Saturday 10 November 2012

London Screenwriters' Festival - 2012

The London Screenwriters' Festival (LSF), the largest event of its type in the world, has just closed for 2012. (The Australian equivalent, National Screenwriters Conference 2013, will take place on the Mornington Peninsula next February. Yep, too remote and expensive for most Australian wannabe screenwriters to attend. The more things change...) 

I didn't make it to the LSF this year, so I've decided to write a post on the subject instead.

Chris Jones and the volunteers receive a closing ovation from appreciative screenwriters.

As I have no firsthand information, I am shamelessly depending on reports from selected eye-witnesses.

Daniel Martin Eckhart is an American-educated Swiss writer of German crime television/movies, who was a member of the Swiss Guard protecting the Pope in the Vatican for a number of years. No, I'm not kidding. Daniel has provided an enthusiastic summary of the event (along with his usual solid advice) on the blog Write, write, write.

"The LSF - I'm telling you, it's so easy to make connections here - the danger is not making the most of them after the festival. Meet new people, talk to other writers, find the execs and the directors - talk, pitch, exchange business cards ... but don't waste those opportunities. Try to be different - try to be/have/say something that sticks in their mind - and then contact them as soon as possible after the festival ... if you wait three months - most likely they won't remember you - and in addition, what does that time lapse say to the person you reach out to?"
Elinor Perry-Smith is a writer, producer and owner of Nun With A Gun Productions. She administers the blog Lock and load, brides of Christ, which included the following observations.
  • I was looking forward to this very much. I can remember going the first year, feeling quite scared but this year bounded in, business cards at the ready, keen to meet people, start up convos with total strangers and even catch sight of my co-writer Scott, which I did incidentally.
  • The opening speech by Chris was a rousing call to arms. How does he do it? Clearly the man never sleeps. He also unveiled the exquisite horror of the 'elevator pitch' in which - le gasp! - REAL executives would travel up and down in the lift (as we say here in Blighty) whilst nervous writers would give them their spiel and hopefully emerge with a business card after sixty seconds! I heard lots of people went up for this.
  • The woman of the match for me was Pilar Alessandra, who with grace and efficiency got down to the nitty-gritty of dialogue and how to navigate it to your script's advantage. Inspirational, I thought.
  • I saw David Yates speak about his career, especially about shooting three Harry Potters back-to-back. Interestingly, he said he was shooting new scripts written by women based on true stories that really made him care. In fact 'why should we care?' was very much a theme of the whole festival. Why should an audience care about your characters?
  • I saw The Red Dwarf Redux session and excitedly texted my daughter 'OMG, I'm in a room with Kryten!' whereupon she replied 'Just don't ask him to stir your tea with his groinal attachment.' Not the first time she's upstaged me.
  • Luke Ryan's session was well-attended and he was very generous and funny with how he got started and who to approach in Hollywood. Tip: Always be polite to the assistants, they want to be producers. Which is a good rule anyway! As has been tweeted before the pitch should be concise, include a logline and be sure who your audience is. Pitching is good practice in starting a relationsghip with producers. Are you an easy person to work with?
Richard Dinnick is a writer who has written pretty well everything, including Doctor Who comics. Richard was part of the panel that gave Survival Tips for writers. On his blog, Richard Dinnick, he gives this advice on what-to-do-now that the Festival is over.
  • So, make sure you get following all those remarkable professionals you met on twitter. Email all the people you met to say “hi” and to maximise the goodwill:
  • Adjudicate: why not offer your help reading their script(s)? Give them some notes? Be in their circle of trust?
  • Collaborate: would it be good to work together on your project? Or have you been inspired to create a new one, or would you like to work with that person? Make a proposition!
  • Facilitate: Did you meet someone who you think one of your other contacts would love to know? Would he or she be a perfect fit for their project/script/film? Get them together! Everyone will always remember a favour and feel well disposed towards you. Filmic karma. It’s good for the soul. :)
  • Associate: arrange to meet up with them. Christmas drink? New Year coffee? How about a working meet-up? A writers’ group for screenwriters? Or meet up and watch a DVD and critique the film afterwards – like a book club, but for films!
  • Remember, be seen and be visible was one my survival tips. So join groups, contribute, get along to other events.
  • But most of all – write! Be inspired to finish the script. Or start on that tricky re-write (and finish it)! Or start a new project (and finish it)!

Michelle Goode is a script reader, writer and editor. She administers the blog Writesofluid, where she reports on her experience witnessing a role-play on pitching and selling a screenplay at LSF. She drew the following conclusions:
  • Have a concise yet passionate and colourful pitch – know your logline and concept, don’t ramble/go off on a tangent/go over time limit and don’t worry too much about being nervous; producers *are* human and as long as you speak clearly and have a good idea they will listen.
  • It’s not enough to just write a good pitch and script. You have to know about budgets, target channels and their implications, target audiences and their implications, viewing trends/time slots, what people you want to work with (directors, actors etc) and associated costs and implications.
  • It’s bloody scary, but you have to be a businessperson as well as a writer; you need to sell your script!
Sarah Cassidy is a UK-based blogger who administers the website sarahscribbler.
"So, that rounds up my second day at the festival. It was my favourite day by far, and although the ticket is arguably expensive, I would state that I got my moneys worth on Saturday. I can’t state how motivating it is to even be in the same room as these geniuses of their craft. Normal people like myself who have worked hard, never given up when they received rejection and are proof that people can get their lucky break. Matthew Graham spent nine years trying to get a commission for Life on Mars and that was initially just a story about his uncle John."

This is a great little video blurb, a bit dated, but you can only tell that by looking at the dates. The information is current. See what you missed...

1 comment:

Kathy said...

Wonderful to see writers connecting. Women who attend romance writing conferences have the same feelings of discovery and elation. I would recommend conferences to every writer, you learn so much when you discover the writing world around you.