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London Screenwriters’ Festival: join the Writers’ Guild there

on Thursday, 16 October 2014 09:42. Posted in Events

Over 700 screenwriters, film-makers, producers, actors and execs will attend the London Screenwriters’ Festival on 24-26 October.

The Writers’ Guild is sponsoring the festival, the world’s largest professional screenwriters’ event, which takes place at Regent’s University in central London.

Guild member Mike Leigh (Mr. Turner) will be one of 150 expert speakers, which also include Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham), Sally Phillips (Smack the Pony) and David Hare (The Hours).

The schedule includes over 100 seminars, workshops, an evening networking drinks and party, plus the following annual highlights:

• The Great British PitchFest
• Advanced Mentoring Script Labs
• Actors Table Read
• Script Surgery
• Free Legal Advice Clinic

Screenwriters Line Langebek (I’ll Come Running) and Andrea Gibb (Dear Frankie) are co-chairs of the Writers’ Guild Film Committee, which will be hosting a stand at the festival. “We are pleased to be sponsoring this major annual gathering of emerging and established screenwriters and are looking forward to meeting many of them,” they said.

“The Writers’ Guild has a very active Film Committee. We have taken a leading role in an international campaign to have the role of screenwriters recognised at film festivals. We hold networking events with Directors UK, and advise feature film writers on their agreements, options and the process of obtaining funding. We have also joined with producers and directors to lobby for part of the revenues from subsidised films to return to creators for reinvestment in new projects.”

You can buy tickets and view the full festival schedule, which also includes events for writers for TV, online.

From Poland with power

on Thursday, 16 October 2014 08:17. Posted in Events

Fourteen delegates from the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain travelled to Warsaw in October 2014 for the World Conference of Screenwriters (WCOS), joining 29 other guilds and writers' organisations from 19 European countries, plus North America, New Zealand, Israel, Mexico, South Africa and India.

Here they debated, networked, shared experiences, were inspired, empowered and – most importantly – passed two resolutions: calling for true equality of men and women in screenwriting; and placing the creator at the centre of quality TV.

We asked Writers’ Guild delegates to tell us what thoughts they brought home with them. You can read these below, as well as download each writer’s full report.

Bill Armstrong

Bill Armstrong 1(CreditsDoctors, The Indian Doctor)

“If we stand together, within our guilds and national industries and in cooperation with our sister unions across the world, we have more leverage than we think.”

Read Bill’s full report


Grant Cathro

Grant Cathro.1(Credits: Which is Witch?, Genie in the House, Mike & Angelo, B&B, Romeo & Juliet, T-Bag)

“Speaking with so many talented colleagues from all across the world has really fired me up, and left me thinking loudly and clearly, ‘Writers, unite!’”

Read Grant’s full report


Kate Delin

Kate Delin(Credits: Doctors)

“Real empowerment means trusting the writer, the audience and the idea.”

Read Kate’s full report



Henrietta Hardy

Henrietta Hardy.1(Credits: Doctors, The Bill, Family Affairs, Casualty)

“WCOS03 was a memorable and life-changing experience. It was incredible to be in the company of so many talented and inspiring people.”

Read Henrietta’s full report


Ming Ho

Ming Ho(Credits: Casualty, The Bill, Heartbeat, EastEnders, McCready and Daughter)

Communing with writers from all over the world gave us a chance to see that we share the same challenges.”

Read Ming’s full report


Emma Reeves

Emma Reeves0004colweb(Credits: The Dumping Ground, Tracy Beaker, Young Dracula, Sadie J, Doctors, Eve)

“As we British writers continue to struggle for artistic freedom and respect, it is inspiring to know that we’re supported by writers around the world.”

Read Emma’s full report


Gail Renard

Gail Renard(Credits: Give Me A Chance, Get Up, Stand Up, The Famous Five, Custer’s Last Stand Up)

“We might write alone but we stand together as one, saying ‘let writers write’.”

Read Gail’s full report



Alistair Rutherford

Alistair Rutherford(Credits: Backflip, Eight Words, Lift Off, An Island Between Heaven and Earth, Happy New Year)

“To know there are many screenwriters, in the UK and across the globe, who achieve long and successful careers, is inspiring, empowering and highly motivating.”

Read Alistair’s full report

Dead men's teeth and how they inspired me

on Monday, 13 October 2014 13:15. Posted in Books and Poetry

Jamie Rhodes on his latest work, tips for new writers and why he is a Guild member

JamieRhodes“I first realised I wanted to become a writer when I was 11. I went to a fairly rough comprehensive in Bradford and hated music lessons. So I used to sit at the back of the class and read a book. The teacher let me do it as I think he was just happy with one less pupil being disruptive. One day he said to me, ‘Jamie, what happens when you’ve read all the books in the world?’ to which I replied, ‘I will write my own.’

I was lucky in that, even though it wasn't a great school, I had good English teachers who nurtured and supported me. In fact, I have dedicated my first short story collection, Dead Men’s Teeth & Other Stories from Voices Past, to them: Ghislaine Anderton, Terry Binns and Joanna Cowie.

The idea for the collection came about after I started following the British Library’s Untold Lives blog, which features snippets from their vast archives.

I applied for Arts Council funding earlier this year, and was successful. This meant I could devote myself to intensive research and writing for six months. I applied for a British Library reader’s pass (which gives you access to their archives) and spent hours wading through old documents, some of them hundreds of years old.

One of the stories I came across was that of a ship’s surgeon, quarantined for three weeks aboard an indenture vessel stricken with cholera in the 19th century, outside Suriname. I did a degree in philosophy at Manchester Metropolitan University, and in my writing like to explore broader facets of the human condition. So on the surface this is a dark and interesting tale of a man trapped on a ship. On another level it is about the lack of understanding we feel about why we are here, not sure if we are ever going to reach our destination, wherever that is.

I also find inspiration in observing people. One tip I would give emerging writers is get yourself a part-time job that is public-facing in some way. Working in a bar might not be glamorous, but it is a good way to support yourself financially in the early days, and there are lots of opportunities to watch people and notice their mannerisms.

Another tip would be to be open-minded about opportunities that come your way, even if they aren’t what you ultimately want to do. It will gain you experience, and also show agents/publishers that you are serious about your career. My first professional credit was as a screenwriter, on a public service information film. I have also written radio plays, taught screenwriting in schools, worked as a journalist, run career-strategy workshops for writers, and founded the Homeless Film Festival.

I’m passionate about ensuring that marginalised groups are able to benefit from creativity and the arts. Human beings have a unique capacity not only to create, but to appreciate art, and I think everyone should have access to that, whoever they are. It is part of enjoying and exploring the full spectrum of experiences available to us.

Every writer should join the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, whatever stage they are at in their career. It is the writers' trade union. I joined as soon as I got my first professional credit in 2010, and have been active in the East Midlands and London regions. I’ve been on committees and helped organise events. It’s a great way of meeting other writers, and also the more you put in, the more you get back. And you definitely get taken more seriously by agents and publishers if you are a member.

The London & South East branch of the Guild was with me every step of the way on Dead Men’s Teeth & Other Stories from Voices Past, giving me a letter of support for my application for Arts Council funding, and setting me up with a mentor, writer Caz Moran. She has been fantastic and a huge benefit to my professional development. This really helped me make the leap from writing in script form to writing short stories. It was a big jump but by the end of six months I was producing an average of 8,000 words per week.

The Guild has also helped me promote my short story collection, alongside the British Library, which is keen to show how its archives are far from stuffy. For me, they were a mine of endless fascinating stories, and a seed for my creativity.”

Find out more

Dead Mens TeethDead Men’s Teeth’s & Other Stories from Voices Past is published by Mardibooks. The collection is published in collaboration with the British Library and is funded as part of an Arts Council programme to support emerging writers.

To book tickets for the launch event at the British Library on 20 October, where there will be readings and dramatic performances, visit the British Library website.

Writers' Guild members are automatically entitled to a British Library reader's pass

Jamie Rhodes has produced a video on career strategy for writers: 

What people are saying about the book

“Jamie Rhodes has mined and minted gold from the British Library Archives. Inspired by sources as various as a ship's surgeon's log, verbatim interviews, diaries or even advertisements for false teeth, Rhodes gives us glimpses into unexpected places, the forgotten corners of history, in stories told with the authentic weirdness of truth; touching, quirky and humane.”

Olivia Hetreed, President of the Writers' Guild of Great Britain

“We are delighted that our Untold Lives blog inspired this set of short stories created from the ‘small but beautiful details of real lives’ in the British Library Archive Collections.”

Margaret Makepeace, British Library Curator, India Office Records

Book cover design above by Christa Leask

Mike Leigh and other Guild members out in force at BFI London Film Festival

on Wednesday, 08 October 2014 09:56. Posted in General

Writers’ Guild member Mike Leigh’s much-anticipated Mr. Turner receives a gala screening at the 58th BFI London Film Festival, which runs from 8-19 October 2014.

The portrait of the artist JMW Turner is played by Timothy Spall, who won Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year for the role. The film focuses on the last 25 years of Turner’s life when his painting moved towards the Impressionist style for which he became remembered. It also probes the colourful life of a character who famously strapped himself to the mast of a ship so he could paint a snow storm.

Writer/director Mike Leigh has described Turner as "a great artist: a radical, revolutionary painter… I felt there was scope for a film examining the tension between this very mortal, flawed individual, and the epic work, the spiritual way he had of distilling the world."

The UK release date is set for 31 October 2014.

The BFI London Film Festival will bring 248 films to 17 venues across the capital over 12 days. It will feature screenings on themes including love, family, treasures, cult and thrill; and competitions, including the Best Film Award and First Feature Competition.

Other Writers’ Guild members whose work is being shown at the Festival include Gregory Burke ('71), Joe Fisher (Electricity), Leslie Stewart (Moomins on the Riviera) and Jack Thorne (War Book).

The full programme, including bookings, can be viewed here.

‘Alone. And then together. That is our theme’

on Wednesday, 08 October 2014 08:38. Posted in Events

The World Conference of Screenwriters (WCOS) took place on 1-2 October 2014 in Warsaw, attended by the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, and 29 other guilds and writers’ organisations from across the globe. The conference was the third of its kind, and a fourth was announced for Paris in 2016.

The two resolutions below were passed at the conference. They are followed by an unedited transcript of closing remarks from Chris Keyser, President of the Writers Guild of America West and Chair of the Policy Review Group, International Affiliation of Writers Guilds.

Resolution 1

Statistics from writers' organizations around the world show clearly that women writers are under employed. We write fewer scripts, receive fewer commissions, have shorter careers and earn less than our male colleagues.

Women have the talent, experience and ambition to participate as equals in every aspect of the industry. What stands in our way is institutional gender bias.

We the 30 guilds and writers organizations present at the Warsaw Conference of Screenwriters 2014 representing 56,000 male and female screenwriters, call upon our commissioners, funders, studios, networks and broadcasters to set the goal of having 50% of scripts across genres and at every budget level written by women.

Let us reflect back to our audiences, and especially our children, worlds in which men and women are truly equal.

Resolution 2

The third World Conference of Screenwriters in Warsaw was organized at a time of great change in the global film and television industries.

This golden age of television is created by writers. The season(s) long narrative arc allows unprecedented room for the development of multi-dimensional characters and intricate plots.

Investment in writers to allow them the creative and financial space to do what they do best is key to the strengthening and continuation of quality television which appeals to audiences both local and global.

Be it resolved that the 30 screenwriter guilds present in Warsaw at WCOS03, representing 56,000 writers, assert the essential role of the creator and his/her singular vision in the production of quality television. We propose the Danish model of “one vision”, which has respect for creators at its core, as the industry standard to be adopted by broadcasters, digital subscription services, funding agencies, producers and studios.

Writers must be provided with the time and resources to develop their plots and characters without either being rushed to camera or interfered with by executives who so often muddy the creative waters. We also resolve to focus on professionalizing the “Created By” credit in all our negotiations to ensure fair remuneration and respect are attached, and to create a global standard for this credit.

Be it resolved as well that the 30 screenwriter guilds present in Warsaw at WCOS 03 call for the financial means necessary through collective bargaining for all writers to be able to focus on their craft in order to support, encourage and preserve the professional quality of the stories the audience expects and deserves.

Closing remarks by Chris Keyser, President of the Writers Guild of America West and Chair of the Policy Review Group, International Affiliation of Writers Guilds

Thank you, Sveinbjorn and Maciej – the FSE and the IAWG – our hosts here in Warsaw – and all of you who have gathered here for the past two days.

In five minutes or so, when I conclude my remarks (in case anyone is counting down), we will all turn to each other and say goodbye and head home. Across town, or a continent or an ocean. We will go back to writing alone. That is how most of us work – in rooms, by ourselves.

But whenever I speak to members of my own Guild, I remind them that we write alone, together. Within our own countries or across cultures, we are engaged in an extended written conversation – an endless typewritten braid – that, taken together, is a record of what it means to be human and alive in the 21st century. We read, and now more frequently, we watch each other’s work. We steal – in the best possible sense of the word – what we love – and our own writing is change by it.

And every once in a while, we get together in one room, to complain about how hard it is to do what we do – or to marvel at how much power we have to move the world.

The resolution proposed by this conference – and that we adopt today – is an acknowledgement of that power. That scripted television, as it has evolved in form and content – and as it is now delivered on many platforms to virtually every inch of every corner of the world – is as excellent as it has ever been. It is as pervasive and influential as it has ever been.

Great television is the work of great writers. And great writer are at their best when they are unhindered, when their work is unfiltered and undiluted. Yes, television is a collaborative project – but no one who ever printed a book, or bound a book, or drove it by truck to market, could ever make that book worth reading or turn a good story great. Only we – writers – can do that.

Here is the complicated truth though: television is an expensive proposition. And when you ask for enough paint to paint the Sistine Chapel, someone is going to give you a note. Probably the guy who paid for the paint or who owns the ceiling. What we ask from those who fund our work is that they develop the wisdom to control their own fear and to acknowledge the power of the singular creative vision.

In my own country, we know that no movie written by committee was ever nominated for an Academy Award and that now, in television, the meddling broadcast networks can no longer compete with more trusting and hands-off cable and online providers when it comes to the quality of content. What is good for writers is also good for those who pay for our work. We – and our singular vision – are the very best return on their investment.

When we are left do our jobs, that thing we begin, alone in our rooms, ends up bringing more people together in shared experience and conversation – teaches us more about ourselves and about each other – than any other creative product in history.

Alone. And then together. That is our theme.

Here, in Warsaw, together – we are the largest gathering of representatives of all the world’s screen, television and digital media writers. What we claim for ourselves and for those who are not here, but whom we represent, is free expression and fair compensation. What we acknowledge by being here is that what is good for writers anywhere is good for writers everywhere. And though we often compete in the global marketplace, we have each other’s backs.

We what know, is that though what we claim to do is entertain – and that matters – what we also do is hold ourselves, our governments, and each other, accountable for our behavior on this planet that we share. And that matters even more.

If you will permit me a personal note: it is so moving to me that we should do this here, in Warsaw, in Poland. This is my first visit. But a branch of my family left here for America well over a century ago. And a branch of my wife’s died here during the war. Being in this place gives me a very intense feeling of connectedness. I can feel the struggle. Against so many different kinds of evil. And the perseverance. And the triumph. And the powerful works of art – of film and fiction and poetry – written as a response, and as source of hope and as a hedge against mortality.

I am encouraged by the commitment, skill, honesty and strength in this room. Together – within each of our countries and together throughout the world, we can preserve both the creative and economic vitality of our work.

I – and I know all of us from the Writers Guilds of America, West and East – will return home with a renewed commitment to our own fights, knowing that, at the same time, you are fighting yours – and that, when we can, whenever we can, we will help each other.

In the end, of course, there will be silence, but in the beginning there is only the word. I ask you to return home, yourselves, empowered by your own possibilities.

And in that vein, I leave you with these few lines from The Joy of Writing, by Wislawa Szymborska, a national treasure here, but one that belongs to all of us:

The twinkling of an eye will take as long as I say,
and will, if I wish, divide into tiny eternities,
full of bullets stopped in mid-flight.
Not a thing will ever happen unless I say so.
Without my blessing, not a leaf will fall,
not a blade of grass will bend beneath that little hoof's full stop.
Is there then a world where I rule absolutely on fate?
A time I bind with chains of signs?
An existence become endless at my bidding?
The joy of writing.
The power of preserving.
Revenge of a mortal hand.

Thank you all, and good afternoon.


BBC to discontinue EastEnders omnibus

on Thursday, 02 October 2014 12:12. Posted in TV

The BBC has formally announced its intention to discontinue the EastEnders omnibus from April 2015. A copy of the announcement follows. If you would like further information then please contact Bill Armstrong, Chair of the Guild’s TV Committee (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). If you are an EastEnders writer and not a member of the Guild, follow the links to join from our homepage.

To All Writers & Writers’ Agents

29 September 2014

Dear all,

The BBC is today announcing that the EastEnders omnibus will cease from April 2015. This decision has been taken after much consideration and detailed analysis of the audience research.

As the television landscape has changed dramatically over the past few years and the way in which viewers watch programmes has evolved – with the advent of PVRs and the wide availability of BBC iPlayer on computers, tablets, connected TV etc. – the majority of viewers now catch-up with EastEnders in alternative ways (indeed EastEnders is consistently the most-viewed series on BBC iPlayer) and the audience for the EastEnders omnibus has steadily decreased.

With the anticipated introduction of 30 day catch-up on BBC iPlayer in the near future, as well as BBC One + 1, there will be even more opportunities for viewers to watch episodes they’ve missed.

EastEnders remains at the heart of the BBC One schedule and continues to be one of the most popular programmes on British television. The BBC is absolutely committed to the future of EastEnders as illustrated by the huge investment its making in the Elstree site and the re-building of the EastEnders Lot, which is due to start next year.

In recognition of the fact that the loss of the omnibus would have had a significant impact on what the actors and writers are paid, we have come up with an alternative approach to the structuring of talent pay to ensure that talent continues to be rewarded fairly.  

Going forward current script rates will be maintained and  writers will move from a script fee plus narrative repeat fee (totalling 175%) to a script fee for one transmission plus advance against future public service use (valued at 175%). The advance against future public service use will cover any future repeats of the programme on terrestrial or digital channels should they be commissioned. Script fees won’t cover BBC iPlayer – this will continue to be paid via Writers Digital Payment as it is now.

Our aim is to ensure that no writer unfairly loses out due to the loss of the omnibus.

If you have any queries please let me know or contact Michelle Matharu in the Literary Copyright team. 

With very best wishes,

Dominic Treadwell-Collins

Executive Producer, EastEnders