Monday, October 26, 2009

Fiesta - Day #1

I'm tired. The bed is really bad here and I woke every hour last night, or so it seemed. Though perhaps it was the excitement - or maybe the coffee.

I don't usually drink coffee after 3 in the afternoon (caffeine stays in the body for 10-12 hours, so if you drink it too late, you sleep badly, then the next day you need coffee to stay alert but then... etc) but I only had a mouthful. It wasn't the actual coffee, it was the taste - it was foul. Disgusting.

I hadn't rinsed out the kettle before boiling water and I think either the tap had rancid water, or the kettle did. Maybe it was that.

Anyway, I didn't sleep well. And then woke early.

Had breakfast with the Daughter though she had to rush out to be on site by 7:30. I followed a little later and located the entrance at about 7:45. I hadn't actually meant to be that early but I wasn't entirely sure how long it would take to walk. Not very long, is the answer.

So, not only did I buy ticket #1, I arrived first (I think) got given the first delegate's pass (they spelt my name wrong, they always do that), picked up a pack and got the first coat-check ticket. It's true, I am Numero Uno.

So there I was, 8:00am with people beginning to trickle in and no coffee. (This is not a criticism of the catering company, they'd been on the road since 5:00am.) First rule of conferences, dump all extraneous material - well, I didn't actually dump it, I put it in my backpack. All you really need is a map and a schedule. And a trusty notepad, then the map and schedule can be folded and put into the notepad. Lovely.

What can I say about Cheltenham Ladies College? It's a conglomeration of buildings through the ages, some very old, some disgustingly 70s. And it has a main theatre to die for (the Daughter drooled) and apparently they're having a new theatre built over the road. Gosh.

The main buildings almost completely surround two central quads - a sort of digital figure of eight - but our access is extemely limited and the individual rooms for the various seminars, lectures and events are spread out all over the place. This does detract from the event somewhat, all the events I wanted to see took place in a single room, away from everything else.

Not to say I didn't move around but it was a bit weird.

More ScriptMarket winners turned up and several of them did not know who they were going to be meeting and almost all didn't know when. I felt slightly happier about than previously but it's very awkward - makes planning tricky and how are they going to find us when they do know?

First up was the keynote speech from Chris Jones who delivered a mini-version of his two-day seminar but was essentially a "you are brilliant, do it" speech. Good stuff.

Something he said that is very important, well, I think it is because I absolutely 100% agree: The first thing you have to do is decide that you're going to make your film (short or whatever), because it is after you've decided that things will happen and finance will arrive. If you just "wait for the right time" it will never happen.

Hard on the heels of that was Doug Chamberlin, (successful) US movie writer now living in the UK (the mad fool) and his explanation of how to get into Hollywood who spent his allotted period explaining how the myths about Hollywood are unhelpful and replacing them with his own rules and the explanation that if you imagine Hollywood is just High School where image is everything it all makes sense.

Interestingly he also expressed the opinion that everyone in Hollywood is terrified which also helps to explain things - a concept I first heard last year from Kraitt and Leys, more on that later.

He did say that Hollywood is about who you know, and not your script - talent won't get you in to Hollywood, but it will keep you in. What you need are champions; people who will say "this guy/gal is great" and then everyone will agree with them, and so that's what you are. You work your way up like this getting newer and bigger champions.

He ended with a quote from someone who I forgot to note the name of but it goes like this: The road to Hollywood is littered with dead bodies - and they're all suicides.

In other words, don't quit.

Next up I went to Phil Parker's Dynamic Universes talk. Phil is one of the most powerful script consultants in the world, I jest not, and he's been at it for 20 years. His new project is to start with the writer (and other creatives) who create a universe from which multi-platform products can be derived - but with the original author keeping IP (intellectual property) rights. Unlike the traditional model.

We became guinea pigs for his experimenting and were arranged into groups for creating universes. I ended up with Liz Halliday which came as no surprise since we both write SF and Fantasy. We were temporarily also teamed up with another couple writers but decided to split with them because our imaginings were too disparate.

We now have until Thursday to come up with a coherent universe and some key characters. Excellent, it's what SF/F writers (and role-players which we both are) do for fun.

As a rider on this it occurred to me later that the Monsters universe also fits this new model perfectly as well so I tracked down Phil and his business partner Richard in the evening and we discussed it, they were interested, we exchanged cards and I left them with a Monsters DVD. Lovely.

I had lunch - I like to try to space out the seminars as much as possible - and then went to Rob Kraitt and Kate Leys follow-up to last year's "How to be Good", this time "How to be Better". I had been recommending them to anyone who'd listen and the room didn't even have standing room (not that I think it was all me doing that).

They covered much of the same ground as last year, but they make a great double act so it's worth it. Important things they covered were the "everyone is scared" factor, and it's actually up to you, as the writer, to help them and make them feel comfortable and confident. Otherwise they say stupid things and do stupid things - it's because they're scared of failing.

They also briefly commented on networking which they suggested is not schmoozing people you despise and who are all talk and no trousers - it's finding people you can talk to, people who like the same stuff you like.

I took another break. I could have gone to see Armando Ianucci, but decided not to, I had suddenly flaked out and couldn't face it.

When I got my Scriptmarket script report I knew immediately that the reader had not really read the script. Yes, I know, that's what writers say when they're rubbish and don't want to admit it. But there were giveaways like the description of the length of the work being incorrect (some of his criticisms would have been right if Monsters was 2 hours long - but not if it was 6 hours, which it is).

Plus the fact that Monsters had been through people with far more TV drama experience than this reader. The report was just wrong. (And it seems mine wasn't the only one.)

Then I got an interview with two industry peeps - honestly, the wrong two, I got the film people and not the TV people. It wasn't a good interview really, I disagreed with them, a lot, but then their comments were based on the reader's report (though even they had noted the timing error).

It was these two who gave the "Spec Scriptmarket" talk that I, and a lot of the Scriptmarket entrants, attended. They remembered me. The idea was to go through the typical flaws found in the Scriptmarket entries, and really they were just the same as the flaws found in most scripts: bad pitch documents, characters without purpose, genre confusion, etc.

To be honest things were said in this seminar that made me seethe with anger. It's just as well that Liz wasn't there because she's more volatile than I am - I was recording it for her and I'm sure I heard an explosion a few minutes ago.

I detest people who express their personal opinions and bias as if they are incontrovertible facts. It's a display of ignorance and arrogance. (As you can tell, I'm getting worked up just thinking about it.)

I commented on this to one of the other attendees on the way out, he said: "They all do it." He was commenting on one of his screenwriting lecturers. Well, that certainly doesn't make it right.

Anyway one good ting had come out of that interview I had back in July at the BBC with the Scriptmarket people - I decided to do something about Monsters, and then our Director Chris contacted me. (Which is a perfect example of what Chris Jones was talking about: the decision comes first.)

After that I hung around a bit, met Phil Parker, wandered in the direction of the hotel, stopped of at Pizza Hut and had a nice meal.

Got back to the Hotel about 8 and I've been doing email and writing this blog ever since - apart from an hour watching Flashforward - my word, they are really burning plot. Brilliant.




What's on the turntable? "Touch to Remember" by Jean-Michel Jarre from "Téo & Téa"

1 comment:

Jez Freedman said...

great stuff steve - keep it going!