tim Stern. Box Office: 020 7287 2875

`A rare, real and heart-warming find` Time Out.

JULIE PARSONS wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Friday 16th October.

PHILIP QIZILBASH wrote next weeks episodes of the BBC Asian Network's daily soap, Silver Street. It is broadcast Monday 12th October to Friday 16th October at 12.15pm, with an omnibus edition on Sunday 18th October at 4.35pm

GILLIAN RICHMOND wrote the episodes of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 7:30pm on Monday 12th and Tuesday 13th October.

STEPHEN RUSSELL wrote the episodes of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm and 8:30pm on Monday 12th October.

CATHY STAINCLIFFE'S radio play Legacy is going out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Monday 12th October.

TIM STIMPSON wrote the episodes of The Archers going out on Radio 4 at 7:00pm from Sunday 11th till Friday 16th October with each episode being repeated at 2:00pm the day following its original broadcast.

RICHARD STONEMAN wrote the episode of Doc Martin "Driving Mr McLynn" going out on ITV1 at 9:00pm on Sunday 11th October.

TOBY YOUNG co-wrote and co-produced the docu-drama When Boris met Dave that was broadcast on More4 on Wednesday this week. It can also be seen on the Channel 4 website.


Thursday, October 08, 2009

Herta Müller awarded Nobel Prize in Literature

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2009 has been awarded to the Romanian-born German author Herta Müller who, in the words of the award citation, "with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed".

In The Guardian, Alison Flood writes:
Although Müller left Romania over 20 years ago, she returns constantly to the themes of oppression, exile and dictatorship in her novels and poems, which also include The Appointment, about a young woman during Ceausescu's regime who works in a clothes factory, and sews notes into the suits of men bound for Italy, saying "marry me". Der Fuchs war damals schon der Jäger, published in English as The Passport, follows the story of a village miller in a German-speaking Romanian village, who applies for permission to emigrate to West Germany. Müller's latest novel Atemschaukel (Everything I Possess I Carry With Me) was published in August, and follows a 17-year-old boy who is deported to a Ukrainian labour camp. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung called it "phenomenal, moving and humbling novel, perhaps the most memorable read of the autumn".

Hilary Mantel on winning the Booker

So, what does it feel like to win the Man Booker Prize for contemporary fiction? Hilary Mantel, who won this week with her novel Wolf Hall, told Jasper Rees in The Telegraph.
“It’s a very odd thing because you prepare for failure,” she says, “so two of you go to the Booker dinner – the one who is going to win and the one who is going to lose. And I’m not quite sure if I’ve shaken off my double yet. I’m still living in two realities. It really is a big thing. I would never try to be cool about it. You know it is going to change your career.”

National Poetry Day

It's National Poetry Day, under the auspices of the Forward Arts Foundation.

There are events around the country, and special blog posts by a variety of poets, including Elvis McGonagall
Ugly word.


Redolent of something nasty in the woodshed.

Yet not as flighty as the flibbertigibbet that is “Twitter”.

Apropos of which, a wee verse: “Frankie Says Leave It To The Birds”

You are not a digital Samuel Pepys
Nor the Oscar Wilde that time forgot
Nay, nay, thrice nay
Ooh missus, no, please, Twitter ye not
Today also saw the announcement of the winner of Forward Prize for Poetry: Don Paterson for his collection Rain.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Playwriting in Russia

An interesting item on The Guardian Theatre Blog by Noah Birksted-Breen on contemporary playwriting in Russia.
In Russia, things happen at two extremes: plays are either staged in their first draft or the playwright hands over the play and then nervously turns up on press night to see what has happened to it. There are famous legends of times when a director has cut up the play – bits are missing or the beginning is now in the middle. The culture of new writing, of knowing how to support a writer from first draft to performance, still doesn't exist in Russia.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Richard Curtis Masterclass

A guest post by Anne Hogben, the Guild's Deputy General Secretary:

Richard Curtis Masterclass at the Haymarket Theatre Monday 5th October 2009

I slipped out of the office on Monday and went to sit at the feet of Guild member Richard Curtis and Emma Freud as they sipped tea on the set of Breakfast at Tiffany's at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, and gave a Masterclass to young actors. I scribbled down some notes.

Curtis claims that he started out desperately wanting to be an actor but he was never any good at it. He seemed to have the unfortunate knack of being invisible on stage. Or being visible in the wrong way. Once, when cast as Hermione, he was supposed to be carried offstage by two actors but one of them forgot about him and he ended up being dragged off by his ankles by the remaining actor and his wig fell off. It got the biggest laugh ever and it was that laughter that made him wonder if acting was right for him.

He gave up acting and started sketch writing with Rowan Atkinson. He pointed out that around 95% of comedy writers start on BBC radio sketch shows and that's where he learned his craft. For Curtis, it is still important to insert the set-piece gags within the 30-minute sitcom.


He stressed what a terrible ordeal it was writing for Blackadder. The actors were constantly critical of the scripts. Every day meant endless re-writing. He would have to invent several different lead-ups to the same punch line. It was a very unhappy time but he wouldn't have missed it for anything. He pointed out ruefully that being successful doesn't necessarily mean being happy.

Four Weddings and a Funeral

He took the job of choosing a director very seriously. He wanted a British director with a particular kind of British humour. He studied a lot of classic British comedies and it was Ready When You Are Mr McGill, a television play by Jack Rosenthal and directed by Mike Newell in 1976 that captured that in essence for him. In turn, Mike Newell took on the job of casting very seriously and, in a way, the film was made then because each actor had a very clear idea of who their character was before shooting began.

Asked for advice from some aspiring young writers in the audience, Curtis begged them not to send scripts to him. He stressed that it is much more important to amuse and entertain your own generation and the way to find your own voice is to work with your own contemporaries. Every generation has its own voice.

Asked about his own working methods he explained his own "rule of five". On one day work on the characters, the next day the dialogue, then the jokes, then the plot. (sorry, I can’t recall what the fifth thing was!). Do a different thing every day. This helps to keep things fresh and you focus on just one thing at a time. It is a long process but it will all join up at the end. He confessed he often leaves an encouraging note for himself at the end of each day so that he will find them in the morning with a little tip for how to get started that day. It is important to be nice to yourself because it is such a long process.

Five seems to be his magic number because it is also the number of shots he take at everything. Try doing a line five times and one of them will probably be right. Five different approaches etc.

Make a note when something moves you or makes you laugh and try to find out why.

When he is in the zone he can churn out around 30 pages a day. Later on he does some very rigorous editing. If 1% of it is any good and ends up being used then that is great. He knows he is very lucky that his script editor, Emma Freud, is also his partner and mother of his children and he knows she likes him and likes his work and wants it to be as good as it can be. He is not so sure about the qualification of a lot of other script editors and is wary of them and not sure they always know what they are doing.

He finds video stores very depressing - "a graveyard of a million people's dreams and nothing you actually want to watch." He wants to spend most of his time and energy on his charity work with Comic Relief and do something about eradicating malaria.

Matthew Robinson on The Invention Of Lying

For the Writers Guild of America West, Dylan Callaghan talks to Matthew Robinson about how he came to co-write The Invention Of Lying with Ricky Gervais.
So, to go back in time, a year before your career nadir, you’d written what was essentially a sketch?

Yes, it was an eight-page sketch of two people who had to tell the truth on a date and one of them was a loser. That was all there was to it. And the sketch is unchanged in the movie.

When you ultimately revisited it, was it out of desperation?

Yeah, I returned to my vault of ideas and it was the one I was most excited about. I let it marinate in my head for a few days and came up with a few more scenes, and I came up with the idea that, what if that loser on the date could totally flip it and come back lying?

From that point you were off and running?

Yeah, and the scenes I started thinking up sort of gave me the world. It was literally the easiest thing I’d ever written. It just sort of spilled out.

So after you got a few more scenes and the world you wanted this to take place in, do you then go to an outline?

No, I rarely outline. I just wrote. I just logically tracked each moment to each moment and fluidly went through it organically.

Media for all? The challenge of convergence

A one day conference organised by the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom.

Saturday 31 October 2009 School of Pharmacy, 29-39 Brunswick Square, London WC1N 1AX

Registration and networking from 9 am. Conference 10 am - 5 pm.

The Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom presents an international conference on the challenge of achieving a high quality, diverse and democratic media.

  • Media ownership and democracy in the age of convergence
  • The media as a public service?
  • Protecting and campaigning for high quality, diverse media in a digital age
Plus a wide variety of workshops.

Cost: Corporations £150, Not for profit and Trade Union organisations £25, Individuals £20, Concessions: students, unwaged, retired £10. 25% discount for bookings before 15th September

Book online at:

By post: CPBF, 23 Orford Road, London E17 9NL 0208 521 5932

Citizens' Coalition for Public Service Broadcasting

The Citizens' Coalition for Public Service Broadcasting (CCPSB), to which the Writers' Guild is affiliated, has submitted its response (pdf) to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s consultation on sustainable independent and impartial news.

The CCPSB is a broad mix of civil society groups, charities, community groups, unions and arts organisations that believe public service broadcasting is a public good. Its launch statement (pdf) says that the Coalition:
"believes that public service broadcasting is a public good, and that plurality in public service broadcasting must be maintained in the digital age. British public service broadcasting is a cultural as well as an economic asset to the UK, and we believe the government must take decisive steps to ensure that we have a regulatory environment that allows this sector to prosper."

Monday, October 05, 2009

Writing in schools and community settings

On the Writers' Guild website, in an article that first appeared in the Guild's magazine UK Writer, Philippa Johnston of literaturetraining looks at the opportunities for writers to work in schools and other educational and community settings.

The article provides an overview of the entire sector, and is packed with links and advice.
There are lots of different ways to be involved. You may find yourself producing a prison soap as part of a Writers in Prisons residency; exploring Greenwich Peninsula with local residents; working with teenagers on a poetry and emotional health schools project; or devising murder mysteries in rural village halls in your role as reader in residence for a crime writing festival.

One word of caution, though. Many writers find such work hugely rewarding, and it will certainly help to pay the bills, but it’s not for everyone. It can mean that you have less time and energy left for your own work and, of course, just because you’re a great writer, you’re not necessarily a natural speaker or an inspiring workshop leader.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Writing East Midlands database

Writing East Midlands is hosting a database of the region's writers on its website.

Writers based in the region can enter their details free of charge.

Friday, October 02, 2009

What Guild members are getting up to

Peep Show by JESSE ARMSTRONG and SAM BAIN continues on Friday on C4 at 10:00pm.

SIMON ASHDOWN wrote the episodes of EastEnders being aired on BBC1 on Thursday at 7.30pm and Friday at 8:00pm.

FI BENSON, as the Lydbrook Scribe, will be performing 'Glass', the first of her new series of original sketches, at the Garden Café & Gallery, Lydbrook, Glos - – on 13th October, as part of the ongoing Coleford Festival of Words' monthly cabarets. Fi will launch her new book 'From Wear To Wye' – a collection of sketches performed during 2009 in and around the Forest of Dean – at the Forest Bookshop, Coleford, Glos, on 15th October. For a link to the book & bookshop, follow
On 31st October, around 4.30 pm, storyteller Jess Wilson will perform Fi's new ghost story 'The Water Wheel' in the grounds of the Dean Heritage Museum, Soudley, Glos

TRACEY BLACK wrote the episode of Doctors: Mr Jelly, being aired on BBC1 on Friday at 1.45pm.

RAY BROOKING wrote the episode of Doctors: Love Knot, being aired on BBC1 on Wednesday at 1.45pm.

PAUL COATES wrote the episodes of Hollyoaks being shown on Channel 4 on Thursday and Friday at 6.30pm.

RICHARD EVERETT'S new play Entertaining Angels is on at the Richmond Theatre.

NAWAL GADALLA wrote the episode of The Archers being aired on BBC Radio 4 on Friday at 7:00pm.

PATRICK HOMES wrote the episode of The Bill: Fall Out going out on ITV1 on Thursday at 9:00pm.

RICHARD STONEMAN wrote the episode of Doc Martin: Perish Together as Fools, going out on ITV1 on Sunday at 9:00pm.

RIK MAYALL'S new series Bedside Tales begins with the episode Mountain Girl on BBC Radio 4 on Wednesday at 11.15pm.

JESSE O'MAHONEY wrote the episode of Hollyoaks being shown on Channel 4 on Wednesday at 6.30pm.

EAMON MCDONNELL'S play The Gift is receiving its World Premiere at the Greenwich Playhouse in London SE10 from 13th October to 8th November (Box Office: 020 8858 9256). It is a hauntingly lyrical one act play about relationships and friendship set in the Irish borderlands.

ROLAND MOORE created the BBC1 period drama series Land Girls that continues its repeat run on Sunday 4th October at 6.10pm. He also wrote the episode of Waybuloo that goes out on Friday 9th October on Cbeebies at 11.30am.

Feature Film Beyond The Fire which writer/director MAEVE MURPHY won Best UK Feature for at LIFF is available on DVD from October 12th on Love Films.

JANE PEARSON wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm.

RHIANNA PRATCHETT wrote for Piranha Bytes new Role-playing game ‘Risen’ released today on PC and X-Box 360.

PAUL ROUNDELL wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 on Wednesday at 7:00pm.

JOE TURNER wrote the episode of Coronation Street being aired on ITV1 on Friday at 8.30pm.

ANDREW S. WALSH was lead writer and director on Piranha Bytes new Role-playing game ‘Risen’ released today on PC and X-Box 360. He also wrote the new adventure ‘Dirk Dagger and the Nuclear Zeppelin’ released today on all Nokia N-Gage phones.

NICK WARBURTON wrote the Afternoon Play: Foundling, being broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Friday at 2.15pm.

PETER WHALLEY wrote the episode of Coronation Street being shown on ITV1 on Friday at 7.30pm.

KARIN YOUNG wrote the episode of Emmerdale being shown on ITV1 on Monday at 7:00pm.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Independent video games

In The LA Times, Ben Fritz meets the founder of Indiecade, a festival dedicated to independently made video games.
All three major console manufacturers, Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony, now offer downloadable video games, as do a number of services for PCs. That has helped enable several independently produced games that would never find a spot on the shelves of Best Buy -- titles such as Braid, Flower and World of Goo -- to become hits in the last year.

Just as Hollywood studios took notice of movies like "sex, lies, and videotape" in the late '80s, several major video game publishers are picking up indie titles for distribution.

"We're willing to go out on a ledge with these unique experiences because they differentiate us and they are where we find future talent," said Rusty Buchert, a senior producer at Sony Computer Entertainment.

Read any good 'vooks' lately?

In The New York Times, Motoko Rich looks at hybrid books and videos for release on mobile phones and electronic readers.
Simon & Schuster, the publisher of Ernest Hemingway and Stephen King, is working with a multimedia partner to release four “vooks,” which intersperse videos throughout electronic text that can be read — and viewed — online or on an iPhone or iPod Touch.

And in early September Anthony E. Zuiker, creator of the television series “CSI,” released “Level 26: Dark Origins,” a novel — published on paper, as an e-book and in an audio version — in which readers are invited to log on to a Web site to watch brief videos that flesh out the plot.

Some publishers say this kind of multimedia hybrid is necessary to lure modern readers who crave something different. But reading experts question whether fiddling with the parameters of books ultimately degrades the act of reading.

BBC Writersroom - continuing TV drama series

The BBC Writersroom has added a section on 'Writing for Continuing Drama Series'.

It gives details of the new single system for writer recruitment across all four main continuing TV drama shows: EastEnders, Casualty, Holby City and Doctors.