London Screenwriters' Festival

Archive for October, 2010

The Final Countdown to the End of the Beginning!

Posted on: October 31st, 2010 by Leilani No Comments

So it’s the final day of the very first London Screenwriters Festival. We’ve kind of witnessed something special starting here, I think. I feel privileged to be present for the beginnings of something incredible.

It’s absolutely flown by and I am glad that I paced myself a bit and didn’t try to do everything because I’m beginning to get a little overwhemed, in a good way though, as my brain is ticking over with thoughts about writing and films and living in this often crazy industry. It’s going to take time to absorb the sheer amount of information I’ve been given. And I haven’t even looked at the special Screenwriters Pocketbook yet!

I’m quite convinced that it’s all the information I’ve swallowed that is causing my brain to disorient me in the corridors.. I’m still a bit hopeless at working out what side of the quadrant I’m on, and am clinging to my map like a talisman. The lovely festival staff ae always there with a smile though and seem to be able to direct me to where I’m going without asking me where I’m going. How do they do that?

There’s another bundle of seminars still ahead for the afternoon and lots more to do before it’s over but overall I think the festival seems to have proved very popular and plans are already afoot to return it and make it even better next year. Yay!

Festival news has also proved quite popular with people who couldn’t attend but who have been tuning in to the #LSWF twitter hashtag and the festival blogs to keep abreast of seminars, hints and tips and just to get a feel for what’s going on. There’s been re-tweeting and facebook sharing amok and I’m glad the good vibe is spilling outwards to be shared into the wider writers community. Screenwriters’ festivals shouldn’t be a bubble, we are all part of a wide world of screenwriting and this festival acknowledges that fully and has reached outside itself as much as possible to share the love.

I believe that most of the speakers are nearly entirely intact after being repeatedly mobbed by delegates who love them… hey, we’re a friendly bunch, what can I say?! :D

I have promised to bother one of the speakers again next year.. you know what he said?

“Bring it on!”

Leilani Holmes

http://www.leilaniholmes.co.uk

Hollywood Hook Up with Stephen Gyllenhaal

Posted on: October 31st, 2010 by Leilani No Comments

I followed the long documentary talks up with another Hollywood Hook Up with director and writer Stephen Gyllenhaal (father of Maggie and Jake) and he was speaking about writing and directing for TV in the US. Certainly if you want power in Hollywood then TV is the medium to be in where writers get much more control over the product made from their work.

Again, the American focus was on the professional craft of writing with Stephen focusing on writing from what you know. He said three-dimensional characters, going through situations that audience can relate to, is what makes great movies. I got a great understanding from him (and he’s very droll and funny and entertaining and extremely honest to listen to) of how writing from what you know is a kind of writing from the soul of yourself. (he didn’t quite phrase it like that but that’s what I got from it) and it reflected back what I’d heard in other sessions about a writers voice and writing in a way that is unique to you and your perspective on the universe. People are a great thing in his work and he advised not to get too caught up on the cameras and formats but to write things with people in.

He spoke about sharing his insights and it was certainly great to hear what he had to say, especially when he ranted a wee bit about the all too easy churning out of Hollywood explosion led films and he spoke about his Grassroots film project for which there are lots of videos on the website about how they made that and the process involved. Stephen is great to listen to, I’ve just taken a look at some clips and they are well worth watching. http://www.grassrootsthefilm.com/ Stephen would like you all to click the big buttons on the site to follow on facebook and twitter too!

A brief technical hitch with the skype hookup was very well handled and after Stephen went off to the editing room to get back to his work another hook up session started with Genevieve Joliffe in a very wonderful Witch disguise (I’m reliably informed that she’s more of a good witch of the East type than the cackling kind) but this screenwriter had to bow out as exhaustion took hold and there is still a huge day at the festival tomorrow.

Time to sleep.. thank goodness the clocks go back tonight, I could do with an extra hour. Tomorrow is going to be great and I want to be ready to get the most out of the last day of the festival!

Bring it on!

Leilani Holmes

http://www.leilaniholmes.co.uk

Considering Documentary

Posted on: October 31st, 2010 by Leilani No Comments

This afternoon began for me with HAVE YOU CONSIDERED A DOCUMENTARY workshop with Chris Atkins, James Collie and Jon Walker. I was keen to be at this particular session because I do on occasion get talked to about documentary shorts and it’s an area I’d like to know more about as from a writing point of view I believe that documentary can be made less expensive by having structured a story in the right way from the beginning. Right off the bat as we were acquainted with the three men’s work it was clear to see that there are many approaches to the way a documentary can be told.

First up was Independent Producer James Collie, who runs November Films, and has had excellent success with his feature length Documentary BEYOND BIBA – A Portrait of Barbara Hulanicki. Barbara founded the BIBA fashion phenomenon of the 1960’s and 1970’s and the beautifully shot film follows her to today’s Miami where she works as one of America’s most respected interior designers. James speaks very passionately about how to make documentary visual and cinematic and had a lot of great advice to give about this form of filmmaking and an easy succinct way of imparting information.

The documentary focuses on the character driven aspect of Barbara’s story, her beginnings, her legacy, her cultural impact both in past decades and today, told in the main, through her own interviews and footage about her life then and now. Intended to be a feature documentary for cinema release from the start, the film is cinematic, stylish and has both a niche market of fashion and a wider human interest story to tell about this incredible woman’s life. The film has been distributed with about 60+ event screenings in the UK and internationally where the documentary profile of Barbara Hulanicki has been augmented by her coming along to talk about her work. Stylishly designed DVD special edition packs have been sold at the same time allowing the film to be continually available to view as word of mouth and press attention spreads word of the incredible life of Barbara that the film has documented. It’s like a rolling snowball that gathers more audience interest as it goes along.

Next up was Jon Walker an editor who has worked on dozens of documentaries on a wide range of subjects for BBC, ITV, C4, Discovery, National Geographic and the History Channel. He had brought along some clips from KRAKATOA, a historical drama documentary made following the 2006 Indonesian Tsunami and focusing on the recurring event of tsunamis by a mixture of dramatising and factualising the tsunami that followed the Krakatoa volcano eruption in 1883. The documentary was made up of facts, scientific commentary and drama and produced for television at a time when the recent tsunami disaster was a focus in the mind of the world and had both a dramatic excitement and fear to it plus a human interest angle as people were attempting to understand such a massive natural tragedy that had wiped out a large number of people in such a short space of time.

Jon brought along some handouts with an Editors perspective on writing for Documentary and there was lots of excellent advice in that in addition to the insights he gave into how documentary is made from the edit perspective, the large amounts of footage being dealt with and his experience when working with people who are not filmmakers but want to impart information through film, such as scientists.

Finally came documentary film maker Chris Atkins who has won numerous awards and nominations and much festival acclaim for his work. After watching an extract from his documentary STARSUCKERS, I can see why. It’s got a broad appeal that speaks to ordinary people about the liberties that get taken by the media in feeding the pubic celebrity stories and lack of journalistic integrity involved. A journalistic documentary maker with good principles of honesty and openness, Chris spoke both about this work and also his film TAKING LIBERTIES around Tony Blair’s governments affect upon the erosion of civil liberties in the UK. The documentaries take a critical and perhaps controversial angle on things that have an unsanctioned affect upon our day to day lives in the country we live in. But they are delivered with a sense of fun, a snappy manner of imparting facts and a lot of national interest in the direct impact upon the lives of the viewer. In addition Chris spoke of the fact that because his films are attacking a lack of integrity in the way people act toward the public, his filmmaking in creating the documentary has to be the opposite of that. As a principled person I think he spoke eloquently about that and the fact that goes out and makes these films himself for cinema, because often they are issues that are not commissioned by TV anymore.

 Then the three spoke in detail and at length about the process involved in forming a documentary film.

There was less about writing than perhaps I would have liked but it became apparent from the way these three very different documentary filmmakers had told stories that having a good outline of who your audience is and the techniques of telling a documentary story available can affect the way you structure the story. There still needs to be a strong enough pull for people to watch documentary, especially if they are leaving the house and going to spend hard cash to see it in a cinema and the cinematic way in which the story is told should augment the point of view.

The workshop was kind of more of a filmmaking insight into documentary but because docs can be so much cheaper to go out and make than narrative drama (depending on what rights you need, they can get very expensive for some) it is possible with modern technology available for filmmaking for writers to get more involved in making documentary themselves.

It became apparent through the talks especially that more focus seems to go toward going out and just filming something yourself and that pitching with a short filmed promo is a better way than dealing with sheets of paper and the perspective, in particular from Chris and Jon tended to veer towards not so much writing them but going out and making them. However for structuring a documentary, the script can be an important tool especially for being clear towards what an editor may be trying to find in reams of footage, and this is something that James Collie went into detail with in the Script Chat session afterwards and I tended to veer more towards his attitude. But then I’m a writer so I would, wouldn’t I? :D

All three chaps had most excellent information and perspective on the subject of documentary and great advice to give that was both encouraging and enlightening and documentary is certainly something I will attempt in future when I find an appealing enough subject matter. But then I am a filmmaker as well as a writer and lots of people in the room were. I’m not sure how I’d have felt if I was just a writer looking to work in documentary. I’ve identified for myself areas that I think having a writer aboard a project could be very useful. From a production point of view for efficiency and to ensure that somewhat boring information can be imparted in a dramatic and cinematic way that holds a viewer is something that screenwriters know lots about (and perhaps scientists don’t always?). Documentary is certainly a complex form of filmmaking that needs (as Jon aptly stated) to have a simple message but not a simplistic one.

Tons more was discussed in the Script Chat afterwards and I found that whole session of just getting to sit down and talk to the speakers and other delegates in a relaxed very chatty way was really calming and pleasant and a great way to get more information on a subject I’m curious about getting involved with.

Leilani Holmes

http://www.leilaniholmes.co.uk

A Festive(al) Morning!

Posted on: October 30th, 2010 by Leilani No Comments

There are so many things going on all over the place at the festival I thought I’d give a flavour of just one mornings movement around the building and the sort of vibe that is around with everything going on.

Firstly in the LSF production office staff are organising themselves for the day ahead and dealing with enquiries from delegates and sorting out all the administrative details, ensuring that everyone is getting the best out of the festival. On radio’s from rooms around the college quadrant there are more festival staff ensuring all the speakers get to the right rooms at the right times and if any speakers get to the wrong place it’s a swift job to find them and help them relocate.

The speakers are very prepared for the sessions they’re running. They’ve turned up with huge amounts of advice and information and each has a great deal to share about their areas of expertise as well as the day to day challenges and rewards of living as a writer and making that work out long term. It’s a dance of efficiency that turns would-be chaos into calm. One could walk into any area of the festival and find benefit from the people there. There is nothing disappointing because there is always something else to be absorbed by.

This morning, day two of the festival, begins with calm quiet birdsong in the beautiful Regent’s Park setting and quickly swells into a buzz of activity as delegates and speakers arrive and the clockwork begins. Here’s a small outline of what’s going on.

8am networking breakfast in Harrington Hall, a chance to arrive, eat, drink beverages and prepare for the day whilst saying hello to a few people. It’s also a chance to wander out to the beautiful quadrant that sits in the centre of the four buildings and enjoy some air and sunshine.. people mill about chatting about their day ahead. Harrington Hall is the chillout room for delegates throughout the day and offers a quiet space to go for a chat or meet with someone. I’ve seen a few important looking discussions in there and I wonder what projects may stem out of the festival networking that’s been going on.

9am Begins The Hour of Power in the cinema with Charles Harris who is running both this morning session and an evening Pause to Reflect session, helping delegates to get the best out of the festival, deal with any self-doubts, get motivated and learn tips and tricks for getting the most out of the weekend. The Hour of Power is about getting your mental game in gear, finding out the most effective way to use the day, focus on goals and learn methods of ensuring you do your best. It’s a great way to start the day among supportive friends.

10am brings the first round of seminars, In Conversation with Barrie Keef, Why 80% of Scripts Get Rejected by Noelle Morris, Chloe Sizer and chaired by Stephen Follows, Getting an Agent and Beyond by Katie Williams and Gary Wilde and chaired by Mina Zaher, Being a Parent and a Writer by Amy Walker, Rebecca Getward, Marc Pye and chaired by Lucy Vee Hay. There’s also two Euroscript clinics of one hour each where delegates can get a personal one-on-one session with an expert script-doctor from Euroscript, there’s also a drop-in desk where people can turn up and on a first come first served basis take part in sessions which could be in a small group. These run throughout the day. More delegate meetings and chats take place in the chillout room

11:30am starts a half hour break that allows for any seminars that run over time and gives people a chance to rest and absorb info, grab refreshments and take bathroom breaks. Breaks are an important time as nobody wants to miss anything so having that time to reboot and refresh is vital to enjoying the day.

12pm brings another round of seminars and the building shifts as people swap rooms and find new things to do. Writing for Hollywood with Dean Craig and Michael Bassett is chaired by Jenny Newman, a Non Linear Story Workshop with Linda Aronson, How Do You Write For A Digital World with Phil Parker and Writers Guild Contracts for Film and TV with Bernie Corbett, Gale Renard and Sam Snape. In addition to these there’s a Script Chat in the Knapp Gallery which is a chance to meet the speakers from the last sessions and chat, ask questions & just spend a little more time seeing the various speakers. There’s also more Euroscript Clinic and Chillout Room happenings going on.

1:20pm A fifty minute lunch allows another refreshment break before the very busy afternoon begins, There’s a Brasserie and Café, Refectory and Shop on site and the park is outside with it’s many treasures. The quadrant is buzzing with life and talk about writing and speakers and friendships being forged. And this is just one typical morning of a very full fest. The rest of today brings a whopping twenty-two more seminars and socialising happenings to partake of. And that’s not including the breaks!

Bring it on!

Leilani Holmes

http://www.leilaniholmes.co.uk

Hollywood Hook Up with John August

Posted on: October 30th, 2010 by Leilani No Comments

It’s unlikely to be a frequent occurance that I get to say I spent Friday evening hooking up with John August! However, by the power of t’internets that is exactly what happened as a live linkup to a sunny LA morning brought the man himself into our midst to talk about his hugely popular screenwriting blog http:www.johnaugust.com, his writing career and the principles of being a good writer and one who can regularly get work produced.

I have to say it’s a real treat after many years of reading blogs and seeing photographs, to get to see John August speaking live, and with genuine sincerity and charm, about the writing craft. A lot of what he talked about writingwise is information you can find on his blog where you can find a myriad of advice by searching whatever is of interest to you. In some ways I wished that more complex questions had been asked, however what I did really get out of the hook up was a clearer sense of the John August attitude, that writing is a profession as well as a passion and both of those aspects are equally important because if a script is green lit, producers need to know they can rely on a writer to deliver all they need for the huge amount of money they will be putting into a project. John cares about good writing and that’s something I could see clearly in his face, he’s animated about the great sides of writing, professional and engaging about the realities of working in the profession. The main advice he had to give was finish. Just finish the screenplay, there’s too many half written ones out there that are no good to anyone and if you finish it and it’s not good then what will be good is what you learned by completing the work.

John said lots of other great things about the craft and the industry and I hope more people will blog about his talk which was very rich in insight into the industry in Hollywood and none of which I can quite extract out of my fried brain in a meaningful way this evening, but I’m sure they will all come flooding back over the coming weeks.. probably when I am writing again.

I hung around after the session for a while and had a chat with a few folks and then I headed down to the bar for a cold drink to round off the evening. Nobody I knew was in the bar and my usual brevity failed me a little (I can be shy at times) but I stayed for a drink anyway and looked around the room to see delegates chatting like they’d known each other for years. Some maybe had but I’m sure some had come alone to the festival and one or two, like me, stood around the room alone not quite mingling in with the rest but comfortable enough to stay in the quite friendly bar with the nice atmosphere, nevertheless. One thing I’d like to do if I attend the festival next year is interract more on the online social network with other delegates first. I do feel so much more comfortable when there are twenty people in the room who I know a bit about and recognise on sight. But they do all look a lovely bunch and I hope I get time to talk to more people tomorrow.

A very full day is ahead tomorrow and I really want to exclaim ‘bring it on’ because I’m sure it will be amazing but I think I need some sleep first. I’m kinda tired now.

Nighty night.

Leilani Holmes

http://www.leilaniholmes.co.uk

 

Distribution in the UK

Posted on: October 29th, 2010 by Leilani No Comments

The DISTRIBUTION IN THE UK session with Peter Buckingham and Alex Stolz from the UK Film Council was based upon the factual research the UKFC have done into what motivates audiences to see a film, who watches what, and the things that are most profitable because they attract a larger audience. Though the information is easy to comprehend and largely what you’d expect, it’s also quite complex in terms of understanding what producers and distributors are looking for in a film and, of course, that all begins at script level. Too complex to go into great detail here in a blog post but certain things stood out.

People who attend the cinema alone tend to be in a very small minority of film buffs and those who work in the industry. The vast majority of people attend with friends or a partner and therefore some kind of negotiation of ‘what to go and see’ tends to be involved. Films easilly identified by genre tend to do better because it is easier to describe the type of film to others in a recognisable way. Audiences tend to know what genre they like and, interestingly, drama was not one they tend to even classify. Other factors come into play like what sort of genre appeals to different sexes (are we not all looking for the perfect date movie?) and the appeal of known factors involved, well known names (both as audience draw and often as assurance of a certain quality/delivery of product) and publicity/buzz around the film, ie. have people heard enough about it to know if they want to see it or not. A number of factors need to be in play for a film to be successful and obtain the production finance & support it needs to get made and distributed. A lot of that decision making is made purely on the screenplay.

Work was a big factor with audiences seeming to veer toward factors they didn’t get day to day at work, excitement, entertainment, glamour etc. and American Films were largely more popular than UK films for delivering higher levels of those factors. The downside to American film was considered to be schmultzy or overly patriotic material as we are much more amoral in Europe and don’t like to be preached to. The upside of UK films was the ones that are clever/intelligent whilst the downside was films that are gritty and miserable. There were factors that could lift a more gritty or schmultzy film into more profitable/poplular likelihood of being successfully distributed. Music was a huge uplifting factor, and one that has been used very successfully to raise films that were gritty and miserable into popularity. It’s worth understanding a lot of these things that go through the mind of people who have the power to green light your screenplay and what boxes they’re looking to tick in order to sell your story to them.

Finally we heard about the exit polls that the UKFC have taken when they’ve funded projects and they can be quite interesting too in terms of what people say motivates them to see a film. They are all available on the UKFC website with analysis reports so you can take a look for yourselves http://www.ukfilmcouncil.org.uk/exitpolls

How these sort of statistics can affect how a film is marketed and might affect how a writer should pitch a project. Information I felt was really worth knowing. In fact some of it (the stuff about how a film is chosen, the importance of genre, and how a film is marketed clearly) is something I learned when I was first taught screenwriting by Elliot Grove at Raindance Writer’s Lab. Interesting to see how this information holds true years later and the factors that influence audiences haven’t changed much.

Informative stuff.

Leilani Holmes

http://www.leilaniholmes.co.uk

Kicking off with Serendipity and Conversation

Posted on: October 29th, 2010 by Leilani No Comments

 

I took a gentle path into the festival today as I wanted to begin by getting my bearings and obtaining a  feel for the festival without trying to do too much on the first day. It’s a jam packed weekend with Breakfast Networking beginning at 8am and the evening stuff going on until past 10pm. I’m only human so I’m pacing myself and easing into the festival vibe, it’s been a good opportunity to take stock. On the surface it appears to be bedlam with 400 delegates and about twenty speakers flitting about the place, but it’s actually a well oiled machine with plenty of help and guidance to get everyone into the right place at the right time. And there’s a real buzz to the atmosphere, everyone here takes their work seriously and enjoys what they do and the community of like minds is like a background hum to the vibrant seminars.

To kick off I planned on going into the YOUR SCRIPT FROM GOOD TO GREAT with Kate Leys, who is a Script Editor for film and has worked on some of my favourite movies. As it happens they appear to be everyone else’s favourite movies too as despite a room change to accomodate demand the seminar was full up by the time I discovered where it had moved to. I wasn’t too concerned though because there were a ton of other things to choose from so I wandered over to Tuke Hall where there was an IN CONVERSATION seminar with writer/producer Tony Jordan and Producer Nicola Shindler. Both spoke with great passion about their work and gave very good advice about writing for television. While I don’t write for TV (I don’t know how) and hadn’t really intended to I have great admiration for American TV writers and listening to Tonay and Nicola talk today I suddenly understood why writers who start off in TV and make a success of that can go on to have successful film careers. And a lot of that is seeing your work realised in a much shorter turnaround time than film gives. So you get to write lots and see it made, often within a couple of months, and see what worked and what didn’t. Nicola in particular spoke about watching lots of varied types of television and understanding from viewing how transitions and multiple character structures work.

Two things really stuck with me. One was Nicola speaking about how writers are born, that there is a very specific skill to being able to tell a story that interests other people, it’s very technical and intricate and a specific way of working that only certain individuals master, and the myth that everyone has a story to tell is actually just nonsense. I certainly felt glad when she said that, that I’ve spent a lot of time over the past five years to understand my own specific way of writing. I hope that understanding my own application of the craft and not just the craft itself will pay off for me in the long run.

The second thing that really struck me was what Tony called the single thing to hold on to is your own writers voice, your unique way of viewing the world. Writers who last in the industry and get work are writers who have that quality.

Other than writing both also spoke about production. Cost is obviously a huge factor and deadlines are a really big thing. It can cost a production a lot of money if the pre-production can’t be done with the polished screenplay. Script Editors were also spoken about and advice given about how best to work with them, learning how to listen and how to gague when changes to screenplays will benefit the story, when they make no difference either way, and when to hold ground because the change might fundamentally damage what a writer is trying to say with the piece. It’s a kind of filtering and an understanding of how to be easy to work with as a writer and be open to developing work and incorporating the ideas of others, while still knowing what the fundamentals are that shouldn’t be changed. Very good advice indeed. All in all I felt very lucky to have been serendipitous enough to have walked into this room and heard these people speak.

So a great start to today’s fun at the festival and only the beginning of a very informative day! Next up DISTRIBUTION IN THE UK.

Bring it on!

Leilani Holmes

http://www.leilaniholmes.co.uk

Being Prepared – Leilani gets ready!

Posted on: October 29th, 2010 by Leilani No Comments
Leilani Holmes ~ Festival Delegate
Blogging live for and from the London Screenwriters Festival

 

Hello all. I’m Leilani, one of the festival delegates and I shall be live blogging and tweeting (from @momentsoffilm on twitter) this weekend to share my experiences of the very first London Screenwriters Festival with everyone who reads and shares these posts.

Just a bit about me first. I’m a professional actor and in my spare time I’ve been screenwriting now since 2005 (though consider myself still young in the craft). For a number of years I have been a member of The Writers’ Building, a network of screenwriters headquartered in Los Angeles and I also co-run and administrate UK collaborative filmmaking group OTTfilms where I write, direct and produce short films. My first micro-short film in 2006 Death of the Dinosaurs was nominated for a British Independent Film Award so my focus as a writer is how writing transforms onto screen and becomes realised into film. This will be my approach to the London Screenwriters Festival and I hope what I learn will prove to be informative and give everyone a flavour of the festival as I experience it for the first time as a novice writer. I shall try and keep my meanderings entertaining and not to bore you to sobs. (No promises!)

So, it’s the eve of the festival and never quite having lost my Girl Guide’s principle of ‘Be Prepared’ I’ve spent this evening sorting out my laptop ready to blog efficiently from the London Screenwriters Festival tomorrow and throughout the weekend, I’ve been going over the new schedule to make sure I’ve got myself sorted and familiarised with everything that’s happening and I’ve assembled a little pile of business cards to put in my bag (with replenishment piles at the ready to refill for Sat & Sun). I’ve checked my transport route, got my GPS ready, checked over my schedule, packed up my camera and all that’s left is to stuff everything into a bag and head off tomorrow.

Despite being this prepared I still really don’t know what to expect from the festival over the next three days or in what ways I’m going to find it helps my screenwriting or indeed maybe influences the directions I go with my work, but, what I am very prepared for is turning up with an open mind, an enthusiastic heart and being ready to soak up every single thing the festival and all it’s people have to offer me. I know how hard everyone organising the festival has been working to make the event an amazing experience for us all. I’d like to say to all the organisers and speakers a big thanks in advance of the festival, I’m sure that they are anxious everything runs smoothly and I’m confident in their abilities to ensure that’s the case and that this will be a really beneficial weekend for the delegates (no pressure guys!).

So here’s to a fun and fact filled long exciting weekend ahead, meeting people learning things, sharing things, and socialising.. well it’s not called a festival for nothing you know!

Bring it on!

Leilani Holmes

http://www.leilaniholmes.co.uk

The LSWF Short Script Challenge: A Look In the Spec Pile

Posted on: October 22nd, 2010 by Lucy V Hay 4 Comments

So, the winners LSWF Short Script Challenge have been decided and announced  on last night’s Production Office Live! I thought I’d take a look at the process  and what it entailed, sifting through your entries – all ONE HUNDRED AND  FIFTEEN of them, which was waaaaaay more than we expected. Competitions  with specific briefs like ours are often lucky to break the forties in my experience,  so this was a real triumph. Many thanks to EVERYONE who entered, you rock.  And thanks also to my brilliant crack team of readers in the Literary  Department.

So, as a general overview first: I think the standard was REALLY high on this contest. I know everyone says that, so let me put it this way – there were so many entries rated “excellent”, we had to do a second read on 25 of them, something I had not initially planned for and had to implement due to the high quality, just so we could properly differentiate. That lucky 25 ended up getting some brief feedback on their entries. I am of course sorry we couldn’t provide feedback on EVERY entry but unfortunately there just was not the time with such a short turnaround on the reads. I did feel it really important EVERYONE should hear the outcome of the contest tho, rather than be met by radio silence – so all other entrants should have got an email by now from me thanking them for their entry. (FYI, if you haven’t heard anything from LSWF about your short script entry, email me on Bang2writeATaolDOTcom with your name and title of script in the subject line and I’ll be sure to answer you as soon as possible.)

So, looking to the entries:

General. Scripts for the most part looked professional, well laid out and there was a surprising lack of “black on the page”, though a few still crept in that were not in Courier 12 pt font/industry standard. No one was disqualified for this, however. Bad spelling/grammar and obvious typos were at a minimum, which was great to see. Weirdly, an extraordinary amount of scripts stated FADE IN and then started “From darkness…”! This seems to becoming so frequent at the moment as to feel a bit of an “oldie” in terms of kicking a script off, which is perhaps worth a thought? Again, no one was penalised for this however. Moving on, unfortunately a LOT of scripts did not have title pages and/or the writer’s email address on the front! OI, WRITERS: NO! Unless a site or brief specifically says NOT to, always, always include a title page – and always put a valid email address on the front.

The brief. Some entries did not address the brief and were not set in Regent’s College, had children or animals in, or massive casts of extras. Some included scenes that would be very difficult to film on a low budget – ie. driving in a car, on location in the street, or inside real shops. Again, no one was disqualified for any of this, but it was taken in account when considering the “feasibility” of being able to achieve it when filming.

Genre. Comedy was a biggie in this competition – and much of it was very, very funny! Many satirized life, what it is to be a man, woman or human being – or a big favourite – scriptwriting/filmmaking in general. Drama probably came second and there was a small range of horrors, but not as many as I expected given the fact LSWF is screening the finished film on Halloween! Of the horrors that came through, the supernatural was a firm favourite, with zombies, ghosts, ouija boards and voodoo all getting a look-in.

Influences. As mentioned, fantasy and science fiction cropped up, but of all the films that had a big influence on the scripts in this call, Stuart Hazeldine’s EXAM was the most obvious: there were many scripts dealing with competitions, job interviews, tests, psychological observations and experiments. Strangely, the old firm fave of the police interrogation room took a back seat this time.

Theme. Predictably (given the brief) university life and friendship/dating was a firm favourite, though this was swiftly followed by murder and mayhem! You really are a bloodthirsty lot. And obsessed with sex, too it seems, for there was an unprecedented amount of (consensual) schenanigans in these entries, more than I’ve ever seen before in ONE script call so thanks for cheering this perverted reader up!

Characters. Inevitably because of the brief again, most characters were students, writers or lecturers (or a hybrid of at least two of these), but the characters themselves varied wildly! Cyber terrorists, hyperchondriacs, gun-toting bridesmaids, insane caretakers, time travellers, poisoners, public school boys, bombers, mad scientists, maniac interviewers AND interviewees, troubled threesomes, abusers and even (real) famous people cropped up in the mix.

Dialogue. Dialogue was probably the biggest surprise of all, however: I would venture approximately 80% of the scripts in the LSWF short comp pile had “good to excellent” dialogue, again more than I have ever seen in one script call. An extraordinary amount of dialogue too was either poetic or ACTUAL poetry, including sonnets, Haiku and even dirty limericks and it was fabulous to see writers taking risks like this. Keep it up!

Plotting/Structure. Inevitably however, the good dialogue did come at the cost of some of the entries’ plotting – some had unidentifiable central concepts /premises driving them forward; some set ups were far too long or unnecessary; others had too many scenes that could easily have been cut in half; some endings seemed muddled, disjointed or unclear.

Summing up, it was a pleasure reading for the LSWF Short Script Challenge. I know people always say the “standard was high” etc etc but then I’m not known for going on about scripts I DON’T like. So congratulations to ALL of you, keep up the good work and keep on developing those scripts.

More delegates’ thoughts on LSF

Posted on: October 20th, 2010 by Anton 1 Comment

We were going to limit this article to one blog post but the emails kept on coming in with exciting opinions, so we thought what the hell. You wanted it, you got it. What you really want from YOUR Festival, Round 2. (more…)