A tribute to Rosemary Anne Sisson

The following speech was given by WGGB Chair Gail Renard at the 2018 Writers' Guild Awards on 15 January 2018 at the Royal College of Physicians in London
Bernie Corbett and Rosemary Anne Sisson

Rosemary Anne Sisson, or Romy as she was known to all her friends, was a former Writers’ Guild Chair, President, activist and also the best role model any of us could have had.

Romy (pictured above with former WGGB General Secretary Bernie Corbett) was a prolific playwright, author and screenwriter. Her career was vast and varied. When she started, she co-authored a play, A Ghost On Tiptoe, with Robert Morley. She told me she learned a lot and the luncheons were wonderful.

On television, she wrote for Upstairs, Downstairs, The Duchess of Duke Street, The Six Wives of Henry VIII and how long have you got?

Romy cocked a snook at ageism. Late in her career, she wrote The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles for George Lucas. She took great pride in wearing her Lucasfilm silk bomber jacket well into her late 70s.

She was delighted that she wrote Murder, She Wrote when Angela Lansbury and she were both nearly 80.

Did I mention Romy also wrote films starring Bette Davis, David Niven and Jodie Foster?

Yet in her spare time she worked ceaselessly for the Guild and negotiated some of the television agreements which we still benefit from today.

Once, with Guild support, Romy and six other writers brought a case of copyright infringement against a major television company. They claimed their work had been used without credit or payment.

Romy refused to back down. The Guild won the case but coincidentally Romy’s work dried up shortly after.

Romy of course wrote to the company and asked if she was on an unofficial blacklist? The company of course denied it. She was soon offered work again. You didn’t mess with Romy.

When the new Broadcasting Act was passed in the early 90s, some disreputable people without any credentials – or money – set themselves up as independent producers. Romy wrote:

“A producer who has no money is not a producer but a wannabee, and if he commissions work without paying for it, he is a crook.”

Romy was part of the Guild negotiating team who, along with the PMA, gave us the first PACT agreement, which lays out the terms for writers when working with independent producers. We all have a lot to thank her for.

Till the end of her life, Romy was passionate about the Guild and attended AGMs. No one knew our Rule Book better than her.

She was the first person I ran to with Guild news and gossip and, most importantly, for wise counsel. I miss Romy’s enthusiasm, friendship and also her talent. Now let’s celebrate some of her work.