The UK represents the fifth largest videogames market in the world, but how do you break into the industry, and what sort of jobs are available? And how do a writer’s usual tools (story, character and dialogue) function in a videogame?
The Writers’ Guild and the Royal Television Society hosted an event in Leeds on 18 November 2014 to explore this growing industry, with a chance to ask the professionals questions. Speakers included Steve Ince, Chair of the Guild’s Videogames Committee.
Steve is a writer, consultant and games designer with 21 years’ experience in the games industry who has enjoyed much success and acclaim, during his time with Revolution Software and as a freelancer since then. His most recent work includes writing dialogue for Godfire: Rise of Prometheus, released earlier this year.
He was joined by games developer, writer and lecturer Richard Boon; and Emma Cooper, Business Development Manager at award-winning creative digital agency Rckt.
Mark Bearly, one of the attendees, wrote a report of the event; while Steve Ince has produced a number of Gamewriter Bites! short videos, including one on how to break into the industry. The full library is available on his YouTube channel.
The BBC detective show Sherlock, Britain’s most watched drama series in a decade, has picked up three BAFTA Cymru awards, presented at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff on 26 October 2014.
The TV drama series was co-created by Writers’ Guild member and award-winning screenwriter Steven Moffat, alongside Mark Gatiss, for Hartswood Films. Moffat has also written selected episodes.
The adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective stories, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as Doctor Watson, is filmed mainly in Cardiff. Its three series have received critical acclaim, and 12 million people tuned in to watch series three in January 2014 to find out the mystery of the lead character’s apparent death after falling from a rooftop.
Viewers were teased by a special BBC trailer (see the video, above), which suggested Sherlock was in fact alive and well, while Steven Moffat said at the time: “It’s time to reveal the truth about what happened between him and the pavement.”
A Christmas special and fourth series are planned for 2015/16.
Sherlock won the Best Television Drama BAFTA Cymru award; while Arwel Jones won the award for Best Production Design on the series, and Claire Pritchard won an award for Best Hair and Makeup.
Over 700 screenwriters, film-makers, producers, actors and execs will attend the London Screenwriters’ Festival on 24-26 October.
The Writers’ Guild is sponsoring the festival, the world’s largest professional screenwriters’ event, which takes place at Regent’s University in central London.
Guild member Mike Leigh (Mr. Turner) will be one of 150 expert speakers, which also include Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham), Sally Phillips (Smack the Pony) and David Hare (The Hours).
The schedule includes over 100 seminars, workshops, an evening networking drinks and party, plus the following annual highlights:
• The Great British PitchFest
• Advanced Mentoring Script Labs
• Actors Table Read
• Script Surgery
• Free Legal Advice Clinic
Screenwriters Line Langebek (I’ll Come Running) and Andrea Gibb (Dear Frankie) are co-chairs of the Writers’ Guild Film Committee, which will be hosting a stand at the festival. “We are pleased to be sponsoring this major annual gathering of emerging and established screenwriters and are looking forward to meeting many of them,” they said.
“The Writers’ Guild has a very active Film Committee. We have taken a leading role in an international campaign to have the role of screenwriters recognised at film festivals. We hold networking events with Directors UK, and advise feature film writers on their agreements, options and the process of obtaining funding. We have also joined with producers and directors to lobby for part of the revenues from subsidised films to return to creators for reinvestment in new projects.”
You can buy tickets and view the full festival schedule, which also includes events for writers for TV, online.
Fourteen delegates from the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain travelled to Warsaw in October 2014 for the World Conference of Screenwriters (WCOS), joining 29 other guilds and writers' organisations from 19 European countries, plus North America, New Zealand, Israel, Mexico, South Africa and India.
Here they debated, networked, shared experiences, were inspired, empowered and – most importantly – passed two resolutions: calling for true equality of men and women in screenwriting; and placing the creator at the centre of quality TV.
We asked Writers’ Guild delegates to tell us what thoughts they brought home with them. You can read these below, as well as download each writer’s full report.
(Credits: Doctors, The Indian Doctor)
“If we stand together, within our guilds and national industries and in cooperation with our sister unions across the world, we have more leverage than we think.”
Read Bill’s full report
(Credits: Which is Witch?, Genie in the House, Mike & Angelo, B&B, Romeo & Juliet, T-Bag)
“Speaking with so many talented colleagues from all across the world has really fired me up, and left me thinking loudly and clearly, ‘Writers, unite!’”
Read Grant’s full report
“Real empowerment means trusting the writer, the audience and the idea.”
Read Kate’s full report
(Credits: Doctors, The Bill, Family Affairs, Casualty)
“WCOS03 was a memorable and life-changing experience. It was incredible to be in the company of so many talented and inspiring people.”
Read Henrietta’s full report
(Credits: Casualty, The Bill, Heartbeat, EastEnders, McCready and Daughter)
“Communing with writers from all over the world gave us a chance to see that we share the same challenges.”
Read Ming’s full report
(Credits: The Dumping Ground, Tracy Beaker, Young Dracula, Sadie J, Doctors, Eve)
“As we British writers continue to struggle for artistic freedom and respect, it is inspiring to know that we’re supported by writers around the world.”
Read Emma’s full report
(Credits: Give Me A Chance, Get Up, Stand Up, The Famous Five, Custer’s Last Stand Up)
“We might write alone but we stand together as one, saying ‘let writers write’.”
Read Gail’s full report
(Credits: Backflip, Eight Words, Lift Off, An Island Between Heaven and Earth, Happy New Year)
“To know there are many screenwriters, in the UK and across the globe, who achieve long and successful careers, is inspiring, empowering and highly motivating.”
Read Alistair’s full report
Jamie Rhodes on his latest work, tips for new writers and why he is a Guild member
“I first realised I wanted to become a writer when I was 11. I went to a fairly rough comprehensive in Bradford and hated music lessons. So I used to sit at the back of the class and read a book. The teacher let me do it as I think he was just happy with one less pupil being disruptive. One day he said to me, ‘Jamie, what happens when you’ve read all the books in the world?’ to which I replied, ‘I will write my own.’
I was lucky in that, even though it wasn't a great school, I had good English teachers who nurtured and supported me. In fact, I have dedicated my first short story collection, Dead Men’s Teeth & Other Stories from Voices Past, to them: Ghislaine Anderton, Terry Binns and Joanna Cowie.
The idea for the collection came about after I started following the British Library’s Untold Lives blog, which features snippets from their vast archives.
I applied for Arts Council funding earlier this year, and was successful. This meant I could devote myself to intensive research and writing for six months. I applied for a British Library reader’s pass (which gives you access to their archives) and spent hours wading through old documents, some of them hundreds of years old.
One of the stories I came across was that of a ship’s surgeon, quarantined for three weeks aboard an indenture vessel stricken with cholera in the 19th century, outside Suriname. I did a degree in philosophy at Manchester Metropolitan University, and in my writing like to explore broader facets of the human condition. So on the surface this is a dark and interesting tale of a man trapped on a ship. On another level it is about the lack of understanding we feel about why we are here, not sure if we are ever going to reach our destination, wherever that is.
I also find inspiration in observing people. One tip I would give emerging writers is get yourself a part-time job that is public-facing in some way. Working in a bar might not be glamorous, but it is a good way to support yourself financially in the early days, and there are lots of opportunities to watch people and notice their mannerisms.
Another tip would be to be open-minded about opportunities that come your way, even if they aren’t what you ultimately want to do. It will gain you experience, and also show agents/publishers that you are serious about your career. My first professional credit was as a screenwriter, on a public service information film. I have also written radio plays, taught screenwriting in schools, worked as a journalist, run career-strategy workshops for writers, and founded the Homeless Film Festival.
I’m passionate about ensuring that marginalised groups are able to benefit from creativity and the arts. Human beings have a unique capacity not only to create, but to appreciate art, and I think everyone should have access to that, whoever they are. It is part of enjoying and exploring the full spectrum of experiences available to us.
Every writer should join the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, whatever stage they are at in their career. It is the writers' trade union. I joined as soon as I got my first professional credit in 2010, and have been active in the East Midlands and London regions. I’ve been on committees and helped organise events. It’s a great way of meeting other writers, and also the more you put in, the more you get back. And you definitely get taken more seriously by agents and publishers if you are a member.
The London & South East branch of the Guild was with me every step of the way on Dead Men’s Teeth & Other Stories from Voices Past, giving me a letter of support for my application for Arts Council funding, and setting me up with a mentor, writer Caz Moran. She has been fantastic and a huge benefit to my professional development. This really helped me make the leap from writing in script form to writing short stories. It was a big jump but by the end of six months I was producing an average of 8,000 words per week.
The Guild has also helped me promote my short story collection, alongside the British Library, which is keen to show how its archives are far from stuffy. For me, they were a mine of endless fascinating stories, and a seed for my creativity.”
Find out more
Dead Men’s Teeth’s & Other Stories from Voices Past is published by Mardibooks. The collection is published in collaboration with the British Library and is funded as part of an Arts Council programme to support emerging writers.
To book tickets for the launch event at the British Library on 20 October, where there will be readings and dramatic performances, visit the British Library website.
Writers' Guild members are automatically entitled to a British Library reader's pass.
Jamie Rhodes has produced a video on career strategy for writers:
What people are saying about the book
“Jamie Rhodes has mined and minted gold from the British Library Archives. Inspired by sources as various as a ship's surgeon's log, verbatim interviews, diaries or even advertisements for false teeth, Rhodes gives us glimpses into unexpected places, the forgotten corners of history, in stories told with the authentic weirdness of truth; touching, quirky and humane.”
Olivia Hetreed, President of the Writers' Guild of Great Britain
“We are delighted that our Untold Lives blog inspired this set of short stories created from the ‘small but beautiful details of real lives’ in the British Library Archive Collections.”
Margaret Makepeace, British Library Curator, India Office Records
Book cover design above by Christa Leask
Writers’ Guild member Mike Leigh’s much-anticipated Mr. Turner receives a gala screening at the 58th BFI London Film Festival, which runs from 8-19 October 2014.
The portrait of the artist JMW Turner is played by Timothy Spall, who won Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year for the role. The film focuses on the last 25 years of Turner’s life when his painting moved towards the Impressionist style for which he became remembered. It also probes the colourful life of a character who famously strapped himself to the mast of a ship so he could paint a snow storm.
Writer/director Mike Leigh has described Turner as "a great artist: a radical, revolutionary painter… I felt there was scope for a film examining the tension between this very mortal, flawed individual, and the epic work, the spiritual way he had of distilling the world."
The UK release date is set for 31 October 2014.
The BFI London Film Festival will bring 248 films to 17 venues across the capital over 12 days. It will feature screenings on themes including love, family, treasures, cult and thrill; and competitions, including the Best Film Award and First Feature Competition.
Other Writers’ Guild members whose work is being shown at the Festival include Gregory Burke ('71), Joe Fisher (Electricity), Leslie Stewart (Moomins on the Riviera) and Jack Thorne (War Book).
The full programme, including bookings, can be viewed here.