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Blog: London Screenwriters' Festival Day One

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This weekend has been looming LARGE on my Personal Mental Horizon for months now because it was the weekend of the London Screenwriters' Festival. It was an exciting event to look forward to, and I'd been using it as a PLANNING MILESTONE for various PROJECTS - for instance, I was booked onto the Pitchfest session, so in the weeks leading up to it I was beavering away on TREATMENTS and PITCHES for three different ideas. I was also WORRYING about it as I was going to be spending three days on my own, possibly having to NETWORK, which is not exactly my favourite activity.

The festival officially ran Friday to Saturday, but there was an extra pre-opening night on Thursday for "Networking Drinks". I thought it might be good to GO to this so that a) I could pick up my PASS and thus wouldn't have to queue next morning b) I could work out how to get there and c) I was in town anyway. I got there super early, got my pass, MOOCHED about, then got a BEER and mooched a bit more. It was all a bit frightening to be honest - one of those occasions where everybody else seemed to be in GROUPS, chatting and LARFING, while I was just skulking round like Gollum with a Lanyard. I finished my beer and scurried home.

I was up EARLY next morning as I had to go and SiGN ON at 8:30am. The security guard didn't turn up to let me IN until 8:35am, which was a bit annoying but the rest of the meeting was DELIGHTFUL, as I explained what a pitching session was and my nice Signing On Lady wished me luck with it. I bet Quentin Tarantino didn't get this sort of support!

I hopped on the tube and ZOOMED off to the festival, where i was booked in for a SCRIPT LAB at 10:30am - the timing of all this had been one of the big sources of WORRY leading up to the event, and so one of the big reasons for going in for my pass the night before. The LAB was a morning with four other people and Mr Ged Parsons, one of the main writers on "Have I Got News For You". It was GRATE - he was FULL of information, stories, and most of all VERY VERY IN-DEPTH advice on how to write GAGS. We'd sent in some one-liners, and he did a PAGE on each one, explaining what to cut, what to change, and how to change the placing of WORDS to make the jokes better. It was ACE, and also a BRILLIANT way to get an instant GROUP together of people to talk to for the rest of the weekend.

I spent most of the rest of the day going to TALKS. Two of them were by British people and two by Americans and GOOD GOLLY there wasn't half a cultural difference. The British people were all "Is this all right? Sorry! Oh, I've missed a bit. This could be entirely wrong of course" while the Americans were much more "Here is how you do it." The British way is all well and good (and goodness knows I do it myself enough) but it does get a bit ANNOYING after a while when what you really want is some FACTS. There were some British FACTS, but they were mostly "look at writersroom" and "Send stuff to Newsjack", which is fair enough advice but is hardly REVELATORY.

The American's, however, were ACE. I went to an INCREDIBLE talk by Lee Jessup called "How To Make It In Hollywood Without Moving There" where she talked through a whole heap of ACTUAL THINGS YOU COULD DO to further your Hollywood Career (she's a Hollywood Career Coach) in an engaging, well-rehearsed, confident way that made you think "Hey! This sounds actually possible!" I'd gone because I wanted to see if there was anything I could do with the "Big Bang Theory" and "New Girl" spec scripts I'd written for the Nickelodeon competition, and was getting VERY excited when she kept saying "Of course you don't have to MOVE to Hollywood to sell scripts there..." right up until she said "... unless you want to write TV, of course." Ah.

Still, it was INSPIRING and full of TIPS which i'm still working my way through days later. Later I went to see David Reynolds, who wrote "Finding Nemo" and "Toy Story 3" among others, and was BRILLIANT. There wasn't a whole heap of information, but he was SO interesting and FUNNY, that I ended up seeing him THREE times over the weekend.

The evening ended with some ACTUAL NETWORKING. I bumped into Ged Parsons and some of the rest of my LAB group and just CHATTED. It turns out that Networking is a piece of PEE in this sort of environment - earlier in the day, while queueing for a particularly WET talk (where a couple of blokes who deal with lottery funding took an hour to say "fill in the forms correctly") the chap next to me said "Hello, how are you finding it so far?" and we had a CHAT and then continued to do so throughout the weekend. I was so surprised by how easy this was that I ended up doing it myself over the next couple of days, and by Sunday was happily saying hello to all SORTS of people as we crossed paths around the buildings. It was lovely!

It was thus a happy - and RELIEVED - Hibbett who wobbled off home. The official first day was done, but tomorrow there would be PITCHING!

posted 27/10/2014 by MJ Hibbett

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