Friday, October 29, 2010

London Screenwriters' Festival #1

I am very tired. End of Day #1 at the LSF. I'm going to try and crack through this fairly quickly because I need my sleepy-byes, but once I start writing I tend to just keep going.

Wednesday evening I prepared one-sheets for Monsters and Une Nuit in Paris, because these were most likely to be the things I pitch - oh and my writing CV. It had to be Wednesday because Thursday daytime was the only opportunity to do any printing.

Thursday I got the stuff printed and headed back to my place of residence. Late again because the day job is getting to need "working late" because a deadline is looming.

I packed my gear, as I'm staying in a hotel near the event. Packed all my stuff and realised I had rather a lot to carry - only two bags but really heavy. Normally I book into hotels the evening before an event but London is far too expensive for that.

Then horror hits. I'm entering the Shine Pictures competition which has a deadline on Friday so I'm uploading my entry, and the form refuses to accept that my PDFs are actually PDFs. I get very annoyed. I waste two hours creating PDFs in different ways trying to force the site to recognise my files. Eventually it dawns on me: I change to Internet Explorer and it works. (I am professionally disgusted - it takes work to make a site fail like that.)

Dawn's Friday morning. I'm up at the usual time, well slightly earlier really. Finish packing, dress, breakfast, lift to station, train to Farringdon, Circle Line to Baker Street. And I'm there.

I can't go to the hotel as I can't check-in yet, so I have to lug my bags around.

The event is at Regent's College which is located in Regents Park. And it's very nice in very pleasant surroundings. I encounter a co-attendee of the MetFilm School course, and rescue her from a garrulous member of the College. She is grateful.

So we arrive together. I get registered (Hina registered the previous evening), prove I am me (who else would I be). Make our way to the Refectory and grab some food while the MetFilm Yobs collect around us. And Jez Freedman. I tell everyone who'll listen that Jez is excellent as a script reader and doesn't charge enough. (I always say this, because it's true.) Jez points out that he deliberately keeps his prices low because he wants to offer a service that he didn't have when he was starting out.

Jez is one of the good guys.

It heads towards 9am and the MetFilm Yobs move as an amorphous blob to the introductory session in a large hall and fill up a row.

This is a very well-appointed college, the seats in the main hall are extremely comfortable. It has it's own cinema. Various food shops around the refectory, two bars, a very nice restaurant as well as the various classrooms.

The Introduction has David Chamberlain and Chris Jones doing a double-act. Chris takes a photo of the audience from the stage. There are announcements.

Then we get a long interview with Tim Bevan one of the founders of Working Title. He explained the genesis and working philosophy of the company - so unlike the horrors of Hollywood.

Generally speaking the original author of a script stays with it throughout its development, though other writers may be brought in for their views, a script is not put into production (usually) until it's ready. They want good stories with great characters and emotion.

His description just made me think of Pixar, which operates on a similar philosophy. And both companies produce successful films more often than not.

There was lots more but time is getting on...

The next for me was a chat with Ben Stephenson (Head of BBC commissioning) and Gub Neal who had been commissioner for ITV (during its 90s heyday) and Channel 4, but now runs the Artists Studio.

They said a lot. Too much to go into now. But I suppose the highlights were Ben's response to a question about trying to follow trends: "No, trends are rubbish." And Gub's comment about how successful writers are usually disinterested in what the audience want - they write what they want.

Does foreign money affect the writing? Gub: Yes.

How much UK output is bought by the US? Ben: None. (The only slight exception now being the US-made Torchwood.)

Then I went off to get checked-in at the hotel and missed the beginning of the afternoon sessions. So sat around and chatted to people.

I went to see what Paul Ashton of the BBC's Writersroom had to say for himself - he talked about the imponderable issue of the Writer's Voice. It's very important and people know when a writer's "got it", but nobody knows what it is. It wasn't terribly enlightening and I'm not sure it's a good choice of subject for the many new writers who could disappear up their own confusions trying to think about it.

He also said that 85% of scripts sent to the Writersroom failed the 10 page test and were sent back without comment.

I was seriously beginning to flag by this time. I tried to go to the networking session but it was packed out. I ended up in the cinema watching shorts for a bit. then went to the bar for the 8pm SF writers get together.

The bar was packed.

I gave up. And came back to the hotel.

And now I'm going to sleep. Good night.

What's on the turntable? Something modern and cool on BBC Radio 3


Yehudah Jez Freedman said...

Jez is now one of the embarrassed guys. But thank you. Am back at the festival tomorrow so will try and say so in person

laurence timms said...


I'm back tomorrow too. Let's catch up properly.

Adaddinsane said...

Love you really.

laurence timms said...

:) Good. I couldn't go on otherwise.