Richard Pinner reports on the Writers' Guild's development scheme
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!
Rupert Creed on a new community play with a cast of 100
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.
The 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
Creative England is launching a series of talks, masterclasses, networking events and talent showcase for emerging filmmakers at the Lighthouse, in Brighton.
Open to any Southern based writer / director / producer yet to make their first film who would benefit from attending those events – in particular our overview module covering the filmmaking process from development to distribution.
All the details are to be found here:http://www.creativeengland.co.uk/index.php/brighton-talent-centre-programme/
To apply, send a CV and a Cover Letter (deadline is 28th March) - all are welcome no matter where they are based. The module is completely free, and the aim is to help the next generation of British filmmakers work together rather than in isolation.
Writers, actors and crews are campaigning against swingeing cuts to Pobol y Cwm, the soap produced by BBC Wales in Cardiff and screened on the Welsh-language channel S4C.
In a surprise move the BBC and S4C announced that the show would be cut from five to four episodes a week, would take an annual two-week holiday, and would have its omnibus edition scrapped.
The broadcasters blamed a 36% cut in S4C’s funding – a loss of £40 million over four years, which has already led to staff redundancies. They also cited a “change in viewing habits”, and scheduling changes following S4C’s loss of a contract to televise rugby matches.
Following an angry meeting attended by Pobol workers, at which executives sought to explain the changes, the unions representing them have organised talks with the BBC and S4C. The Writers’ Guild will be in talks in Cardiff on 31 March.
Guild general secretary Bernie Corbett said the combined cuts would result in 60 fewer episodes a year. “This has impacts on all areas – on writers, performers and crew, as well as the whole status of the Welsh language. We will meet with the BBC and S4C, and we will express our concerns and ask them to reconsider their decisions.”
Corbett also said the cuts were the result of the BBC licence-fee settlement agreed between the BBC and the government in 2010, which saw the BBC take responsibility for funding S4C: “Pobol y Cwm is the victim of the ridiculous decision to make the BBC fund S4C, which we were very much against at the time. This has proved us right, as we said at the time it would be the start of a slippery slope for Welsh-language broadcasting.”
In a more positive development, S4C has suggested that it would like to screen more varied drama – when the channel opened there were two new drama nights a week.
The Writers’ Guild deplores the latest cuts announced by the BBC and the impact they could have on writers’ livelihoods.
There has been a double-whammy this week with the announcement that BBC3 is to move online and that the long-established Welsh soap Pobol y Cwm is to suffer a big reduction in the number of episodes commissioned and the scrapping of the weekly omnibus edition .
All these developments could have a devastating effect on writers’ earnings.
Guild negotiators and committee members will be in key meetings with the BBC in London and Cardiff over the next few days to establish the facts about the cuts and to discuss the impact on writers.
Writers’ Guild general secretary Bernie Corbett said: 'This is the fallout from the terrible deal former BBC director-general Mark Thompson made with the incoming coalition government in 2010, to freeze licence fees for six years. Of course he is now an ocean away and doesn’t have to deal with the consequences of his crazy secret pact with the coalition.
'We welcome the new D-G’s statement that he will abandon "salami-slicing" cuts that only deliver equality of misery on all parts of the BBC. Instead, bold and difficult cuts will be made. But the end of BBC3 is a shock to the system. We will be meeting BBC executives over the next few days and weeks, and we will try to ensure that the pledge to reinvest £30 million of savings in BBC1 and BBC2 drama actually comes about.'
Guild negotiators will be meeting BBC Wales in the next few days to discuss the implications of the drastic cuts to Pobol y Cwm.