Monday, 31 October 2011

The London Screenwriters' Festival 2011

Oh my darling ones,

what a blast it all was. I'm already saving up for next year's fest...

I popped in briefly on Day 1 because I was pitching. Immediately saw Vanessa Mayfield who played Penny in my extract from Off the Page last year. The great thing about the fest is that you come in feeling all awkward but before long, you plonk yourself down in the quadrangle at Regent's College and you're soon chatting away to people. Thus it was on Friday, when I found Paul Ross and Guido Lippe who were also pitching at the same session as me. Later, I met Rosie Claverton. I'll be keeping in touch with all of them. We were ushered in by the lovely Gemma Hurley, whose sunny disposition and positive attitude were a great help to us nervous pitchers. I'm not quite sure what we were all so worried about. The agents and producers were absolute sweeties, despite the noise of screenwriters pitching and the waves of adrenaline sloshing about. Also had sight of m'lovely director Michael Clarkson also from last year's 'Off the Page'.

So, the pitching was good. Two out of the three people I pitched to, indicated an interest so I will be following them up, nay STALKING them, you can be sure.

Day 2: Off to a cracking start with WHAT CAN AN AGENT DO FOR YOU, AND HOW CAN YOU GET ONE? The stand-outs for me were Julian Friedmann and Janice Day who were funny, informative and self-deprecating. I tweeted throughout, which is a great way to keep you concentrating! If there was a common thread here, it was DO YOUR RESEARCH! Don't send your immortal prose off to someone who may not be interested.

After this, to Paul Cronin's talk on Alexander Mackendrick. I bumped into the the lovely Tim Clague there, sat at the back. Again, I tweeted throughout. A fascinating session with loads of film clips expounding on Mackendrick's 'Show, don't tell' theories, which certainly left me with plenty of food for thought. If you're telling a story with images, you should pare back the dialogue to the bare minimum. It's secondary to the cinematic language already on-screen. Riveting stuff though it was worth noting that Mackendrick himself was famous for being difficult and not many of his students went on to make films themselves. The notable exception being James Mangold.

Next up, if I remember rightly, was In Conversation with David Reynolds, the writer of Finding Nemo. Again, funny and self-deprecating, full of insights into the creative process at both Disney and Pixar. The main difference between the two being taht Disney will ALWAYS want a happy ending whilst Pixar are more open to a SATISYING ending. Apparently, the animating, writing and storyboarding processes all take place at the same time, so as a 'writer' you must be ready to see your words change when the storyboarders get a hold of them. As intense as this style of collaboration is, David was keen to point out that live action films seem easy to make by comparison.

Then, upstairs (met Danny Stack in the lift!) to Fantastical TV for the funniest session of the day in which the esteemed Jason Arnopp and his fellow panellists talked about their experiences of writing SCI-FI, Dr Who, Primeval et al.

Then back to hear Paul Cronin talk about Mackendrick's thoughts on Aristotle's Poetics. I think a lot of people were there to see more film clips but he chose to do a powerpoint presentation (only his second on the subject as he said himself). Sadly, he lost his audience halfway through as the free bar beckoned from the refectory. A shame, because an interesting discussion was starting on the nature of drama and the three-act structure. Mr Cronin abandoned the talk early. Personally I can't stick Powerpoint. Where's the power and what's the point? For those interested in this aspect of Mackendrick's practice, you can access the pdf at www.

So, up to the green room to meet up with the splendid Lucy and meet David Reynolds in person, which was grand as he was very down-to-earth. We bore him to the bar and had a right good old catch-up. Chatted to Brendan O'Neill and Dom Carver, got lost at the Tube station, found our way again, met Guy Ducker on the train and hopefully all went our separate ways homeward. Well, I didn't, I got lost on the central island at the Elephant and Castle, which came as no surprise to anyone but me. Le sigh...

I loved the whole thing and am even, as we speak, plotting my pitches for next year.

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