COVID-19 SURVEY TO MEMBERS: RESULTS

15th April 2020 by admin

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 by admin

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.

@m_r_west

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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.

The Guild Invite your comments & questions on Screen Ireland’s new guidelines FOR FEATURE FILM DEVELOPMENT SUPPORT

3rd April 2020 by admin

Following on from its announcement regarding the revised guidelines across feature film development funding categories, Screen Ireland are inviting comment and questions about the changes, which will be put by the Guild on your behalf next week (tentatively Wednesday). You can read the Screen Ireland press release here access the guidelines and forms on Monday. Please read them carefully and send points you want raised to us by Tuesday at the latest at info@script.ie with subject line: ‘New SI guidelines’ and we will put as many as we can to Screen Ireland.

You may have concerns about the status of ‘Writer-only’ applications which have steadily reduced in number to the point of extinction and what that says about Screen Ireland’s commitment to the craft and profession of screenwriting.
You may have questions about the ‘Spotlight’ scheme and its efficacy.
You may wish to see a rider to development contracts offered to Production companies which mandates that writers receive fair and proportional pay for the work they have done which cannot be waived as a deferral if the producer takes a fee out of the funds.
You may have concerns that the ‘trickle-down economics’ theory of funding development through production companies unfairly privileges producers and does not provide sufficient income to provide professional screenwriters with a viable income.
You may feel that the feedback process for unsuccessful development applications is excessively cursory and unhelpful.

Whatever your questions are, we welcome them and we will endeavour to get answers.

Screen Ireland Announces New Guidelines For Feature Film Development Support

3rd April 2020 by admin

Fís Éireann / Screen Ireland has announced revised guidelines across feature film development funding categories, in order to make the application process easier and more streamlined for Irish filmmakers. The agency is also improving the process for applying for Additional Feature Film Development, aimed at helping producers to maintain momentum during the development process.

Feature Film Development (formerly Project Development) funding and Screenplay Development will now have more concise application requirements, creating less paperwork for applicants as well as ensuring more clarity for teams around their projects at the initial development stages.

Other benefits to the new guidelines include no longer having to submit full scripts. Instead, applicants with be asked to provide a short synopsis with a detailed treatment or the first act of the script with a two-page synopsis outlining the complete story.

The Additional Feature Film Development fund, is specifically for projects already in receipt of Screen Ireland funding. As a way of helping producers to maintain momentum during the development process, projects which have closed off an initial stage of funding will be able to submit on a rolling basis with prior Project Manager approval. If approved for submission, projects will then be brought to the next available Development meeting.

To coincide and support these new changes to the development funding process, Screen Skills Ireland, will deliver a series of free webinars as part of their online ‘Screen Talks’ initiative focusing on key related topics such as Writing Treatments, and Writing Synopses and Log Lines.

https://www.screenireland.ie/funding/development-loans/project-development-loans

The application system will be open from Monday, April 6th and the next Development Funding deadline is April 30th.

SCRIPTORIUM: LINDSAY J SEDGWICK

26th March 2020 by admin

An award-winning screenwriter working in film, TV and games, Lindsay created the ground-breaking animation series PUNKY and published Ireland’s first comprehensive guide to screenwriting, WRITE THAT SCRIPT in 2018. www.lindsayjsedgwick.com

Clíona Ruiséil: How are you managing during this crisis?

Lindsay J Sedgwick: It’s very strange. Although I mostly write on my own, I do like taking scenes or sequences or chapters to coffee shops for a change of scene and having the hum of people around me! I’m trying to see it as an opportunity to get less distracted and focus on pushing a few projects through.

CR: What are you working on at the moment?

LS: A couple of projects. One is the script for an information video, another is helping a director develop an idea into a treatment, but I’m also adapting my first novel DAD’S RED DRESS into a ten x 30 min TV series for Lunar Pictures. It’s the first of a trilogy so the series will have legs.

I also have a couple of books at different stages, including the second of a series (WULFIE) that will be launched at the end of the year by Little Island. It is based on an animation series that was optioned but never got made.

CR: Tell me about DAD’S RED DRESS – what inspired you to write the novel and how did the adaptation come about?

LS: When I was about 13, (the age Jessie is in the book and the series) the son of my father’s boss transitioned. I was aware of snippets of conversations I wasn’t meant to hear and there was one double spread I remember seeing in an evening paper. It was whipped away but not before I’d read enough to intrigue me. This was the 80s, it wasn’t that progressive a time but I can clearly remember that, despite what I was hearing, I knew transitioning was not a choice. It’s something you have to do and it’s difficult on so many levels, for everyone involved. But what really fascinated me about the whole story was that she stayed with her wife and young children. I wondered how those children coped.

So that was the germ of it.

The adaptation came about because the daughter of the producer, (Niamh Holmes), read the book and loved it. Niamh and I had been trying to find a project on which to work together for years and it just hadn’t happened. At the time the book came out, we were both busy but when I sent her daughter a proof of the sequel to read, she asked me if I was interested in developing it with her. We sat down and it was clear she wanted what I wanted from the adaptation and it has proven to be a great, positive experience.

CR: In practical terms, how did you approach the adaptation? What steps did you take to get to a first draft of the script?

LS: Because the book already existed, the overall structure of the narrative was there; the central characters’ arcs were clear. I sat down and listed what I remembered were the main events, rather than rely on the prose narrative. I needed to see what were the key events that moved the central story along, to make sure the momentum would work on screen.
I did this for each of the characters, so I could make sure that all the stories developed.

Once I’d pulled these points into episode outlines, I fleshed them out, dipping in and out of the book. Initially it was going to be a six-parter, then eight and we finally settled on ten.

We sat down and went through the outlines line by line, with Niamh feeding back regarding the development of the story, whether some characters needed to be brought out more than in the book etc. I love constructive feedback. It pushes you to be creative and sometimes that’s all you need – to know that something isn’t strong enough or that there’s a jump in the timeline (emotional or physical) and you brainstorm and find something far stronger.

To make sure each episode moves the story on, I did a logline highlighting what would happen in each episode.

I was writing the first script in tandem with this process. The first script flowed out; pure joy. She was there, waiting to be brought to life! We changed certain things. It’s contemporary, while the book is set in 2008; it’s in Galway, not Dublin; they come from Canada not LA. And it opens quite differently. I had certain scenes and beats I needed to hit. I find it’s easier to have a rough script to rewrite than to agonise over decisions mid-script.

Jessie’s voice is very strong, so we decided to use voiceover. I haven’t used that in a script since 1998! It was only when I had the first script that we could read it through and work out what we wanted the voiceover to achieve. That’s the thing with developing a series, you need to establish the ‘dead body paradigm’, the rules that will hold throughout the series. When and why and how voiceover would be used. That episodes would go from home to school but end up home again, possibly in Jessie’s room. That all central characters will have stories in each episode. That it has to keep the heart-warming, funny and truthful tone of the original book.

Dad’s Red Dress is easier than other projects because I know the characters so well. The difficulty with that is that I assume other people know them that well too and that’s where Niamh comes in!

CR: What advice could you give other writers in terms of how to handle the business (contract, money, etc.) aspects of their work?

On contracts, on fee, look for an ‘or % of the above the line budget, whichever is the highest’ clause and turnaround. From script meetings, email the points you agreed back to the producer so there is no ambiguity re what they’ve asked you or you’ve agreed to do.

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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.