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netribution > features > interview with allan denman > page one
This week is writers week in the stuffy locker that is the Netribution office, we've sourced two very different organisations that have one thing in common - the script. No longer will we permit our deep well of natural literary talent to hoard its riches, allow our Midas treats to grow stagnant or tolerate the precious purities to seep through the crack in the bottom of the bucket! The Screenwriters Workshop is a membership organisation with an 18 year history of support and influence through their training schemes and networking initiatives. In our conversation the other day, exec committee member Allan Denman quite rightly pointed out that ours "is not a properly integrated industry, it looks like a labyrinth when you start out and you've got no map and the SW provides that map." He's recently teamed up with David Castro at the NPA on a project called Match. It's a writer development scheme run with the intent of pairing up a writer and a producer and encourages pitching experience for both parties in a competitive forum - the two winning pairs get their script developed by professionals for free.

| by tom fogg |
| photos by tom fogg|
| in london |
  Tell us about the background of the organisation.
The Screenwriters Workshop has been going since 1983 and it was formed by a handful of writers wanting to get into the industry. It's now grown to about 800 members, we network with other organisation, we run courses on how to write for film and television which are pretty highly regarded. We also run monthly writers evenings with industry speakers - this Friday we've got Allan Plater, we've had Jack Rosenthal, David Leland, Deborah Hayward from Working Title. Since September we've been running mid month film nights presented by one of our tutors, it’s a discussion within a social event but there's a little it of education thrown in there as well. We have a feedback report service but I think the most important thing about the organisation is the concept of writers helping writers. We aren't academics, theoreticians or charismatic script gurus, we are pragmatic writers and we know from writing what the pitfalls are. Most of us have been doing it for quite a long time so it's a unique organisation and it's a major way of making your way into the industry. Membership is £35 and you get to learn whilst working your way into the industry.

How long have you been involved in this?
I joined in the Spring of 1993 and I've been on the executive committee since 1995, there are eight of us that meet once a month.

What's the connection between the Workshop and the public sector?
Well, partly to do with the nature of isolation as writers and partly to do with the way that it was set up originally, it wasn't connected enough in my view. Now the remit of the Film Council is development and everybody realises now that one of the major ingredients of a successful film project is strong development. In the US the average percentage of a budget spent on development is 8 - 10% while over here it's more like 2%. We need to put more money into development and that means supporting writers, giving them script consultation, linking them with the industry so they understand the market place and helping them develop the craft of writing. Over the last few years we've been very active in establishing relations with other organisations, we've very strong relationships with the NPA , the Director's Guild, PACT and we talk to the Film Council once a month.

What has been your impression of them so far?
Well I've met most of the people on the Film Council and I've been impressed by their openness, their desire to make things happen and their wish to integrate the industry so that we all know each other and we all talk to each other. I think they've got exactly the right mindset and they've got plenty of good intentions, whether they've got enough money is another question. £23m a year may sound a lot by British standards but it's nothing really. We'll have to wait and see, I think that this is a time of hope anyway.
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