Ki Agency Ltd acquires Brie Burkeman & Serafina Clarke Ltd


This week, we’ve announced the acquisition of another agency:

After a prestigious career, Brie Burkeman has taken the hard decision to close the agency, Burkeman & Clarke, for family reasons and the company will cease trading on 31 March 2015. Clients and assets are being acquired by Ki Agency Ltd.

Brie has been an agent for books, film, theatre and television for 35 years. In 2009, she acquired Serafina Clarke’s agency.

Brie Burkeman said: “I am so sad to be going and to be having to close the company. If it wasn’t that I was leaving my dear clients in the more than capable hands of Meg Davis, it would make this decision much harder but I have to put my family first.”

Meg Davis, Managing Director of Ki, said, “Brie is a loyal, passionate and effective advocate for her clients. I’ve long been an admirer of her work as an agent, and proud to count myself among her many friends. I’m delighted that she’s chosen me to entrust her clients to and just wish we had the room to accommodate them all. I wish her every success and happiness in this new chapter in her life.”

We welcome those clients we’re able to take on, and will be making more announcements over the next few weeks.

What will 2015 bring us?


Happy New Year, everyone! Here at the agency we’ve celebrated a very happy and successful 2014 with a Zen nod to our Japanese name. While I’ve been sitting in the lotus position under a snowy tree, I’ve been contemplating what the coming year might bring us:


Producers have told me recently that the US industry is so homogenous that studios are looking to unusual sources for inspiration – Turkish drama series, Brazilian soap operas, etc. Having spent Christmas enjoying Lilyhammer, this sounds to me like a refreshing new trend.


The current crop of films is heavily biographical: Mr Turner, Foxcatcher, Wild, The Theory of Everything, Effie Gray, The Imitation Game. Seems like we’re ripe now for a reaction to this. Perhaps Birdman will start a non-naturalistic trend. Or perhaps Trash will inspire a new taste for films not in the English language.


It looks like the love affair with e-readers is finished and sales have levelled off. E-book sales will shortly plateau. Since a high proportion of readers only ever buy their books second-hand, perhaps there will be a rediscovery of libraries, both online and actual.

What troubles my meditation:

More subscriptions (i.e. books, film & TV paid for by subscription). This doesn’t make things cheaper for the consumer, and is financially disastrous to writers.

What I’m chanting for:

More tax breaks and arts funding, especially in theatre.

Wishing you all a very happy and fulfilling 2015!


Should we worry about the BBC?

In my last post, I mentioned a prediction that the BBC would lose its licence fee. Should we be worried?

Detractors say the licence fee is an anomaly these days, and it’s wrong to impose it on everyone. They point to the growing number of internet channels, which people may choose to watch instead of traditional viewing. Other channels complain that it gives the BBC an unfair advantage, since this gives them a level of funding they can depend on, rather than fighting for advertising revenue. Some individuals complain that £145.50 is a lot of money to find per year (and some I’ve talked to don’t realise there aren’t ads on the BBC). The BBC has also been criticised for inefficiency and complacency, and forcing it to be more commercial might force a more rigorous regime.

Arguments for the licence fee include that nothing better than the licence fee has yet been invented. It gives the BBC quite a lot of autonomy, while obliging it to provide ‘public service’. If the BBC went onto a subscription service, would viewers be able to choose certain bundles of programming? What about minority programming? Would it be like the NHS being unable to treat rare conditions? The UK is a small country; if the BBC had to compete for revenue, that might undermine its ability to compete with the big US channels, impoverishing our culture (and income from selling our programmes abroad). It might mean the BBC had to sell off some of its departments, or all of itself. Many of the big film and TV companies in the UK are already owned by big American corporations such as Sony and NBC Universal.

It seems there’s an uneasy tension between the government, who want to grant a licence fee at levels so low the BBC finds difficult, while requiring the BBC to innovate and provide more services. For instance, the BBC led the way globally in digital broadcasting, and was the first to add digital channels in this country, on no extra funding. The BBC does a lot to fund itself through programme sales, merchandising, and events, but this also means achieving a balance between public service and straight commerciality.

Personally, I think that while it’s good to review how things are done, there is a large element of change for change’s sake in the current government’s attitude to the media. The recent (and unnecessary) changes to copyright legislation have failed to improve anything. Unless there’s a proper plan for an alternative to the licence fee, why mess with it?


The week at Ki


Monday – Met with an American producer. She says they’re looking further afield for projects, since there’s a shortage of fresh ideas in the States, and have acquired rights in series from Turkey, Chile and Austria.

Tuesday – Lunch with a publisher, to keep her focused on the author we share.

The run-up to the BAFTA awards has begun, and I took a client to a screening of a film that can only be charitably described as something that polarises opinion. Wish we’d spent the two hours talking about her book instead.

Wednesday – Took a client to another film, which was better but a bit dull.

Thursday – Met with a TV executive, who reckons the licence fee will be abolished within two years. Not the first time I’ve heard this theory, and predictions that this will make the BBC a second-rate broadcaster. It’s hard enough to compete with the American studios. She put an optimistic spin on it: that it would allow the BBC to broaden its work, as it could then supply programmes for anyone. It’s announced that an American company has taken a 49% stake in BBC America, so it begins to feel like the process has already begun.

Friday – Met for a catch-up with a large TV production company. It’s one of those weeks where people are interested in even some of the projects that have seemed tricky to place.

Daniel’s had exciting conversations with some writers, and we’ll be announcing more on this soon.

So, a good week here at Ki. Spare a thought for me, since I messed up the cadenza in band practice last night. I’ll be up in the morning to practice before our concert tomorrow, so spare me a thought. It’s a good thing I’m an agent rather than a professional trombonist, I guess.


Is This Conversation Over?

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You’ve had a positive-sounding rejection for something: should you try again with the next project?

This question came up at the Writers’ Workshop Festival in York last weekend, where I met some very talented writers </P

The answer is, it depends. Despite our reputation, agents don’t like to be brutal. (And bear in mind this blog applies to agents submitting to producers and publishers, as much as it does to writers submitting to agents.) So we all try and find a logical and humane way to respond to something. How do you read between the lines?

1. ‘Your submission has not been successful’ or similar: You can try again – they may be so flooded with submissions that they won’t notice until they see something shining like diamonds in a mine. But don’t put them on the A-list for trying again.

2. ‘We liked XYZ but didn’t love it’: Truthful but a bit annoying. At least they’ve engaged with it, and you might try them again with something else. Unless they ask you, don’t try with a third work if the second is unsuccessful.

This is also a sign, incidentally, that you’re falling into the 90% of submissions that are good but rather samey or otherwise not distinctive or exciting enough to stand a chance with a publisher or producer. Don’t write something publishable / producible, write something you really believe in, and that’s ambitious.

3. ‘I’m sorry but I didn’t get on with it’ or similar: If they’re politely saying they actively disliked something, think twice about going back to them, even though they’ve thought well enough of the writing to engage with you. There’ll be a squelchy moment later on when you want them to try and sell it, because you like it. But they don’t like it, so how well do you think they’ll be able to sell it?

4. ‘I didn’t think I could sell this one, but would be happy to see further work’ or ‘Would you be prepared to re-draft, considering my comments on it, and re-send it?’: Definitely follow up! It’s not like we have a shortage of reading to do, so we’re serious if we say this.

A surprising proportion of writers don’t follow up on this, either because they think we don’t mean it, or somehow get distracted.

So a reminder to all of us to tune into the subtext, and try not to drop the ball when it’s coming your way.

Client news

KiCatherine Webb (as Claire North)’s The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August was published yesterday in paperback and has been selected for Richard and Judy’s current reads:

Anne Perry’s Blind Justice has reportedly won a Silver Falchion for Best Novel (waiting for confirmation on this on the Killer Nashville website) but we have this on good authority.

Mike Carey’s The Girl With all the Gifts has been No. 1 on the SFF bestseller list for 3 weeks.

Film First have picked up the option on Catherine Bruton’s wonderful novel I Predict a Riot (via Rupert Crew Ltd).

Simon Scarrow’s computer game featuring Cato and Macro is developing nicely

Emma Adams’ play HOME SWEET HOME opens at the Albany Theatre in Deptford on 23rd September. Here are reviews of the premier run earlier this year:

“**** You can never be less than impressed with the ambition and scale of what [Adams] is attempting… Adams has no respect for the conventions of theatre – in the very best way possible… [She is] more compelling with every new piece of work.” Yorkshire Post

‘Highly engaging… audiences will see a different side of life at “the home” which they wouldn’t have dreamt of seeing before… Quite spellbinding.” Yorkshire Times

What’s On Stage
WOS Rating: ****

Home Sweet Home is a remarkable piece of work, as difficult to define as it is easy to warm to. A friend asked if I would call it agit-prop, to which the only answer is, “No … and yes.” It certainly makes hard-hitting points about the ways in which the system lets down old people (and the staff in care homes), but mainly it is celebratory of the achievements, aspirations and humanity of the old.

Home Sweet Home by Freedom Studios and Entelechy Arts being performed at the Ukrainian Club in Bradford.
© Tim Smith

Emma Adams’ play for Freedom Studios and Entelechy Arts contains a distinct storyline acted out very capably by seven professional actors, but the community project surrounding the central drama is at least as important. Hannah Sibai’s designs are crucial. A large space at the Ukrainian Centre is surrounded by small blocks of seating, with delightfully homely living rooms in each: wall-lights, framed photographs, old-fashioned wallpaper and curtains. The open acting area – with furniture wheeled on as needed – is finally transformed into a sort of Big Top with streams of lights.

The eight members of the Community Chorus each look after an area of seating: welcoming audience members, giving them cups of tea, passing round photo albums and scent bottles with appropriate care home smells. In the course of the evening they do simple magic tricks (some rather well), comment on the action, dance and sing a bit and generally affirm the positive side of old age.

The chorus members also represent the many older people whose stories have fed into Adams’ script over the two-year gestation of the play. These have been refined down to the experiences of three representative old people. Rosa (Judy Norman) is a Ukrainian who bitterly resents being admitted to the home and is confident that her daughter will secure her release. Moses (Kevin Golding) is a West Indian confined to a wheelchair who needs help on an illicit mission to visit another part of the home. Norman and Golding are a fine double-act, sparring verbally, finding a spirit of adventure and sharing each other’s back-stories.

Ron (a tortured Stephen Schreiber) is an occasionally disruptive dementia sufferer whose wife Barbra (Jean Rogers, determined and sympathetic) tries with the utmost difficulty to get staff to reconsider the decision – officially, not yet made – to put him on anti-psychotic drugs and thus destroy his sense of himself.

Phillipa Peak realises Jo, the manager with her hands tied (literally – she is chained to her filing cabinet), effectively, and Mani Dosanjh’s struggles with principle and loyalty as the care-worker Iffty are aided enormously by the comic extravagance of the appearances of his ghostly grandma and irritatingly ever-present conscience (Balvinder Sopal).

Under Tom Wright’s direction the whole thing becomes an immersive experience and the evening runs pretty smoothly given the disparate elements to be integrated.