It’s been one week since I journeyed from deepest, darkest Wales to attend the London Screenwriters Festival. I was nervous, I was anxious – what if I forget my loglines? What if I meet proper writers and clam up? What if nobody likes me?
Thankfully, while I did ramble at one poor producer, I did meet proper writers without mishap (they had been drinking) and some people seemed to like me okay, or well enough to chuck their business cards at me.
So, why the grandiose title, London and Screenwriters? Am I being absurd to call LSF vital to the hearbeat of the city and the screenwriting community? No, and I’ll tell you why.
I can honestly say LSF consisted of the three most valuable and positive days of my writing life. I gained practical, insightful advice from writers, producers, agents and readers – from those who attended as speakers and from those who were attendees. I honed my pitch in the sunshine chatting to a group of writers at lunch. While practising in the mirror was a good plan, it was even better to talk to people other than my reflected self.
I participated in Speed Pitching, where I threw down my steampunk assassins feature and my sci fi sit com to three producer types. Despite the aforementioned rambling, I secured two script requests and one man’s useful advice on how to develop my project further. I also learned that pitching is pretty much talking – and Heaven knows I can do that!
I also took advantage of Euroscript’s advice session to talk about my Asylum pilot. We went through my two-page treatment, working out how to reflect a three series plan in a spec script and what plot threads were necessary to set up the series. Amazing experience – and all for the ticket price.
That was all on Friday.
It just got better from there, really. I can’t begin to describe the surprises I had as I learned about my craft and my place in the screenwriting world. If you’re serious about being a screenwriter, you need to be at LSF.
And what about London? Well, guess what, we can make films. We can make damn good films, if that little Oscar hoarder “The King’s Speech” is anything to go by. Film is a big industry and one in which we should take advantage. We have hungry screenwriters, we have a rich oral tradition, we have gorgeous natural sets from mid-Wales to Scottish Highlands to inner city Manchester. London needs the film industry and LSF is just one way we can demonstrate that we’re here and ready to take on the challenge.
Now that I’ve rambled out my manifesto, I will share my top tips gleaned from the sessions I attended at LSF:
1. “If you haven’t written a screenplay, you’re not a writer you’re a fantasist” – Vadim Jean
2. “Write what you know – about the human condition” – Danny Stack
3. “In the end, it’s as basic as ‘do I want to know what happens next? Am I excited?'” – Vadim Jean
4. “If you don’t have that thing in you that makes you love the cinema, stop now” – Martin Gooch
5. “Great endings are inevitable and shouldn’t be predictable while you’re on the journey getting there” – Paul Ashton
6. “Yesterday’s no may be tomorrow’s yes” – Lucas Webb
7. “The script must be able to stand on its own two feet and be sensational” – Lucas Webb
8. “What you can’t fix is someone who doesn’t write well” – Julian Friedmann
9. “If I’m not gripped and impressed within the first two pages, I won’t read anymore” – Julian Friedmann
10. “If I get a feature script that’s 90 pages, I’m impressed. If it’s over 120 pages, I won’t read it” – Julian Friedmann
11. “If you’re blocked, going and writing in someone else’s house is the best thing” – Richard Tierney
12. “People don’t live their lives in satisfactory three-act structures” – Christian Routh re: Biopics
13. “The fear of the the unknown is what drives horror” – Christian Routh
14. “Bring them back to ‘what are the problems?’. Don’t just take their solutions” – Emma Frost re: notes
15. “I always explore a note fully before I turn around to somebody and say ‘I think you’re wrong'” – John Griffin
16. “You’ve got to go down all your blind alleyways and try everything, otherwise you won’t know if you chose the right route” – John Griffin
17. “Telling your story out loud to something is an incredibly valid exercise” – Olivia Hetreed
18. “Drama is about character fighting their way for something” – Kate Leys
19. “Why should I pay attention if you’re not being attentive to what you’re telling me?” – Olivia Hetreed
20. “I’ve found something that I’m passionate about and that I would die for and is commercial!” – Rob Thorogood
21. “The difference between a good writer and a great writer is how to take notes” – Tony Jordan via Rob Thorogood
22. “Survival is the only success you can hope for in series television” – Rob Thorogood
23. “You should never, ever get put off by rejection” – Roland Moore
24. “If you’re a writer, it’s an illness you’ve lived with all your life” – Rob Thorogood
25. “An idea is an idea is an idea – it can be any kind of thing” – Tony Lee re: picking a medium