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Monday, November 04, 2013

Tim's alternative take on London Screenwriter's Festival, was it too good?

I enjoyed this year's London Screenwriters' Festival. But this post isn't about the great talks I went to or the top, top guests they had - and there were some amazing speakers this year, check out the list.

And, as always, these guests had some amazing and insightful craft advice, but this post isn't about that either.

This post is about the bits in-between the speakers, when the delegates get together. This post is about the empty bar I saw at 6:30. This post is about five trends that I've noticed as someone who has been to all the writer's festivals so far.

One: You probably know enough already
For most of the writers I met, maybe 75%, they know enough already. Of course, yes, we can all improve more or learn new ideas - and we must ensure we do that. But knowledge isn't the thing holding back those 75%. More craft won't unlock their careers in a big way. Why, because these writers know enough already, they just have to put that knowledge into action. If they never went to another talk about 'writing great dialogue' ever again they would be okay if had commissions coming in already. The dialogue in the commissioned scripts would be more than adequate. "Yeah, right", you say, "If I had lots of commissions coming in, I'd agree with you". If that is the case, then even more reason to stop focusing on developing your craft more, and start working on your networking more.

Two: Keep it social
Let's say you are one of those 75% I mentioned above, what does that mean? It means more knowledge of the craft isn't your priority. That isn't what is holding you back. Knowing more people is. Finding more opportunities is. Yet the festival location was dead a lot of the time. There were more writers in attendance than ever before. Normally you can walk around and see them, at any time of the day. Not this time. Why? Everyone was in the sessions. The best successes I've had at the festival have come from talking to people outside of the sessions. That is worth more. A lot more. It can be tempting to say "I've paid £300 and I must get good value". Point one, above, says that the best value you can get from the festival is in meeting the maximum number of people possible. Joe Eszterhas is entertaining, but he isn't going to give you work. The up and coming writer / producer sitting outside could.

Three: Business cards
Get yours made. Hand them out. Collect them from others. Remember to keep in touch with people afterwards. Everyone knows it. Few do it. Less this year than ever!

Four: Writers are better at constructing a pitch
Good news, as I've already observed, most writers know their stuff. So most writers know their craft well enough to be able to pull together a really good short outline of their project (whatever it is) and deliver it well, explaining the characters and structure in a sensible way.

Five: Writers are worse at delivering a pitch
Dudes, be normal. That's it. Just be one dude, telling another dude, about their story. Not, one obsessed writer brain dumping onto a poor frazzled producer who they see as Mr Piggy Bank like they are in a Bugs Bunny cartoon. You know your stuff, just be a normal person saying it.

Another awesome festival. I continue to recommend all writers to go if they can, every year. Here is an analogy; in dialogue, it is the words that are unspoken that can be the most powerful. In the same way, it is gaps between the events at the festival that can deliver the most value. I wonder if this year's sessions and speakers were almost too good!!!


Adaddinsane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adaddinsane said...

Pretty much how I felt. I said to several people (and I don't think you were one of them) that I'd be happy to spend most of the time just chatting.

And on point 5: Yes well, this year I almost didn't pitch because I've been bad at it and never had a script request despite spending hours "honing my pitch". (That's four previous years of pitching.)

This year I didn't even bother looking at who was available to pitch to. I just arrived. No practice. No research. Looked at the people and went "oh they're looking for kids TV, I have a kids TV show" sat down and talked about it - script request. "Oh you're looking for interesting new crime drama, I've got one of those " sat down and chatted about it - script request.

And the same for two film scripts as well.

I'm never going to "hone my pitch" again. (Oooo-err, missus.)

[resubmitted due to typos]

Tony B said...

I think next year we should host a 'Fest-ex' (festival escape) evening or three at a pub near the venue?

Tim Clague said...

Adaddinsane - you can hone it all you want, just not obsess about it!

Tony B - start one

Unknown said...

Hi Tim
Getting to this massively late - but I completely agree with your points - well observed sir... : )