Tuesday, 14 December 2010

LSF: My roundup

It seems strange still talking about the London Screenwriters' Festival when the event feels like it was a million years ago already. But having written (what I think is) the most comprehensive review of the festival found anywhere on the net, I thought one final post summing up my thoughts might be useful with one eye on next year.

In Hollywood, or throughout the film industry for that matter, everyone wants to copy the last big thing. Whatever smash hit there has been, the studios will be looking for their own version of it to do next. It's rare however for anyone to attempt to redo something that hasn't worked. However great the Cheltenham Screenwriters' Festival was, ultimately it was forced to close. That's not a criticism of anyone involved with it. As I think I've said before on this blog, in large part it was due to circumstances that weren't under their control, like lack of sponsorship and government funding cuts. Nevertheless there is no small degree of lunacy in thinking okay so that's gone, but we all loved it and we need it, so let's do another one. But that's essentially what David Chamberlain, Chris Jones, Lucy and everyone else involved, did. So all credit to them for having the guts to do it, and then the skill to do it so well.

Why go to the festival? For me I'd always wanted to go to Cheltenham but knew I couldn't. So this was a chance I didn't want to miss. The list of speakers was excellent and so many people I knew; other writers, bloggers, reading clients etc, were going that I wanted to be part of it. A strong aspect of being a screenwriter is being 'known.' Without a doubt the primary way to do this is through writing screenplays and sending them out. But in addition to that you have to get out and network. You have to get your face known. Ultimately, that doesn't matter if you haven't got quality scripts to back it up. But by the same token, as I've said before, if you write brilliantly and have no one to send the work to, what's the point? On more than one occasion when I introduced myself to someone at the festival they said they'd heard of me. I know, I just read that sentence back. So I know I sound like a prat. But that's not what this is about. It's not an ego thing. It's a marketing thing. A screenwriter is a product. And it's easier to get someone interested in a product if they've already heard of it (hopefully good things!) So the networking side is very important. And it goes hand in hand with the sessions I chose to go to.

I picked the ones I would attend based on two criteria - education and networking. The Editing session was a purely educational exercise as it was an area of the filmmaking process that I didn't know much about and it was very interesting. So to the Sustaining one. Cos basically we're all broke when we start out and it was a good question to try and answer. On the other hand, I didn't really expect to hear anything new at the Gatekeeper session. That's not being disrespectful. It's just that I'm a reader too and have been around in the industry for a few years now and I think it was a (very useful) session for newer writers. But I attended because I wanted to see Lucy and Danny again, and meet the others on the panel for the first time. Similarly with the Tony Jordan and Nicola Shindler seminar. As interesting as it was, I attended more to make sure I got the chance to speak with them (having met them both previously) than the actual content of the session. Some were a bit of both. So for example, I was intrigued educationally what the 50 ways in would be, but also thought there were one or two people on the panel that I really wanted to meet.

So next year when thinking about what to pick and what you'll miss out on, maybe break it down into two questions; what do I hope to learn, and who do I want to meet? I reinforced current contacts and made more new ones in one and half days than I've done the rest of the year.

One final thought. Get to sessions early and get to the front. I also used to shrink into the back rows. That's a waste. Because the people who are most likely to be there early are the speakers. And they will probably be hanging around, getting miked up, waiting for the session to start. If it's appropriate go talk to them then. Afterwards you might not get a chance because everyone will want to. But you stand a better chance if you're in the front row.

The London Screenwriters' Festival returns in 2011. And they've already got a special offer on the ticket price all ready for Christmas. Click here to pay £24 a month for 10 months (total of £240)


David Melkevik said...

Thanks for your epic write-up Jez and hopefully I'll get to meet you there next year as your festival wing-man.

Jez Freedman said...

the goose to my maverick or the maverick to my goose?