Friday, July 30, 2010

Jonathan Harvey: Corrie the stage play

In The Liverpool Echo, Catherine Jones talks to Guild member Jonathan Harvey about his new stage play celebrating 50 years of Coronation Street.
"It’s five actors playing about 50 parts, God love them,” laughs Jonathan. “The poor actors, they’re in rehearsals all day and then they go home and they’re studying archive footage from Coronation Street over the last 50 years to try and get the voices right.
Corrie! opens at The Lowry in Salford on 7th August.

What Guild members are getting up to

MARTIN ALLEN wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Thursday 5th August.

South West members JOAN BEVERIDGE and MARIE MacNEILL have been selected to develop their screenplays Kernow, Maid and Hall of Mirrors for the Cross Channel Film Lab. This initiative brings together writers on two film projects from Brittany, France, and two from Cornwall.

MARK BURGESS has written Two Halves of Guinness, a one-man play about Sir Alec Guinness. In the play, which is set just after the making of Star Wars, Sir Alec is played by Trevor Littledale, with direction by Derek Parry. It is being premiered at The Grey’s, Southover Street, Brighton, on Monday 26th July at 8.30pm. Tickets £5.00, telephone 01273 680734.

RICHARD BURKE wrote the episodes of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Tuesday 3rd and Wednesday 4th August.

GREGORY EVANS co-wrote the radio play Tetherdown going out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Friday 6th August.

MATT EVANS wrote the episodes of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 7:30pm on Tuesday 3rd and Wednesday 4th August.

JOHN FINNEMORE wrote the episode of Cabin Pressure going out on Radio 4 at 6:30pm on Tuesday 3rd August.

CHRISTOPHER HAMPTON will hold a screenwriting masterclass on Friday 10 September at the BFI Soutbank as part of the Bafta BFI series of Screenwriters Lectures.

JULIE JONES wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Friday 6th August.

DAVID KANE wrote the episode of Taggart "The Rapture" 3/3 going out on ITV1 at 9:00pm on Sunday 1st August.

MARK ILLIS wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Monday 2nd August.

ANDREW McCULLOCH co-wrote the episode of Heartbeat "Ties That Bind" going out on ITV1 at 8:00pm on Sunday 1st August.

EAMON McDONNELL’s latest play, Tell It Like It Is, runs at the Lion & Unicorn Theatre, Kentish Town, London NW5, from Friday 6th August until Tuesday 10thAugust.

STUART MORRIS wrote the episode of Holby City "Dandelions" going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Tuesday 3rd August.

HOWARD OVERMAN wrote the episode of Misfits going out on Channel 4 at 10:00pm on Saturday 31st July.

JULIE PARSONS wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Tuesday 3rd August.

JON SEN wrote the episode of Casualty "The Enemy Within" going out on BBC1 at 9:00pm on Saturday 31st July.

TOM STOPPARD is adapting Parade’s End, the four-book series of novels by Ford Maddox Ford, for BBC2. Set during the First World War in England and the Western Front, the five-part TV dramatisation will be made by Mammoth Screen.

BILL TAYLOR wrote the episodes of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm and 8:00pm on Thursday 5th August.

JOE TURNER wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Friday 6th August.

RICHARD WARLOW wrote the episode of Mistresses going out on BBC1 at 9:00pm on Thursday 5th August.

PETER WHALLEY wrote the episodes of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm and 8:30pm on Monday 2nd August.

JAMES WOOD wrote the episode of Rev going out on BBC2 at 10:00pm on Monday 2nd August.

E-books 'will soon outsell paperbacks'

From Stuart Miles on Pocket-lint
Amazon has told Pocket-lint that it expects Kindle ebook sales to eclipse paperback sales by the end of 2011, and to eclipse combined hardback and paperback sales shortly after that in the US.

"I think we [Amazon] will sell more Kindle books than paperback books in the next year [2011]", Steve Kessel, the man tasked with making the Kindle the number one ebook reader in the world, told Pocket-lint in an exclusive one-to-one briefing.
And here's an interesting discussion on the future of e-books from TechCrunch.

More: Amazon's Jeff Bezos talking about the Kindle.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Writers' Guild website update

As we've been reporting on this blog, there was a security alert on the server hosting the Writers' Guild website.

We've been assured that any threats have been removed, but we are still waiting for Google to issue clearance on searches.

We will now be updating the website and this blog.

Scottish arts face £2 million funding cut

By Simon Johnson:
SNP ministers have asked the National Theatre of Scotland, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Scottish Ballet and Scottish Opera to prepare for cuts of up to 10 per cent.

The companies have been asked for blueprints on what they would scrap if their budgets were cut by three per cent, seven per cent and 10 per cent.

Corbett reappointed

Bernie Corbett has been reappointed as General Secretary of the Writers’ Guild for a further five-year term. The post had to be re-advertised earlier this year in accordance with trade union law.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Writers' Guild website

The security systems of the company hosting the WGGB website appear to have been compromised. For the time being we advise you not to visit the site.

We are working on a solution and hope to have the site back to normal as soon as possible.

Update (21 July): Problems with the security of the servers hosting the Guild's website have been fixed and we're awaiting clearance from Google.

Update (27 July): We're still waiting for Google to check the site and give it clearance. Sorry for any inconvenience causes.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Ryu Murakami to release novel first on iPad

By Yoree Koh for The Wall Street Journal:
Novelist Ryu Murakami plans to release his latest novel exclusively for digital bookworms through Apple Inc.’s iPad ahead of the print version. Mr. Murakami, the acclaimed author of over 15 novels including “Coin Locker Babies” and “In the Miso Soup”, replaced the publishers with a software company to help develop the e-book titled “A Singing Whale,” or “Utau Kujira” in Japanese. The digital package will include video content and set to music composed by Academy Award winning composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, according to the Japanese business daily Nikkei. The newspaper reports the e-book will cost 1,500 yen ($17) and will be ready to download pending Apple’s approval.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Gwyneth Williams named as Controller of Radio 4 and Radio 7

From the BBC Press Office:
Gwyneth Williams has been appointed Controller of BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 7...

Gwyneth Williams said: "Radio 4 represents the BBC at its best: it is loved and trusted and stands above all for quality. It is a privilege and honour to be asked to lead the network through the next stage of its evolution. I am hugely looking forward to working with so many talented programme-makers, each with a unique contribution to make. I want to ensure that this creativity shows on air and delights and inspires our listeners."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

BBC Audiobooks sold

From the BBC press office:
BBC Worldwide announces today that it has completed the sale of an 85% shareholding in BBC Audiobooks (including BBC Audiobooks America) to AudioGo Limited. BBC Worldwide will retain a 15% stake in the business.

Formed in 2001, BBC Audiobooks is the leading audio publisher in the UK. Its products are available on CD and in downloadable formats for retail and library markets. Following the sale, BBC Audiobooks will trade as AudioGo, and will continue to publish BBC-sourced content under the BBC Audiobooks imprint.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

In praise of the British Library

A guest post by Gail Renard

At a time when all we hear about is cutbacks, it’s timely to remind everyone of one of our most glorious assets and it’s free: the British Library. Everything you’ve ever wanted from books, newspapers, journals, sound archives and more is available to you at various locations throughout the country and on-line.

Everyone is welcome to visit the British Library and its exhibition galleries, or to tour the building. But to use the Reading Rooms you need to register for a Reader Pass. Pre- registration is easily done on-line; as is pre-ordering your material for your first visit. You can then present yourself at the Reading Room for registration proper and a brief interview before, hopefully, being granted membership.
It seems a normal reader’s temporary pass is for three months; a student perhaps up to a year; all at the discretion of the interviewer. But when I showed her my WGGB membership card, her demeanour changed and she beamed, 'Ah! A professional writer! In that case, we will happily give you a three year pass.'

It couldn’t have been quicker. It’s not often writers are lavished with respect and special treatment, but no one could ask for more at the BL. It’s one of the many advantages you get for being a Guild member. Savour it.

Arts Council England says 'plan for 10% cuts next year'

On The Guardian's Theatre blog, Lyn Gardner has posted a letter from Arts Council England Chief Executive, Alan Davey, in which he asks funded organisations to plan for 10% funding cuts for the year 2011-12.
Given the economic climate, and the fact we have been asked to model a reduction of up to 30% over four years, we are now asking you to model prudently for a minimum of a 10% reduction in your funding for 11/12. This figure is not final, but we suggest it is a reasonable figure for you to address at this point.

This allows us all to use 2011/12 as a year of transition that builds towards a new approach to the arts landscape, shaped by our ambitions for the arts. The Arts Council is developing Achieving great art for everyone, a 10-year strategic framework for the arts, setting out clearly what we want to achieve over the next 10 years. At the briefing sessions we will report back on responses to the consultation. It’s important that in this time of short-term cuts we keep our eye on the big picture, so that whatever cuts we do have to make now, art can still thrive over the next 10 years.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The future for book shops and publishers

On The Idea Logical blog, Mike Shatzkin considers the future for book shops and publishers.
...whether they know it or not (and, at the highest levels of the biggest publishing houses, they certainly do know it) the competitive advantage of the trade publisher is inextricably dependent on the survival of brick-and-mortar shelf space for books, which is distinct from total sales of books or even total sales of print books. You don’t need an organization of the scale and capabilities of a major publisher to reach customers through online channels. And, in fact, because the biggest trade publishers are horizontal in their subject matter, their size is more of a handicap than an advantage in competing for markets online.
Link via @berniecorbett

Technically speaking: Heists

For the Writers Guild of America, West, Denis Faye asks Robert Wittman, the founder of the FBI’s Art Crime Team, for the truth about heists.
What does Hollywood get right about art heists?

Sometimes they get right the value of the artwork – and the importance of it. That’s about it.

What do they get wrong?

Generally speaking, the security systems that Hollywood says are in place are totally bogus. If you look at some of the different movies that are out there – The Thomas Crown Affair [Screenplay by Leslie Dixon & Kurt Wimmer] comes to mind – those security systems, they just don’t exist. It doesn’t happen. There’s no taking a painting off a wall and the bars coming down like the Temple of Doom or something.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

What Guild members are getting up to

JESSE ARMSTRONG and SAM BAIN co-wrote the episode of The Old Guys going out on BBC1 at 9:30pm on Friday 16th July.

COLIN BENNETT'S Book Acting on Television, a craft book for young actors, based upon his legendary courses at RADA, is available from book shops for £10, ISBN 978-1-905493-11-1, or on-line It's very funny and cuts to the chase with most topics, from getting to know casting directors to learning lines. Some of it is quite tedious but if you need to know the facts then... get over it, grit your teeth and read!

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

Congratulations to DICK CURRAN, whose play Islanders is one of 10 chosen for this year’s 24:7 festival in Manchester. An earlier version of the play had a rehearsed reading at Live Theatre but this is its first full-scale production. For more information, see

JULIE DIXON wrote the episode of The Bill "The Calling" going out on ITV1 at 9:00pm on Tuesday 13th July.

JEFF DODDS wrote the episode of Casualty "Going Solo" going out on BBC1 at 8:25pm on Saturday 10th July.

ROB GITTINS wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Monday 12th July.

JESSICA LEA wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Friday 16th July.

JAN McVERRY wrote the episodes of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm and 8:30pm on Monday 12th July.

HOWARD OVERMAN wrote the first episode in the new season of Misfits going out on C4 at 10:00pm on Saturday 10th July.

JULIE PARSONS wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Monday 12th July.

ANDREW PAYNE wrote the episode of Midsomer Murders "The Dogleg Murders" going out on ITV1 at 8:00pm on Wednesday 14th July.

JOANNA TOYE wrote the episodes of The Archers going out on Radio 4 at 7:00pm from Sunday 11th till Friday 16th July. Each episode will be repeated at 2:00pm the day after its original broadcast.

PETER WHALLEY wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Friday 16th July.

Friday, July 09, 2010

All Party Writers Group elects new chair

From the parliamentary All Party Writers Group:
The All Party Writers Group (APWG) is pleased to announce that John Whittingdale MP has been elected as the new Chair of the Group.

The MP for Maldon has taken a keen interest in copyright protection, and supported the Digital
Economy Act as it progressed through Parliament because “We need to send a signal that we take the issue of piracy seriously”. More recently Whittingdale was re-elected as Chairman of the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, a position he has held since 2005.

On his successful election to Chair of the All Party Writers Group he stated: “The creative industries form a hugely significant part of the UK economy and will have a major role to play in our efforts to establish a more financially stable future. These industries are built around the talent and hard work of creative individuals and I am therefore delighted to be involved with this group at such an important time for creators”.

To support John Whittingdale in his role Denis MacShane MP remains on the Group as Vice Chair and award winning author, Baroness Ruth Rendell, has taken over the role of Secretary from the new Minister for Culture, Ed Vaizey. Jim Dowd MP takes on the role of Treasurer.

BBC TV Writers' Festival reports

If you weren't able to go to the recent BBC TV drama writers' festival in Leeds, you can now read reports on many of the sessions on the blog of Guild member David Bishop.

Lots of advice and opinions from an impressive line-up of writers, producers and execs.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Guild warns over new play commissions

Writers' Guild General Secretary, Bernie Corbett, has warned that theatres might reduce the number of new play commissions in the face of upcoming budget cuts.

Speaking to Matthew Hemley in The Stage, Corbett said:
“While we have collective agreements that set minimum fees, we don’t have agreements guaranteeing any given number of new commissions.

"...Theatres can’t cheapskate on fees to writers, but they can say that, instead of commissioning six new plays, they will only commission four next year. That is bad from our point of view and it’s a worry.”

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Writing Toy Story 3

The latest Pixar blockbuster, Toy Story 3, opens in the UK later this month. It has already broken box office records in the US; just like most other Pixar films. And it has had an enthusiastic reception from critics on both sides of the Atlantic; just like most other Pixar films.

So what's their secret?

In a blog post, screenwriter Scott Myers argues that an interview with Toy Story 3 writer, Michael Arndt, in Creative Screenwriting magazine (no link to the full interview), reveals the foundations of Pixar's success.
Pixar's films are such rousing successes because of the attention each individual at the studio dedicates to the screenplays. "Andrew Stanton's rule of thumb is that it takes 10 man-years of labor to make a good screenplay," Arndt explains. "Either two writers working five years or 10 guys working one year. For Toy Story 3, it was even more than that -- probably the equivalent of 10 people working two or three years."

"To me, this is what separates Pixar from almost everyone else," Arndt concludes. "They realize how hard it is to come up with a great screenplay."
Billy Mernit has some interesting reflections on Myers's post on his own blog (now, sadly, retired). At Pixar, he points, out
...instead of throwing everything and everyone at a weak story until something seems to stick, they start with a writer and an idea they believe in, then do it, do it, do it till they're satisfied....

What most studios call development is ass-backwards. The operative ethos amounts to "It doesn't work, but we can fix it... with writer after writer after writer," so we shouldn't be surprised by the results.

E-book royalties

As well as e-books existing in different formats, the royalty payments on different platforms also vary. As Richard Curtis explains on e-reads, it can be tricky working out which offers an author the best value.
If you’re a gambler who likes action and want to play the odds, the new Kindle royalty structure is your game. If you’re an author or publisher, you could make out very well if list prices stay high. But you could also take a bath if there’s a price war. You may decide to opt for the safe, straight 35% of list price. But bear in mind that that’s 30% less than the 50% that Amazon was paying you before The Great Change [to their payment structure]. If you add the delivery charge the net proceeds to you are even smaller.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Mixed fortunes for US screenwriters

The Writers Guild of America, West released its Annual Report last week (not yet online - here's the 2009 one), showing both gains and losses for its members.

On the plus side, as Dave McNary reports for Variety:
Hollywood scribes saw a 12% rebound in earnings last year -- recovering much of the 15.4% financial hit that they took in 2008 from the double whammy of the recession and the 100-day strike.

The Writers Guild of America West, which sent its annual report to its 8,000 members this week, disclosed that total earnings covered by WGA contracts hit $931.4 million in 2009, up $100 million from 2008. That gain, the report noted, was fueled largely by "strong" earnings by TV writers.
However, as Richard Verrier reports in The L.A. Times, tough economic conditions are having an impact.
This week the Writers Guild of America, West reported that while earnings for screenwriters have bounced back to pre-strike levels, there is a lot less work going around: employment has fallen 11% in the last three years, with 226 fewer screenwriters working in 2009 than 2006, the year before the 100-day walkout and the lowest level in at least six years.

Indeed, the recession has given the movie studios a reason — or an excuse, depending on the perspective — to adjust in their favor how they employ screenwriters.

When screenwriters do get a shot at work, they are increasingly subject to "sweepstakes pitching," in which as many as a dozen are pitted against one another, with producers picking the one they like best.

Discounts for Guild Members – save yourself money!

The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain will be announcing a set of discounts to be offered to Guild members as an additional benefit to your Guild membership. The first offer we are offering is a reduced rate subscription to Variety magazine and

The offer is:
  • UK & Europe: $299 (normal price $399)
  • USA: $248 (normal price $329) ]
  • Rest of the World: $449 (normal price $599)
For this you will receive Weekly Variety magazine plus unlimited access to – a benefit only available to subscribers. To take advantage of this offer you can either go online or telephone Variety’s Customer Services department:

Online –

Call – 001 515 247 2993 (8am-10pm US time)

Please quote the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain and your membership number when claiming this subscription. Should you have any problems taking advantage of this offer, please let us know.

Friday, July 02, 2010

What Guild members are getting up to

ALAN AYCKBOURN will direct the world premiere of his 74th play, The Life of Riley. It will play at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough from 16th September - 16th October. With a few months of his life remaining, George Riley's closest friends remember with love, nostalgia or occasional bursts of downright fury, how deeply he has affected all their past lives. George, though, is plotting one last final farewell which threatens to upset all their future lives. What exactly is the eccentric maverick Riley playing at?

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

SIMON BLACKWELL wrote the episode of the new series of The Old Guys starring Roger Lloyd Pack and Clive Swift.

STEPHEN CHURCHETT wrote the episode of Lewis "Allegory of Love" going out on ITV1 at 9:00pm on Sunday 4th July.

JEFF DODDS wrote the episode of Casualty "Going Solo" going out on BBC1 at 8:50pm on Saturday 3rd July.

The Bridge by KEVIN DYER is on at The Rep Dundee, opening on Friday 9th of July.

CHRIS FEWTRELL wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Monday 5th July.

IAIN FINLAY MCLEOD'S radio play Mr. Anwar's Farewell to Stornoway is going out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Tuesday 6th July.

ROB GITTINS wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Friday 9th July.

KATE GLOVER'S play Judenfrei: Love and Death in Hitler's Germany is running in London at the Jewish Museum on 14th and 15th July at 7:30pm , book online at, then at The Church of All Hallows by the Tower EC3R 5BJ on 16th July at 7:30pm, book online at and then at The Guild Church of St. Dunstan-In-The-West on 27th July at 7:30pm, tickets can be booked from the later website address.

PENNY GOLD'S radio play A Chaos of Wealth and Want is going out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Friday 9th July.

PHILIP GOULDING'S stage adaptation of William Woodruff's best-selling memoir The Road to Nab End runs at the Oldham Coliseum Theatre from 17th June to 10th July 2010.

LISA HOLDSWORTH wrote the episode of New Tricks "A Face for Radio" going out on BBC1 at 9:00pm on Wednesday 7th July.

JULIE JONES wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Thursday 8th July.

JOHN KERR wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Monday 5th July.

JAN MCVERRY wrote the episodes of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm and 8:30pm on Friday 9th July.

LESLEY CLARE O'NEILL wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Tuesday 6th July.

JULIE PARSONS wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Friday 9th July.

CHRISTOPHER REASON wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 7:30pm on Thursday 8th July.

MIRANDA WALKER wrote the play Collaboration, which is at The Roses Theatre, Tewkesbury on July 1st – 2nd.

JAMES WOOD wrote the episode of Rev "Jesus Is Awesome" going out on BBC2 at 10:00pm on Monday 5th July.

STEPHEN WYATT'S radio play Gerontius is going out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Thursday 8th July.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

The peak age for writers

In The New York Times, Timothy Egan considers late-bloomers in writing and other professions.
For endeavors that require knowledge of craft, and constant experimenting to get it right, age may actually be a benefit...

My favorite septuagenarian inspiration is Norman Maclean, who published the most beautiful, word-perfect novel of the American West, “A River Runs Through It,” when he was 74. And then he had a second book in him, “Young Men and Fire,” published after his death at 87. Old, seemingly doomed, and brilliant — a role model for all second-act aces.

Waiting for a universal e-book format

For Yahoo News, Christopher Null looks at the complicated world of e-book formats.
To call the e-book world messy would be an understatement. E-books sold on Amazon will only work on the Kindle. Google Books can be downloaded to a variety of e-readers, but not the Kindle. Apple’s iBooks work only on its devices. Want to “share” an e-book? Sorry: Sharing is supported on just a handful of readers, and always with strict restrictions on how long you can lend out a copy.
Unfortunately, despite the demand from publishers and the public, a solution doesn't look likely any time soon.
We have the stodginess of the New York publishing empires, the paranoia of major booksellers like Barnes & Noble, and the oversized egos of Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos to worry about, all at the same time. Getting these guys to agree on one thing would be as easy as parking a whaling vessel in my garage.
Link via @BernieCorbett

(NB We'll be carrying articles on e-book publishing in different formats in the upcoming issue of the Guild's magazine, UK Writer)