Wednesday, March 31, 2010

New ITC rates for writers

Under the agreement between the Independent Theatre Council and the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, an agreed 3.7% increase in rates paid to writers comes into effect from 1 April 2010.

The fees under this agreement shall be not less than:
  • £7,328.50 for a play over 70 minutes
  • £4,886 for a play between 30 and 70 minutes
  • £2,443 for a play under 30 minutes

Full details of the agreement can be downloaded from the Writers' Guild website (pdf)

New musicals

In The Guardian, Chair of the Writers' Guild Theatre Committee, David James, discusses the state of musical theatre.
Fine, innovative, enjoyable new musicals are not a pipe dream. David Greig and Gordon McIntyre's recent two-hander, Midsummer, had everything a great musical needs: the creation of a special world, important characters, feeling, conflict, humour and wonderful music.

Arts Council funding warning

From the Arts Council England website:
[Arts Council England] Chief Executive Alan Davey is urging local authorities across the country to maintain their investment in the arts, and warns that the Arts Council can't mitigate council cutbacks.

Speaking on 31 March 2010 at the Arts Council-sponsored Local Government Association's annual culture, tourism and sport conference in Newcastle, Alan argued that local authority investment in the arts has already paid dividends in terms of economic and social benefits, and that the arts are well placed to play an even greater role in the future success of local communities, if investment is sustained.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Self-publishing for Apple iPad

By Dean Takahashi for Venture Beat:
Smashwords, a site where writers can publish their own e-books, said today it has signed a distribution deal with Apple to put its books into the iPad iBookstore. Mark Coker, chief executive of Smashwords, said in an email to authors that his company has been working on the deal ever since the iPad was announced. And, yes, this means that unpublished authors can sell their work on the Apple iPad at virtually no cost.

JD Shapiro apologises for Battlefield Earth

In The New York Post, JD Shapiro, the first screenwriter on the box office flop Battlefield Earth, says sorry.
It wasn't as I intended -- promise. No one sets out to make a train wreck. Actually, comparing it to a train wreck isn't really fair to train wrecks, because people actually want to watch those.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Tax breaks for games

A guest post by Andrew S. Walsh

While this year’s budget was faced with many challenges, one small announcement could be positive news for writers as the government has intimated that a system similar to that offered to the film industry could be on offer to the video games industry.

The Writers’ Guild has taken part in campaigning to encourage the government to introduce such tax breaks and to aid the domestic industry. With production fading in many sectors any boost for the games industry could help offset these problems by maintaining and expanding the opportunities for writers working in games.

The exact details are yet to be announced but the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has indicated that the system is likely to be similar to the one applicable to the UK film industry - meaning that those asking for the tax breaks must score at least 16 points out of a possible 31 in a ‘culturally British’ test.

There are four criteria under which film studios can qualify:

a) Cultural Content (16 pts) – determining whether the film’s narrative is set in the UK, whether its lead characters are British, whether the film is centred on British subject matter, and if the dialogue is recorded “in the English language”.
b) Cultural Contribution (4 pts) – determining whether the film represents “a diverse British culture, British heritage or British creativity”.
c) Cultural Hubs (3 pts) – determining whether the film is produced in the UK studios.
d) Cultural Practitioners (8 pts) – determining whether the cast, crew and/or producers come from the EEA (European Economic Area), with points based on each role.

We await further details and hope that this aid to the industry leads to an expansion of the opportunities for writers comes with it.

FSE/IAWG joint communiqué

The Federation of European Screenwriters and International Association of Writers' Guilds have issued their first joint communiqué.

Friday, March 26, 2010

What Guild members are getting up to

SEBASTIAN BACZKIEWICZ'S radio comedy Arabian Afternoons is going out on Radio in three parts beginning with The Casper Logue Affair, The Porter and the Three Ladies and A Dish of Pomegranates. The first part goes out on Monday 29th March at 2:15pm.

SARAH BAGSHAW wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Friday 2nd April.

STEPHEN BENNETT wrote the episodes of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm and 8:00pm on Thursday 1st April.

RICHARD BURKE wrote the episodes of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Thursday 1st and Friday 2nd April.

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

SONIA CASTANG has been selected to participate in the Tribeca All Access (TAA) programme which is part of the Tribeca Film Festival in New York in April. TAA is a programme for BME & female directors to help get projects that are ready for financing/production in front of US producers, financiers and agents. The script she is taking, Windward' is one she has written and is a moving and funny drama set London and St Lucia.

PAUL COATES wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Monday 29th March.

BILL GALLAGHER wrote the episode of Lark Rise to Candleford going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Sunday 28th March.

MATTHEW GRAHAM wrote the first episode of the new series of Ashes to Ashes going out on BBC1 at 9:00pm on Friday 2nd April.

GUY HIBBERT's new two-part drama, Blood and Oil, will be shown on BBC2 on Monday 29th and Tuesday 30th March from 9.00 - 10.20pm. A powerful drama about two British women and their extraordinary journey deep into the hinterland of the Niger Delta – a beautiful but highly dangerous region of Nigeria.

JANE HOLLINSON wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Friday 2nd April.

JILL HYEM Her new stage comedy "We'll Always Have Paris" has been published by Josef Weinberger Ltd. The play continues to run at the Mill at Sonning until April 10th.

JULIE JONES wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Thursday 1st April.

PHILIP SHELLEY will lead a one-day workshop on working as a script editor in TV on 10 April. Philip spent seven years at Carlton TV Drama, as Head of Development, then as Producer. At Carlton he was script editor on the last two Inspector Morse films, Kavanagh QC, Anybody's Nightmare, The Waiting Time, Noah's Ark and many other shows. For more information please see

LINDSAY SHAPERO'S drama Enid, staring Helena Bonham Carter as Enid Blyton, is going out on BBC1 at 9:00pm on Sunday 28th March.

CHRIS THOMPSON wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Wednesday 31st March.

JOANNA TOYE wrote the episodes of The Archers going out on Radio 4 at 7:00pm from Sunday 28th March till Friday 2nd April with each episode being repeated at 2:00pm the day following it's original broadcast.

JOE TURNER wrote the episodes of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm and 8:30pm on Monday 29th March.

NICK VIVIAN'S biographical drama Gracie! is going out on BBC2 at 9:00pm on Thursday 1st April starring Jane Horrocks as Gracie Fields.

KATHARINE WAY wrote the episode of Doctors "Save the Children" going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Monday 29th March.

JOY WILKINSON wrote the episode of Doctors "Catching" going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Thursday 1st April.

Reorganisation threat to Public Lending Right

The Public Lending Right scheme, which pays authors 6p per loan from public libraries, is threatened by a major reorganisation proposed this week.

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport issued its long-awaited policy statement The Modernisation Review of Public Libraries but it contained a surprise that had not been signalled in last year’s consultation exercise: a new 'strategic body' that would wrap up PLR in an organisation covering museums, libraries and archives.

The Guild, alongside the Society of Authors and the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society, has written to Margaret Hodge, Minister of State for Culture, seeking assurances and a meeting to air our concerns. The letter points out that PLR has a good reputation among writers and that it is not primarily concerned with giving a voice for libraries, but with the rights of authors.

The writers’ organisations demand that PLR should remain independent and properly funded, and retain its expert staff.

You can download the letter to Margaret Hodge (pdf) or click on the screen below to read it.

Writers' Guild response to The Bill being axed

Following the news that ITV is dropping drama series The Bill, the Guild has issued the following press release:



The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, the union that represents the UK’s TV screenwriters, said today it was shocked by ITV’s decision to axe “The Bill”.

The union called on ITV director of television Peter Fincham to strengthen his assurances about commissioning new drama to replace the 27-year-old police series.

Guild General Secretary Bernie Corbett said: “Many TV writers will be hit hard – so will actors, production staff and crews. No series has the right to live for ever, but for the health of the entire UK TV industry it is imperative ITV replaces The Bill with innovative home-grown drama.

“We welcome Mr Fincham’s ongoing commitment to drama programming. But when he says that ITV will continue to invest more in drama programming than any other commercial broadcaster, we note that broadcast hours of drama on other commercial channels are already very limited.

“Writers, both newcomers and experienced, are bursting with ideas and they will be beating a path to ITV’s door. Our message to ITV and Peter Fincham is: Nothing less than 52 hours of new, original, exciting drama each and every year will do.

“ITV has a long and proud history of drama and comedy which must be continued. It is good news that the money saved will be going into new shorter form drama and this needs to preserve the original spirit of The Bill in terms of inventive, writer-led rather than producer-led story-telling and nurturing new writing talent. This is the way to bigger audiences and stronger overseas sales.

“Millions of viewers will mourn an iconic British series. The writers of The Bill over its 27 years deserve a lap of honour.”

The Bill won the 2008 Writers’ Guild Award for the best soap/continuing drama series and the 2009 BAFTA for best continuing drama.


The Guild has also written the following letter to Peter Fincham, Director of Television at ITV (pdf - or click on the screen below)

An evening with David Edgar and Bryony Lavery

Thursday 29 April, 7-9pm at Derby Theatre Studio

To launch the revival of this famous studio venue (formerly Derby Playhouse) the Theatre Arts department at Derby, in partnership with the Writers' Guild and in association with Theatre Writing Partnership, present Getting it Good, Getting it Right – an evening with David Edgar and Bryony Lavery.

At a time of economic recession, the theatre seems to be thriving. And with the recent British Theatre Consortium survey revealing just how widely newly commissioned writing figures in this success, the challenge of what the playwright can bring to the contemporary stage has never been more relevant.

From their different personal perspectives, these two accomplished playwrights will talk about how they approach this challenge (both creatively and structurally) including discussion of David Edgar’s new publication ‘How Plays Work’ and Bryony Lavery’s latest collaboration with Frantic Assembly Theatre Co.

Tickets: £5, £2.50 concessions. FREE for Guild members.

BOX OFFICE 01332 255800,

Click on the flyer below for more information:

Product placement legislation before Parliament

This week the legislation to allow product placement in certain TV programmes went before Parliament. However, once the new law is passed, another public consultation, this time run by industry regulator Ofcom, will still have to take place in order for it to change its broadcast codes.

In a poll on this blog in 2008, 58% thought 'the government shouldn't lift the ban'.

Now seems a good time for a new question: Will product placement threaten the creative integrity of writers in the UK? (see poll, right)

ITV drops The Bill

ITV1 drama, The Bill, is to be dropped this autumn according to a report by Mark Sweney in Media Guardian.
ITV intends to use the multimillion-pound saving from axing The Bill to create shorter run drama series for the 9pm slot with projects in the works including a new medical series with writer Peter Bowker and a new series from Collision and Foyle's War writer Anthony Horowitz.

"The Bill has been a fixture on our screens for more than 25 years and has been the home of some of the UK's best serial drama storylines, and a great showcase for terrific scriptwriting and fine acting talent," said Peter Fincham, the ITV director of television, channels and online.

"But times change, and so do the tastes of our audience. Whilst The Bill will come to an end in 2010, we will continue to invest more in drama programming than any other commercial broadcaster in the UK and viewers can look forward to a wide range of high quality drama on ITV1."
Update: Here's the Guild's response to the news.

The joy of residuals

For The Huffington Post, David Dean Bottrell describes the pleasure of 'magic envelopes' - ones that contain payments for residuals.
Although, I've never gotten rich from residual checks, they are always a welcome sight. And I thank my two wonderful unions, SAG and the WGA, for having made these magic envelopes possible.

Although the original thinking was that artists should participate in the profits being earned by the recycling of their work, the most revolutionary outcome of this plan was that for the first time in the history of show business, it became possible for lesser-known artists working in TV and film to actually become respected, middle-class citizens. Finally, instead of living like vagabond gypsies, one could buy a nice little place in the Valley and raise some kids.
(In this country, of course, the WGGB negotiates residuals agreements for writers as part of its Minimum Terms Agreements)

David Mamet's advice to writers

If writers are going to take advice from anyone then it might as well be someone with a track record as impressive as David Mamet's. His instructions (reportedly) to staff writers on The Unit (which he executive produced) have now appeared online (the CAPS are his):



Link via @GailRenard

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

David Almond wins Hans Christian Andersen Award

By Diane Roback for Publishers' Weekly:
The 2010 Hans Christian Andersen Award, the most prestigious international award for children's books, has been given to British author David Almond and German illustrator Jutta Bauer. The award, which was announced this afternoon at the Bologna Book Fair, is given biennially by the International Board on Books for Young People to an author and artist whose work has made "a lasting contribution to children's literature."
Almond's books for children include Skellig and The Fire Eaters, both of which won Whitbread Awards.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Poets' Corner memorial for Ted Hughes

From BBC News:
Poet Ted Hughes is to be recognised with a permanent memorial in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey.

His name will feature alongside some of the country's best-loved poets including T.S. Eliot, William Blake and William Wordsworth.
There are appreciations of Hughes in The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Independent and by Erica Wagner in The Times:
Hughes was never afraid to look very hard and very carefully into his memory and imagination, whether he was writing about the natural world or about his first wife, Sylvia Plath, in his final volume of poems, Birthday Letters.

That simple description, incidentally, is as good a way as any of saying what it really means to write. Ted Hughes was fearless, and he taught other writers to be fearless, too.

Mark Damazer on why he axed the Friday Play

In The Guardian, controller of Radio 4, Mark Damazer, tells Vicky Frost why he decided to end the Friday Play.
"It would have been absolutely foolish and mistaken [to ringfence drama from the cuts]. It would have meant I'd have taken a disproportionately large chop at news, current affairs, religious programming … " he says. The result however, will be more repeats in the Friday-evening slot – and this after announcements that Radio 7 is to be overhauled and made into 4 Extra, which will surely mean there needs to be more content, rather than less.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Steven Moffat on the new Doctor Who

In The Guardian, Gareth McLean talks to the new showrunner of Doctor Who, Guild member Steven Moffat.
Moffat says he doesn't have an agenda for how his Doctor Who will differ from [previous showrunner, Russell T] Davies's but "these things happen as a matter of instinct" and his instinct led him towards a more "storybook quality". "For me, Doctor Who literally is a fairy tale. It's not really science fiction. It's not set in space, it's set under your bed. It's at its best when it's related to you, no matter what planet it's set on.

"Every time it cleaves towards that, it's very strong. Although it is watched by far more adults than children, there's something fundamental in its DNA that makes it a children's programme and it makes children of everyone who watches it. If you're still a grown up by the end of that opening music, you've not been paying attention."
There's also plenty of politics in the interview - Moffat is a critic (to say the least) of the Conservative Party and the Murdoch media empire.

The new series of Doctor Who will start on BBC One on 3 April. Here's the trailer:

Olivier Award for The Mountaintop at Theatre 503

Theatre 503, a fringe venue in south London, saw off the theatrical big boys at the Olivier Awards last night, when The Moutaintop by American playwright Katori Hall won Best New Play.

The success of a play that started out at such a small venue has made something of a stir, and theatre critic Michael Billington writes that it represents:
...not only a significant boost for black playwrights and small theatres, since The Mountaintop started its life at Battersea's Theatre503 before moving to the West End. It also gives new life to the whole awards circus, which has become monstrously repetitive and wearisomely predictable.
Here's some background on Katori Hall, the 28-year-old from Memphis whose play now appears to be set for Broadway.

Elsewhere at the Olivier Awards, The Priory by Michael Wynne was named Best New Comedy and Cock by Mike Bartlett was given an award for Outstanding Achievement.

Update: And more on Katori Hall here.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

BAFTA Video Games Awards winners

The winners of the 2010 BAFTA Video Games Awards have been announced, with the prize for Story going to Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (credited to the Development Team, Sony Computer Entertainment/Naughty Dog and SCE Foster City Studio).

The award for Best Game went to Batman: Arkham Asylum (Development Team Eidos/Rocksteady Studios).

Friday, March 19, 2010

What Guild members are getting up to

MARTIN ALLEN wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Thursday 25th March.

BILL ARMSTRONG wrote the episode of Doctors "Roleplay" going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Tuesday 23rd March.

SIMON ASHDOWN wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Friday 26th March.

SARAH BAGSHAW wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Tuesday 23rd March.

RICHARD BURKE wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Friday 26th March.

MARK BURT wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Friday 26th March.

CHRIS CHIBNALL wrote the episode of Law & Order: UK "Care" going out on ITV1 at 9:00pm on Tuesday 23rd March.

ANNA CLEMENTS wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Monday 22nd March.

MARK CLOMPUS wrote the episode of Doctors "Last Cut" going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Wednesday 24th March.

DAVE COHEN'S fringe run of My Life As A Footnote, the show that's been described as "Beowulf with gags". By himself. You can reserve the Poetry Cafe by emailing Also 23rd-28th at etc theatre Camden, 29-31 March at Hen & Chickens - full details, how to book, plus two-minute clip from the show, all at

DAVID EDGAR'S adaptation for the stage Arthur and George, based on the novel by Julian Barnes, begins its run at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre from Friday 19th March till Saturday 10th April. The cast includes Adrian Lukis as Arthur and Chris Nayak as George. For more information and to book tickets go to

JAN ETHERINGTON and GAVIN PETRIE'S long-running comedy Second Thoughts, starring Lynda Bellingham and James Bolam, is currently being repeated on BBC Radio 7 every Wednesday.

The Gist & The Glory by LISA EVANS and JOHN MOORHOUSE has been specially commissioned by the Duke's Playhouse, Lancaster. The run is from Wednesday 31st March till Saturday 24th April.

CHRIS FEWTRELL wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Friday 26th March.

BILL GALLAGHER wrote the episode of Lark Rise to Candleford going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Sunday 21st March.

CAROLINE HARRINGTON wrote the episodes of The Archers going out on Radio4 at 7:00pm from Sunday 21st March with each episode being repeated at 2:00pm the day following its original broadcast.

VICKY IRELAND'S musical play, The Hare and the Tortoise, is being presented by the Education Department of the Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch. It is touring to local schools and also performing in the theatre until 20th March.

MARTIN JAMESON wrote the episode of Missing going out on BBC1 at 2:20pm on Monday 22nd March.

DAVID LANE wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Monday 22nd March.

SUE MOONEY wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Wednesday 24th March.

ROLAND MOORE wrote the episode of Doctors "Fear of the Dark" Part 2/2 going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Monday 22nd March.

JESSE O'MAHONEY wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Tuesday 23rd March.

DEBBIE O'MALLEY wrote the episode of Missing going out on BBC1 at 2:20pm on Thursday 25th March.

JULIE PARSONS wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Monday 22nd March.

JANE PEARSON wrote the episodes of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm and 8:00pm on Thursday 25th March.

GILLIAN RICHMOND wrote the episodes of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 7:30pm on Tuesday 23rd and Thursday 25th March.

ROBERT RIGBY co-wrote the radio play No Place Like Home going out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Friday 26th March.

IEUAN WATKINS' play Y Dramodydd will be broadcast on Radio Cymru
on Sunday, 21st March, at 2:00 pm.

Defending radio drama

In The Telegraph, Gillian Reynolds deplores the recent decision to axe the Friday Play from BBC Radio 4 and argues that radio drama is undervalued.
We’ve all heard some dud plays, but we’ve also heard work to make the ear rejoice and the mind sing, of plays no theatre or TV station would attempt with casts neither could afford. Radio is cheaper than either in production terms and, arguably, more lasting in impact. A formula for producing great work all the time in all of them has not, in spite of centuries of effort, yet been devised. What is universally agreed is that excellence is occasional and only comes from a critical mass of constant production.
In repsonse to her article, Guild General Secretary, Bernie Corbett, wrote to the editor - his (edited) letter is published today (scroll down).

'Women write about death, men about sex'

There's nothing like an outspoken literary prize judge to get people talking - this time it's Daisy Goodwin, chair of the Orange Prize judges, who as Jojo Moyes writes in The Telegraph, said that:
...this year’s entries have been suffused with human misery. Judging the award, she said, “there were times when I felt like a social worker”.
Moyes adds:
I think Goodwin’s entrants have simply realised the truth: that there are no literary credentials to be gained from writing upbeat prose. Current wisdom suggests you cannot be taken seriously if you include a happy ending, wit – or even in some notable cases – a plot.
Goodwin's comments are also considered in The Guardian and The Times. Elsewhere in The Telegraph, Celia Walden is pondering what seems to be on male novelists' minds: sex.
I find it both exasperating and affecting that men never grow out of sex. I don't mean the act itself – which would be sad – but talking about it, intellectualising it and constantly endowing it with supernatural, universe-defining powers. Nowhere is this tendency more apparent than in Martin Amis's new book, The Pregnant Widow; every page of it is saturated with nubile breasts, oversized buttocks – and the philosophical relationship between nubile breasts and oversized buttocks.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Writing for Doctors

On the BBC Writersroom blog, Guild member Joy Wilkinson looks back at her first attempt to write for BBC TV's Doctors.
I wrote what I thought was a pretty good script about an old woman with an obscure eye condition that meant she could see things that weren't there...

One of the things this old woman hallucinated was a cat. Now, if the script was amazing in all other ways, the producers just might have made their lives hell by adding a performing cat into the mix of hectic shooting schedules and strict budgets. But as my script was already fundamentally flawed, the presence of a cat in the cast list probably did not help its chances.

I got a gutting letter. Thanks, but no thanks. Characters too thin. All the best. Bye bye now.
Fortunately for Joy she persevered and is now a regular writer on the show.

From Garston to Hollywood

On the Writers' Guild website, Roy Boulter explains how he led a community writing project that created a feature film, Under The Mud.
The story really started to take shape over three residential writing weekends. We sat around the table discussing, arguing about and laughing through every scene, character and plotline. Eventually we had a 60-page treatment and a story that we were all happy with.

The problem was how to write dialogue with 15 writers. Improvisation worked well for some scenes and characters, but not others. We tried working in groups of two or three on individual scenes, which I would then give notes on. After countless rewrites, our production line eventually delivered a final draft that the actor and director Kathy Burke, an avid supporter of the project, described as the most enjoyable script she’d read in a long time.
Roy Boulter (right) in Hollywood with American actor Zac Efron (Photo by Solon Papadopoulos)

BBC triumphs at Royal Television Society awards

From BBC News:
The BBC has scooped 18 prizes out of 25 main categories at the Royal Television Society Awards.

Awards at the TV industry ceremony included best drama series for The Street [created by Guild member Jimmy McGovern] and best soap for EastEnders.

Boardwalk Empire

The increased status of TV drama in America these days can be seen from the fact that the director of the pilot for the upcoming HBO series Boardwalk Empire is Oscar-winner, Martin Scorsese. The writer, Terence Winter (adapting the book by Nelson Johnson), has a pretty good pedigree too - he wrote several episodes of The Soparanos.

For those who like to see behind the scenes, here's a time-lapse showing the set construction.

Link via The Playlist

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti's new play

In The Guardian, Guild member Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti tells Alfred Hickling about her new play, Behud, which addresses some of the issues raised by the response to her previous work, Behzti.
In 2004, Bhatti's decision to set the play [Behzti] in a gurdwara became the main point of contention. The [Birmingham] Rep had taken the unusual step of inviting Sikh community leaders to a private preview to air their concerns, after which they agreed not to oppose the play if the setting was moved to a community centre. Bhatti refused. "I wanted to write a play about religious hypocrisy," she explains, "for which the setting in a gurdwara was non-negotiable. The attempt to establish a dialogue with the Sikh community was well intentioned, but ultimately misinterpreted as an invitation to rewrite my play."

In Behud, the writer pours scorn on what she terms "Enid Blyton Asian plays where everyone loves each other in the end". Is that how Bhatti feels? "I would say it is, yes. Part of me is glad that I had the chance to make [religious leaders] listen to what I had to say."
Behud is at the Belgrade in Coventry 27 March–10 April, then at the Soho Theatre in London 13 April–8 May.

Monday, March 15, 2010 launches author pages

From The Bookseller: has launched hundreds of dedicated author pages, offering customers a full bibliography, recommended titles and videos. The pages went live this week and include the likes of Hilary Mantel, Stephenie Meyer, and Dan Brown.

Amy Worth, head of book buying at, said: "It's like having a bookshelf of the author's titles on the website. It launched on a few months ago and proved a popular feature."
Link via Helen Smith on Twitter (in fact this whole blog seems to be via Helen Smith this week...)

Selling your ebook for Kindle

On her blog, Guild member Helen Smith explains how she made her (very small) fortune selling her ebook for the Kindle reader via Amazon.

There's a video, too:

Elsewhere on her blog, Helen explains the joys of blogging and Twitter for writers.
Checking the constant 'news' stream on Twitter makes me feel like ace reporter Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday though if you've never tried it, perhaps the experience is better explained as being wheeled in your armchair into a very large room where lots and lots of friends and plenty of strangers are shouting, reading funny bits out from the newspapers, telling jokes, complaining about their day, celebrating recent successes. You can join in, you can just listen or you can get up and walk away. No-one minds or particularly notices if you leave, though they always seem pleased to see you when you return.

Muddle Earth comes to CBBC

BBC children's channel, CBBC, will today broadcast its first in-house long-form animation series, an adaptation of Muddle Earth (lead writers Rob Sprackling and John Smith, based on the book by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell).

In a press release Sarah Muller, Head of CBBC Animation Development, said:
'We are thrilled to have been able to produce a world-class animated series entirely in the UK, which is testament to the extraordinary talent that we've been able to gather together.

'CBBC has a strong commitment to support the British animation industry and I hope that Muddle Earth is just the first of many great local successes for us.'

Sunday, March 14, 2010

David Edgar on adapting Arthur & George

In The Guardian, David Edgar explains how he approached the challenge of adapting Julian Barnes's novel Arthur & George for the stage and explores some the differences between writing prose and plays.
Working on Dickens's Nicholas Nickleby for the RSC in the early 80s made me aware of the different rhythm of stage storytelling (the ear working more slowly than the eye, you need fewer words to achieve the same effect, particularly – frankly – with Dickens). Stage dialogue also tends to be more jagged than novel dialogue: long speeches are longer, short contrasting drop-lines crisper, antiphonal dialogue less gracefully balanced, lines are more often interrupted, unfinished or broken. Further, the stage allows the writer much stricter control over the pace of the storytelling. Playwrights use set-ups and pay-offs as meaning-bearing devices much more than novelists because they can guarantee that something planted at 7.45 will pay off at 9.30, night after night. With a novel, you don't know if the pay-off will be read in the same sitting as the set-up, or days (or even weeks) later.
Arthur & George is at the Birmingham Rep 19 March-10 April and at the Nottingham Playhouse 22 April-8 May

Friday, March 12, 2010

What Guild members are getting up to

PAUL ALEXANDER co-wrote the episode of Life of Riley "Just the Two of Us" going out on BBC1 at 7:30pm on Wednesday 17th March.

COLIN BENNETT'S play Hancock's Finest Hour, which first toured and went into the West End 25 years ago, is being re-staged for another tour currently booked to open in Birmingham. It stars Paul Henry (Benny of Crossroads) Produced by Nick Hennegan, Directed by Chris Hayes, Designed by Douglas Heap.

ROY BOULTER co-wrote the episode of Missing going out on BBC1 at 2:15pm on Friday 19th March.

MARK BURT wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Friday 19th March.

CHRIS CHIBNALL wrote the episode of Law & Order: UK "Vice" going out on ITV1 at 9:00pm on Tuesday 16th March.

MARK CLOMPUS wrote the episode of Missing going out on BBC1 at 2:15pm on Thursday 18th March.

PAUL COATES wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Monday 15th March.

DAVE COHEN is presenting the first proper run of My Life As A Footnote, his one-man poem that recounts the true story of how Phil Collins kept him out of jail.
The dates are:
  • Sat 20th, Mon 22nd March: Poetry Cafe, Betterton St, Covent Garden, 8pm, £5 on door
  • Tue 23rd-Sun 28th March: Etc Theatre, Camden Town, 9.30pm (Sun 8.30pm) £7/£5.50 in advance from etc website
  • Mon 29th-Wed 31st March: Hen & Chickens, Highbury Corner, 9.30pm, £7/£5.50 in advance from H & C website

There's a short YouTube clip at

Congratulations to A D COOPER on winning the Sequel to Cannes Short Film Script Competition. The brief was to write a short script where a well-known Dorset location was an integral part of the story. Alice wrote two scripts both of which reached the final ten. The View from the Window took the first prize of £500 (sponsored by Creative Dorset), the Scriptwriter's Handbook and an invitation to one of the organisation's networking parties in Poole, held before and after Cannes.

This competition will be run twice a year from now onwards, and a new Competition and T & C's will be launched 10th March. The competition is supported by advisors or representatives from South West Screen, Poole Arts Development Unit, WAVE arts education agency, Creative Dorset, Wessex Media Group, The Writers' Guild of GB, UK Trade and Investment Film Division and a host of producers, writers, filmmakers, crew and sales agents, as well as production companies. For more information, visit and

GRANT CORR'S new play 'Rip Her To Shreds' is going on at the Old Red Lion in Islington from March 17th to April 3rd. The play is set is Northern Ireland in 1981 and is a story about a transgender teenager who wants to look like his idol Debbie Harry.

KEVIN DYER'S The Monster Under the Bed is on at the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre in Toronto until April 1st. It’s also shortlisted for the Brian Way Award and is available from Aurorametro books.

FIONA EVANS co-wrote the episode of Casualty "English Beauty" going out on BBC1 at 9:05pm on Saturday 13th March.

STEVEN FAY wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Tuesday 16th March.

ANTHONY FRIEDMANN'S third edition of his book Writing for Visual Media has been published by Focal Press / Elsevier.

BILL GALLAGHER wrote the episode of Lark Rise to Candleford going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Sunday 14th March.

JONATHAN HARVEY wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm no Monday 15th March.

ANDREW HOLDEN wrote the episode of Holby City "Faith No More" going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Tuesday 16th March.

MARTIN JAMESON wrote the episode of Missing going out on BBC1 at 2:15pm on Wednesday 17th March.

PETER KERRY wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Wednesday 17th March.

IAN KERSHAW wrote the episode of Shameless going out on C4 at 10:00pm on Tuesday 16th March.

MATTHEW LEYS wrote the episode of Missing going out on BBC1 at 2:15pm on Monday 15th March.

BILL LYONS wrote the episode of Emmerdale gong out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Tuesday 16th March.

JAN MCVERRY wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Friday 19th March.

ROLAND MOORE wrote the two-part episode of Doctors entitled Fear of the Dark that goes out on Friday 19th and Monday 22nd March at 1:45pm.

DAVID NICHOLLS will be a guest of Fi Glover on Saturday Live tomorrow morning, 13th March, at 9.00 am, on BBC Radio 4 (FM only). As well as writing for the hit comedy series Cold Feet he's written novels like Starter for Ten and The Understudy.

DALE OVERTON wrote the episode of Doctors "Birth of the Blues" going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Monday 15th March.

GAIL RENARD will be at Coventry Cathedral tomorrow, helping to open the Give Peace a Chance ceremony commemorating John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Bed-In for Peace in 1969. John Lennon gave Gail a handwritten copy of the lyrics to Give Peace a Chance at the bed-in in Montreal. If any Guild member wants to stop and say hi Gail would be glad to see you.

DANNY STACK wrote this Sunday's episode of Fair City at 8:30pm on RTE1.

JOHN WILSHER wrote the episode of New Tricks "Shadow Show" going out on BBC1 at 9:00pm on Monday 15th March.

COLIN WYATT wrote the episodes of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Monday 15th and at 7:30pm on Tuesday 16th March.

MAXWELL YOUNG wrote the episode of The Bill "Impact" going out on ITV1 at 9:00pm on Thursday 18th March.

Ian McEwan on Solar

In The Independent, Boyd Tonkin meets novelist Ian McEwan whose new book, Solar, features a prize-winning scientist, Michael Beard.
A princely has-been, burnt out but still flattered like royalty, Beard may owe just a little to the Nobel laureates McEwan met at a conference at Potsdam in 2007 organised by his friend John Schellnhuber, the German government's climate-change adviser: "I was the after-dinner entertainment." There, "I was struck by how grand they were – some of them comically grand in the way neither Seamus Heaney nor J M Coetzee are. They run fiefdoms in a way that writers can't, or don't – or shouldn't. These guys were politicians as well as scientists."

Fellowes attacks TV's 'cult of youth'

Another complaint about TV execs being obsessed with the youth audience, this time from Oscar-winning screenwriter Julian Fellowes speaking at an event run by Broadcast magazine.
Fellowes said that TV, like much of culture in general, was run by the children of the 1960s who got swept up in the “cult of youth and “want to think they’re still young at heart”.

“One of the agreeable things about TV is that it is for an older, more adult audience,” he said. “With a lot of TV commissioners, you hear them thinking about a youth audience, but very few of them watch TV in the traditional way. I can’t tell you the number of discussion I’ve had about this mythical youth audience. It fascinates me that very few TV executives seem to feel empowered to embrace the older audience.”

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A TV writing 'girl rush'

Benji Wilson in The Times reckons that women 'are making the running in British TV' and in terms of TV writing, '2010 looks as if it might be the beginning of a girl rush'. He lists six of the female writers he expects to make the biggest impact in upcoming months, including Guild member Helen Raynor.
As the television event of the past five years, it’s not surprising that the revamped Doctor Who is turning out to be something of a talent crèche. Equally unsurprising is the fact that most of the Doctor scribes are men. The Welsh writer Helen Raynor is the exception: she cut her teeth script-editing the show right from its 2005 rebirth, then graduated to writing episodes of both Torchwood and Doctor Who on her own, including the excellent The Sontaran Stra­tagem. She is currently co­-writing a new original series, The Fabulous Baker Boys, for BBC Wales, which will be a chunk of social realism firmly rooted in a small valleys town.

Blog commenting guidelines

A guest post by Edel Brosnan, Chair of the Guild's Editorial and Communications Committee.

Rule #1: Be nice (this rule has been shamelessly lifted from the excellent "What's Alan Watching" blog at "This is a place where people can and should argue passionately for their point of view. But there's a difference between arguing with passion and arguing with hostility. If you can't find a way to express your viewpoint without insulting other commenters, or getting strident and self-righteous -- say, equating your opinion with fact, and deriding other people for not seeing the truth of your words -- then either tone down your words until they're more respectful to other people, or don't comment."

Rule # 2: Stay on-topic
This is a place for discussing items of interest to WGGB members. We don't mind if you're a current member, lapsed member, prospective member, longtime friend or implacable enemy of the Guild - we welcome comments, chat, ideas, links, reviews and speculation from anyone who's interested in life on Planet Writer. But please try to keep on-topic - as a basic rule, if you're discussing a state -of-the-nation book, play, film, TV drama, videogame or radio play, then you're on topic. If you're arguing about the state of the nation itself, then you're probably not. Having said that, if you've just had your first or fifty-first commission, or you've just fallen in love and want to share it with the world, then tell us - we want to hear the good stuff too.

Rule # 3: Don't slander any billionaire media giants
Or anyone else, for that matter. As a writers' organisation, we do not believe in heavy-handed moderation. But please don't post anything that would put the Guild in legal jeopardy. We need to keep the legal drama where it belongs - on stage and on screen.

Rule # 4: Give yourself credit
You don't have to post under your own name - we understand that there may be a thousand reasons why you shouldn't put your name to a scathing comment about script editors or the fact that you hate the cover design for your latest book. But reading comments by six or seven different contributors all calling themselves "Anonymous" is horribly confusing. Invent a nom de plume if you don't want to post under your real name - all you need to do is set up a free Gmail or Googlemail account. You can do that by clicking here - You can also use a LiveJournal, WordPress, TypePad, AIM or OpenID account. (Of course, there's nothing to stop you selecting "anonymous" as your nom de plume, as long as someone else hasn't already beaten you to it). If you'd like to drive traffic to your own website, you can also post comments using your website URL as your ID.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Oscar winner Geoffrey Fletcher

'This time last year I was trying to get an agent' says American screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher speaking to an LA Times reporter in the clip below, having just won an Oscar for best adapted screenplay for Precious (based on the novel Push by Sapphire).

Fletcher is the first African American screenwriter to win an American Academy Award, and was largely overlooked in the run up to the ceremony, even in articles about the film.

However, the most recent issue of Written By (the Writers Guild of America, West magazine) put him on the cover - you can read the interview and related editorial online. There's also a video interview on YouTube.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Google tests TV search service

By Jessica Vascellaro in The Wall Street Journal:
Google Inc. is testing a new television-programming search service with Dish Network Corp., according to people familiar with the matter, the latest development in a fast-moving race to combine Internet content with conventional TV.

The service, which runs on TV set-top boxes containing Google software, allows users to find shows on the satellite-TV service as well as video from Web sites like Google's YouTube, according to these people. It also lets users to personalize a lineup of shows, these people said.
There's also a report on the story in Media Guardian.

Last month it was reported that the BBC-backed video-on-demand initiative, Project Canvas, would launch within 12 months, but rivals such as Virgin Media continue to oppose the project.

Update (10.03.10): Microsoft will launch its video-on-demand service tomorrow.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Why the Oscars matter

For those feeling cynical about the Oscars, writer and blogger Billy Mernit presents an argument as to why last night's ceremony mattered.
It was so immensely satisfying to see Kathryn Bigelow (Best Director for The Hurt Locker) win her award, and realize that history and symbolism notwithstanding, her being a woman was also incidental. She was being acknowledged for a job well done. The honor was just.

This year's Academy Awards were unusual as well for being, despite the weak start and the bloated length, such enjoyable cultural comfort food. At a time when our country rarely does any one thing together - our communally watching a live show in real time has become, outside of sports on TV, an odd, almost retro event - the Oscars fulfilled a kind of American ideal.

Women under-represented on TV

As Vanessa Thorpe reports in The Observer, a new study commissioned by Channel 4 has revealed that women are under-represented on screen in almost all kinds of programming.
Although women were found to be well-represented in the soaps – where almost half of all the roles are for women – in light entertainment, comedy and drama they make up just four in every 10 participants.

Invitation to Guild members in Scotland

Guild members in Scotland are cordially invited to an informal get-together on Wednesday 17th March at 2.00 pm at the Wash Bar, 11-13 North Bank Street, The Mound, Edinburgh.

The purpose of the meeting is to allow Scottish members a chance to get together to discuss a possible programme of future events.

If you are able to attend please email Julie Ann Thomason

If you are unable to attend but would like to participate or help to organise future events in your area please email your ideas or suggestions to Julie.

A writer on writers on writing

On the BBC Writersroom blog, Dominic Mitchell, one of the writers on the BBC Northern Voices scheme, lays into writers holding forth about writing.
There's a big old pompous article in the Guardian Books Section entitled 10 RULES FOR WRITING inspired by Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules (yeah, Elmore Leonard, that great literary giant) that's tipped me into a twisted rage this week. The Guard have asked some crusty and seemingly bitter authors to impart their withering wisdom and the result is stomach turning...

As you might have guessed this pushes all sorts of buttons inside of me. Red buttons. Big red buttons with nuclear insignias all over them. I wouldn't mind if the rules from these writers were drizzled with a touch of humility and self effacing humor. But they aren't. Most are smeared with contempt for me and you, the lowly student.

Friday, March 05, 2010

What Guild members are getting up to

MARTIN ALLEN wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Thursday 11th March.

Congratulations to TRACY BRABIN, who has been chosen to go on the Script Factory/Birds Eye View year-long mentoring programme SHE WRITES. It has been designed to address the remarkable statistic that only 12% of British films are written by women. The programme, catering for eight emerging women writers, will take place over a year, during which time participants working on a feature screenplay will enjoy a residential retreat, attend specialist workshops, meet with mentors, gain a better understanding of the industry, have exclusive access to the Birds Eye View Film Festival, and workshop their projects with actors.

SIMON BRETT wrote the episode of People in Cars "Sat Love" going out on Radio 4 at 11:30am on Friday 12th March.

JEAN BUCHANAN'S short story in Loves Me, Loves Me Not (published in p/b in February 2010) is called The World's A Stage.

RICHARD BURKE wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Monday 8th March.

MARTIN DAY wrote the episode of Doctors "Bleeding" going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Tuesday 9th March.

TIM DYNEVOR wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Friday 12th March.

DARREN FAIRHURST wrote the episode of Shameless going out on C4 at 10:00pm on Tuesday 9th March.

BILL GALLAGHER wrote the episode of Lark Rise to Candleford going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Sunday 7th March.

CAROLINE HARRINGTON wrote the episode of Beyond Black "Allison's Good Action" going out on Radio 4 at 7:45pm on 8th March.

LISA HOLDSWORTH wrote the episode of New Tricks "Fresh Starts" going out on BBC1 at 9:00pm on Monday 8th March.

JAYNE HOLLINSON wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Friday 12th March.

ROB JOHNSTON wrote Head Space, which is being produced as part of Short Sharp Shocks at Studio Salford Wed 3rd - Sat 6th March @ 8 PM. £7/£5. Tickets from

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

RON KINSMAN wrote the episode of Doctors "My Best Effort" going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Wednesday 10th March.

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

DOMINIQUE MOLONEY wrote the episode of Doctors "Hell Hath No Fury" going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Friday 12th March.

PAUL ROUNDELL wrote the episodes of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm and 8:00pm on Thursday 11th March.

FREDERICK E. SMITH, as of the first of this month, has had two books published by Emissary Publishing. One is a novel called The Mysterious Affair, which is his forty-first published novel, and the other is the first part of his autobiography. It is called A Youthful Absurdity and there is both a hardcover and soft-cover available of this latter book.

CHRIS THOMPSON wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Monday 8th March.

JOE TURNER wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Friday 12th March.

NICK WARBURTON'S radio play Not Bobby is going out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Wednesday 10th March.

MATTHEW WESTWOOD wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Wednesday 10th March.

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

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Simon Callow on the great British sitcom

In The Times, Simon Callow recalls his role in Chance In A Million (written by Andrew Norriss and Richard Fegen) and considers what makes British sitcoms unique.
It seems to me that many of the creators of British sitcom were... unaware of what they were doing: they just nosed out talent and gave it its head. They were not unduly obsessed with ratings. They trusted their writers and reckoned that on the whole they would come up with something wonderful, given a chance. And they did, again and again. Whether they’re still doing it is another question.

The decline of literary editors

By Jean Naggar in The Huffington Post: a literary agent for these past 33 years, I am compelled to express my observation that over the past decades, the editorial role has been profoundly devalued. As corporate structures have gulped down and digested independent publishing houses and imprints, their corporate agendas have brought about a slow steady erosion of reliance on the editor's skill and intuitive vision. In order to release the magnificent sculpture that such an editor may perceive in a stone, the work of editing takes time, focus, sometimes isolation, silence, deep cogitation, and some eureka moments when the objective eye finally perceives the solution to a thorny dilemma. Few editors today are granted the luxury of so much quality time.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

National Theatre Wales gears up for first year

As National Theatre Wales prepares for the opening of its inaugural programme (with A Good Night Out in the Valleys, written by Alan Harris), in The Telegraph Dominic Cavendish speaks to its artistic director, John McGrath.
A former Eng Lit student at Oxford, where he first started to direct before honing his craft in Poland, then New York, and latterly Manchester, which saw him build an experimental buzz around the Contact Theatre, McGrath, 47, reflects: “If you’re going to have national theatres, theatres that enable countries to think about themselves, then Wales needs one. You could just put more money into touring, but that wouldn’t have the same effect. The word national focuses everyone’s minds.”
Meanwhile, in The Guardian, Stephen Moss talks to a range of people involved with National Theatre Wales's first year of productions, including Alan Harris.
A Good Night Out is based on stories local people provided in workshops that McGrath, writer Alan Harris and young volunteer Hannah Bevan held across the Valleys last autumn. Harris then reimagined them, drawing on anecdotes and characters. The work attempts a portrait of a living community – the six actors will play 25 parts – and wants, above all, to avoid being an exercise in nostalgia, a paean to the industrial landscape flattened in the last 30 years.

"At those workshops I got a load of stories and a load of characters," says Harris. "We expected stereotypical stories, and we did get some people talking about Aberfan or the miners' strike or the decline in industry. But a lot of times we got more personal stories. And they were stories of hope, rather than 'Woe is us'. People told us they wanted to see their lives on stage, but a woman in Aberdare said, 'We don't want you to take the piss out of us.' By that she meant life isn't all mines and unemployment. There's a lot more to it. She was saying, 'Our lives are a lot more complex than the view that it's a post-industrial wasteland where everyone works in Asda.'"

Hollywood contracts: the sequel

In The New York Times, Michael Cieply looks ahead to the renegotiation of Hollywood contracts for directors, actors and writers in 2011.
...will the writers again seek jurisdiction over reality shows and animation operations that are not currently covered in their contracts? Michael Winship, the president of the East Coast writers guild, said his union was already testing member sentiment on exactly such questions.

While Mr. Winship was part of the last round of talks, many of the other faces have changed.

Patric M. Verrone, who was the president of the West Coast writers guild through the last round of talks, has been succeeded by John Wells, who during an earlier stint in that office made a deal without a strike.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Writers' Guild response to BBC announcement

The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain has issued its response to today’s announcement by Mark Thompson, Director-General of the BBC.

Statement by Bernie Corbett

General Secretary, Writers’ Guild of Great Britain

In eight plain words – “The BBC should not attempt to do everything” – Mark Thompson has overturned a philosophy that has been central to the BBC since it was founded 87 years ago.

If it sticks, the new policy that the BBC can no longer provide something for everybody but must instead concentrate on high quality and areas where others can’t or won’t provide, will have profound implications.

We are suspicious of a policy change which is the result of pressure from commercial broadcasters (particularly the Murdoch empire). We take no pleasure in the abolition of Radio 6 or the Asian network (both of which are the very kind of high-quality services that no other broadcaster provides). We are particularly worried by proposals - like dropping the Asian network - which throw the BBC's commitment to diversity into reverse. And of course we support our fellow entertainment unions in their battle against job cuts.

If the changes do genuinely release £600 million to go into more and better programmes, we have some immediate suggestions as to how some of that might be best spent.

Original drama: For several years everyone has been asking why Britain can’t produce brilliant series like The Sopranos, The Wire, etc. Here is a chance for the BBC to create its own in-house HBO.

New writers: Fresh talent and new ideas don’t have to be developed to death – here is an opportunity to take some risks. Five out of every six TV drama scripts commissioned and paid for by the BBC never get made – now that ratio can be radically improved.

Make me laugh: We long for brilliant new sitcoms. Use some of this money to give them room to grow. Many of the true greats were into their second or third series before they achieved classic status.

Something for the kids:
Build on the success of CBBC and CBeebies by reinventing real, meaty drama and comedy for kids – there is more to children’s TV than running-around-shouting-and-playing shows and endlessly repeated animations – brilliant though they are.

Rescue radio: A tiny fragment of the money would not only restore but reverse the shameful cuts in BBC Radio drama that in recent years have seen the abandonment of World Service drama, the crazy cancellation of terrific soaps like Westway and Silver Street, the imminent demise of the Friday Play and the dumbing-down of the Woman’s Hour drama slot into little more than a reading with interludes of dialogue.

Comedy: While we’re at it, let us have the reintroduction of topical sketch shows like Week Ending or the News Huddlines – these shows have enabled generations of brilliant writers to get started and write their way out of their bedsits and into the ratings.

Britain’s broadcasting heritage: At long last here is a realistic source for the huge sums required to digitise the BBC archive and put it online, where everyone can access every TV or radio show that was ever made in the UK (or at least, those that still survive). And please will the BBC not give our heritage away for nothing, but charge a reasonable pay-per-view or subscription price. Doing so will avoid the iPlayer mistake of setting up impossible competition for other, commercial providers, and it will bring in revenue to fund even more programme making and to ensure fair payment for the writers and other creators who made those shows. Never forget, the BBC did not buy or pay for these rights at the time the programmes were made and it cannot rewrite history now.

Update: More about the Strategy Review from the BBC.

The rise of 3-D

Back in 2008 we noted that though the cost of converting cinemas to enable them to play 3-D films has held things up, Hollywood was convinced that the format would take off. Which, of course, it has.

Now, in The New Yorker, Anthony Lane looks at the history of 3-D film-making.
To survey the filmography of 3-D, from the days of “Bwana Devil” to a movie like “Jaws 3-D,” which, in 1983, earned eighty-eight million dollars worldwide, is to trespass upon a mythical land that is both laughed at and lost. It’s like hearing from survivors of Atlantis that the place was a bit of a dump.
And he considers the implications of the rise of 3-D now that many of the technological problems have been overcome.
Those members of the “Avatar” audience who said that they felt blue, in every sense, as the movie ebbed away were the most accurate critics of all. 3-D will ravish our senses and take us on rides that no drug could match, but my guess is that, like so many blessings, it won’t make us happy. It will make us want more.

Monday, March 01, 2010

70 years of the BBC Radio Drama Company

In The Stage, Nick Smurthwaite celebrates an acting institution that will be familiar to many radio writers.
In these days of stringent cutbacks and downsizing, it is a minor miracle that the BBC’s Radio Drama Company - better known to most actors as “the Rep” - is still going. Although not quite the mighty beast it was in its heyday, it still offers training to young actors out of drama school and the opportunity to work with some of the country’s top actors.

The new wave of political playwrights

In The Observer, David Edgar profiles some of the new wave of political playwrights, including Guild member Jack Thorne.
Does he worry that his generation is less politically engaged? "Well. I'm really interested in what 'political' is," he says. "I think there's something generational in the type of political playwright we have. My mum and dad went on marches, my mum went to jail for the CND, they were very active political people. But the boundaries of what political is have changed a lot: you can now be political as a consumer, for example – changing what you eat. Younger playwrights tend to pose questions more. I want to write stuff – and I haven't yet – that says, 'This is the problem, I don't necessarily know the answer.'"
(Original link only had part of the article - now updated)