Archive for February 4th, 2008

1st Red Planet Prize

4th February 2008 by Maura McHugh

The Stage reports that the first winner of the inaugural screenwriting competition, the Red Planet Prize, is forty-year-old Joanna Leigh, a lexicographer from Wales. HolbyBlue creator Tony Jordan established the Red Planet prize to discover new screenwriting talent.

Leigh, who studied screenwriting at the London College of Printing, wrote a script called Sam J, which is about the writer Samuel Johnson and how he came to produce his dictionary masterpiece.

Her script was chosen by a panel including Jordan, BBC Wales head of drama Julie Gardner, actor and writer Mark Gatiss and Stephen Fry.

Gatiss described Leigh’s script as a “terrific page turner”, while Gardner said it was a “bold and inventive dramatisation of a critical moment in the history of English literature”.

Jordan said: “Joanna’s script had everything the competition was trying to find – a unique voice, great characters and a remarkable story well told.”

Leigh, who beat off competition from more than 2,000 entrants to win the prize, said she was “thrilled” to win.

Going Independent

4th February 2008 by Maura McHugh

Hollywood screenwriter and prolific blogger, John August (Go, Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Nines), has announced that the screenwriters’ strike in the USA has inspired him to go the independent route with his next project.

The project is financed outside the studio system, with some of that much-fabled internet money. It has actors you recognize, and it probably could be a TV show — but it won’t. There’s near-consensus that in the next year or two, one of the web shows will really take off and change the game. I can almost guarantee you it won’t be ours. We may never see the light of day. But it’s the right time to be experimenting: with tone, with format, with economic model.

Expect to see similar fallout from the strike in the coming year.

Strike Breakthrough

4th February 2008 by Maura McHugh

Rumours indicate that informal talks between the WGA and representatives from the AMPTP have wrought a breakthrough in the screenwriters strike in the USA.

Formal talks collapsed in December when the AMPTP walked out. Informal talks began about two weeks ago, but this time with Peter Chernin of Fox, Disney president Robert Iger, and News Corp. COO Peter Chernin on the producers’ side. Rumours started on Thursday that there was an imminent breakthrough, and while neither side is commenting, it is understood that the skeleton of a deal was put in place on Friday when the producers addressed some key points. The WGA now believes that it has enough to take to its Board – which might happen next Friday – once the lawyers have turned the agreement into ‘contract language’.

Of course it’s early days yet, but it looks as if, on the key issue of compensation and jurisdiction online, real progress has been made by the WGA.