17 December, 2010

Viewfinder - recommended aspiring filmmakers

Viewfinder is the Black List inspired list of aspiring filmmakers. It gathers together the most recommended short films/commercials/music videos.



THE RAVEN - 720 HD from THE RAVEN FILM on Vimeo.



That film is the most recommended. Watch the others here.

14 December, 2010

Filmography 2010

"This year's movies have legitimately transformed my idea of what is creatively possible. To commemorate, I've remixed 270 of them into one giant ass video."- Genrocks



Music:
1. Ratatat - Nostrand - http://tinyurl.com/2ahhhj9
2. Kanye West - Power - http://tinyurl.com/27mpo83
3. Rooney - Not In My House - http://tinyurl.com/23vpakx
4. Apartment - Fall Into Place - http://tinyurl.com/2fnsnkc
5. Civil Twilight - Letters from the Sky - http://tinyurl.com/2fwrlys
6. SUNBEARS! - Little Baby Pines - http://tinyurl.com/26d9brn

Films in order of appearance: http://tinyurl.com/2g3p6bs

13 December, 2010

BBC Comedy Writing Comp

(via BBC writersroom)

Laughing Stock 2011

Bold, funny and original

BBC Writersroom and BBC Comedy Commissioning are joining forces in a nationwide competition to find new comedy gold. If you can invent characters that make us laugh out loud, tell stories that keep us on the edge of our seats, and tease the audience to come back for more, then we want to hear from you.

Write it, send it in - and you could be in line not just for a comedy masterclass but also an intensive week away developing your idea hand in hand with BBC comedy producers and established comedy writing talent. This is an opportunity not to be missed - if your idea leaps every hurdle then you may even get the chance of having your work performed at our Sitcom Showcase in the newly opened Studio in Media City, Salford.

The challenge is to write an original comedy script with series potential. We’re looking for writers that reflect modern Britain, comedy voices that have not yet been heard, and talent that’s just bursting to get out.

You will need to send us a script that’s between 15 – 30 minutes long and a one page outline of how your series would develop. The work must not have been previously commissioned, optioned or produced and this opportunity is for writers who have not yet had a network commission.

Judges:
Cheryl Taylor (Controller, Comedy Commissioning for the BBC)
Kate Rowland (Creative Director of New Writing for the BBC)
Writer, Simon Nye (Men Behaving Badly, Reggie Perrin, Doctor Who)

To enter, send your script and one page outline to:

Laughing Stock
BBC writersroom
Grafton House
379 Euston Road
London
NW1 3AU

CLOSING DATE: Monday February 21st 2011

MASTERCLASS: Tuesday 5th April in Manchester 2011

WINNERS ANNOUNCED on or before Tuesday 31st May 2011

RESIDENTIAL: w/c 6th June 2011

SITCOM FESTIVAL (in Salford) Sept 26th - 2nd Oct 2011

Read the full terms and conditions for Laughing Stock.

24 November, 2010

Amazon Studios replies

About the Amazon Studios "Fine Print"

"Amazon Studios is serious about making movies. To do that, we need to have a contract with you, and that contract has to give us the option to buy the rights to make a movie. An option is the right to buy a script or movie. It is what producers typically offer writers whose scripts they want to produce. (If you have a long career as a screenwriter, you will become quite familiar with options.)

By uploading your original script or movie, you give Amazon Studios an exclusive option to buy it for $200,000. This lasts for 18 months (or 36 if we pay you $10,000 to extend it). During the option period, you keep your copyrights to your original script or movie. It is true that by giving us an exclusive option you cannot sell it to another producer in that 18 (or 36) months. However, if we don’t buy it in that period, then we lose our right to buy it from you and you can shop it around to other producers.

If we do buy your original script or movie, that money is on top of any awards that you may win for Amazon Studios contests (http://studios.amazon.com/contests). That award money is completely separate from rights payments.

*** We don’t own your original scripts or movies unless we buy them from you.***

If we release your original script or movie as a full budget theatrical film, you (and your writing partner, if any) will get the $200,000 option payment. As mentioned above, this is totally separate from any contest award money you may have received. If we pay you the $200,000 option payment, then we have purchased your original script or movie from you. If a movie based on your original script or movie earns $60 million at the US box office in its initial release, you get a further bonus of $400,000. The normal approach in option agreements is to give the writer a small “net profit” participation in the movie, which guarantees nothing. The bonus in our agreement is large and clear. If you pick up Variety one day and it says that the movie we released based on your original script or movie made $60 million at the US box office, then you will get $400,000.

*** There is no scenario where someone can claim any of your rights money by revising your original script or movie.***

If someone creates a revised version of an original script or movie, they may be eligible for up to 50% of any contest winnings. But rights payments are not shared. If a theatrical movie is released from an original script or movie on Amazon Studios, the creator of the original script or movie gets 100% of the rights payments. People who are revising material or making test movies are going for award money (which can be substantial) and are helping someone else get their movie made. But they are not sharing in the rights money. There’s a lot of award money for people who revise scripts or make test movies.

We’ve had some questions about the length of the option and whether it could be less than 18 months. The bottom line is that Amazon Studios is a process and it can take time. Getting feedback, having test movies made, seeing how the story plays on video, maybe revising if appropriate, will probably need more than a few months to play out. If you have someone who wants to produce your script as it is right now, and you think the script is ready for that, then you should probably see how that pans out before uploading to Amazon Studios.

This post is intended to be a helpful summary of some major points in the Development Agreement (http://studios.amazon.com/help/development-agreement) and Contest Rules (http://studios.amazon.com/help/contest-terms-and-procedures) but is not intended to replace reading them and is not a part of them. Please read them before submitting your scripts or movies."

I'm still not convinced. If "a small 'net profit' participation" is so bad, why not make it 'gross profit' then? Because it isn't about giving writers the best deal but the worst deal. Some of the comments demolish this statement but you also get others in support like this:

"Writers complain about no opportunities to break in, nobody is buying specs, there's no entry path for filmmakers into the business. Amazon shows up with 2.7 million to hand out to ... writers and filmmakers. With a path for some to production. With Warner Brothers on board for a first look.

Everyone complains it's not perfect. Well, don't enter.

I've spoken to writers in this contest with a long list of IMDB credits... Nicholl semifinalists. I've had two scripts optioned personally, won several contests, and have a feature headed into production. Judges will go through and sort out the material and see what has potential.

A shot at $20,000 plus $200,000 more if the film is made PLUS more if it's successful. That's a real opportunity to me.

I have no intention on moving to Los Angeles and working as a flunkie for ten years hoping to catch a break. How about I catch it here instead?

You don't like it, don't enter and good luck to you. But since you're one of those talented writers with a non-lame script, you don't need the luck part."

---------------------------------

Scamazon


21 November, 2010

Amazon Studios - selling writers down the river?

I understand why the Amazon Studios contract might be tempting to professionals and pre-professionals, especially if we have a script that's been shopped around for a while without success and is just gathering dust in a drawer. But, in terms of writers' rights, they're taking the piss.

The more screenwriters who sign up to it, then the more Amazon Studios and other producers will think it's acceptable to take the piss.

One way to tell serious producers from time-wasting 'producers' is if they offer money to option your script or if they're happy to follow union-negotiated agreements. Rather than a fancy new way of doing things, Amazon Studios is just the old way of doing things in disguise. Don't be fooled because it's one of the biggest brands in the world and they dangle dollars in front of us.

The video pitch at Amazon Studios seems aimed at the outsider who is sick of being told they have to live in Hollywood or have an agent or have to use a particular email address to get ahead. At those who see the talentless thrive while the gatekeepers won't even open the gate to slam it in their face. They have a good story, dammit! One that will make a good movie. If only they could get their script read in the first place, they would have a chance.

And even if that script doesn't get chosen for production at Amazon Studios it could still win the writer a prize. They could even be paid for another 18 month option. It's a recession. Who would turn down free money?

I understand. It's being pro-active and positive about our careers but Amazon Studios are taking the piss. Writers in the past have fought hard and sacrificed for the rights we have now, we shouldn't discard them so easily.

Richard Stern says this on an Amazon Studios forum:

"Just playing devil's advocate here, but without the 18 month option, what happens to Amazon if your script gets read by 500 people on this site and optioned by a producer? They've basically funded a development board for other production companies, gratis. Or what happens if you're selected as a winner, but someone else swoops in and buys your screenplay before the award?

I suspect Amazon will have 3000 or so projects to review and judge at their own expense by the time January rolls around. All told, they'll probably have invested millions dollars in building this community and millions more in funding the prizes. How do they recoup the investment they're making in building up the commercial value of our scripts without the option?

Our scripts may be brilliant (I've been reading all day and been pleasantly surprised) but all of them have an actual cash value of $0 today (and please don't tell me you're sitting on the next Avatar, because if you had producers knocking down your door, you wouldn't be here). In fact, if you are making a living as a writer today, I'd say that this contest isn't for you. At their own expense, Amazon is offering to help undiscovered writers by exposing their work to a large audience and in return they want to share in the profit if your project has commercial merit. I'm not exactly sure why that's a "bad deal" for the undiscovered writer.

You know what is a bad deal, though? Screenwriting contests that take your money and six months later send you a rejection letter. You've spent $50 and had no real exposure and no networking - it's a complete waste. And even if you do win, now you have a certificate, a little money and some screenwriting software. So what? You know how many Nichols Fellowship quarter-finalists and finalist are still trying to breaking through? I've seen many of them on this very site. It's all such a scam and so demoralizing for many of the writers involved.

Honestly, if Amazon stole my screenplay, paid me next to nothing, made it into a huge movie and made a fortune - I'd be happy. Why? I'd write another script and likely sell in half the time for twice as much. These aren't lottery tickets. If only one of my scripts is going to be any good, then I've chosen the wrong profession.

My best advice is for everyone to embrace the community, work together and make the most of this wonderful opportunity. We're writers, we're sceptical - I get that. But when scepticism leads intelligent and talented people to talk themselves out of an opportunity to succeed, it's heartbreaking. I think that everyone should participate - even if that mean posting your second best script and keeping Avatar 2 stashed away for the time being. Rather than playing entertainment attorney, lets focus on collaborating, supporting and inspiring one another to help make this community everything it can be. If we do that, we all win!"

Richard makes some good points. I can live with some free option time, maybe, but 18 months is simply too long. And that's just one problem out of many in the contract.

Yes, we should have more than one script, more than one one-pager; the lottery ticket mentality is pretty prevalent. But what if that one script the writer has is actually really good? Uploading that screenplay and accepting the Amazon Studios contract would be a very bad idea indeed
.

'Collaborating, supporting and inspiring' is neat and been done by Trigger Street and Zoetrope for a few years now but, I'm pretty sure, they don't demand the rights to any uploaded work for ever.

The Amazon Studios business model needs writers but doesn't want to be fair to writers. That's a fact and of course some writers will be able to live with that - just on the off chance something will happen for them.

Can creative crowdsourcing work? Can Amazon Studios really be successful without being forced to change this contract? I don't know. I just know that they're seriously taking the piss.


Further reading:

Amazon Studios: The New Way to Break Into The Industry? by Michael Ferris, Script
An Open Letter to Amazon Studios by Hal Croasmun
On Being Professional by Piers Beckley
Amazon Studios by James Moran
Amazon's Bad Deal by Craig Mazin
On the Amazon Film Thing by John August
Amazon, Films, Foolishness and Optimism by Filmutopia
Amazon Studios by Scott Myers
Why Amazon Studios is a very bad idea for writers - Drew McWeeny
Red-Lining the Amazon Studios Agreement (Part 1) - Scott Logie

20 November, 2010

Ben Ripley's Source Code trailer


Early last year, Carson at Scriptshadow championed a brilliant spec script floating around by Ben Ripley called Source Code. Several months later and it's still the most popular spec script on the site.

Now the trailer is available - the film opens 11/03/2011 in the UK.

Ben Ripley interview

19 November, 2010

Read That Amazon Studios Contract Carefully, Kids

Gigaom:

"The best deal for creators, therefore, is to create your own original script or film and submit it — however, to do so gives Amazon Studios a free 18-month option on your content: “For 18 months after you create a project at Amazon Studios, you cannot display, sell or license your script elsewhere, or withdraw it for any reason,” the contract synopsis reads. They might buy the rights to your script or film for $200,000, but there’s no guarantee of that.

A commenter on the Amazon Studios forum points out that:

“Amazon wants to option scripts for free. The problem here is 18 months of exclusivity… for free. Normally options are paid. Writers do not give anyone exclusive rights to anything for free. TOS needs to change ASAP. I was really exited about amazon studio [sic] and this is a ridiculous term is in the fine print. No serious writer would should consider giving away exclusive rights for free.”


Read article in full

17 November, 2010

Amazon Studios want screenplays/movies

Amazon.com, Inc. today launched Amazon Studios (http://studios.amazon.com), a new online business that invites filmmakers and screenwriters around the world to submit full-length movies and scripts to make money, get discovered and get their movie made. Through the monthly and annual Amazon Studios Awards, Amazon Studios will offer a total of $2.7 million to the top submissions received by Dec. 31, 2011, and will seek to develop the top Amazon Studio projects as commercial feature films under its first-look deal with Warner Bros. Pictures.

Writers are invited to add scripts to Amazon Studios. Filmmakers are invited to add full-length test movies to Amazon Studios. Test movies may be made from your own original script or from any script submitted to Amazon Studios. Test movies must be full length (more than 70 minutes), but they don't have to be "full budget." While test movies must include imaginative stories with great acting and sound they don't need to have theatrical-quality production values. Film fans can review Amazon Studios scripts and test movies, or even upload alternate, revised versions. Full-length test movies will introduce public test screenings to the earliest, formative stages of the movie development process; the Amazon Studios test movie process is intended to guide a film's development and assess its potential. Amazon Studios has produced five test movie samples, in different styles and genres, which can be found on its Getting Started page (http://studios.amazon.com/getting-started).

"We are excited to introduce writers, filmmakers and movie lovers to Amazon Studios," said Roy Price, Director of Digital Product Development. "Full-length test movies will show stories up on their feet and attract helpful feedback at an early stage. We hope that Amazon Studios will help filmmakers experiment and collaborate and we look forward to developing hit movies."

It is the goal of Amazon Studios to produce new, full-budget theatrical films based on the best projects and it will give Warner Bros. Pictures first access to the projects Amazon Studios wishes to produce in cooperation with an outside studio. Under the Amazon Studios development agreement, if a filmmaker or screenwriter creates a project with an original script and it is released by Amazon Studios as a theatrical feature film, the submitter will receive a rights payment of $200,000; if the movie makes over $60 million at the U.S. box office, the original filmmaker or screenwriter will receive a $400,000 bonus. If Warner Bros. Pictures is not inclined to develop a particular project, Amazon Studios can then produce the project in cooperation with another studio.

Winning screenplays and full-length test movies will be selected on the basis of commercial viability, which will include consideration of premise, story, character, dialogue, emotion and other elements of great movies. The first Amazon Studios industry panelists will include: screenwriter and chair, Writing Division of the USC School of Cinematic Arts, Jack Epps, Jr. ("Top Gun," "Dick Tracy"), producer Mark Gill (former president of Miramax and Warner Independent Pictures), screenwriter Mike Werb ("Lara Croft: Tomb Raider," "Curious George," "Face/Off," "The Mask") and producer and chair, Production Division of the USC School of Cinematic Arts, Michael Taylor ("Bottle Rocket," "The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper").

"Amazon Studios is a great idea. Getting feedback is essential for creative artists to improve their work," said Jack Epps, writing chair for USC School of Cinematic Arts. "By letting anyone submit a movie or screenplay to be considered for a major motion picture, Amazon Studios is really opening the doors to Hollywood."

In the 2011 Annual Awards, Amazon Studios will award $100,000 to the best script and $1 million to the best movie submitted by December 31, 2011. To be eligible for the first monthly awards, test movies and scripts must be uploaded by January 31, 2011. Winners for the first monthly awards will be announced near the end of February 2011-- $100,000 for the best full-length test movie and $20,000 each for the two best scripts. The rights payments associated with releasing a full-budget commercial film (the $200,000 referred to above) are separate from and come on top of any money awarded to top submissions through the monthly and annual Amazon Studios Awards.

To learn more about Amazon Studios, check out our video at http://studios.amazon.com.

Amazon Studios web site is operated by Amazon Services LLC.

16 November, 2010

BAFTA screenwriting series



"Welcome to the new ‘Screenwriters on Screenwriting’ channel on BAFTA, an area dedicated to raising the profile of screenwriting.


For our launch, we asked six leading screenwriters with credits including Atonement, The Devil wears Prada, Frost/Nixon and Slumdog Millionaire, to give their opinion on the craft, the films they have written and their career so far.

The result is a series of exclusive videos, clips and profiles providing a fascinating insight into the discipline and culture of screenwriting.


> Watch the Lectures
> Screenwriter Profiles
> Writers' Top Scripts
> Screenwriting Advice Wall

11 November, 2010

The Brit List 2010 Scripts

"The Brit List" is a UK/Eire version of the Hollywood Black List - a collection of the best unproduced screenplays in the UK marketplace.

*********************************************

11 VOTES
SEX EDUCATION by Jonathan Stern and Jamie Minoprio (Casarotto)
Producers: Ruby Films/BBC Films

8 VOTES
CHEERLEADERS by Ben Schiffer (ITG)
Producers: Cloud Eight Films

7 VOTES
HONOUR by Shan Khan (The Agency)
Producers: Dan Films/Parti Productions

SHADOW DANCER by Tom Bradby (Lucas Alexander Whitley (law) Agency)
Producers: Unanimous Pictures/Element Pictures/Wildbunch Production

SONG FOR MARION by Paul Andrew Williams (United Agents)
Producers: Steel Mill Productions

WELCOME TO THE PUNCH by Eran Creevy (ITG)
Producers: Between the Eyes

6 VOTES
BREATHE (aka BACK 2 JACK) by Claire Wilson (Casarotto)
Producers: Element Pictures

ENGAGED by James Condon (unrepresented)
Producers: Silvertown Films

THE ANIMATORS by Clive Dawson (ITG)
Producers: Qwerty Films

5 VOTES
A LONG WAY DOWN BY Jack Thorne (Casarotto)
Producers: Finola Dwyer Productions/Wildgaze Films

GRANNY MADE ME AN ANARCHIST by Ronan Bennett (Tavistock Wood) and Duncan Campbell (United Agents)
Producers: Origin Pictures/Easter Partisan/Film 4

4 VOTES
30 EGGS by Eoin O’Connor (Berlin Associates)
Producers: Treasure Entertainment

BLACKROCK (aka BAD DAY IN BLACKROCK) by Malcolm Campbell (Curtis Brown)
Producers: Element Pictures

FINISHING SCHOOL by Daisy Donovan (ITG)
Producers: Origin Pictures

LAST WILL by Geoff Thompson (Debi Allen Associates)
Producers: Steel Mill Productions

LETTERS FROM AMERICA by Gaia and Hania Elkington (United Agents)

LOVEFEST by Michael Cowen (United Agents)
Producers: Cloud Eight Films/Pathé

THE BRIDE STRIPPED BARE by Andrew Bovell (HLA)
Producers: Forward Films

VALERIO by Kelly Marcel (Casarotto)
Producers: 4DH Films

3 VOTES
3 MINUTE HEROES by Paven Virk (Alan Brodie Representation)
Producers: Mike Elliot

A LITTLE CHAOS by Alison Deegan (The Agency)
Producers: Potboiler

BROKEN by Mark O’Rowe (Curtis Brown)
Producers: Cuba Pictures

DEVOTCHKA by Gary Young (Sara Putt Associates) and Geoff Bussetil (ITG)
Producers: Peapie Films

ELFIE HOPKINS AND THE GAMMONS by Riyad Barmania (Alan Brodie Representation) and Ryan Andrews (ITG)
Producers: Size 9

FUMBLING by Stephen Prentice (The Rod Hall Agency)
Producers: DJ Films

GIRL’S NIGHT OUT by Trevor De Silva (The Rod Hall Agency)
Producers: Ecosse Films

JAMAICA INN by Patrick Harbinson (ITG) and Michael Thomas (Casarotto)
Producers: Hilary Heath/BBC Films

KARENFAN by Geoff Bussetil (ITG)
Producers: Peapie Films

MODERN LIFE IS RUBBISH by Philip Gawthorne (Curtis Brown)

ON CHESIL BEACH by Ian McEwan (The Agency)
Producers: Neal Street

PASSPORTS by Paloma Baeza (The Agency)
Producers: Focus Films

SUITE FRANCAISE by Saul Dibb (Casarotto)
Producers: Qwerty Films/TF1

THE LOVERS by Bridget O’Connor (Michelle Kass Associates)
Producers: Thomas Thomas Films

THIS LITTLE PIGGY by Corinna Faith (Curtis Brown)
Producers: Warp Films

WILLIAM AND HAROLD by John Hodge (United Agents)

*********************************************

The Playlist:
A Look Inside The Brit List, The Best Unproduced Screenplays From The U.K.

*********************************************

Raindance:
Download the Scripts

08 November, 2010

"Why write drama that doesn't matter?"

Jimmy McGovern gave an interview for the Observer on Sunday which includes this section:


"Why write drama that doesn't matter?" he asked this weekend. Commenting on the high viewing figures for costume dramas such as ITV's Downton Abbey and the popularity of arch adventure shows such as Dr Who, McGovern said he believed the best writing took itself seriously, as well as taking its audience seriously.

"The only way to tell stories on TV is to convince people that what they are seeing is actually happening now and is real. I just can't handle the tongue-in-cheek approach, the kind of thing you see on Dr Who. Though there are millions who can, I know."

The writer said that while he had enjoyed the original series of Upstairs Downstairs that ran in the early 1970s, he felt the BBC's decision to bring it back this year could only be justified if the story is played straight, avoiding the clichés of costume sagas. "I am not watching Downton Abbey, but it is true you can tell any story and make it relevant. You just have to avoid pastiche. If I were in charge of Upstairs Downstairs I would do it for real," he said."

Matthew Graham, via his prodco's twitter account , responded:

"Jimmy McGovern in The Observer. Says there is no point writing drama that isn't deadly serious, contemporary and relevant.

He goes on to attack Dr Who and Downton Abbey - it would seem on the basis that neither show reflects real life in any actual sense.

Once again a grumpy writer uses a publicity platform for his own show to piss on his brothers and sisters in the business.

Jimmy accusing Dr Who of irrelevance. Perhaps the Doctor should rape all his companions and turn the TARDIS into a crack den.

Jimmy - some dramas are about northern people raping their sisters because of the legacy of Thatcher's government.

Some dramas are about eccentric time travellers whisking their accomplices off on magical adventures.

Some dramas gently and delightfully explore the social morés of the classes in early 20th century England.

Some dramas brilliantly and compellingly examine the inter-connecting lives of residents in a single street.

Jimmy - you are a compelling, humane, acerbic and brilliantly relevant writer. One of our very very best.

But when you grumble about good shows that entertain millions and appear to ask for the spectrum to be reduced you sound like the enemy of creativity. Worry about your own work and keep your nose out of other people's.

Escapism sits beside social commentary on my bookshelf. George Orwell happily rests next to Stephen King.

Jimmy is a genius but that article was like George Orwell telling Roald Dahl to grow up and write something meaningful.

I just keep wondering why Jimmy always needs to manufacture a crusade when his work speaks so well for him?

I have met him several times - he's a sweet, funny, quite humble chap. But he can't promote his work it seems without getting angry."

06 November, 2010

New Moviescope out now

Sample the current issue here

05 November, 2010

Linda Seifert Management - UK Writers wanted


"Linda Seifert Management are looking for completed feature-length or teleplay scripts from unrepresented UK-citizen writers in a variety of genres.

Budget is irrelevant. WG and Non-WG writers may submit.

We are a management company in London that reps several award-winning writers, some of whose credits include "Four Lions" and "Octane."

To submit to this lead, please go to:

http://www.inktippro.com/leads/

Enter your email address.

Copy/Paste this code: 430ttugcde

NOTE: Please only submit your work if it fits what the lead is looking for exactly. If you aren’t sure if your script fits, please ask InkTip first.

(via Bang2writers on Facebook)

Mid Morning Matters with Alan Partridge



The full show goes live here today: http://www.fostersfunny.co.uk/alanpartridge/

NB: Other lagers are available and they probably taste much better.

02 November, 2010

Channel 4 Screenwriting Course 2011

From: http://4talent.channel4.com/extra/channel-4-screenwriting-course-2011

We are running a new screenwriting course for Channel 4 drama, running from January to June 2011.

We are looking for 12 talented, original and diverse writers who currently have no broadcast credit but wish to write for television drama.

The course will give you a chance to find out how TV drama, particularly Channel 4 TV drama, works, and to write, over a 5 month period, you own 1 hour pilot script for an original series or serial, working with an experienced script editor.

You will also attend two weekends of talks and script meetings at Channel 4’s Horseferry Rd building.

The course is designed so that writers should be able to take part even if in full-time employment (the only attendance is on two weekends, in January and June 2011, and you will have five months to write the required two drafts of a one hour drama script).

Writers will be paid a small fee for attending the course.

Here are all the details on how you can apply:

DATES: 22nd and 23rd January 2011
11th and 12th June 2011

Writers must ensure before entering that they are available to attend both weekends, and to write two drafts of a one hour television drama between 24th January and 27th May 2011.

HOW TO APPLY:
Applicants should submit by email a CV and one writing sample. This can be a screenplay, a stage play or radio play, minimum length 30 minutes (novels, treatments, short stories, unfinished screenplays and "shorts" are not acceptable).

The scripts should be original, not episodes of existing drama series.

Email scripts and CV’s to:- screenwriting@channel4.co.uk

ELIGIBILITY:
Only writers who do not have a broadcast credit as a television or film writer may apply (although produced short films – 20 minutes or less – are exempt).

CLOSING DATE FOR SUBMISSIONS: Friday November 12th 2010.

FEE:
Writers will be paid a fee for participating in the course and for completing two drafts of a one hour script. Writers will grant Channel 4 an option on their script and will be told within six months of the end of the course if Channel 4 wishes to exercise this option.


COURSE CONTENT: GENERAL
The purpose of the course is to offer 12 writers new to television drama an insight into the industry and to provide a "dry-run" of what it can be like to write under a television drama commission, for one hour series and serial drama, and for script editors to work with them as they write an original drama script.

Writers will be expected to write an original, pilot one-hour drama series or serial episode, and 4-5 page outline \ pitch for the series \ serial as a whole. Each writer will be assigned a script editor, who is currently working in the industry, to guide them through this process. The writers will meet with their script editors between the course weekends to discuss how to approach each draft. Second draft scripts will be sent to the script editor and two other writers on the course, for workshop discussions at the second weekend.

FIRST WEEKEND
Writers, directors, producers and script editors in the industry will give talks to the participants on a variety of subjects relating to television drama. There will also be time set aside for writers to discuss their proposals and ideas for their one hour scripts with their assigned script editor.

SECOND WEEKEND
This will be split between a reading of the opening section of each script by actors on the first day, and discussion and analysis of each of the twelve finished scripts in small groups on the second day, finishing with a screening \ workshop and an overview of the course and of the specific requirements of series and serial television drama.

It is essential to the success of the second weekend that writers submit their scripts on time and make time to read the (2) other writers' scripts (i.e. there is a time commitment involved beyond the time put aside to write a one-hour drama for television).

01 October, 2010

Back Up Your Data Day (01/10/2010)

It's the first of the month which means it's Back Up Your Data Day (although it should be done day-to-day!).

We can also use this day to delete stuff we no longer need and de-fragment our hard drive(s) to keep our machine lean and clean - if you know what I mean?

Windows guide to defragmenting
Mac guide to defragmenting

___________________________________________________________

15 Amazing Apps for File Storage in the Cloud

"In a new age of online solutions, it didn’t take long for a diverse range of internet entrepreneurs to target one of the most common problems for almost every computer user; hard drive failure. Suddenly, someone had the idea of allowing people to backup their files in the cloud and the rest is history.

I’ve brought together the best revolutionary new apps that allow you to store your precious files in the cloud and (in some cases) even share them with others!"

Article in full



___________________________________________________________

A reminder about Matt's simple and effective back-up:

"I have never been able to get the hang of proper backup software and procedures. I always end up getting into a complete pickle about the various full backups, interim backups and how the bloody hell I'd back everything up if my hard-drive became shot with the backup software on it. So these days I just have a complete clone of My Documents on a portable drive and use Microsoft's Synctoy to keep the files up to date."

However I would suggest backing up your entire Documents and Settings folder and not just the My Documents part of it as it which would include emails and favourites/bookmarks. This link has more details.

I asked Lee about the Mac equivalent:

"Things like emails, bookmarks, fonts, templates, RSS feeds, Applescripts - anything used by an application, but not created by it when you hit Save - are kept in your Home folder, in the Library. In Mac speak, that's ~/Library. Apple apps such as Mail, Safari, and iTunes may have their own folders. Non-Apple apps like NetNewsWire, Montage, Final Draft, Scrivener etc, will keep all their stuff in ~/Library/Application Support. The truly paranoid might want to back up their preference files as well. I know I do. These are in ~/Library/Preferences.

For safety's sake, back up the entire Library folder, it's probably only a few hundred megs."

There are also mac apps: Jason Sutton recommended: Time Machine and Sam recommended Genie Timeline.

Thank you Matt, Lee, Jason and Sam!

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Don't delay, do it today. It's Back Up Your Data Day, hooray!

30 September, 2010

What the Papers Say: "DCI Banks: Aftermath"


John Crace, The Guardian

"It's a thankless gig fronting a cop drama going up against Spooks on a Monday night. But someone has to do it and Stephen Tompkinson is this year's fall guy in DCI Banks: Aftermath

(ITV1). Not that he would have necessarily known that when he signed up for it. More likely the schedulers took a look at the rushes, didn't like what they saw and decided that since no one was going to watch it anyway they might as well stick it out in this hopeless slot rather than another, superior show.

The story was based on a Peter Robinson thriller, but somehow the adaptation managed to turn a decent book into a succession of crime series cliches. Northern town bathed in grey. Child serial killer with bodies in the cellar. Harassed, divorced cop, DCI Banks (Tompkinson), under pressure from his bosses and the community. Younger female DS from the police complaints division investigating the death of the main suspect. Antagonism between DCI and DS, followed by a drink, followed by . . . the phone ringing as they are about to kiss. Lines like "Get the artillery" and "I throw the ball and you fetch it". I could go on.

Nor did it help that Tompkinson seemed badly miscast. Tompkinson's strengths are comedy and light drama – hence Ballykissangel and Wild at Heart – and he just doesn't convince as edgy and tortured. You half expected him to break into a smile and say, "Only kidding. Let's go for a balloon ride." It would have been a lot more fun if he had.

You might have overlooked all this if there had been just a minute of suspense. Every plot development was telegraphed well in advance. And if you were too dim to notice the first time, the warning was thoughtfully repeated a little later. It got to the point where I thought, "they've made it so obvious, there's got to be a twist." But there wasn't. I haven't watched the concluding episode, but I've seen more than enough to find the missing girl. So get on with it quick, Stephen, and move on to another show."

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Brian Viner, The Independent

"Stephen Tompkinson used to be all over our television screens like static electricity. For two or three years, it seemed as though we could hardly switch on without finding Tompkinson emoting in a drama, narrating a documentary, or voicing a commercial. But every dog has its day. After Tompkinson, it was Robson Green who popped up everywhere, and after Green it was Martin Clunes. Favoured women go through this ubiquitous phase too. For a while, it was similarly difficult to avoid Sarah Lancashire, then Caroline Quentin.

It's normally ITV that confers this treasured actor/actress status, and Tompkinson seems to be getting another burst. If you stayed up late enough last night there was another chance to see Stephen Tompkinson's Australian Balloon Adventure. "Rain stops Stephen from flying over Canberra and he has to take a tricky flight to 10,000 feet," went the synopsis in the Radio Times, which was a little disorienting for those who not two hours earlier had begun to believe in Stephen as a taciturn detective, leading the investigation into some particularly grisly killings, nowhere near Canberra and certainly not from 10,000ft, in DCI Banks: Aftermath.

It is fanciful of me to assume the role of a detective myself in considering the quality of DCI Banks: Aftermath, but please indulge me, because you don't spend 20 years as a TV critic without becoming a forensic specialist in the police procedural. This two-parter carried many of the scene-of-primetime hallmarks familiar to us grizzled veterans. These included the fractious relationship between the copper and his uniformed boss, his messy private life, his personal torment, and of course the attractive female junior. Much like the women who read the news, female police officers on television are never the physiological equivalents of their male counterparts. When did you ever see a TV policewoman with a double chin or pitted skin? They all look like models.

This is especially so of lovely DS Annie Cabbot (Andrea Lowe), who works for the professional standards department, policing the police themselves, and is assigned to find out whether PC Janet Taylor (Sian Breckin) went overboard in beating up a serial killer called Marcus Payne (Samuel Roukin). Not unreasonably, Banks (Tompkinson) finds this distraction wholly unwelcome, though there is consolation when he and DS Cabbot overcome their mutual enmity and cosy up together. Indeed, they are closing in on a snog, almost certainly to be followed by a good deal more, when both their phones ring, a classic case of what we in police-procedural forensics know as coppus interruptus. This is the near-certainty that just as our crime-buster is about to enjoy himself in bed, if only by getting his head down for some quality kip, his phone or bleeper will ruin everything.

Still, on the basis that every police procedural is required by editing-suite law to feature such clichés, I shouldn't be too hard on DCI Banks: Aftermath. It is stylishly shot, and has more than enough plot idiosyncrasies to distinguish it from stuff we've seen a thousand times before. Intriguingly, it began with Payne being caught, in the basement that he had converted into a torture chamber. Only as the thing unfolded did we make certain relevant discoveries – for instance, that he had been having an affair with the nervy Irish artist in the house opposite.

There were, I should add, some implausibilities along the way. Whether these were true to Peter Robinson's original novel or introduced by Robert Murphy, the dramatist, I don't know, but a detective superintendent pal of mine assures me that under no circumstances would the chief investigating officer ever turn up alone in a hospital room to question a significant witness (in this instance Payne's long-suffering wife). There remains a world of difference between the modus operandi of TV cops and real cops, and for dramatically expedient reasons, of course, because who would want to watch even Morse or Jane Tennison hunched over paperwork for hours on end? But I still kind of wish that television would treat us more respectfully, and it could start by offering us police procedurals that aren't about serial killers. I think we're mature enough to get excited by plots that don't involve rape, torture and murder."

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Paul Whitelaw, The Scotsman


THERE comes a time in the career of every popular middle-aged television actor when he must star in a sombre ITV detective drama. Think of it as an autumnal rite of passage.

You've paid your dues in numerous Sunday-night family favourites and travelogue spin-offs (what experts call "the Clunes Matrix") and become a familiar fixture on the cover of TV Quick. Only now are you ready for two hours of solemn emoting in the Yorkshire miasma, surrounded by body bags and with a killer in your sights. Are you ready for your close-up Mr Tompkinson?

The everyman's everyman, Stephen Tompkinson is a decent actor who imbues even his most lightweight roles with underplayed humanity. It's why audiences like him and why they'll tune into DCI Banks: Aftermath, despite having seen it countless times before.

It's to Tompkinson's credit that he injects some inner life into this quotidian 'tec. Decent, dedicated and empathetic, his only flaw is a tendency to compromise his professional judgement with emotional vendettas. Oh, when will these fictional lawmen learn? Don't they watch TV?

Divorced, and estranged from his children, our drizzled hero is haunted by his failure to stop a sadistic serial killer murdering four young girls. Just so we're clear about this, we witnessed him gazing at their ghosts standing judgmentally in his garden. Someone arrest the director for grievous misuse of symbolism.

Banks' only hope of redemption is finding an unaccounted-for missing girl. "It's all I have left," he lamented. But - curses and damnation! - his path is blocked by an attractive younger officer from Practice and Standards more interested in her career than police loyalty. You know how it goes: first they're at loggerheads, then in each other's arms back at his place, a symbolically remote retreat where nightly he nurses a reflective whisky and listens to jazz. Is the police force really full of men like this? In a way, I hope it is.

The only wrinkle in the formula is that - in the tradition of Columbo, but with none of that series' wit and ingenuity - we, and Banks, know who the killer is from the start. He died from brain damage at the end of the episode. Instead, the drama stems from unravelling the strands of how the murders came about, and whether Banks will find the missing girl and lay his demons his to rest.

I can't deny that it's solidly put together, but then it should be given that it studiously borrows every trick in the manual. Give a thousand monkeys a thousand typewriters and a thousand Wallander box-sets and they'd eventually come up with this, albeit possibly starring a monkey and set in a zoo. And I'd watch that.

Also, with its torture chambers, vicious rapes and missing girl campaigns, it strains for verisimilitude but instead feels exploitative of real-life cases. It's why I'm not a fan of most TV crime fiction: it just feels cheaply voyeuristic.

It's odd that people find comfort in watching generic crime dramas featuring depressive detectives and grisly murders. It must be like settling into a deep bath filled with dirty warm water; unpleasant perhaps, but at least you know where you are. And you can always rinse off afterwards."

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As DCI Banks reaches TV, crime writer Peter Robinson explains his hero’s origins and why he cast Stephen Tompkinson.

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Press Release

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What the Papers Say: "Downton Abbey"



Sam Wollaston, The Guardian

"There's a shrill blast from a steam train's whistle, a puff of smoke, a name – Hugh Bonneville – across the screen. I think I know what kind of beast we're dealing with here. Ah, here's the magnificent gothic country pile, great fir trees, lawns, a gravel drive, kedgeree and ironed newspapers for breakfast, more big names – Maggie Smith, Elizabeth McGovern. It is conceived and written by Julian "Gosford Park" Fellowes. Downton Abbey (ITV1, Sunday) is essentially Gosford Park, in instalments, for television.

It's set a little earlier – we start off in April 1912. The Titanic has just gone down, taking with her two male heirs to Lord Grantham's title and estate. Heir loss – it is a problem back then. Girls don't count for anything – can't even vote, let alone inherit property. A few other things haven't happened yet, some bad (world war), others wicked (jazz). It is, in a word, Edwardian, even though Edward VII himself went down a couple of years before.

Like Gosford Park, Downton Abbey is another study by Fellowes of the English class system. And again it's as complicated below stairs as it is above. The difference between a valet and a footman is as important as the difference between a duchess and a countess. Carson (Jim Carter) the toady butler, and Mrs Hughes (Phyllis Logan) the severe housekeeper, are at least as much in charge of the place as Lord and Lady Grantham (Bonneville and McGovern). Certainly they are more aware of what's going on; maybe they are better prepared for the change that's surely coming.

I can't get too excited about some of the class stuff. It's clearly important to them whether it's acceptable for a duke to be served by a maid (apparently not), but frankly I don't give a damn. Likewise about the entail – the complex legal settlement that determines who's entitled to whose money and which title when so-and-so dies. But it's central to what's going on. Still, it is possible to ignore a lot of that, because there's plenty of other stuff happening – warring sisters, scheming footmen, plotting, bitching, back-stabbing and bounty hunting. There's even a gay duke and an upstairs-downstairs relationship (does social position determine sexual position, I wonder?). And hanging over it all is the feeling that things aren't going to be as they are for much longer. Momentous stuff is going to happen, both in Downton Abbey and the world outside.

It's beautifully made – handsome, artfully crafted and acted. Smith, who plays the formidable and disdainful Dowager Countess (whatever one of those is), has a lovely way of delivering words, always spaced to perfection. This is going to be a treat if you like a lavish period drama of a Sunday evening. Is it really on ITV1? It feels just a little bit too, well, classy."

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Tom Sutcliffe, The Independent

"According to Stephen Hawking's Universe, time travel into the past simply isn't possible, though any television commissioner knows it can be done, if you're prepared to spend enough money.

Cough up for the steam train pulling into a rural halt, the vintage Roller and the telegram boy's uniform and before you know it, it's April 1912. And from the very beginning of Downton Abbey, Julian Fellowes' new upstairs-downstairs drama for ITV, we know that something momentous is heading towards the big house. The postmistress draws in a sharp breath and the second footman – ironing the morning papers so that his Lordship won't sully his fingers with smudgy ink – is having trouble believing the banner headline. The Titanic has gone down – a general tragedy that becomes sharply particular when his Lordship discovers that his careful arrangements to keep the estate in the family have just been holed below the waterline. His nominated heir and the son who was about to marry into the family are among the missing. "It's such a shame," says a tweeny. "It's worse than a shame," replies the housekeeper. "It's a complication."

It's a bit of a Titanic itself, Downton Abbey – glossy, ostentatiously luxurious and boasting a glittering passenger list of upmarket acting talent. It's also very far from unsinkable, though it's too early to say whether the commissioning editors are going to regret their investment. They certainly know that the essential design is seaworthy – because of the success of Upstairs, Downstairs – and they've employed a designer with an established track record to tweak it for contemporary tastes – Julian Fellowes, who won a scriptwriting Oscar for Gosford Park, the Robert Altman film about a murder investigation in a Thirties country house. Unfortunately, they haven't quite realised that with drama it may actually be the over-zealous safety measures that send the vessel down.

Take marmalade as a case in point. In Gosford Park, Maggie Smith (playing exactly the kind of fearsome dowager she reprieves here) had a fine moment when she lifted a jar up for inspection at breakfast and uttered the withering line: "Bought marmalade? Oh dear, I call that very feeble." Behind that remark lay a whole stack of social assumptions, none of which was explained. You just had to work it out for yourself. In Downton Abbey, on the other hand, no such chances are taken. It's full of people asking helpful questions so that oddities can be clarified (the reason for ironing the morning papers, for example) and the plotting is equally semaphored, sometimes to a risible extent. The scene in which the cook set up a potentially fatal confusion between brass polish and chopped egg for the kedgeree was unfortunately reminiscent of that Mitchell and Webb sketch about the laborious mishaps in bad sitcoms.

It doesn't have to be another Gosford Park to work, of course – and there are plenty of things to enjoy here – not least Downton Abbey itself (played here by Highclere Castle in Berkshire). Brian Percival, the director, showed off nicely at the beginning with a long tracking shot through the downstairs rooms, flitting from flunky to flunky as the vast machine of an Edwardian aristocrat seat cranked itself into operation for the new day. And there is promise in the scenes between Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, the Earl's rich American wife, and Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess, women who have little in common but their strong aversion to handing the family fortune over to a stranger from – they can hardly bring themselves to utter the word – Manchester.

It's possible that some of the faults of the first episode – the melodramatic simplicity of the antagonisms and the crudity of the characterisation, with its hissable villains and vulnerable heroes, were symptoms of opening-night nerves, a clumsy anxiety to get the audience on board. Possible too that the narrative loops that Fellowes already has in place – romantic longings and romantic possibilities – will tighten around an audience so that they can't wriggle free. But on this evidence, ITV will have to keep their fingers crossed for a bit longer yet. One signal difference between Downton Abbey and the Titanic is that there's no shortage of lifeboats available for those who want to abandon ship, and it can be done at the push of a button"

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Class and calamity at Julian Fellowes's Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey: behind the scenes

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Official site




25 September, 2010

Linkage (25/09/2010)

David Hare: 'The sort of films I write have collapsed'
The Independent
Link

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UK Scriptwriters Podcast, Episode 3
With special guest Jack Thorne
Link

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Is this the formula for a good comedy screenplay?
Screenwriting Success
Link

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Brian Clemens and the lost art of great TV writing
The Guardian
Link

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6 Things Movie Characters Always Seem To Forget
Cracked
Link

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Creative Screenwriting Magazine Podcasts
Link

21 September, 2010

The Big Idea UK film competition


So what's THE BIG IDEA?

Shine Pictures are proud to announce a National competition for feature film concepts, with a prize of a £25,000 feature film development deal.

We are looking for ingenious concepts, compelling writing and intriguing characters that will elevate genre films making them both distinctive and commercial. The stories can be set anywhere, with characters of any nationality, just as long as the audience is a global one. Feel free to be ambitious in scale and scope. You can imagine big stars in lead roles. It can be 3D! You can have big budget visual effects. Go for active, attractive, bold, vibrant, energetic concepts. We are looking to stimulate ambitious ideas that will capture the global imagination in the following genres:

  1. Romantic Comedies (e.g.: The Proposal, What Women Want, Notting Hill)
  2. Action Adventures (National Treasure, Top Gun, Blood Diamond, Cliffhanger)
  3. Sci-Fi or Fantasy (Inception, Harry Potter, 28 Days Later, Back to the Future)
  4. Family Comedies (Nanny McPhee, Cheaper by the Dozen, Johnny English)

Who can apply?

This is not an entry level competition, so you need to have either a produced or optioned screenplay, an agent, a festival acclaimed short, an hour of broadcast TV drama, a play that has been performed, writing that has been published or an equivalent industry achievement.

How do you apply?

  • Complete our application form including your 700 word (max) concept document.
  • Upload your CV and a maximum 15 page writing sample with its log line.
  • Application deadline: 29th October 2010
  • Shortlisted applicants will be invited for an interview and then the winner will be selected from those interviewees.
  • Interviews for shortlisted applicants: Late November 2010
  • Winner announced: 20th December 2010
  • All inquiries to be directed to THE BIG IDEA Project Manager thebigidea@shine-pictures.com
  • For more details see our FAQ
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In a joint statement Paul Webster and Stephen Garrett of Shine Pictures said: “British writers are among the most sought after in Hollywood.

“Shine Pictures, in keeping with our desire to bring the cream of the UK’s creative community to a global audience, wants to nurture the next generation of leading screenwriters.”

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Added to Deadlines Calendar

17 September, 2010

What the Papers Say: "The Road to Coronation Street"



Alice-Azania Jarvis, The Independent

"What's this? Coronation Street on the BBC? Apparently so: starring Jessie Wallace off of EastEnders no less. Is this, one wonders, the producers' latest attempt to beat ITV at its own game? After all, this is the Corporation that broadcast Strictly Come Dancing at the same time as The X Factor, an unmistakably aggressive move made in blatant opposition to the public interest (something which, on a Saturday night, is quite obviously only to be satisfied by the combination, not choice, of spangles and crushed dreams. Obviously!).

But no: there is not a trace of malice in The Road to Coronation Street, a disarmingly moving drama about Britain's longest-running soap opera. If anything, it rather over-romanticised things, to the extent that the Street's against-the-odds origins as the unfashionably banal brainchild of a young, would-be writer appeared less docudrama and more fairy tale.

Not that it matters. In return for the romanticism we got strong, if somewhat theatrical, performances, notably from David Dawson, who was unstintingly engaging as the determined young writer Tony Warren, and the perpetually lovely Celia Imrie. There were some genuine shiver-down-the-spine moments, too. Such as the point at which a Granada TV tea lady paused her work at the sight of Warren's pilot – which, at this stage, was destined straight for the scrapheap – plainly fascinated by the ordinariness of the on-screen world. "So-and-so's got those curtains," she remarked, cheering on Pat Phoenix with a fiery "You tell him, love!" It was this tea lady's intervention that got the programme made, in the end. Someone get her an OBE will they?"

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Chris Harvey, Daily Telegraph

"The story of how the longest-running drama series on British television first made it onto our screens was told in The Road to Coronation Street (BBC Four). Its creator Tony Warren (David Dawson) was just 23 when he presented his vision of a drama with “dirt under its fingernails” to bosses at the Granada studios in Manchester, but there were many roadblocks to be overcome before the show’s first transmission in December, 1960.

This 75-minute film explored how the former child actor saw his idea find its way past the prevailing snobbery towards characters with regional accents. Studio head Sidney Bernstein (Steven Berkoff) took a lot of persuading. The dramatisation of Corrie’s difficult birth was, despite the odd soapy moment, compelling. Dawson, too, for his services to knitwear modelling alone, was great fun as Warren. From the first time we saw him checking his reflection in a mirror, there was no doubt that the writer who created some of the great women characters of British television was gay. This was very much his story.

What inevitably happened, though, was that the lead was ultimately blown off the screen by his own creations, as the plot morphed from plucky underdog success story to something that more closely resembled The Magnificent Seven. Instead of putting together a team of hired gunfighters, Warren was seen assembling, one by one, a cast of Northern battleaxes, each more formidable than the last.

First came Doris Speed (Celia Imrie), the actress Warren thought might be right for the stuck-up landlady of the Rovers Return, Annie Walker. She remembered Warren from his acting days – “the little boy who never stopped talking” – and had to be flattered into the studios with the lie that the part had been written especially for her. Then came Pat Phoenix (Jessie Wallace) who burst in late for her audition for the part of brassy Elsie Tanner, showing where she’d twanged one of her stockings and announcing of her character, “She’s mutton, isn’t she, dressed as lamb.”

Finally, there was Ena Sharples, the hard-faced moraliser in a hairnet, who was proving to be all but uncastable. With the first episode looming, the choice was becoming starker. Sharples was a stand-alone character, she could be cut. Warren had one last suggestion, a woman he dreaded working with, who didn’t fit the script description of slenderness at all. “There’s nothing small boned about Violet Carson,” protested casting director Margaret Morris (Jane Horrocks). When the 62-year-old Carson (Lynda Baron) arrived at the studio, she had no time to listen to Warren’s thoughts about the role, “You can save your breath,” she said. “I know all about Ena Sharples.” And when she was also shown looking in the mirror, reflecting on her role, there was no pout. “This is a woman who’s buried children, watched her man beg for work and still gets down on her knees every night to pray… There’s no powder or rouge touching this face.” Marauding bandits wouldn’t have stood a chance."

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Sam Wollaston, The Guardian

"
So Corrie was almost Florrie – Florizel Street, after Prince Florizel. But a cleaner called Agnes at Granada TV said Florizel Street sounded like a disinfectant (does it, Agnes?), so they changed it to Coronation Street. This was the second time Agnes had saved what would become Britain's longest-running soap opera. It was because she was instantly spellbound by the pilot while clearing away the tea things from the producer's office that he knew it was a winner.

Is that true, I wonder? Did Agnes even exist? It doesn't really matter. What matters is that Harry Elton, the Canadian producer, decided to fight the Granada TV executives – who couldn't understand the appeal of a drama about the ordinary lives of ordinary people and were about to pull the plug on the whole thing – with everything he had. Guess what, he won.

The Road to Coronation Street (BBC4) chronicles the birth of a monster, 50 years ago this December. Yes, BBC4 – it's funny that the BBC should be celebrating a rival's birthday so fondly. And scheduling it so it doesn't clash with its subject matter – obviously a lot of the people who want to watch this are the same people who want to know what's currently going on in the Rover's Return. Very magnanimous, I'm sure. The Road to Coronation Street is fond, and warm, and charming, with a fine lead performance from David Dawson as cocky young writer Tony Warren. There are fine performances wherever you look, though some of them take a little getting your head around. So former EastEnder Jessie Wallace plays Pat Phoenix, who played Elsie Tanner. Lynda Baron is Violet Carson, who was Ena Sharples. And James Roache plays his own father, William Roache, who was – and still is – Ken Barlow. "It's only a week, what harm can that do?" he says. A week! James's father has now, by my calculations, been Ken Barlow for 64% of his life, and that's going up the whole time. Imagine it!

There's also a fine performance from Steven Berkoff as television baron Sidney Bernstein, who initially saw Tony Warren's script not as Hitchcock said drama should be – "life with the boring bits left out" – but pretty much the opposite. "What your writer seems to have done," he tells Harry Elton, "is to pick up all the boring bits and strung them together one after another."

Sydney changed his tune a bit later, though. It took Coronation Street about three months to reach No 1 in the ratings. There's nothing boring about 15 million viewers and a 75% audience share. I wonder if BKB – boring Ken Barlow – was boring, even then?

It's amazing that it was filmed live in the early days – or at least one of its two weekly slots was. So if the cat went missing just before Eric Spear's mournful trumpet sounded out over the Weatherfield rooftops, then that was it – no cat. There must have been an immediacy and a theatricality about it – the feeling that Pat and Violet and even boring William were doing it then and there, in your living room, for you – which maybe doesn't exist in the soap any more.

So what is going on today, 50 years on, in Coronation Street (ITV1)? The police take Gary in to the station to question him about an assault (it would be virtually impossible to do this one live, with all the location changes). That could mean going back behind bars. Behind the bar at the Rover's, Kylie's got her hand in the till. Sly Owen's got his hands in all sorts of metaphorical tills, mainly of the female variety, if you know what I'm saying. And Nick is dead excited about Natasha's scan, even though the one he's looking at, and showing everyone else, isn't hers, because she terminated her pregnancy, as everyone except Nick knows. You couldn't really accuse it of being all the boring bits strung together – or reflecting the ordinary lives of ordinary people.

Oh, and there's no sign of boring Ken in this one. But recently in the Street he's been joined by a long-lost son, who himself has a son. And Ken's new son and grandson are played by William Roache's real-life sons, Linus and James. So James is playing his dad on BBC4 and his dad's grandson on ITV. Got it?

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Article by the screenwriter, Daran Little

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