If any of you know me at all, you know that this is my favourite weekend of the year. The London Screenwriters’ Festival. This was the second festival that’s happened and I’ve been to both and I cannot even begin to try to explain to you how much I get out of this weekend. If you think you’re a writer, want to be a writer or an emerging filmmaker looking for writers and want to know what kind of cruel hell we go through when we write – GO TO IT.
In tradition of my other post-Festival blog posts (London Comedy Writers’ Festival, Guerilla Filmmakers’ Masterclass, Southern Script Festival), I thought I’d do the same thing with the London Screenwriters’ Festival. I was also asked to blog for LSF before the festival about ‘With A Little Help From Our Friends’ here if you’d like to read it.
Ten Things I Learnt At The London Screenwriters’ Festival
1. Know your ending and work towards it.
This pearl of wisdom came from David Reynolds, writer for Disney and Pixar (Finding Nemo, The Emperor’s New Groove, Mulan). He said that Disney always work toward the ‘Happy Ending‘, whereas Pixar work toward ‘Satisfying Conclusion‘. Either way, every beat of your story has to move itself toward that final note, whatever that beat may be.
2. Don’t be afraid to speak to the speakers.
Sure, there will be some people who will make a beeline for David Reynolds and Edgar Wright as soon as they’ve finished speaking (and, admittedly, I did have a great chat to David about The Emperor’s New Groove for about fifteen minutes as I completely love that movie) and it’s always really great to talk to people like that. But the speakers who are slightly less well known are worth talking to as well – perhaps even moreso because if you start chatting to them and are nice and civil and polite, you might end up becoming really great friends with them.
3. Buy Linda Aronson’s book.
That’s all I’m going to say on that one. Her books are here. If you want to read a great book on crafting a screenplay by someone who absolutely knows what they’re talking about, then do it.
4. Although the first ten pages of your script are important, don’t forget about the rest of it.
Sitting in the ‘Your Script and the 20 Common Pitfalls’, it was Danny Stack who pointed this out. There’s a lot of emphasis about crafting your first ten pages to hook the reader, but if it falls down after that, the reader’s excitement turns to intense disappointment. Don’t let them be disappointed! Make your script the best it can possibly be!
5. Write a project different to your regular genre and it will make you a stronger writer.
David Reynolds compared this to exercising a different writing muscle. If you can refine your skills in different genres, they can compliment each other. But be wary of spreading yourself too thin over multiple genres.
6. Follow the Twitter feed for updates.
The #LondonSWF hashtag was getting a massive workout over the weekend – myself included. I tweeted a heap of advice from Linda Aronson’s session (there’ll be a blog post of my collected tweets up soon) as well as intermittently throughout others. But it wasn’t just me, there was Leilani and Neal who were shouting information from the rooftops and a heap of others chipping in from their sessions as well. Even if you aren’t on Twitter, you can still search on it and I would highly recommend doing so because in the next week there will be an explosion of blog posts (like this one) that will talk about everyone’s experiences at LSF 2011.
7. Be more original than everyone else.
This one sounds tough, but remember that you’re unique and the stories you tell are unique so don’t be afraid to let that shine through. Broadcasters and producers aren’t looking for a carbon copy of another movie that was released six months ago, they want a new spin on an old theme or an original story that has an audience. Don’t make your audience too niche, but don’t be afraid to indulge in the individuality of your story.
8. Be someone that people will want to work with.
I think this is a fantastic piece of advice for LIFE. Think about it. Who are you going to want to work on a project with? A group of friends who you get along with really well and know that you are all working toward the same goal or a group of people who annoy the heck out of you, ask stupid questions and who you can’t wait to walk away from at the end of the day? It’s a journey – so make sure you enjoy the company of the people you’re bringing along for the ride and make sure they like spending time with you too.
9. Help others – be generous.
I think this is another wonderful piece of advice. Don’t think about what others can do for you, think about what you can do for them. I had a lot of people ask me if I would read their scripts and give them feedback, I offered to read a lot of scripts and give them feedback and I have every intention of doing so should anything hit my inbox. I love reading scripts and I love helping to try and strengthen the stories so why not? Speaking of being generous (as a deliberate tangent), have you had a look at our crowd-funding campaign yet? Jump on the bandwagon! There’s plenty of room! There’s also presents.
10. STORY IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING.
I’ve said this before, but I’m going to say it again. At the end of the day, nothing matters unless the story works. You can have the most unique characters/setting/actors/cinematography/editing in the world, but if the story doesn’t make any sense, it shatters the illusion. Spend time crafting your story. Get to know your characters. Give it the time it deserves to be the best it can possibly be and then it’ll (hopefully) shine.
I’ll stop banging on about LSF now, but it’s my favourite weekend of the year for a reason. Not only did I get to spend three and a half days with some of the most creative people in the UK and Europe and people who are going to join them, but I also made a whole heap of new friends and well as catching up with some old ones I hadn’t seen since the Festival last year. The staff did an amazing job and thank you to all their hard work over the past few months getting it all off the ground – I know 2012 is going to be even bigger and better!
Now, it’s back to reality and I have a list a mile long of things to get done this week before the next set of rehearsals for ‘With A Little Help From Our Friends’. It’s thanks to LSF that this whole journey even started and I’m ready and raring to get going and make it the best that it can possibly be.