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London Screenwriters’ Festival 2010

Wow. Just WOW. Words can’t describe the fantastic experience I had at London Screenwriters’ Festival but as we all know I’m not going to let a little *thing* like that try and stop me, so I’ll have a go.

Regent’s College was amazing. The production staff, volunteers and helper-outers were amazing. The delegates were amazing! Everything was amazing! Oh, you want more? Okay:

Friday. I didn’t have any sessions of my own on the Friday so I was tweeting and Facebooking like a mad thing. Leilani was the official blogger for the festival, you can check out all her amazing posts here. Hayley McKenzie of Script Angel pitched in too and we managed to splurge out a selection of soundbites from a variety of sessions, though in hindsight perhaps Hayley and I should have met up so we weren’t both at Tony Jordan’s session at the same time, haha. BUT IT’S TONY JORDAN, scriptwriting GOD, so of course we both had to be there. Nicola Schindler too provided some really interesting insights, as did Tim Bevan and all the speakers at the Should You Write A Spec Script? Session. NOTE: If you have written up a review of the festival or any of the sessions, please do send me the links and I’ll list them all here.

Panel 1. Saturday was my majorly busy day – I was moderating no less than two panels and handling a seminar added to the bill at the last minute, “How to Cope With Rejection”. The first panel was on being a parent and a freelancer.” It was on at 10am and due to some tube disruptions and a heavy night in the bar before, it was inevitably a small session but one that was really worthwhile. Amy Walker of flexible jobsite Media Parents was there, talking through the difficulties her clients and members face in working freelance and juggling their families and how flexible working can actually benefit us all. Then we heard from Director Rebecca Gatward and TV screenwriter Marc Pye about some of the realities of their working lives and what they’ve had to do to sustain their careers and their family life. It was truly fascinating and lots of the people who came told me later the session had been a real “eye opener”, so I’m hoping the panel will play its part in helping get this very important subject on the media map of discussion for once and for all.

Panel 2. My second panel was “Writing for Soaps”, again with Marc Pye but also Danny Stack and Lisa Holdsworth. All are at varying stages of thier TV writing careers and were able to offer fantastic insights into the changing face of continuing drama. I chose all three specifically because they HADN’T been through The BBC Writer’s Academy – not because I have anything against the academy, it’s a fab initiative – but because writers often seem to hold the erroneous belief that getting in via the Academy is the only way “in”. Danny, Lisa and Marc showed delegates there are other ways and amongst other things, discussed their favourite soap storylines they were involved in or had seen.

Rejection. On to 4pm and I ran a small but lively seminar on coping with rejection. Like many writers I used to be CRUSHED by rejection; every single one felt like a nail in my writing career’s coffin. I will never forget *someone* telling me, “Once you get 100 rejections, you should give up” – so I would count each letter or email as they came in! How mad is that? Of course I got to 100 relatively quickly and ended up languishing in a writerly-depression of some months until I met I met the mighty JK Amalou who is the most rejection-proof writer I have EVER met. At first I thought he was some kind of alien but five years on I totally get it when he says, “Fuck them all!!!” You gotta do what you gotta do and develop strategies for coping with those inevitable rejections. My personal strategy is “translating” what rejection REALLY means because handily, I am able to see BOTH sides of the coin, being a writer AND script reader. So I talked the delegates who came through a variety of the best known rejections – “Your script is not cinematic enough”, anyone? – and exposed some of them for the “get out of jail free” cards they really are and explained why others are sometimes given.

Sunday. Sunday I was tweeting and Facebooking again in the morning, mostly from Janice Day’s awesome “Effective Networking” session, then I was asked to participate in the Pitching Sessions in the afternoon so I could give delegates feedback from a script editor’s POV. All the writers had passion for their projects which was great to see, but many spent a long time describing the ins and outs of the story itself, rather than putting the actual STORY CONCEPT “upfront”, which would be my main advice. It was fascinating to be on the other side of the table. Sunday afternoon I took part in another panel, this time moderated by Evan Leighton-Davis of Industrial Scripts, “Meet The Gatekeepers”. Script Consultant Sarah Olley, Alex Mandell of Paramount Pictures, Danny Stack and Jamie Wolpert, who wasn’t actually on our bill but Danny randomly found him wandering about and discovered Jamie has worked with none other than the mighty Paul Abbott! The session was packed – something I hadn’t expected with Barbara Machin’s crime writing panel on at the same time – but went really well, with loads of great feedback.

Can’t wait for next year!!!

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