World Conference of Screenwriters Report

12th November 2009 by Maura McHugh

Last weekend a delegation representing the Irish Playwright and Screenwriters Guild attended the historic first World Conference of Screenwriters in Athens, Greece. It consisted of David Kavanagh, Chief Executive of the IPSG, Audrey O’Reilly, Chair of the Board of Directors, and screenwriters Mark O’Halloran and Lauren Mackenzie.

The event brought together all of the members Guilds and Unions of the Federation of Screenwriters in Europe (FSE) – who initiated the project – and the members of the International Affiliation of Writers Guilds (IAWG). Approximately 160 people attended the two-day event, from countries as far apart as Israel, Canada, New Zealand, and Brazil.

The conference tackled its subjects with intense energy, even when faced with intimidating issues such as bi-lateral trade agreements.

What quickly emerged is that while screenwriters in other countries may operate under different agreements with producers and directors, there is a commonality of experience which bridges the cultural divides.

In particular, most screenwriters and Unions encounter issues to do with how credit is attributed to the writers of films; the process of writing treatments and drafts and the manner in which they are subjected to critique; coping with the advent of digital media; the globalisation of the industry and the rights that multinational corporations are attempting to co-opt; and finally the hope writers have for their future based on being the creative source for a good script.

Sometimes the mood in the room became despondent or strained, as people from various groups tried to communicate their frustration and fears, but in the end it was overtaken with a serious determination for screenwriters to remember their strength as the originators of material, and the power of collective action. Screenwriters are not powerless, and it’s not impolite to ask for fair treatment. As the American screenwriter Frank Pierson said, in a video clip to the audience: “Take it easy, but take it.”

When the conference concluded the FSE and the IAWG issued a joint Declaration, and also a Joint Activity Programme.

The conference was a good first start, and already there is a suggestion of another meeting in two year’s time to carry on the action, and conversation.

Write a Comment