Thursday 28 August 2008

Stranger Than Fiction '08

The Stranger Than Fiction (25-28 September) documentary film festival has announced its programme.

As usual there is a full schedule of international and Irish documentaries. In association with Bord Scannán na hÉireann/the Irish Film Board (IFB), the festival has organised Stranger Than Fiction Pitch Perfect!, which is a training workshop and pitch events.

These will consist of an intensive training session with documentary expert Tue Steen Muller. One week after this, participants will get to put these pitching skills into practice in front of two expert panels made up of key players in the industry.

More information on how to apply for the workshop, and details about the festival, are available on the web site.

Wednesday 27 August 2008

Hare Wants More TV Drama

In a recent article in The Times the playwright David Hare has criticised the BBC for its abandonment of the single television play.

Even in the days when single plays were allowed on majority channels, drama was identified as a conspicuous source of mischief and expense. How could anything which cost so much be so infuriatingly unpredictable in quality? Little wonder, then, that controllers chose to steer their investment away from individual stories that could never be repeated into long-running series with familiar characters and cliff-edge endings that would keep the ratings ticking over nicely.

It is, of course, for these same sour commercial reasons that fiction has responded to its own demotion by increasingly choosing to pass itself off as fact. More and more single films, if they happen at all, seem merely to reconstruct events about which we have already read. Figures such as Margaret Thatcher, Christine Keeler, Frankie Howerd and Lord Longford are mimicked and lent motives in a stuttering flow of biopics, behind which lies some depressingly tame thinking: "Oh, they'll be interested in this; they already know about it."

Hare does point out that the BBC is airing two theatre adaptations of his work: My Zinc Bed (tonight on BBC 2 at 9pm) and A Number (next week). Despite this he feels these small gestures towards original drama are not enough in a period when the BBC is under continued pressure to justify its funding from television license money.

Venice is 65

The 65th Venice Film Festival kicks off today and runs until the 6th of September.

Variety's article offers an overview of the films that will be screened at the festival this year, and the BBC will post daily reports from Venice with news and information about the films and their creators.

Tuesday 26 August 2008

Hollywood Slows Down

According to the LA Times film production in Hollywood has ground to an almost total halt.

The Los Angeles region has seen a steady outflow of feature film projects to other countries and states, about 40 of which now offer a plethora of production rebates and tax breaks that aren't available in California. Since peaking in 1996, annual film production has declined in nine of the last 11 years in Los Angeles.

But Brown and others in the industry say the slowdown has been exacerbated by labor unrest this year, which saw the first Hollywood writers strike in two decades.

To plan for a possible actors strike, studios decided as far back as a year ago to revamp their lineups so that most films would wrap shooting by June 30, when the actors contract expired. As a result, studios have already filmed most of the movies that will be released in 2009, leaving them with fewer movies to shoot this year.

"We had 17 films in production between January and June, which is unheard of," said Donna Langley, president of production for Universal Pictures, which recently shot "Fast and Furious," the fourth film in "The Fast and the Furious" series, in L.A. "We all had to prepare for the worst-case scenario."

Actors and studios have not been able to reach agreement on a new contract and the sides remain far apart, especially in how actors are paid for work distributed in new media.

Thursday 21 August 2008

Membership to the Irish Film & Television Academy is currently open to Industry Professionals. The deadline for receipt of applications is Friday, August 29th 2008.

The Academy now in its 2nd year is currently inviting new members to join who have been working in the Film & Television industry for at least 4 years. Full membership to the Academy entitles you to vote in the 6th Annual Irish Film & Television Awards along with many benefits such as invitations to preview screenings, Q & A's, Master Classes and many more.

Membership also entitles you too many industry discounts such as discounted rates in the Hilton Hotel in Ireland & the UK, Milano Restaurant / Pizza Express in Belfast, QFT Belfast, Movies @ in Dublin & Kino in Cork, Shoot Communications, Screen International, VHI, Aer Arann, Film Ireland, Galway Film Centre plus many more.

Further information, membership forms, and membership guidelines are available on the web site.

Wednesday 20 August 2008

ICM Settle Writers' Case

The L.A. Times reports that American talent agency International Creative Management Inc. has settled a 2002 lawsuit that was brought against them by over 150 television writers who claimed they were victims of age discrimination.

"The settlement agreement with ICM provides these talented television writers with a fair resolution to their claims," said attorney Steve Sprenger, who is representing the writers. "However, we still have a lot of work ahead of us."

ICM declined to comment.

The agency and insurers agreed to put $4.5 million into a settlement fund against which eligible writers would be able to make claims. Without admitting any wrongdoing, the agency also agreed to establish an independent task force to examine its representation practices.

It also will participate in a job relief program -- if one is sanctioned by the court -- that would promote the work of older television writers who would be selected by a neutral panel of qualified experts based on the quality of their writing.

Tuesday 19 August 2008

Installation Help

The Amalgamotion Theatre Company is looking for help to create an installation piece as part of the Flat Lake Literary and Arts Festival (August 23-24) in Clones, Monaghan.

All you need to do to participate is to answer this question: what would you like to read to someone you love? Email the company for more information, or your response: amalgamotion at

Monday 18 August 2008

O'Rowe Wins Fringe First

The Culture Ireland web site reports that the Abbey Theatre's production of Terminus, written by Irish playwright Mark O'Rowe, has won a prestigious Scotsman Fringe First Award.

The Fringe First Awards, selected by The Scotsman's team of veteran theatre critics, are given to outstanding new work appearing at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and are highly coveted among the thousands of new plays produced at the festival. This UK premiere of Terminus has been generously supported by Culture Ireland.

Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Martin Cullen TD, congratulated Ireland's national theatre and playwright, O'Rowe, on their award and said, "This award for the production of Terminus by the Abbey Theatre, following Druid Theatre's award last week, is a validation of the continuing strength of Irish theatre and an important international recognition of the talent of our young Irish playwrights".

Also commending the Abbey, the Chief Executive of Culture Ireland, Eugene Downes, claimed, "Winning two Fringe Firsts, in the intense competition of Edinburgh, affirms Irish theatre's position as a world leader. It's a marvelous achievement for Mark O'Rowe, The Abbey, and a great cast and creative team."

Terminus runs at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh until Saturday 23 August.

Allen Admires Ireland

According to The Times, American screenwriter/director Woody Allen would love to make a film in Ireland - if he secured the right financing.

"If I got the offer of financing, I wouldn't hesitate to go and make a movie in Ireland," said Allen, 72, in an interview with The Sunday Times. "Ireland is a place I would not have a problem living in for the couple of months it took me to make the film.

"The light is so beautiful, you know right away you're going to get a beautiful film. Those grey skies and the terrain: Ireland is one of those places that lives up to the hype and is as beautiful as everyone tells you it is.

"Ireland is a misty and isolated place. You really have to have the right story for it but it's a great atmosphere."

Friday 15 August 2008

Culture Night 2008

This year's Culture Night will be celebrated on Friday 19th September, and details about the events lined up for the evening have been announced on its web site.

For the first time since its inception in 2006, cultural venues outside the Capital will participate in Culture Night by staying open until 11pm on Friday 19th September. Museums, galleries, theatres, cathedrals and other cultural venues throughout Cork, Galway, Limerick and Dublin will host hundreds of free cultural events for members of the public to enjoy late into the evening.

From touring the crypt at Christ Church Cathedral to painting classes in the National Gallery of Ireland; from giant board games and puppet shows in Limerick's City Library to karaoke and acting in the Glucksman Gallery in Cork; there will be circus, dance and musical performances on the city's streets and Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway will be alive with activities to suit everyone.

According to Dr. Olive Braiden, Chair of the Arts Council who was invited to unveil the programme; "Culture Night is a night that gives everyone the chance to explore to their heart's content what is actually out there, on their doorstep. It is a night of opportunities -- a night to entice people out of the ordinary and into the extraordinary. Its expansion to Cork, Galway and Limerick is very significant, and the result of its wonderful success for the past two years. We in the Arts Council encourage as many cultural venues as possible, all around the country, to open late on Culture Night".

Thursday 14 August 2008

Writing Reality

Robert J. Elisberg, writing at The Huffington Post, discusses the oppressive conditions that many writers deal with while working for the biggest producers of "reality TV" in the USA, FremantleMedia. Yes, reality TV shows are scripted.

Fremantle creates American Idol, along with a slew of other shows, and made $1.8 billion last year from its programmes. The host of American Idol, Simon Cowell, signed a five-year contract for an annual fee of $50 million.

Elisberg writes:

And the writing staff and production assistants are regularly required to work 15-20 hour days, seven days a week. No healthcare. No pensions. And often no time for lunch breaks. And rest breaks.

To address this problem the Writers Guild of America (WGA) has organised a Truth About Freemantle tour, which is drawing attention to Freemantle's policies among the people who are auditioning for American Idol.

Elisberg adds;
By the way, to those unaware of the term used earlier, "production assistants" is a glorified name for "lackeys." They run errands. Chauffeur others around. Do people's laundry. You know, the glamorous Hollywood stuff. Justin Buckles is a former production assistant for "American Idol." He recalls, "I wasn't allowed to take a break, even for lunch." One day, after working 18 hours again, he figured out how much he earned. "It came to $4.50 an hour."

In case you forgot, minimum wage in California is currently...$8.00 an hour.

"American Idol" alone made a profit of $200 million. Simon Cowell alone was paid $50 million. The company took in $1.8 billion. Justin Buckles wanted lunch. And minimum wage. (Just think: Fremantle could pay the $250,000 in overtime wages it's currently being sued for, give health care, pay Simon Cowell his $50 million - and still make a profit of $199.5 million.)

An old story, but one that needs to be repeated until change happens.

Write in France

Irish writers, who have published at least one book by a reputable publishing house (i.e. not a vanity press), are entitled to apply for a residency in La Villa Marguerite Yourcenar, in Northern France, on the Belgian border, 25 miles from Lille. All literary genres are acceptable: novel, poetry, theatre, essay, comics, youth-oriented literature, etc.

The residency is managed by the Conseil général du Nord, and offers authors from all over Europe accommodation for a period of one to two months in order for them to carry on or finish a manuscript. Applicants are selected by an independent jury of specialists and personalities from the European literary sphere. Residence at the Villa Marguerite Yourcenar is accompanied by an €1,800 monthly grant.

The deadline for the next application round is: 31 January 2009. For information and application forms, contact Françoise Bultez :

Wednesday 13 August 2008

BCI 2008 Conference

The Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) has announced details about its National Conference, which will take place from Wednesday 17th - Thursday 18th of September, in the Croke Park Conference Centre, Dublin 3.

Entitled "Does the Medium Matter?" and chaired by broadcaster and journalist Claire Byrne, this year's conference will address the themes of digital and new media from a variety of standpoints. A host of national and international speakers will explore the challenges of content delivery across increasingly diverse platforms and will examine the implications for providers and consumers.

On the theme of digital delivery, speakers in the session include Lucy Gaffney, Chairperson, Boxer DTT; Alex Pumfrey, Programme Director, Digital UK and James Cridland, Head of Future Media and Technology, BBC Audio and Music Interactive.

The area of new media has been a source of consideration and debate for practitioners and citizens alike, particularly in terms of how emerging and emergent technologies can and do interact with more traditional media forms. Speakers for this session include Jonathan Marks, media anthropologist; and Philip Macartney, Head of Sales, Bebo Ireland.

2008 also marks the 20th anniversary of the 1988 Radio and Television Act, which heralded the beginning of commercial radio and television in Ireland. This year's conference will look at the growth of radio and television in Ireland in the intervening years and examine the future implications for the sector through a panel debate. A number of workshops linking in with the conference theme will complete the conference line-up.

Information on how to register your interest in the conference is available online.

Tuesday 12 August 2008

More BBC Scripts Online

The BBC Writers Room has recently added two new scripts to its Script Archive:

Monday 11 August 2008

Autumn 2008 on RTE

The Stage reports on the headliners for RTÉ's new drama schedule this autumn, including the new six-part series Raw.

Set in "the heady world of a top Irish restaurant", it has been created by Derry-born writer Lisa McGee, winner of last year's Stewart Parker Trust Award. Also new is Whistleblower, "hard hitting" two-parter based on an Irish medical scandal in 2006, written by Rob Heyland, co-creator of ITV's Ultimate Force, and starring Adrian Dunbar.

Returning dramas include the soap Fair City, which will reach its tenth anniversary next year, a sixth series of The Clinic and a third outing for police mini-series Single-handed.

There will also be new programmes aimed at children including the animated drama, Ballybraddan, set in a primary school, and Dance Party, a multi-cultural celebration of dance and song.

Among the new documentaries on offer will be a profile of the Tony Award-winning playwright Hugh Leonard, and a look at the life and times of the legendary theatre impresario Anew McMaster.

Update:The Stage's fact-checkers got it wrong in relation to Fair City, which will be celebrating its twentieth anniversary in 2009.

Walsh Wins Fringe Again

RTÉ reports that this weekend Irish playwright Enda Walsh won the Fringe First award for the second year in a row at the Edinburgh Festival for The New Electric Ballroom.

The Druid Theatre production is currently running at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh.

Mary Cloake, Director of the Arts Council, said that the play's success: "...demonstrates once more that Ireland maintains the highest level of international standards in theatre writing, production and performance."

Friday 8 August 2008

New Irish Drama Centre

The Stage reports that a new Irish drama academy will be established and accepting students within three years. It is part of a project envisioned by Cathal Ryan, a son of Ryanair co-founder Tony Ryan, who died last December aged 48.

The Cathal Ryan Trust, which he established to help finance his dream, has announced plans for the new centre, to be sited on the campus of the National University of Ireland at Maynooth, County Kildare.

The Ryan Maynooth Centre, as it will be known, will house both a national training academy for dramatic arts and a public theatre with a seating capacity of 450 to 600. The academy will include a student theatre space, tutorial rooms, rehearsal and training studios, plus media/sound facilities. A competition to design the centre has just been won by a Dublin-based architectural firm, Smith and Kennedy.

According to the trust, the academy will provide full degree courses in acting, directing and stagecraft, “employing top class tutors from Ireland and abroad”.

RADA's Lloyd Trott is helping to prepare the curriculum, which will also include higher diplomas and other postgraduate qualifications. A writer's bursary programme, backed by the trust, is also planned and the facility will operate in collaboration with Tom Madden, head of theatre studies at Maynooth.

Thursday 7 August 2008

Irish Short & Film Wins

Filmbase reports that the Irish short, "My Dad", written and directed by John Vaughan, has won the Best Short category in the Action on Film International Film Festival. Vaughan also won the award for the Best Unproduced Action (Short) Screenplay: "For Your Troubles".

At the same festival Irish writer/director Mark Mahon won the Alan J. Bailey Award for Best Screenplay for Strength and Honour, the Best Director - Feature award, and his film won the award for Best Foreign Film - Feature.

Irish Virtual Cinema

Want to watch Irish films online? Check out Virtual Cinema, a YouTube channel operated by the Irish Film Board, which showcases many of its short and animated films.

Europe Loves Cinema

This week The Hollywood Reporter offered information from a confidential MPA report sent to executives of the six major studios in Hollywood about the extent of the revenue stream from foreign box office and rentals of films.

The U.K. [which includes Ireland's sales] stood as the biggest consumer of U.S. movies for the seventh straight year in 2007, sending back $499 million in rental revenue to the Hollywood studios, 10% more than in 2006.

Altogether, the six U.S. majors brought home a record $4.5 billion in '07, with No. 2 Japan accounting for $396 million, up 2.9% year-to-year; No. 3 Germany, $384 million, up 15.8%; No. 4 Canada, $342 million, up 2%; and No. 5 Spain, $304 million, up 4.9%.

The U.K. has been the market leader since 2002, when it unseated Japan, which vied with Germany as the prime buyer of U.S. product in the preceding decade.

The overseas take of the Studios' films accounts for about 45%-47% of total grosses. Europe, based on the MPA stats, represented 53% of total international theatrical revenue. This means that for American films to be commercially successful they need to appeal and sell to international markets.

Wednesday 6 August 2008

SAG Vote Looms

The New York Times has an overview of the current debate that is fracturing the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) in the USA.

A group within SAG, calling itself Unite for Strength, is putting up a slate of candidates for the forthcoming election for the union's board of directors. Its agenda is to heal the rift between SAG and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (Aftra), and to find a resolution to the current negotiation impasse between SAG and the AMPTP.

The majority group within SAG, called Membership First, has an alternative roster of candidates. Today's Variety has a complete list of everyone who will be under consideration.

Ballots will be mailed to SAG's 122,000 members on Aug. 19, and the votes will be tabulated on Sept. 18. SAG is unlikely to achieve a breakthrough with the AMPTP until the new board of directors has been elected.

Tuesday 5 August 2008

DTT Rollout in 2009

According to last week's Irish Times the Minister for Communications, Éamon Ryan, announced that Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) will be available to 80% of consumers in Ireland by the end of 2009, and to all households by 2012 -- when the analogue signal will be shut down.

Viewers who wish to avail of DTT will have to purchase a set-top box that is expected to cost €100, and Mr. Ryan indicated the Government is "considering" making it free to elderly and low-income people.

RTÉ will develop the national digital terrestrial television service, which will eventually broadcast up to eight channels on a free-to-air basis. These will be the four existing free-to-air channels - RTÉ 1, RTÉ 2, TV3 and TG4 - and four new channels.

The new channels will be Dáil TV and an Irish film channel, both backed by the Government, and two new RTÉ channels: RTÉ 3, which will show archive material, and RTÉ 1+1, which will broadcast RTÉ's schedule on a time delay of one hour. A spokesman for RTÉ said the extra channels would be launched on a phased basis.

4Talent 2008

Channel 4 is once again on the hunt for new talent with its 4Talent Awards 2008. There are 20 categories, and applicants have to pitch for one slot. Of specific interest to our members are:

  • Dramatic Writing (Required: up to 3 scripts + 50 word synopses)
  • Comedy Writing (Required: up to 3 scripts + 50 word synopses)
  • Off-Air Radio (Required: audio showreel (up to 10min); Optional: up to 3 scripts + 50-word synopses)
The main restriction is that all entrants must be 30 years old or under on 31/12/2008, and resident in the UK.

Further information and entry forms can be downloaded from the web site. The closing date for applications is August 29, 2008.

2008 Dublin Theatre Festival

The Dublin Theatre Festival (25 September -- 12 October, 2008) has announced this year's programme.

The 2008 Festival comprises 27 shows in 16 venues with productions from 12 different countries, including Ireland, South Africa, England, Scotland, the United States, Belgium, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Denmark, Italy, Colombia and Argentina. There will be seven major Irish productions, including the world premiere of a new version of Hedda Gabler by Brian Friel at The Gate Theatre, which celebrates its 80th anniversary.

There is also a programme of ancillary events including discussions, conferences and networking opportunities, a stage to screen showcase presented in association with the Irish Film Institute, an international critics' forum, the Irish Theatre Institute International Theatre Exchange, creative dance workshops, and a young critics' panel.

Monday 4 August 2008

Cry and Win

If you fancy winning a spot in Gordy Hoffman's London Weekend Workshop (worth £150) on the Art of Screenwriting on the 16th/17th August, then hurry over to Danny Stack's Blog and leave a comment on the post in which you describe a memorable time you cried during a movie.

All entries must be posted by 6pm (UK) on Saturday 9th August, and Mr Hoffman will decide the winner.