Monday 31 December 2007

Happy 2008

May all Guild members have a happy and prosperous 2008!

Wednesday 19 December 2007

Arts in January

According to IFTN the new series of RTÉ's Arts Lives will begin broadcast on January 8th, and will feature seven profiles: writer and director, Graham Linehan (Father Ted, The IT Crowd); singer and performer Noirín Ní Ríaín; author John Banville (2005 Man Booker Prize winner for his novel The Sea); Dubliner Ronnie Drew; screenwriter and author Patrick McCabe (The Butcher Boy, Breakfast on Pluto); pianist John O'Conor; and poet Paul Muldoon.

Tuesday 18 December 2007

Writers Look Beyond Studios

The L.A. Times reports that striking writers in Hollywood are looking for new opportunities for income from the Internet.

Seven groups have been created that are looking for venture capital to create alterative Internet-based businesses, and three of the groups are hoping to create models based on the United Artists production company started eighty years ago by Mary Pickford, Charles Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and D. W. Griffith.

Silicon Valley investors historically have been averse to backing entertainment start-ups, believing that such efforts were less likely to generate huge paydays than technology companies. But they began considering a broader range of entertainment investments after observing the enormous sums paid for popular Web video companies, including the $1.65 billion that Google Inc. plunked down last year for YouTube, a site where users post their own clips.

They also have been emboldened by major advertisers, which prefer supporting professionally created Web entertainment to backing user-generated content on sites such as MySpace that can be in poor taste.

"I'm 100% confident that you will see some companies get formed," said Todd Dagres, a Boston-based venture capitalist who has been flying to L.A. and meeting with top writers for weeks. "People have made up their minds."

What effect this would have on the strike is unclear. So far, the percentage of the guild's 10,000 striking writers who are in discussions with venture capitalists appears to be small. Any deal of this kind, however, could put pressure on the studios and help the writers' public relations campaign. Writers who are talking to venture investors say the studios would suffer a brain drain if high-profile talents received outside funding and were no longer beholden to them.

Friday 14 December 2007

WGA Files Suit

United Hollywood reports that the WGA has filed a lawsuit against the AMPTP with the federal government for breaking off negotiations:

The AMPTP and each of its member companies have a legal obligation to bargain in good faith with the WGA. Their unilateral walkout from negotiations last Friday and their on-going refusal to bargain is illegal under the National Labor Relations Act. Therefore the WGA today filed Unfair Labor Practice charges against the AMPTP with the National Labor Relations Board.

Thursday 13 December 2007

MTV Back Down

United Hollywood reports on a success story from New York, where freelance writers and staff walked out en masse this week from the offices of MTV and VHI after being handed a diktat from the management that reversed many of their basic work rights:

The offense that originally prompted action on [the employees'] part occurred December 4 when they were instructed to pick up their holiday party invitations. They were then instructed to fill out "additional paperwork," that was due two days later on Thursday, December 6. This paperwork contained the news that they were no longer entitled to their 401(k) plans, dental insurance, paid vacation days (of which they had five, and now have 0), holidays, and that the 50-hour workweek would become the norm, after which hourly wage earners were eligible for overtime. Says one freelancer, "They've just informed us that if we entered the company less than one year ago and work for an hourly wage (as most people under management-level do), we will not get paid for one day off."
The demonstration caused Viacom (the company that owns MTV) to reverse its decision and return the benefits of their employees.

Wednesday 12 December 2007

Distribution by Download

The Associated Press reports that Universal Pictures is starting to experiment with HD digital downloads of movies with the release of The Bourne Ultimatum via the online distributor, Vudu.

The film was available for download yesterday, which was the same day the DVD came out.

Universal Pictures, the studio behind the "Bourne" movies, is the first to offer a downloadable HD version of a movie the same day as the DVD is released.

In addition to working with Universal, Vudu has signed deals to distribute HD content from Paramount Pictures and Lionsgate Entertainment Corp. Universal is owned by NBC Universal, a joint venture of General Electric Co. and Vivendi Universal, while Paramount is a division of Viacom Inc. Lionsgate is independent.

The Vudu box, which first went on sale in October, offers a catalog of about 5,000 standard-definition films, which can be rented for 99 cents to $4.99. Some films, including the HD editions of the "Bourne" films, can only be purchased, meaning they can be stored permanently on the set-top.

"The Bourne Identity," "The Bourne Supremacy," and "The Bourne Ultimatum" will sell for $24.99 each, though Vudu customers can get the two older movies for free during the holiday season.
Welcome to the age of digital downloads.

Tuesday 11 December 2007

Stuckemarkt 08

Dramatists and theatre publishers from all over Europe are invited to submit new plays in any European language for the Stückemarkt 2008. The only requirement is that the plays must not have been premièred or performed in Germany before.

The jury, consisting of renowned theatre professionals from various fields, will select five texts for the Stückemarkt. These will then be presented in scenic readings during the Theatertreffen in May. Experienced directors and dramaturges will produce these readings in cooperation with the authors.

Five further authors will be selected by the jury to take part in the dramatists' workshop with the author and dramaturg John von Düffel.

Together with the German Federal Agency for Civic Education the Stückemarkt will award the New Playwriting Prize and the tt stückemarkt Commission, both include a world premiere at a leading German-language theatre. New in 2008: One of the ten selected plays will be adapted for radio by Deutschlandradio Kultur.
The New Playwriting Prize is worth €5,000 Euro. It will be awarded to one of the authors whose play is presented as a staged reading. There is one notable change from 2007: the Development Prize for New Writing is now coupled with a premiere at the Maxim Gorki Theater Berlin.

The tt stückemarkt Commission, first awarded in 2007 and worth €7,000, is awarded to one of the participants in the playwriting workshop of the Stückemarkt. The author’s new play will be premiered at a leading theatre.

Applications must be postmarked no later than December 15th, 2007. Please consult the web site for more details.

Friday 7 December 2007

Smock Alley on Hold

The Stage reports that the €7.2 million plan by the Gaiety School of Acting to redevelop the Smock Alley Theatre in Temple Bar, Dublin has been stalled by planning objections.

According to the local resident, there is concern about the noise that a theatre in the area would generate, particularly as it would include a bar. Damien Cassidy, of the Irish Heritage and Conservation Group, said he was objecting because he felt it would be more in keeping with the original architecture of the area if a church, which had occupied part of the half-acre site, was restored, rather than the theatre. It was a "totally unsuitable" venue for a theatre, he claimed.

The Gaiety School's ambitious plans include a 220-seat theatre, plus a 110-seat studio space and seven rehearsal/training studios. Fund-raising is on target for the project, which has been described as "inspirational" by Irish Hollywood star Liam Neeson, one of the acting school's patrons.

In a message to school director Partrick Sutton, he wrote: "I am particularly excited about this project. For the school to rebuild a theatre on the site of the original 1662 Smock Alley is inspirational. For it to be a resource for the theatre community as a whole is an added bonus. "

Sources 2 Extended

Screen Training Ireland has extended the deadline for applications to the SOURCES 2 Script Development Workshop to the 15th December 2007.

SOURCES 2 is a professional training organisation providing the European film industry with high level script development programmes. Between 1992 and 2007, the Dutch Foundation SOURCES realized 55 workshops in 17 European countries. The efficiency of SOURCES 2 Script Development Workshops lies in their special format. During the seven-day session, participants work in small groups with four or five projects each, guided by internationally experienced advisers. The following period of approximately three months is dedicated to re-writes, and is coached by the script advisers involved. The second session is either an individual or a small group consultation of one day per project.

For more information on how to apply please consult the STI web site.

Thursday 6 December 2007

Irish at Sundance '08

IFTN reports that two Irish writers will have their work screened at this year's Sundance Film Festival from the 17-27 January 2008, in Park City, Salt Lake City, USA.

'The Sound of People', written and directed by Simon Fitzmaurice, and produced by Noreen Donohoe, is the only Irish short among the19 titles chosen for the Dramatic Shorts selection, and was shortlisted from over 5,000 entries. The film stars Irish actor Martin McCann as eighteen-year-old Stephen, a young man who connects with his past and future and stares into the face of his own death. Fitzmaurice said: "I am absolutely over the moon about getting into Sundance. Everyone worked heart and soul on this film and this is a wonderful response."

Ken Wardrop will showcase two films in the Documentary Shorts selection: 'Farewell Packets of Ten' and 'Scoring'. 'Packets of Ten' is about two ladies discussing the pros and cons of their addiction to cigarettes, while 'Scoring' reveals the true power of a kiss.

Other Budget Increases

Under yesterday's budget the Irish Arts Council didn't obtain their goal of €100m in funding, but they did achieve an increase of €5m, which brings the body to €85m overall. Olive Braiden, Chair of the Arts Council, said:

I welcome today’s allocation to the Arts Council. I am pleased with the outcome especially in the circumstances of current public finances. I congratulate Minister Brennan in maintaining the Government’s existing significant commitment to the arts. The Arts Council looks forward to working with the Minister in the year ahead to build on this year’s provision.
Culture Ireland also saw an increase of 6% in its funding for marketing Irish artists and art abroad.

WGA thanks Guilds

The IPSG received letters of thanks from the WGA East and West for our contribution to the International Day of Support last week for the WGA strike:

Letter from the Writers Guild of America West:

Dear Members of the International Writers' Community:

We at the Writers Guild of America extend our heartfelt thanks to members of the international community for your unprecedented and robust outpouring of support for our cause on International Solidarity Day on November 28. We were moved and inspired by the hundreds of scribes who marched in front of the Eiffel Tower in France, at the Brandenburg Gate in Germany, and on the streets of Canada, England, Australia, Spain, Portugal, The Netherlands, Wales, and Mexico. Clearly, our fight to win fair compensation from global media corporations has struck a chord with writers everywhere.

The scope of the protests was truly impressive: In Berlin, over 100 German writers carried WGA picket signs at the Brandenburg Gate. Hundreds of writers marched in freezing temperatures in Montreal and Toronto. In Amsterdam, an auditorium full of writers cheered our cause. We have heard from the Portuguese Screenwriters Guild, the Writers Guild of Great Britain, the International Affiliation of Writers Guilds, the Writers Guild of Canada, the Screenwriters Guild of Germany, and the Federation of Screenwriters in Europe. Members of the Irish Playwrights and Screenwriters Guild marched for our cause dressed as leprechauns!

At home, WGA members with international backgrounds marched at NBC Studios in Burbank, California. Jean-Yves Pitoun, a French native and WGA West member, stressed that the fight in the U.S. has an impact abroad: "Europeans are very carefully watching the writers, actors, and directors in the U.S. because Rupert Murdoch is everywhere."

We thank you for reinforcing that fair compensation for writers is a worldwide cause. Together our voices will be heard.


Board of Directors
Writers Guild of America West

Letter from Michael Winship, Writers Guild of America East:

Subject: Thank You So Much for the International Day of Solidarity

Dear Friends of the IAWG:
I am on a short break from the negotiations in Los Angeles, and have a chance to send you this note.

First, I am so sorry that I was unable to see all of you in Montreal, but strike duty prevailed. It sounds as if it was a productive and enjoyable meeting and it would have been great to be there. Next year!

Second, and more important, I want to express my profound gratitude to all of you for invoking and then so effectively implementing the International Day of Solidarity on November 28. Your support means so much to our members. It was an inspiration to see our strike signs held high all over the world. Your steadfastness and willingness to spread the gospel were above and beyond the call of duty.I am proud to count all of you among my friends.

Thank you so very much!
In solidarity,

Michael Winship
Writers Guild of America, East

Film Board Budget Increase

The Irish Film Board, Ireland's national film agency, has announced that the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Seamus Brennan, announced a 18% increase in the Film Board's funding in yesterday's budget.

The agency's budget has been increased from €19.6 in 2007 to €23.2 million in 2008, which indicates strong government support for the Irish film sector.

These figures reflect what has been a successful year for the Irish film industry. IFB funded projects and the Irish film industry have picked up over 20 international awards during 2007. Major triumphs include Once winning the Audience Award for World Cinema at the Sundance Film Festival. Once went on to be released in the US to universal critical acclaim and has gone on to take almost $10 million at the North American box office. Garage was selected for the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, scooping the CICAE Art and Essai Cinema Prize. Consolata Boyle received an Oscar nomination for Best Costume Design on The Queen, Joan Bergin won an Emmy for her work on the US TV series The Tudors and Kings was selected as the Irish film to be submitted for the Best Foreign Film Academy Award. Irish films have also been selected for other A-list festivals Toronto, Venice and Pusan.

'We welcome Minister Brennan's decision to implement a substantial increase in the Board's direct funding at this time. It is an endorsement of the IFB's policies for promoting and developing Irish filmmaking talent and Irish film enterprises. We are confident that Irish films will continue to grow in success and international recognition with all the wider benefits to the economy that flow from this" said James Morris, Chair, IFB.

"This extremely welcome uplift in the IFB's funding will enable us to respond to pressing needs in Irish filmmaking. We aim to provide more support for the sustained development of Irish stories with international reach, well funded schemes for the production of short films to reveal new Irish talent and to invest in new production at a level that will stimulate the making of bigger-budget films with potential to compete in the world market" commented Simon Perry, Chief Executive, IFB.

Wednesday 5 December 2007

EU Research Actresses

The Stage reports that Global union, the International Federation of Actors, has won EU funds to research television and theatre opportunities for female performers over 40.

Grant money of more than €150,000 has been awarded from Brussels for the research, which will examine what roles exist for older women and how decisions are made when casting parts which can be played by either sex. It will also look how women over 40 are portrayed in television and theatre.

Entitled Changing Gender Portrayal: Promoting Employment Opportunities for Women in the Performing Arts, the research will include a survey that will be handed to each of the federation’s affiliated unions in Europe.

Equity members will be asked to comment on what kind of roles they have played recently, how big the part was and what their playing age is.

Results from the UK will be compared with those from other countries taking part and a conference discussing the findings is expected to be held next year.

Equity vice president Jean Rogers, who has led the formation of the research, said: "Although men and women receive the same training as performers and are equally successful during their twenties, from around 35 to 40 onwards their job opportunities lessen and their careers begin to wane, unlike their male counterparts."

She added: "Since TV, film and theatre should mirror nature, why should this be? There are as many women as men in the population, indeed more women, as the population ages."

Tuesday 4 December 2007

dumbFUNDED Comedy

The dumbFUNDED Theatre in the UK is running a comedy sketch writing competition on the theme of "Town & Country".

Comedy writing star James Henry (writer - Green Wing, Smack The Pony, ManStrokeWoman) is judging entries. Actors will then perform winning sketches as part of THE DUMBFUNDED COMEDY SHOWCASE!, a live comedy extravaganza, in Falmouth, Cornwall in early March 2008. Sketch writers for shows like this have gone on to win international competitions and worldwide acclaim!

Winning writers have the chance to direct and workshop their scripts with local actors. Bring the best of your vision from script to stage. Winners will also receive a free DVD of the show.
The deadline for receipt of entries is the 4th of January, 2008.

Monday 3 December 2007

Garage Wins Again

The Film Board reports that Garage, written by Mark O'Halloran and directed by Lenny Abrahamson, won the Best Film award at the Turin Film Festival in Italy, a prize that is worth €25,000.

The film also scooped the Jury Award at the Festival de Chatenay Malabry and the Grand Prix and Students Award at the Festival Cinessone in France last month.


The L.A. Times recently suggested that the strike in the USA could prompt people to take on the mantle of writer-entrepreneur.

Writer Guild members, listen up. There is a lesson here. Just ask Tony Gilroy, the writer-director of "Michael Clayton," a nervy thriller that's won critical raves this fall. Gilroy had a script that was dead in the water until a total outsider -- a Boston real estate developer named Steve Samuels -- said if Gilroy could get a star and stick to a budget, he'd bankroll the film.

Gilroy didn't see himself as an entrepreneur. He just had a script that was burning a hole in his pocket. "I'd say the experience was more about my wising up than becoming a visionary," he explained the other day. "But the moment I started chasing private-equity money, it didn't take me long before I'd realized that I'd short-circuited the formula for getting a greenlight. I didn't need studio approval. All I needed was one guy who believed in the movie."

Gilroy is now a convert. "The studios have got to be hoping that this idea about being entrepreneurs doesn't sweep over the TV show runners, because once you start seeing really good production values on the Internet, I mean, what does Larry David really need HBO for? This is all everybody is talking about on the line. They're not talking about healthcare. They're going, 'Wow, is there a different way to get our movies and TV shows made?' "