What To Do At Your First London Screenwriters’ Festival

It’s that time of year again. We’re two weeks out from the biggest screenwriting festival in Britain (I heard a rumour that it’s now the biggest one in the world).

The London Screenwriters Festival.

If any of you know me at all, you’ll know that I love this festival. To bits. Maybe a little bit more than chocolate. I know, right? But when I hit London in mid 2010 and knew I wanted to focus on my writing a little more, this was the first ticket I bought and I reckon it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a huge investment. Especially if you’re not based in London and have to travel to attend – like I am this year, flying back to London from Melbourne (yes, I’ll be there, you should come and say hello!). But, I do think it’s a great way to spend your cold hard cash (they do take card as well) if you’re willing to get the most out of the festival.

‘How do I do that?’ I hear you ask.

For me, the biggest thing I’ve gotten out of the festival for the past two years has been the people I’ve met. That’s the big names – like script consultant royalty Linda Aronson and Disney/Pixar Royalty David Reynolds – as well as other delegates who have become co-writers, consultants and amazing friends.

Proof – Totes me and Dave Reynolds. BFFs.

So, by that logic, the first thing I’d suggest to anyone going to LSF this year is to talk to EVERYONE.

I know the majority of you heading there will be British. Don’t let that stop you! The thing is that you’ll have two main groups of people there. The people who are there for the first time and the people who have been there several times. The people who are there for the first time will ALWAYS want someone to talk to for fear of looking like they’re eating lunch alone. The people who have been there before know that the easiest way to make friends is to talk to everyone. You will never not be welcomed into a conversation – unless you plan on leaping on the stage when David Yates is talking about Harry Potter and interrupting the session (which I definitely was not thinking about ever). It’s so easy to talk to people and you’ve got an instant topic of conversation:

‘How brilliant is this festival?!’

Whilst you talk to people, make sure you talk about them AND yourself. What are your projects? What are theirs? What are you hoping to get out of the festival? You never know who you’re talking to. You never know who might be able to help you out or give you that nugget of information that completely turns your life around. Don’t be afraid to talk about your work either – you might be speaking to a writer about the horror film you’re working on and turns out they know a producer who happens to be looking for horror scripts but they write comedy and so promise to put you in touch. You never know and you have NOTHING to lose by talking to people!

Business cards are also a must. But don’t forget social etiquette when you hand them out. Don’t thrust yourself into a conversation of five people, hand around your business cards without introducing yourself then disappear to the next group of five. I know when that happens to me, I ditch the card as soon as. If you’re not willing to stop and chat to me for five minutes, why would I stop for five minutes to send you an email after the festival? Especially when I have no idea who you are other than the name on your business card. Always have a conversation first, then ask to swap business cards. It doesn’t have to be fifteen minutes long – just long enough that you’ve broken the ice and know a little more about each other.

Be flexible. Plan your days around the flipping amazing speakers they have this year but don’t be afraid to swap at the last minute or stick around to continue that conversation you’re having over lunch. Most of the sessions get filmed and go up on the delegate network after the festival so you can catch up on what you missed later.

If you’re worried about being alone on the first day, use the delegates network or Twitter to find people before you go. There is a really amazing and accessible network of writers and filmmakers out there who are attending the festival so why not suss them out beforehand?

But most of all, ENJOY IT. It’s crazy, overwhelming, manic and inspirational. It’s often the most hectic three days of a screenwriters’ calendar and you have a stonking hangover at the end of it (both literal and metaphorical, depending on how much you drink). I’d urge anyone who’s on the fence to take the plunge – there are discount codes available for tickets and they’re running a fab logline competition on Twitter to win your ticket so GO FOR IT.

Plus, like I said, I’m going to be there. Why wouldn’t you want to come?

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