London Screenwriters' Festival

Archive for March, 2011

Practical tips about writing comedy by Paul Bassett Davies

Posted on: March 28th, 2011 by Anton 1 Comment

Today’s blog is about never giving up on your dream. Except the one about the giant panda and the peanut butter. Or the one where you’re naked at a funeral. Or the one where you’re just about to play the bassoon in front of Michelle Obama and you remember that you don’t know what a bassoon is. In fact, give up on all of your dreams. Dreams suck. Wake up and get down to some work that’s going to make a difference to you.

Now, I could write about how wonderful the festival is going to be, and all the great guests, and how you’ll get a lot of vital information and advice, and learn valuable skills, and enhance your social life, and improve your upper body tone, and meet the man, woman or giant panda of your dreams. All of these things are true, probably. But they’re not specific enough when it’s Monday morning and the festival is in two week’s time. So I’m going to give you some specific, practical tips about writing comedy. (more…)

Laugh A Minute – We Have A Winner!

Posted on: March 23rd, 2011 by Lucy V Hay 4 Comments

First off, many thanks for all your entries – all NINETY SEVEN of them! There were entries from all over the UK and as far afield as Canada and the USA. Most followed standard spec format, as specified by the contest rules. There were still some curious variations: centered, underlined and/or bold dialogue seemed the biggest issue of those entries using the correct font (Courier) and otherwise OK format.  Stories included  supermarkets, family life, children, office life, baby sea lions, germs, fatherhood and God and Jesus even put in MULTIPLE appearances!

So without further ado, here is Team LSF’s Top 25 (in alphabetical order):

Allison Parker – DOMINOS
Amy Butterworth – JESUS AT THE DVLA
Andy Wooding & Mark Steele – THE KING’S SPEECH 2
Bernadette Groves – CLIFF
Charlie Boddington – JIM’LL FIX IT
Christiana Brockbank – ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS
Elinor Perry Smith – GLORY HOLE
Graham Inman – SCENARIO
James Armstrong – AQUAPHOBIA
James Hickey – BAD DAD
Jilly Gardiner – YELLOW ROSE
Keith Storrier – FATHERLY DATING TIPS # 1
Pamela Jane Geddes – WHERE’S YOUR TEETH?
Paul Schofield – MAN’S BEST FRIEND
Robert Gately – GET THE HELL OFF
Rosie Mathieson – FUCKACIA
Sandy Nicholson – PRIVACY SETTINGS
Stephen Brown – SWAT

From this impressive list, the team had the VERY difficult task of selecting a top 6, which ended up being (in no particular order):

Rosie Mathieson – FUCKACIA
Amy Butterworth – JESUS AT THE DVLA
Christiana Brocklebank – ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS
Jilly Gardiner – YELLOW ROSE
Keith Storrier – FATHERLY DATING TIPS # 1

As you know, there are TWO winners of the Laugh A Minute Comp, so here they are:

Keith Storrier wins first prize for FATHERLY DATING TIPS # 1, so receives £50 and a free ticket to The London Comedy Festival in April. Keith’s one pager tells the story of a father who makes a CRINGE-MAKING faux pas when advising his daughter about meeting with a potential boyfriend. Team LSF described it as “laugh out loud funny” and “entirely plausible”.


“Highly Commended” is Jilly Gardiner for YELLOW ROSE, who receives a free ticket for the festival. Jilly’s script is about two hard-of hearing pensioners who go on a blind date together. Team LSF called it “amusing” and “sweet, yet sharp.”

Well done to both our winners – but also to the rest of our Top 25 and ALL WHO ENTERED. The contest totally went beyond our expectations in terms of entry volume and quality and that’s ALL down to you guys. We’re sorry we can’t provide feedback on the rest of the entries this year, but the festival is right around the corner – do you have your ticket yet?? Check out the blogs, Twitter and Facebook for the various discounts available.

#Comfest – We Have A Winner!

Posted on: March 18th, 2011 by Lucy V Hay 1 Comment

Many thanks to everyone who entered #comfest, our Twitter contest where Team CWF asked you to write a logline for a comedy project for the chance to win a ticket to next month’s festival.

We had LOADS of entries – Lucy V lost count! – but the team managed to draw up a long list of TWENTY THREE (with kudos to two “joke” entries) and these were:

TOP 25 #Comfest Entries

1) Sketty
Fish restaurant waiter is haunted by ghost of Paul the psychic octopus who advises him through a number of traumas #comfest
2) LilMissMystic
@londonswf A harrassed housewife is shocked when her angelic and devilish sides both come alive to ‘assist’ her in all her problems #comfest
3) RedZed333
Man joins security team as a cardboard policeman only to realise later he’s not cut out for the job. #comfest
4) StevoFiori
A Murderer has a body to hide, only the corpse isn’t where he left it. Thus begins a quest to find the body… And hide it again #comfest
5) NuttyNatter
Gardeners are the new hoodies when a territorial fight kicks off over who has the right to sell herbs down the allotments. #comfest
6) Ferrrgle
In the future, a team is set up to travel back in time to ensure people don’t travel back in time to destroy the future. #comfest
7) jazadal
A womanising 1980s college athlete awakens from 30-year coma 2 find that things have changed +he still needs 13 credits 2 graduate#comfest
8) Adam_Stevens_82
Was Phil Collins right when he said that you can’t hurry love? One forsaken man plans to find out- by going on 30 dates in 30 days.#comfest
9) Big_Mezza
An OCD sufferer yearns to be a better father but struggles to accept that he has an odd number of children. #comfest
10) sweettweenie
#comfest The Prime Minister must choose between his newfound love for nudity and running the country
11) TheoMadla
A guidance counselor hates his job, but just received tenure. Now that he can’t get fired, he can start guiding these kids- HARD.#Comfest
12) saimamir
#comfest 2mild-mannered old women tire of the drudgery of life & turn 2 assassinating mothers-in-law 2 pay their children’s tuition fees.
#comfest Submarine commander is given charge of his first nuclear sub but his crew are useless dunderheads charged with a deadly mission
The girl he loves is a Gorgio Armani type – he’s more George at Asda, so sets about ruining her life to bring her down to his level #comfest
Gaddafi, Sheen and Berlusconi are left holding a baby with a cocaine soaked nappy in “Three Dirty Old Men and a Bunga Bunga party” #Comfest
16) @velvet_eyes: #comfest A legal loop hole finds career criminal Jack Steinberg return to prison but this time accompanied by his interfering Jewish parents
17) @aurorafearnley: #comfest Twitch: Two rival ornithologists race to sight a rare bird in Scotland. One using expensive technology, the other animal instinct.
18) @nickhumt – Dave is invincible. He’s also weak unfit cowardly selfish and doesn’t want to leave Crawley to be a superhero whatever his mum says
A man is determined to find God after he discovers that Heaven and Hell underwent a corporate merger following God’s resignation #comfest
In a world where laughter’s banned, Tom begins to perform standup on the underground open mic circuit, only to find he isn’t funny. #comfest
Den of Geeks: A group of gamers are losing their geeky girl to rowers and fight to reclaim her with conventions, comics and cunning #comfest
#comfest Two aliens assume the form of Earth’s most talked-about citizens to study our fine culture – a disgraced actor and a teen popstar.

#comfest With their Community Hall set to close, the local Women’s Institute takes the only logical step to save it: drug dealing.


24) Jazzchantoozie Andrea Mann
#comfest Fledgling comedy writer enters festival logline competition on Twitter but sadly runs out of characters before reaching end of her
At the last minute Jack reports all #comfest entrants for spamming, gets them deleted, only to get his winning tweet deleted for spamming…


1) Ferrrgle
2) Big_Mezza
3) TheoMadla
4) LilMissMystic
5) Marshbuttrue
6) DraconianOne
7 – NuttyNatter
8 – @velvet_eyes
9 – rosieclaverton
10 – carter_andrewj


Big_Mezza aka Josh Merritt
An OCD sufferer yearns to be a better father but struggles to accept that he has an odd number of children. #comfest

WELL DONE JOSH!!! Lucy V (@Bang2write) will be in touch just as soon as she can to arrange your prize.

Comedy Writing: The More The Merrier

Posted on: March 17th, 2011 by Anton No Comments

by Hayley McKenzie

Here’s why networking at the Comedy Writers’ Festival is what it’s all about…

When your script isn’t quite up to scratch it’s easy (and understandable) to get defensive about other people ‘interfering’ in it. Indeed, in UK television drama series there’s a default position that if the script isn’t working, the writer can be fired and another writer brought in to take ownership and rewrite as necessary.

What’s great about comedy series is that there is much more willingness to bring other writers on board when the script needs ‘gagging up’ or the story needs fixing. If you can learn to collaborate, you might just get yourself a long career in the industry. (more…)

Comedy Is A.Mann’s World: Q&A With Andrea Mann

Posted on: March 14th, 2011 by Anton No Comments

Only a few weeks ago, Andrea Mann was an aspiring writer looking for a break. Now, she’s making waves at BBC radio comedy – spinning heads with her rapid rise. Read our inspiring in-depth Q&A with Andrea to see how she succeeded and how our very own Screenwriters’ Festival played a big part.

Tell us about your background before becoming a comedy writer.
I worked as a cinema manager, then a stand-up comedy promoter and then an interactive TV manager before redundancy gave me the kick up the butt to pursue a career as a ‘creative’ myself and not just facilitate the fruits of other creative people’s labour.  So I took the leap into being a professional singer (I’d been doing jazz open mic slots for a while) and while I became a freelance writer on the web to pay the rent, I actually came to realise that I love writing as much as I love making music.

When the recession kicked in, I had to take an office-based freelance job editing the homepage of a big internet provider – choosing which news stories to cover on there, writing headlines and such. For a long time, this felt like a Boring But Necessary Day Job – but actually, it’s served as the perfect environment for writing topical comedy, as I’ve never been so well-informed about current affairs! I still gig, but less so – as I want to concentrate my efforts on a writing, rather than music, career now, and realised I couldn’t have the success I wanted with my feet still firmly planted in both camps. (more…)


Posted on: March 11th, 2011 by Anton No Comments
By Matthew Ogborn

Why do I love comedy so much?

When one of your earliest memories is delighting in Harold Lloyd on TV, his black-and-white madcap hijinks leaving me breathless with laughter and excitement each week, the die is cast from the outset.

I am lucky in one respect that I have grown up with an immediate family and extended family always looking to get one over on each other with a funny gag, amusing story or droll aside.

God knows there have been hard times for all of us down the years, but humour wins out time and again.

This is why people around the world escape into sitcoms, sketch formats, panel shows, films, plays and stand-up. Laughter acts as a salve for all our worries, deep seated or shallow.

If I didn’t have CheersHome to Roost, The Two Ronnies, Chevy Chase, M*A*S*HPorridgeThe Morecambe and Wise Show, Bill Murray or Jane Lynch and the Christopher Guest troupe to fall back on over the years, I don’t where I would be right now.

Consequently, the prospect of spending two days alongside the cream of British comedy talent represents a great chance to pick the brains of a select group of mirth makers who have split my sides down the years.

When you consider how much it costs these days for an evening out, you would be hard pressed to find better bang for your buck than two WHOLE days and an eclectic line-up of over 50 sessions revelling in the wisdom of speakers like top liner Griff Rhys Jones, Borat’s Dan Mazer, Spaced alumni Jessica Hynes or Friday Night Dinner creator Robert Popper.

Past and present are going out of their way to give YOU, the future of comedy, a golden chance to cut through the crap and make a name for yourself.

Times are tough, I get that. I’m not exactly wallowing in clover myself of late. However for around £150, even less if you get on board one of our affiliate discount offers, you can listen to these talented creatives and commissioners then ask questions into the bargain.

Not only that, you get to hang out with fellow delegates who might be on the same page when it comes to taste or ambition. Maybe you can form a group on the back of it that creates the next blockbuster comedy film, hilarious sitcom or award-winning sketch show.

I cannot underline enough what a phenomenal chance this is for you to take your comedy career seriously. I am not holding a comedy gun to your head, I am just asking you to take this amazing opportunity with both hands and run with it while you still have the chance.

We locked in new speakers yesterday in the guise of Red Dwarf’s Rob Grant, The IT Crowd wordsmith Andrew Ellard, producer/director David Tyler (Armando Iannucci’s Charm Offensive) plus hot new talent in the form of David Simpson and Martin Gooch.

We have also arranged a few teaser Tuesday sessions, which are FREE for delegates, at Ealing Film Studios with the Misery Bear creators on March 15th, Rob Grant on March 22nd and our creative director Paul Bassett Davies on March 29th.

One month to go now, folks, and the clock is ticking down. It’s been a long, old week I am sure for everyone; therefore I will leave it there. The ball is in your court now.

Have a fun weekend one and all, Matt

Matt is a professional film screenwriter and journalist, who has developed comedy scripts with European production companies and directors over the last 11 years. Check out his Ogmosis blog for more or hang out on Twitter @mattogborn



Posted on: March 9th, 2011 by Anton No Comments

Creative director Paul Bassett Davies answers some of your FAQs (Fantastically Annoying Quibbles) about The London Comedy Writers Festival.

I’m often asked this question, usually when I’m promoting my workshop called “Yes, You Really Can Learn How To Be Funny.” In fact, the real title of my workshop is less specific and vulnerable to litigation. I’m not like a hypnotist with a book called “I Can Make You Thin.” Although I do have book coming out called “I Can Make You Wish You Were Less Gullible (Price: £95). Okay, to answer the question. The way I see it, comedy is a mindset. It’s a way of thinking that uses certain muscles. You can learn how to locate and exercise those muscles, in the way that when you learn to ride a bike you start using muscles that you didn’t use before. That doesn’t mean you’ll automatically become an Olympic cyclist, but you can practice and get pretty good at it, and at the very least you should be able to cycle to your destination without falling off. Unless your bike is a bit frisky, and tries to throw you. That sometimes happens if the bicycle has been drinking.


No. But you’ll learn everything else about comedy writing.


Sure. You’ll learn some basic techniques and dynamics of comedy writing. You’ll learn how some very successful professional comedy writers got where they are. You’ll learn how rising stars of comedy writing are breaking into the business, and how you can do it, too. You’ll learn how to get your work seen by the people who control the routes into broadcast comedy; how to write what will appeal to them; how to approach and pitch to them, and how to convince them to commission you. You’ll learn how to vastly improve your chances of writing a successful, produced comedy feature film. You’ll learn about the other avenues that are opening up in web comedy and transmedia. You’ll learn about effective writing disciplines and how partnerships work. You’ll learn how hard it is, and how rewarding it can be.

Well known names like Dan Mazer, Robert Popper, Rhona Cameron, Griff Rhys Jones, Jessica Hynes. (I’m not going to list their credits; if you don’t know them, check out their profiles for yourself on the site. What am I, your mother?) Also those whose work you’ll certainly recognize, if not their names; people like Paul Jackson and Jon Plowman, who have had, and continue to have, a massive influence. And some very important people you may not know about, like Simon Wilson, who makes the decisions about commissioning comedy at the BBC, and Lucy Lumsden, who is spearheading Sky’s drive into the original comedy market, and Newsjack producer Tilusha Ghelani. We’ve also got seasoned professionals like Brian Leveson and Paul Minett, who’ve written a whole string of mainstream TV hits and can give you invaluable insights into the craft, Rob Grant, and Doug Naylor, the co-creators of Red Dwarf, both of whom are now exploring great new projects, and John Langdon, who has been Rory Bremner’s main writer for ever.

Three great session with a little more time to get into it. March 15th: the creators of BBC Online phenomenon Misery Bear look at the whole process of online comedy, especially using animation. Check out their latest film for Comic Relief. And then check out everything else they’ve ever done, especially Dawn of the Ted. It’s all very, very funny. March 22nd: simply about the best comedy writing masterclass you’ll get in under three hours, from Red Dwarf co-creator Rob Grant. March 29th: an intensive hands-on topical sketch writing workshop, in which you’ll participate in putting together a sketch from the day’s news, run by Paul Bassett Davies. Hey, he’s got the same name as me. What are the chances?

Let me think. Er… no.


Paul Bassett Davies: He’s Not A Lumberjack, But He *Is* OK

Posted on: March 3rd, 2011 by Lucy V Hay No Comments

So we thought we’d let you know all about Paul – no, not the alien in the camper van on the road with Simon Pegg, but  The London Comedy Writers’ Festival’s new creative director, Paul Bassett Davies.  Lucy V caught up with him to discuss radio, The Magic Roundabout, naked boy scouts and women’s shoes… Enjoy!


You’ve worked for radio a lot. Does this mean you don’t have “a face for TV” – and which radio play or commercial was your fave and why?

There’s a lot that works better on radio than on TV. Like nudity, for example. But I love radio because it’s such a creative medium and it’s more fun than TV. People in TV, especially TV comedy, tend to take themselves very seriously. When you do radio you suspect that probably no one is listening, or they’re doing the ironing or something, so you’re a bit more relaxed. I try to take my work very seriously but not necessarily myself. If you’re asking which of my own radio plays is my favourite it’s one called The Ancient Mariner’s Wife or possibly one about Coleridge and Wordsworth called Spy Nozy and the Poets which was based on strange but true events. (more…)