Stephen Fry has criticised the handling of television writers during filming of their scripts, claiming they are “treated like dirt” and excluded from a large part of the production process.
Fry described writers as “passed-over creatures” when work starts on a drama they have penned, and said directors in particular tend to forget how integral the script is to the drama they are working on.
“They [writers] are often not welcome on set, not invited to screenings and are treated like dirt. Once they have finished their script it is not theirs anymore. It’s taken away from them and a huge group of people make what they have written, so they are kind of forgotten and a director will forget that he didn’t write it,” he said.
The actor and broadcaster, who has a string of writing credits to his name – including the film Bright Young Things – added that if a writer does visit a set there is an “etiquette” that usually has to be obeyed.
“Occasionally, if there’s a good relationship, a writer can come and visit the set, but their job – if they know anything about the etiquette of a set – is to sit very quietly in a corner and is certainly not to talk to an actor about anything but gossip and it is certainly not to talk about the part [they have written], because that undermines the relationship of the actor and director,” he said.
Fry’s comments come as the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain prepares to publish a new good practice guide outlining how broadcasters and production companies should work with writers of television dramas.
One of the issues it addresses the lack of consultation that exists between producers and writers in relation to casting and the overall shape of a production.
In a draft of the guide, seen by The Stage, the guild claims writers and directors are kept apart, and says: “As the director and his team take over, the script is often regarded as just one element of the overall production. It is easy to forget that everything else depends on the script.”