Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fiesta - Day #2

Slept much better but basically still very tired (I need to catch up now).

The morning began much the same which meant I arrived far too early - I honestly tried to arrive later but getting up with the Daughter means I have a long time to kill. I'll try harder tomorrow.

Although I tend to discuss the things I've seen there are, of course, lots of other things going on, there's always at least two things running simultaneously and if you want a real clue, go to the website and look at the programme.

So today we started with Simon Beaufoy. And what an nice intelligent guy he is. He was talking about the screenwriter as diplomat, there hoops you have to jump through to keep the project moving because it's the stalled project that doesn't made.

Useful takeaways included: if you're in a major project and you're going to be getting notes from the suits (and they do have a right to give them - it's their money and they are rarely stupid) then make sure that those notes are prepared in advance into one document and sent a week before the meeting.

As a writer you are entitled to insist on this, and it means several things: (a) they don't hit you with the notes unprepared; (b) you can get upset and calm down in the privacy of your own office; (c) they have to make sure the collected notes make sense and aren't self-contradictory. These are all good things.

He also pointed out that the smaller the budget the more creative control you, as the writer, have. Kind of self-evident, but only when you think about it.

He's also managed to do a couple of low budget movies where the finance, and even casting, was in place before he even started writing the script, which was very liberating.

An interesting point about making Slumdog Millionaire with Warner Brothers was that he, with Celador, were perfectly capable of financing the entire project themselves if they wanted to - but they wanted the US distributor on board. It meant that they could walk away at any time if they didn't like it. But it mostly went well.

Then I went to a seminar with the development head and sales head of Ealing Studios Why the Market is important to Writers. This was a curate's egg (good in parts) mostly they talked to each other which gave you a feel for the interplay between them. They also took questions as they went along. All very nice and unstructured.

But I was forced to be rude. The finish was 11:15, theoretically. At this time they seemed to have no intention of stopping, nor any attention on the clearly visible clock. By 11:20 they still seemd to have no intention of stopping. At 11:24 I decided I would give them one more minute - because I wanted to get to the next item, and I could see other people getting edgy.

As the second hand hit 12 (11:25 exactly) I stood up and walked out - followed by another three people and, soon after, a stampede. I hate being rude but there was no other option. And that is the problem with unstructured events.

I moved to the main hall where Tessa Ross, head of TV and Film development for Channel 4 was to be interviewed. She seems a very nice person and has a tiny budget (only £8m), but works hard to help interesting film projects (including Slumdog Millionaire, of course). She's not interested in making copy-cat films. But even given that they only take "solicited" scripts they still have to get through a pile of 50-60 a week and can only assist 3-4 projects each year.

As for TV they, like all channels, are looking for the successful continuing series (like Shameless) but don't bother sending stuff on spec, it won't get read.

That was me pretty much done for the day, I had very little interest in anything except Son of a Pitch which is run by 4-Talent through the year with the final at the end of the day.

So, I chatted to a guy who wasn't a writer, he runs a nightclub and restaurant in Bristol, but he'd had an idea for a film and had someone write it for him and was looking for guidance. I offered to look at the synopsis he was carrying around.

All the usual newbie problems, although actually the first two paragraphs were great and I think if I were a producer I'd be interested. There was also some script which had been laid out in Word by someone who'd looked at a shooting script. It wasn't rubbish, there was some good stuff but it needed a lot of work.

So I suggested he find a decent script consultant (I suggested a couple) and get some hard graft done on it to knock it into shape. It had some excellent promotional potential - and notice I'm not giving away any of the details because it really was a clever idea.

My good deed done for the day I wiled away the afternoon chatting to people including Tim Clague who was a Son of a Pitch finalist. Then I did some work on my Phil Parker homework, and chatted with Liz about some of the ideas I'd put in, and finally met up with Philip Shelley my script consultant.

He's another nice guy and he's been feeling really bad because he hasn't managed to get me an agent yet. But he said something we can all learn from: "I've got a lot of people I work with who have one good script, only a couple, including you, have two good scripts - and that's important."

Two good scripts means that you can do it again - and agents need to know that. (As do producers if you want them to give you a commission.)

So I went to Son of a Pitch I listened, I laughed, I applauded. To be honest no one was really bad, which is just as well, they had had intensive pitch training the day before. The winner was Office Gothic a comedy zombie movie, Tim Clague came second with his Delete Friend? jointly with Man of Colour.

This evening I took the Daughter to dinner, at Pizza Hut, really splashing out. The staff are very pleasant indeed which is one reason I went back.

And that was that.

What's on the turntable? "Guajira" by Santanna


Eleanor said...

You have Phil Parker homework?

(This is what you get when you fall off the planet for a few months - ya miss the good stuff.)

I read his book (which sadly was a victim of the damp and mould at a previous house - so is now an ex-book, but the memory lingers) and it had a rather good if complex theory hidden under all the verbiage.

You've probably said in one of your previous posts, I shall have to read back, but if not - how are his classes?
I'm being nosey.

Eleanor said...

Oh right. :) I've read back a bit ...

The question still stands. Tell all! :)