The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain (WGGB) is a specialised trade union representing writers working in television, film, radio, theatre, books and videogames. WGGB has a vibrant national committee in Wales formed from writers many of whom work in film and television.  

WGGB applauds the quality in investment going to productions in Wales, but question why this investment is not dependent on a percentage of the creatives, cast and crew being based in Wales.  

Currently funding from the Welsh Government's Media Investment Budget is provided on conditions including that at least 50% of the production is shot in Wales, and 40% of the below the line production budget must be spent in Wales.  But this doesn’t cover screenwriters, and it is clear to the WGGB that the current policy is not increasing the opportunities for local screenwriters.  

For example, Requiem and Ordinary Lies (BBC) and Kiri (C4) as productions financed by Welsh Government which were “partly” set and shot in Wales, but with few Welsh actors. In the case of Requiem even characters meant to be Welsh were cast from England - is this acceptable in a Welsh government funded production?  None of the cited programmes or episodes were written by Welsh writers.

WGGB can appreciate that this may still be a valid investment as there can be local financial gains for regions where film production is happening via tourism and the use of local amenities for cast and crew, but it is not a policy that is developing local talent or creating work opportunities for creatives.

This is not to say that cross-cultural talent exchange is a bad thing, but it would be better if the Welsh Government focussed its energies on those who live in Wales and who are committed to creating excellent work in both English and Welsh, enabling them to discover pioneering ways in which to celebrate the languages and culture of which we are so proud and to share this with the world.  

 

 

Are Welsh writers valued?

Often the production companies are from outside Wales and they bring the lead creatives (writers, director, producer) with them and do not use the skilled and experienced writers based in Wales. Work is trickling down to Welsh writers, but they are being excluded from high end productions shot in Wales and funded with Welsh money. Welsh writers often end up with work translating English programmes/film into Welsh. 

For example, Keeping Faith by Vox Pictures for S4C and BBC Cymru Wales: varied cast - all written by Matthew Hall and translated by Welsh writers for the Welsh language version on S4C. 

If Welsh writers are being used in this way, then where are the training and mentoring opportunities for emerging writers, but also where are the opportunities for experienced writers - of whom there are several respected award winners writing in Welsh and English in Wales - to diversify into other sectors e.g. moving from film to television, theatre to television?

We conclude that the current policies are not delivering opportunities for Welsh writers to develop their skills or careers, and consideration should be given to expanding the funding criteria to include a percentage of Welsh lead creatives.

Welsh writers report that people don’t realise the standard of work produced in Wales and the skills of some of our established writers. Welsh Screen should promote the homegrown talent as well as promoting Wales as a film location, so that when a production company comes to Wales it is not deemed as ‘risky’ to contract Welsh writers.

There also needs to be a clear strategy across Welsh Screen, S4C and the Welsh Assembly on film and TV production which recognises the lead times and needs of production companies and allows for experienced Welsh writers to write and to nurture less experienced writers on those productions. If Commissioning or funding decisions are late, then only an experienced writer will be able to deal with the ensuing crisis.

Where are Welsh language film or TV productions being screened/broadcast?

There are more bilingual and foreign productions available on major channels such as, 4OD, BBC4 and Netflix, so there are opportunities and an appetite from audiences to watch foreign programming with subtitles. 

But there are little or no Welsh language films/programmes available outside of Wales. To open markets and increase external investment, the Welsh Government should consider investing additional funds to enable the production of high quality Welsh language drama with an aim of creating an appetite for Welsh programmes/film outside of Welsh speaking regions. This investment should include PR and promotion of Welsh language drama not only in Wales but internationally.  

Currently a lot of programmes are being made back to back with an English and Welsh version being shot simultaneously, but writers report that the Welsh versions often have less investment during production: for example, less takes are allowed on set for the Welsh version compared with the English version, which could result is a less polished Welsh language product.

If back to back programming is needed, then there needs to be an increased investment in production budgets and time, so that neither version is detrimentally affected by trying to get two programmes for the price of one.  

In conclusion 

With limited funds the Welsh government needs to invest fairly and wisely in productions which will be exciting, unique, and which will sustain and nurture Welsh talent on screen and behind the cameras. Emerging and experienced writers need the support of their government.  

Whilst we recognise that there is investment in Welsh television and film, there needs to be a coherent consistent and long-term investment in the industry in Wales with a commitment and strategy in place to sustain and nurture Welsh writers and other talent.  To quote a Welsh screenwriter, “It’s all piecemeal and too much is being commissioned outside of Wales… there are experienced, successful writers here - but the opportunities are shrinking, which isn’t just funding, it’s priorities.”

Note: For the purposes of this consultation Welsh writers referred to in this submission are those who are born or live in Wales and/or are Welsh speakers.