Monthly Archives: October 2006

Good news dribbles in.

I’ve had a few odds and ends of good news over the last few days. Nothing major in itself; but I thought I’d collate them all.

I’ve spent the week working on a third draft of the martial arts movie; this has been the hardest draft so far, since it needed a completely new ending which had ramifications all the way back through the script.

Again.

Hopefully it’s beginning to take shape properly now and the next set of rewrites will be tweaking within this established structure. Mind you, I thought that last time.

On Wednesday, I had an email from Terry Newman about 120 DAYS OF SADDAM a sitcom script he, I and a few others wrote in 2005. It’s still ticking along and has been making great progress. There’s now a committed cast (including John Rhys-Davies) and the proposal is being read by all the right people. I’m not sure how much I can say about it, but there are more details at the Screenplay Productions website.

Yesterday, on a whim, I Googled GROOVE BRITANNIA, the name of a short film I and Marion Kilpatrick wrote and sold earlier this year. I haven’t heard anything from the producer or director since receiving the cheque; and was wondering if anything ever came of it. I found two actors who have the film on their resumes, so something must have happened. I’ve dashed off an email, hopefully I’ll get a reply soon.

And finally, today I heard (indirectly) from a friend who runs a corporate production company. He wants (and has done for a while) me to work for him one day a week, mainly brainstorming with a smattering of writing. This has been an ongoing discussion for months now, but he’s finally got round to setting a specific date.

So there you go, it’s all progress. Slow in some cases, but I’m still inching my way forward.

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Financial Revue Pt II

So I decided to stop whinging and do something about the lack of payment from NewsRevue (see Part I for details). I opted for a two pronged attack of investigation and confrontation.

I emailed this to what I thought was all the writers of NewsRevue:

Hello everyone,

                      sorry for the group email; but I need some information. I haven’t received any money from NewsRevue for a year now, is anyone else in the same boat?

I know they say they wait until payments reach above five pounds before sending out cheques, so anyone who only occasionally submits/has material performed could be forgiven for not being paid promptly; but is there any of you who regularly have material performed and haven’t received any payment?

Does anyone have any words in defence of NewsRevue, anything which might defend their inability to pay up?I’m particularly interested in hearing from long standing writers who may have more experience of dealing with the show.

Cheers

Phill Barron

To which I only received two replies. One from a woman who asked me to keep her informed, without adding whether or not she was having the same problem; and one from a guy I’ve worked with on a separate project who didn’t really have anything to do with NewsRevue any more, but promised to see what he could find out.

Since that email, I’ve realised there are at least two writers’ lists for NewsRevue and I’d only emailed one list. Since I’ve only emailed at most half of the writers, I might have to send that one out again.

Investigation: a bit of a failure. I’m still none the wiser.

On the confrontation part; I sent this to Louis Brownhill at NewsRevue:

I’m not happy about the lack of payment from NewsRevue over the last year. I’m particularly fed up with being told “the cheques are being posted next week”. I’d really like to know if there’s some good reason why I haven’t received any payment since Run 44 and 45. If there is some insurmountable problem behind the lack of payment, it would be courteous to be kept informed.

At the moment I feel like you are using my material with no intention of paying and I’m deeply unhappy about the situation. I realise I am only one of many writers who submit to the show, and as such, the withdrawal of my material is probably of little interest to you; but I would appreciate a little more information regarding the current state of affairs.

 and received this reply:

Dear Philip,

We are extremely sorry about the lack of payment for your work over the past year and the constant promises of receiving payment shortly.

The problem we are facing at the theatre is that our spreadsheets that calculate payment to NewsRevue writers, along with our files that organise our general accounts have somehow been corrupted due to a change over of computer equipment we installed  just over a year ago. In basic terms, our spreadsheets are not able to calculate correctly.

The problem is being dealt with, and when ever I am assured that the problem will be solved, I relay this deadline onto any writer that enquires. Unfortunately  the the date keeps being pushed back due to ‘more problems’. In short, at this point I do not know when the problem will be rectified. I wish I had a definite date to give you but, all I can promise is that as soon as the problem has been fixed all writers will be paid IMMEDIATELY for the runs 44-45 and payment for runs 46 up to the current run will be dealt with as swiftly as possible in one payout. After that, payments will be made every six weeks.

Please do not feel that your withdrawal from the show would be of little interest to NewsRevue. We value your contribution enormously, and we would incredibly be upset to loose you. Your material is always gratefully received by the directors, cast and audience alike and you are considered a great asset to the show.

Please accept our sincere apologies for the upset this has caused and please be assured that we are trying to rectify the problem as quickly as possible.

Yours sincerely

Louis Brownhill

A year to fix a spreadsheet? Does that seem feasible/reasonable/possible?

If, as Christine Patton (whose co-writer, by the way, is Piers Beckley) says in her comment, they only pay out every six months anyway, then I’m due a cheque about now. If I get it, I’ll let you know; but since Louis can’t give a definite date and the ‘problems’ have now been ongoing for a year (couldn’t they use a pencil and a bit of paper?) I wouldn’t hold your breath.

I certainly won’t be holding mine, but then I’ve got asthma and have very little breath to hold.

Categories: Industry Musings | 2 Comments

Financial Revue

I haven’t received any money from Newsrevue for a year now.

A whole year without payment.

At first I had this weird delusion: maybe they ran into some financial trouble and couldn’t pay the writers for a couple of months? They’ve been slowly paying everyone else their back pay; but I have so much material performed they just can’t begin to crack the debt mountain they owe me and are hiding behind the sofa every time I email them.

Then I spoke to a few other writers: they haven’t been paid either. Have any writers been paid in the last twelve months? Is Newsrevue conning hundreds of writers out of their (admittedly microscopic) pay? Is Newsrevue running at a loss and can’t afford to pay anyone? What the hell is going on?

All I ever get in response is: “The cheques are going out the middle of next week”. I can only assume this is a week on Jupiter; or a lie, since the cheque never turns up.

Then I received the latest running order: turns out the whole show (bar four sketches) is written by the cast. Of the two sketches which are mine, one of them was rewritten by one of the cast.

Again, I ask: what the hell is going on?

Am I now the only writer stupid enough to send them material? Is this run’s  cast so amazingly talented they outshine all the other writers who submit material? Is it a clever ploy to avoid even owing people any money?

Compare this to The Treason Show who pay up promptly within a week of the end of every month’s show. Why is this so hard to do?

Which leaves me in a dilemma: do I keep submitting anything to Newsrevue or not?

I don’t write for Newsrevue, I write for The Treason Show, because they pay me. I also submit those sketches to Newsrevue, because I foolishly believe I can get paid twice for them. If Newsrevue aren’t going to pay up, why waste the email time?

The glory of seeing my sketches performed?

Not really bothered anymore; I like seeing my stuff performed, but I get that from The Treason Show.

The satisfaction of seeing my name frequently repeated on the running orders?

Yeah, that’s nice, but not as nice as getting the cash; and it’s soured because the more I get on, the more I’m getting ripped off.

I could just stop; but what if Newsrevue suddenly come up with the goods? They must owe me a hefty sum by now, if I stop for a year (bearing in mind I’m writing the sketches anyway) and they suddenly start paying again; I’ve lost potential earnings for that period.

If they truly are in money trouble, it would be nice to have been kept informed. I’m not a monster, if the venue burnt down and needed the cash to rebuild (or something equally dramatic), I wouldn’t object to a deferred payment. What I don’t like is feeling like people are taking the piss.

So what’s the answer? Give up on them or stick it out in the hopes of an eventual windfall? Is anyone else in the same boat? What would you do?

Categories: Industry Musings | 10 Comments

Kicking bottom again

Just finished the second draft of the martial arts film.

On the surface, the director hadn’t requested too many changes; most of them were to do with rearranging the first act and tweaking the motivation behind one of the key scenes. Of course, when I started it quickly became apparent every other page had a reference to the scenes which were removed/altered. 

It took considerably longer than I anticipated; but the fact they requested a second draft bodes well, hopefully it will get used.

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Swiss Shark

THE EVOLVED screened at the Lausanne Underground Film Festival this weekend. It didn’t win, unfortunately (I’m not quite sure what did); but apparently it was the only film which sold out for both shows and it was well received by the audience.

That means they laughed; hopefully at the bits they were supposed to laugh at.

Now all we’ve got to do is translate those bums on seats into DVD sales and we’re laughing.

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Kicking bottom

Just finished the first draft of the martial arts movie I’ve been writing this week. The script may get used, it may not; but it was fun to write and it was nice to be asked. Bit of a strange situation whereby there was an original writer, then another writer who submitted a draft and when all else failed, I was asked to bang out my version.

If it is the one used, I’ll post more details. If not, I still might anyway. I’m off to count my chickens.

Oh, and play with my new laptop; it’s working now.

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Karma

I am having a very weird week; I have no idea if it’s been good or bad. Every time the universe gives me something with one hand, it takes it away with the other.

Last weekend I got an email from a producer who needed a feature script, fast. There was money in it, but it had to be done by the end of the week. The best bit being I’d kind of already started working on this script a month or so ago and had a rough draft of the first thirty pages plus the producer’s notes on the story and scene order.

Was I interested?

Hell, yes.

Small problem, I was going to be away Monday and Tuesday; back home briefly on Tuesday night, then away Wednesday to Friday. Not much of a problem really, that’s what laptops are for.

And then it broke.

In a panic (I need my laptop; I really, really need my laptop) I rushed out to the shops and tried to buy a new one. Unfortunately I have no money, or at least very little and my credit rating is well below average. I’m not blacklisted, but it’s a fairly hefty shade of grey.

I ran in with the intention of buying the cheapest one I could find; on the grounds the worst spec available today is far superior to the ’99 model which I’d just broken.

At least, that was the plan.

Pretty soon I’d got myself into the ‘this one is only a hundred pounds more and it’s twice the spec; but then if I’m going to buy this one, then this one is twice as good again for only another hundred pounds…’ Before I knew it I was trying to get credit on an eight hundred pound laptop.

Survey says… no chance.

Dejected, I went home, determined to dig out my soldering iron and fix the ancient old bastard. Luckily, mid ‘How does this come apart?’ Mandy, my wife, points out we now have home contents insurance specifically for these things.

Hallelujah!

A quick phone call later, they whisked my old laptop away, inspected it and pronounced it beyond economical repair. I could have a new one.

Yes!

Only snag is, it’ll take until the end of the week to turn up.

Bugger.

I now had Sunday afternoon, Tuesday evening and Friday night to write the script. Maybe Saturday morning if I pushed my luck. So my week goes, frantic scribbles, frustrated time in a hotel room; more frantic scribbles, loads of frustrated time in a hotel room.

But it’s okay, I’m doing it. The God of inspiration is on my side. Unfortunately, the God of ‘not having some bastard smash into your car and drive off without leaving a note’, wasn’t. I now have matching dents in both sides of my car.

I got home today to find my new laptop waiting for me. It’s lovely, sleek, stylish and fast as you like. In fact, it’s the one I tried to buy last week.

But it doesn’t actually work. They’ve sent me a brand new, broken laptop. I know they replace like for like, but that’s taking it too far. An hour on hold and they tell me the best thing to do is take it back to the shop. I pack it back up, race to the car, drive like a lunatic to the industrial estate, only to find…

We don’t have a PC World in Eastbourne. We’ve got all the sister shops, but you can’t actually swap from one to the other. I did try, but the teenager in the shop wasn’t having any of it, even when I offered him a tenner. Honestly, kids today are far too principled.

So there’s my tale. I’ve got a paid commission; but no time to do it. I’ve got a brand new laptop, which doesn’t work; and a nice new ding in my car. Am I having good luck or bad luck? Does the world like me or loathe me?

I have no idea.

Categories: Progress | 3 Comments

Winning isn’t everything.

I was watching THE X FACTOR today, I’m not proud of it, I just was; and I was trying to relate the career aspirations of the singers to my own as a scriptwriter. I know winning the competition will instantly put the victor at the top of the pile, it’s a huge boost into the music industry; but it’s not the only path. I found myself wondering what I’d do if I were in a similar competition as a scriptwriter.

Like the contestants, I have a belief in my ability, I have a passion for my chosen career and a drive to be successful. Like the contestants, I would love to win such a competition; but I can’t see myself focusing on it as the be all and end all. I keep plugging away at writing, convinced I will eventually achieve every goal I set myself; I try my hardest, if it’s not good enough, I pick myself up and try harder next time. Resilience and perserverence seem to be getting me where I want to go.

I may be wrong, I don’t watch the program regularly, but it seems to me that these people don’t think like that. They all act as if this one competition is the only route to the top. True, it’s a ladder from the bottom of the board to the winning square; but they don’t seem to realise they can also work their way around the board.

Few of them seem to be in bands already, or singing and performing on a regular basis. They seem to want success handed to them without all that tedious effort.

Great, don’t we all?

But the odds of winning the competition are very small, so why put all your eggs in one basket? Why not try as hard as you can anyway? Then, if you win, fantastic, you’re there; if you don’t, oh well, keep on plodding onwards and upwards. Losing a competition like THE X FACTOR isn’t the end of the game, it just means you have to play for a little longer.

The ones who don’t make it; why are they then rude to the judges? Do they genuinely think abusive behaviour and language will change their minds? If you believe in your talents, thank them for their comments, ask for any advice they might have, and move right along. Shouting and screaming just seems like burning your boats.

Say you are successful in the near future, you may need to work with the judges again; having called them names is unlikely to endear you to them. I’ve had offers of work from people who didn’t like the script I initially sent them; presumably on the grounds I showed some promise and didn’t abuse them for not recognising my “genius”.

If people knock you back, find out why they don’t like your work (not everyone thinks you’re as great as you know you are; doesn’t mean they’re right) and see if you can learn something. Be polite, you may find your detractors are willing to work with you the next time you meet. Above all, shrug, dust yourself off and press onwards. There are other ladders on the board, they may not reach all the way to the top; but every step is a step closer, regardless of how long the journey takes.

Categories: Career Path | Leave a comment

New Project

I had a second, and very productive, meeting today with a writer/director about an exciting new feature film project. As usual, it’s far too early to discuss anything in detail; but it’s a fantastic idea and hopefully will become an amazing film.

We spent the day brainstorming about his story and characters; and came up with a tentative structure, theme and scene order. There’s still lots to be done, but today was a great start.

More details as and when.

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