First of all, apologies for the horrendous lack of content over the last year. Life has rather got away from me but I am back on track at long last!
So yesterday I got back from the London Screenwriters’ Festival. They hold this each year at Regent’s University in London and this was my third time going. I cannot recommend it enough if you’re looking to get into the screenwriting business like me. It’s a bit expensive but if you book soonish for next year it really is worth it, I find.
This is different from other festivals in that there’s not really competitions or anything like that. Just a load of panels and events on. You can really group the panels they show into ‘fun’ ‘career’ or ‘both’. They frequently bring in geniuses like Pilar Alessandra and Lucy V. Hay who can give you so much advice on the craft, but they’ll also get in the writers of big movies and TV shows to just talk about their careers and share anecdotes. This year they had Jeb Stuart (Die Hard), Bruce Robinson (Withnail and I), Jed Mercurio (Line of Duty) and many more. Just imagine going to university with a few childhood heroes- that’s what this is like.
Aside from the panels, you can also sign up for the Pitchfest and the Actor’s Table Read. The Pitchfest is kind of built up as the cherry on top of the festival. Basically there’s a load of directors, producers, execs, even agents in this room and you’ve got five minutes with each one to sell your script, but more importantly to sell yourself (not that way you dirty sods!) If you play your cards right, you could get a few very interesting contacts by the time the last bell goes. I know it can be scary to sit in front of these big powerful people and expose your ideas to them, but you’ve got the wonderful Bob Schultz to prep you for it beforehand.
Honestly the Actor’s Table Read is one of my favourite activities; to my regret I didn’t go for it this year but I’ve found the last two brilliant. Basically you take a small scene from your script and give it to a director and a couple of actors and they perform it in front of you in this little room. You can take so much away from these sessions as you can see what actors take from your script at face value, and what they add to it when they hear more about it from you. If they give the performance you want before talking to you, you could be onto a winner! Also, you never know what actors you might get; a few of them have been in some quite major stuff….
The event is run by Chris Jones, who I’m pretty sure is a walking fusion reactor; he just projects energy. Every year he does this big rallying opening event that makes you all feel a bit mad (don’t worry; you are but that’s OK!) There is a real charm to this festival and everyone is super-friendly. There’s a load more stuff going on, but even after three years I haven’t got round to all of it yet!
But the most important thing of all is at the end of each day when everyone goes for drinks. Because it really is everyone- a first time writer looking for advice on their first project or the brains behind one of your favourite movies. Bring business cards to this because just meeting people, making friends who’ll read your work will do more for your career than any big pitch to a Hollywood exec. Just walking around this weekend I spoke to Scott Myers from GoIntoTheStory; you could not meet a more a pleasant or insightful guy. I also chatted with Linda Aronson, who gave me some brilliant advice for a certain project I’m working on at the moment.
Because the London Screenwriters’ Festival is really a metaphor for the industry. It’s not a big scary corridor leading to increasingly important rooms; it’s one giant room, and everybody’s in there somewhere. You just have to always be on form and talk to everyone you can, and you never know what might happen. If you’re a writer with some free time next September, I cannot recommend the LSF enough.