Tuesday, November 27, 2007

French scriptwriters march to support the WGA

Although the legal, artistic and business environments are very different in the US and Europe, most international writers' guilds have given their support to the WGA strike. The French writers' union UGS is going one step further and organising a demo opposite the Tour Eiffel (the Espalanade du Trocadéro) in Paris on Wednesday November 28 at 4pm. They will notably organise a family photo of "creators" that includes writers, actors, producers and directors (looks to me like a pretty good networking opportunity!).

The specifics of the debate between producers and writers in the US are not the same as those in Europe, but one area is very similar: the proportion of revenue generated by online sales. There is already a massive migration towards online viewing. This will only increase over the coming few years. So it is important that the writers of the films and shows be entitled to a fair share of this important new revenue stream.

As a reminder, Screenplay Europe is not promoting any online movie or TV show downloading until this issue is clarified.

Visit the UGS.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ronald Harwood to talk about adaptations in London

Oscar-winning scriptwriter Ronald Harwood ("The Pianist", "Oliver Twist" and "The Dresser") will be talking at a special event organised by The Script Factory and BFI on December 6 in London. A very large proportion of major films are adaptations, and Harwood's speciality is specifically the adaptation of novels and plays to the screen. His upcoming releases include "Love in the Time of Cholera" and "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly".

Harwood has written a fascinating book on the subject already. If you're interested in the discussion, I strongly recommend you see at least "The Pianist" and "Oliver Twist" as he will most likely talk about elements from both tales.

Ronald Harwood on Adaptation
Thursday 6 Dec at 6.20pm
NFT3, BFI Southbank

Tickets are on sale now costing £8.60 (full) £6.25 (concs) from bfi.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

European writers create manifesto

While the American writers' kettle has come to the boil in the form of the WGA strike, European writers are continuing their own struggle for broader acceptance and understanding of their work. The Federation of Scriptwriters in Europe (FSE) has created an online manifesto that contains the most important of their demands. They range from the very basic - that writers be more fully recognised as the author of the work and that festivals and institutions actually name the writers in their programs - to the touchy issue of "possessory credit" (producers or directors taking undue shares of the writing credits) and "fair payment for every form of exploitation". The latter refers notably to the growing online download services.

The FSE represents the writing guilds of the UK, France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and other countries. Find out more about it on the FSE website.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Random thoughts about scripts

The Belgian writers' group ASA held a round table recently to try and define what a movie script is, with a view to being better able to present the writers' case in discussions with other bodies. To cut to the chase, the definition was never agreed on but the discussion itself turned out to be fascinating.

Script doctor and writer Luc Janssens set the ball rolling by suggesting that the script is a "technical document used to make a film". But others found that belittled the craft and artistry of storytelling. Inevitably, the question of structure came up. And just as inevitably, the claim that structure is somehow an American idea was made (something I have always thought was strange - like David Lean or Hitchcock didn't use structure). Director Harry Kümel ("Malpertuis", "Eline Vere" and opera) rightly jumped in to point out that a lot of the early analysis of drama was done by a Frenchman. Janssens added a long list of writers stretching back to Shakespeare that used the 3-act structure.

Kümel was critical of the current reliance of the European movie sector on public support. "It's not with subsidies and commissions that that we'll create new European cinema. I dream of a European cinema that complements America's."

But how do you judge a film and its performance? Kümel: "A film must be seen by the number of people it is intended for." That's actually a neat definition if you think about it. An art-house drama could never compete with the tent-pole summer movies. But that does not mean that it is operating in a vacuum. There are still yardsticks for analysing its performance.

"...like becoming a doctor..."

On to writing itself: "It takes years, that's the problem," according to Janssens. "Scriptwriting is like becoming a doctor - it takes about the same amount of time to become a good one. It's not because you learn the rules that you are a writer... We looked at the number of schools and courses that are available in Europe for the moment and found over 300. But in my opinion, only a very few of them - including London and Rome - are worth anything." The problem is one of commitment, with many film-making courses not devoting enough time to the script.

Another question that cropped up was: "Who exactly is the author of the script?" Some writers complained about being considered as luxury typists by directors. The habit of directors and even producers demanding shares of the authors' rights was also discussed. "I don't accept that," said Janssens. "When I finish a script, I've done 80% of the directors job."

More about Luc Janssens

Friday, November 02, 2007

Song lyrics for Belgian hit movie "Vermist"

This summer, I got a call from composer Steve Willaert who was writing music for the Belgian thriller “Vermist/Missing” directed by Jan Verheyen. He was preparing a track for the end of the film and could I help with the lyrics? After a little coming and going, the result was “Waiting” breathlessly sung by Chantal Kashala. What I didn’t know at the time is that the film stars two of Flanders’ biggest new actors, Koen De Bouw and Kevin Janssens. So when I went to see it on the second night, I was surprised to find a capacity audience in one of the largest theatres (it opened in 29 cinemas in Flanders). “Waiting” plays over the final credits. I’ve had music used in movies before, but this is the first time I’ve written something from scratch for one. There are plans to turn “Vermist” into a TV series. Check Vermist here. Scriptwriters are Bas Adriaensen, Philippe De Schepper and Matt Witten.

Download the track from A-Lyric.