SoA welcomes international legal study on fair remuneration for audiovisual authors
A new international legal study is supporting the call for legal reforms to help screen writers and directors earn royalties for the use of their work. The study, commissioned by the International Confederation of Scieties of Authors and Composers (CISAC) and Writers & Directors Worldwide (W&DW), sets out a series of recommendations that tie in with our own CREATOR campaign for fair contracts. Click here to read our full story.
Ofcom has given a provisional green light to the launch of a new £32m channel, BBC Scotland. With an anticipated 3.65% audience share resulting in a total share for the BBC of 32.9% (and a 0.5% decline for STV) the regulator has determined that the channel would be 'unlikely' to significantly impact upon commercial rivals.
Netflix is on the lookout for new commissions that have 'authenticity, specificity and passion'. 'If you are a creator who has something that checks all those boxes, then you should get in touch. We can discuss the best format for your show together - whether it is a documentary, a series or a film' the company's vice-president of original programming Cindy Holland said at a recent industry event. Holland also offered insight as to the role viewing data plays in the commissioning process: 'we think about [...] whether we can afford the proposed budgets through a series of projection models'.
The Film & TV Charity launches support line - 0800 054 00 00
The Film & TV Charity (formerly the Cineman and Television Benevolent Fund) has launched their 24/7 confidential phone service offering advice to industry workers seeking guidance on issues ranging from bullying and harassment to mental heath concerns, bereavement, addiction and substance abuse. The initiative is supported by the BFI, The Production Guild, Women in Film and TV, Film Distributors' Association, Pact, and the UK Cinema Association as well as other supporting partners and follows the publication of pan-industry guidelines developed by the BFI and BAFTA in February.
Audible grow their audio-exclusive offering
Following the success of audio-exclusive material from Margaret Atwood and Philip Pullman amongst others Audible are to grow their direct-to-audio programme to include short stories by authors including Ben Okri, Adam Thirlwell, Sarah Hall and Joanne Harris. 'Writing this story for audio was an irresistible challenge and an unmitigated delight I think it is a magical medium for the imgination' Okri told the Times whilst Hall hailed the authenticity of the format: 'the voice of the story itself really matters: it becomes the voice of your thoughts, the voice of your imagination. To go back to this critical factor as part of a commission is a wonderful reminder of that original conveyance of the form'. New research from Nielsen Book Research has found that audiobook sales have doubled in five years with a 17% growth over the past 12 months and currently accounting for 5% of book sales in the UK.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Hexagonal Phase (BBC Radio 4): interview with co-producer (and committee member) David Morley
We have today (17 April) published our Q&A with David Morley on his role as co-producer to the new series of the cult classic - designed to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the radio series and including many of the original cast. Catch up on the series now via the BBC iplayer.
Median earnings of an AV scriptwriter in Europe less than €18,000 , survey finds
A survey commissioned by the Federation of Screenwriters in Europe (FSE) and the Federation of European Film Directors (FERA) has found that both young writers and those over the age of 65 writing screenplay are earning on average less than €15,000 annually whilst for those writers at their financial peak (media avg: aged 50) average earnings are at €30,000 for men and €24,000 for women. The report also found that 42% of writers look outside the industry for additional work. The full report can be read here.
The BBC 'needs to think again of its basic purpose': Tony Garnett
Tony Garnett - the producer of TV's most powerful political and social dramas across half a century - has called upon the BBC to establish itself as 'the central platform for a national conversation' in respect to which the organization is currently 'derelict' with managers prefering 'to close down creativity than get into trouble' in an interview with the Guardian. 'Of almost everything I put together from the mid-1960s to the end of the 1970s, not of the [films] that people remember would have had a chance of being made today' - and not for a lack of talent, Garnett told the paper. Law & Order (1978) - a show believed to have facilitated changes to the laws on policing - is currently being repeated on BBC Four. Catch up now via the BBC iplayer.
Pay increase for scriptwriters for work performed in ITC theatres
Scriptwriters whose work is performed in ITC theaters will see pay rates increase by 2.9% from 1 April 2018 and by a further 2.5% (calculated on the new rate) from 1 April 2019, under the terms of a collective agreement negotiated by the Writers Guide of Great Britain. Those commissioned in the higher bracket of plays of over 70 minutes in duration will see payments rise to £8,952 this year and £9,176 the next. Full rates can be reviewed here.
Gender pay across the broadcast industry
Broadcasters have been releasing information on their gender pay gap in accordance with a government initiative that is highlighting an imbalance of opportunity for women across a range of industry sectors. A media gap of 24.2% has been reported at Channel 4; 9.3% at the BBC; and 18.2 at ITN. The SoA has made a submission to the BBC under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to receive comparable data for freelance scriptwriters commissioned across a series of defined periods. [Update: the BBC have confirmed that they will not be providing the requested information citing Part VI of Schedule 1 to FOIA that information held by the BBC is only covered by the Act if it is held for 'purposes other than those of journalism, art or literature'.
Time's Up at the Olivier Awards
Representatives and activists from the Time's Up movement to stamp out sexual harassment in the workplace will be raising the profile of the campaign at the forthcoming Olivier Awards to be held 8 April. The ceremony will be hosted by Catherine Tate and will be broadcast to every country worldwide except China and North Korea through a digital partnership with Facebook, with highlights to be shown on ITV in the UK shortly after the event. The nominations for Best New Play are: The Ferryman (Jez Butterworth), Ink (James Graham), Network (Lee Hall and Paddy Chayefsky) and Oslo (J. T. Rogers). The complete list of nominations can be found here. Update 9 April: The Ferryman (Jez Butterworth) - set in County Armagh against the backdrop of The Troubles in the 1980s - has scooped the award for Best New Play with the play's director Sam Mendes and actress Laura Donnelly also recognised as Best Director and Best Actress.
Little, Brown to publish original screenplay for 2nd Fanastic Beasts film by J K Rowling
Publication is currently scheduled to co-incide with the worldwide release of the film 16 November and will join, in the publisher's catalogue, the screenplay for the 1st film which - with sales exceeding 418,300 copies - is currently the second highest-selling script of all time. The screenplay to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, also published by Little, Brown currently holds the top spot.
Opportunity to feed back on the BBC's draft new distribution policy - closes Monday 9 April 2018
The BBC has launched a public consultation on its draft new distribution policy which, once implemented, will govern how its services are made available to the public - including via third party distribution platforms where over 80% of BBC iPlayer content is enjoyed. As required under the terms of its Royal Charter and Framework Agreement the organization is also inviting consultation from Ofcom, the communications regulator.
The policy sets out a number of conditions judged by the BBC to be reasonable and necessary in ensuring that their distribution partners - including Now TV, BT TV and Virgin Media - share the same incentives as the BBC to invest in and showcase Bristish content.
The seven conditions include considerations relating to 'Quality', 'Editorial Control' (reserving editorial control to the BBC in respect both the content itself and its placement) and 'Data' (ensuring that the BBC have access to data about the usage of its services) as well as 'Prominence', 'Branding & Attribution', 'Free Access' and 'Value for Money'.
For further information, to view the draft policy documentation and to offer a response to the BBC directly please click here.
Female TV writers call on British drama executives to address imbalance of opportunity
Over 70 female scriptwriters writing for TV, whose credits includes shows such as Midsomer Murders and EastEnders, have called on drama commissioners to address the fact that British drama was 'overwhelmingly written by men'. In an open letter 76 signatories, including Bafta-nominated writer Lisa Holdsworth accused bosses of failing to afford female writers the opportunity to write for some of the biggest primetime shows.
The letter follows the news that out of the eleven drama programmes said to be planned by ITV for broadcast in 2018 only one - an adaptation of Vanity Fair by Gwyneth Hughes - features a female lead writer, reflecting the estimation that female writers are employed for primetime drama at a ratio of around 1:9 once continuing drama series are discounted.
Whilst there are many female writers working for the UK soap opera genre 'these talented and hard-working female writers remain an untapped resource' the letter noted, even in light of the major success enjoyed by Call The Midwife (Heidi Thomas), Happy Valley and Last Tango In Halifax (both Sally Wainwright).
Results of research into the under-representation of women in film and TV is due to be published by the Writers' Guild of Great Britain in May.
Scriptwriters established in theatre increasingly drawn to writing for TV
Olivier award-winning playwright Mike Bartlett has spoken to industry journal Broadcast on the trend for cross-pollination between theatre and television (his multi-award winning Doctor Foster (BBC) was directly inspired by his stage adaptation of Euripides' Medea): '[..] it makes sense that we'd be attracted to television' Bartlett noted 'You can reach out more easily'. Elsewhere BBC drama controller Piers Wenger suggests that '[...] playwrights see television as enabling them as storytellers', and ITV head of drama Polly Hill attributes the trend to the fact that 'for writers, switching between the creative demands of a play and episodic television must be such a joy. They're exercising different muscles'.
Former Channel 4 director of programmes and creative heavyweight Jay Hunt is expected to work with indies to commission scripted programming with a distinctly British feel and of global appeal in her new role as programming chief at Apple. It is anticipated that commissioned content, which will be free from the time-slot restrictions of traditional scheduling, will approach the tone of Luther, Planet Earth and Sherlock and of BBC1 and C4 programming more generally.
Bullying and Harassment
Industry groups including Equity and Women in Film & Television have united in support of 8 behavioural principles drawn up by BFI and Bafta, marking the first time that film and TV organisations have collaborated on pan-industry guidelines. BFI's head of inclusion Jennifer Smith has assured the large community of freelancers widely employed across the industry that 'the guidelines are designed with them in mind'. The guidelines can be viewed in full here.
Bad Wolf Productions establishes TV hub in Wales
Inspired by industry practices in the US Bad Wolf Productions have been focused on developing opportunities for studio-based recording and production at their site WolfStudios Wales, with A Discovery of Witches (Sky) and His Dark Materials (BBC) already in process at the facility. The company - who hope the initiative will offer secure work to the production community 52 weeks a year - has been supported in their endeavours by the Welsh government who acquired the site and extended the company a loan to the value of £4m.
The BBC are further developing their podcast strategy as the audio format gains traction across the wider industry, with the corporation hailing their first TV-related audio show – supporting Blue Planet II – a success, with its ‘skittish, [and] flirtatious’ tone setting it apart from the original (TV) series. With 240 million podcast downloads in 2017 BBC Radio are looking to develop standalone podcasts that will be independent of shows or stations, with some of those to be made available via their Podcasting House platform. We are discussing podcasting terms with the BBC.
Elsewhere Amazon's audiobook subsidiary Audible is developing its own podcast strategy to include original drama produced in-house. The organization has pledged to invest $5 million toward the commission of 1 and 2 character plays by emerging artists.
UKTV, ITV and Simon & Schuster are also investing in the podcast format.
Imison and Tinniswood Awards
We are delighted to announce that this year's Imison Award has been won by Adam Usden for his 'strikingly compelling' radio drama The Book of Yehudit, while Sarah Woods has scooped the Tinniswood Award for her 'dark and original' play Borderland. We congratulate John Finnemore for achieving a commendation from the judges for his Tinniswood submission Penguin Diplomacy. Jane Wainwright’s Wide Open Spaces was shortlisted for the Imison, and Jenny Lomas by David Eldridge for the Tinniswood. We are grateful to ALCS and Peggy Ramsay Foundation for their kind sponsorship of these awards. To read the scripts, listen to clips or for further information please visit the SoA website http://www.societyofauthors.org/News/News/2018/January/Audio-Drama-Award-Winners.
BBC TV Rates
The PMA and the Writers’ Guild have agreed a 1.5% increase on all minimum rates for BBC TV drama and scripted comedy. The new rates, effective 4th December 2017, are:
Teleplays: £199 per min, £11,940 per hour;
Series/ Serials: £182 per min, £10,920 per hour;
Dramatisations: £132 per min, £7,920 per hour;
Adaptations: £81 per min, £4,860 per hour;
Educational Drama: £121 per min, £7,260 per hour;
Attendance Fees: £106
BBC Radio Rates
We are continuing to negotiate the annual increment for writers’ contributions in the face of increased rights requests by the BBC and will report further in due course.
London Book & Screen Week
A special screening of Suffragette with Dr Helen Pankhurst (author of Deeds Not Words and consultant on the film) has been announced as part of the festival’s programme of events for 2018, designed to mark the centenary of the women’s vote. The festival, running 9 – 15 April 2018, will also feature appearances by Nick Harkaway and Jojo Moyes.
Women in Film and Television (WFTV) have received testimonies from over 100 respondents to their call for people to share their experiences of sexual harassment, bullying and abuse of power in the broadcast industry.
The submissions, received across a one-month period and predominantly from women working in TV due to the higher proportion of women working in that media, will inform industry-wide guidelines that are being prepared by WFTV in association with Directors UK, the BFI and Pact. WFTV are also working together with Equity and Unite at a roundtable chaired by Labour MP Harriet Harman to establish a set of best-practice guidelines suitable for use across a range of industries.
In an interview with Broadcast (17 November) the WFTV’s chief executive Kate Kinninmont said “Some people have been going through utter hell and have left the industry because of bullying, sexual harassment and various power plays”.
The news follows a similar findings in The Bookseller whose survey Sexual Harassment in Publishing found just over 50% of 388 respondents had experienced abuse. The SoA has pledged our support to campaigns and on 15 November we published Abuse and the Posion of Silence by screenwriter and chair of the SoA’s Broadcasting Group committee Elizabeth-Anne Wheal.
Channel 5 hosted a live debate #MeToo on 22 November after Catey Sexton’s film Raped: My Story (Lambert Productions). The panel discussed allegations from Hollywood and Westminster in front of an invited audience of rape survivors, law makers and support workers.
Contracting on a fast-fee basis
We have received complaints that writers have been contracted on a fast-fee basis rather than Feature, Talks or RAC4 contracts. The Musician’s Union report similar problems with the BBC and we will be focussing on this in the coming months. Please contact us if you have experienced any problems.
Gross not PAYE
Members have complained that the BBC have paid them on a PAYE basis citing IR35 regulations and refusing to correct their error. HMRC and payroll experts at accountants H W Fisher have confirmed that writers fall outside of such arrangements and should always be paid gross with employers being responsible for correcting any payroll errors. Excess deductions should be refunded to the freelancer and instances reported and adjusted by the employer on their next payment to HMRC (within that tax year). We urge members to check their statements immediately and contact us for support.
As part of our CREATOR campaign we would like to focus on broadcasters and improve how members are contracted and commissioned.
We are currently concerned with issues around fair-dealing and are reviewing all our BBC minimum terms agreements, but are also simply interested in the profile of our members - whether you are currently writing TV or film and which production companies/broadcasters are commissioning SoA members. Please contact Theo Jones at the SoA with any comments you may have.
SoA Literary Estates (original scriptwriting and non-dramatic work licensed for adaptation)
The following productions are currently showing (under licence from the SoA acting on behalf of the literary estates):
George Bernard Shaw: Saint Joan - 15 March-14 April - Ustinov Studio, Theatre Royal Bath, UK
Harley Granville Barker: Agnes Colander - 25 April on (3 April previews) - Manhattan Theatre Club at The Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, New York, U.S.A.
Hannah Silva's new radio play 'Indigo Children' (directed by Jude Kelly, artistic director of the Southbank Centre and founder of Women of the World Festival) will broadcast Wednesday 18 July 14.15 - one of a series of commissions for Radio 4 that explore the experiences of people and communicties across the UK.The drama centres on Ros, a teenager who is embracing her recent diagnosis of autism and her mother Lydia. Ros persuades Lydia to revisit a phase in her childhood when they were swept up in a movement that promised children like Ros were truly special. Termed 'indigo children' it was suggested that inhabited a higher level of consciousness and enjoyed telepathic powers.
Neil Gaiman has been commissioned to adapt Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast for TV, in a production from FremantleMedia. Speaking to the Guardian Gaiman said that it was 'an honour to have been given the opportunity to help shepherd Peake's brilliant and singular vision to the screen'. Writer-director Akiva Goldsman (A Brilliant Mind) will join the project as an executive producer.
Do you have scripts in production, on stage, film or TV? Please let Theo know.