Archive for September, 2020

SCRIPTORIUM: CATHERINE MAHER

30th September 2020 by admin

Writer on set of The South Westerlies shoot at Tinakilly House

Former Sketch-Writer (Mario Rosenstock Show, Bull Island) and Copywriter, Catherine’s drama The South Westerlies is currently on RTÉ1 TV Sunday nights.  A productive year that included writing/directing Counsel Me Baby in the Project Arts.  Currently writing SWs Series 2 plus a “yoga-meets-the-dark-menopause” TV comedy for World 2000. Contact @writestuff.ie

Clíona Ruiséil:  Tell me about your drama series The South Westerlies, currently on RTÉ1?

Catherine Maher: It’s a love-letter to women in their 40s, 50s and 60’s.  And to our stunning coastline, beaches and small towns.  From the get go, I was deliberate in setting out my stall; this was going to be an end-of-the-week comfort blanket, a rape-and-murder-free zone.  A Sunday night slot was essential.  3 years later, after 4 (of 6) episodes have aired, we’ve got a substantial, returning audience enjoying, what I like to think, is the ultimate pandemic escape.

CR:  How did you research your story?

CM: The spine of the story concerns a Norwegian wind energy company in the final planning stages of installing a 50-turbine wind farm off the coast of the fictional West Cork town of Carrigeen.  Much as I reckoned I was fairly up to speed on “environmental issues” in general, this required a whole new level of research.  I read everything from; mission statements of engineering companies who design turbines, to articles on communities in the US, UK and Ireland who experienced the arrival of wind farms close to where they live.  Along with articles in science journals on how turbine technology has evolved over the past decade.  In a few short weeks, I became an expert on Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Wind Energy But Were Afraid to Ask.

CR:  What are the challenges involved in writing a drama series?

CM: I’d say it’s a “volume thing”.  6 x 1 hours of TV eats up a lot of material.  Our Series 1 Writers’ Room at the beginning of the process (big ups to storymeisters Hugh Travers, Michelle Duffy & Hilary Reynolds) was an inspiring fortnight of enthusiastic brainstorming and excessive chocolate eating, which filled the gaps in my original Bible.  Plots thickened, characters got meat on their bones, and wonderful twists and turns appeared, as if by magic.  But then it was just me, back at my desk, staring into the void – and a schedule of rolling deadlines never far away.  If I didn’t turn to class A drugs that year, I never will.

CR: Are there elements of writing a script you find particularly easy or difficult?

CM: For me, the excruciatingly painful, stomach-tightening part is, without a doubt, The Start.  And I don’t mean the start of Page 1 Ep 1;  I mean every day, sitting down to the screen, it’s a frickin’ battle.   Random baking, movie-trailer watching, inbox purging, even ironing, suddenly become attractive.   But then you begin.   Am getting better at early morning starts.  The late night bursts work well too.  Afternoons are a waste – usually leave the desk and (boast alert) go for a sea swim.  Recently moved to Greystones in Wicklow, where the beach is a 3-minute cycle from my door.  Hashtag blessed as they say.

CR: How did you get a producer on board?

CM: Unbelievably, amazingly, fortuitously … it was through a WGI  Producers/Writers Speed Dating event back in August ‘16.  I sat down in front of Ailish McElmeel of Deadpan Pictures and pitched her (see first answer above).

CR:  Which scriptwriter(s) do you most admire?

CM: Huge fan of British TV writers Abi Morgan (The Split) and Sally Wainwright (Happy Valley, Last Tango in Halifax).  Both super-skilled in creating strong, multi-dimensional female protagonists that are compelling and thrilling to watch.

CR:  What improvements would you like to see in the industry?

CM: Better remuneration and role-recognition for writers, and a clearer pathway from writing to showrunning.

CR:  What advice could you offer writers who are new to the industry?

CM: Short version; “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride”.

Longer version;  Meet and talk to other writers.  All the time.  Not only will they make you feel less alone, but they’re/we’re resourceful.  They’ll know producers, or they’ll know someone who knows the producer you need to meet.

Join the WGI, join informal writers’ groups, take Screen Skills Ireland training courses; they’re not expensive and not only will you up your skills, but you’ll make invaluable contacts.  Be friendly.  Everyone’s in the same boat.   But don’t tell the world your “big idea”.  Hint at it, but keep the good stuff to yourself.

Be prepared for pushback, criticism, notes – so many notes, but try not take them personally.   Good notes will make your project better.  Keep your eye on the prize.   But always have a fallback – I still work as an advertising copywriter in between TV writing.

Every time you finish a draft, whether it’s a fledgling outline, a first treatment, a bible or an episode, allow yourself to savour that moment.  You’ve given it your best shot, so stand away from the desk and stop messing with it!

*****

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.

Bheadh áthas orainn freisin a chloisteáil ó scríbhneoirí le Gaeilge gur mhaith leo an agallamh a dhéanamh trí Ghaeilge.

If you’d like to participate simply email: info@script.ie.

A Letter From The New Chair of WGI

30th September 2020 by admin

Dear members

It is my honour to introduce myself formally to you all as the new Chair of the Writers’ Guild of Ireland. I feel very grateful to be taking over as Chair of the Guild from my colleague Thomas McLaughlin who has led the Guild so well for the past number of years. A huge thank you to Thomas for steering the Guild through good times and bad, with his own unique sense of style and leadership.

For those of you who don’t already know me, I look forward to getting to know you all in the coming while. I have served as a board member since 2015, and more recently have been the Guild’s Deputy Chair. Outside of my work with the Guild, I am a screenwriter, working most regularly on RTE’s Fair City for the past 8 years.

I first joined the Guild back in 2008, when I got my first TV drama commission as a writer on TG4’s Seomra a Se. It was when I became a regular writer on Fair City in 2012, that I realised how important the Guild is to its’ membership. As soap writers, we are (relatively speaking) better protected from the fickleness of the industry, but even still, it became quickly apparent how important it is for all of us as writers to stand together.

It’s a strange time to be taking over in the middle of this COVID pandemic. In some ways it feels like as a writing community we are more isolated than we have been before. But I also believe that more than ever, the Guild is important as a voice for writers. As Chair I will lead the board of the Guild, but ultimately, my role (and that of the Guild) is to serve the membership. I want WGI to be a Guild that is member focused, that has a proactive voice in the industry, and above all, that provides a sense of community and collaboration for all writers, across Film, Television, Theatre and Radio, and centres writers as the key creative voice at the heart of every production.

I look forward to working closely with you all,

Jennifer

Jennifer Davidson Named New Chair of the Writers Guild of Ireland

30th September 2020 by admin

We are delighted to announce the election of our new Chair, Jennifer Davidson. A member of the board since 2015, and more recently its Deputy Chair, Jennifer takes over from outgoing Chair, Thomas McLaughlin. Jennifer was unanimously elected the new chair at yesterday’s (virtual) board meeting

We would like to express our deep thanks to Thomas for his commitment and hard work in the service of the Guild. He continues to serve as a board member together with newly elected director Carl Austin who joined us for his first board meeting.

WGI Welcomes the Establishment of Arts and Culture Recovery Taskforce

17th September 2020 by admin

The Guild welcomes the establishment of a new Taskforce for the recovery of the Arts and Culture sector under the Chair of Clare Duignan, by Minister Catherine Martin TD.

The Programme for Government: Our Shared Future, includes a commitment to “establish a cross-departmental taskforce to develop a clear approach, informed by the views of all stakeholders, to protect and sustain the arts and culture sector through the COVID-19 recovery and beyond. This will be fed into the National Economic Plan.”

Speaking of her appointment, Ms Duignan said, “It is crucial that these important sectors are not left behind as we rebuild Ireland through the Covid-19 recovery and beyond. I hope to lead and work with the Taskforce to deliver effective recommendations that will sustain and protect the arts, to help find a way back for artists, performers and live events workers to the audiences and communities they need, and to restore to Irish citizens the creativity and sustenance that the arts and entertainment sectors give us.”

Since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, WGI has been a part of an arts sector advisory group with colleagues from Theatre Forum and Visual Artists Ireland raising concerns and inputting advice on the Department Of Arts Culture and Heritage’s COVID-19 response.