Richard Carpenter, a Life Member of the Writers' Guild who created Catweazle and Robin of Sherwood and wrote numerous other TV scripts for children and adults, died earlier this week.
Having started his professional life as an actor for stage an TV, Carpenter created Catweazle, a comedy-drama about an 11th century wizard transported to the present day. First broadcast in 1970, it ran for 26 episodes and became one of the best-loved children's shows of the decade.
Carpenter went on to write for children's drama series such as Black Beauty, The Ghosts of Motley Hall, Famous Five and Doctor Snuggles.
His best known show for adults was Robin of Sherwood, first broadcast in 1984, which ran for three series. His most recent screen credit was a TV adaptation of Philip Pullman's novel, I Was A Rat.
Carpenter, a one-time member of the Writers' Guild's Children's Committee, was a tireless campaigner for writers.
Lucy Daniel Raby writes:
Richard was an inspiring mentor for new writers in children's TV, books and film, always willing to listen and advise. His storytelling abilities were legendary and he was one of those rare writers who could produce a near perfect 1st draft! His humour was also legendary, and he kept us all entertained on the Children's Committee at the WGGB, at the same time keeping us all focussed. He was a tireless campaigner for children's TV and for writers' rights, and he never lost his enthusiasm or sense of fun. He will be sorely missed by all his fellow writers.
Neil Hunter on a English-language screenwriting workshop in Germany
(Photo: Writers and tutors relaxing during the éQuinoxe Germany screenwriting workshop)
I remember having a coffee by an Alpine lake in Germany with a young Austrian screenwriter, hearing quite a splash, noticing vaguely that of the two children playing on the jetty only one was currently visible, and then returning to the matter in hand, namely, why her story of redemption through industrial espionage was somehow failing to carry the reader, and then hearing a scream and a chair falling over and seeing a father flashing past us on to the jetty to rescue his boy from the shallow, freezing water. And I remember thinking: ‘This screenwriting business, it certainly takes you out of yourself.’
We were in the German Alps courtesy of éQuinoxe Germany, an English-language screenwriting workshop that follows the Sundance template in which each writer enjoys, or suffers, five sessions with five different advisers. When I advised for the French-run, now-defunct Moonstone programme, I remember someone suggesting that the first two sessions were needed to break the resistance of the writer; the final three to rebuild on sounder foundations.
If that makes it sound daunting (and rather more deliberate than the reality) it should. To have one’s writing subjected to such intense scrutiny, to have nowhere to hide, is not for the faint-hearted; however, the scrutiny will never again be so friendly, or so purely well-intentioned, or so pure.
It can also be daunting for the advisers. Although they convene a day early to discuss the scripts, and keep each other informed of the scripts’ progress over the week, each session with the writer remains surprisingly unpredictable. I have gone into sessions with closely-reasoned arguments as to why, say, the sister has to become a brother, only to receive the reply: ‘Oh, her. She’s gone.’
I think of these sessions, which can last three hours, as a type of jamming: a dual enquiry into the problems of a script, and a dual attempt to solve them. What does the writer really want to say? Where is the heart of the story? What does the writer really believe, or not believe, to be true? Any sense of hierarchy is dissolved in the heat of the problem at hand, and in any case, the writers are no beginners: they have to have had at least one script produced, and they need a producer attached to the project they bring.
All the screenplays accepted by the programme are flawed. I was surprised, on the éQuinoxe Germany workshops I have advised on, by the degree of consensus among the advisers (to the extent that writers sometimes suspect there is a stitch-up, although a moment’s introspection would banish such an idea). Not only is there usually full agreement on the flaws, there is usually a strong consensus about the most likely diagnosis and most fruitful areas to rethink and explore. Needless to say, individual advisers will disagree on details. But éQuinoxe Germany goes so some lengths to ensure that writers are not assailed from all sides with contradictory opinions. The intention is that scripts, and writers, are nursed and somehow carried through the five days; tested, but not to destruction.
So what sort of scripts, and what sort of writers, are likely to benefit most from the workshop? First of all, the writer needs to know there is a problem – though not necessarily what or where the problem is. Everyone naturally hopes their script can be solved with sticking plaster, but over the years I’ve noticed that there are some fairly consistent reasons why scripts fail to cross the finishing line in peak condition. And usually, annoyingly, it’s necessary to rebuild from the beginning.
The producer Christine Vachon has said that she relies on her writer/directors not only to have the flexibility to be able to cut when the budget squeeze kicks in – but also to know where their red lines where. To know what is essential, and what cuts would be fatal…and then to say ‘no’. Similarly, writers will benefit most if they have lived with the script for long enough to have an idea what it is they want to say, and where the heart of the story should be. There will always be room for discovery, but the borders are clear. For this reason, the scripts éQuinoxe Germany accepts are often quite developed,
I have written about scripts, rather than writers. But beyond the super-boosted development of a script, there is the growth of a writer. Beyond the intense exposure to five advisers, and the stimulation of all the other selected writers, there are screenings, masterclasses and discussions. It would be odd to emerge from the experience unchanged.
See the call for submissions for éQuinoxe 2012
The Submission Deadline for the 11th éQuinoxe Germany International Screenwriters´ Workshop & Master Class is 18 May 2012. The workshop will be held late the second week of October.
The International Screenwriters´ Workshops are geared towards writers with minimum one feature film script produced. The workshops only deal with screenplays for the cinema.
Scripts should be at an advanced stage of development (recommended is at least third Draft) in order to get the full advantage out of the one-on-one meetings with the advisors.
- EU/EEC Writers who have had at least one script produced are eligible to apply
- Screenplays for cinema (first Drafts are not accepted)
- There are no fees for the selection process.
- Producer should be attached
- Scripts may be submitted in German or English
- Scripts submitted in industry -standard format and pagination
- If project is pre-selected, an English translation for the international jury must be provided in 14 days
- If your project is invited, the workshop assumes travel, food and lodging for the writers
- If your project is accepted, producers are obliged to attend the end of the workshop. Travel costs are not covered for producers, however, food and lodging costs are assumed
- The workshop is held in the English language
Application Process: Online application available on the website. To apply:
- Go to www.equinoxegermany.de, click on 'application', complete application, and up-load requested files
- Aend all materials and signed application per normal post. Postal stamp is the valid entry date.
Deadline for submissions is 18. May 2012. (Postal stamp)
The next West Midlands Branch of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain event will take place at 7.30pm on Thursday 22nd March at the Zellig Bulding, the Custard factory, Digbeth Birmingham.
Wendy Bevan-Mogg of Creative England in conversation with representatives of the screen industry in the midlands.
Creative England took over from Screen West Midlands and other regional screen development agencies in October 2011.
Creative England’s first objective is to establish a new infrastructure for film in the English regions, laying foundations for the development of a vibrant film culture outside London. As Talent Manager, Wendy Bevan-Mogg is responsible for supporting regional film making talent.
Guild President David Edgar was a speaker at the Arts Council's annual State of the Arts conference, held on 14 February at the Lowry Theatre in Salford.
(Photo: David Edgar being interviewed during the State of the Arts Conference)
The State of the Arts conference was chaired by TV presenter Kirsty Wark and began with addresses by Arts Council chair Liz Forgan, who announced a new intrernational ars development fund set up in partnership with the British Council, and Culture Minister Ed Vaizey MP, who outlined new plans for cultural education in schools.
During a panel discussion, David Edgar pointed out that the recent £40m increase in the budget for the Olympics opening and closing ceremonies is twice the amount necessary to reinstate all the arts bodies whose grants were cut off last March. He attacked a prevailing wisdom that that these cuts were inevitable or somehow beneficial.
After workshops on the relationship of the arts with audiences, the creative economy, fundraising and the environment, the BBC's Will Gompertz interviewed choreographer Arlene Phillips about the need to increase arts broadcasting on television.
David Edgar delivered the closing keynote address, which argued that the arts will need to make a stronger case for funding than ever before. However, artists shouldn't forget their oppositional role, to challenge as well as to comfort and entertain.
Andrew S. Walsh says: help the Guild help you
Have you worked in comics, cartoon strips, single panel cartoons, graphic novels, or any other form of illustrated narrative? Then the Writers' Guild would like to hear from you, whether or not you are a Guild member.
When the Guild was formed over 50 years ago, the writers involved recognised not only the need for strength in numbers, but the obvious weakness that comes from ignorance of how an industry functions. It is incredibly difficult for a writer to negotiate a fair agreement without knowing what their peers are being paid, or what standard conditions appear in other contracts. For writers new to an industry, or moving between industries, it is imperative that they learn not just how their craft can be applied to this fresh medium, but also the anatomy of the industry they have entered. Who should a writer be talking to? How should they be paid? What will this industry expect of them?
No matter the quality of the writing, many a creator has come unstuck by producing a screenplay in the wrong format. Television writers have found themselves barred from radio through a failure to understand the commissioning process. Novelists have seen their bid to write a videogame rejected because they tried to negotiate their pay in a way that industry does not understand.
Where overall agreements have not yet been put into place the Guild is, instead, able to produce guidelines aimed at lifting the veil on how an industry operates, giving those working in it and those hoping to move into it much needed visibility on how companies and writers are operating there.
This is where you can help the Guild (whether you are a member or not), by responding to a questionnaire that will help confirm or inform the conclusions they have drawn from several months of consultation with writers working across illustrative narrative.
These new guidelines are designed to tackle key areas - · Defining the medium - what work is available and what form does it take? · The writer’s role – how does a writer fit into this industry structure? · Standard terms – what should a writer expect when working in the various forms of writing that fit within this bracket of writing? · Rates and royalties – the all-important question of payment and the forms that payment takes.