(Apologies that it’s taken a while for Faustus to distil the reviews into an intelligible summation.)
So what happened? Well, John Yorke turned up mob-handed, charming but mob-handed, anticipating a rough ride. A small number of writers were there.
The Guild welcomed John and Co, pointing out to everyone that they were honoured to have him there. John then explained that everything is great for writers and if you’re not working it’s because you’re ‘sh*t’. Unquote. That was about it. Then all those people whom you would need to approach if you wanted work sat in the front and faced the writers. One of them pointed out that all previous writing – until they took over recently – was crap. Now it’s great. Because they’re great. And if you don’t think they’re great it’s because you’re crap. Simple.
Questions were taken. Nothing contentious. The Guild read out some uncontentious questions. They were answered clearly. One anonymous question sounded vaguely critical so The Guild read it very fast, missing bits out and at one point said they had trouble reading the writing. Chuckles all round. It all ended with a stirring round of applause as people leapt to their feet shouting ‘John, John,’ or ‘I am saved’. One person declared that hitherto they had lived in the dark but now they could see. Another person who had arrived in a wheelchair actually got up and not only walked for the first time in fifteen years but proceeded to dance the Fox-trot. Er, we are getting carried away by the euphoria. In fact, it just ended with a round of applause, profuse thanks from The Guild to the honoured guests for gracing the writers with their august presence, then everyone stood around for a bit drinking wine and not saying what they thought. Then they all went home or somewhere.
Perhaps the most interesting point put forward was that the BBC will always champion good writing and that if you write well you can be as unpleasant a person as you like. Bad writers are kicked out because there is no room for them. Sounds fair to Faustus. Although we are reminded of an instance when a script editor attempted to sack a writer who is now a household name at an early point in the writer’s career. It was during a serialised adaptation that is now a landmark in BBC history. When the script editor informed the Executive Producer that they needed to drop the writer, the Exec, who is legendary, sacked the editor instead. So we now have a great writer who could so easily have been lost to us or whose work, at least, would have taken longer to reach us. To champion great writing you need to recognise great writing. In this increasingly tick-box world that is likely to get more difficult. And as for being as unpleasant as you like, we all know that being unpleasant in a way that doesn’t diminish the ego of the editor/producer is a fine art that not all have mastered. Perhaps they should add that as a module to one of the MA scriptwriting courses presently littering the halls of academe. Perhaps the Writer’s Guild could sponsor it.