What does Brexit mean for writers?

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While the dust has far from settled, following this enormous bombshell, I thought I’d risk some speculation.

The film and TV industries have been clear that they think it’ll be more difficult to get finance, and that fewer British and European films and programmes will show up in each other’s territories. For the next couple of years, I think we’ll see polarisation between low-budget domestic product, and material which looks as if it’ll be successful internationally. So, anyone who can write good scripts that cost very little and can be shot here, and more Harry Potter.

We might see some unexpected alliances, too, as co-production partners.

The publishing industry has also been clear it thinks Brexit is disastrous. In particular, the US and UK may war over English-language books exported to Europe. If the Americans can get cheaper editions into Europe, the UK publishers will lose many thousands of sales. In response, I think publishers will try and protect their incomes by putting even greater pressure on authors to agree to World rights deals.

It’s never been easy to make a living in this business, but the next few years will call on our best entrepreneurial and creative skills.

Meg

What’s everyone looking for?

Today’s issue of Broadcast focuses on what the various commissioners at ITV are looking for. Most of them say they don’t want to be too prescriptive. The drama controller thinks there’s room for more crime, as long as it doesn’t include grizzled detectives, dead prostitutes and abused women.

Producers, publishers, and agents are often asked what they’re looking for right now, and the only genuine answer is rather formless: something fresh and character-led. ‘Character-led’ means that the characters are well drawn, and we like them enough to care what happens to them. It’s also important that what happens to them is interesting.

You have to take a conservative view of ‘fresh’: this often means a fresh angle on a well-known genre. It must not so far away from what an audience has seen recently that no one knows how to market it, but not something we feel we’ve now seen a hundred times. It’s a tricky balance. ‘Fresh’ doesn’t mean gimmicky, for instance, a grizzled detective who also happens to be in a wheelchair. One example might be Emma Adams’ play, Ugly, about climate change. You’d think that commission was career suicide, but Emma looked at the issue from the point of view of how people treat each other when resources get scarce. Still bleak, but a dimension we haven’t looked at much.

In this competitive world, a thoughtful creative choice means a writer is much more likely to get a commission.

Where is the money?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere’s been a lot of coverage this week about the ALCS’s latest survey of writers’ earnings:
http://www.alcs.co.uk/Documents/Downloads/whatarewordsworth.aspx
Nicola Solomon, Chief Executive of the Society of Authors, makes astute comments on the publishing aspects here:
http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jul/11/traditional-publishing-fair-sustainable-society-of-authors
Briefly, in publishing, book sales have been declining over the past few years; however, as Nicola points out, publishers don’t appear to be suffering. In television, companies have had to provide new digital services with no extra funding. Other media, such as film and theatre, have suffered from austerity cuts. Who loses out? The individual, as always – the writers.
What can be done about this? For a start, it’s time for the writers’ unions and agents to examine the writer’s share of money generated by their work. In the way that poor people’s benefits have been cut, almost as a punishment during the austerity cuts, writers seem to be expected to subsidise the digital developments in the media. Second, both the Labour and Conservative governments can stop suspecting there’s money to be found in creative content if we can just make it cheaper for the consumer, or promote our culture… without spending any money on it. At this rate, we won’t have a culture.
(Meg)

The Sins of Agents

This wonderful article

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/10339696/The-ten-commandments-of-manhood.html

made me wonder about what might be the Ten Commandments for Writers, but I could only come up with a few obvious ones (“Don’t write anything rubbish”).  However, the sins of agents are many, and here’s my stab at Twenty Commandments for Agents.  Further suggestions welcome…

1.  Thou shalt put the client’s interests first.

2.  Thou shalt give positive feedback as well as negative.

3.  Thou shalt return phone calls and answer emails.

4.  Thou shalt deal with contracts and payments promptly.

5.  Thou shalt keep thine ego in check.

6.  Thou shalt not indulge in paranoia.

7.  Thou shalt resist weird superstitions about what works in the industry.

8.  Thou shalt not indulge in strange practices to improve thy clients’ luck and frustrate thy competitors.

9.  Thou shalt not boast to a client about another client’s greater success.

10.  Thou shalt not make enemies.

11.  Thou shalt not knowingly represent anything rubbish.

12.  Thou shalt not harry publishers and producers fruitlessly.

13.  Thou shalt not blame everything on someone else.

14.  Thou shalt be honest and caring, without undue support from alcohol, drugs and egregious boasting.

15.  Thou shalt not spend more than 2 hours a day moaning about the industry to thine agent friends or thy clients.

16.  Thou shalt remember thy clients’ names and (roughly) what they wrote.

17.  Thou shalt not look covetously on another agent’s client.

18.  Thou shalt not use thy lunch as a bookmark.

19.  Thou shalt keep up with new developments.  As soon as a new right exist, writers start losing money.

20.  Thou shalt resist harking back to the golden days of 100% repeat fees, uncomplicated royalty statements, the Net Book Agreement, 15-year licences, and the ability to send an interesting work in progress to someone who had the time to read it properly and think about commissioning the writer.

Money