Thursday, 1 November 2012

London Screenwriters' Festival 2012

Oh my DEARS!

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.

Talking of pitching, I pitched and hats-off to the strict Clarkson Twins (Michael and Paul) for keeping the room moving. It was noisy and the bells nearly deafened us but it certainly got the adrenaline going. It was grand to see friends and even make a couple of new ones in the queues. I pitched to an agent and five producers and got more yesses than nos, which is always good.

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 csript's advantage. Inspirational, I thought. I high-tailed it to the book sale going on at Heringham Hall to pick up a DVD of On The Page, but alas, they were sold out.

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?

Julie Gray of Just Effin' Entertain Me carried on with this theme of the emotions as we were invited to exchange our own experiences in order to empathise with our characters. Despite struggling with technical issues, Julie was an exemplar of calm and good humour.

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. Robert Llewellyn and Doug Naylor were funny with a wealth of good stories about the impossibility of raising funds for a Red Dwarf film (including a would-be backer who sent them a bank statement with figures tippexed out and zeros added by hand) and all the other projects they have going on.

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? Lots of food for thought.

I also went to see Tony Lee and his session on Writing Comics for Fun and Profit. I would love to turn Penny Dreadful into a Graphic Novel and Tony's excellent session demystified the process, with lots of audience participation. I also caught up wit the lovely Danny Stack (who himself chaired another panel I saw) about writing what you know. Fascinating stuff, though I came away feeling that what you know can only be a starting point to let the imagination fly, though I suspect that like most writers, i'm always gleaning material. All writers are thieves and liars!

I took along the first (rewritten) ten pages of my dystopian thriller Agnes Cast (shortlisted for this year's Euroscript screen story prize, lest we forget. And by we, I mean you). Matt Tromans asked me serious questions about all aspects of the script and we ran over time. I cannot recommend these Euroscript sessions too highly and I'll be booking another one for next year.

After two days, I was shattered and sorry not to see Helen Bang, Yvonne Grace and of course, our own, our very own Lucy Vee. But I did catch up with Lara Greenway, Michelle Goode and the lovely Dom Carver. Memo to self: take Pro-Plus next year to see me through three days.

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