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Thursday, 7 April 2011

Working for Free part two

Thank you to the lovely Gillian for sending me this link. It's a flowchart designed by Jessica Hische and addresses all the bullshit reasons that cheapskate tossers would be employers throw at you, in order to persuade you to turn your brain inside out for free.

Writing for free - don't do it!

So here's the skinny. I hear about this new website which says they will pay its writers £20 an hour. Yes I know - it does sound like bollocks doesn't it? But the idea of a regular gig sounds nice so I send off some writing samples and forget about it. A few weeks later I receive an email. It tells me that they've had such a fantastic response they can't make up their minds! And so would I mind writing not one but two travel articles because it's going to be some sort of travel website. That way they can decide who they really want.

And what do they get? They get a whole load of free work is what they get.

Now I know it's difficult when you're starting out as a writer, but I feel I've paid my dues and if someone doesn't like the way I write, when I've supplied them with a few samples, then fair do. But I don't think it's arrogant to assume - hey I know I can write and I've written professionally so if you expect me to write two free articles then you can stick it.

I have an issue with any company expecting free work anyway. And it's often got nothing to do with their financial situation - everyone in the world wants your services as cheaply as possible. If you go to the NUJ site, they have a section where writers anonymously post how much they've been paid for writing in some very prestigious newspapers and magazines. The sheer shitness of some rates will amaze you! There is also a very good section on copyright. I am deeply embarrassed to admit that when I recently had a new commission from Radio 4 I didn't actually know about streaming rights (where the writer is paid extra for their play to be available as a download or on iPlayer). I didn't know! The average writer in the UK makes about £10K a year which is crap. So we should be paid properly. Remember how the entire Hollywood industry ground to a total halt when the writers went on strike a couple of years ago? They were accused of being greedy just for wanting a bigger slice of the downloading and internet rights. It's not greed to be properly paid for your efforts and if you accept a rubbish rate, you're driving down the price for everyone else.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Abridging and Actors

In my last post about abridging I wrote about the business of cutting a full length book down to five or ten episodes, each episode ending on a cliffhanger, and a good mix of prose and dialogue. Otherwise the poor actor is spouting And then . . . and then . . . and then, or (even worse) ‘So what did he say?’ ‘I don’t know’ ‘But surely you heard something?’ ‘No I didn’t’. A bad abridgement is like a plateful of gristly stew – hard for the listener to swallow and the poor actor choking on the words.
Of course like anything taking some skill, a real professional makes it look easy. Properly read, it’s like the actor is reading to one person – you. It turned out that Michael Maloney did the reading and he was astonishingly good. He made it sound so easy. There are several points of view in the book, and the central character is a woman. There are also many scenes where a whole host of police types have chewy conversations about murder. The actor has to subtly delineate between each voice but not in a silly high pitched way. A cock up costs studio time so the more seamless the reading, then the more the producer can get done in one take.
Michael Maloney does a lot of audio books and clearly he puts in some welly before he gets to the studio. He was brilliant and the whole book – all 22,500 words was in the can in one day. I also got to hear about a certain pop star whose management decided that pop star’s autobiography would sell much better if she read it herself! Oh what a good idea. Because how hard can it be to read a book eh? Especially one that you’ve ghosted written yourself – every word.
By the end of the first day, there were teeth marks in the recording booth from the sound engineer biting the table in frustration. The Producer resigned. It took six weeks to record twenty thousand words. Six weeks. Any profit that might have been made was swallowed up in the amount of studio time it took to record the book.
It’s not just pop stars with no experience of reading. Ever. Probably. It’s also about actors who show up, thinking it’s just reading a book. It’s not. It’s your brain working on about five different levels, elegantly pitching the line, eyes and brain scanning ahead for a bump in the road – pace, pause, knowing when to stop, knowing when a natural break occurs. All this going on at the same time. Getting the emphasis right. Subtle delineation between voices. We hear so much mockery of actors – some of it deserved – you know, actors blithering on about their political opinions – or the state of the world, that sometimes I forget there are some cracking actors out there who deserve every penny they get because they show up, on time, prepared, and they get on with it and do a brilliant job.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Oooh - posh face cream!

After my last post’s transgression into something approaching intellectual rigour – you’ll be pleased to hear I’m back at my usual level of blogdom today. I bought some face cream! Only it’s not just any old face cream – it’s Clinique Superdefense (the skin care industry pays no heed to grammar or spelling) SP25. According to the folded up leaflet in 159 languages, it ‘arms skin to fight the visible effect of emotional stress’. As long as you ‘partner Superdefense with Super Rescue Antioxidant Night Cream.’ So moisturiser by the Ministry of Defence. Except that would mean my night time slap removal and wash routine would end up costing me upwards of fifty quid! So this stuff is going to be ‘partnered’ with Boots face wash and like it.
‘That’ll be £34.90’ said the lady at the counter with rusty streaks down her face and demon eyebrows. I smiled and tried to look as though I do this kind of thing ie pay mad sums for a product where the main ingredient is water, every day.

Yeah but you bought it. Yes I did. Well doesn't it look like it works? All shiny and gleamy and sciencey?! And with the full expectation of looking younger than The Girl who just turned seven, I’ll keep you posted.