Over 50,000 writers for film and TV were represented at the World Conference of Screenwriters (WCOS), which took place on 1-2 October 2014 in Warsaw.
A delegation from the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain joined 29 other guilds and writers' organisations from 19 European countries, plus North America, New Zealand, Israel, Mexico, South Africa and India.
The conference, the third of its kind, took as its theme the ‘golden age of TV’ and explored issues affecting creators in the audio-visual sector. These included writing for an international market, independent cinema, episodic television and children and young audiences.
It also brought together authors of globally renowned film and TV productions, Oscar winners and holders of other prestigious awards, including Writers’ Guild member Andrew Davies (House of Cards) and Israeli film and TV writer Hagai Levi (In Treatment).
BAFTA-nominee and Writers’ Guild of Great Britain President Olivia Hetreed was among the delegates, and took part in panel discussions on the lack of representation of women writers and the pros and cons of co-production.
Writers’ Guild General Secretary Bernie Corbett took part in panel discussions focusing on negotiation and copyright.
The international gathering of screenwriters' guilds, unions and associations brought together the Federation of Screenwriters in Europe (FSE) and the International Affiliation of Writers Guilds (IAWG), of which the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain is a member.
Previous World Conferences of Screenwriters have been held in Barcelona (2012) and Athens (2009). They built on successful joint initiatives including the European Screenwriters' Manifesto (2006) and an International Day of Solidarity in support of the Writers Guild of America high-profile strike in 2007/8.
Written Into the Picture, a report investigating screenwriters’ lack of visibility at film festivals, was published at the second conference in Barcelona in 2012 where it was resolved that the vital contribution of screenwriters needed to be more fully acknowledged.
“It is fantastic that writers and their guilds from many countries can gather to discuss the issues they face – and even better that WCOS is now genuinely global, with representatives from every continent,” said Writers’ Guild of Great Britain General Secretary Bernie Corbett. “TV, film and the other media are all now global – and we are also going global in our battle to preserve and improve writers’ pay, terms and rights. Power to us!”
You can read the two resolutions that were passed at the conference, plus closing remarks, here.
Nominations are now being accepted for the Writers' Guild of Great Britain Awards 2014.
The Awards will be presented by writer, presenter, comedian, actress and producer Sandi Toksvig at a ceremony in central London on 19 January 2015.
Writers will be honoured in the following categories: TV, Theatre, Film, Books, Radio, Games, Children’s (TV and theatre).
The eligibility period is from 1 June 2013 to 26 September 2014 and all entries must be received by 17 October 2014.
There used to be a cliché that what America did yesterday, Britain would do tomorrow. Let’s hope it no longer holds, because some pretty rotten things are happening to writers in the US right now.
Horror stories have been emerging over the summer about the exploitation of writers on US reality shows, including some shows produced by the American subsidiary of ITV. People working on these shows have been put at risk because of disregard for health and safety, have been forced to work up to 18 hours a day, seven days a week, and if they complain they get sacked. They have no union protection, and without unionisation have no access to employer-provided health care.
Read this article in the Washington Post by the executive director of the Writers Guild of America East, Lowell Peterson. Also see the Gawker blog.
Two for the price of one
Unscrupulous drama and comedy producers have invented a loophole in standard practice to engage two writers as a “team” and pay them a single salary at the WGA minimum – or half each. Naturally, both writers are expected to commit themselves body and soul to the show. It is a clear and direct violation of the Guild’s rules. Read more
Guild member and award-winning playwright Alan Ayckbourn’s new production Roundelay has its world premiere at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough on 9 September 2014 (running until 4 October 2014).
Roundelay consists of five short, self-contained plays (The Judge, The Novelist, The Politician, The Star and The Agent), written to be played in any sequence. Many of the plays are connected, sometimes through shared characters, sometimes through an overlapping narrative. Sequels turn out to be prequels, and each evening will develop differently. Tickets for the production, billed as a “unique adventure in theatre”, with 120 different possibilities, can be booked online.
The Writers' Guild has agreed to an increase of 1% in minimum rates for BBC radio writers. The increase, effective from 1 August 2014, emerged from a meeting of the Radio Writers Forum, which also includes representatives of the Society of Authors and the Personal Managers' Association (representing writers' agents).
But the Guild said it regards the rise as a "disappointing interim increase". General secretary Bernie Corbett said: "This is way below the current level of increase in the cost of living. BBC staff have been offered £800 a year, which for someone on £50,000 a year is 1.6% and for someone earning the national average of £26,500 is over 3%. Once again writers are being undervalued. We are continuiing our negotiations with the BBC in the hope of achieving a fairer settlement in the near future."
For an established writer on a standard two-transmissions contract, the rate per minute goes up from £91.73 to £92.65; for an episode of The Archers the fee goes up from £920 to £929. The agreement also covers short stories, abridgements, features and talks, prose and poetry.
For full details click here.
Following a recent meeting with directors from the three major theatres; Royal National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal Court (collectively known as the TNC theatres) your Guild representatives have successfully negotiated an increase of 2% on all minimum fees effective from today, 1 August 2014. In real terms this means that the minimum fee for a play is now just under £12,000 (excluding upstairs at the Royal Court which is now £9,387). For further details of all the new rates click here.