I got a wonderful response to last week’s newsletter about French \ foreign films and the favourable comparison to general Hollywood output.
One idea that was suggested on the back of it (thank you Kate Scott) was a ‘World’ drama \ feature film list, the equivalent of my British TV drama list of a few weeks back. This is something I will be returning to in the next few weeks – you have already given me a long list of your counter-suggestions which I will also come back to – so thank you again for engaging with these weekly newsletters so interestingly and giving me so much great feedback – and material for future newsletters!
I now have a long list of, particularly, French films that I can’t wait to see and I will be sharing this with you in the weeks ahead.
But this week I want to look back again at this year’s London Screenwriters Festival.
Writer DAVID BISHOP has very kindly agreed to write an account of his experiences of this year’s festival, with some very good hints about how to make the most of this annual event – and other similar events.
David has been to a couple of courses that I’ve run in the past and wrote an excellent drama series pitch to get onto my ‘CREATING DRAMA SERIES’ script lab at this year’s LSF.
He is a talented writer with an admirably professional, clear vision of what it takes to get on in this business. Over to you David…
‘I went to LSF 2012 as a paying punter, my first experience of the festival. Unfortunately, I missed pre-festival events on Thursday and the first full day of activities on Friday due to unforeseen circumstances. As a consequence, I can only talk about the weekend.
(Hopefully you saw my account of the Friday a couple of weeks back – PS)
The venue was easy to find, easy to reach and all on one site – always a bonus. It took a while before I realised the timetable had changed overnight, which rather scrambled my carefully laid plans. Apparently there was a smartphone app to keep you appraised of any changes minute by minute, Sadly, I don’t own a smartphone and didn’t have net access the whole weekend, so that rather complicated matters.
I was lucky enough to be selected for two of the writing labs. These are closed sessions with small numbers of participants, led by experts in their field. Some of these were swamped with submissions, others had better odds. I took part in the writing for computer games lab with Steve Ince, and the creating drama series lab with Phil Shelley [hhm, that name sounds familiar].
Arrived late for the games lab on Saturday, so can’t judge the full merit of that session. Steve clearly knows his topic, but asking participants to submit ideas for new games in advance was problematic. We all got industry-level feedback but, as Steve pointed out, the reality is development companies almost never buy games ideas from freelancers [certainly never in my knowledge, I’m happy to be corrected]. I’ve done some games work and would like to do more, but writers seem to have the same status as a catering assistant on a film – useful, but easily replaced.
Had lunch with fellow ‘Doctors‘ scribe Paul Campbell and newly agented writer Dominic Carver. [We went to the Garden Café in Regent’s Park, just along the road and round the corner from the festival venue – great food for a reasonable food by London prices.]
Sat in a fascinating session about writing TV crime with the likes of Matthew Graham and Tony McHale. Was stunned to hear Tony Garnett – the man behind The Cops and Between the Lines – describe himself as a fraud, waiting to be found out. [If you want to know why, check out Tony’s credits – http://uk.imdb.com/name/nm0307821.] But his words made me crystallise the themes underpinning one of my current projects, a real Eureka moment. Was gutted to leave early, but had to go to-
The creating drama series lab with Phil Shelley was a great three hours, I could happily have spent all weekend in that session alone. I’ve met Phil several times before, and he has politely poked enough holes in an old project of mine it now resembles a string vest, and I knew the session was in good hands. So it proved, with Phil challenging the flaws in projects submitted by participants, but also championing what was good about them. The session gave me more confidence in my current calling card script, which is nice.
Met more old friends at the evening drinks and made some new ones, but bailed out by nine – I’d gotten up at 4am for the long schlep down from Scotland, and was wilting fast.
Sunday had me up bright and early for Pitchfest at 9am. Feedback I heard from people who had been at past festivals was they much preferred the 2012 version of speed dating for projects. Lots of writers pitching lots of ideas. I was pitching a finished TV pilot, a finished feature film screenplay, and several projects still in development. I did best with my in-progress material, as that enabled people across the table – producers, development executives – to get involved.
Completed scripts are great as ready to go reads, but can feel as if they’re set in stone. Unless it chimes perfectly, a pass becomes more likely.
Happily, I got talking to one producer without much of a queue so we got 15 minutes together instead of the requisite five – bargain. I’m following up with him later this week. A couple of other people have already come back to me on follow-up. Alas, no sales I can shout from the rooftops, but that’s not really why I decided to pitch. For me it was more about meeting people and starting a conversation. Good working relationships take time to develop, you can’t expect a home run in five minutes of chat amid a noisy room.
The rest of Sunday I spent in panel sessions or listening to speakers. Some fascinated, others offered food for thought, a couple bombed. No more academic film theorists who can’t read a clock, please, LSF. A few too many panels turned into career overviews, rather than the topic suggested by stated title. I was surprised in one session when the room was asked how many present had agents, and I was one of the few to respond. That made me put the whole event into perspective.
LSF is great for emerging writers, if you can afford it. [The festival has payment plans to spread the load, London as a city isn’t quite so helpful.] You will discover a wider writing community. You get to meet people, put faces to names [or on-screen icons], and you learn a lot if you’re ready to listen. Don’t turn up expecting to make a breakthrough that weekend. Instead, go looking for knowledge and to make initial contacts with people.
Most important of all, make sure your writing is as good as it can be before you go. A shiny new business card and a slick pitch will get you so far, they might even get you a first commission. But it’s your writing that will secure the second job. Challenge your writing, seek out strong criticism, be prepared to listen and rewrite and rewrite again.
Events like LSF can be gateways, but only if you’ve already done the hard work.’
Thank you very much David – really sound advice from someone who knows what they’re talking about.
Until next week,
All the best
Nov 16th 2012