The Writers' Guild stall at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe on 19 Augiust was a great success, with a stream of enquiries from established and emerging playwrights.
The Guild would like to thank Fin Kennedy, Scottish rep Julie Ann Thomason and Daphne Hamilton (pictured from left), as well as Ali Rutherford, for helping to run the stall.
Fin also launched the voting stage of his In Battalions Delphi study at the Fringe.
A Delphi study is a consultation process with experts in their field, in response to a study question. The question in this instance was: "In what ways can theatres, theatre-makers and the Arts Council work together to protect risk-taking on new work and new talent, without creating significant extra expense?";
Fin is urging writers to take part in his online survey on responses to this question. Please note that you have until Friday 20 September to complete the survey.
Deborah Espect on writing and making her award-winning short film, Dog Day
Bella Emberg in Dog Day (Copyright Georgie Angless)
I love writing because it allows me to dwell in a solitary comfort zone. But I’ve never studied how to write, so I’ve never learnt about structure; and when I start a new project I don’t have a plan. Sometimes I picture a character and a situation they end up in; then a scene develops and from there I have a story. I go on a journey with the characters and, like them, I don’t know what comes next almost until it happens. Sometimes the journey doesn’t work, or the character gets stuck and I have to start again. I encounter this quite a lot when writing plays.
Dog Day was going to be a completely different film to what it is now. I had just watched London To Brighton and Fish Tank, and I really wanted to write about a real woman in today’s England. This in itself was nothing new or original, but so much has already been written about everything that, for me, it’s always been more about what I do with an idea than the idea itself.
Dog Day was going to see our protagonist, a 30-something woman, take her young children to the zoo. There wouldn’t have been much dialogue, other than when she’d tell her kids off for trying to jump off a fence to touch an animal, or when she’d have to explain that the toys they wanted in the souvenir shop were too expensive. The lack of words would have represented her relentless solitude. But I wasn’t particularly confident with that set up.
The thought of working with children was rather daunting for someone as inexperienced in the film industry as me, and shooting in a zoo presented all sorts of logistical problems. So, instead, I decided that my 30-something woman would be visiting her mum in Brighton, on her 70th birthday. Again, the script didn’t contain much dialogue, because the two women just didn’t know how to communicate with each other. Instead, there were a lot of awkward silences and frustrated faces.
Martin Day on nine years of writing for Doctors
I’ve been writing for Doctors, BBC One’s daytime serial-drama-not-soap-unless-we’re-up-for-the-UK-Soap-Awards, for a little over nine year. I’ve never been a contract writer, guaranteed a certain number of commissions, but even so have managed to write 13 episodes in that time. That’s about one every eight months (maths never was my strong point). Or, to put it another way, each one was like a baby in script form (neither was biology).
So it’s pretty obvious that there are far better writers than me out there, who have written more episodes of various soaps and dramas, much more quickly. Still, with the creative life being as precarious as it is, I remain grateful for these ports in the freelance storm. And, however you slice and dice it, nine years is quite a long time to devote to anything. I’ve watched pretty much every episode during that time. I’ve lived with the characters almost as much as I’ve shared time and insight with friends and family. I’m used to writing for it. Never confident, but I think I have some sort of understanding.
It’s got me thinking about what benefits can come from such a longstanding commitment to a single series. First off, let’s look at this selfishly, from my perspective as a jobbing writer. I think I’ve learned a bit about writing in general, and scriptwriting in particular. I’ve always considered myself a slow learner (you should read my first TV tie-in novel… On second thoughts, no, really, don’t – it’s like a black hole of compacted awfulness). So I can confidently state, hand on heart, that I’m better (or less bad) than I was. Usually less ‘on the nose’, often crisper. I’m better at getting to the point, and getting out again. I know when to do subtle, and when to state the bleedin’ obvious. (This is TV, not Chekhov.)
I’ve even reached that stage where sometimes I hear a script editorial voice at the back of my mind warning me of the heffalump trap I’m just about to blunder into. Much better to avoid said traps than to ignore the shouted warning and desperately reposition yourself on the map later.
The Guild will be giving a session on the same day at 3pm entitled “The Writers’ Guild: who we are, what we do, and why we do it”. The session includes a brief introduction on the general work of the Guild, explaining its function as a TUC-affiliated union for writers negotiating minimum contract terms with BBC, ITV, PACT, TMA, ITC and others, as well as its role in lobbying for writers in Westminster, Edinburgh and Brussels, advising and representing members over work issues, informing and communicating with the writing community.
This will be followed by an example of the Guild’s work with its current theatre campaign. Playwright and Guild member Fin Kennedy and Oxford PhD student Helen Campbell Pickford will host a talk and Q&A on their widely debated In Battalions report about how Arts Council cuts are affecting new play development in England. The authors will give an overview of the campaign so far, followed by an update on the latest development – a Delphi study, which aims to find solutions to the problem. This involves a voting process in which all theatre professionals can take part. More information on how to do so will be given on the day. Read more about it on Fin’s blog.
This event is an exciting insight into the benefits that Guild membership can bring, and the support and opportunities it can offer to proactive members.
The venue is: Fringe Central, Appleton Tower, University of Edinburgh, Crichton Street, Edinburgh EH8 9LE
Tracy Brabin reports on the launch of the BFI Statistical Yearbook
Facts&Stats – the BFI launch the Statistical Yearbook 2013
Statistics, love them or hate them, they’re the only thing that gives any argument validity, but on a hot and muggy day it was with a heavy heart I entered the BFI. Will the room be full of statistical gonks and geeks? I needn’t have worried. After a couple of quips on the Royal Birth; ‘this baby (the report) weighs in at 205 pages after a 7 month labour,’ Sean Perkins got underway with the difficult job of translating his department’s analysis into easy to digest numbers for non-numerates like me.
Some figures were extremely positive. UK cinema admissions were the third highest of the last 40 years, up at 647 releases. Revenues were at an all time high with ‘Skyfall’ setting a new Box Office record at £103 million, followed by independent films ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ and ‘The Woman in Black’, all in a market worth £4billion.
UK writers also proved a draw to audiences; only 5% of films released during the year were adapted from UK story material but accounted for 23% of the total box office. These films were based on characters first written in 1937 (The Hobbit), 1958 (Bond) and 1983 (Woman in Black), a clear reminder of the enduring economic value of British cultural excellence.
We also discovered that the cinema-going audience is ageing and there was a rise of the over 45’s buying tickets, up from 14% in 1977 to 36% in 2012, with Simon Beaufoy’s ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’ topping the viewing chart.
Abigail Tarttelin explains how she found the space and the passion to write Golden Boy
I have been told that second novels are the hardest to write. Perhaps it’s the expectation that you, the writer, will make huge leaps forward in ability. Perhaps it’s because you worry the genre and message of the new novel should complement the first. Perhaps you think: what do I want my oeuvre to say? Will my agent like it?
I came to writing from outside the literary world. In Grimsby, my hometown, I had never met anyone involved with the business of books. In fact, when I was first published, I felt foolish telling people what I did. Even to me, it sounded a bit unrealistic.
Writing has always been a compulsion for me rather than a passion. It has reared its head from time to time, between badly paid acting jobs, grueling night shifts in a Leicester Square casino and a short, greasy stint in a chippie. A voice would arrive in my brain; my fingers would act as conduit, and I would bang out the thoughts of an imaginary someone.
When I was 19, the voice of Flick, an angry, intelligent 15-year-old boy, arrived to rant, or amuse, or philosophise in my ear. Flick would describe scenes from his life, and sometimes they would be scenes from my life. Gradually, a story formed, and in it were themes that had been brewing in my mind for a long time: frustration at the lack of a decent education, first love, the selfishness of drug dependency.
Eventually I had over 20,000 words on my laptop. I wanted to finish it, but I didn’t consider myself a writer. I thought being a novelist was something you did when you were 50 and had useful knowledge to impart. Two years went by. Then one night, the compulsion returned. I suddenly knew how to structure the book. It would be in short, punchy chapters and would be aimed at contemporary teenagers, particularly boys; a group I felt was under-represented by current fiction. It would be realistic and not fantastical, with useful thoughts and advice for adolescent readers. I realized although I didn’t know much about the world, I knew more about being 15 than any 50-year-old could claim. I had a mission and because of that I felt I had a right to be a writer.