Tuesday, December 22, 2009

10 Minute Tales

Good to see Sky making another foray into original drama with 10 Minute Tales, a series of new short films to be shown on Sky1 over the festive period.

Dog Alone, written by Guild member Guy Hibbert, will be shown on Boxing Day.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

What Guild members are getting up to

Congratulations to JESSE ARMSTRONG and the rest of the writing team. In The Loop has just won Best Screenplay at New York Film Critics Circle, and runner up screenplay at Los Angeles film Critics Circle.

CAREY ANDREWS wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Monday 21st December.

BENNETT ARRON has written 21 episodes of the children's sitcom Genie in the House - the No.1 children's programme on Nickelodeon - as well as writing and performing in the Genie in the House TV movie Legend of the Dragon. He was also one of the writers on the BAFTA winning children's programme The Slamme.

SIMON ASHDOWN wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 7:00pm on Saturday 26th December.

DAVID ASHTON'S Victorian detective drama McLevy begins its new four-part series on Radio 4, with the episode "Bolt from the Blue" going out at 2:15pm on Monday 21st December. The second episode End of the Line is going out on Monday 28th December.

PIERS BECKLEY's adaptation of Oliver Twist is running at the Lion & Unicorn Theatre in Kentish Town, London, over Christmas till 10th January. giantolive.com

GREGORY BURKE's first television drama, One Night In Emergency, will go out on BBC1 in Scotland in the New Year. Gregory will hold a Q&A at the Glasgow Centre for Contemporary Arts on 20 January.

PAUL COATES wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Tuesday 22nd December.

LIN COGHLAN'S dramatisation of Black Hearts in Battersea is going out on Radio 4 in two parts at 2:15pm on Wednesday 23rd and 24th December.

DAVID CROFT will be re-united with the cast and crew and other writers on The Story of Are You Being Served on New Year's Day on BBC2 at 6.30 pm. It will be preceded with a festive issue of the show from 1975 at 6.00 pm and followed by the pilot episode, first broadcast in 1972 being shown for the first time in a new colourised version.

SIMON CROWTHER wrote the episodes of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm and 8:30pm on Friday 1st January.

RICHARD CURTIS wrote and directed the film Love Actually going out on ITV1 on Saturday 19 December at 9.00 pm

MARY CUTLER wrote the episodes of The Archers going out on Radio 4 at 7:00pm from Sunday 27th December till Friday 1st January, with each episode being repeated at 2:00pm the day after its original broadcast.

ANDREW DAVIES has adapted Joanna Briscoe's erotic thriller Sleep With Me for television. It will go out on ITV1 on New Year's Eve from 9.00 - 10.30 pm.

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

MATTHEW EVANS wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 7:30pm on Thursday 24th December.

CHRIS FEWTRELL wrote the episodes of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm and 8:30pm on Monday 28th December.

PATRICK HARBINSON'S version of John Wyndham's The Day of the Triffids is going out in two parts, starting on BBC1 at 9:00pm on Monday 28th December.

JONATHAN HARVEY wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm Thursday 31st December.

JOOLS HOLLAND presents Jools' Annual Hootenanny from 11.00 pm on New Year's Eve on BBC2. He's been doing this now for 16 New Years!

PATRICK HOMES wrote the episode of The Bill "On the Street" going out on ITV1 at 9:00pm on Tuesday 29th December.

MARK ILLIS wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Wednesday 23rd December.

MARTIN JAMESON wrote the episode of Casualty "All I Want for Christmas" going out on BBC1 at 7:40pm on Saturday 19th December.

CHARLOTTE JONES'S dramatisation of Roald Dahl's bookl Matilda is going out in two parts on Radio 4 at 9:00pm on Saturday 26th and at 3:00pm on Sunday 27th December.

JULIAN JONES wrote the episode of Merlin "The Last Dragon Lord" going out on BBC1 at 5:45pm on Saturday 19th December.

JESSICA LEA wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Tuesday 29th December.

DAVID LEMON is writing for the new RDF Nickelodeon series The Freak Farleys, a sitcom about an ordinary family in Transylvania created by Andy Watts. It shoots early next year.

DARAN LITTLE wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Monday 21st December.

ANJI LOMAN-FIELD went to Cambodia in March 2005 on a 3-6 month project story-lining, script editing and team-writing a TV drama series called Rous Cheat Chivit (A Taste of Life). More than five years later and Anji is still there where she is now running a production company. See www.indevelopmentproductions.com – the website will be updated soon to show shots and clips of their first production Channa and Her Sisters, a 50 min drama aiming to reduce the massive maternal mortality rate in Cambodia.

IAN MADDEN wrote the episode of Taggart "Fact and Fiction" going out on ITV1 at 9:00pm on Thursday 24th December.

JANE MARLOW wrote the episodes of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Wednesday 30th and Thursday 31st December.

PAUL MENDELSON'S radio comedy drama Fireworks at the Villa Lucia is going out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Thursday 31st December.

LIZZIE MICKERY wrote the episode of Paradox going out on BBC1 at 9:00pm on Tuesday 22nd December.

DEBBIE OATES wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Monday 21st December.

JEREMY PAUL co-wrote the book of the musical The Lady Or The Tiger, lyrics by Michael Richmond, music by Nola York is running at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, south-west London, from 16th December to 13th February.

HEATHER ROBSON wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Friday 1st January.

ALISTAIR RUTHERFORD has a new radio play, Happy New Year, going out on BBC Radio Scotland on Thursday 31st December at 11.30 am. The play will also be available on the BBC iPlayer for the following 7 days.

STEPHEN SHERIDAN'S dramatisation of five darkly comic tales from Roald Dahl begins with the episode Man from the South going out on Radio 4 at 7:45pm on Monday 21st December.

TOM STOPPARD and Marc Norman won the Oscar for Best Screenplay for Shakespeare in Love in 1998. There will be another chance to see it on Christmas Eve at 11.15 pm on ITV1.

BILL TAYLOR wrote the episodes of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm and 8:00pm on Thursday 31st December.

HEIDI THOMAS has written a new three-hour Cranford drama (adapted from the original novels by Elizabeth Gaskell) going out in tw0 parts for BBC1. The first half "August 1844" is going out from 9:00 - 10:30 pm on Sunday 20 December. The second half "October to December 1844" is going out on Sunday 27th December at the same time

CHRIS THOMPSON wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Wednesday 30th December.

EMMA THOMPSON's sequel to Nanny McPhee will be released next year. She has written and will perform the title role in Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang. She is also working on a new screenplay of My Fair Lady.

SANDI TOKSVIG will be treading the boards at the Royal Festival Hall with Sandi Toksvig's Christmas Cracker along with Ronnie Corbett and other guests. Until 24th December. Box office: 0844 875 0073

JOE TURNER wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Friday 25th December.

VICTORIA WOOD's Christmas Special is called Midlife Crisis and it goes out on BBC1 on Christmas Eve at 9.00 pm.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Matt Greenhalgh on Nowhere Boy

In the Telegraph, David Gritten interviews Matt Greenhalgh about writing Nowhere Boy (opening in the UK on 26th December).
"I read the book (by Lennon’s half-sister Julia Baird) and it wasn’t the story you expected,” Greenhalgh recalls.

“I felt it wasn’t even about John Lennon, it was about a boy searching for his mother. I thought the story could have worked even if the boy wasn’t John Lennon. But the fact it is (italics) John Lennon made it magnificent to me. I could just see it.”

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Tinniswood and Imison Radio Awards 2010: Call for Entries

The Tinniswood Award for best original radio drama script was established by the Society of Authors and the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain to perpetuate the memory of Peter Tinniswood, as well as to celebrate and encourage high standards in radio drama.

Submissions are by producer only and are restricted to a maximum of two entries per producer. We would like to encourage producers to send in quality scripts and would prefer a script that you are confident is the best.

The Tinniswood Award is generously supported by the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society Ltd. Please note that the 2010 Tinniswood Award will be administered by the Writers' Guild of Great Britain and submissions should be sent to Anne Hogben at our offices at 40 Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4RX.

Download the Tinniswood Award rules and application form (pdf)

The Imison Award encourages new talent by rewarding the best original radio drama by a writer new to radio.

Now in its seventeenth year the Award perpetuates the memory of Richard Imison to acknowledge the encouragement he gave to writers working in the medium of radio, and is given in memory of the support and friendship he invariably offered writers in general, and radio writers in particular.

The Imison Award is administered and judged by the Society of Authors and we are grateful to the Peggy Ramsay Foundation for generously funding the £1,500 prize money.

Please send submissions to Sarah Baxter, The Society of Authors, 84 Drayton Gardens, London SW10 9SB.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

BBC Writersroom update

In the latest blog post about this year's BBC Writers Academy, Ceri Meyrick (from BBC Continuing Drama) explains how the scheme fits in with BBC Continuing Drama's policy for 'the training and protection of new writers in this department'.
We've been doing some sums here. Five years ago most new writers on their first commission for Continuing Shows failed. The current failure rate is down drastically to 20%. 92 new writers have developed (and sustain) regular careers with us since 2005. Not bad in the current climate.
Update 21.12.2009 (Post corrected following comment, below, that this was about BBC Continuing Drama policy rather than BBC Writersroom policy)

Female playwrights

On Sunday, for BBC Radio 4, Nigel Wrench examined whether a new generation of women 'will break male domination of the playwright's art'.

You can listen again on the programme's website, or read a summary on BBC News.

See here for previous discussions about sexism and women playwrights.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Bring back rejection letters

Writers through the ages have been able to wallpaper their garrets with rejection letters. But now, writes Keith Kahn-Harris in the Guardian, in the age of electronic communication, the traditional letter is being replaced with either an email or no reply at all.
Twelve publishers rejected JK Rowling before Bloomsbury picked up the Harry Potter books. Whole books have been published collecting rejection letters, allowing us to feel smug at the hapless readers who turned down Borges, Stephen King or John Le Carré.

Yet the biographies of future cultural luminaries are going to be thinner for losing this well-loved component of the artists; stories. For rejection today is increasingly communicated not in cuttingly short-sighted (or even far-sighted) screeds, but in something even more unpleasant – the resounding silence. In many spheres of contemporary life, not just in the cultural industries, explicit rejection is giving way to a convention in which non-response has become the way to turn people down.

McHale to step down as Holby City exec

By John Plunkett in Media Guardian:
Holby City executive producer Tony McHale is to leave the long-running BBC1 hospital show after four years at the helm.

McHale, a TV drama veteran who was also one of the key executives on EastEnders, said in an interview earlier this year that he had joined the show to "drag it into the 21st century".

The BBC's controller of drama, John Yorke, said: "It's been a privilege to work with him, and we will all miss his extraordinary passion, vision and determination that Holby should be the best, most ambitious and most exciting show on BBC1."

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Graham Linehan wins Guild Comedy Award

By Gail Renard

Following on from our own successful awards two weeks ago, the Guild is still on a red carpet roll. At last night’s British Comedy Awards, Griff Rhys Jones presented the Ronnie Barker/ Writers' Guild of Great Britain Award to Graham Linehan for his outstanding work in comedy.

Graham Linehan with Gail Renard at the British Comedy Awards

Both with his long-time writing partner, Arthur Mathews, and by himself, Graham is responsible for creating shows which have made us laugh out loud and will continue to do so for years to come. We have Graham (and often Arthur) to thank for Father Ted, Ted and Ralph from the Fast Show, The IT Crowd and much much more.

Graham thanked Arthur Mathews and many of the others he’s worked with; as well as his mother, who was in the audience, beaming with pride. Graham also confided she was the inspiration for Father Ted’s housekeeper, Mrs Doyle.

Other award winners included Outnumbered, Harry Hill and, for best comedy film, In The Loop. Sir Terry Wogan, who thought he was only there to present a prize, was stunned to find himself the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Many thanks to Jonathan Harvey and Steven Moffat, who joined me as the Guild judges on the jury and at the party afterwards. But the highlight for the WGGB had to be Graham Linehan receiving a standing ovation and being a hit of the evening. It was gratifying seeing the industry pay proper tribute to a writer. BAFTA, please take note.

Gail Renard is Chair of the Guild's TV Committee

Million dollar screenplay tips

On his blog, write, reader and teacher Billy Mernit shares his five 'Million dollar screenplay tips'.
Generally, less is more. Some scribe once likened screenwriting to crafting "a hundred pages of Haiku," and most scripts I've read that have sold in the past few years have a compressed, shrewdly compacted energy born of achieving the most with the least amount of words.

Rachel Cusk on 'women's writing'

In the Guardian, Rachel Cusk asks whether it is still possible to identify something called 'women's writing'.
When a woman in 2009 sits down to write, she perhaps feels rather sexless. She is inclined neither to express nor deny: she'd rather be left alone to get on with it. She might even nurture a certain hostility towards the concept of "women's writing". Why should she be politicised when she doesn't feel politicised? It may even, with her, be a point of honour to keep those politics as far from her prose as it is possible to get them. What compromises women – babies, domesticity, mediocrity – compromises writing even more. She is on the right side of that compromise – just. Her own life is one of freedom and entitlement, though her mother's was probably not. Yet she herself is not a man. She is a woman: it is history that has brought about this difference between herself and her mother. She can look around her and see that while women's lives have altered in some respects, in others they have remained much the same. She can look at her own body: if a woman's body signifies anything, it is that repetition is more powerful than change. But change is more wondrous, more enjoyable. It is pleasanter to write the book of change than the book of repetition. In the book of change one is free to consider absolutely anything, except that which is eternal and unvarying. "Women's writing" might be another name for the book of repetition.

Friday, December 11, 2009

What Guild members are getting up to

SALLY ABBOTT wrote the episode of Casualty "No More Heroes" going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Saturday 12th December.

PAUL ALEXANDER wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Tuesday 15th December.

JESSE ARMSTRONG co-wrote the episode of The Thick of It going out onBBC2 at 10:10pm on Saturday 12th December.

SARAH BAGSHAW wrote the episodes of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm and 8:00pm on Thursday 17th December.

SONALI BHATTACHARYYA wrote the episode of Holby City "Too Close for Comfort" going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Tuesday 15th December.

MARK BURT wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Thursday 17th December.

STEVE CHAMBERS and PHIL NODDING'S radio play High-lites is going out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Tuesday 15th December.

KATIE DOUGLAS wrote the episode of Waterloo Road going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Wednesday 16th December.

RACHEL FLOWERDAY wrote the episodes of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Monday 14th and at 7:30pm on Tuesday 15th December.

MARK GREIG wrote the episode of Paradox going out on BBC1 at 9:00pm on Tuesday 15th December.

JONATHAN HARVEY'S second series of Beautiful People concludes with the episode "How I Got My Gash" going out on BBC2 at 10:00pm on Friday 18th December. He also wrote the episodes of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm and 8:30pm on Friday 18th December.

IAIN HEGGIE'S radio play The Tobacco Merchant's Lawyer is going out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Monday 14th December.

PETER KERRY wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Friday 18th December.

FRED LAWLESS has written a new comedy Christmas play 'Merry Ding Dong for the Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool. It open on Friday 11th December and runs until Saturday 23rd January. More details at http://www.royalcourtliverpool.co.uk/

KATHLEEN MCCREERY'S play When I Meet My Mother has been published in a collection entitled 'In the Continuum and Other Plays', edited by Rory Kilalea for Weaver Press, Harare, Zimbabwe. ISBN:978 1 77922 084 4. See www.kathmc.com and www.weaverpresszimbabwe.com for more information.

NEIL MCLENNAN wrote the episode of Doctors "A Little of What You Fancy" going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Monday 14th December.

DOMINIQUE MOLONEY wrote the episode of Doctors "O Christmas Tree" going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Tuesday 15th December.

ROLAND MOORE wrote the episode of Waybuloo being shown on CBeebies at 6:00pm on Saturday 12th December.

The BBC1 war time drama series, Land Girls, has been nominated for a Broadcast Award. Created by ROLAND MOORE, and written by Roland Moore, DOMINIQUE MOLONEY and DALE OVERTON, the series is a contender for the award for Best Daytime Programme.

JOHN MORTIMER'S radio play Rumpole and the Reign of Terror will be going out in two parts on Radio 4 starting with the first half Truth Makes All Things Plain at 2:15pm on Thursday and concluding with the second half The Past Catches Up with Us All going out at 2:15pm on Friday 18th December.

LESLEY CLAIRE O'NEILL wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Wednesday 16th December.

CAROLE SIMPSON SOLAZZO wrote the episodes of The Archers going out on Radio 4 at 7:00pm from Sunday 13th till Friday 18th December with each episode being repeated at 2:00pm the day following its original broadcast.

TINA WALKER wrote the episode of Doctors "Dead Serious" going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Thursday 17th December.

Campaign to get BAFTA TV writer award upgraded

The Writers' Guild has lobbied BAFTA for several years to request that the award for TV writer is included in the main, high-profile BAFTA TV awards (alonside those given to actors) rather than in the subsidiary craft awards.

As Gail Renard, Chair of the Guild's TV Committee comments, another letter was sent this year:
In May, the TV Committee wrote to BAFTA after receiving many comments and complaints about how writers are acknowledged in the BAFTA awards.

The Guild feels strongly that writers are an integral part of any production; naturally, we'd think the most important. We begin with nothing and turn it into something which is where all creative work begins. We now ask for our place alongside our colleagues in the spotlight.
Still, however, the problem persists and that's why the Guild is getting behind the campaign being led by Guild members Danny Stack and Martin Day to get BAFTA to give TV writers their proper place at the main ceremony.

Danny has written an open letter to BAFTA and there is an ongoing campaign on Twitter.

Guild members are urged to join the Twitter campaign or contact BAFTA directly.

(Article edited 17.37)

Playwrights versus directors

In Intelligent Life (the magazine from the Economist), writer Laura Parker takes issue with Edward Albee's determination not to allow directors to change his dramatic intentions.
“I see and hear my play on stage in my mind when I write it,” [Albee says]. “I expect people to perform it that way.”
Parker says that Albee's views are
dazzlingly out of date. Theatre is an ever-growing, ever-changing medium. No progress could ever be made if everyone stuck to the rules.
However, in the comments below the piece a number of people jump to Albee's defence, including American playwright Bruce Norris:
About a year ago, I was informed in a roundabout way that one of my plays (called "The Pain and the Itch") was being performed in Melbourne at the Red Stitch Theatre. I found out that the director had chosen to costume the actors for the duration of the play, start to finish, in their underwear. Needless to say, this was not what had been written in the script - which, by the way, is not a "classic" in any sense of the word. It's a brand new play which premiered in the US in 2006. But apparently, I am an "old fogey" like Mr. Albee, because I had to have my agents contact the theatre and threaten to withdraw the rights to the production if they refused to perform the play as written.
Link via Chris Wilkinson's post on the Guardian theatre blog.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Guiding Lights mentoring scheme

The film industry mentoring scheme, Guiding Lights, is now open for applications.

For writers:
You are eligible to apply if:
  • You have at least 2 years of professional experience within the film industry
  • You are a UK resident
  • You have written a minimum of one feature-length script (this does not necessarily need to have been produced)
  • You have at least one other feature-length script in development and can describe your development activity
Successful applicants will receive 12 months of one-to-one mentor support from an established practitioner.

The closing date for applications is 1pm, 23rd December 2009.

Writ Large - new writing on the English stage since 2003

In the Guardian, Guild President, David Edgar, reports on his involvement in research commissioned by Arts Council England (ACE) from a group of playwrights and academics into what happened to new theatre writing following the ACE spending uplift in 2003.
Since 2003, the amount of new work in the repertoire of the replying companies has more than doubled, making up 42% of all productions. Half the new plays are presented by 10 theatres (including the National, the Royal Court, the RSC and major regional theatres in Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds), but only one of the responding theatres did no new work at all.

One reason for the upsurge is that writers are doing different kinds of work: there have been significant increases in new adaptations and writing for children (20% of all new writing). There has indeed been an increase in work devised by actors (7% of performances), but clearly this form of work is not taking over from individually written new plays. And new plays sold well: over the decade attendances grew, and new work actually did better than the average in the final year of our survey.

But the most striking finding is that new plays have broken out of the studio ghetto. The majority of new plays are now watched in auditoriums with more than 200 seats. Nine out of 10 individual attendances for new plays in our responding theatres were in main houses. And the average box office performance of new plays on main stages was a healthy 65%, and rising.
It is, says Edgar, an encouraging picture.
The last decade represents a triumph for Arts Council policy, and for artistic directors who refused to accept the presumption that new plays empty theatres...

For 10 years, much public policy thinking, academic study and critical taste was based on the assumption that writing plays was a dying art – while, in fact, there's more of it than ever before.
The research has been published by Arts Council England as Writ Large: New Writing on the English Stage 2003-2009.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Getting started and staying in games writing

Getting started and staying in games writing – an evening with professional games writers

By Andy Walsh

On the 8th December I had the great pleasure of hosting a panel of games writers for an event put on by the Guild’s Video Games Committee together with the Writing Special Interest Group and London Chapter of the International Game Developers’ Association (IGDA). Held in a packed lecture theatre at London South Bank University the evening set out to describe how four writers had broken into the industry, the highs and lows they’d encountered and how they’d stayed at the coal face.

Aside from myself the panel was comprised of Tom Jubert, James Swallow and Rhianna Pratchett (chair of the Video Games Committee). Putting together a panel of writers that boasted well over a hundred games titles, four Writers’ Guild Award nominations and two wins among other credits, the Guild was able to offer up an evening of anecdote, advice and entertainment to both new writers and those new to the medium.

Starting with the different routes each panellist had followed before arriving in games writing (games journalism for Rhianna Pratchett, journalism and an ongoing career as a novelist for James Swallow, straight in at the deep end for Tom Jubert and theatre/television for myself) the evening moved on to cover subjects as diverse as the role of Narrative directors, the pressures of gameplay exposition and whether flattering or criticising a company’s previous titles was the best approach when seeking a job.

After the event the majority of the audience (which was well in excess of 100 and included people who’d travelled from as far afield as Paris) trooped off to the pub to continue the discussion and put questions directly to the panellists.

For those who missed the evening, the Video Games Committee intends to offer a further talk in the new year in association with BAFTA and IGDA’s Writing SIG and looks forward to seeing you there.

Product placement consultation

The long-running debating about whether or not product placement should be allowed in British-made TV shows is continuing with a new public consultation from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport - closing date 8 January 2010.

The previous consultation in 2008 resulted in the Government deciding against product placement, to the anger of commercial TV producers and broadcasters. But, with a new Secretary of State, Ben Bradshaw, they have reconsidered.
The Government is currently minded to permit product placement on UK television, subject to safeguards. But the arguments remain finely balanced. We remain concerned in particular about the potential health issues associated with the promotion of particular types of goods by means of product placement.
(from page 4 of the consultation paper - pdf)
Product placement would not be permitted in children's programmes.

In The Guardian, Jackie Schneider puts the case against.
Product placement is an underhand way for companies to advertise to the public by stealth. The Guardian's very own Simon Hoggart describes it as is "a form of corruption, by which elements of our favourite shows are covertly sold off to the highest bidder without our being told".

iPhone Apps 'go union'

From the Writers Guild of America East:
The writers of iLarious have just become the first writers of content for an iPhone app to be represented by a labor union, the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE). Under this agreement writers for apps such as “This Just In” (which delivers 10-15 jokes a day to the iPhone) will get to count their jokes written for the app towards WGAE health insurance and other benefits. Comedy writers covered by this new agreement hail from "The Daily Show", "The Onion", "Human Giant" and "Saturday Night Live" among other famous comedy programs.

iLarious went union because company founder and comedy writer Fred Graver is himself a member of the WGAE and knows how important union representation is to writers.
(How should I tag this post? 'Online content', which I've used before, doesn't seem quite right. A new category for mobile content? Apps?)

Introducing National Theatre Wales

On the Writers' Guild website, Othniel Smith reports on John E McGrath's meeting with Welsh Guild members - he's the artistic director of National Theatre Wales.
When asked the vital question, from the Guild’s point of view, of whether writers were the most important part of the company, McGrath replied that it is ‘the event’ which matters most. He was critical of play development culture in which a submitted script goes through several drafts without ever reaching an audience. There are around seven up-front play commissions for the National Theatre Wales’s first-year programme but writers will be involved in most of the other productions, either as dramaturgs, or when called in by performance- or installation-art specialists at a late stage in the development of their pieces.
(Photo of John E McGrath by Paul Rees)

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

MP seeks to save Silver Street

Following the BBC's announcement of its decision to axe the Asian Network radio soap, Silver Street, John Hemming MP has tabled an Early Day Motion expressing his concern:
EDM 315
Hemming, John

That this House is concerned at the proposed cut back in radio drama proposed for the West Midlands by the termination of the Asian radio network production Silver Street in March 2010; notes that the proposed replacement radio drama output will be a cut of 80 per cent. of the BBC's Asian network production in the West Midlands since 2004 and reduce the viability of the Birmingham Mailbox radio drama production site, as well as diminish opportunities for writers, technical staff and for lead roles for ethnic minority actors in the Midlands; believes that this action contravenes the commitments given by the BBC to the House, to take production outside the M25 at Charter Renewal, and to spread production to all the English regions and the nations; and calls on the BBC to rethink this proposal.
The Writers' Guild has already issued a press release condemning the decision and Equity has set up a Facebook Group to campaign for it to be overturned. They are urging people to urge their MPs, particularly in the Midlands, to support the Early Day Motion (EDM 315). You can contact your local MP via writetothem.com

Lost University

I don't think this is a wind-up... (from Patrick Kevin Day in the LA Times):
"Lost" seems to breed obsessive types who are a study in devotion and intelligence. And now, they have another place to congregate: their own school.

As the famously perplexing and mysterious series heads into its final season, its creators have launched Lost University, a multimedia experience that delves into the fields of study touched on in the show's five years. Real university professors will teach short video courses on a variety of "Lost"-related subjects -- and it's not exactly a light curriculum either, with philosophy, physics and hieroglyphics, among others.
It could be seen as a clever way to sell more copies of the fifth season Blu-ray set but the forum suggests that there's plenty of interest.

Classes start today.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Kate Clanchy wins BBC National Short Story Award

From BBC News:
Poet Kate Clanchy has won this year's BBC National Short Story Award with her second attempt at a short story.

The 44-year-old beat a shortlist which included past Orange Prize winners Lionel Shriver and Naomi Alderman and Bafta-nominated writer Jane Rogers.

Clanchy won for her story The Not-Dead and The Saved, about parental love and sacrifice set in a hospital ward.

She receives a winner's cheque for £15,000, while Sarah Maitland was awarded £3,000 as runner-up.
Thanks to @FreeWordCentre on Twitter for the link to the stories as BBC Podcasts

In The Loop wins Independent Film screenplay award

Guild members Jesse Armstrong and Tony Roche were among the winners at the British Independent Film Awards last night, winning Best Screenplay, along with Simon Blackwell and Armando Iannucci, for In The Loop.

I've still not seen it. But, having been reduced to tears of laughter and squeals of horror by the current series of The Thick Of It, it's on my must-see list.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

On board the Word Express

In the Telegraph, Michael Prodger reports on a train journey that was part of Word Express, a new project for literary exchange in South-East Europe, organised by the UK-based Literature Across Frontiers in cooperation with Delta Publishing in Istanbul, Profil Books in Zagreb, Helicon in Tel Aviv and the National Book Centre in Bucharest and other partners based in 12 countries in the region.
[The project] saw some 20 young European writers embarking on trains in Ljubljana, Bucharest and Sarajevo and winding through the Balkans, stopping off along the way to give readings and supervise writing workshops. The three groups joined up in Thessaloniki before starting out on the last leg to Istanbul. Once there they met up with a cluster of Turkish writers and spent five day attending various literary events and taking part in the Istanbul Book Fair and the Tanpinar Literature Festival.
The project is part of the EU-supported Literature Across Frontiers Programme and of the British Council’s Creative Collaboration Programme which aims to enrich the cultural life of Europe and its surrounding countries and to build trust and understanding across communities by generating dialogue and debate.

Friday, December 04, 2009

What Guild members are getting up to

MARTIN ALLEN wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Friday 11th December.

JESSE ARMSTRONG co-wrote the episode of The Thick of It going out on BBC2 at 10:30pm on Saturday 5th December.

SIMON ASHDOWN wrote the episodes of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 7:30pm on Thursday 10th December.

STEVE BAILIE wrote the episode of The Bill "Twist of Fate" going out on ITV1 at 9:00pm on Thursday 10th and at 8:00pm on Friday 11th December.

PIERS BECKLEY has adapted Oliver Twist for the stage - it's on at Lion & Unicorn Theatre in Kentish Town, and runs till January 10th. Details: giantolive.com

RAY BROOKING wrote the episode of Doctors "Equally Cursed and Blessed" going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Thursday 10th December.

RICHARD BURKE wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Thursday 10th December.

ANNA CLEMENTS wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Monday 7th December.

DAVE COHEN regrets to say that his Monday 14 December stand-up gig, My Life As A Footnote, in Brixton, had to be postponed until January. Details to follow later. In the meantime, you can catch Dave doing a stand-up poem at Alexandra Park Library Poetry Night on Tuesday 19 January. davecohen.squarespace.com

PAT CUMPER'S dramatization of Writing the Century begins with the episode "1963-66 All My Trials" going out on Radio 4 at 7:45pm on Monday 7th December.

This week's Radio 4 'From Fact to Fiction' drama is a comedy written by JEREMY FRONT and responds to the Demjanjuk War Crimes trial. Saturday 5th December, BBC Radio 4, 7.00pm.

PETER KESTERTON'S radio play One in a Million is going out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Wednesday 9th December.

PHILIP GOULDING's play Toad of Toad Hall, adapted from The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, is running at Alberta Theatre Projects, Calgary from November 25th to December 27th.

DAWN HARRISON wrote the episode of Doctors "Harry - a Decorous Death going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Monday 7th December.

JONATHAN HARVEY'S drama series Beautiful People continues with the episode "How I Got My Turner" going out on BBC2 at 10:00pm on Friday 11th December.

ANDREW HOLDEN wrote the episode of Holby City "Now We Are Lonely" going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Tuesday 8th December.

JAYNE HOLLINSON wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Friday 11th December.

DAVID LANE wrote the episodes of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm and 8:30pm on Monday 7th December.

MIKE LEIGH'S Happy-Go-Lucky is going out on C4 at 9:00pm on Sunday 6th December.

BILL LYONS wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Tuesday 8th December.

PAUL MENDELSON'S dramatization of Dover Beats the Band is going out on Radio 4 at 2:30pm on Saturday 5th December.

LIZZIE MICKERY wrote the episode of Paradox going out on BBC1 at 9:00pm on Tuesday 8th December.

ROLAND MOORE wrote the episode of Doctors "Driving Miss Crazy" going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Wednesday 9th December.

JONATHAN MYERSON'S political radio drama Number Ten concludes with the episode "Immortality at Last" going out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Friday 11th December.

JESSE O'MAHONEY wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Friday 11th December.

DALE OVERTON wrote the episode of Doctors "Perspective" going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Friday 11th December.

GARY OWEN's new adaptation of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens opens at the Sherman Theatre in Cardiff on December 4th, and runs till January 9th. More info from www.shermancymru.co.uk/performance/christmas/a-christmas-carol/

JULIE PARSONS wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Friday 11th December.

JANE PEARSON wrote the episodes of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm and 8:00pm on Thursday 10th December.

CAROLE SIMPSON SOLAZZO wrote the episodes of The Archers going out on Radio 4 at 7:00pm from Sunday 6th till Friday 11th December with each episode being repeated at 2:00pm the day following its original broadcast.

COLIN WAKEFIELD has written a new version of The Snow Queen, with original songs and music by KATE EDGAR, for Theatre Royal Margate. The show is for performance by seven actor/musicians and is directed by Will Wollen. It runs from 10th to 27th December. Full details can be found on the theatre website: www.theatreroyalmargate.com

PETER WHALLEY wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Thursday 10th December.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Robert Kaplow on Me And Orson Welles

I've had a keen interest in the film Me And Orson Welles ever since I saw them filming a scene in, of all places, Crystal Palace Park a couple of years back.

It's released in the UK this week and, in the Telegraph, Robert Kaplow, author of the book on which the film is based, has published his notes on the production process.
I meet for the first time, in person, the screenwriters: Holly and Vince Palmo; they’re wonderful and humble and warm-spirited, and they listen. He’s in jeans with longish gray hair, eyeglasses, stylishly unshaved. She’s gracious and a little shy, and she’s a reader: I tell her our hotel is off Bayswater Road, and her immediately response is: “George Smiley lives there.” I like them both immediately, and I sort of apologize for my lengthy e-mails about the various drafts of the screenplay. “You probably thought I was a real officious pain in the ass.” No, they didn’t. And they tell me, at length and with considerable passion, how much they love the novel. They explain to me their process, which was to start by dramatizing every scene in the novel—and then start cutting. Holly tells me that what impressed her was that every scene in the novel was shaped with a beginning, middle, and end. This compliment pleases me greatly, and I tell her that it’s probably a result of having read and analyzed so many plays. We realize that the Palmos are closer to this story than any other reader I will ever have: they’ve weighed every word; debated what to retain or delete. Lynn, who abridges for Random House Audio Books, finds the parallel in what she does: other than the author, no one is closer to the story, sentence-by-sentence, than the abridger; it’s a kind of old-fashioned line-edit.

Clare McIntyre 1952-2009

Playwright and scriptwriter Clare McIntyre has died at the age of 57. There's an obituary by David Edgar in the Guardian.
Clare McIntyre, who has died of multiple sclerosis, aged 57, was one of an extraordinary generation of British female playwrights who emerged in the 1980s. Before then there were really only two nationally known women writing in the British theatre, Caryl Churchill and Pam Gems. By the end of the decade, there were two to three dozen. Although her first play, I've Been Running, was performed at the Old Red Lion theatre pub in Islington, north London, McIntyre's two best-known plays were presented – like many other plays by women at the time – by the Royal Court theatre under the artistic directorship of Max Stafford-Clark.

Ben West on theatre audiences

In The Independent, playwright Ben West sympathises with actors who respond to provocation from unruly audiences.
Not only do actors have to put up with all the distractions of badly behaved punters, badly maintained theatres, and sometimes badly-behaved staff, but, with our show at least, there have been occasions when kick-off time has been fast-approaching when a selected prop item goes missing or one of the cast gets stuck on our esteemed motorway system – or the theatre's lighting box packs in. With such distractions, coupled with the general underlying tension that actors have to deal with before a performance – and maybe illness or a calamity in their private lives as well, on occasion – it is no surprise that they may be prone to flying off the handle from time to time.
Link via Mark Shenton on Twitter.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

BookSurge and CreateSpace to merge

From the CreateSpace website:
CreateSpace will soon become the dedicated publishing and print on-demand platform for all BookSurge and CreateSpace authors and publishers. BookSurge and CreateSpace have historically operated as two distinct brands of one company—On-Demand Publishing LLC, a subsidiary of Amazon.com, Inc.—and are now uniting on the CreateSpace platform and brand.
Link via Publishers' Weekly.

The state of British theatre

In the Guardian, Mark Lawson presents a survey of the state of British theatre, and asks if it is experiencing a golden age. He includes an assessment of the benefits of writing for the stage:
Before returning to playwriting this year – with two plays, Jerusalem and Parlour Song – Jez Butterworth had spent years in which his major work was screenplay writing; lucrative but often unproduced. "I always think," he says, "that writers in theatre are treated like a painter. Writers in movies are treated like someone hired to paint someone's house and, when they've finished, they're expected, like house-painters, to get the fuck out."

But even here there is a caveat: recent surveys of contemporary playwriting by the Arts Council and the Writers Guild found that many stage dramatists are concerned by a "filmisation" of commissioning, in which producers and script editors have increasing power over texts.
Lawson's conclusions are mixed - some elements are definitely booming, and there's an encouraging amount of new work in some theatres, but the funding position in London and around the country remains patchy and often precarious.

On the Guardian Theatre Blog, Michael Billington adds his point of view.
As always with theatre, utopia remains an unachieved destination. But at least in the last year we've kept it in our sights. I take heart from the fact that our theatre attracts young people, engages with big issues and sees itself as a vital part of society rather than a mere factory of dreams.
Update (3.12.09): Lyn Gardner has her say, too:
British theatre has an iceberg-like structure: narrow at the top, wide at the base. Theatremakers and audiences are engaged in huge amounts of activity below the waterline, and often evade the attention of those who have their eyes fixed only on the top. If we want to talk about a golden age – perhaps golden promise is a better phrase? – we should recognise that none of this is happening in isolation. It's happening because of so much has been going on, sometimes invisibly to many journalists and critics, over the last 10 years, and which continues, often against the odds and despite the huge slash in grants for the arts.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

David Edgar's tribute to Andrew Davies

At the Writers' Guild Awards on Sunday, Guild President, David Edgar, presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to Andrew Davies.

Here's a copy of the speech David gave in tribute.
This year's Lifetime Achievement Award goes to a writer who understands television. Although he's written novels, films and stage plays (for adults and children) he's always known that television is, essentially and uniquely, a meeting place of different forms of expression, a site in which hybridity - genre talking unto genre - is not a problem nor a compromise but the essence of the game.

As a result he took an old, perhaps rather dusty and seemingly outmoded television form and reinvented it so definitively that no one will be able to talk about it in the future without mentioning his name.

His television writing began conventionally enough, with one-off plays and comedy serials. Even then, he understood cross-fertilization. He took the prose fiction form of the campus novel and melded it with the television form of the medical soap opera to create a campus comedy set in a university health centre. A Very Peculiar Practice ran for several series in the mid 80s and it's baffling why it isn't still running now.

In the early 90s he turned to the television form he was to dominate, making the first of three adaptations of Michael Dobbs's political novels about the oily Machiavellian chief whip Francis Urquart, achieving a perfect match between an innovative writerly idea, brilliant direction and Ian Richardson's definitive performance.

In the mid-90s, there was good news and bad news. The bad news – some felt – was that the BBC decided to reinvent the classic novel adaptation, which for many of us was a blessed, Sunday afternoon childhood memory, which we hoped would stay that way.

The good news was that they decided to ask Andrew Davies to do the reinventing.

With Middlemarch, Pride and Prejudice, Moll Flanders, The Way We Live Now, Sense And Sensibility and many others, Andrew turned an old, fly-blown schedule-filler into a cutting-edge television drama flagship.

He's widely known for his observation that, as the species was propagated in the nineteenth century, the Victorians clearly had sex, and that fact this might be covertly present in the novels of the period. He is thus responsible for Colin Firth's torso and a thousand heaving bosoms on both side of the screen.

What his adaptations have in common is that they transform the source material, and, by exploiting the opportunities of television, they reinvent the dramatisation form. As someone who knows the challenges of adapting Dickens novels, I'd point particularly to the justly feted and awarded serial adaptations of Bleak House and Little Dorrit, which combined the teeming, multi-plotted character of Dickens' storytelling with the energy and drive of contemporary soap opera, to create something which is, truly, how Dickens would have wanted to write today.

Andrew has continued to adapt twentieth century novels – wonderfully, The Old Devils, Tipping the Velvet and The Line of Beauty – and to write original drama. A personal favourite was his brilliant conceit to imagine a torrid love affair between two jurors in the 1960 Lady Chatterley trial, trying out in the evening what they'd heard about in the courtroom during the day. He is notably generous to his collaborators – speaking well of script editors and producers, neither of whom always get a good press from writers. He speaks to students with wit and grace, and, last year, was the entertainment at the West Midlands Writers' Guild Christmas thrash.

It's possible to argue that Andrew's principle writing form has got out of hand. Do we need another adaptation of Emma ever, ever again? But there is of course one caveat to that. If Andrew returned to Emma, or any of the novels he's adapted, or any of the few still lurking in the further reaches of the canon which he hasn't got round to yet, he would make them feel as fresh as Northanger Abbey or Vanity Fair. He would once again have re-minted them for their medium and for their moment, and made them new.

Cormac McCarthy finally gives up his Olivetti

By Patricia Cohen in the New York Times:
Cormac McCarthy has written more than a dozen novels, several screenplays, two plays, two short stories, countless drafts, letters and more — and nearly every one of them was tapped out on a portable Olivetti manual typewriter he bought in a Knoxville, Tenn., pawnshop around 1963 for $50.

Lately this dependable machine has been showing irrevocable signs of age. So...Mr. McCarthy [has] agreed to auction off his Olivetti Lettera 32 and donate the proceeds to the Santa Fe Institute, a nonprofit interdisciplinary scientific research organization .
McCarthy will be replacing his Olivetti typewriter with... another Olivetti typewriter - almost identical but in better condition.