31 August, 2006

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BBC Drama Boss Interview

BBC - writersroom - Insight:

"John Yorke is Controller of Continuing Drama Series and Head of Independent Drama.

John joined the BBC in the 1980's, working initially in radio before moving to television, where he was to become Executive Producer of EastEnders, masterminding some of the soap's most famous storylines.

In his present role, John works closely with the independent sector on a portfolio that encompasses series, serials and events across the four BBC channels, while retaining responsibility for EastEnders, Casualty, Holby City and Doctors. He also oversees the development of new series for BBC ONE. "

Writer of Psycho film script dies

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Writer of Psycho film script dies

30 August, 2006

Living the Romantic Comedy: Wilder Wisdom

Living the Romantic Comedy: Wilder Wisdom

Like most of Billy's blogs essential reading for all aspiring screenwriters.

29 August, 2006

Show Me The Funny

Sketch Factor

Sketch Factor is a unique opportunity to join the writing team of a brand new sketch show for BBC Radio 4. The 10 best entrants will be selected to join a writers' academy where they will be mentored by leading comedy writers.

Deadline: 11 October 2006

Witty and Twisted

If you're currently performing your own material on stage, on student radio, on the web, or just in your own bedroom this could be the chance for you to get your own four part comedy series on BBC 7.

Deadline: 15 October 2006

Official site

28 August, 2006

Emmy Winners

For what it's worth here are the Emmy winners. I consider the Emmys the most flawed industry awards out there (just beating the BAFTAs) due to the nomination and voting processes. One actor got nominated for an award for 14 seconds work confirming the obvious that the people nominating don't watch the shows. But despite that the best sometimes win.

"The Office", NBC,
Ricky Gervais claims the show became good after he ceased to have any involvement with it. It should be on BBC3 soon.

"24", FOX,
Long overdue nod, although, considering the awards panel's previous diabolical decisons, the vastly inferior Gray's Anatomy was favourite to win.

"Elizabeth I", HBO/Channel 4

"The Girl In The Café", HBO/BBC Wales
This was unfairly treated by the British press critics

Tony Shalhoub, "Monk,"
He has now won for three out of the last four years for the BBC/Hallmark series. And while he is brilliant, maybe Steve Carrell of The Office should have had a chance this year

Kiefer Sutherland, "24"
After nine nominations he finally gets one. But not even a nomination for Hugh Laurie of House is weird

Andre Braugher, "Thief"
Thief was actually a series which was cancelled early not a mini-series and so shouldn't have been eligible but Braugher was superb, as usual, in a poorly conceived show.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, "The New Adventures Of Old Christine"
No UK buyer for this yet. Its second series starts soon. Watch a clip of the show and short interview with Julia here along with a few other industry interviews.

Mariska Hargitay, "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit"
The buzz is that Edie Falco of The Sopranos should have won this easily

Helen Mirren, "Elizabeth I"
"Without the writing we can't do it, especially us women. Every one of these great performances by these great actresses in this category were revealed to us by some wonderful writing. Women are 50% of the world's population, maybe more. And I know there are many more brilliant performances by women of all ages and all races waiting to be revealed by some great writing, so let's look forward to that."

Jeremy Piven, "Entourage"
ITV2 has bought this show.

Alan Alda, "The West Wing"
Alan Alda was so good that the writers changed the final season to show more of him and the race for President.

Jeremy Irons, "Elizabeth I"
"All we ask for is great writing, great roles and working with great colleagues. To get a great prize at the end of it is the icing on the cake."

Megan Mullally, "Will & Grace"

Blythe Danner, "Huff"
Huff has been cancelled and the final season is currently showing on FX

Kelly Macdonald, "The Girl In The Café"

Marc Buckland, "My Name Is Earl," (Pilot)

Jon Cassar, "24," (7:00 AM - 8:00 AM)

Tom Hooper, "Elizabeth I"

"The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," Comedy Central, Central Prods. and Hello Doggie
This is shown each weekday on More4 and while the politics may not be too relevant to us at times it is funny.

"My Name Is Earl," (Pilot), Greg Garcia
His acceptance speech named all the people who said he wouldn't make it

"The Sopranos," (Members Only), Terence Winter
This is the sixth season opener on E4 on Thursday. It might be interesting to see what is in the writing that they consider better than all the drama series and drama episodes of that year.

"The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," David Javerbaum, Rachel Axler, Kevin Bleyer, Rich Blomquist, Steve Bodow, Tim Carvell, Stephen Colbert, Eric Drysdale, J.R. Havlan, Scott Jacobson, Ben Karlin, Rob Kutner, Sam Means, Chris Regan, Jason Reich, Jason Ross, Jon Stewart, writers

"The Girl In The Café," written by Richard Curtis
After the unfair slagging off he receieved, he must be pleased.

25 August, 2006

Shoot The Messenger

BBC drama branded 'most racist film ever'
Geoff White, Broadcast

A controversial BBC2 drama which attempts to tackle the issues of racism head-on has been branded "the most racist film ever broadcast by the BBC" by a black media campaign group.

Shoot The Messenger follows a black computer programmer who quits his job to teach underachieving black children, but is assaulted by one of his pupils and is ostracised by his community.

Ligali, a group which campaigns against misrepresentation of African people in the media, has called it a "flagship programme for racism" and is calling for the programme to be pulled. It is due for broadcast on 30 August.

"This is one of the most racist, demeaning and misrepresentative films ever broadcast and commissioned by the BBC," said Toyin Agbetu, the founder of Ligali.

The film's director Ngozi Onwurah has hit back at the criticisms, claiming the drama simply represents real life, rather than misrepresenting black people.

"Part of the role of a writer is having to look at some of the more uncomfortable things in the world that you know," she told the BBC News website.

Writersroom Q & A with the writer Sharon Foster

Observer article

Evening Standard article (cancel print to read)

18 August, 2006

Big Brother


It's Big Brother finale day and I have to admit I couldn't sleep last night as I was so excited. OK, I'm exaggerating my excitement - a lot - but I do want to know if the deserved winner will win over the long-time favourite.

As English Dave pointed out Big Brother has not only been Channel 4's biggest show (and the most popular Big Brother year ever) but it has bested the main primetime dramas on the BBC and the ITV. As I said on his comments page it was because Big Brother has more interesting characters, more drama and better storylines.

With the reality writers strike on America's Top Model still going on, it's worthwhile pointing out just how much 'reality' and 'unscripted' programming owes to dramatic conventions and scriptwriting.

What Big Brother does is what I do when trying to create a long-running series. My equivalent of brainstorming characters is their auditioning lots of people. Some characters are simply not going to work and they can be discarded, others are worth keeping a while longer.

Having assembled a long list of several characters who are interesting enough in themselves and have an attitude and point of view and a goal, they then try and think about what characters would work well together. Not necessarily would get on with each other but would also cause some drama.

For instance you might try to ensure that for every character there is someone for them to talk to, someone for them to snog and someone they would hate. That ensures that we know what they're thinking, there can be some romance and there will be some conflict.

The process isn't flawless however as BB housemate Mikey in his film profile insisted that he believed women should shut up and do as they're told and their only role was to serve men and yet in the house he bottled out of any direct sexist comments to women and only made his views known via subtext e.g. his body language and attitude when women disagreed with him.

As screenwriters we can try and ensure we capture those more subtle qualities of the misogynist but also ensure that there's a major conflict with the feminist character over something important.

People tuning into Big Brother for the first time often say it's boring and it's just people talking in a house. To appreciate BB you do have to be interested in people and like character-driven entertainment. However because it is character-driven and based on relationships, unless you know the characters and their immediate history in the past episodes, much will be lost. But it is rewarding when something pays off that started to build several weeks ago.

Once you have set up those characters then you can't rely on them to provide conflict and emotional moments on their own you have to carefully construct it or create it. Aisleyne was pushed to breaking point at having other housemate's fates in her hands in the secret house. It was her choice if they stayed or left. OK, it wasn't exactly Sophie's Choice but in the context of a celebrity obsessed culture where a stay in the house could make you a millionaire, whether you win or not, then the stakes were raised high enough for true drama.

That was one of many storylines where Big Brother was called unnecessarily cruel but you have to put your characters through hell; you need to treat them mean to keep the audience keen.

One character, Grace, left the Big Brother house but came back in the house next door. In there she was saying how she would love to confront Aisleyne and tell her what's what. Aishleyne stated how she wanted to question Grace about her rudeness to another housemate. But they weren't able to meet up with each other being in two different houses and so a major dramatic scene would be lost. The solution: BB allowed Grace to go into the main house as a 'birthday present'. It was contrived but believable; a lot more believeable than just opening the door to the house and saying 'you go for it, girl!'. Likewise in drama we obviously want the dramatic moments but they have to appear more natural than contrived. In the end Aislyne did confront Grace who shamed herself by running away and not living up to her prior boasts and threats.

But let's not forget about the comedy. In yesterday's show, Big Brother spoke Welsh only to the frustration of the housemates (apart from the sole Welsh speaking housemate). While it seemed an obvious and initially slightly dull way of livening up the house, it ended up giving us some great scenes. Glyn the Welsh speaker gave Nikki words of apology to say in Welsh to Big Brother except they weren't words of apology she was sincerely parroting but insults about herself.

I prefer characters to have had some kind of journey in drama and have changed and learnt something about themselves. So this year it's either Glyn or Aisleyne. As Aisleyne has had the toughest time in there by far my vote goes to her. Aisleyne to win.

08 August, 2006

By Ken Levine: What actors hate

By Ken Levine: What actors hate:

"As mentioned in this space before, writers need to remember that actors perform their material. And there are certain things actors hate. As a public service, when writing your script, here are some of those traps that will make for unhappy actors and by extension, an unhappy you. "

04 August, 2006

Living the Romantic Comedy: Dog Day Opportune

Living the Romantic Comedy

"Some believe that any story worth telling can be boiled down to one basic conflict between two protagonists; many believe that any story asks one essential question that gets answered in its telling. I believe that all too often what trips us up in the writing process is that we get lost in the wilderness of story detail... when what we need to be doing is defining the basic what of what it's all about.

Can you do that yet? What's your story's essential conflict between two primary characters? What's the one core question it's asking? Can you articulate the story's most vital and specific subject?

If you can't, you may be merely tap-dancing in the dark, no matter how high your page count."

03 August, 2006

Women Screenwriters #2

Thanks to Ops who has managed to find the UK Film Council report, called "Scoping Study into the Lack of Women Screenwriters in the UK", mentioned in my previous post.

Download the 124 page pdf file directly here.

Scott the Reader has posted something on this issue as well on his blog.

Also see Wall Street Journal article and Guardian article.

Interesting fact: Female screenwriters wrote half of all films copyrighted between 1911 and 1925.

01 August, 2006

Reality Writers Strike

I find your lack of faith disturbing:

Josh is back to comment on the reality writers strike.

Scriptwriting & Script Reading in the UK: Step Into Another Dimension

Scriptwriting & Script Reading in the UK: Step Into Another Dimension:

"The overall improvement in the spec pile is both reassuring and disappointing. The general advance in quality comes from a good appreciation of craft. Writers know their three-act structure and how to execute it with pinpoint precision. They’re aware of set-ups and pay-offs. A great opening sequence. A good ending. Style, tone, structure. Check. At the very least, scripts are better written than they ever were before. What’s disappointing about this progress is that the characters in the scripts fail to emotionally engage, and this leads to the regular rejection on the script’s coverage."