Thursday, 6 December 2007

A Date For Your Diaries?

From the WGGB website:

"Do you write for a long-running drama series? Would you like to write Holby City, Casualty, EastEnders or Doctors? Do you have experience of working on any of those shows? If so, this is a unique opportunity to hear about how the BBC have been adapting their shows - and the working conditions on them - to make them more writer-friendly shows.

John Yorke, Controller Drama Production Studios for the BBC will be talking about changes he's made to the BBC's working practices and ways in which he is working to put writers back at the heart of the creative process. He will also be taking questions on this subject.

Other senior BBC drama executives will also be attending this event and will be taking down the names of anyone deemed insufficiently impressed. [Okay, I added that last bit, it should read will be available for questions.]

This event is intended primarily for professional writers working in the TV industry and not as an opportunity to learn about ways in. Speakers will focus on current working practices in the BBC and ways in which the role and profile of writers on long-running drama series are changing.

The session will be chaired by Gail Renard, Chair of the Writers' Guild TV Committee on Wednesday 12 December 2007, 7pm until 9pm at the Writers' Guild Centre, 15 - 17 Britannia Street, London WC1X 9JN. "

Check the WGGB website for more information and to book.

There's also a chance to submit questions anonymously.

There will, of course, be mulled wine and mince pies afterwards.

Faustus is under no illusion that serious questions will be pressed on this occasion. His advice is that we should all use the opportunity to show John how enthusiastic and happy we are in the hope of getting more work. We gotta live, after all.

However, Faustus did have a dream last night in which a BBC Executive stood in front of the crowd and demanded to know who Faustus was. After a chilly moment of silence a man stood up and said, “I am Faustus.” A moment later another man stood up. “I am Faustus.” Then a woman stood up. Then whole groups of people got to their feet chanting “I am Faustus”. Then I woke up. Delusions of grandeur or what?


Gail Renard said...

Hi, Faustus! I'm Chair of the Guild's TV Committee as well as this event, and I'd PAY to know who you are! (Mind you, I'd earn the money back quickly because every writer wants to know.)But Faustus is right. This is an excellent opportunity to meet and talk to John Yorke and his execs; and also to pose all the questions you wish, anonymously, if you prefer. It's a positive step because we've asked to be listened to, and John Yorke is listening. Would that the probs in the Middle East could be discussed and solved in such a civilised manner!

Faustus said...

Hats off to the WGGB. It would be nice, well useful, if the writers were to say at that event what they've been saying here.

Anonymous said...

Gail or whoever else is looking in,

The questions that really need to put are:

What do John and the other execs believe are the problems with the current arrangements and BBC drama in general?

How do they plan on trying to address those problems?

It's really important that, on our side, we get down to nitty gritty issues, rather than just having a self-indulgent whinge.

For my part I'd also like to see a real discussion about what IS working, which seems to be giving writers more say. Look at Russell's running of Dr Who. Has anyone ever heard a bad word about that guy? Nope, me either.

Also, what do they plan on doing about with established writers who aren't Jimmy McGovern or Paul Abbott? Is there a place for these writers within BBC drama?

Most of the day to day problems come down to lack of communication and involvement, alongside a real lack of understanding of what writers actually do. If we can tackle those issues, we're more than halfway home.

In terms of addressing the 'fear' issue, why not roll out a retainer system similar to the US model and the Writers' Academy?

Richard_S said...

You know, I was thinking of giving it a miss. I think I'll go now, ready and willing to step forward for you. As long as everybody else does, of course.

Anonymous said...

I'm Faustus

Gail Renard said...

Thanks, everyone. I'll do my best to make sure the feedback I'm being given will be heard.

Anonymous said...

Gail Renard said...
Thanks, everyone. I'll do my best to make sure the feedback I'm being given will be heard.''

Thanks Gail. And can I just say that the WGGB seems to be a bit more proactive than it used to to thank you.

At the same time you have a hellava lot of ground to make up. I've been a writer for a good number of years. And without doubt over the years I've seen the writer being shoved into a corner, considered more a hired gun or mercenary, there simply to to the bidding and fulfill the vision of the producer. And in some cases the script editor when they happen to be of the 'failed wannabe writer or never argue with a producer cos I wannabe one of those too' variety.

lower end. Not the writers.

Anyone can recognise bad writing. Good writing has to pass both the ignorant and the scared before it gets anywhere. Yeah, blah blah blah another egocentric writer. But you know what? Writers currently make a living because of who they are more than who they know. Though this seems to be changing.

Those issues have to be addressed and not by way of Mckee style 'this is how you do it'

Tv is eating itself because the basic precept of Meaningful Entertainment is being lost in a mirage of yuppie corporate advancement.

Is that an old fashioned view? Maybe. But I'd lay odds that most viewers feel the same way.

I'm not some rabid social drama bod btw. I just like some intelligence on screen. Be it drama, comedy or soap.

Writers in my opinion should be reflectors and instigators. In both cases at the cutting edge.

I think the audience get that. They know what is good and what isn't. They might not have the navel gazing lingo of some execs but what do I know? Two years ago I was getting 9 million viewers.

Now I can't get arrested.

Gail Renard said...

Thanks, but it's only because writers have been brave enough to step forward and tell the Guild what's been happening that we've been able to make our voices heard. Remember that the Guild isn't omnipotent; we couldn't afford the deities.

All our committees are run by Guild members (unpaid) so we all have to do our bit if we want anything to be done. Writer helps writer. On an encouraging note, we're seeing, courtesy of the current WGA strike, what happens when writers band together to improve their lot. Tomorrow the Guild's arranged an event with John Yorke to air recent concerns. This is everyone's opportunity to speak up. Please use it.

Travis said...

So is anyone going to tell us what happened last night?

Anonymous said...

What's the news from the meeting? How did it go?

BTW Gail, it's great to see the Guild being more pro-active!

Anonymous said...

It says on my WGGB newslettet that there is a new CODE OF CONDUCT from the BBC...... Anyone seen it? Read it?

Julia Honour said...

I hear that we have a code of practice, my goodness, will wonders never cease. Though I am bemused to hear that the problems on Casualty were squarely blamed on the writers, it is hard to imagine how a disparate bunch of freelances could be collectively responsible – a bar chart to elaborate on that would have been very interesting.
Now I’m just waiting for that phone call to tell me exactly where I stand vis a vis recommissioning and then I’ll have my life back - I can be down the pub by midday now instead of sitting by the phone all day in case they call.

It is wonderful that a lot of problems have been addressed and undoubtedly those writers in work are having a much happier time. Sad that so many who were loyal through the times of ever shifting storylines, and 12 drafts and so many weekends lost to Friday afternoon notes feel excluded from this brave new world of civilised work practices, with much of the pie being sliced into fewer, larger pieces. What are we to do? I’m thinking about a Cold Feet style drama about a loveable but quirky bunch of unemployed TV writers and what they have to do to survive in the big bad world….

Still, we’ve got TJ’s new drama to keep us in touch with the realities of TV land – maybe we can learn a thing or two about how it’s done. It will be interesting to see if he can make us care about TV people. (Note to Aaron Sorkin – enough already with the haemoraging executive, we’d be quite happy to see him from West Wing go off with the 20 year old doctor, they’re obviously made for each other! And please, an end to the sassy banter between the one from Friends and the religious nut - What? – cancelled after one series? Oh well, that’s TV…