Yes, yes you do. As I alluded to in my blogpost there, this came out of the London Screenwriters’ Festival. While its focus is primarily screenwriters and screenwriting, other media of writing are also welcome. But we’re still setting up our stall and, if I’m honest, this might be a bit of a blunder for a while. But our intentions are pure: To provide a supportive, creative atmosphere for writers in London.
So, our first meet-up will be tomorrow, Thursday the 7th of November, at the National Theatre, in the Lyttleton Cafe, from 7pm. We hope to see you there.
So, London Screenwriters’ Festival is over and some semblance of a new normal has emerged. It was a wonderful time, immersed in opportunity and community and I’ll be going again next year. There were some things I learnt whilst there, some of which relating to the festival itself, some of them related to writing and all of which I wish I knew ahead of time, so I’ll share them now:
- I won’t tease, I’ll put the most important one up front: Do everything! Seriously, don’t leave a thing out. Competitions for table reads or mentoring? It can’t hurt to try. Informal drinks ahead of time? Go! Meet everyone! Fill every slot of the festival itself, go to additional slots either side of the event, soak up as much as you can, attend every social. Meet people, drink with them, get to know them; they are your tribe, your supporters and cheerleaders.
- If you have a project, even if you think it’s not quite finished or sufficiently polished, Pitch It. Is it terrifying at first? Absolutely. But then it turns out you’re just spending five minutes talking to someone who wants to love your project as much as you do. It might not go anywhere, but then you’ve lost nothing. Or it might open doors you couldn’t have imagined.
- Loglines. I’m probably going to do a separate post on loglines, but they’ve gone from being ‘those horrible things I’m not very good at writing, but if I have to‘ to ‘the most important thing ever‘. Seriously, do loglines for everything, polish them, practise them in front of people, writers and non-writers alike; do them for your feature, your TV serial, each episode of your serial, hell, do them for your characters, write one about yourself. Learn how to do a logline; at an event like LSF, and for the rest of your screenwriting career, you’ll need them.
- A word on Festival Preparation. I did as much as I could ahead of time, so how did it all work out? Business cards: Yes! (A warning to some people: Put your damn email address on the business card!) Website branding? No. Loglines? See above. Pitch documents? Yes! Writers’ CV? Good to have, but nobody asked to see it. Script for Actor’s Table Read? Yes, dear god, don’t forget that! Printed schedule? Don’t bother, get a new one every morning from the registration desk.
- I am a total convert to the benefits of a Table Read. At LSF you had a director, a narrator and actors workshopping your script segment. But even if you don’t have that available to you, I absolutely recommend getting some people together to read out your dialogue. Only when you hear it out loud can you truly find your unnecessary or clunky dialogue. I read just the other day how most writers never hear their dialogue spoken out loud until they go to watch their movie. It’s too late then, get it done beforehand. Apparently next year’s LSF will have more Actor’s Table Read slots, and will also allow an audience.
- A word on Outlines. There was some debate as to the value of outlines, though the message often got muddied as to whether people were talking about outlines created ahead of the script to give it structure, or outlines created afterwards to describe the project in detail. You can’t get around the latter, so you may as well learn it as a skill. And the former? There were a lot of people who considered writing an outline ahead of time to be akin to The Man coming in and crushing all art and creativity out of a beautiful butterfly. Guess what? None of those people were professional screenwriters; even professionals that didn’t use them still knew their value. Determining the approximate story structure ahead of sitting down to write dialogue won’t kill the story, it is the story. You don’t have to keep to the outline, but you need an idea of what you’re departing from.
- I had some thoughts on Constraints when Pilar Alessandra was teaching about loglines, about how our creativity is stretched and challenged when we have less room to manoeuvre. This was only compounded by J. Blakeson in his Script to Screen of The Disappearance of Alice Creed, where he talked about writing a script that he could film in his own flat with just his credit card to finance it. It didn’t turn out that way of course, but he wrote it with the constraints in place and I do believe it helped craft such a wonderfully tight narrative. Oh, and as it turns out, J. didn’t write an outline for it.
- Everybody talks about Networking, and it never ceases to conjure an image of hyper-slick marketing weasels having power lunches. Well, especially at an event like LSF, it’s just a whole bunch of people having a drink or two together who all have something in common. Unlike the real world, you can talk to any of them, ask them what they’re working on, what they’ve been enjoying of the festival so far or where they’ve come from. All without prejudice or agenda or fear. We’re all in the same boat, so get to know your fellow seamen. Remember, these people are your community, your tribe. And they all want to hear your logline.
- Chris Jones‘ slogan, repeated often throughout the festival, constantly rings in my ears. “Opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one.” And it totally applies to this blog post too.
- Did you know some utter maniacs set up the London Writers’ Circle while at LSF and that you should totally come?
LSF have their guide for how to get the most out of the festival, but here are my preparations:
- Business cards. I already had some from the excellent Moo, but I’ve ordered an extra batch, just in case.
- And since branding is an important element, I may change the styling of Endless Realms to match the cards. Some might say this would be akin to procrastination, especially as what I should be working on is…
- Loglines. I think I’ll forever be tweaking those, making sure they’re not taglines, changing a word or re-writing them from scratch. They are tiny capsules of story, burdened with carrying the entire weight of the project. At their best they are like Three Sentence Stories or haiku, each word carefully weighed and chosen, each infinitesimal change bringing a shift of balance to the whole. And after the writing, the memorising. And after the memorising…
- The Pitch documents. A one-pager for each project (I have four), containing logline, synopsis and production specifics. Thankfully I have a pitch template that has served me well so far. A reminder not to hand these out willy-nilly, but only on request.
- The Writer’s CV. I don’t think I can tweak this any more, I don’t have anything to tweak it with. Maybe this time next year I’ll have some more content to add.
- Printouts. Ten one-pagers, ten writer’s CVs, each in individual folders. The four pages of script that will be workshopped during the Actors’ Table Read. The full schedule, annotated with notes and preferences. If I get the Pitch Fest slot I want, I’ll also be bringing notes on all of the producers, execs and agents present during that slot.
- To pack: Notepad, pens in different colours, index cards, phone, external battery charger for phone, laptop, laptop charger, snacks, water bottle.
- Reading the script and watching the movie of The Disappearance of Alice Creed for the Script to Screen session.
I think that’s about it! Have aI left anything out? Is there anything else you’re doing to prepare?
I’m really excited now, because London Screenwriter’s Festival have announced the cast and director for the Actor’s Table Read!
And finally, in the role of Wendy:
Updated: Wendy was originally to be played by Selina Giles, but the schedule was rejigged.
I was already looking forward to the London Screenwriter’s Festival, and I’ve already had some encouraging feedback on the script I’ve been working on for some time. But all of that pales compared to what lies ahead of me: My script excerpt, from the same piece that placed in the ScriptAngel competition, has been chosen to be performed as part of an Actors Table Read at the festival. Three actors, together with a director, will be performing 4 minutes of my script.
Obviously the key benefit is seeing how the lines sound when read out loud, getting a feel for the flow of dialogue and seeing what interpretation the actors and director find that I might not have noticed. But what really excites me? Hearing dialogue performed, out loud, by real actors; dialogue I wrote, squirreled away in my room, hunched over a laptop in pubs and cafés, or crushed on a train. Feeling the words, seeing the characters escape from the page.
Writing can be an isolated experience; it doesn’t matter if you like to write in public, as I sometimes do; it doesn’t matter if you have an amazing cheerleader, a copy editor, a muse. At the end of the day, the process of writing is a solitary one, a direct link from the writer’s mind to the chosen receptacle, be it laptop, back of a cigarette packet or a fine notebook. So to have your creations escape said receptacle, emerge blinking into the world and speak with their own variation of the writer’s voice, that’s a special moment.
And finally, now revealed to all via the LSF’s results page, the working title of the feature film I’m writing: Underworld Calling.