Thursday, April 29, 2010

China Miéville wins Arthur C Clarke award

By Alison Flood in The Guardian:
His first venture into crime fiction – albeit with a fantastical edge – has won [Writers' Guild member] China Miéville the UK's most prestigious science fiction prize, the Arthur C Clarke award, for an unprecedented third time.

The City and the City is set up as a straightforward crime novel: in the dilapidated city of Beszél in eastern Europe, Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad is trying to solve what initially looks like a routine case. But as he looks deeper into the murder of a mysterious woman, he discovers that she has links to Ul Qoma, a city that exists in the same physical space as Beszél but whose inhabitants studiously ignore any sign of overlap.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Jonathan Harvey interview

In The Guardian, Alfred Hickling talks to Guild member Jonathan Harvey.
"The advantage of writing for TV," says the man who developed Coronation Street's first openly gay storyline, "is that it's always someone else's responsibility to have sleepless nights. But in the theatre, you're accountable for everything from the lighting to the poster. I secretly quite like it though – it's like pretending to be God."

Ben Stephenson interview

On the BBC Writersroom website, an interview with Ben Stephenson - Controller, Drama Commissioning for the BBC.
People tend to have a view that some things go round all the broadcasters until somebody bites, is that how it really works?

I don't really like it if people pitch them to all three of us because I think that puts us into a competitive place, which I would just take the BBC out of. If it's right for all of us, then it's not right for the BBC. Also that then becomes a commercial process and we're not commercial so I just exempt ourselves from that process.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Guild Books Co-op launch

The Writers' Guild of Great Britain Books Co-operative was launched earlier today at an event in London attended by around 40 Guild members.

As Robert Adams, Chair of the Guild's Book Committee explained, the Co-Operative is intended to be independent of the Guild without being autonomous from it. Members of the Co-op must first be Guild members and the Guild will help with setting up the business and getting it started.

The idea stemmed, Adams continued, from observations about 'the plight of the writer'. Many writers, he said, despite years of success of varying degrees, have now found themselves without a publisher or with their books out of print. 'While it's possible for writers to get themselves into a victim's mentality, new technology now gives writers the chance to be empowered by linking up with other writers and being in control of their own work. That's what lies behind the setting up of the Writers' Guild Books Co-op.'

Adams stressed that all decisions concerning the Co-operative needed to be taken collectively, but he suggested a starting point of seven principles:
  1. Membership is voluntary and open to all WGGB members
  2. The Co-op's membership controls its policy and activities
  3. The membership controls its capital and runs it as a not-for-profit organisation and with surpluses re-invested. If dissolved, any surpluses should go to the WGGB
  4. The Co-op is an independent aspect of the work of the WGGB
  5. The activities of the Co-op currently include: providing advice and information for members on aspects of publishing and self-publishing; marketing members’ books through a website; helping members publish ebooks
  6. The Co-op should make contact with other writers and organisations, nationally and internationally
  7. The Co-op should aim to develop sustainably.
Robert Taylor, Guild Chair and one of the founding directors of the Books Co-op, said that he believed it was 'a very innovative and exciting project' and one that he 'was always convinced the Guild should be involved in'.

The Co-op is set up as a company limited by guarantee, he explained, and is not-for-profit. 'Co-operative status is a particular type of legal structure that, in particular, guarantees involvement of members in the running of the company and the way that any profits or assets are distributed. Therefore the work of the Books Co-op is in the hands of its members. It’s not what the directors want or what the Guild wants; it's about what the members want. The directors are the managers of the company, they carry out the wishes of the members.'

Guild General Secretary, Bernie Corbett, another of the founding directors, added that the Guild's Executive Council had decided that, to promote both the Co-op and the Guild, any new Candidate Members will be able to join both for just £50 .

Membership of the Co-op, it was pointed out, is currently free to existing Guild members.
Various possibilities for the Co-op’s work were then discussed, including:
  • Helping to promote members' self-published books
  • Sharing expertise and resources
  • Providing links with specialists such as printers and designers
  • Developing a Guild 'imprint' to publish members' work
  • Helping members to publish and sell ebooks
  • Issuing free ISBN numbers to members
More information on the next steps and the next meeting of the Books Co-op will follow soon. If you would like to join or find out more, visit or email

Update: Frances Lynn has blogged about the Co-op launch

The Rebirth of TV Drama

Throughout May and June, BFI Southbank in London will be screening a series of films celebrating 'The Rebirth of TV Drama'. Guild members can buy tickets for at a discounted price (the same price as for BFI members) - just quote your Guild membership number when booking.
Amid all the noisy debate about the state of British TV drama when compared to the US model, it’s easy to miss one crucial point: the present generation of writers is as gifted as any Britain has produced. Whatever might be wrong with UK drama – its funding crises, its overdependence on crime narratives and biopics – there is no want of talent. This two-month season showcases some of the best shorter-form dramas from the last decade or so, all original works for TV by writers who have been steadily building an impressive body of work with a distinctive signature. We have a number of events/discussions in the two month season with the likes of Dominic Savage, Frank Cottrell Boyce and William Ivory joining in the debates.

Authors against the 'Sats'

Writer Alan Gibbons has been co-ordinating a campaign against the 'Sats' tests for children in schools. Here's the latest statement on his blog:
We are poets, authors and illustrators opposed to the SAT tests. Our campaign was founded in 1993. We believe that children’s understanding, empathy, imagination and creativity are developed best by reading whole books, not by doing comprehension exercises on short excerpts and not from ticking boxes or giving one word answers. It is our view that reading for pleasure is being squeezed by the relentless pressure of testing and we are particularly concerned that the SATs and the preparation for them are creating an atmosphere of anxiety around the reading of literature. Resources now being channelled into testing could and should be redirected towards libraries, the training of librarians and book provision.

We support the boycott called by head teachers in the NUT and NAHT unions. There are no SAT tests in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. We deplore Government threats to use legal action against a form of action which will give children more time to learn and will not disrupt their education in any way.
More details, including how to add your name to the signatories, can be found here.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Agreements piracy

Following the announcement that the Writers' Guild has concluded a landmark agreement with ITV, here's a guest post from Gail Renard, chair of the Guild's TV Committee.

Hoorah to the Guild for having secured a great new ITV agreement on behalf of writers. Please note I said writers and not Guild members. Every working day non-members (and you know who you are) use the WGGB agreements in almost every deal they make especially in television (or leave themselves woefully unprotected if they don’t).

All of us scream when our work is pirated on-line or DVDs, etc, on a daily basis. None of us condone stealing. But isn’t it the same if you’re using WGGB agreements and you’re not a member in good standing?

Guild agreements aren’t gifts from the writer gods. Guild members pay annual subscriptions so our small but valiant staff can be eternally vigilant, and negotiate and police all these deals on behalf of our members. Added to that, dozens of members, working writers all, donate their valuable time to sit on our Executive Council and committees; to negotiate alongside our staff for the best minimum term agreements in all media. Using our agreements without being a member of the Guild is just another form of piracy.

A standard excuse for not joining the Guild is “but I’m only just starting out.” But that’s just when you need professional protection, guidance and contractual advice. The Guild cares when no one else does and goes on caring throughout your entire career.

Another top excuse is, 'But I have an agent!' The answer is you need both. An agent bases most of the negotiations they do on WGGB contracts. Without a minimum terms agreements in place, there’d be no safety nets for writers’ rights, terms or conditions; and your agent would start negotiating from scratch. Zero. Zilch. How generous would a production company be if there weren’t recognised benchmarks in place and they had to offer you fees from the goodness of their hearts? And can I add that the Guild asks for subs just over one per cent of your writing income, whereas most agents take 10% or even 15%?

It’s also worth remembering that agents or agents’ associations cannot solely negotiate a collective agreement on behalf of writers. Only a writers’ organisation such as the Guild can. And without a WGGB or Writers Guild of America approved contract, you also won’t be eligible for many major American and British awards.

An industry without the safeguard of the Guild and its agreements would be bedlam, and writers would cease to be able to earn a living. No Writers’ Guild can run on air. The WGGB keeps afloat by members’ subscriptions and we welcome yours. We need you. A pirate by any other name...

Alan Sillitoe 1928-2010

The author Alan Sillitoe has died at the age of 82, reports BBC News.

There are obituaries and appreciations in The Times, The Telegraph, The New York Times and by Richard Bradford in The Guardian.
Before reaching Jeffrey Simmons, chief commissioning editor of WH Allen, the typescript of [Saturday Night and Sunday Morning] had been rejected by five mainstream publishing houses. None was disappointed by the quality of the work, but each – notably Tom Maschler – proclaimed that Sillitoe's representations of working-class existence were based upon a bizarre dystopian hypothesis. When the novel came out the critics disagreed, as did the impresario Harry Saltzman, who sponsored Karel Reisz as director of the 1960 film adaptation, with Sillitoe as scriptwriter. Starring Albert Finney as Seaton, a young Nottingham factory worker who has an affair with the wife of a colleague, it became a landmark in the British New Wave.
BBC News has a collection of readers' reflections on Sillitoe's work.
I was a student at Bishop Grosseteste College in Lincoln. Whilst studying there, Glyn Hughes was the Writer in Residence and he organised a series of visiting authors. Alan Sillitoe was one such author and I remember him as an unassuming, humble but passionate man. He read out a short story about a headless chicken which was both startling and hilarious. He read out extracts from other things he had written and I thought he was inspirational. The story of The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner was simple but hugely powerful. I am sorry to hear of Alan Sillitoe's passing. He was a quiet genius.

Des O'Byrne, Hindhead

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Doctor Who fans complain about Norton intrusion

From BBC News:
Thousands of Doctor Who fans have contacted the BBC to complain that the ending of Saturday night's episode was ruined by a trailer for the next show.

The on-screen caption featured an animated cartoon of presenter Graham Norton, host of Over the Rainbow.

It appeared as The Doctor, played by Matt Smith, was making an emotional speech during the story's cliffhanger ending for The Time of Angels [written by Guild member Steven Moffat].

Will 3-D change screenwriting?

In The LA Times, Steve Zeitchik considers whether screenwriting will be changed by the growing trend of films made in 3-D.
"You build sequences differently when you know things have to pop out and jump at you," says Kieran Mulroney, who with his wife, Michele, is writing the "Sherlock Holmes" sequel, which has been the subject of a number of 3-D conversations at studio Warner Bros. "I fear that if every movie becomes spectacle for the sake of spectacle, where does that leave the intimate conversation across the dinner table?"

Peter Porter 1929-2010

The poet Peter Porter, born in Australia but resident in England for much of his life, has died at the age of 81.

There are obituaries in The Telegraph and The Guardian - which also has a recent interview by Sarah Crown
"It's behoven upon you to do the best you can with the abilities you have," [Porter] says. "You honour the existence of everything else by doing so. I know I can't write novels; I've tried. I know I can't write plays. I can write criticism, and gabble away on the radio, but the only thing I can really do with any degree of finesse is write poetry. So I do it."
A critical appreciation of Porter's work and some recordings of him reading can be found at the Poetry Archive.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Guild signs milestone agreement with ITV

The Writers’ Guild has signed a milestone agreement with ITV to bring minimum fees more into line with current standards and introduce 100% advances on many shows for the first time.

The main points of the deal were agreed and implemented in the autumn of 2007, but it has taken since then to complete negotiations on the detail and the precise wording of the agreement and contract.

The key points are:
  • Minimum fees of £11,500 per hour for original teleplays; £9,000 per hour for series and serials; and £3,000 per half-hour for long-running series similar to Coronation Street or Emmerdale. The Guild has now lodged a claim for increases to take effect from 1 July this year
  • 7.5 % pension contribution for paid-up Guild members
  • A new 100% 'subsequent use advance' – although this does not apply to long-running series, regional, digital-only or daytime commissions. This brings ITV into line with the Guild’s BBC and PACT TV agreementsLower repeat fees – a residual payment of 50 per cent for peak time, 25 per cent for daytime and shoulder peak, and 15 per cent for night-time, with a 25 per cent discount for any repeat within seven days of the first transmission. The Guild agreed this concession because it believes it will keep UK material on screens in preference to cheap imported shows – particularly in daytime slots – and therefore maximise the payments flowing to our members
  • Establishment of a Forum which will meet quarterly to keep the terms and conditions under review, agree terms for new services, and deal with any problems or complaints relating to the agreement or experienced by writers commissioned under the agreement.
Other parties to the agreement are the Personal Managers’ Association – the trade body covering agents who represent many successful and established TV writers; and Scottish Television, which took part in the negotiations and is expected to sign up to the deal in the near future.

All parties are committed to further negotiations on payments to writers working for digital channels such as ITV 2, 3 and 4. As part of the negotiations ITV has made a lump-sum payment to the Writers’ Guild to cover the use of programmes on the ITVplayer internet catch-up service between 2007 and 2009 and it is planned that this money will be distributed to writers later this year. New negotiations will follow to establish a permanent system of payments for the catch-up service from January 2010 onwards.

Guild General Secretary Bernie Corbett said: 'Although it has taken a long time to tie up the loose ends, and we still need to tackle some new areas, this has been an amicable and successful negotiation bringing solid benefits to all sides.' He thanked members of the Guild Executive and TV Committee who have participated in the negotiations, including Gail Renard, J.C. Wilsher, Katharine Way, Robert Taylor and Ming Ho.

The full text of the agreement can be downloaded from the Writers’ Guild website (pdf). Any member with questions or problems about the agreement should contact the Guild office.

Happy signatories, shortly after signing the new ITV agreement (from left): Fiona Williams, Chair of the Personal Managers’ Association, Bernie Corbett, General Secretary of the Writers’ Guild, and Justine Rhodes, ITV Controller of Business Affairs.

Event: Is it worth writing for TV now?

A West Midlands Writers' Guild Event

An evening with Tony Garnett & Hilary Salmon hosted by David Edgar

Friday 21st May at 7:30pm

Venue: BCU School of Art, Margaret St., Birmingham B3 3BX

Last year Cathy Come Home producer Tony Garnett caused controversy by attacking the current state of BBC TV drama in a powerful viral email, in The Guardian and other media and in his article How To Kill Creativity While Claiming To Make It Grow. ( His criticisms have stirred much discussion and caused other writers and producers to come to the BBC’s defence. We continue this vigorous debate here in the Midlands with Tony himself and BBC executive producer Hilary Salmon, responsible for several hard‑hitting BBC TV dramas. It promises to be a lively and informative evening. We hope you will be able to attend.

Tony Garnett’s long and prestigious television career includes Z-Cars, The Wednesday Play, Cathy Come Home, Kes, Ballykissangel, The Cops, Law & Order, Between the Lines, This Life and No Angels. Along the way, he has helped to develop the work of Ken Loach, Mike Leigh, GF Newman and Roland Joffe among others. Born in Birmingham, he is an avid Aston Villa supporter.

Hilary Salmon is a BBC executive producer. Based at BBC Pebble Mill during the 1990s, she has worked in London since 1998. Her credits include: Criminal Justice, Five Days, Moses Jones, The Passion, Maxwell, House Of Saddam, Silent Witness, The Long Firm, Shoot The Messenger, Babyfather, To The Ends Of The Earth and Nature Boy. Her work has won RTS, Bafta and Prix Italia awards. She supports Liverpool FC.

Places are limited for this event. Please reserve a place by emailing

Free to Guild members. £5 for non-members.

What Guild members are getting up to

JESSE ARMSTRONG AND SAM BAIN wrote the screenplay for Four Lions, a satire about a group of British jihadists who push their abstract dreams of glory to the breaking point. Guild member FAISAL QURESHI was Associate Producer and it was directed by Chris Morris. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2010 and was short-listed for the festival's World Cinema Narrative prize.

STEPHEN BUTCHARD wrote the episode of the new series Five Daughters going out on BBC1 at 9:00pm on Sunday 25th April.

PAUL COATES wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Monday 26th April.

SIMON CROWTHER wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Monday 26th April.

MATT EVANS wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Friday 30th April.

CHRIS FEWTRELL wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Monday 26th April.

BILL GALLAGHER wrote the episode of The Prisoner "Harmony" going out on ITV1 at 9:00pm on Saturday 24th April.

JONATHAN HARVEY will be on BBC Radio 4's Front Row on Friday evening at 7.15 pm talking about his new play Canary which is about to go on tour with the English Touring Theatre:

  • LIVERPOOL PLAYHOUSE 24 April - 15 May
  • HAMPSTEAD THEATRE 19 May - 12 June
  • MALVERN THEATRES 22 - 26 June

LISA HOLDSWORTH wrote the episode of Waterloo Road going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Wednesday 28th April.

MARK ILLIS wrote the episodes of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Monday 26th and Tuesday 27th April.

DAVID LANE wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Thursday 29th April.

JAN MCVERRY wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Friday 30th April.

STEVEN MOFFAT wrote the episode of Doctor Who "The Time of Angels" going out on BBC1 at 6:20pm on Saturday 24th April.

GILLIAN RICHMOND wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 7:30pm on Thursday 29th April.

PAUL ROUNDELL wrote the episodes of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm and 8:00pm on Thursday 29th April.

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

TOM STOPPARD's 1982 play The Real Thing has had a stylish revival by Anna Mackmin at the Old Vic, starring Topy Stephens and Hattie Morahan. Until 5th June.

PETER VINCENT co-wrote the episode of the new series When the Dog Dies "The Same Hymn" starring Ronnie Corbett it begins on Radio 4 at 11:30am on Friday 30th April.

MARK WADLOW wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Friday 30th April.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

South Park creators warned over Muhammad depiction

From BBC News:
Islamists have warned the creators of TV show South Park they could face violent retribution for depicting the Prophet Muhammad in a bear suit.

A posting on the website of the US-based group, Revolution Muslim, told Matt Stone and Trey Parker they would "probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh".

The Dutch film-maker was shot and stabbed to death in 2004 by an Islamist angered by his film about Muslim women.

A subsequent episode of the cartoon bleeped out references to Muhammad.
Stone and Parker talked about the episode in a recent interview with Boing Boing. Apparently online broadcasts of the episode have been halted.

Ten screenwriting clichés that refuse to die

Screenwriter, teacher and script reader Billy Mernit shares his pain:
The #1 Most Over-Used Image

No competition here, and no exaggeration: This phrase turns up in about one out of every three spec scripts I read. Not sure who got it started (and I'd like to know, just so I can deck 'em) but Like a deer in headlights is the hands-down most ubiquitous clichéd screenwriting simile in existence..

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A new dawn for video games

In The Telegraph, Richard Wilson, the chief executive of video games body TIGA, talks about the Government's recent announcement of tax relief for video games, and why he believes it marks a turning point for the industry.
As the general election gets underway, the country is bracing itself for the three main parties sending representatives out onto the campaign trail to espouse the virtues of their separate manifestos. But the UK politicians aren't the only group choosing this moment to announce a new remit. TIGA, the trade association representing the UK games industry, this week launched a manifesto outlining its priorities for the video games industry ahead of the next Parliament. The group has put forward what it believes are the most pressing issues facing the industry. TIGA is arguing for games tax relief as soon as possible; the retention and expansion of the R&D tax credit scheme; and a reduction in tuition fees for mathematics and computer science degrees. In short, TIGA wants a better deal for the industry over three fundamental areas; taxation, representation and skills.

Using the web to advance your writing career

The Writers Guild of America, West has uploaded some video highlights from an event it organised last month looking at how writers can get online, promote their careers, raise their industry profiles, build their brands and distribute and monetise their work.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sky Arts Live announces playwrights for new season

Some commentators have suggested that the BBC should broadcast more (or any) new work by playwrights. Well, Sky Arts is doing it:
Playhouse: Live will see brand new work from Rebecca Lenkiewicz, the first woman to have a play performed on the main stage at the National Theatre; Frank McGuiness, considered by many to be Ireland’s greatest living playwright; Mark Ravenhill, who penned the satirical shock-fest, Shopping and F**king; Alia Bano, the Evening Standard’s Most Promising Playwright of 2009; and Eve Ensler, author of the global phenomenon, The Vagina Monologues.

There will also be an exclusive opportunity to see the plays at the Riverside Studios in London in the week prior to the live premiere, where each play will preview for four nights before the live TV performance. Sandi Toksvig will host a post show discussion for each play at the Riverside Studios, after every Friday night performance.

The Sky Arts Playhouse: Live company is led by artistic director Sandi Toksvig, and creative director Pip Broughton.

“With Playhouse: Live, we’re staying true to the theatrical experience whilst simultaneously ensuring that we successfully marry the components of theatre and television that make each experience so unique,” comments Sandi Toksvig, artistic director of Sky Arts Playhouse: Live. “We’re thrilled to have such an extraordinary range and calibre of playwrights on board, and are delighted about partnering with the Riverside Studios to give the creative teams an opportunity to preview each play.”

“Our audience is telling us it wants something different and this is TV to stretch the imagination,” adds John Cassy, director of Sky Arts. “It’s five leading creative talents with five groundbreaking new TV dramas. There’ll be nowhere to hide. From the moment we go live, it promises to be a thrilling ride and completely unlike anything else on TV.”

Monday, April 19, 2010

Paul Harding - from rejection letters to a Pulitzer Prize

It can happen... (by Motoko Rich in The New York Times)
Six years ago Paul Harding was just another graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop with a quiet little novel he hoped to publish. He sent copies of the manuscript, in which he had intertwined the deathbed memories of a New England clock repairer with episodes about the dying man’s father, to a handful of agents and editors in New York. Soon after, the rejection letters started to roll in.

“They would lecture me about the pace of life today,” Mr. Harding said last week over lunch at a diner in this college town, where he is now teaching at the workshop. “It was, ‘Where are the car chases?’ ” he said, recalling the gist of the letters. “ ‘Nobody wants to read a slow, contemplative, meditative, quiet book.’ ”

His manuscript languished in a desk drawer for nearly three years. But in perhaps the most dramatic literary Cinderella story of recent memory, Mr. Harding, 42, not only eventually found a publisher — the tiny Bellevue Literary Press — for the novel, “Tinkers,” he also went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction last week. Within an hour of the Pulitzer announcement, Random House sent out a news release boasting of the two-book deal it had signed with Mr. Harding late in 2009. A few days later the Guggenheim Foundation announced he had received one of its prestigious fellowships.

David Hare on journalism and theatre

In The Guardian, David Hare argues that theatre (and other artforms) can and should respond to events with the same speed as journalism.
All over the world serious work is being made in all sorts of unauthorised ways. Old-fashioned opinion, meanwhile, is tying its shoelaces and not noticing. In the face of the evidence, it is still held as an article of faith by high-minded bystanders that it takes time for artists to absorb events. Any response that appears too quickly must, it is claimed, be journalism, not art. The fact that Wilfred Owen wrote the greatest poems of the first world war in the heat of battle does not shake the prejudice. If the high-minded had their way, Owen would have waited to lend the events more distance. He would, mind you, have been killed in the meanwhile, and his poems would never have got written, but at least Owen would have died with the consolation of knowing that he did plan to compose on a critically approved timescale. Addressing a similar conviction – that films about Iraq and Afghanistan are bound to be flawed because they lack perspective – the critic David Denby asks this excellent question: "Box office wisdom holds that it is too early to make movies about this conflict; but how can it ever be too early to make a good film?"

Professor confesses over online reviews scandal

By Caroline Davies in The Guardian:
An extraordinary literary "whodunnit" over the identity of a mystery reviewer who savaged works by some of Britain's leading academics on the Amazon website has culminated in a top historian admitting that the culprit was, in fact, his wife.

Prof Orlando Figes, 50, an expert on Russia and professor of history at Birkbeck College, London, made the startling revelation in a statement through lawyers following a week of intrigue, suspicion, legal threats and angry email exchanges over postings on the website's UK book review pages.
There's comment on the affair from Philip Hensher in The Independent:
With the internet have come huge opportunities for anonymity. Anyone can say what they like about anyone else without there being the slightest risk of an interest, a direct connection, or an obligation being uncovered. That doesn't seem an advantage, on the whole. I can see the reason for SalamPax, the famous gay Iraqi blogger, to write pseudonymously. What possibly justification can there be for a blog of book reviews, or the reviews on Amazon, to remain anonymous, unless to conceal improper interests?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Back to his roots

For the latest issue of the Guild magazine, UK Writer, Anne Hogben interviewed Alan Plater. The article is now available on the Writers' Guild website.
Early in Spring 2009 Alan Plater got a phone call from ITV asking him if he would be up for writing a one-off original drama with a central role for Kevin Whately. They were thinking of a story set on Tyneside during the Second World War about the Home Guard.

Plater's response was 'You've just walked into my life!' This was his family's history through another door. 'I spent some time on Tyneside during the war; my uncle Harry was in the Home Guard so I've got all his stories to draw on.' Indeed, as a boy, Plater can remember the experience of being bombed while on Tyneside.

'Frankly, I never thought it would be made. It's going to be a bit expensive; above the average budget for a 90-minute television drama. That 1941-43 wartime period has to be re-created and that means finding authentic-looking streets, shops and so on. It's about three guys working in a shipyard. And all the shipyards have gone. You can cheat of course but it still costs a lot. A provisional budget was drawn up that nearly made me faint in horror! Then there was a very long silence. I thought they'd given up on the idea. Then, come October, I got a message from the office asking me to help prepare a press release on Joe Maddison's War. It's going ahead. It's so exciting.'

Whately and Robson Green are to play the two leads. The entire shoot will take place in Newcastle.

Alan Plater (photo: Craig Leng)

Friday, April 16, 2010

What Guild members are getting up to

CAREY ANDREWS wrote the episodes of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 7:30pm on Tuesday 20th and Thursday 22nd April.

CLARA ARMAND has co-written and directed On The Borderline. For full details and to book a ticket please go to

SONALI BHATTACHARYYA wrote the episode of Casualty "Clean Slate" going out on BBC1 at 9:15pm on Saturday 17th April.

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

BILL GALLAGHER wrote the episode of the new series The Prisoner "Arrival", a re-invention of the iconic 1960s cult drama, starring Jim Caviezel and Ian McKellen.

SASHA HAILS wrote the episode of Waterloo Road going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Wednesday 21st April.

JULIE JONES wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Friday 23rd April.

NEIL JONES wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Monday 19th April.

DAVID KANE wrote the episode of Foyle's War "Killing Time" going out on ITV1 at 8:00pm on Sunday 18th April.

PETER KERRY wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Tuesday 20th April.

MIKE LEIGH'S new film Another Year will be premiered at the Cannes Film Festival next month.

SUSAN LUND'S new novel Passion - Beethoven's Son has just been published by BookSurge and is available from Amazon.

Beyond the Fire written and directed by MAEVE MURPHY will be broadcast by TV3 April 7th at 11:05pm. Critic's Choice in Sunday Mirror (Ireland) April 4th.

JANE PEARSON wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Friday 23rd April.

STEPHEN RUSSELL wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Friday 23rd April.

FREDERICK E. SMITH'S novel The Mysterious Affair and the first part of his autobiography, A Youthful Absurdity, are being published in tandem by Emissary Publishing.

JOE TURNER wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Thursday 22nd April.

AMANDA WHITTINGTON'S radio drama Writing the Century begins with the episode Once upon a Time going out on Radio 4 at 7:45pm on Monday 19th April.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Write Stuff - A History of the Writers' Guild of Great Britain

The launch of the official history of the Writers' Guild, The Write Stuff written by Nick Yapp, took place in London last night.

Guild Chair, Robert Taylor, praised the book for bringing to life the work of the Guild over 50 years and said that past successes should be an inspiration to current Guild members.

David Edgar, Guild President, said that the book made him realise just what wouldn't have happened without the Guild - landmark achievements such as Public Lending Right, pension schemes for writers and minimum terms agreements.

Nick Yapp thanked the Guild, of which he is a member, for the chance to write the book and thanked all those members who helped with his research.

The book is now available at £12 plus £2.50 postage & packing - but for a limited period Guild members can order a copy at the special discount price of £10 (postage paid). If you would like to purchase a copy, please send a cheque for £10 to the Guild office at: 40 Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4RX

You can read an interview with Nick Yapp on the Guild website.
What do you feel have been the Guild’s greatest achievements?

Firstly, to have survived. We live in an anti-union age, and simply to carry on doing the work it does for writers is a huge achievement. And the real fruits of all this work, without doubt, are the negotiated agreements. The Guild signed the first ever minimum terms agreements with the film industry and there have been landmark agreements with publishers, in TV, theatre and radio. These were hard won, thanks to the work of Guild staff and the time and effort put in by Guild members. The organisation has been lucky to have so many brilliant negotiators over the years, people who have been able to do deals with some of the toughest people in the business.

Another great achievement has been to maintain these agreements. They don’t just look after themselves, they have to be monitored, protected, updated and improved. It’s a huge task but the Guild has always known that it can never relax. The fight will go on forever.

Paul Theroux on the future of fiction

In The Atlantic, writer Paul Theroux discusses the future of fiction.
In a hyperactive world, the writing of fiction — and perhaps the reading of it — must seem slow, dull, even pedestrian and oldfangled. I think there is only one way to write fiction — alone, in a room, without interruption or any distraction. Have I just described the average younger person’s room? I don’t think so. But the average younger person is multitasking. The rare, unusual, solitary, passionate younger person is writing a poem or a story.

Operation Claude Robinson

In August last year we reported on this blog that Canadian animator Claude Robinson had, with the backing of the French Canadian writers' guild (Société des Auteurs de Radio, Télévision et Cinéma) and the International Affiliation of Writers Guilds, of which the Writers' Guild of Great Britain is a member, won a long-running $5.2 million plagiarism case.

Unfortunately the case has still not been settled, with the firm involved appealing against the court's decision.

An English language version of the website Operation Claude Robinson has now been set up to explain the case and invite support for Claude in his fight for justice.

Petition for equal representation of women in TV/film drama

Equity, the union representing performers and artists, has set up a petition calling for equal representation of women in TV/film drama.
Over half the viewing public is female, yet in TV drama for every female character, there are two male characters - (36.5% female roles to 63.5% male roles).

Whilst leading parts are frequently played by male actors over 45, women in this age group start to disappear from our screens.

The message this sends to viewers is distorted and distorting. We call on all the major UK television channels to take action to correct this imbalance.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

OedipusEnders on Radio 4

OedipusEnders, a BBC Radio 4 programme broadcast this morning, is available on BBC iPlayer until 20th April:
How has Oedipus influenced EastEnders? And what is Medea doing in The Bill?

On the face of it, they couldn't be more different. Greek tragedy, we're told, is right at the top of the dramatic hierarchy; TV soaps are the definition of low-brow. Not so, says comedian, telly addict and closet classicist Natalie Haynes.

As she discovers, the two forms have rather more in common than stereotype might have us believe. Soap and Greek tragedy alike focus relentlessly on families under pressure. Both see it as their job to confront their fellow citizens with social taboos. And both are noted for competing keenly to win the praise of mass audiences.

Natalie starts by spending an evening watching 'EastEnders' with Tim Teeman, who has written many articles on soap - and who recently noticed the storylines start to become unmistakably Greek.

She soon finds out that this is no coincidence. One of the most controversial, high-impact 'EastEnders' storylines of the last few years was a conscious take on Sophocles' 'Oedipus,' as she discovers when she meets John Yorke, former Executive Producer on 'EastEnders' and now Head of BBC Drama Production, and Dominic Treadwell-Collins, Series Story Producer on 'EastEnders'.

Dominic Treadwell-Collins also explains how the story-lining team seriously considered having one of the central EastEnders characters re-enact Euripides' 'Medea': they discussed having her punish her adulterous husband by murdering their children.

In the end they decided this was too extreme. But Natalie visits the set of 'The Bill', to talk to Series Story Editor Kara Manley, who explains how and why they have drawn specifically on 'Medea' to create a forthcoming episode.

Along the way, Natalie hears from Phil Redmond, the creator of 'Brookside', and soap writers and story-liners who have worked on a wide range of soaps. She discovers that Aeschylus and Sophocles are often present in spirit at script conferences, as story teams exhort each other to "make it more Greek".

And she finds out what happened when one writer on the defunct Channel 5 soap 'Family Affairs' spotted that a story-line was identical to Euripides' 'Hippolytus'. He started to work references to Euripides into the script, only to find his bosses were less than amused.

Meanwhile, Barrie Rutter, Artistic Director of Northern Broadsides Theatre Company, who is currently touring a production of 'Medea', tells Natalie there is no connection at all between the two genres.

But Edith Hall, Professor of Classics and Drama at Royal Holloway, University of London, explains what she thinks is behind all this. Hall argues that the rising power of women has fuelled both the rise of the soap and, over the last forty years, the biggest revival of Greek tragedies since the plays were written.

Both forms, she argues, boast an unusually strong set of roles for women, and were seized on from the late 1960s onwards as an antidote to other, more male-focussed forms of drama. In contrast to much earlier TV drama, Aeschylus and 'EastEnders' alike, she argues, don't see the home as a place of safety, with the drama happening beyond. They see the home itself as a place of danger.

With: Ryan Craig, Professor Edith Hall, Kara Manley, Sean O'Connor, Phil Redmond, Barrie Rutter, Tim Teeman, Dominic Treadwell-Collins, John Yorke.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Bectu in Casualty protest

By Matthew Hemley for The Stage:
Production staff from the BBC series Casualty are to stage a protest outside the drama’s Bristol-based production studios this Wednesday, following claims some employees are being dismissed so the Corporation can avoid awarding them certain employment rights,

According to Bectu, seven staff from the show’s props department are not having their contracts renewed this month, because the BBC wants to avoid having to grant the employees specific rights that come with working for the Corporation over 12 months.
Here's the report on the Bectu website:
"This treatment of individuals would be unacceptable and immoral coming from any employer. However, the fact this it is the BBC, a publically funded, and universally respected broadcaster will cause many to view the BBC in a new light," commented, Helen Ryan, supervisory official.

Staff at risk are being encouraged to lodge a formal appeal against their dismissal and a sample letter is being circulated.

Whilst the dispute centres on the BBC's attempts to stop staff accruing employment rights, it is well known that some of the staff affected have worked on Casualty for up to six years having been contracted by Bristol Design Services up until April 2009.

"The BBC's stance is so unfair and so wrong it has to be challenged publically. The experience represented by the staff at risk cannot be replaced locally and it is predicted that production managers may need to hire staff from London.

"This makes a mockery of the BBC's commitment to regional production and is set to increase costs. Where's the sense in that? BBC managers have also needlessly damaged industrial relations. We will do everything we can to persuade BBC Vision to reverse this decision."

David Edgar on Moonfleece ban

In The Guardian, Writers' Guild President David Edgar argues that the decision by the Dormston Arts and Sports Centre, Dudley, to cancel a booking for Philip Ridley's play Moonfleece is a sign of a rising tide of censorship.
If they did read the play, it's baffling that the managers of the school and centre withdrew the booking. What almost certainly happened was they responded in panic to press reports about the play, and thus denied people in Dudley (where the BNP wins 10% of the vote) the chance to be armed with arguments against bigotry. And they provided yet another example of a new censoriousness that – in the guise of community protection, anti-discrimination, even health and safety – is stalking the land.

'Your next book should be an App'

On TechCrunch, Cody Brown argues that authors should adapt to Apple's new iPad by writing new content for it as 'Apps' rather than just re-formatting existing work.
If you, as an author, see the iPad as a place to ‘publish’ your next book, you are completely missing the point. What do you think would have happened if George Orwell had the iPad? Do you think he would have written for print then copy and pasted his story into the iBookstore? If this didn’t work out well, do you think he would have complained that there aren’t any serious-readers anymore? No. He would have looked at the medium, then blown our minds.

Friday, April 09, 2010

What Guild members are getting up to

MARTIN ALLEN wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Friday 16th April.

MARK BURT wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Friday 16th April.

LESLEY CLARE O'NEILL wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Monday 12th April.

DAVID CROFT and JIMMY PERRY wrote the episode of Dad's Army "Number Engaged" going out on BBC2 at 8:00pm on Saturday 10th April.

KISHWAR DESAI'S chilling debut novel Witness the Night has just been published by Beautiful Books, UK. It was long-listed for the Man Asian Literary Prize, and has been extremely well received in India.

RACHEL FLOWERDAY wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Monday 12th April.

BILL GALLAGHER wrote the remake of The Prisoner for ITV Studios last year. The 6 x 60-minute mini-series, starring Sir Ian McKellen and Jim Caviezel, is now about to go global after being picked up by broadcasters in more than 100 territories.

SASHA HAILS wrote the episode of Casualty "Loves Me, Loves Me Not" going out on BBC1 at 9:00pm on Saturday 10th April.

JAYNE HOLLINSON wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Thursday 15th April.

ANTHONY HOROWITZ wrote the first episode of the new series of Foyle's War "The Russian House" going out on ITV1 at 8:00pm on Sunday 11th April.

FRED LAWLESS has written a new comedy play A Fistful of Collars for the Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool. It opens on Friday 16th April and runs until Saturday 15th May. More details at

NATALIE MCGRATH'S short play Wild Doves will be performed at Bristol Old Vic 20th-24th April 2010 as part of the Short Fuses season in response to the provocation The State We're In. . . Directed by Polly Findlay.

STEVEN MOFFAT wrote the episode of Doctor Who "The Beast Below" going out on BBC1 at 6:15pm on Saturday 10th April.

DEBBIE OATES wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Sunday 11th April.

JULIE PARSONS wrote the episodes of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Tuesday 13th and Wednesday 14th April.

PAUL ROUNDELL wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Thursday 15th April.

JULIE RUTTERFORD wrote the episode of Ashes to Ashes going out on BBC1 at 9:00pm on Friday 16th April.

DAN SEFTON wrote the episode of Holby City "Bette Davis Eyes" going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Tuesday 13th April.

BILL TAYLOR wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Friday 16th April.

PETER WHALLEY wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Monday 12th April. His psychological thriller The Disappearance is going out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Thursday 15th April.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

In defence of the Digital Economy Bill

A guest post by Bernie Corbett, General Secretary of the Writers' Guild of Great Britain

Late last night the much-debated but little-understood Digital Economy Bill was passed by the House of Commons and will become law as part of the so-called 'wash-up' of uncompleted legislation as the old Parliament breathes its last.

By far the most disputed part of the bill was the section introducing automatic penalties against people who use the internet to download music, films, books or whatever in breach of copyrights held by creators, publishers, producers, etc.

I make no apology for the support given to this measure by the Writers’ Guild – in common with nearly all the trade unions, collecting societies and other organisations representing creators and performers. Online copyright infringement not only deprives creators of payment for the enjoyment of their work, but also damages the businesses that, like it or not, we depend on for commissions, fees, royalties and residuals.

It cannot be right for society to turn a blind eye when unscrupulous traders seek to profit on the backs of other people’s creativity, hard work and risk-taking, nor for internet service providers to have no role in policing the material they transmit.

The measures in the bill have been misrepresented as 'three strikes and you’re out' and even as the denial of a 'human right' to access the internet. For one thing it is going to take many more than three dodgy downloads before anyone faces restrictions or suspension of their internet service; and there will be an appeals process to filter out miscarriages of justice or disproportionate penalties.

But while there need to be sanctions to deter infringements, I believe they will operate only rarely and in the most serious cases. Much more important in combating piracy is for legitimate suppliers to ensure all their material is readily available at reasonable prices.

To release a film and then wait three months before putting out a DVD, and six months before a download, is to test the patience of consumers in a world of instant gratification. It is at the moment the trailers hit the screens, and the premiere is reported in the press, that viewers will want that film on their 50-inch plasma screens with 5-speaker surround sound. The vast majority are prepared to pay.

Similarly, publishers have to learn that they can no longer issue a hardback, months later a paperback, and eventually an ebook. The owners of Kindles and iPads will want to start reading as soon as they have read the reviews. Not only that, readers will want the books to be readable on any device. I recently bought an £8 ebook for my Sony Reader only to discover that I was prevented from transferring it to my iPhone. It won’t do.

Pricing is an issue as well. Consumers will expect downloads to be cheaper than DVDs or printed books – after all many of the costs, such as manufacture, packaging, warehousing, freight and retail premises are massively reduced or non-existent. The power of iTunes means that online films and television programmes are much cheaper than DVDs, but so far in publishing many ebooks are the same price – in some cases even higher – than a physical copy. Many consumers may opt for pay-per-view or subscription systems instead of permanently owning a copy.

True, aggressive pricing could well mean that writers’ royalties per copy distributed may drop, so we will have an interest in supporting a regime where the volume of sales is higher. This is perfectly possible – look at the enormous sales of iPhone apps over the past few months. Many users are simply not concerned about spending a pound or two with a single tap of the finger. Added to that, in the digital world almost every obscure piece of work will become available, including thousands of items that never made it on to a CD or a DVD, so less prolific or successful writers will at last be included in the 'long tail'.

You might not know it from many media reports, but there are lots of other sections in the Digital Economy Bill, and some of them have been victims of the horse-trading between parties in the 'wash-up' process – for instance a plan for government-sponsored local news services.

A lost clause with considerable implications for writers was one that would have authorised the licensing of 'orphan works' as well as introducing the concept of 'extended collective licensing'.

Orphan works are those whose authors are unknown or untraceable – this applies to most printed ephemera, a lot of journalism, many out-of-print books, some old films and much TV and radio archive material. Currently none of this material can legally be published or exploited. The idea was that collecting societies (such as ALCS, which handles photocopying of books and journals and the use of UK TV programmes on European cable channels) would be empowered to license such material, enabling it to be used legally, subject to strict conditions such as a thorough search for the rights owners and charging a market price to avoid undercutting other creators.

This reform on its own would almost certainly have been accepted had it not been for the more controversial extended collective licensing. This provision was intended to cover the increasing headache for various national institutions, such as the British Library and the BBC, which hold masses of old copyright material that they can’t use because they don’t have the resources to seek permission and make individual payments (often tiny) to the many thousands of rights owners – who would include the writers of all scripted BBC shows made before 2002. The issue is a big spanner in the works of the BBC’s plan to open up its entire archive online.

This material could have been licensed in a similar way to orphan works, but what was a step too far for many people was that the new law would also have allowed the British Library or the BBC to license themselves to use the material. This is almost the exact opposite of the collecting society principle that the licensing body should be representative of the creators and rights holders, not the users or exploiters.

To be fair, the bill would have required licensing bodies to jump through a lot of hoops and observe plenty of safeguards. Whoever wins the general election, we can be sure it will not be long before the twin issues of orphan works and extended collective bargaining are raised again – and we can only hope that the next set of proposals will be better – or at least no worse – than the ones that have just been junked.

During the intense lobbying over the Digital Economy Bill the interests of the Writers’ Guild, and writers in general, have been brilliantly looked after by two influential organisations to which the Guild is affiliated – the Creators’ Rights Alliance and the British Copyright Council. If you want to know more, the CRA’s election manifesto was enclosed with the latest copy of the Guild’s magazine UK Writer, or you can visit their websites at and

Gary Owen interview

In The Guardian, Lyn Gardner talks to Guild member Gary Owen about his two upcoming new plays: Love Steals Us From Loneliness and Mrs Reynolds And The Ruffian.
Now 38, he has put miles between his present self and the unathletic boy who so loved reading that his mother used to send him outside to play as a punishment. [His first play] Crazy Gary ['s Mobile Disco] was followed by two award-winning plays: The Shadow of a Boy at the National, and The Drowned World at the Traverse, an apocalyptic drama where the world is divided into the ugly and the beautiful ("radiants"); the radiants are hunted and killed because they remind ordinary citizens of everything they are not. But then all seemed to go quiet: what happened?

"I went home to Wales," says Owen. "If you're not having plays on at the National you're invisible, but I have been working." Projects include Bulletproof, a play about teenage depression for the Northern Irish company Replay, another for Bridgend Youth theatre, and a project with the Sherman theatre in Cardiff involving children on the verge of exclusion from school.

Sony Radio Award nominations

Nominations have been announced for the 2010 Sony Radio Academy Awards.

The nominees for Best Drama are:
  • Daniel and Mary (written by Oliver Emanuel, BBC Radio Scotland Drama for BBC Radio Scotland)
  • People Snogging in Public Places (written by Jack Thorne, BBC Radio Drama for BBC Radio 3
  • Restless (from the book by William Boyd, BBC Radio Drama for BBC Radio 4)
  • The Day that Lehman Died (written by Matthew Solon, BBC World Service Drama & Goldhawk Essential Production for BBC World Service)
  • The Loop (written by Nick Perry, BBC Radio Drama for BBC Radio 4
Sorry, I can't find who dramatised Restless - anyone know?

The nominees for Best Comedy are:
  • Adam and Joe (BBC 6 Music/BBC Audio & Music for BBC 6 Music)
  • Bleak Expectations (written by Mark Evans, BBC Radio Comedy for BBC Radio 4)
  • Down The Line - Credit Crunch Special (various writers, Down The Line Productions for BBC Radio 4)
  • Mark Steel's In Town (written by Mark Steel, BBC Radio Comedy for BBC Radio 4)
  • News Quiz (various writers, BBC Radio Comedy for BBC Radio 4)

BBC Writers Academy open for applicants

From the BBC:
The next generation of TV writers are being sought by the BBC for its prestigious Drama Writers Academy, a unique course that equips writers with the skills to work on BBC flagship continuing drama programmes.

Now in its sixth year, the Academy is the only course in the world that guarantees writers the opportunity to work on prime time television. Established by BBC Controller of Drama Production John Yorke, its aim is to create a pool of writing talent to work on some of BBC One’s best-loved and most popular shows – EastEnders, Casualty, Holby City and Doctors.

John Yorke, BBC Controller of Drama Production and Course Tutor says: ““Over the last five years, with the help of some of the best people in the industry; Richard Curtis, Jimmy McGovern, Russell T Davies, to name a few, we’ve been able to give new writers the space, time and tools to allow them to develop strong, individual work. The success of Academy graduates such as Mark Catley, Daisy Coulam and Justin Young proves what an incredible and unique opportunity this is.”

Alongside training on all aspects of drama production from casting to scheduling, students will also receive direct writing experience on continuing dramas, with commissions on the shows once they successfully complete the course. Master classes will be led by the best writers in the business including: Richard Curtis (Notting Hill), Russell T Davies (Doctors Who), Tony Jordan (EastEnders, Life on Mars), Jimmy McGovern (The Street), Barbara Machin (Casualty, Waking The Dead), Peter Bowker (Occupation) and leading directors such Dearbhla Walsh (Shameless, The Tudors, Little Dorrit)

Since its inauguration, 34 out of 40 graduates have gone on to gain full time work writing for TV - with 14 now established as core writers on continuing dramas. These include Mark Catley, graduate of the 2005 course who is now Consultant Producer/Lead Writer on Casualty, and Justin Young who was made Consultant Producer on Holby City this year. In addition many writers have graduated onto other shows - Daisy Coulam has just had a comedy pilot green lit and Ian Kershaw is a core writer for Shameless.

Creativity, talent and a passion for telling stories are essential criteria for those applying. Applicants must have had at least one professional commission in television, theatre, radio or film.

The deadline for applications is Wednesday 5th May.

Click here for online application form:

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Cricketing playwrights

In The Guardian, prompted by a revival of The Real Thing by Guild member Tom Stoppard at the Old Vic, Frank Keating picks a cricket team of playwrights who loved the game.
I played against [Harold] Pinter's Gaeties XI a few times; Harold fancied himself as an all-rounder, but he can't have been as good as [Samuel] Beckett, whose last report in 1922 from Portora Royal School read: "A very attractive bat and a good medium-paced bowler with a sharp break-back". I read the other day that actor John Alderton, a fine Estragon in Waiting For Godot at the National in 1987, had been given a note by Beckett to imagine the parts of Vladimir and Estragon as "batsmen numbers five and six fretfully waiting to begin their innings at a Test Match at Lord's".

Jane Goldman on Kick-Ass

In The Observer, Elizabeth Day talks to screenwriter Jane Goldman about Kick-Ass, the film she co-wrote with Matthew Vaughn (based on the comic book series by Mark Millar) that has caused outrage in some sections of the media.
"People's intolerance, I find puzzling," she says, a vertical crinkle appearing between her eyes. "The fact that I was singled out, I found bizarre but it didn't upset me, I just thought it was peculiar. It's funny – it's very rare that a movie is described as a writer's movie. It was kind of ironic that it was only when people had decided there was something negative about it that it was the writer's movie."

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Creative Coalition Campaign urges all MPs to support the Second Reading of the Digital Economy Bill

The Creative Coalition Campaign, of which the Writers' Guild is a member, has today placed an advert in The Guardian urging all MPs to support the Digital Economy Bill's Second Reading in the House of Commons.
Dear Member of Parliament,

Today marks a critical day for the UK's creative industries, as the House of Commons will debate the Digital Economy Bill. If passed, the Bill will provide urgently needed support for our creative talent and the businesses which have made the UK one of the leading creative economies in the world.

The digital age and high-speed broadband have brought a host of exciting new services, but what is holding us back is having to compete with illegal file-sharing conducted on a vast scale. The Digital Economy Bill is a sensible approach to tackling online piracy, focusing on education of consumers through notifications
which must include advice to the internet account holder together with information on legal services. Only if technical measures are found to be necessary and are subsequently introduced would they be applied to the accounts of those who repeatedly ignore notifications warning them to stop illegally file-sharing. Of course, as part of this process alleged infringers will have access to a fair, fast and effective appeals process. Surely, this is a much better outcome for consumers and creatives than the current sanction of court actions against individuals for damages?

The UK's creative businesses now contribute economic output of at least £60 billion per annum and account for 1.8 million jobs in the UK; however, according to a report launched this month by TERA Consultants, more than 250,000 jobs could be directly at risk if immediate action is not taken against the huge growth in online
piracy. We must not let this opportunity pass.

Opponents of the Bill have tried to block its progress through a campaign that distorted the truth about the Digital Economy Bill. In reality, however, the Bill is a sensible and much needed response to what has become an unacceptable situation for those whose livelihoods depend on the success of the creative industries.

We need to act now before even more jobs come under threat, which is why we urge you to vote to support the UK's creative industries by voting yes to the Digital Economy Bill.

Yours Faithfully,
Members of the Creative Coalition Campaign

Product placement in films

In The New York Times, Stephanie Clifford reports on the growing requirement for product placement in feature films.
Jordan Yospe had some notes on the script for “The 28th Amendment,” a thriller about a president and a rogue Special Forces agent on the run. Some of the White House scenes were not detailed enough, Mr. Yospe thought. And, he suggested, the heroes should stop for a snack while they were on the lam.

“There’s no fast-food scene at all, but they have to eat,” he said.

Mr. Yospe was not a screenwriter, not a producer, not even a studio executive. No, Mr. Yospe was a lawyer with the firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips. He was meeting with the writer-producer Roberto Orci, who co-wrote “Transformers” and “Star Trek,” to talk about how to include brands in “The 28th Amendment.”
Update: And here's how product placement is being developed in Canadian TV...

Illegally downloading a book you already own

On Techdirt, a discussion following a New York Times article about whether it's unethical to download illegally a book that you have already bought in hard copy.

(Link from Bernie Corbett)

Poetry in schools

On the Writers' Guild website, an article by Kevin McCann about taking poetry into schools.
I found that writing poetry isn’t just fun; it can be so much more than that. Over and over I’ve seen under-achievers begin to shine as they discover that problems with spelling etc are no bar to the imagination. In fact, I’d go further. The notion that there’s no wrong answer in poetry had a real and positive impact on children who usually gave up before they’d even started because they were convinced that they were bound to fail and, therefore, there was no point in even trying.

Anatomy of a Doctors episode

On the BBC Writersroom blog, an article by Guild member Joy Wilkinson about the episode of Doctors broadcast last week that she wrote.
I read somewhere that one of the best places to find ideas was to think about things that scare you. After I had my son, I was forever having terrors about him being alone in the house, helpless, so this was one of the sources of the idea.

David Mills 1961-2010

David Mills, the award-winning journalist and scriptwriter, has died at the age of 48. He wrote for some of the most highly-regarded American TV series of recent years including NYPD Blue, Homicide and The Wire.

There are obituaries in The New York Times and by Jacqueline Trescott and Lisa de Moraes in The Washington Post:
"He was an enormous talent," [David] Simon, who co-created "Treme," said in an obituary he wrote for distribution by HBO. "He loved words and he loved an argument -- but not in any angry or mean-spirited way. He loved to argue ideas. He delighted in it, and he was confident that something smarter and deeper always came from a good argument."

James Cameron on writing Avatar

For Written By magazine, FX Feeney talks to James Cameron about writing Avatar (mp3 audio file or transcript)
Feeney : You said something interesting about the Lucas universe, a few years ago. You were not knocking Lucas at all, but comparing Star Wars to the science fiction you were fed upon, growing up—Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, whoever—you argued that science fiction is “about ideas,” and that Lucas had lost that thread.

Cameron: No, I meant that he made it kind of the hero cycle. He made it a mythic archetype and there was a joyfulness and a celebration of that, of the energy and the dynamics of that. And that’s great, that’s wonderful. Unfortunately, what happened was when Star Wars came out, all of Hollywood just went that way and Hollywood forgot that science fiction historically through the ‘50’s and ‘60’s and ‘70’s up till Star Wars had been a dystopian kind of genre. Science Fiction was originally about the problems of technology and that unsettling feeling we get as our world changes through technology, into the future. As storytellers, we’ve lost all that. It just seemed like all of a sudden you couldn’t tell that story anymore. So Avatar was—I suppose you could say is an attempt to have our cake and eat it, too. Do the mythic, heroic story with a sense of destiny and big epic battles and all that, but at the same time have the dystopian, cautionary component in play, too. Have one be the spoonful of sugar to the other.

Publishing deal via Richard and Judy's doorstep

In The Telegraph: how aspiring author Ruth Saberton took an unconventional route to securing her first book deal.
Mrs Saberton drove to [Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan's] secluded house and placed a 400 page manuscript on the doormat and a note through the letterbox asking them to read it.

She was then stunned when Richard – who along with his wife hosted a regular book club on their TV show – phoned her and said he loved the novel.

Richard, 53, offered to write a foreword and allowed her to use their name when approaching potential publishers – and she soon secured her first deal.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

What Guild members are getting up to

PAUL CAMPBELL wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Monday 5th April.

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

SIMON CROWTHER wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Sunday 4th April.

DAVID EDGAR'S adaptation for the stage Arthur and George, based on the novel by Julian Barnes, runs at the Birmingham Repertory Theatreuntil Saturday 10th April.

RACHEL FLOWERDAY wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Friday 9th April.

HENRIETTA HARDY wrote the episode of Doctors "Mirror" going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Thursday 8th April.

JONATHAN HARVEY wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Friday 9th April.

MARTIN JAMESON wrote the episode of Casualty "Love of a Good Man" going out on BBC1 at 9:30pm on Saturday 3rd April.

ROB JOHNSTON wrote the stage-play Under My Skin which is in The Liverpool Write Now Festival, final show on Saturday 3rd April at 2:30pm.

BILL LYONS wrote the episodes of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Tuesday 6th and Wednesday 7th April.

JAN MCVERRY wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Monday 5th April.

STEVEN MOFFAT wrote the first episode of the new series of Doctor Who "The Eleventh Hour" starring Matt Smith as the new doctor and Karen Gillan it goes out on BBC1 at 6:20pm on Saturday 3rd April.

SUE MOONEY wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Friday 9th April.

ASHLEY PHAROAH wrote the episode of Ashes to Ashes going out on BBC1 at 9:00pm on Friday 9th April.

There will be a theatrical reading of RICHARD PINNER'S black comedy about the controversial, final chapter of Charles Dickens' life at the Derby Theatre Studio on Wednesday 5th May at 7:00pm. Box office: 01332 255800,

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

JEREMY PAUL'S play the Secret of Sherlock Holmes with Peter Egan (Holmes), Philip Franks (Watson), designed by Simon Higlett, directed by Robin Herford continues its UK tour at Malvern 5th-10th, Westcliff 12th-17th, Cambridge 19th-24th April.

CHRISTOPHER REASON wrote the episodes of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 7:30pm on Tuesday 6th and Thursday 8th April.

DAVID RENWICK wrote the one-off episode of Jonathan Creek "The Judas Tree" starring Alan Davies and Sheridan Smith it goes out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Sunday 4th April.

MICHAEL RUSSELL wrote the special episode of A Touch of Frost "If Dogs Run Free" going out on ITV1 in two parts at 8:00pm on Sunday 4th and at 9:00pm on Monday 5th April.

EMMA THOMPSON wrote the screenplay of Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang as well as playing the lead role alongside Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ralph Fiennes, Maggie Smith and Rhys Ifans.

JOANNA TOYE wrote the episodes of The Archers going out on Radio 4 at 7:00pm from Sunday 4th till Friday 9th April with each episode being repeated at 2:00pm the day following it's original broadcast.

NICK WARBURTON wrote the episode of Holby City "For the Greater Good" going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Tuesday 6th April.

SARAH WOODS'S dramatisation of The Borrowers by Mary Norton goes out on Radio 4 in two parts at 2:15pm on Wednesday 7th April and Thursday 8th April.

Film Fund from the Film Council

The UK Film Council has launched its new Film Fund, a unified production and development fund dedicated to British filmmaking.
We have £15 million a year to invest across the development, production and completion of feature films. Being supported by the UK Film Council means more than just being given funding. It means that your project can be assisted at every step of the journey by our team, who can offer advice and practical help with many aspects of developing and producing your film.

We welcome applications for all kinds of film – from commercial mainstream to experimental, from genre movies to personal stories, from documentaries to animation to live-action fiction.
Here's the press release that announced the new fund.

Arts Council consultation

Arts Council England is inviting organisations and individuals to take part in a consultation on its next 10-year plan. The closing date for submissions is 14 April 2010.

The art of ghostwriting

As the film adaptation of Robert Harris's novel The Ghost opens in the UK, in The Independent Jonathan Campbell reveals the secrets of ghostwriting.
Ghostwriters in fiction are ...harder to pin down – but they're there. Shakespeare, of course, is accused of putting his name to the plays of others, while Alexandre Dumas hired dozens of writers to construct The Three Musketeers. Fans of Virginia Andrews continue to buy the Flowers In The Attic author's new books long after her death, thanks to ghost Andrew Neiderman, while the fictional characters Nancy Drew, Jason Bourne and even the Famous Five have also outlasted their originators. But do the publishers want you to know this? No.