Saturday, October 30, 2010

London Screenwriters' Festival #2

I was out like a light last night. Seven hours later I was awake.

Something I hadn't done the previous evening was prepare my attack on the speed-pitching. Sorting out which pitches I was going to deliver to which of my victims. Stapling the one-sheets to my writing CVs and business cards. (Yes, I am that sad/prepared, I brought a stapler and sellotape, though I have no idea what I might use sellotape for.)

The hotel booking didn't include breakfast and they are not cheap at this hotel, but the refectory was open at the college. I checked Google Maps for a quicker route through Regent's Park and set off. It was quicker.

There was breakfast. A nice big cooked breakfast - I like nice big cooked breakfasts and I can get away with it because I do a lot of walking. (In fact I am losing weight.) Chatting to other delegates, ones I knew and ones who I came to know.

I was terrible, I kept complaining how I hadn't got any of the sort of people I wanted for the speed-pitching. Everybody who I told (and who didn't I tell?) was sympathetic. Poor me.

Anyway one of my speed-pitchees (the agent) was in a session in the morning so I, calculatedly, went to that session in order to research him further. So Katy Williams and Gary Wild talking about being agents and what agent do, and what they don't do.

the most important thing when trying to get an agent: Try not to sound crazy. Just be professional. Make sure the little things are right - in other words, don't give anyone an excuse to reject you. And what they want in a client is someone who is personally active in promoting his/her own career. An agent doesn't do it all.

This handy little fact helped enormously when I saw Gary in the speed-pitch - because I was able to tell him all the stuff I did to push myself and try to get gigs, as well as producing my own material.

Katy broke an agent's job down into four areas: Sales; Lawyer; Script editor; and Counsellor.

The proportions change depending on the client.

They said a lot more besides but that's some of the important stuff.

Then I went to see Phil Parker. I'd gone to Phil's sessions at the previous Cheltenham festival and found them to be fairly important, talking as he was about writers creating entire universes in which to tell their stories - and having multiple creatives building multiple stories, images, games or whatever in those universes - while the original creator still maintains control.

His thrust this year was rather different: Film and TV are buggered (he didn't use that word). Though independents will still continue to be able to self-finance and make stuff.

Meanwhile entire web series (once the new hope) have sunk without trace and millions have been lost - but that's because the stories have been rubbish - really stunk. There was a vampire series (costing $5m to make) that was sub-Buffy without achieving even Eclipse quality (and whatever you may like or dislike about Eclipse it's made money).

But mobile has exploded.

On an income-per-minute basis the 90 second "Angry Kid" animations by Aardman have made more money than Wallace and Gromit. New delivery platforms have different narrative requirements but it's Phil's view that as writers we can cash in.

If we can write a structured character-driven 90 seconds (max of three minutes) story we can be miles ahead.

Whether you agree or disagree with Phil you can't ignore him. He's always thinking about the future and never about the status quo.

Curiously enough it is part of our world domination plan to release short bits of material as we develop our steampunk projects. Taking Phil's comments into consideration we just need to make them structured.

And then I had lunch. People were nice and wished me luck and broken legs.

And then I did the speedpitching. Considering I've never done it before I think it went reasonably well.

We got 5 minutes for each pitch with 40 seconds to change seats, which was plenty. And got 3 people to pitch to, we knew in advance who we were getting so could research them and (hopefully) pitch the right thing.

I made sure I took control, in a nice way, by shaking hands, introducing myself and asking how they were holding up :-) I'm so naughty.

Thing is, at the MetFilm School evenings Justin Trefgarne said that good pitches turn into conversations. So my view was: make it a conversation first and you're already winning.

First I had an agent - and I watched as his eyes glaze over when I said "science fiction" (apparently they'd also glazed over when someone said "period piece").

So I finished that pitch off pretty quick and he asked what else I'd done. Knowing that he's interested in someone who is pro-active in advancing their career, I pushed all those aspects of what I do and ended with my UK private eye series (something you don't get much). At which point he brightened up. So I'll be contacting him later.

Then I got a European film producer and pitched my (atypical for me) script "Une Nuit a Paris", to which he said "it seems like TV" so I admitted that I prefer writing TV. I presented him with my one-sheet leave-behind (with CV and card stapled on). Which he skimmed and went "how's it different from The Hangover?" so I said and he became interested.

Then I got the US film producer and pitched the same film (she noticed I'd taken control and was a bit miffed, so I let her have it back) and she said "So, how's it different from The Hangover?" So I looked surprised and slightly put-out. "I'm British" I said. She laughed "That's good, you keep that!" "I've got a one-sheet", I said. "I can accept that." So she got the sheet, CV and card as well. We'd finished early so I asked her what she was working on :-)

And that was that.

I hadn't heavily rehearsed my pitches, just reminded myself of the key points, because I knew it wouldn't go according to any plan I had in my head, I just told them enough so they got the idea.
In the end they're just people.

The final session of the day for me was the one on writing for kids. Well I already have a script and it was a semi-finalist in the CBBC/Writersroom competition last year. But it was interesting listening to everything that was said by the four panellists.

I didn't make any notes during this, partly because I was sitting on the floor for a lot of it (no room) and partly because by this time my head had turned to mush. But it turns out that a number of countries (like Canada and some in the Far East, and even the Middle East) are desperate for British writers. And that the kids market is very open, fewer writers seem to think this is a lucrative area - but it is. Very. Kids shows get repeated endlessly - and the writer gets paid every time.

I got some food in the bar, had a long chat with William Gallagher, (name check).

I met up with many many other people today and we did lots of exchanging of cards :-)

Last day tomorrow and I need to meet several people specifically.

What's on the turntable? Elton John on the TV


The Kid In The Front Row said...

Sounds manic. My goal is just to walk around and eat snacks.

Adaddinsane said...

Not quite as manic as it sounds, I spent a lot of time sitting around just talking.