Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Five Daughters/A Cinema Near You

Five Daughters, BBC1's three-part dramadoc about the Ipswich prostitute murders (2006) was an absolute triumph. So hard to be objective when the wounds have barely healed. This production got the perfect mix of compassion and detachment.

Gillian Reynolds in the Telegraph thought Simon Nye's A Cinema Near You (Radio 2's Comedy Showcase) was "Wilder, bawdier, bolder, more accomplished than any recent comparable comedy on Radio 4." I thought it stank to high heaven. She may be right about the fare on Radio 4 though.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A model to us all

Found this great piece of prose in a short story by O Henry, Calloway's Code:

"Ames was the king-pin, the snowy-petalled marguerite, the starbright looloo of the rewrite men. He saw attempted murder in the pains of green-apple colic, cyclones in the summer zephyr, lost children in every top-spinning urchin, an uprising of the down-trodden masses in every hurling of a derelict potato at a passing automobile. When not rewriting, Ames sat on the porch of his Brooklyn villa playing checkers with his ten-year-old son."

Marvellous...

Thursday, April 22, 2010

BBC Notes

Two quotes that struck me in the Spring issue of UK Writer, the Writer's Guild of Great Britain twice-yearly mag.

The first is from an article about Jeremy Howe, Commissioning Editor for Drama at Radio 4, on how to get a commission.

"The key thing, Howe said, is to listen to Radio 4 output, including drama, note the names of producers whose work you like and then contact them.

"He stressed, however, that writers should not 'clone what you have already heard. We want originality, we want your voice.'"

"The most common shortcomings when it came to pitches, he said, were the lack of a hook for the story and the lack of conviction in the offer document. 'Single plays need to be singular, need to stand out. If you submit an idea, you need to communicate clearly and passionately why you want to write it."

There is mention elsewhere in the piece of a 300 word pitch prepared by the producer, but seeing as they are busy, bone idle or both, the idea is obviously for the aspirant writer to do something very close to this. Likewise the two-page proposal which, for the successful, follows.

The second quote comes from Dave Cohen, one of the authors of the fabulous 15 Minute Musicals which has come to an end at the creators' behest. He is addressing those writers who bitch about their treatment from the Beeb.

"... every time I see a successful writer complaining about the latest absurd hoops they have been forced to jump through by the BBC, or a prominent writer openly criticising the Beeb in print, I see more ammunition for the BBC's real enemies. Not us, not actors or producers or directors, but commercially vested interests, hiding their agenda for getting rid of the Beeb behind indignant newspaper editorials about wasting taxpayers' money. [...]

"I don't disagree with their arguments. I'm as exasperated as the next person at having to receive notes not just from my producer but also the actors, accountants, lawyers, lighting crew, taste guidelines sub-committtees and sandwich buyers - all of whose opinions are seemingly respected far more than those of the person who wrote it.

"I accept that some of the notes returned to us are nothing short of ridiculous. And that the continued use of ITCC regulations ('In the Current Climate...') and exaggerated fear at how certain gags will play to Daily Mail journalists is stifling our working relationship. In fact, after more than 25 years of working for the BBC when I've never known them to be in anything other than a state of crisis, this really is as bad as it has ever been."

Food for thought, indeed.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Equity on the proposed BBC cuts

This from the latest Equity Journal:

"BBC senior managers are some of the biggest earners in the Corporation. Thirteen BBC staff earned more than £250,000 a year, with a further 26 receiving between £190,000 and £250,000. The majority of senior managers were paid between £70,000 and £130,000. The BBC's 'top 107 decision-makers' claimed £188,000 in expenses last year.

"The proposals contain no plans to cut managers' pay, regardless of the size of their income."

Rightly so, say I. It requires exactly 107 top managers, no more, no less, to make decisions this bad.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Mark Damazer to leave BBC Radio 4

I was surprised to see that Mark Damazer is leaving Radio 4 for an Oxbridge sinecure after five-and-a-half years in post. Overall Damazer has had a very good tenure. My only criticism, in my specialist field, is that he confuses theatrical adaptations, brutally edited, with quality radio drama.

The implication is that he is worried about proposed cuts to his pension entitlement. If so, the good news is that there are dozens and dozens of seat-warmers of no perceptible ability who might be tempted to wander off in search of fictitious private sector riches. Please let it be so.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Sony nominees 2010

The shortlists for the 2010 Sony Radio Awards have been announced. In drama these are:

Daniel and Mary
BBC Radio Scotland Drama for BBC Radio Scotland
People Snogging in Public Places
BBC Radio Drama for BBC Radio 3
Restless (William Boyd's thriller dramatised for Woman's Hour)
BBC Radio Drama for BBC Radio 4
The Day that Lehman Died
BBC World Service Drama & Goldhawk Essential Production for BBC World Service
The Loop
BBC Radio Drama for BBC Radio 4

Monday, April 05, 2010

Beckett to Higgins - Wise Words

Samuel Beckett offered the following in a letter to Aidan Higgins (April 22 1958), later author of Langrishe, Go Down (1966): "Work, work, writing for nothing and yourself, don't make the silly mistake we all make of publishing too soon."

Let's hope Sam was right.

See "Aidan Higgins, the writer's writer" by Keith Hopper, Times Literary Supplement 31.3.10.