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.
Do you want to know what an agent can do for your writing?
The Writers' Guild of Great Britain (WGGB) is hosting an event in London on 14 April from 7pm where you can find out about the role of agents in a writer's career.
A panel of agents from different agencies will speak about
- The role of an agent
- Whether an agent is essential for your career as a writer
- When you should start looking for an agent
- The best way to approach an agent when you're ready
The panel discussion will close with an audience Q&A.
The following agents will be attending:
- Jean Kitson - Kitson Management
- Meg Davis - Ki Agency
- Matthew Bates - Sayle Screen
Tickets are free to members of the WGGB, and for non-members will cost £10 (£5 concessions). Entry to the event includes a free drink afterwards.
Full details and booking: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/meet-the-agents-tickets-9359563707
Dean M Drinkel on writing and editing horror
“I’ve seen horrors, horrors that you’ve seen..it’s impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means. Horror, horror has a face and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not, then they are enemies to be feared. They are truly enemies!” – Colonel Kurtz, Apocalypse Now
My love of horror began at an early age. My dad loved thrillers and westerns, my mother loved Stephen King – I was into the old gothic stuff (Poe, Shelley, Walpole, Le Fanu to name but a few) and as I grew older I floundered a bit until I came across Clive Barker and his film Hellraiser. I didn’t realise he was a writer as well as a director, it was only as I’d watched the end-credits and I read ‘based on the book by’ that I sat up and thought hello, that could be interesting.
The next day I visited the local bookshop where I lived in Kent and began devouring Barker’s work as greedily as I could get my hands on it: The Books Of Blood, The Damnation Game, The Great & Secret Show, Weaveworld etc etc, until eventually I was able to find The Hellbound Heart which Hellraiser was based upon. (As a side note, I recently read the French version - confusingly called Hellraiser - which was like discovering the story all over again!) From those first words I read of Clive’s I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
Whilst at University, I wrote for the college magazine and by the time I graduated I had enough stories for a collection, which was subsequently published by a small press (the book was called The Burial, and will be re-released later in 2014 as a redux edition). Once the book had been released, I sat in my hallway waiting for both the phone to ring and for the door to knock in the firm belief that either a major publisher or film producer would get in touch wanting to publish everything that I would ever write or make films of them.
Successful entries selected for Writers' Guild's new development scheme
Having received 213 submissions of plays, from across the whole of the UK, the Playwrights’ Progress team is delighted to announce who the eight successful writers are.
The Plays for Workshop:
- The Ostrich by Kate Davidson
- Stage Irish by John McCarthy
- Chickens Don’t Fly by Rachael McGill
- Westernization by Imran Yusuf
The Plays of Promise:
- Junk by Susan Avery & Sally Grey
- Guilt by Julie Bainbridge
- The Room Inside by Jimmy Osborne
- Ninety Days by Ashok Patel
The overall standard was exceptionally high which is why we would like to recognise the other shortlisted candidates: Hassan Abdulrazzak, Nicola Baldwin, Alison Carr, Neil Edwards, Jason Hall, Danusia Iwaszco, Dan Murphy, Rob Johnston, Neasa O’Callahan, William Stanton, Roberto Trippini, Brian Woolland & Tobias Wright.
The partnership - Writers’ Guild, Royal Central School Of Speech & Drama (RCSSD) and Leicester Square Theatre - will concentrate on the script development side of the process, looking forward to the read-throughs in the week beginning 3 March and the workshops on the 1, 2 & 3 April.
Finally we’d like to put out an invitation for Guild members, to come to the showcase event, which will take place at 2pm on 9 May, Leicester Square Theatre. This exciting culmination to the project will be a reading of the best play or plays to emerge from the workshops - performed by actors of the highest calibre, primarily drawn from Central’s alumni – and it is open to the public and the tickets are free and are available from Leicester Square Theatre, book early to avoid disappointment.
Playwrights' Progress is funded by Arts Council England and the Writers' Foundation (UK), with further financial support from RCSSD & Leicester Square Theatre.
Open letter calls for recognition for writers
Writers' Guild President Olivia Hetreed has written an open letter to the Guardian calling on it to recognise the work of writers in their new film awards. The letter, also signed by Andrea Gibb amd Line Langebek (Co-Chairs of the WGGB Film Committee), comes after Guild member Lisa Holdsworth identified the omission earlier this week.
The letter is reproduced below:
The Writers’ Guild was delighted to read that the Guardian had decided to launch its own film awards, particularly as they seem to be offered in a spirit of fun and celebration, aimed at engaging readers with film. However, we are dismayed at the decision to leave out the names of the screenwriters who actually wrote the material in the Best Scene and Best Line Of Dialogue categories. It seems perverse to recognise and applaud screenwriting yet ignore writers.
We've been in touch with one of your reviewers, who explained that the writers’ names 'just didn’t seem like crucial information at the longlist or blog stage.' The reviewer also pointed out that the Guardian has not credited the nominated marketing teams either. This seems a somewhat bizarre justification: does she really mean to equate the marketing campaign and the film script?
We appreciate that this is an attempt to engage your readers but fail to understand how adding the names of the writers would prevent this process. Guardian readers seem highly knowledgeable about film and deserve better information than being given an actor's name alongside a line of dialogue. Film is a supremely collaborative medium and while it may not suit the word count of film reviewers to acknowledge this, there seems no reason for the Guardian Awards to compound their error.
It is hardly difficult to find the names of the short-listed writers. They are as follows:
BEST SCENE: Peter Baynam, Steve Coogan, Neil Gibbons, Rob Gibbons, Armando Ianucci; Alfonso Cuaron, Jonas Cuaron; Paolo Sorrentino, Umberto Contarello; John Ridley; Woody Allen; Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke; Carlos Reygadas; Abdellatif Kechiche, Ghalia Lacroix; Terence Winter.
BEST LINE OF DIALOGUE: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen; Bob Nelson; Eric Warren Singer, David O.Russell; John Ridley; Woody Allen; Bob Nelson; Jeff Pope, Steve Coogan; Paolo Sorrentino, Umberto Contarello; Christopher Ford; Spike Jonze.
The most disheartening thing about this omission and your reviewer’s response to our query is that it is part of a much larger problem, whereby the media consistently and carelessly attribute the work of writers to directors and actors, thereby misinforming their audience. What a shame that the Guardian’s attempt to do something “new and innovative” should fall prey to such old fashioned, lazy or ignorant thinking.
Andrea Gibb & Line Langebek
Co-Chairs, WGGB Film Committee