All News & Features

Science fiction theatre: the theatre of tomorrow?

on Friday, 14 June 2013 15:04. Posted in Theatre

Christos Callow Jr. introduces a call for papers for a conference on science fiction theatre

Stage The Future will be, to my knowledge, the first academic conference on science fiction theatre. The idea for such an event came last year when I realised that science fiction and theatre can produce fascinating results when combined.

The first thing to do was to decide where a conference should happen and with whom I would organise it. There are almost no academics researching this subject, but there’s another PhD student – and fellow SF playwright – Susan Gray, who’s researching SF Theatre for her PhD. I wrote to her and I’m happy to say she accepted, so we started planning the conference.

But just what is SF Theatre exactly?

Science fiction theatre could be the answer to how – and why – theatre would survive the modern digital age; it could also attract an important part of the young generation, namely the geeks, to theatres where they’d get much more than the big budget visual effects of Hollywood.

As a genre, science fiction theatre can contribute to both science fiction and theatre, offering new insights, new ways of exploring the relationship between humanity and technology and, of course, new challenges for theatre-makers. Indeed, this could well be the theatre of the future.

Britain's Got Bullies

on Tuesday, 11 June 2013 12:24. Posted in Events

Dinah Rose QC (author of the BBC's Respect at Work Review) will be part of the panel at an event staged by the union BECTU on Tuesday 18th June called Britain’s Got Bullies: Bullying in The Creative Sector.

The session will be chaired by Lisa Campbell, Broadcast editor. Other contributors will include Graham Russell (Change Associates), Donna Taberer (BBC), Anne-Marie Quigg (author of Bullying in the Arts) and Rebecca Peyton (actor and playwright) and sister to the former BBC journalist Kate Peyton who was killed in Somalia in 2005.

This is part of a larger event, the BECTU Freelance Fair , which has sessions covering professional development and networking for film and TV workers people.

There is a booking fee of £10.00 to attend any of the sessions including Britain’s Got Bullies for those who are not BECTU members.

Full details: http://www.bectu.org.uk/news/1937

Mary Macarthur Holiday Trust

on Wednesday, 05 June 2013 13:24. Posted in General

Mary Macarthur was an active trade unionist who fought for ‘tired working women’ who had no hope of respite or of a holiday.

The Mary Macarthur Holiday Trust aims to provide help to those women in need of a break by reason of age; poverty; infirmity; disablement; social or economic circumstances.

The Trust provides financial help towards the cost of a holiday and tries to help as many women as possible each year. Therefore the maximum available for any holiday is normally £350.00, although this may be increased very slightly in exceptional circumstances.

If you know someone who might be eligible for help, please visit the Mary Macarthur Holiday Trust website

Writers' Guild AGM - 14 June

on Tuesday, 04 June 2013 18:03. Posted in Events

The Annual General Meeting of the Writers' Guild will take place on Friday 14 June 2013, from 10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m., at the St Alban's Centre, Baldwins Gardens, London EC1N 7RA. All Guild members are urged to attend. We do know that AGMs can be a bit, well, er, dull, what with all the committee reports, audited accounts, and what-have-you. So this year we have done our best to make it a must-go event, with two star speakers:

Lucy Davies is the new Executive Director of the Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, London – probably this country's leading showcase for new writing and new ideas in theatre. She will talk to us and answer questions about Open Court – the Court's season handing the keys over to writers -- plus other issues relating to writing for the stage, such as how we approach the tough area of devised works and improvisation.

Fin Kennedy is a member of the Guild who has not only won writing awards and established himself as a leading educator, but has also rocked government and the creative world with his hard-hitting report In Battalions, setting out in gruesome detail the effects of public spending cuts on our world-leading theatre industry.

Only Guild members have the opportunity to hear and challenge this amazing double-bill of leading theatre personalities. Don't miss it!

Not only that, but this year's AGM will mark the departure of leading playwright David Edgar after his sparkling six-year stint as President of the Guild. Edgar has hugely raised the profile of the Guild, and spearheaded a major membership recruitment campaign. You need to hear what he has to tell us about the future of trade unionism for writers. Also . . . which leading writer will be taking over as the president of this influential and important writers' union? Find out at the AGM.

On a slightly more bureaucratic level, the AGM will vote and decide on a proposal to change the rules to introduce a new system of income bands as a better way of working out how much each member should pay in subscriptions. It is part of a big project to revolutionise the way the Guild handles its membership and subscriptions procedures. If agreed this would be the first major change to Guild subscriptions for over five years . . . and it could affect you!

All this, plus the chance to hob-nob and network with other writers, Guild members and office holders -- no one else has this opportunity.

The latest edition of UK Writer, the Guild magazine, is on its way to you now, and more details about the AGM are enclosed in that mailing. Further information will be posted on the Writers' Guild website next week.

Don't miss the Guild's best-ever AGM! We look forward to seeing you there.

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Pitching at Cannes

on Tuesday, 04 June 2013 10:55. Posted in Film

Paul Goetzee reflects on his recent trip to the Cannes Film Festival with the Maison des Scénaristes

cannes 3

Are you a scénariste? Or are you an auteur?

In France apparently all screenwriters are expected to be auteurs. A legacy of the anti-literary La Nouvelle Vague, Les Cahiers du Cinéma, Godard, Truffaut, Rohmer and all, no doubt. There is no such thing as a writer in film, only an auteur, which my French dictionary defines as ‘author, creator... perpetrator’ – the last one probably very apt in a lot of film-making.

However, as far as Sarah Gurévick and Nicolas Zappi, founders of the Maison des Scénaristes (the House of Screenwriters) are concerned, writers should not have to be burdened with the obligation to direct. They are screenwriters, not auteurs, creators nor indeed perpetrators.

This may sound odd to English ears. I don’t know about you, but as a screenwriter I feel I’m constantly being nagged to ‘write visually’, ‘think like a director’ and so on. In France this is a given. You think up your story, plan your film... then get behind the camera and make it.

I have to admit I do like directing as well as writing. Whether I am any good at it is another matter. I like planning the whole project from the back of the envelope to the back of beyond. I like working with actors. I like designing sets and costumes, drawing up shooting scripts and storyboards. But a lot of writers I know don’t care about directing – whether it’s a play, a film or anything else. That’s someone else’s job. Someone with more energy, skill and, well, hubris. Writers are there to come up with a good story, then tussle with and defeat all the little narrative gremlins of plot, structure and character motivation that almost always – no, always – rear their beastly little heads.

So what exactly is Maison des Scénaristes (MdS) and how did I come to take part in their event in Cannes?

INT. DESCRIPTIONS – OVERUSED

on Sunday, 02 June 2013 19:57. Posted in TV

William Gallagher on what to write between the dialogue

william-gallagherAlan Plater used to read my scripts and you know that he was tremendously useful, you know he was kind. But let me say it anyway: he was terrifically useful and he was really kind, most especially on the very first one. The Strawberry Thief – I still like the title – got the full Plater treatment in the 1990s and I've remembered every word he wrote me.

The key part, I think, was what you'd now call a praise sandwich or at least a criticism with a bit of a praise topping. He told me that my stage directions had regularly made him laugh aloud, but that my job was to get that life and humour into the dialogue instead. Because, after all, the audience never sees the stage descriptions.

I also remember that when I next did a script, his key comment was that I'd done this, I'd got the energy into where it could be seen. He said it was 'a great step for writer-kind'.

I've only recently realised quite how much he shaped me in how I write descriptions in scripts. I'm a dialogue man, I'm a dialogue fan, that's where I would've said I put my attention and effort and – however much it is – my talent. No, I'm hesitating over that word. Can I go again? I'm a dialogue fan, that's where I would've said I put my attention and effort and – however fast it is – my typing.

But I wrote a book about Alan's The Beiderbecke Affair and he has great descriptions in there. What's more, he wrote them with a very canny eye toward getting cast and crew to read them where usually they, well, don't.

'That’s right, actors don’t,' said James Bolam in my book. 'You go yeah, yeah, but his you read. I mean, his stage directions are worth a read in themselves. They’re so funny, some of them, and they’re so evocative. They create the mood that he wants, that he feels, that he thinks. They’re all done in the same way, not sort of stuck in there but part of the narrative.'

He also had a way of writing just the right amount. He'd conjure that mood in a very short line and sometimes they'd be funny, always they'd be efficient: you'd get his point immediately and you'd enjoy getting it. So – again, I'm ripping off my own book here, but – take this for an example of apparently simple, short, description. It's from The Beiderbecke Affair:

SC. 11 EXT. TREVOR'S FLAT – NIGHT

Establishing shot of Trevor's flat. The cityscape of Leeds, lights shining like it was LA.