Low pay and no pay unite writers, actors and musicians in Parliament

on Wednesday, 10 December 2014 10:24. Posted in Events

Stark statistics on wages for those working in the creative and entertainment industries were outlined at a Performers’ Alliance House of Commons reception on 9 December 2014.

Kerry McCarthy MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group, whose member unions include the Writers’ Guild, Equity and the Musicians’ Union, also drew attention to the increasing practice of asking musicians, actors and writers to work for free.

In her introductory speech, in the House of Commons Strangers’ Dining Room, she highlighted that:

  • The Writers’ Guild Free is NOT an Option survey last year found that 87% of TV writers had experienced a significant increase in the amount and kinds of work they had been asked to do for free.
  • Research from the Musicians’ Union showed that more than half of professional musicians work for less than £20,000 per year, and that 60% had worked for free over the previous year.
  • A survey conducted by Equity last year found that virtually half of actors earned under £5,000 per year and 86% less than £20,000 per year.

Other issues affecting all three unions’ members included a “triple whammy” of arts funding cuts – at a national and local level, plus greater difficulty getting funding outside London.

The need for more effective equality monitoring, and diversity across the creative industries, was also highlighted.

Members from all three unions take part in this annual event, which gives them the opportunity to lobby MPs, peers and ministers on individual issues. The In Battalions campaign, by Guild member and playwright Fin Kennedy, was the result of a conversation he had with Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries Ed Vaizey MP at the Performers’ Alliance 2012 reception.

Ed Vaizey MP attended again this year and drew attention in his speech to the Government’s announcement, in the recent Autumn Statement, for tax breaks for children’s TV.

Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Harriet Harman MP was also present and stated in her speech that access to arts, culture and creativity should be the right of everybody, not the few.

Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Sajid Javid MP also attended.

Writers' Guild of Great Britain Awards 2014: shortlist announced

on Thursday, 04 December 2014 09:13. Posted in Events

Sandi Toksvig

Writer, presenter, comedian, actress and producer Sandi Toksvig will present the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain annual Awards at RIBA, in London, on the evening of Monday 19 January 2015.

High-profile writers from the worlds of TV, film, theatre, radio, books, poetry and videogames have been regulars at this annual, red-carpet event through its 50-year history.

The Awards, which launched in 1961, give professional writers from across Great Britain the opportunity to honour their peers, and celebrate the importance of writing to the creative industries, both nationally and abroad.

A special award for outstanding contribution to writing and writers is presented every year.

“As a long-standing member of the Writers' Guild I am delighted to be presenting the WGGB Awards,” said Sandi Toksvig. “I am looking forward to an evening of fun and fanfare.”

The shortlist in 13 categories is as follows:

TV Drama – Long Form
Line of Duty (Jed Mercurio), Happy Valley (Sally Wainwright), Peaky Blinders (Steven Knight)

TV Drama – Short Form
The Great Train Robbery (Chris Chibnall), Turks & Caicos (David Hare), Marvellous (Peter Bowker)

TV Drama – Long Running Series
Doctors, Series 15, Episode 66 “Silver on the Heath” (Toby Walton), Holby City, Series 16, Episode 13 “Self Control” (Rebecca Wojciechowski), Doctors, Series 16, Episode 42 “Boiling Point” (Dale Overton)

TV Situation Comedy
Up the Women (Jessica Hynes), Him and Her (Stefan Golaszewski), House of Fools (Vic Reeves & Bob Mortimer)

Best Children’s TV Script
Bye Bye (Denise Cassar and the Bing Writing team), Wizards Versus Aliens: The Thirteenth Floor part 2 (Phil Ford), Strange Hill High: MCDXX Men (Mark Oswin & James Griffiths)

Radio Drama
A Night Visitor (Stephanie Jacob), Magpie (Lee Mattinson), Dangerous Visions: The Bee Maker (Anita Sullivan)

Radio Comedy
Helen Keen’s It is Rocket Science (Helen Keen & Miriam Underhill), The Brig Society (Marcus Brigstoke with Jeremy Salsby, Toby Davies, Nick Doody, Dan Tetsell & Steve Punt), John Finnemore’s Souvenir Programme (John Finnemore)

Best First Novel
The Shock of the Fall (Nathan Filer), A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing (Eimear McBride), Barbarians (Tim Glencross)

Best Writing in a Video Game
A Machine for Pigs (Dan Pinchbeck), 80 Days (Meg Jayanth), Schrödinger’s Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark (Kevin Beimers)

Best First Screenplay
Pride (Stephen Beresford), The Selfish Giant (Clio Barnard), Starred Up (Jonathan Asser)

Best Screenplay
Filth (Jon S Baird), Metro Manila (Sean Ellis & Frank E Flowers), Philomena (Jeff Pope & Steve Coogan)

Best Play
James I (Rona Munro), Visitors (Barney Norris), Dr Scroggy’s War (Howard Brenton)

Best Play for Young Audiences
Minotaur (Kevin Dyer), The Boy Who Cried Wolf (Mike Kenny), Girls Like That (Evan Placey)

Follow the Awards on social media:

Twitter: @TheWritersGuild; #wggbawards

Calling all writers in the Midlands

on Thursday, 13 November 2014 09:44. Posted in Events

Come and join the Writers’ Guild at The Writers’ Toolkit annual networking conference for emerging and established writers, in Birmingham on Saturday 29 November. Run by Writing West Midlands, the region’s literature development agency, the conference offers attendees the pick of 16 sessions with industry professionals. It is also an opportunity for writers to meet, share ideas and make new contacts.

Speakers include agents, editors, publishers, writers, broadcasters, producers, academics and other industry professionals. Writers’ Guild Chair of the West Midlands region, William Gallagher, will be one of the many speakers.

“The Writers’ Toolkit is a longstanding annual event about the practicalities of being a working writer across all media in the Midlands,” said William Gallagher. “It is an event where rubbing shoulders with people is as important as the official sessions, which range from the nuts and bolts of surviving as a freelancer, to more heady discussions about where our industry is going.”

William urges all writers living and working in the region, at whatever stage of their career, to join the Writers’ Guild. "This year the West Midlands region has had a great time producing events with the Birmingham Rep, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal Television Society and the BBC,” he said.

“The biggest one of the year though was with Writing West Midlands, at the Birmingham Literature Festival, where the Guild’s Deputy Chair Tim Stimpson interviewed Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight. It was a public event, a sell-out public event, and seeing a queue to hear a writer talk snaking out across the library – and back again! – was frankly uplifting."

Full details and bookings for the Writers’ Toolkit event can be found on the Writing West Midlands website.

Guild joins other unions in Brussels to discuss the value of writers’ works

on Tuesday, 04 November 2014 11:22. Posted in Events

By Nick Yapp

Around 40 writers’ unions and organisations from 30 European Union countries gathered together for the European Writers’ Council’s annual general meeting and conference in Brussels on 2-3 November 2104.

Presentations at the conference, titled the Value of Writers’ Works, covered (among other subjects) copyright, remuneration, the problems presented by Amazon, the market for books, and Public Lending Right.

There was also much praise for the Writers’ Guild’s Free is NOT an Option campaign. Bill Armstrong, Chair of the Guild’s Television Committee, gave a powerful talk on the subject, condemning the amount of development work screenwriters and others are expected to do without payment.

The titles of two seminars held in the European Parliament highlighted the fact that writers are having to fight the old, old battles: ‘Towards Fair Contractual Agreements’, and ‘Challenges and Solutions for Remuneration and Compensation’. The good news is that European writers are not alone in fighting these battles. Speakers included lawyers, general secretaries from fellow unions, heads of research, a policy officer of the European Commission, and even one of the Vice Presidents of the European Parliament.

We have allies, some of them in high places. They need to be informed, and in many cases reminded, that the recognition of writers, the remuneration they receive, and the conditions they work under are all worsening. Recent research in the UK carried out by the Guild in conjunction with the Society of Authors and Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society has revealed that writers’ earnings have dropped by 29% in real terms over the last eight years.

What was heartening about two long days in Brussels was to experience a feeling that there is hope of progress to be made. This is not the end… and you can finish the Churchillian quote for yourselves, but maybe, just maybe, things are going to get better.

Nick Yapp is Vice President of the European Writers’ Council and has been a Guild member for over 30 years.

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.