Scriptwriters Group - representing writers and makers across digital, broadcast, AV and theatre

Notes from the Committee - October

Dear Members,

As part of our program to refresh these pages, and to encourage members to get more involved with what we're doing, we thought it would be a good idea to keep everyone a bit more in the loop with the kinds of things we've been discussing in the quarterly Committee meetings. So here's a brief rundown of the issues that have filled our agenda over the summer:

Events

Our events calendar has been significantly curtailed this year by a combination of factors, including personnel changes, discussions on rebranding of the group, a new focus on campaigning and lobbying, and the inevitable distrations of the big move to Bedford Row!

However, we've just opened bookings for Book to Screen - a talk hosted by me with Hayley McKenzie, a highly experienced script editor and founder of script consultancy Scriptangel. Hayley and I will be offering practical advice for authors who are looking to exploit their work for TV and film - discussing issues such as: how to decide if your book has potential for adaptation; who to approach; how to approach them; what kind of work is involved in pitching to producers; whether to involve a scriptwriter in your project... and we're planning to make this the introduction to a series of practical Book to Screen workshops offering training in adaptation, pitch writing, etc... so get booking! 

Relaunch of the group

Having final decided on our new name - after extended discussions about making sure we are inclusive of all writers and creators working with scripted content - we're now awaiting the move to the new premises to plan a launch event that we hope will make a splash, as well as setting out our targets for campaigning and lobbying for the year to come.

BBC radio negotiations

Radio Forum negotiations have been dominated for much of the year by the BBC’s insistence on tying agreement of the annual increment to negotiations over podcast fees, terms and conditions.  Our secretary Theo has worked really hard on this and the result is the following: we’ve secured a 2% increase to the minimum rates payable to writers of radio drama effective from 28 August 2018. We have also agreed a further uplift of 2% effective from 1st November 2018. The new public service fee has been increased from 12.5% to 15% calculated on a single transmission fee. On podcasts we have finalised an agreement that commissioned scripts will be remunerated on a fixed fee basis in accordance with agreed slot length categories, in return for a five year licence term (as well as further remuneration for commercial exploitation in line with the RDA) with all terms subject to regular review. You can see details of this over on our BBC rates page: please click here

The PACT Code of Practice for  the engagement of authors as expert consultants or contributors to programmes has, after a lot of negotiation, finally been updated and agreed, and we will be launching it at our AGM next month.  Our initial hope was to have aspects of fair dealing enshrined within the PACT code and to have BBC Studios sign up to it, but unfortunately we were unsuccessful on both counts, so instead we’re going to draft a guidance note which we’ll publish on our website.

Audio Awards 

Last year’s crop of entries for the Imison Award, which our committee judges, was healthily into the high 20s, which was reassuring given the previous year’s drastic reduction in entries, and some suggestion that new writers, particularly females, weren’t getting much of a look in with BBC commissioning.  This year’s numbers are down again, and if it stays low we’ll be doing some analysis of why, as well as requesting some explanations from Alison Hindell, BBC’s new drama and fiction commissioner.­

Television 

This year we’ve been focusing somewhat more than previously on issues affecting screenwriters.  The headlines have been dominated by diversity, pay inequality, and bullying and harassment issues, but we’ve also spent several months chasing the BBC over the issue of pension entitlement for freelance TV writers. Earlier in the year we wrote to the BBC to share our concerns, raised by one of our committee members, that whilst freelance TV writers are eligible to receive a pension contribution from the BBC for work commissioned under the terms of the BBC script agreement this is conditional on the writer joining the WGGB’s pension scheme and – since the WGGB only offer such a scheme to their members – signing up for membership of the WGGB if they were not already members. It is worth noting that until a few years ago non-WGGB members had the choice of requesting the contribution be paid into a scheme offered by the BBC (now closed) and that other organisations operating under comparable collective arrangements have made their schemes open to non-members (Equity and MU). Our concerns were shared by the AAA and PMA who put their names to the letter. The latest update from the BBC is that they are liaising with their external pension supplier we hope with a view to making such a scheme available once again. 

Issues and campaigning

Bullying and harassment and the #metoo campaign have dominated as issues in almost all media and we’ve been keeping members informed of developments in our area of the industry through blogging and news items throughout the year. Following the publication of a shocking report from WGGB about bullying and harassment of writers on BBC continuing drama series (which reflects an industry wide problem) we have been in touch with WGGB, who have been negotiating with the BBC, ITV and others, and are about to publish some guidelines which we hope to be able to sign up to. 

We’ll be updating members regularly from now on on this page, but don't forget that we’re here to support you and your career. Please let us know if there are ways we could be doing this, issues we could be addressing or services we could provide that we're not currently offering. And we very much hope to see you for our AGM and Book to Screen talk on November 7th!

Elizabeth-Anne, Group Chair


Spotlight!

Last updated: 12 October 2018

Funding opportunity: ACE Developing your Creative Practice - deadline 14th November 2018

Round 3 of the Arts Council's new Developing your Creative Practice fund is now open for applications! Individual artists and/or creative practitioners including scriptwriters working across traditional and emerging AV media are entitled to apply with grants of between £2,000-£10,000 on offer to help with research and development opportunities, building new networks and creating new work. Members will be encouraged to see the breadth of projects and new initatives supported as a result of rounds 1 & 2. The funding window will close 12pm (noon) on 14 November 2018: Round 4 will then open on 17 January 2019 before closing 12pm (noon) on 21 February 2019. 

Scriptwriters Group AGM and talk - Book to Screen - Elizabeth-Anne Wheal hosts Hayley Mckenzie, found of Scriptangel Consultancy, 7 Nov at the BFI

For full details and to book tickets please click here.

AGM

Please contact Theo if there are any issues that you would like to raise in advance by Monday 5th November, 5pm

Interested in joining the SWG committee? Nominations must be supported by two SWG members and sent in writing to either Secretary no later than Friday 19 October 2018, accompanied by a letter signed by the candidate expressing willingness to serve. 

SoA, ALCS, WGGB and Directors UK request meeting with DCMS on Brexit

We have today written to the Rt Hon Jeremy Wright QC MP, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to request a meeting in order to discuss the impact of government policy on the rights and interests of scriptwriters as the government prepares for our withdrawl from the EU in March 2019. The key issues that we are hoping to raise include: the implementation of the Digital Single Market Directive in the UK; reciprocal agreements for creators' rights with the EU; free movement for creators and workers in the creative industries; access to EU funding for cultural projects and the Working Time Directive and Health & Safety issues for workers in the creative industries. 

Working Class Heroes September-October 2018 @ BFI

Members might be interested in this season celebrating the charismatic working-class stars who have been lighting up our screens over the last few decades - from Billy Liar, 1963 (Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall) to Bullet Boy, 2004 (Saul Dibb and - Scriptwriters Committee Member - Catherine Johnson) + Q&A with actor Ashley Walters. Highlights also include Poor Cow, 1967 (Ken Loach and Nell Dunn, based on original novel by Nell), Charlie Bubbles, 1968 (Shelagh Delaney) and the Long Good Friday, 1979 (Barrie Keeffe) + Q&A with writer Steven Knight. 

The BFI are kindly offering our members 2 for 1 on ticket sales when booking online, in person or via phone. The code WORKING241 should be quoted at the time of booking. Valid for standard price screenings only and not the £6.50 events.

For more information and to book tickets please click here.

Noticeboard

Latest News

Posted: 16 October 2018

Scriptwriter Richard LaGravenese is to adapt Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks for film, marking the first time an album will have been transposed for the screen

LaGravenese has been asked to adapt the Nobel Prize-winning writer's classic album - originally issued in 1975 -  by director Luca Guadagnino, whose projects include Call Me By Your Name and A Bigger Splash. The result is promised to be a screenplay that follows characters "through a multiyear story, set in the seventies, drawing on the album's central themes". It is not yet clear how the screenplay will make use of the actual music of the record. Click here to read more in the Guardian. 

Radio Times launches #WomensWords campaign 

The Radio Times have today (Tuesday 16th October) launched a new campaign to highlight the achievements of female scriptwriters in an attempt to redress the inequalities demonstrated by the earlier WGGB report that showed just 18% of TV programmes are written by women with that figure dropping to only 14% when it comes to primetime TV. The magazine promises a week of content celebrating and profiling their favourite female screenwriters, exploring how things can get better, pushing for progress and sharing advice for writers who dream of seeing their work on screen. Click here for further information from the Radio Times. 

Applications invited for the BBC's Caroline Aherne Bursary 2019

BBC Comedy commissioning in association with BBC Writersroom and BBC North are looking for "dynamic characters that radiate a northern authenticity" and "writer-performers who reflect modern Britain with voices that have not yet been heard" to put themselves forward for the second round of the Caroline Aherne Bursary scheme. All entries must be submitted by 10am Monday 5 November 2018. A cash award of £5,000 is on offer for the successful applicant as well as the guidance of an experienced BBC commissioning editor. Shane Allen, Controller BBC Comedy commissioning said: "The Caroline Aherne Bursary is an extremely effective way to fast track a career in comedy for someone". For futher information and to apply please click here.

Tax relief fuels growth for UK screen industries says a new report from the BFI and supported by industry partners including Pact, the UK Screen Alliance and Animation UK

A new report has been published showing how tax incentives have succeeded in powering economic growth across the film and high-end TV industries as well as those relating to video games, TV animation programmes and children's TV. The reliefs have helped secure the commission of high-end productions from UK-based producers by Amazon and Netflix (who have recently announced draft plans to establish a studio base in the UK). The boom in spend (uplift of 63% across 4 years) and investment is resulting in a demand for skilled people with the BFI announcing last year a £19 million investment to bring 10,000 new entrants  into the sector. Click here for the full story from the BFI and here to see the full report. 

BBC Editorial Guidelines open for consultation

The BBC have launched a public consultation of its draft Editorial Guidelines which set the content standards for the BBC. In particular feedback is sought in the following areas: (i) are the guidelines clear and straightforward; (ii) are the standards appropriate; (iii) do they address the duty placed on the BBC by the governing Charter with respect to third party partnerships; (iv) do they adequately accomodate changes to the media landscape since they were last reviewed (2010) and (5) how well do they reflect audience expectations of the BBC? The window for comments will close 12 November 2018.

BBC and the BFI launch new initiative for new and emerging talent in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the World Wide Web

The BBC and the BFI are to mark the 30th anniversary of the World Wide Web by inviting submissions from emerging filmmakers that showcase the creativity and diversity of the new generation of film talent in the UK today. Applications must be made via the BFI website and received by Tuesday 16th October 2018. Up to 12 films will receive a grant of between £3000 and £5000 towards the creation or completion of an original short: they may also be screened at BFI Southbank and broadcast on BBC Four in Spring 2019. 

Copyright Directive is green lit in Europe

MEPs have voted in support of the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market which includes a principle of fair and proportionate remuneration for writers from exploitation of their work online (art 14). See our full story here'[The] decision by the European Parliament will finally allow screenwriters and directors to benefit from the ever growing on-demand exploitation of their works' said David Kavanagh, Executive Officer to the Federation of Screenwriters in Europe. A joint press-release from the Federation of European Film Directors (FERA), the Federation of Screenwriters in Europe (FSE) and the Society of Audiovisual Authors (SAA) can be viewed here.

Government sets out potential challenges for broadcasters following no-deal Brexit

The government department for exiting from the EU (DEXEU) has set out what they believe a no-deal Brexit could mean for the broadcast industry as part of a slew of guidance papers published to help public and businesses on how to prepare for crashing out of the EU without a deal. Since the UK would no longer be covered by the EU's audiovisual media services directive broadcasters would likely need to comply with the regulations relevant to each individual country in which they wish to broadcast, possibly facing a requirement to relocate certain operations into the target territory. In his speech on no deal planning in August Secretary of State Dominic Raab outlined the role of the notices in setting out 'clear steps that public institutions, companies and people should take or consider taking, in order to avoid or mitigate or manage the risk of any potential short-term distruption' to facilitate a smooth transition with the government prepared in some cases to '[take] unilateral action to maintain as much continuity as possible at least in the short term, in the event of no deal, and irrespective of whether the EU reciprocates in practices'. 

Radio Forum agrees rates rise for radio writers and minimum terms for podcast

We are pleased to announce an increase to the minimum rates for radio writers and minimum terms for new-make podcasts in a series of amendments made to the Radio Drama Agreement further to collective negotiations between the BBC, the Society of Authors, the Personal Managers’ Association and the Writers’ Guild sitting as the Radio Forum. Writers commissioned for radio broadcast will see an uplift of 2% to the current minimum rates effective from 28 August 2018 and a further rise of 2% from 1 November 2018. Writers are free to negotiate additional increases on a case-by-case basis. The new public service fee, covering broadcasts on 4Extra as well as simulcast and podcast for a five year term, has increased by 2.5% to 15%. Click here for our full story. 

Programme announced for BFI London Film Festival 2018

The line-up for the 62nd London Film Festival, set to take place 10-21 October, has now been announced and can be browsed here. With 38% of films directed by women and gender parity across three of the four competition strands the programme marks a clear contrast to the gender representation stats of Europe's other major film festivals. Of the films presented at Cannes only three out of the twenty films were directed by women whilst at Venice this figure was even lower with only one out of twenty one filmakers a woman. Screen talk events will include appearances by Alfonso Cuaron, Lee Chang-dong, Sir David Hare and Simon Amstell. 

Database for book adaptations launched by producers Uri Singer (Passage Pictures) and George Berry (previously of Netflix and Apple)

A new database has been launched offering writers of published work the chance, for a fee, to make their work more accessible to LA-based producers looking for original content to adapt for TV and film. The initiative, which employs the NLP machine learning algorithm as well human expertise to curate the material for optimal presentation to the industry, is designed to '[bridge] the gap between the written word on paper and the spoken word on screen by paving the way for storytellers around the world to shop their content to the entertainment industry', as the producers quoted to the Bookseller. Please click here for the full story.

The Script Lab's 2019 Script Pipeline Screenwriting & TV Writing Seasons - now open for early entry!

Applications to the Script Lab's forthcoming seasons for original scriptwriting development and exclusive industry introductions must be received by Friday August 31st to be eligible for this early round. The package on offer for the successful applicant includes prize money of up to $50,000 as well as invitations to annual writer and industry events. For more information and to make a submission please click here for screenwriting and here for TV. 

New series of Doctor Who to include an episode penned by Malorie Blackman

The BBC has revealed that Malorie Blackman has joined Ed Hime, Vinay Patel, Pete McTighe, and Joy Wilkinson on the writing team for the series that will air in the autumn.  Blackman, a longtime fan of the show and author of a short story entitled 'The Ripple Effect' published to co-incide with the celebration of the show's 50th anniversary, has hailed the opportunity 'a dream come true'.

Nominations for The Stage Debut Awards 2018 best writer category now published!

Georgia Christou (Yous Two), Kendall Feaver (The Almighty Sometimes) and Natasha Gordon (Nine Night) join Andrew Thompson (In Event of Moone Disaster) and Joe White (Mayfly) as nominees for the best first-time playwright with other categories celebrating the work of actors and actresses, as well as directors, designers, composers, lyricists, and debut performance on the west-end stage. The paper's editor Alisatir Smith said 'this list [of all nominees from all categories] underlines the quite astonishing array of diverse talent breaking through in theatres of all scales and types across the UK'. For more on this story please click here

Theatrical adaptations from books and film sell up to 5X more than wholly original work

Productions based on pre-existing books and film take on average 3.5X more at the box office and sell 4.8X as many tickets as new work, according to new research from the Publishers Association (in association with Frontier Economics and UK Theatre). Taking data from 2016 the report found that an adaptation of a literary work averaged £115,000 during that year, nearly three times that of an original play (which took an average revenue of £41,000). In the west end (west end theatres not being covered in the research) more than 30% of the shows that have run for more than 3,000 performances are literary adaptations with the longest-running play - The Mousetrap - adapted from an original radio play (by Agatha Christie). 

Pay increase for scriptwriters for work performed in TNC theatres

Scriptwriters commissioned for a full-length play for performance in the Royal Court, National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company will now receive a minimum fee of £12,742 after the WGGB negotiated a 1.5% uplift to the minimum rates as set out in their collective licensing arrangements with TNC.  

Films based on literary sources 'tend to have substantially higher grosses' than original screenplay, says a new report from the Publishers Association

Research undertaken for the PA's landmark report 'Publishing's contribution to the wider creative industries' has shown that films that are based on books take 44% more than original screenplay in the UK and 53% more globally. The report has also found that 43% of the top 20 films (by box office takings) between 2007 and 2016 were based on literary sources, and a further 9% on comics. Stephen Lotinga, C.E.O. of the PA said  'all of this success is only possible due to our gold-standard copyright system and at a time of great change we call upon the government to do everything it can to continue to support us'. See more on this story in the Bookseller.  

Radio Independents Group relaunches as AudioUK

The trade association for audio production in the UK has been re-launched in order to reflect the growth of markets such as podcast, audiobooks, and audio games, caused in part by the proliferation of portable devices such as smartphones capable of downloading, streaming and playing audio. AudioUK will aim to deilver on a commitment to ensure that both now and in the future the UK's audio production sector has the skills, the regulatory and business environment, to maximise its potential as a world leader in this market. 'Reflecting  [the] wider industry in our brand will help us put audio production at the heart of the UK's successful creative industries' commented AudioUK Chair Phil Critchlow. Margot James, Minister for Digital and Creative Industries at DCMS, joined a chorus of others in welcoming the new expanded role: '[I] look forward to working closely together in the future'. Click here for more on this story from the Bookseller.

ScreenCraft Film Fund Spring 2018 open for submissions

The ScreenCraft Film Fund 2018 is currently inviting submissions from scriptwriters-cum-filmmakers of narrative feature films, short films, TV pilots and documentaries that display originality, vision & exceptional potential. Successful applicants will be eligible to receive up to $30,000 in production financing, creative development consulting, production mentorship and festival submission guidance. Interested persons are encouraged to click here for further information. All entries must be received by June 30, 2018.

The Black List: 3rd Annual Black List / Women in Film Episodic Lab - now open!

Scriptwriters who meet the criteria outlined on www.blcklst.com are invited to submit their scripts for them to be considered for entry into the Lab - with the opt-in period closing August 20, 2018. Between 6-8 non-professional scriptwriters who identify as women will be selected for inclusion into the Lab by the Black List working collaboratively with Women in Film. The Lab will run for four weeks with twice weekly sessions commencing October 2. Established scriptwriters and industry executives will offer guidance and advice on script development, whilst peer workshopping sessions and master classes will also be on offer. Successful applicants can expect to have their final pilots read by agencies and networks. More details can be found here.

Applicants sought for SoA-supported parliamentary film competition, Film the House 2018

Applications are being welcomed for Parliament's annual cross-party film competition Film the House 2018, an annual competition run by MPs to find the filmmakers and scriptwriters of tomorrow. Entries are to be submitted to the applicant's local MP who will then decide upon a selection to represent their constituency in the compeition before a panel of industry experts choose the finalists. Submissions must be received by September 30th. 'Film the House is an imaginative Parliamentary competition which manages to be fun whilst giving young creatives an opportunity to engage with their MPs, win fantastic prizes and all the while promote the importance of intellectual property rights' commented Lord Puttnam, Patron of Film the House. For further details and to apply please click here. The initiative is being run by its industry sponsors including ALCS , Sky and 21st Century Fox.

Theatre Helpline launched by Society of London Theatre (SOLT) and UK Theatre

The Society of London Theatre (SOLT) and UK Theatre have launched a free, 24-hour helpline and email service in order to support professionals working across the industry on issues affecting their  health and wellbeing, including bullying and physical and mental health. The helpline, hosted by wales-based company Connect Assist is availble at 0800 915 4617 (or via e-mail at advice@theatrehelpline.org) and is open to anyone working in theatre, whether in-house or freelance. It has been set up further SOLT and UK Theatre's 2017 Theatre Workforce Review and comes as part of wider commitment to combat toxic working cultures: 'UK Theatre and SOLT are committed to bringing the theatre industry together to provide a supportive working environment for everyone' commented Cassie Chadderton, Head of UK Theatre. 

Scale of Gender Inequality in UK Screenwriting Exposed

A new report commissioned by the Writers' Guild of Great Britain and funded by Authors' Licensing & Collecting Society (ALCS) has found that 16% of working film writers in the UK are female, and that only 14% of prime-time TV is written by women. 'It is simply not good enough. I hope that this acts as a wake-up call for the industry and that effective action will now be taken to ensure women writers are properly represented' commented our chair, Elizabeth-Anne. Read our full story here.

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.

BBC Scotland

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.

SVoD

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'.  

Apple programming

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. 

Podcasting

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.

#MeToo

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.

Members' News

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.  

Scriptwriting Blogs and Q&As

Posted: 17 April 2018

The following SoA blogs and Q&As all have a scriptwriting-theme:

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Hexagonal Phase - an interview with co-producer (and group committee member) David Morley

Writing for radio documentary - Jumping through hoops - by writer and broadcaster Patrick Humpries

Sexual harrasment and bullying - Abuse and the Poison of Silence by SWG Committee Chair Elizabeth-Anne Wheal.

Language, diversity and the power of words - What's in a Word by BG Committee member Jamila Gavin 

7 Tips to Avoid Pitfalls in Motion Picture/TV Rights Option Agreements US Entertainment Lawyer Robert Zipser's tips to help navigate your option agreements.

A crimewriter’s perspective on sexual violence on our screens - Women in Jeopardy by BG Committee Chair Elizabeth-Anne Wheal.

"Often it’s not what’s not said, but what is that marks out the power of a script or the way in which it’s delivered." - Finding New Talent by BG Committee member Hilary Robinson

The debate about diversity in the creative industries is headlining again — Talent is Everywhere by BG Committee Chair Elizabeth-Anne Wheal.

Please contact Theo if you would like to contribute a blog of interest to Broadcasting Group members.
 
Further reading:
 
Members might be interested to read this blog post (external link) that published 12 March on the importance of networking by Philip Shelley (Script Editor, Consultant and Producer at the BBC). 

BG diary dates

Posted: 09 March 2018

The following brodcasting-themed events (& courses) may be of interest, including an opportunity to meet with members from the Broadcasting Group Committee at the London Book Fair 2018

Write a Winning Treatment - 'Whenever you pitch your idea to potential film producers and directors, if they bite, you’ll need to hand them a brilliantly-written treatment to hook them into the next stage.' 11 March 2018 

London Book and Screen Week: Screen84 presents: Bright Star (external link) - based on Sir Andrew Motion's biography of John Keats. 23 March 2018

London Book and Screen Week: Frankenstein: The Reincarnations (external link) - biographer Fiona Sampson will be in conversation with novelist Nick Harkaway, charied by novelist Kim Newman. 10 April 2018

SoA at the London Book Fair 2018 - 'Discounted tickets, SoA talks, advisor surgeries, and a chance to meet and chat with members from the Broadcasting Group Committee!' 10-12 April 2018.

Members from the Broadcasting Group Committee will be attending the Fair to meet informally and chat both to members and non-members Tuesday 10 April 13.30-15.30 and Wednesday 11 April 12.30-14.30. Whilst the sessions do not need to be booked in advance and all are welcome please let Theo know by e-mail if you do plan to attend.

The Committee sessions are intended to follow on directly from the below-SoA talks:

Begged, borrowed or stolen: Using Existing Characters and people: On privacy, defamation and character rights - 'Fancy basing your novel or script on a real person? Burning to write a damning expose? Inspired to write a sequel to “the very Hungry Caterpillar” Want to parody President Trump? SoA Chief Executive Nicola Solomon and writer Ferdinand Dennis will discuss practical pitfalls, legal traps and how to avoid them'. 10 April 2018

Key points to watch out for in contracts, and why - by Mary Hoffman (writer and former consultant for the BBC's 'Look and Read') and Kate Pool. 11 April 2018

We are yet to schedule group events for 2018. Contact Theo Jones if you would like to offer a talk or suggest speakers. For more events, both SoA and non-SoA, please visit our Events page.

When events are live on the booking system you will be able to click through to the full details and members will be emailed full details. We send notification about our events via email only. Please remember to let us know if your email address changes.

SWG AGM report to members

Posted: 10 November 2017

The Scriptwriters Group AGM report is available to view online. Read the report.