Bonus scheme agreed for Doctors writers

on Saturday, 26 April 2014 06:34. Posted in TV

The Writers’ Guild and the BBC have reached agreement on a “loyalty bonus scheme” to ensure that writers on Doctors and other popular long-running series do not suffer swingeing pay cuts later this year.

The problem arose because a former 15% additional payment for iPlayer use and repeats on BBC3 and BBC4 has been ended in favour of generally better arrangements. Under a transitional arrangement, the payment was extended until July this year for Doctors, Casualty and Holby City, but will then disappear.

Guild general secretary Bernie Corbett explains the dilemma: “The trouble with ‘transitional’ arrangements is that they come to an end, and meanwhile it became clear that Doctors writers in particular are unlikely to benefit significantly either from the iPlayer or higher repeat fees on secondary channels.”

The Guild responded by organising a meeting of members and non-members from Doctors and arranged for a writer from the series to address the BBC negotiating forum. Email forums sounded the opinions of those who couldn’t attend and a united position was established. The BBC responded with an offer of new money through a “multi-episode bonus scheme” (MEBS).

It means that any writer who is commissioned to provide at least three episodes over a year will receive a 15% bonus payment on every script delivered in that year.

The Guild and its negotiating partner, the Personal Managers’ Association, pressed for further improvements, but the BBC rejected those suggestions.

Nevertheless, according to Corbett, the new scheme is “a positive development, and a life-saver for some writers whose earnings could have fallen off a cliff. We will monitor this carefully in its first year and will continue to press for a general uplift in the pay of LRS writers, particularly on Doctors, which looks to us like the lowest-paid continuing drama on UK network television.”

The BBC unilaterally offered to extend the scheme to Casualty and Holby City, which was welcomed by the Guild, although as those shows produce fewer episodes each year, a smaller number of writers will benefit. MEBS money is in addition to the Writers Digital Payments money from the use of iPlayer that will soon be coming on stream, and does not buy any further rights – it is a straight bonus.

In a separate development, writers on the Welsh language soap Pobol y Cwm found themselves facing a substantial cut in earnings due to the cancellation of the Sunday omnibus and a cut from five to four episodes per week. As all Pobol y Cwm writers are Guild members, they were able to organise a strong and rapid response. The BBC has offered the Guild significant increases in episode fees and other improvements, and the offer is currently being considered by writers in Wales.

Corbett commented: “We are still in negotiations, but it is already clear that what would have been a huge blow to writers’ earnings will be substantially softened due to the united action of the writers on a 100% union show.”

The collective efforts of the Guild and the Doctors and Pobol y Cwm writers in confronting the BBC with a united front and a coherent, well-argued case have been crucial. Guild Television Committee chair Bill Armstrong says: “There is no reason that this should not work for other shows. The Guild continues its efforts to contact writers who aren’t members, identify their interests and help them to come together, organise and argue their case for better terms and conditions. We welcome any information – from members and non-members – that helps us help you.”

Anthony Marriott - Obituary

on Thursday, 24 April 2014 15:22. Posted in Theatre

Mike Sharland remembers the actor, director, Guild member and playwright who co-wrote what was to become arguably the most famous British farce, No Sex Please, We're British, which holds the world record for the longest running farce in the history of the theatre.

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Anthony Marriott, who has died aged 83 on 17 April 2014 after a long illness. He was born on 17 January 1931 in London, England. Tony was an actor, stage director and writer of over 32 plays. His first appearance as an actor was in Laburnham Grove at the Horsham Repertory Company in 1950. He then took part in various repertory seasons from 1951 to 1954 including Worthing, Warrington, Manchester Library Theatre, Dudley, Norwich, Yeovil and Salisbury.

From 1954-1956 he became a member of the BBC Radio Drama Repertory Company starring in among others, The Journey Into Space series, and Dan Dare. He became a contract writer for the Rank Organisation working on Waltz Of The Toreadors, Gypsy and the Gentleman, Operation Amsterdam. For television, he was a story editor on the Ghost Squad series and he created and wrote BBC Radio’s Roundabout series.

I first met Tony during this period in the mid sixties. We shared offices in the basement of Associated London Scripts at the legendary 9 Orme Court where a great deal of the comedy for television, film and theatre was created by Spike Milligan, Ray Galton & Alan Simpson, Eric Sykes. Tony created with Roger Marshall Public Eye, starring Alfred Burke for ABC. He was also a contributing writer on series including The Avengers, No Hiding Place, This Man Craig, Fireball XL5.

Turning to the theatre, he wrote with Alistair Foot Uproar In The House, a farce which ran at the Garrick and Whitehall Theatres from 1967-1969. They followed this up with No Sex Please, We’re British, which starred Michael Crawford. It opened at the Strand Theatre in 1971, later transferring to the Garrick Theatre enjoying a sixteen and a half year run becoming on the way the world’s longest running farce. With Bob Grant he wrote Darling Mr. London, No Room For Love, Home Is Where Your Clothes Are, which is one of the most popular farces with amateur companies in North America.

No Sex Please, We’re British has to date seen productions in over 90 countries. It was always a disappointment to Tony that such a perfectly constructed farce was never taken up by the National Theatre. There have been no West End revivals of No Sex Please, We’re British as it was always difficult to cast and Tony knew that farce depended on the right casting.

Tony got together with another great comedy writer, John Chapman, and they produced Shut Your Eyes And Think Of England, which ran for a year and a half starring one of Britain’s finest comedy and classical actors, Donald Sinden. Due to the success of Shut Your Eyes And Think Of England, Tony wrote three more plays with John Chapman.

When he wasn’t writing, Tony served for 21 years as a Justice of the Peace in the West End Courts. Tony was a great supporter of writers and served on both the Council and the Theatre Committee of The Writer’s Guild of Great Britain. He brought a sharp eye and a great deal of commonsense to the meetings which always seemed to end in laughter.

Tony was married to Heulwen who pre deceased him in 1999. They had three children.

Off the Shelf at Black's: John Crace

on Wednesday, 23 April 2014 16:40. Posted in Books and Poetry

John CraceAt the latest of the Guild's Off the Shelf events John Crace, writer and journalist, gave a riveting account of himself, both as author (Harry’s Games: Inside the Mind of Harry Redknapp and Vertigo: One Football Fan’s Fear of Success) and his famous Digested Reads, treating us to a stripped-down version of Wolf Hall and Howard’s End. These précised gems are becoming almost as well known as their originals, and it is the literary critic in him as well as the satirist that is at work.

He also gave us some interesting gen’ on his new assignment (following Richard Hoggart) as The Guardian’s Parliamentary sketch writer.

Telling a packed room about how an early fallow time in his life allowed his writing to develop, he emphasised the importance of reflective time in a writer’s life and how vital it was to have lived long enough for real experience to determine content.

Far from being in a hurry in his Digested Reads, he is actually producing distilled Haiku versions of these novels – most famously in Brideshead Abbreviated. This was a serious look at literature and the processes of writing and he fell into easy conversation with the room. We wish him well with his forthcoming publication I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (about politics).

Can you help?

The Guild is looking for a member to manage the podcast of each session of Off the Shelf, which takes place roughly once a month. He/she will receive a free ticket to each event (normally £30), which includes a two-course lunch with wine at Blacks. If you are interested, please contact Jan Woolf: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Book your (free) seat for Playwrights’ Progress

on Friday, 04 April 2014 16:44. Posted in Theatre

Richard Pinner reports on the Writers' Guild's development scheme

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Playwrights (clockwise from top left) Rachael McGill, John McCarthy, Imran Yusuf and Kate Davidson

After an exciting week at the beginning of March, when all eight of our chosen plays were read by a high-calibre company of actors, largely drawn from Central School’s alumni, Playwrights’ Progress really took off in style. And having now completed a successful week of workshops for four of these plays we now look forward to the showcase.

But, firstly, we would like to commend the four pieces selected as 'plays of promise' – Junk by Susan Avery and Sally Grey, Guilt by Julie Bainbridge, The Room Inside by Jimmy Osborne and Ninety Days by Ashok Patel. For these writers the read-through was the event. No doubt both exhilarating and daunting for the authors – as they were observed by a distinguished group of guests, including literary managers, artistic directors and literary agents – in each case the plays proved their mettle. Indeed, the discussions that followed each reading were so animated and engaged they could have continued well after the time allowed for them. Already there has been significant interest and follow-up for some of the playwrights involved, while all the writers were encouraged and stimulated to address re-writes and pursue suggestions made by their guests to improve and refine their scripts. 

Meanwhile, Ostrich by Kate Davidson, Stage Irish by John McCarthy, Chickens Don’t Fly by Rachael McGill and Westernization by Imran Yusuf , have just been given their three-day workshop, which was served by a brilliant company of actors, cast by Central’s Martin Wylde - and led by the distinguished directors & mentors Gwenda Hughes, Janette Smith, Grainne Byrne, Tim Trimingham, Lisa Evans & Roy Kendall.

Thumbnail sketches of these plays (see below) reveal the rich diversity of material we explored and provide an appetiser for the forthcoming Showcase, featuring the best work to emerge from the workshops.  

This showcase, at Leicester Square Theatre at 2pm on Friday 9 May, culminates the whole project and will be staged in the main theatre, and is open to the public with FREE tickets. We would therefore be delighted if the auditorium was full and for the Guild to be present in force, so please book now and bring your friends!  

Drummer Hodge comes to Dorchester

on Wednesday, 02 April 2014 06:25. Posted in Theatre

Rupert Creed on a new community play with a cast of 100

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After three years of research, scripting and planning, and three months of intensive rehearsals Dorchester’s 6th Community Play, Drummer Hodge, hits the boards. The play has a cast of 100 local performers, a 20 strong community orchestra, a percussion band, and a set encompassing five separate stages. In this promenade performance you experience the action as it happens around you. You don’t just watch it – you’re in it.

Written and directed by myself, designed by Dawn Allsopp and with music by Tim Laycock, Drummer Hodge is set in Edwardian Dorchester and portrays the town’s involvement with the Boer War. Inspired by Thomas Hardy’s poem the play creates the imaginary back story of the eponymous young Dorset drummer boy who enlists and then dies in the war in South Africa.

The Boer War of 1899-1902 has been overshadowed by the Great War, and in the year we commemorate WW1 it’s fitting to remember some often overlooked facts of British history. In the Boer War we were responsible for the internment and subsequent deaths through illness, malnutrition and disease of over 26000 Boer women and children.

At the time these shocking facts were exposed by the female campaigner Emily Hobhouse, and in Drummer Hodge the play explores the tensions & conflicts between the younger more radically minded women of the town and the established male order.

Drummer Hodge is a play about why we sign up for war, and what happens when the values we subscribe to are exposed as spurious. It portrays what happens to a community when honour collides with shame.

For a writer the opportunity to script a play with 100 characters is a rare privilege indeed, but it does bring challenges. Whose story is it? How many storylines can be told? What links them together? The clue is in the title- a community play should portray a story that engages and conflicts its entire community of characters.

New partnership will boost UK film writers’ profile

on Friday, 28 March 2014 17:37. Posted in Film

black-listThe Writers' Guild has joined forces with The Black List to help raise the prominence of UK-based writers in the worldwide film industry. The Black List began as a survey in 2005, when American film executive Franklin Leonard surveyed almost 100 film industry development executives about their favourite scripts from that year that had not yet been made. The results were compiled and sent out to all who responded, and the process has been repeated every year ever since.

More than 225 Black List screenplays have since been made as feature films. Those films have earned over $19 billion in worldwide box-office, have been nominated for more than 175 Academy Awards, and have won 30 (including Best Pictures Slumdog Millionaire, The King’s Speech and Argo) and seven of the last 14 screenwriting Oscars.

The Black List also offers a membership site for industry professionals that functions as a real-time screenplay recommendation engine, allowing executives across the world to find the scripts that they want to make.

The Guild partnership with The Black List allows members to list their scripts on The Black List site for free, raising their profile and helping more of their films to make it into production. The Black List site will also contain information about support and resources available for Guild members.

'Great stories have no borders and the ability to access them shouldn’t either. We’re thrilled that this alliance with the WGGB will allow us to further make that the case,' said Black List founder Franklin Leonard.

As part of the newly formed alliance between the Writers Guild of America West and the Black List, all WGGB members will be able to add their script titles, loglines, tags and representative information, as well as monitor their work’s ratings and user traffic, free of charge. They will also receive a 20% discount on paid Black List services to host their scripts and obtain reader evaluations of their screenplays.

Since its launch, the Black List’s script-hosting website has been responsible for dozens of writers finding representation with major agencies and management companies, as well as more than a dozen script sales.

Visit The Black List website