Sunday, 17 October 2010

Who wrote this stuff anyway?

Read this article on Thorne, the new cop show on Sky One featuring David Morrissey that started last week.

Did you read it? Finished? Okay, did you notice anything strange?

No? Well, can you tell me the name of the writer or writers of this glossy new show?

Probably not if you just read the article. Because they are not mentioned anywhere. I had to go on IMDB to find out that Dudi Appleton and Jim Keeble have penned the scripts.

From the article one can discover that Morrissey optioned the novels from author Mark Billingham having read one whilst away on a shoot and finding out via the internet that Billingham wanted Morrissey to play his detective leading man. Then, director Stephen Hopkins got involved. Morrissey says "it was when Stephen came on board that I started to get really excited. It’s his vision. I tried to give him as much freedom as I could.”

Well that's great. Did Hopkins, no doubt a talented director, imagine what he was going to shoot out of thin air? Did Morrissey and his co-stars make up the plot and dialogue as they went along? At what point was the, you know, screenwriters hired and erm, what are those things called, screenplays maybe, written?

Let be unequivocally clear. I'm not having a go at Morrissey. I'm not having a go at Billingham. I'm not having a go at Hopkins. I'm not even having a go at Ed Cumming, the journalist who wrote the article. They are just operating within the pervading culture that we have allowed to develop. But it's a culture that is extremely disrespectful to the writer. We continually hear the script is everything. So why are the people who write them so often forgotten?

This is not a bang the drum blog post about how great screenwriters are or that writers are superior to other professionals in the industry. On the contrary, I always thought, and was always told, that film and TV were collaborative mediums. I like working with producers and have enjoyed spending time and learning from the few actors I have met so far. I don't know too many directors but I'm sure there is nothing more exciting as a screenwriter than working with a director to bring your words alive on screen. But between the producer and the director there is a little thing called the script, and somebody called the writer. And the fact remains that without a really good one of each, no one else is going to have a job. So let's not cut out the middle man, yeah?

It's hard to believe the London Screenwriters' Festival is now just a couple of weeks away. They have brought together an unbelievable list of speakers - a real who's who of the industry. And for those going I'm sure it will be a fantastic weekend. But if there's one thing I would like to hear emerging from the festival in the days and weeks following it, it's that there were real discussions about how to end the marginalisation of the writer (do movies really have to be described as A Film By.... enter director's name. It's not enough to say Directed By...??) and how to place the screenplay, the person who writes it, and most importantly of all, the joint, collaborative nature of getting a project from script to screen, at the forefront of the industry and how it presents itself to the outside world.

PS. I'm also not having a go at Thorne, the show, or anyone who worked on it. I've not seen it because I don't own Sky. I personally hope it's excellent because it's a British show after all!

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