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Film writers turning to TV, survey finds

Screenwriters now see television as a better option than feature films, according to a survey from The Writers Guild of America East union.

Almost nine out of ten WGAE film, television and digital media members who had written films in the past five years intend to seek television work in the next year.

Television is often said to be experiencing a ‘Golden Age’ for scripted drama as cable shows such as Breaking Bad, Mad Men and Dexter continually draw plaudits from critics and viewers alike.

WGAE noted its members saw television as a “more writer-driven medium” than film with a “growing slate of compelling, creatively satisfying shows” being produced for the small screen.

One member wrote: “Having worked in TV and film, writers have much more to offer throughout the production on the TV side.”

Creatives known best for their films including Neil LaBute (The Company of Men), Joss Whedon (Avengers), John McLaughlin (Black Swan) and Clive Bradley (City of Vice) have all wrote for television in recent years and the WGAE expects the trend to expand in the next 12 months.

Asked about the biggest challenge for writers in the next five years, half the respondents pointed to a decrease in feature films and subsequent lack of development deals on the table.

Nearly eight out of ten identified new production and distribution models in digital media was the biggest opportunity coming, while nearly two-thirds said additional hours of scripted programming on TV and online was a key factor.

Numerous US cable channels and digital platforms are moving into scripted commissioning, with one exec recently describing the situation as a “sea change” for drama programming.

However, one member said: “It’s outrageous that the minimum script fees for cable are still less than for networks; with more and more writers in cable this has to be changed.”