Archive for April 15th, 2020


15th April 2020

To see the information in chart form, click here.

Q1: What county are you based in?

The highest concentration of respondents were based in Dublin with the next highest being Galway. A number of respondents were non-specific (‘Ireland’) and a few respondents listed other countries.

Q2: In which language do you write?

English 89%;      Irish 2%; Both 9%;        Neither 0%; Other 0%

Q3: How long have you been writing professionally? (ie. whereby most of your income is earned through writing..?)

1 year or less:  14%; 3 years or less:  9%; 5 years or less: 10%;      Ten years or less: 15%;

More than ten years: 36%;        I have been writing professionally during the last ten years but I am not writing professionally at the moment: 16%

Q4: What percentage of your annual income last year was from activities OTHER THAN writing for film/TV, Theatre or radio?

a) 0% – 15%:  30%; b) 16% – 30%:  6%; c) 31% – 45%: 5%;       d) 46% – 60%: 15%;             e) 61% – 75%: 7%; f) 76% – 85%: 8%;   g) 86% – 100%: 29%

Q5) Please give details of your current work situation:

I had a writing contract in place which remains unchanged: 25%;   I had a writing contract in place which has been affected by the Covid 19 crisis:  22%; I didn’t have a writing contract in place: 53%

Q6) The contract you had in place was for:

(The total exceeds 100% as respondents were able to select more than one category).

Film:  23%;     Theatre: 25%;      Radio: 9%; Television: 52%;     Other: 7%

Q7) Please specify the date your contract was changed.

Before 12th March: 2%;   Before 20th March: 43%; Before 27th March: 32%;   Before 3rd April: 23%

Q8) What was conveyed to me on that date was:

Termination of contract: 5%;      Temporary suspension of contract: 70%;     Reduction in volume of work: 9%; Reduction in fee: 0%;      Other: 16%

Q9) If your contract or other work has been cancelled, have you received any communication suggesting they will be resumed at some point in the future?

Yes: 59%;   No: 41%

Q10) In your contract has been cancelled, has a remedy been offered?

Yes: 16%;  No: 84%

Q11) If your contract has been terminated, suspended, cancelled or otherwise amended, how were you informed of this situation?

By phone: 17%;       By email: 83%; By post or courier: 0%

Q12) Have you received any notification that your work will resume?

Yes: 37%;       No: 63%

Q13) How were you informed that your work will resume?

By phone:  20%; By email: 80%;      By post or courier: 0%

Q14) Do you have any works already billed but due to be paid:

Yes, within the ordinary payment schedule: 17%;        Yes, payment is already late (in terms of) the payment schedule: 11%;         Yes, I had just billed those before the emergency was declared: 6%;

No: 66%

Q15) Have you received any information about the delay in any or all of those bills?

Yes: 12%;      No: 88%

Q16) How were you informed of the delay?

By phone: 22%;      By email: 68%; By post or courier: 10%

Q17) When the crisis happened, was your work already in production or pre-production?

Yes: 39%;   No: 61%

Q18) Please specify what kind of work was already in production and the situation you are in currently (e.g. “The script has been delivered for a play which is stalled” or “I was writing an episode but the production has stopped, so we don’t know the new delivery date”)

This question resulted in a wide variety of answers, with the majority indicating interruption to, and uncertainty around, work. The following three sample responses demonstrate this;

(1) A script was in development, but the production date in the summer is in doubt due to the virus.

(2) We were in pre-production on a feature film and the filming will not now go ahead.

(3) Script is due to be workshopped in May with a staging of some scenes at a festival in June. I doubt either will happen.

Q19) According to your payment schedule, when do you foresee your next payment should be made?

within the next few weeks: 30%;     within the next few months: 10%; I don’t know: 60%

Q20) Do you think you may avail of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment from Social Welfare?

Yes I have already applied: 20%;     Yes I will apply: 7%; No I won’t apply: 22%;   I’m not sure: 24%; I’m not eligible: 27%

Q21) How much do you expect your annual income to be impacted by the Covid 19 pandemic in the next 6 months?

a) 10%:  10% b)  Under 50%: 35%     c) Over 50%: 35%   d) Not at all: 20%

Q22) Can you continue to work on development with directors, producers and executives at this time (whether that be work already contracted or speculative work)?

Of the respondents who answered this question, the majority said ‘yes’, while a minority gave responses ranging from ‘no’ to ‘n/a’ to ‘maybe’ or a version of ‘some of my development work may continue’. The three sample answers below are indicative of the responses to this question;

(1) Currently yes. But concerned about it getting into production and hence work continuing as normal.

(2) No, my regular TV work needs to be commissioned. I can of course work on creative writing projects myself with the hope of something being commissioned but there’s no income/pay with that.

(3) I have done some work on story & bible, but there is no money to pay me until new dates are set & contracts are agreed.

Q23) Finally, please let us know of any other concerns you have.

The responses to this question illustrate how much concern members have right now about their work, their income and their future, along with the added concern for their health and that of their families. A few respondents indicated that they weren’t too concerned, however the vast majority expressed a reasonably high degree of concern. These three responses illustrate the kind of responses to this question;

(1) I worry that the economic impact on writers will make it even harder to get by in an industry that is already under-resourced and highly competitive. The funding bodies that I regularly apply to – i.e. Screen Ireland, Arts Council – are likely to take a major hit and there will generally be much less money around. There will also be increased anxiety about travel and about attending plays, etc, so it feels like the volume of productions will drop. I think it will be harder and slower to get projects off the ground, which will also impact on income. But I’m also hopeful. And once we have our health, we’ll figure things out.

(2) I have no concerns professionally, things will start up again when Covid crisis abates. Am used to living on a shoestring so in that sense: Business as usual! Main concern is for the welfare of people and animals throughout this crisis and beyond it. Work and the search for it, can take a back seat until “this too shall pass”.

(3) The comment box is not big enough to do that.

To see the information in chart form, click here.

Scriptorium: Michael West

15th April 2020

Picture by Mathias Fend

Work with The Corn Exchange includes The Fall of the Second Republic, Dublin By Lamplight, Freefall and Man of Valour. Teaches scriptwriting at Queen’s University Belfast.

Clíona Ruiséil: What are your thoughts or feelings about this crisis – has it affected your work and how you view the world?

Michael West: It’s a bit like having an opinion about an asteroid. And hard to comprehend while it’s still going on around us.

Obviously I’ve never had a show closed down by the government before. And to see the next 6 months’ work for myself and colleagues torn up overnight is also deeply strange — quite apart from the question of lost income, it’s the loss of purpose and focus that will prove challenging in the long run.

On the one hand, working in the arts is to be part of a cycle of death and rebirth, project to project. And yet if the theatres can’t open, or audiences refuse to come, what then?

I work from home anyway, so on a daily basis, the same basic distractions and table are still there. I’ve taught a couple of classes online and it was ok.

As I’m typing this the sun is shining and the air is warm and fragrant. The birds are making a ferocious racket in the morning. The quiet is luxurious.

It’s unexpected to find spending so much time with my family so pleasurable — and we are all grateful that we aren’t sick or working in the health services, and count ourselves fortunate every day. People are being kind and thoughtful. I imagine long phone calls are general all over Ireland.

CR: Tell me about your most recent play, The Fall of the Second Republic?

MW: The title and premise of the show — an embattled Taoiseach forming a grand coalition with the other civil war party to hang onto power and crush his rivals — came to me about 10 years ago. We pitched it to the Abbey around the time we were presenting Freefall there in the great snow of December 2010.

The city pretty much shut down around us, and the actors and audiences had to walk to the theatre, where the Abbey handed out hot port to welcome them. It was also the week the IMF came to town. It was one of the most joyful and depressing experiences of my life. Anyway, Freefall is about a dying man seeing his life flash before him. It’s funny and sad and lyrical, dealing with the collapse of a marriage, and looked at the shadow cast by children lost to institutions and the possibility of kindness.

And The Fall of the Second Republic was to be a correction to all of that — a furious, foul-mouthed ensemble comedy to catch the sense of anger at the politicians of the time, but also to provoke laughter. The Abbey passed.

When the current directors of the Abbey asked us back to present Dublin By Lamplight in 2017 I pitched it again as a follow-up, wondering what the grandchildren of those characters would have made of Ireland in the 70s.

By that stage, given the elections in the UK and the USA, the descent into madness and populism made the idea more relevant. The decision to set it in the 70s was a response to the impossibility of keeping up with topical satire. A fictional 1973 offered a simpler time, where politicians were still scared of the truth because they still believed it existed. And I was becoming more intrigued by how Irish politics in that fraught time steered carefully away from demagoguery and proto-fascism in the pursuit of economic stability. Civil liberties, women and children were thrown under the bus, but the political centre was carefully held.

The Abbey commissioned the play and offered a co-production with The Corn Exchange to present it. I wrote a sprawling first draft over the following year and we held a workshop in the summer of 2018. That draft focussed mainly on the internal politics of Manny Spillane and his entourage in Leinster House. The role of the journalist, who became Emer Hackett, was very underdeveloped. Annie Ryan felt that the idea of Manny Spillane’s fall from grace being triggered by a journalist in the years of Watergate made more sense now and that the play needed an outside, female perspective to set off the political shenanigans.

We were originally supposed to present the show in late 2019, but funding struggles between the Abbey and the Arts Council led to a postponement of the show to 2020. The Corn Exchange also had its funding cut to zero, so we were in the strange situation of presenting a posthumous play. We held another workshop with the cast in early December. And we started rehearsals with a fabulous ensemble on January 13. Andrew Bennett who played the lead in Freefall took the part of Manny Spillane. Anna Healy (with whom I first worked in the Abbey with Andrew in The Marriage of Figaro in 1996) was to play his personal assistant. Caitríona Ennis was the fearless journalist, Emer Hackett. John Doran was her lover, Finbar Lowe.

The other roles were played by Declan Conlon, Pa Ryan, Niamh McCann, Eddie Murphy and Camille Lucy Ross — frequently running off and coming back on in different wigs and outfits. Comedy is a gruelling game but I loved every second of rehearsals, rewrites and all.

CR: Arthur Miller said that writers should ‘ask questions’. Do writers have a duty to tackle political, moral or existential questions, or what could be considered other important issues?

MW: To talk of a writer’s duty is itself a political, moral and existential framing of what writing is. Duty implies obligation and service. It is both onerous and honourable. It confers authority and importance on the writer — before they’ve even written anything.

For myself, I’m wary of anything that makes writing into something heroic. But equally I can’t imagine why you’d want to write if you weren’t addressing something you felt was important. And that includes writing for pure entertainment.

Providing answers is rarely satisfying, but asking good questions is another way of imagining yourself into another’s situation.

“What if?” is the premise behind all drama.



Scriptorium means a place for writing – so this is a place for you to discuss your work, your views on writing in general, your thoughts on the industry and anything else you’d like to mention. You can focus on a script that you’ve written which was produced during the last year, or one you’re currently writing. We hope you enjoy this series and look forward to hearing what you think of it. We welcome in particular writers who may have an unusual or atypical experience of scriptwriting in Ireland in terms of their ethnicity, gender, age, physical ability, socio-economic background or other life experience.

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