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The year gets better and better

Despite the weather the worlds of film, television and books have settled down very well. 2011 was the best year Blake Friedmann have ever had. We did try to buck the recession by increasing the staff, on the grounds that when the going gets tough you need more muscle if you are selling. This year is following well and this week the book Chris Walker and I wrote - The Insider's Guide to Writing for Television - was published. You can see it on Amazon or at

While no book will make up for a lack of talent, many talented writers fail to build cares because they  don't treat writing like a business. This week, on return for a delightful short break in Nice, I went to the BBC Writers' Festival. This will be my first time there and I was encouraged to hear what the great and good of British television scriptwriters think of the year ahead.

The resounding cry was for integrity in drama, for writers to have something to say and to find the best way of saying it. As an event that actually lasted a little over 24 hours it was relentlessly packed,: I went to 6 sessions on the first day and 4 on the second, with (frankly) not enough time between them to digest the wisdom or network.

However, it was brilliant and I will certainly try to attend again. If you want a similarly packed event the London Screenwriters Festival in October offers the same manic schedule (nearly 100 events in just over 2 days) but many of them are filmed so delegates get to see them even if more time is spent propping up the bar.

While the optimism that tends to shine through events like this (actually Joe Oppenheimer did tell the brutal truth about how hard it is to make a living as a feature film writer, which is why Chris and I wrote a book about getting work in television) is warming, there is not that much work around and writers need to be flexible, looking at prose as well as transmedia. If you cant get to LA in October for Storyworld (I will report back from there) then try Power to the Pixel in London or Story Drive in Frankfurt.


What a year!

The last few months of 2011 were so busy - it was the best year ever for the Agency - so my extra-curricula activity including the website and finishing off The Insider's Guide to Writing Television, took a bit of a backseat.

But I have finsihed my half of the book; the other half (on the writing skills needed for television; I did the business side of it) is written by Christopher Walker, with whom I set up the MA in Television Scriptwriting at De Montfort University. I have also caught up with boring domestic things like my taxes and expenses and done some preventative winter gardening (admittedly this was partly putting an extra heater in the greenhouse).

Some time has also gone into Jonquil's new telescope, a rather fancy  one with a compuerised drive and multiplicity of lenses. Learning to drive a car was easier than learning to drive this. This is taking up some very enjoyable but cold time (they never told me most astronomy in the UK is done in winter).

So I plan to be more attentive to the blog and website. In the meantime if you don't read MovieScope magazine you should: it is excellent. I do a regular column for them, which can be seen here:


Let's hope that 2012 is remembered for more than the Olympics.


The silly season

As four colleagues go off to Frankfurt for the peace and quiet of that august banking city in October and the bookfair (with 7,500 exhibitors), I am preparing for Power to the Pixel. The week after is the Brand Licencing Exhibition at Olympia where I am going to talk about (shame it is not to) Tarzan. This is followed a couple of weeks later by the second London Screenwriters' Festival (with an amazing array of high-flying speakers and 100 events in 3 days) and then an EU MEDIA Programme event in Bratislava talking about developing ideas for film and TV, which is followed by the Mannheim Film Festival Co-Production Meetings where I am talking about adaptation. Looking at the recent big movies out in the cinemas in the last few weeks it seems Darwin was right: you have to adapt to survive (especially in the film business).

So hopefully at the end of these trips I will have a better sense of how books connect to film and television and how to exploit them using transmedia. The big question (well the one I want to ask at PttP) is how to increase the reading public by using transmedia strategies to engage especially those who do not read books. If we can increase global readership using transmedia then what are we waiting for?


The best drama may not be written

For reasons I will not go into, I watched some of Judge Judy and Dragons' Den today. Several things struck me: how educative the American insistence on showing everything, warts and all, can be. I am not sure that the people who rioted recently would appreciate that, but it is refreshing that the Americans wear so much on their sleeves. And with the British courts being about to be televised (the judgements only I think), I wonder if this will change the way that legal drama has to be written?

When the reconstructions of accidents series started (also on American television), it certainly made audiences less satisfied with pale drama, which however dramatic lacked the extra dimension of not actually being true.

Dragon's Den is quite moving: I suspect that a nerdish analysis could fit most of the applicant's experiences to Chris Vogler's brillliant reconstruction of Joseph Campbell's myth deconstruction: there is a journey, there are thresholds, mentors and a return with the elixir (or not).

These programmes are inherently dramatic; yet so many of the scripts we see being submitted lack the basic dramatic construction that will hook and engage and move the audience. I become more and more convinced that the majority of writers want to be called 'writers' but are not storytellers. They should not try to make a living writing. Maybe I am just becoming a grumpy old man.....That series was also quite dramatic.


Chris Vogler will be the keynote speaker at the next London Screenwriters' Festival in London at the end of October: it is an event not to be missed if you have any interest in writing at all.



Old is the new black.

One of the predictable surprises (ie you could predict it but you should appear to be surprised by it) that came out of the Edinburgh TV Festival was the comment from BBC1 controller Danny Cohen, that he believed that the BBC should show more programmes for older people.


He seems to have discovered that the average age of the BBC audience is 50+.  I am not sure how that correlates with the average age of the British public. According to a DirectGov website, “In mid-2003 the UK was home to 59.6 million people. The average age was 38.4 years, an increase on 1971 when it was 34.1 years. There are more people in the UK aged over 60 (12.4 million), than there are children under 16 (11.7 million).” That was 10 years ago so it has probably crept up to 40 by now.


So the BBC is attracting a higher number of oldies than it’s fair share. Is that because of the programmes it already shows? In which case do they really need to make more On Golden Ponds?


Not much is said these days about the proportion of all telly that is repeats: in the drama and serial and series categories I am sure it is also creeping up. After all, the oldies seem to love the repeats: if their memories are good enough they enjoy the nostaligic feeling of being younger as they remember how they felt 30 years ago when they first saw that episode of Dads’ Army or Only Fools and Horses.


And if they are suffering from memory problems it is like seeing the episode for the first time. So the broadcasters can’t lose by showing repeats, as a look at the ratings confirms.


The reality is that younger people are connected 24/7 to smaller devices than TV sets: I watch nearly as much on the iPad as on the TV screen – sport live and mainstream channels on the repeat services like the BBC iPlayer.


Like the frequent cries for more roles for women, for non-English characters, for the disabled, we all want drama and soaps to do a job over and above being entertaining. Looking through the wrong end of the telescope (from the pov of those wanting to break into writing) I can’t help but wonder if the BBC and the other broadcasters couldn’t make a wider range of niche television that perhaps included programmes for the older viewer but also encouraging the very young (school age) to think about the power that the written and spoken word has and encouraging articulateness throughout the population.


The alternative is that they might end up patronizing the elderly with programmes that remind us of the creeping decrepitude of old age and of our mortality. How much better to make us forget our age, forget the recession and the shortening days, by engaging us to engage in dialogue with the young ones. Being a grandparent certainly makes you feel younger even if you feel exhausted when the kids leave. But it is great fun.