30 November, 2007
" With the writers strike in its fourth week, the companies on Thursday put forth what they consider to be a "groundbreaking" proposal -- and the writers have blasted it.
On the fourth day of closed-door negotiations both sides lifted the news blackout as the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers unveiled its proposal that would deliver more than $130 million in additional compensation to scribes over three years.
The WGA rejected the math and dubbed the proposal both a "massive rollback" and a "bad deal." "
29 November, 2007
"The winners for the tenth annual British Independent Film Awards (BIFAs) were announced today, Wednesday 28 October at the Roundhouse in London.
Johanna von Fischer and Tessa Collinson, BIFA company co-directors and the event's producers say: “A decade ago, the need for an awards ceremony that celebrated British independent film talent was identified. We are now ten years on and BIFA has grown to celebrate the increasingly diverse range of talent out there. This year’s winners are no exception to this rule with Anton Corbijn winning the Douglas Hickox award and Judi Dench winning Best Actress.”
John Woodward, Chief Executive Officer of the UK Film Council, the major funding partner of the BIFAs says: "This year's nominations and award winners really highlight the outstanding talent working in the UK with beautiful and thought-provoking films made by both established and emerging filmmakers. The BIFAs are a great champion for the British film industry celebrating excellence and originality in independent filmmaking." "
* Patrick Marber - Notes on a Scandal
David Nicholls - And When Did You Last See Your Father?
Matt Greenhalgh - Control
Steven Knight - Eastern Promises
David Mackenzie & Ed Whitmore - Hallam Foe
28 November, 2007
" So you have examined the Rules for the Writing of Plays and lickity-split you're the author of one of the next great American Works of Dramatic Artistry. How, pray tell, do you trumpet the heralding of the harbingers of this monumental act of creationism?
By naming the play with gusto, dear readers.
Heretoforthwith, we shall delve (reference to Stoppard) into the naming of things, the power of names, and how naming and titling are related.
First... we shall look at the great titles. "
27 November, 2007
" Women looking for a movie date and filmmakers looking to increase box-office receipts both know that many men have little interest in melodramatic tearjerkers. New research, however, suggests that producers of emotional films can increase their male audience by emphasizing the films’ disconnection from reality.
“We found that when guys are told a story is fictitious, they really like it,”said Jennifer Argo, an associate marketing professor at the University of Alberta and co-author of a study (with Rui Zhu and Darren W. Dahl of the University of British Columbia) that will appear in The Journal of Consumer Research. "
" Literary writers have gone west in search of greater fame and fortune at least since the days of Hemingway and Fitzgerald, and books have long inspired films. But today, some publishers are going directly into the movie business themselves. Last month, HarperCollins, a division of News Corp., announced a partnership with Sharp Independent to develop movies based on HarperCollins books. Meanwhile, Random House Inc. has teamed up with Focus Features to co-produce two to three movies a year based on fiction and nonfiction from its dozen imprints. Its first collaboration, “Reservation Road,” directed by Terry George and based on John Burnham Schwartz’s 1998 novel, played in theatres this fall. "
26 November, 2007
" On one hand, as children we’re taught that everyone makes mistakes and that the great thinkers and inventors embraced them. Thomas Edison’s famous quote is often inscribed in schools and children’s museums: “I have not failed. I have just found ten thousand ways that won’t work.”
On the other hand, good grades are usually a reward for doing things right, not making errors. Compliments are given for having the correct answer and, in fact, the wrong one may elicit scorn from classmates. "
" “In years past, our picketing schedule has gone, ‘Picket on Mondays for two hours and then meet at a bar until the following Monday,’” said David Young, the union’s director, early this month. “That’s not how we’re going to do it this time.”
Studio executives rolled their eyes, but they soon blanched as well-organized pickets fanned out across Los Angeles and New York, and only grew in intensity. It turns out, many union members say, that striking in Hollywood — at least short term — is not that bad. A lot of strikers say they are enjoying networking, taping YouTube videos, organizing theme days and dreaming up placard slogans. "
23 November, 2007
On Tuesday the deputy ed emailed me asking if she could print it. It wasn't meant for publication so I had to rewrite it extensively very quickly as it was sloppy and shaming.
I am chuffed that the letter's page in today's edition is devoted to replies to Bell by Peter Lloyd (TV writer), Tom Green, (editor of the WGGB mag and blog), Piers and myself.
This is my letter:
"Emily Bell’s rant against the Writers Guild of America
and the strike completely misses the point.
Writers are entitled to money from download sales just
as they are for DVD sales. Will we also expect a
similar rant against actors, directors and musicians
who also earn residuals?
Presumably, should a publisher decide to print Emily
Bell’s brilliant Broadcast columns in a book and the
book sold millions, she would expect no additional
20 years ago the producers asked writers to take a
temporary 80% pay cut from home video sales as it was
an unsure market. Now DVD earns billions in profit the
producers have refused to honour the deal made then.
And now they are using the same trick for the Internet
saying it’s a new and unsure market and writers should get
nothing for a few years to see how things go.
I have heard Bell’s "the writers are bottom of the
pile but are living in a gilded cage" line a few times
now. The real question is why are screenwriters who
create the work in the first place at the bottom of the pile?
Not every WGA member is a big earner, far from
it, that myth was put about by the studios.
But even if that were the case, it shouldn't negate
fair treatment. "
21 November, 2007
" In honour of the striking screenwriters, I wanted to write a list of my favourites, either contemporary or all-time. But I decided that it would be more respectful to not exclude any of them. Even the bad writers need recognition right now. I've tried writing screenplays, and I salute anyone who has had one produced, whether brilliant or not.
Even if it weren't difficult to actually write a script, it's certainly tough to deal with the b.s. of Hollywood and the sad truth that your vision will likely not make it to the screen as devised. So, instead of concentrating on real writers, I figured I'd look at screenwriter characters, specifically those portraying the hardships of the job. "
" Screenwriter Diablo Cody is a force on the front lines of the Writers Guild of America strike, an up-and-coming scribe who's making waves in Hollywood. And she got started as a blogger.
If you're a blogger, but not even a foot soldier in your local paint-ball league, it's time you take some advice from Cody, a former stripper who's become an online legend and one of Hollywood's hottest screenwriters.
The 29-year-old Cody (real name: Brook Busey-Hunt) will see her first movie, Juno, hit U.S. screens in December. She's also executive producer and head writer for Steven Spielberg's TV series The United States of Tara, scheduled for a 2008 debut on Showtime. She's got more movies in the works, and last month the Hollywood Film Festival gave her the Hollywood Breakthrough Screenwriter of the Year Award.
Ready to taste that kind of success yourself? Follow Cody's "Five Easy Steps to Blogging Your Way to Hollywood Success." It's a foolproof system, really. "
Wednesday, 21 November, 7:30PM - 9:30PM, Free
Location: The RAFA Club - Grove Road, Northampton, NN1 3LJ, East Midlands
Contact: Al Holloway, firstname.lastname@example.org
"We are a group of writers - mainly scriptwriters for stage, screen or radio, but we're open to anyone - who meet up every couple of weeks in Northampton.
Sometimes there are events but otherwise it's an opportunity to meet, share news, read each others' scripts and help each other out."
20 November, 2007
19 November, 2007
It was hard for me to think of one thing that could be considered lame never mind 5, but here goes.
I'm happy to admit to liking quality pop and arguing with the snobs but liking a toff who won a reality show was going too far. I've never watched any of the singing talent shows - they're just karaoke with a live band - but single by single I've ended up being a Will Young fan. Instead of just another Simon Cowell puppet, Young apparently turned down the cheesy toss he was given and insisted on doing good songs instead. His vocals are incredible.
High School Musical I & II
These are just fantastic singalong fun. One review of Once said at least it wasn't rubbish like High School Musical but they're both good in different ways. Why can't I like both? Eh? Why? The quality of the writing means I'd be proud to have both on my CV.
OK, so very few people think not smoking ciggies is lame but loads think not smoking weed is.
I actually agree with the decriminalisation of all drugs, although I choose not do any anymore, but I expect the same tolerance and respect for my rights in return. I really don' t need another lecture about how it is natural and good for me.
Phill has already said what I wanted to on the subject but more eloquently (number three on his list) . I too was going to use the 'recovering alcoholic' lie to be left alone and also the 'lacking alcohol dehydrogenase (the metabolising enzyme that helps the body get alcohol out of the system)' excuse. Some people see it as a personal affront and a judgement on them when it isn't.
I wasn't being ironic in all the previous posts about her, I really do love Paris Hilton. I know she's spoilt, shallow and stupefyingly stupid but she's also seriously sexy. And that's the main thing you need in a relationship.
18 November, 2007
"What works best online? Funny still does. In fact, the Web has become the world’s biggest comedy club, where cutting-edge and too-profane-for-prime-time players—from Hollywood heavies like Will Ferrell to alt-comedy godfathers like Bob Odenkirk—are trying out their best material, for free. Herewith, bookmarks of this year’s twenty best clips of intentional hilarity."
Fight The Power!: A Mixtape For The Writers Guild Of America
" Here in Studio City, I live across the street from CBS-Radford studios. Picketers from the Writers Guild of America have been on the street here all week. It's a grim time in the Film/TV business. Negotiations between the WGA and the AMPTP have broken down and become increasingly bitter. The main issue is how to divvy up the profits of New Media- internet downloads and streaming video. New Media is destined to be the successor to DVD, and has been for some time. Yet the studios insist that they haven't found a way to make New Media profitable, so it would be presumptuous, in their eyes, to make a deal with the people who create content to share profits that supposedly do not exist. Former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, always good for a laugh, says that if anyone is really to blame it's Steve Jobs, and that if the strikers should be picketing anyone, it's Apple, because they continually outsmart the studios with their crafty itunes deals.
So there you have it. Creative people cannot possibly hold the studios to the standards that Steve Jobs has set, so it is unjust to expect to share profits that the studios are too stupid to make. Thanks for clearing THAT up, Michael!
Or, as Indiana University professor Mark Deuze (more intelligently than I) puts it:
In a way, writers and producers are increasingly disempowered by developments in the digital age and the increase in runaway production. I'm thinking about the parties that are involved in the conflict: directors, producers, writers, actors (and through them a wide network of affiliated businesses): these are all creative labourers, the talent that makes the media work. What I am arguing is, that this conflict and its framing perhaps is a reflection of a deeper unsettling trend in the industry: the increasing irrelevance of talent as a major source of investment throughout the media industries, as the economy shifts to consumers (instead of mass media-era producer-driven markets) and thus power shifts to those who control the pipelines rather than the content (cable companies, telco's, access providers).
In the meantime, thousands of crew members, assistants and those in businesses related to the industry have been laid off. These people, who stand little to gain regardless of the outcome of negotiations, will be hit the hardest of all: A long strike will impact them the hardest; these are, by and large, not affluent people. Many live paycheque to paycheque, and will lose their homes, cars and health insurance.
And what am I going to do about it? Make a mixtape. This is the only way I know how to show support for the striking writers, and I hope that it makes a decent soundtrack for the struggle against the corporatisation of America which is at the heart of this conflict. "
The "mixtape" actually consists of downloadable mp3s rather than an actual cassette tape but that's, perhaps, being too pedantic. It's a fracking brilliant compilation and highly recommended.(If you use the Firefox browser, install the Down Them All plug-in, filter for mp3 and you can avoid having to click on each file to download)
17 November, 2007
David Edgar, The Guardian
Traditionally, writers of books, radio and stage plays own the copyright on their works, leasing it to publishers in exchange for a percentage of the publishers' earnings (a royalty), and retaining full control of how the work is used. Because of the immense costs, television and film producers didn't want writers to be able to veto changes; for their part, writers wanted their relationship with their work to be more than that of widget maker to widget. They also wanted to be rewarded for the success of a product to which they had made a primary contribution. Residual payments ensure that writers are not just paid a fee (what producers think a writer's work is worth) but a percentage of its earnings (what the public thinks it's worth). Residuals, in that sense, are an acknowledgement of authorship. Refusing to grant them is taking authorship away.
As screenwriters were quick to argue when I visited LA during the final countdown, the dispute comes at a propitious time. One of the reasons for the upsurge of creativity in American television drama has been the increased importance of the writer/producer in the making of major, groundbreaking series such as Aaron Sorkin's The West Wing, Marc Cherry's Desperate Housewives and now Tim Kring's Heroes. Likewise, the turnaround in British series drama has been largely because of writer/producers such as Paul Abbott (Clocking Off, Shameless) and Russell T Davies (Queer as Folk, the new Doctor Who). This is a very good time to be reminding American and British film and television producers of what they can't do without.
Hence the strike has international repercussions. Although the Writers' Guild of Great Britain has negotiated satisfactory agreements with broadcasters on DVD, internet and mobile phone distribution, arguments about whether internet streaming is a branch of marketing or a new form of distribution touch on negotiations in other areas too (it was recently an issue in our successful negotiation of a new agreement for stage playwrights). Hence, we are not only supporting the WGA in an international day of solidarity (on November 28), but strongly advising our members, as they did in 1988, not to take work that would have been taken by striking American writers.
The British guild is not a closed shop (which means that non-members share in benefits that they don't contribute to winning). The WGA is, and so British writers who want to write in America would be crazy to strike-break. But more importantly, the American writers are fighting for a point of principle that touches on the relationship between all writers and their publishers.
Victory would confirm that writers - and actors and directors - are not the wage slaves of an increasingly small and concentrated coterie of mega-corporations (including the owners of the newspapers that are reporting the strike), but the creators of the works they produce. Those Jack Warner called "schmucks with Underwoods" (today it would be schmucks with Apple Macs) are fighting to preserve their creative as well as their financial independence.
· David Edgar is a playwright and president of the Writers' Guild of Great Britain, which holds its annual awards in London tomorrow
" Studios and networks will resume negotiations with striking writers on Nov. 26.
The WGA remains on strike. The companies recently dropped their insistence that the strike had to stop, at least temporarily, as a condition of restarting negotiations.
The Friday night announcement came on the 12th day of the strike in the form of a joint statement from the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers.
Both sides have agreed to a news blackout.
"Leaders from the AMPTP and the WGA have mutually agreed to resume formal negotiations on November 26," the statement said. "No other details or press statements will be issued."
Shortly after the joint statement was released, WGA West president Patric Verrone sent an email to the WGA membership.
"This announcement is a direct result of your efforts," Verrone said. "For 12 days I have repeated that a powerful strike means a short strike. ...Now it is equally important that we now prove that good news won't slow us down, either. We must remember that returning to the bargaining table is only a start. Our work is not done until we achieve a good contract and that is by no means assured. Accordingly, what we achieve in negotiations will be a direct result of how successfully we can keep up our determination and resolve."
Backchannel efforts have been ongoing throughout the strike to restart the talks, spurred partly by the fact that the negotiations were progressing on Nov. 4, the final day of bargaining. Since then, as job losses and show cancellations gained momentum, agents, high-profile screenwriters and showrunners have exerted pressure for a resumption of talks.
WGA leaders were angry over what they saw as a lack of substantive response by the AMPTP after the guild took its DVD residuals increase off the table. By contrast, the companies contended that they had made significant moves in new-media compensation for streaming video, providing a six-week window for promotion and giving the WGA jurisdiction over made-for-Internet work that was based on existing properties.
Verrone had indicated that for his union to restart negotiations, it needed to receive assurance that the companies would offer more in new media than they did on Nov. 4.
As for the companies, AMPTP president Nick Counter had said he needed to be convinced that the guild wanted to make a deal. He had moved away from last week's stance that the guild would have to stop striking in order to return to the table.
"For true negotiations to take place, there has to be some expectation that a deal can be made, but by their past actions and their current rhetoric that certainly doesn't appear to be the case," Counter said in his most recent statement.
On Wednesday, the WGA trumpeted a pair of surveys showing the public had plenty of sympathy for the writers, with backing of 69% in a Pepperdine poll and 63% in a SurveyUSA poll. Companies received a only a smattering of support, with 4% and 8%.
That same day, IATSE topper Thomas Short had blasted WGA leaders over job losses, noting that more than 50 TV series have been shut down by the strike. "The IATSE alone has over 50,000 members working in motion picture, television and broadcasting and tens of thousands more are losing jobs in related fields," he said. "
"Very successful entertainment executive, who is also quite young for his position, on why scribes' strike is asinine."
" Can you give people the short version why you’re on strike? Short version. Okay, the pretty short version is that the current contracts being proposed by the producers are pretty unfair. They’re making a lot of revenue from online advertising and none of that revenue comes back down toward the writers. So money’s being made but not distributed. The Writers Guild is trying to set a precedent so there will be fairer pay in the future.
Someone from the WGA, I think it was the president, said the strike could go on for nine months. I did not hear that. To be honest I find brinksmanship like that difficult to stomach and it makes both sides sound equally bad. They’re playing games with people’s lives at the moment, and I’m not even talking about the writers. On The Daily Show we have a staff who are very concerned at the moment about losing their jobs – researchers, P.A.s, etc. – and I find talk like that quite difficult to stomach. I understand they’re trying to play some kind of brinksmanship game but that doesn’t make it any less difficult to hear when friends of mine who live paycheck to paycheck are being seriously affected by this strike. And they don’t even stand to benefit from any of the negotiations! "
16 November, 2007
"On the same day that the guy who was caught filming the Simpson's movie with his mobile phone (which still doesn't make sense to us) was fined in Australia, some independent film makers are talking up how wonderful it is that people are "pirating" their film. The website rslog.net reviewed their film, The Man from Earth, and pointed out the many places online where it could be downloaded. It turned out that people really seemed to love the movie. Thousands downloaded it... and they started promoting it to others. The movie's ranking on IMDB shot up and it's getting attention from all over the place. The producer of the movie wrote to rslog to thank them for promoting the movie, noting that next time he'll probably upload his next movie to various torrent sites himself.
The director of the movie also chimed in with his support. He notes that they definitely view this a bit as "doing a Radiohead," but that's perfectly reasonable. They're hoping many people do decide to buy the DVD or donate money to the project, which seems like a reasonable request. However, what may be more likely is that they can use this groundswell to push for both theatre showings of the movie and a distribution deal for their followup. And while this shows an example of moviemakers using the Radiohead example -- there's a big difference here as well. Many critics have been falsely dismissing the Radiohead experiment by saying that only big, well known bands can pull it off. However, what the folks behind this movie are doing is exactly the opposite. They're smaller names, who are generating tremendous publicity and opportunity for themselves by not treating their fans as criminals -- even those who clearly are downloading unauthorized versions. Instead, they're embracing them for the free publicity they're providing the movie and helping to turn it into a hit. Once again, the old saying is true: obscurity is a much bigger threat to creative works than piracy. "
15 November, 2007
There are many ways you can support the WGA strike, and Fans4Writers is here to act as a rallying point for all fans.
Whatever else you and your own fan community may want to do to support the writers during the strike, join the Fans4Writers Forum and help us build a cross-fandom campaign network.
Our goal is to ensure that our activism is as effective as possible. With so many different groups all wanting to do "something", it is very easy for those efforts to be duplicated and lost in the sea of support. The most important thing is that all this enthusiasm and goodwill not be wasted on futile activities.
Fans4Writers has joined forces with some of the most pro-active and effective groups in fandom to provide you with one location to find fan-driven efforts. The WGA also is developing ways you can support them and the strike.
Fans4Writers has organized our own efforts into four key areas, each with a specific purpose.
- Morale Boosters. Keeping the WGA strikers motivated for the long haul.
- Network Communications. Letting the studios and affiliates know that we are in support of the writers.
- Advertiser Communications. Aiming to educate those with the driving power and gain their support.
- Promotion. Spreading the word about the strike, through Web banners and icons, printable signs, postcards, t-shirts, and more.
We encourage you to take action to support the writers.
Be positive. Be enthusiastic. Be effective. "
14 November, 2007
" With the Hollywood writers strike now in its second week, media coverage often describes the labour impasse as a dispute pitting writers against producers.
But a loose-knit group of 85 independent producers, many of them with credits on studio and independent films, wants to make it clear: They aren't the ones negotiating with writers, and they don't control how much -- or how little -- residuals writers receive.
To clarify their point, the informally organized group of producers signed a joint statement asking the print and broadcast media to quit referring to the strike between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers as between "writers and producers." "
" My show, “Lost,” has been streamed hundreds of millions of times since it was made available on ABC’s Web site. The downloads require the viewer to first watch an advertisement, from which the network obviously generates some income. The writers of the episodes get nothing. We’re also a hit on iTunes (where shows are sold for $1.99 each). Again, we get nothing.
If this strike lasts longer than three months, an entire season of television will end this December. No dramas. No comedies. The strike will also prevent any pilots from being shot in the spring, so even if the strike is settled by then, you won’t see any new shows until the following January. As in 2009. Both the guild and the studios we are negotiating with do agree on one thing: this situation would be brutal.
I will probably be dragged through the streets and burned in effigy if fans have to wait another year for “Lost” to come back. And who could blame them? Public sentiment may have swung toward the guild for now, but once the viewing audience has spent a month or so subsisting on “America’s Next Hottest Cop” and “Celebrity Eating Contest,” I have little doubt that the tide will turn against us. Which brings me to the second stage of grief: anger.
I am angry because I am accused of being greedy by studios that are being greedy. I am angry because my greed is fair and reasonable: if money is made off of my product through the Internet, then I am entitled to a small piece. The studios’ greed, on the other hand, is hidden behind cynical, disingenuous claims that they make nothing on the Web — that the streaming and downloading of our shows is purely “promotional.” Seriously?
Most of all, I’m angry that I’m not working. Not working means not getting paid. My weekly salary is considerably more than the small percentage of Internet gains we are hoping to make in this negotiation and if I’m on the picket line for just three months, I will never recoup those losses, no matter what deal gets made. "
"My name is Robert Ben Garant. I am a screenwriter. Some people may know me as Travis Junior, the guy who gets hurt a lot on Reno 911!. But I also write Reno 911!, and I have written a few movies.
The WGA (Writers Guild of America) is my union.
There is a lot of misinformation out there about the Writers' Strike. This is no coincidence. The corporations who run the news (NEWSCORP, VIACOM, etc.) are the very people we are striking against.
I wanted to set a few things straight:"
" As Hollywood digs in for a second week of a strike, the screenwriters might want to send a few angry picketers over to Will Smith's place. Or Steven Spielberg's.
And maybe the studio executives should think about joining them on the line.
As it turns out, the pot of money that the producers and writers are fighting over may have already been pocketed by the entertainment industry's biggest talent.
That is the conclusion of a surprisingly bleak new assessment of financial dynamics in the movie industry titled "Do Movies Make Money?" The researchers' answer: not any more.
The report, by the research company Global Media Intelligence in association with its partner Merrill Lynch, concludes that much of the income - past and future - that studios and writers have been fighting about has already gone to the biggest stars, directors and producers in the form of ballooning participation deals. A participation is a share in the gross revenue, not the profit, of a movie. "
13 November, 2007
"Tim Kring admits mistakes were made at the beginning of season 2, but promises to get back on track"
Obviously there's spoilers for season 2 and 1 if you're following at BBC2 pace.
If you're following US pace, and you're creating your own TV series, then before heading over to read the list of five mistakes, try predicting what they are.
" Film is an essentially collaborative medium - don't let directors tell you otherwise - but you can't even begin to think about collaborating if there isn't a script. You can't cast, you can't budget, you can't crew-up, you can't schedule if it's not written down. One of the less obvious consequences of industrial action is that it throws a sharp light on the crucial balances of power and spheres of influence that operate in the entertainment industry. A strike like this will also, I believe, have a longer-term advantage in that the writers may, with a bit of luck, be seen for the key players they are. The "Schmucks with Underwoods [typewriters]" - as Jack Warner dubbed his screenwriters - suddenly have some muscle. The first link in the chain that goes into the making of a show or a soap, a series or a movie - the script - is suddenly revealed as the vital one, the sine qua non
The conspiracy theorist in me has always sensed that the denigration of writers in Hollywood was an early and shrewd decision made by the producers and the studios. By rating screenwriters as lowly, toiling drones - and treating them and remunerating them as such - the elemental importance of their role in the industry was very usefully obscured and camouflaged. Also, the way Hollywood pits writer against writer through the deeply damaging process of having scripts deliberately rewritten - hiring a series of writers to revise, tinker with and polish scripts and then have them squabble bitterly with each other over the credit - is another calculating example of the principle of divide and rule. "
"Producers are full of reasons for not giving scribes the revenue share they deserve — and all of those excuses are ludicrous, says our columnist"
"It's a shame that the WGA so neglected its own image in the weeks leading up to the strike, since it has led too many observers to embrace the laziest kind of neutrality — a position that sneers at the hyperbole of both sides, and in so doing suggests that the writers and producers are somehow equally far from reason — that a magical midpoint of compromise could be found if everyone would just calm down. That's not what's going on here. The writers may be conflicted and prickly, but they're also right. The studios and networks are wrong. And yes, when you strip everything else away, it really is that simple."
09 November, 2007
" Right, as far as I know, all of the writers have been notified for the second round of the Red Planet Prize, so if you haven't received an email, then alas, you didn't get through.
Sorry about the agonising wait but it was equally agonising for us to pick a shortlist, as a lot of the scripts were of a very high standard. I'll do a post soon about some general observations from the submission pile, so stay tuned. "
Congratulations to those that got through and commiserations to everyone that didn't, especially me.
I've read a few comments about the result and I think the temptation to say "I must be shit" should be resisted. One of the scripts I entered had gone all the way to the final stage with the BBC writersroom. So it might not have been good enough to be shortlisted for the Red Planet Prize but it doesn't mean the script was crap or I'm crap. Other writers who didn't get anywhere had sent in scripts that got them agents.
After a brief session of self-pitying and slagging off the script readers, I will move on. I did my best and that's all I can do. If I went about it half-arsed then I would have been more gutted.
As I said before, I've learnt a lot writing my new script which will hopefully stick in the memory for the next script and for my entry for the 2008 comp.
Of course, it's the first time they've run the competition so allowances have to be made for the admin hiccups and shifting deadlines but I think overall it has been more of a positive experience than a negative one and Danny's observations should prove very useful.
"London grapevine is abuzz with gossip
By ADAM DAWTREY
Far from the WGA picket lines, there's a place where top-tier screenwriters are, in theory, still free to work on movies backed by the U.S. studios.
It's called the United Kingdom.
The WGA has no jurisdiction here. But the question worrying producers, agents and studio execs in London is whether local writers can (or should) work on projects involving U.S. partners.
The subject is so delicate that no one will discuss it on the record. Indeed, some would prefer that the subject not be raised publicly at all for fear of drawing the WGA's attention to the gray area in which the U.K. biz operates.
The Writers Guild of Great Britain has pitched in with its own opinion. "We are contacting the major U.K. broadcasters and producers, and the U.K. Film Council, asking them not to dump U.K. material into the U.S. market and not to dress up American projects to look as though they are British," said general secretary Bernie Corbett. "Strike-breaking would at best be a short-term payday but would have a devastating long-term effect on a writer's U.S. career."
That depends, of course, on the attitude of WGA. As one London-based studio exec said, "It's still legitimate for us to be working on non-WGA contracts if the writer is rendering services in the U.K. But some people are freaking out that if you cross a picket line, and you are not WGA already, it may affect your ability to join the union in future."
Brit-based productions are almost always non-WGA -- even the biggest ones developed by the U.K. arms of the studios or produced by companies with studio relationships such as Working Title (Universal), DNA Films (Fox), Marv Films (Sony) and Heyday Films (Warner). None is a WGA signatory, and some have their own independent local financing, so technically they shouldn't be directly affected by the strike, even if they are working on projects written by British members of the WGA.
The London grapevine is abuzz with gossip that marquee American producers have been scouting for non-WGA writers for film or TV projects they would funnel through British production companies. Hollywood's majors have lodged discreet inquiries with agents and lawyers about the availability of their clients.
"It could be an extraordinary opportunity for British writers to get a shot at big studio projects that they otherwise would never get a shot at," confided one U.K.-based studio exec.
British agents, however, are counseling caution. "To do nothing, and to be seen to do nothing, is the thing to do," declared one agent to some of the highest-profile British screenwriters.
In the U.S., it's clear that WGA members shouldn't take non-union work. In the U.K., it's far from clear where to draw the line. A British writer, whether a WGA member or not, is surely free to write a local TV drama for the BBC or Channel 4. But what if that drama is sold to a U.S. network to fill a gap left by strike action? Or what if it's co-produced by HBO?
Most would think it's OK to write a British movie for BBC Films or Film4 -- but what if the movie is co-financed by Focus or Paramount Vantage, or pre-sold to Buena Vista for U.K. distribution?
Writers currently contracted to a non-union project from a local producer affiliated to a U.S. studio would be in breach if they put their pencils down. But agents are advising clients to be wary about entering any deal, or even taking a meeting, with such companies, even though the projects are legitimately British and non-union.
According to one British agent, the rules are clear that "any non-U.S. citizen can render services on non-WGA projects, as long as those services are provided outside the U.S., even if they are provided to a WGA signatory company."
But another agent from the same company added, "If it seems that supporting a strike means you have integrity, I don't know that any writer would want to be seen as a scab."
It's unclear how much power the WGA has to punish non-American writers. The guild can refuse to grant full membership with voting rights but can't deny "financial core" membership status to anyone. Do British writers care if they can't attend union meetings, so long as they get the financial benefit?
In the end, it's a matter of conscience for each individual.
As one British agent said, "Maybe English writers haven't quite got hold of how important this is in Los Angeles. I don't know if anyone here has quite woken up to what it all means." "
08 November, 2007
" The Window of Opportunity is our new competition. Run in conjunction with Baby Cow, the aim each time is to develop your comedy talent and give you a step up the industry ladder.
Henry Normal, Managing Director of Baby Cow Productions, will be judging the entries. For each commission he'll choose one winner, and give feedback on their material. This will be shown in our Comedy Report video.
To get the ball rolling, and release those creative juices of yours, our frist Window of Opportunity is in association with Baby Cow Productions themselves. Read on to see your brief, as set by Henry.
4Laughs in association with Baby Cow
Brief: My Mate Primate
A community of neanderthals go about their business but there is one amongst them that is different... Whilst the majority are happy hunting, drawing on the walls and scratching themselves, one is a 1950s dad transported to prehistoric times... Write a sketch with this as the setting.
Up to a 2 minute sketch (no more than 2 pages of script)
* You must be registered on the 4Laughs site to enter the competition, to register, simply click here.
* Entries should be sent to 4Laughs@channel4.com with Window of Opportunity in the subject header.
* Entrants should include their real name, user name and a contact phone number.
* Only one entry per person.
You have until 9:00am, 12 November, 2007 to email your entry.
Henry Normal will choose one overall winner, and give feedback in the Comedy Report.
The winner will be invited to Baby Cow Manchester for a one-on-one development session with Ric Michael. They'll then be taken to the Ideal set to watch filming and eat lunch on the catering bus. After this there'll be more time to watch the production in action.
And of course there will be that feedback from Henry Normal. "
I should emphasise that you need to register and 4Laughs has the worst registration system I have ever encountered on the Internet so try to register before writing anything as you might not get the chance to submit it.
" Why do we cry at the movies?
Maybe it is the movie or the psychological baggage we schlepped in with us. Or is it empathy, or you-are-so-busted guilt? Maybe genetics or cultural conditioning. Or were we simply bursting to spill that night because the boss refused to give us a week off for Christmas?
This much we do know: All of us do it in varying degrees of blubbitude. Some of us are waterfalls, soaking fellow moviegoers with our public displays of empathy (PDE). Others are Saharas for whom tears are about as rare as oases. Most of us fit somewhere in between.
The trigger may be the moral injustice in "Schindler's List," or the way Heath Ledger's throat catches when he confesses those forbidden feelings in "Brokeback Mountain." Or that cheesy Michael Keaton movie - you know, the one where he's dying of cancer and he makes a videotape for his future son and ... (we are too verklempt to continue).
Whatever the external stimulus, it dislodges the sandbags of our inner levees. And as the darkness wraps us in a mantle of complete permission, we release. There we sit, teary-eyed, vulnerable and helpless. And we become as emotionally intertwined with the characters in the movie as we do with real people. "
07 November, 2007
"Reporters are funny people. At least, some of the New York Times reporters are. Their story on the strike was the most dispiriting and inaccurate that I read. But it also contained one of my favourite phrases of the month.
“All the trappings of a union protest were there… …But instead of hard hats and work boots, those at the barricades wore arty glasses and fancy scarves.”
Oh my God. Arty glasses and fancy scarves. That is so cute! My head is aflame with images of writers in ruffled collars, silk pantaloons and ribbons upon their buckled shoes. A towering powdered wig upon David Fury’s head, and Drew Goddard in his yellow stockings (cross-gartered, needless to say). Such popinjays, we! The entire writers’ guild as Leslie Howard in The Scarlet Pimpernel. Delicious.
Except this is exactly the problem. The easiest tactic is for people to paint writers as namby pamby arty scarfy posers, because it’s what most people think even when we’re not striking. Writing is largely not considered work. Art in general is not considered work. Work is a thing you physically labour at, or at the very least, hate. Art is fun. (And Hollywood writers are overpaid, scarf-wearing dainties.) It’s an easy argument to make. And a hard one to dispute.
My son is almost five. He is just beginning to understand what I do as a concept. If I drove a construction crane he’d have understood it at birth. And he’d probably think I was King of all the Lands in my fine yellow crane. But writing – especially writing a movie or show, where people other than the writer are all saying things that they’re clearly (to an unschooled mind) making up right then – is something to get your head around.
And as work? Well, in the first place, it IS fun. When it’s going well, it’s the most fun I can imagine having. (Tim Minear might dispute that.) And when it’s not going well, it’s often not going well in the company of a bunch of funny, thoughtful people. So how is that work? You got no muscles to show for it (yes, the brain is a muscle, but if you show it to people it’s usually because part of your skull has been torn off and that doesn’t impress the ladies – unless the ladies are ZOMBIES! Where did this paragraph go?) Writing is enjoyable and ephemeral. And it’s hard work.
It’s always hard. Not just dealing with obtuse, intrusive studio execs, temperamental stars and family-prohibiting hours. Those are producer issues as much as anything else. Not just trying to get your first script sold, or seen, or finished, when nobody around believes you can/will/should… the ACT of writing is hard. When Buffy was flowing at its flowingest, David Greenwalt used to turn to me at some point during every torturous story-breaking session and say “Why is it still hard? When do we just get to be good at it?” I’ll only bore you with one theory: because every good story needs to be completely personal (so there are no guidelines) and completely universal (so it’s all been done). It’s just never simple.
It’s necessary, though. We’re talking about story-telling, the most basic human need. Food? That’s an animal need. Shelter? That’s a luxury item that leads to social grouping, which leads directly to fancy scarves. But human awareness is all about story-telling. The selective narrative of your memory. The story of why the Sky Bully throws lightning at you. From the first, stories, even unspoken, separated us from the other, cooler beasts. And now we’re talking about the stories that define our nation’s popular culture – a huge part of its identity. These are the people that think those up. Working writers.
“The trappings of a union protest…” You see how that works? Since we aren’t real workers, this isn’t a real union issue. (We’re just a guild!) And that’s where all my ‘what is a writer’ rambling becomes important. Because this IS a union issue, one that will affect not just artists but every member of a community that could find itself at the mercy of a machine that absolutely and unhesitatingly would dismantle every union, remove every benefit, turn every worker into a cowed wage-slave in the singular pursuit of profit. (There is a machine. Its program is ‘profit’. This is not a myth.) This is about a fair wage for our work. No different than any other union. The teamsters have recognized the importance of this strike, for which I’m deeply grateful. Hopefully the Times will too. "
"The first thing I want to say, loud and clear (or as loud and clear as you can say with the printed word) is that WE WANT TO WORK. That's actually the biggest single truth about our Guild. We all long to write (preferably about things we care about, but that's not even a prerequisite). We live to tell stories, and we feel incredibly blessed that someone will pay us to do so.
That having been said, we expect that we will be fairly rewarded for the stories we tell--if they are good enough to attract an audience--or to get some attention. The more attention, the more we believe we should be rewarded."
" Shortlist Update!
Our apologies for the delay, but emails to finalists will now be going out over the next few days. This group will then be assessed until we have the final group for mentoring and then the ultimate winner.
Again, sorry we can't let everyone know individually that they haven't made it - or reply to individual queries. "
06 November, 2007
There was a fast food place called Papa Mia which despite the name, didn’t serve any Italian food – not even pizza. It was especially popular because it had a mini-cab office and bus stops nearby. They unexpectedly closed down and I saw a sign in the window advertising for a shop fitter.
The refurbishment started and I looked forward to sampling a bigger, better fast food joint. Except it was now an Italian Restaurant. The owners had obviously done their catering training and felt they could do more than burgers and fries. They had a goal and an ambition and took a risk.
My first thought was, ‘they are going to go bust’ which I realised was just me being negative and I tried to be positive about their prospects. Each time I passed the restaurant I tried not to look in but couldn’t resist. Each time the chefs were sat in their whites doing nothing. I told myself that maybe it gets really busy later on. Then they shut up shop for good and a for sale sign went up.
The moral of the story is: don’t take any risks or have any ambition.
Just jesting. The real moral is we should take risks, they are absolutely essential to life, but we should also be aware of exactly what risk we're taking by doing some research and understanding the market.
The success rate of new restaurants is higher than many people think but the location was so obviously wrong. There was no promotion to encourage people to try them out. The menu was unambitious and expensive for what it was. And there was no incentive to make me switch from my usual Italian restaurant, except curiosity.
If they had in fact predicted those problems and still want ahead then that’s fair enough but they can’t really have any complaints. Similarly if I write something and send it to the wrong place or it's going to cost far too much to produce or the content is simply unpalatable for most people or there were better scripts than mine available, then I can’t complain if I don’t get a sale.
Writing words on our typewriters requires relatively little risk. We write what we want with no harmful consequences but producing that script requires a huge investment in time and money and we can't blame producers for wanting to minimise the risk of that investment. Although we can probably blame those amongst them who don't take any risks at all and play it safe.
Once we’ve learned the writing basics, it’s possible to produce several well-written scripts which get rejected because no-one is interested in the story and premise or they may be interested but they don't believe a big enough audience will be.
If so we might have to compromise our artistic vision and be a little less risky in our approach. I’m not saying we should start pandering to the audience but simply keep in mind that there is an audience.
We all know how important it is for stories we're working on to be something we’re passionate about. But there are many ways of telling those stories and sometimes a spoonful of sugar will make it more acceptable.
I’m not saying that just because most people want fast food that should be the only thing available but there is fast food that is bland, boring and insubstantial and there is fast food that is delicious, filling and leaves people craving more.
Taking Risks by Scott Greenberg
Risk-taking.co.uk - an introduction to the psychology of risk
05 November, 2007
“The Queen” leads the nominations for this year’s European Film Awards -- Europe’s equivalent of the Oscars -- with six mentions, including pic, director, actress (Helen Mirren) and screenwriter (Peter Morgan).
“The Queen” is a U.K.-France-Italy co-production.
Noms were announced Saturday at the Seville Film Festival.
The list of nominated films underscores deep contrasts in contempo European filmmaking in subject matter as well as movie budgets.
Other contenders for the pic prize are Kevin Macdonald’s “The Last King of Scotland,” with five nominations; and Romanian Cristian Mungiu’s abortion drama “4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days,” the Cannes Palme d’Or winner this year, with four noms.
Fatih Akin’s Germany-Turkey co-prod “The Edge of Heaven” snagged nominations for film, director and screenwriter (Akin), while Edith Piaf biopic “La Vie en rose,” from France’s Olivier Dahan, competes for pic and actress nods.
Unusually, an animated film, Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud’s “Persepolis,” turning on the travails of girlhood in Iran, has also made the best pic shortlist.
Competing for the director plaudit, Frears, Macdonald, Mungiu and Akin face off against Italy’s Giuseppe Tornatore (“The Unknown”) and Sweden’s Roy Andersson (“You, the Living”).
France’s Michel Piccoli, nominated for his leading role in Manoel de Oliveira’s “Belle toujours,” contends for actor kudos with James McAvoy (“The Last King of Scotland”), Miki Manojlovic (“Irina Palm”), Elio Germano (“My Brother Is an Only Child”), Sasson Gabai (“The Band’s Visit”) and Ben Whishaw (“Perfume: The Story of a Murderer”).
Besides Mirren, candidates for actress are Marion Cotillard (“La Vie en rose”), Marianne Faithfull (“Irina Palm”), Carice Van Houten (“Black Book”), Anamaria Marinca (“4 Months”) and Ksenia Rappoport (“The Unknown”).
The winners of the 20th European Film Awards will be announced Dec. 1 in Berlin.
And the nominees are:
EUROPEAN FILM 2007
"4 luni, 3 spatamini si 2 zile" (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days), Romania; directed by Cristian Mungiu; produced by Mobra Film SRL
"Auf der anderen seite" (The Edge of Heaven), Germany/Turkey; directed by Fatih Akin; produced by Corazón International GmbH & Co KG/Anka Film/Dorje Film/NDR
The Last King Of Scotland, UK; directed by Kevin Macdonald; produced by DNA Films
"La mome" (La Vie en Rose), France/Czech Republic/UK; directed by Olivier Dahan; produced by Légende/ TF1 International/TF1 Films Production/Okko; Production s.r.o./Songbird Pictures Ltd
"Persepolis", France; directed by Marjane Satrapi & Vincent Paronnaud; produced by 2.4.7. Films/France 3 Cinéma/Diaphana Distribution/The; Kennedy/Marshall Company/Franche Connection Animations
"The Queen", UK/France/Italy; directed by Stephen Frears; produced by Granada/Pathé Renn/BIM Distribuzione
Fatih Akin for "Auf der anderen seite" (The Edge of Heaven)
Eran Kolirin for "Bikur hatizmoret" (The Band’s Visit)
Peter Morgan for "The Queen"
Cristian Mungiu for "4 luni, 3 spatamini si 2 zile" (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days)
04 November, 2007
" The Ghost script plays like a modern-day tragic fairy tale in its story of Sam (Patrick Swayze), murdered by a mugger (Rick Aviles) one night while out with his girlfriend Molly (Demi Moore). Stuck between this world and the next, Sam enlists the help of fake-cum-real medium Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg) and discovers his death was more than a random occurrence. The result is a combination of a ticking clock (can Sam figure out who the real murderer is, and save Molly's life?) and a doomed romance (the previously uncommunicative Sam now literally can't communicate with Molly) with a little bit of afterlife thrown in to ice the cake.
Dealing effectively with the chief obstacle of the supernatural genre, scribe Bruce Joel Rubin paints his world vividly and explains the rules without seeming expository. Take for example, a subway station scene with Vincent Schiavelli as a tormented subway ghost. The character, established earlier in the film, later resurfaces to lay the groundwork for the movie's paranormal parameters in a conversation that feels organic. Further, the fact that the subway ghost is portrayed in such a multi-dimensional fashion, and cleverly reveals the causes that made him a ghost, is a testament to the screenplay; no role is too small for color and definition. The script manages to effectively play on a number of levels, working successfully as a love story, a drama, and a thriller, with a number of genuine laughs thrown in to boot.
Ghost marked turning points in the careers of many involved, not just Oscar winners Rubin and Whoopi Goldberg (Best Supporting Actress), but director Jerry Zucker (best known for Top Secret! and the Airplane! films) as well, who finally broke free of being stereotyped strictly as a farcical filmmaker. For a movie that could have easily fallen into cheesy sentimentality, it rises above its own clichés through sharp writing and deft moviemaking.
Ghost is the quintessential example of how effective a formulaic, three-act structure can be when executed properly. Often scripts that follow such traditionally rigid structure and familiar notes fall into a tired pattern; but Ghost, with its colorful characters, absorbing world, and emotionally ratcheted stakes, manages to remain engaging for its 126 minutes. "
Bruce Joel Rubin interview (audio)
Sunday 4 November, 9:00pm
03 November, 2007
I really shouldn't be helping to promote this opportunistic scumbag but I felt you should know the depths some people are willing to sink.
Alex Perez - Writer for hire
" Welcome film industry!
Allow me to introduce you to the newest member of your writing staff…me!
I have long believed that good things come to those who wait for the right situation to emerge. I have also long believed in aiding those in need during times of struggle and strife. That’s why I want to team up with you, Hollywood, to help make 2008 the best year at the box office ever!
I’m Alex Perez, and while I may lack experience, I make up for it with a go-get-‘um attitude that can’t be matched. Let’s be realistic, there’s a chance a writers’ strike might happen, and while nobody wants that to occur, we all need to start making the necessary plans in case it does. Thank you for your support and please think of me when hiring your screenwriter for the future.
Don’t just take my word for it, watch my videos! "
We call on our members – and all UK writers – to refuse to break the strike by filling in for US writers in dispute. WGGB General Secretary Bernie Corbett said: “Strikebreaking would at best bring a short-term payday, but would have a devastating long-term effect on a writers’ US career.”
The 12,000 members of the Writers Guild of America are striking to get better payments when the shows they write are re-sold as DVDs, internet downloads and mobile phone transmissions. Weeks of talks with representatives of US TV networks and film studios broke down earlier this week.
Last night nearly 3,000 WGA members packed the Los Angeles Convention Center. At this meeting, the largest membership meeting in WGA history, writers expressed their anger at the companies’ refusal to bargain seriously.
Under UK trade union laws the WGGB cannot issue a strike instruction, nor can it discipline any members who defy the strike, however the WGGB points out the serious implications of the WGA strike rules.
Rule 13 of the WGA Strike Rules states: “The Guild does not have the authority to discipline non members for strike breaking and/or scab writing. However, the Guild can and will bar that writer from future Guild membership. This policy has been strictly enforced in the past and has resulted in convincing many would be strike breakers to refrain from seriously harming the Guild and its members during a strike.”
Without WGA membership, it is virtually impossible for a writer to work for the main networks and studios in the USA.
The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain recalls that during the last WGA strike in 1988, there was solid support by UK writers, with very few cases of strikebreaking. We expect the same to be the case this time round as well.
At the time of writing it was not known when the strike would officially begin. It follows a 90 per cent vote by members in favour of action. The TV networks and film studios, represented by the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) have refused to budge from their existing DVD deal, which pays the writer a mere 4 cents on each $15 DVD, and would extend the same minimal terms to internet downloads and mobile phone viewing.
The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, along with writers’ guilds in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, South Africa and other countries, is a signatory to the “Auckland Declaration”, signed in 2000, which states:
“To the greatest extent permitted by contract and law, the guilds pledge to honor work stoppages, publicize information about work stoppages to their respective memberships, and to lend all aid possible to each other in support of negotiating goals.”
Corbett said: “This means we strongly advise our members not to engage in strikebreaking, and on top of that if we learn of any cases of strikebreaking either by WGGB members or non-members, we will not hesitate to inform the WGA so that they can follow it up according to their rules.
“As it happens the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain has been able to negotiate satisfactory terms with UK broadcasters covering DVDs, internet downloads, mobile phones, etc. It is right that we should support our American colleagues as they fight to achieve the same kind of terms.
“We are contacting the major UK broadcasters and producers, and the UK Film Council, asking them not to dump UK material into the US market, and not to dress up American projects to look as though they are British. Any such manoeuvres would bring at best a short-term advantage, whereas the adverse consequences could last for years.
“Last time the WGA went on strike, in 1988, it lasted five months and for all that time WGGB members kept up their support. We are sure that this time our members will show the same discipline and solidarity. In a global industry, it is in our interests as well as theirs.” "
On Shooting Screenwriters recently a writer was wondering if joining the WGGB meant he wouldn't be able to scab in the States should a strike start. Just as I don't understand writers who are happy to take the hard negotiated rights and money the WGGB has fought for them but refuse to actually join us, I don't understand those who see this as a chance for their big break in America.
They are fighting for all of us, at whatever stage of our careers and wherever we are in the world, as it isn't just about the money but about respect.