London Screenwriters' Festival

Archive for October, 2011

A Network of Screenwriters

Posted on: October 29th, 2011 by Leilani No Comments

Regent’s Park is in it’s Autumnal glory at this time of year, and the beautiful buildings of Regents College are charmingly bathed in sun creating a relaxed atmosphere for the middle day of the London Screenwriters Festival. A perfect and calm setting for networking, which is what I largely chose to do with my morning.

Elsewhere in the comfortable conference rooms the serious business of screenwriting is being addressed. These are skills that writers need to be able to practice their craft and profit from it. Charles Harris once again is began his day with The Hour of Power to help writers get the best out of their festival, motivate and getting the mental game into the right space for effectively focussing on goals. Meanwhile other sessions included advice and information about agents, technique to get into what you bring to your work and characters to release the power of your writing, and the business end of how your screenplay translates both in terms of the cinematic language and in the edit room.

There are networking breaks dotted throughout the festival schedule and a fairly long lunch to allow time for meeting the other festival delegates. Yesterday was a very friendly day and today has been for me, more about the nature of our industry, and the legacy of the festival is the people who become part of your life after it finishes. Now is the time to meet those people. I know from my experience as an actor that future work comes often through being ready to take the opportunities that cross your path, and that those opportunities cross your path through the people you get to know and like. This was re-iterated time and again during the talks I listened to in yesterday’s sessions with every speaker mentioning one or more opportunities that had come to them through people they knew or friends of people they knew. Networking, after all isn’t all about swapping business cards it’s about getting to know people in your field of interest and maintaining those relationships so spending time really connecting with other writers now is time well spent.

It’s a glorious day for new beginnings so let’s see if I make some new friends today, and/or solidify the bonds I’ve created with the people I already knew who are here at the festival with me. Having had four short screenplays picked up by other directors (two already made) since last year’s festival I know that if I keep meeting people and learning from them, good things are ahead.

Leilani Holmes

Festival Faces

Posted on: October 29th, 2011 by Leilani No Comments

Just a few of the faces I met around the festival today..

Screnwriter and filmmaker Allison Parker is a deputy moderator of #scriptchat on twitter. She’s currently crowdfunding funds for her comedy short film ‘With a Little Help from our Friends’ on Indiegogo.


Met over lunch Russell Heyworth lives in the north, makes short films and has various scripts he’d like to improve and make.

Guido Lippe is a script editor of some nine years, writer and creative who lives in London, and is at the festival to network, learn and find fun.


Ben Williams is a Producer’s Assistant and also screenwrites and directs films.


Neal Romanek is a working screenwriter and my fellow festival blogger and tweeter.


Teenie Russell is a screenwriter of mainly comedy screenplays working on multiple projects, and is looking forward to the networking sessions.


From De Montfort University Tommy Haymes came on the recommendation of his university with some other graduates and students from his course.


Christopher Vogler: The Hero’s Journey Continues..

Posted on: October 29th, 2011 by Leilani No Comments

Unable to be at the festival in person, Chris Vogler joined us via satelite link up to have an in-depth conversation with Chris Jones about The Hero’s Journey, why it’s continued to be popular amongst screenwriters and filmmakers all over the world and helps them to write their stories.

The Hero’s Journey, if you’re not familiar to it, is an approach to story founded on the work of Joseph Campbell and the interpretations of mythological story it identifies the common threads that pull through most every story around the world and has been adapted by Christopher Vogler to be applicable to screenplay story and structure. Not so much of a blueprint or template for writing Christopher speaks of the work as something that need not be applied rigidly (he said like recipe ingredients) but about having a series of questions that you can ask yourself when structuring your work and if something isn’t working maybe it’s one of these journey elements that could be missing and it’s your choice as to whether you decide to add that in or deviate from it in an interesting way.

In fact, the whole idea of journey is one Chris Vogler explains very well. That if you’re going on a journey it’s good to have a map, but you won’t want to follow that map too rigidly, you’ll probably want to stop and explore or deviate from the path at times and you may want to loop back to places you’ve seen. The map just describes the path you can take on your journey to get to your destination, the journey experience is entirely of your own making and it’s really when you get lost or aren’t progressing is when you may look at the ‘map’ to lead you back to where you need to be. This implementation of The Hero’s Journey is, Christopher believes, the reason it has remained a popular tool used by screenwriters and relevant to today’s new ways of storytelling, because it seems to still help people.

Speaking animatedly and enthusiastically about the craft, Vogler gave a reassuring account of how it can be employed for longer form TV writing as well as features, aid in pitching and even be applied to anti-heros in a story. For longer form writing he says that there will be fractals and small arcs within a longer series arc and that’s how best it’s employed.

One of the best pieces of advice I think I heard from him during the session is that when submitting screenplay specs to the US, to make sure you’ve conformed to American spelling and format. Otherwise your work will be viewed as a ‘British’ script and having that in the readers head can subject you to excess judgement on your story. A great piece of advice from a man who clearly cares about good writing being judged on it’s own merit.

Christopher Vogler has a new Hero’s Journey book coming out and we trust it will be as useful and inspiring a tool as the original has proved itself by long popularity to be. And it was great to have him hook up with us here at the festival.

Leilani Holmes

In Conversation with Joe Cornish

Posted on: October 29th, 2011 by Leilani No Comments


Admittedly, having never seen ‘The Adam and Joe Show’ or been exposed to any of his work in fact, I didn’t really know who Joe Cornish was before today. I’d seen the trailer, though not the film, for ‘Attack the Block’ though and was interested to learn what I could about it, especially as it has such a refreshing concept to it. I soon discovered that Joe Cornish is awesome and is now one of my favourite people at the festival this year.

I was swiftly impressed with the way he spoke about his work and the amount of sincerity and openness he expressed when talking about his process, he has a love of creating mood boards of his drawings and photographs and for ‘Attack the Block’ began with these to go with his outline for the idea. From those initial tools he then fleshed out the story.

Prompted by a question he spoke about his choice to reveal the ‘monster’ of his story early in the film as opposed to only hinting at it until later in the movie. He answered that there’s two schools of thought, the ‘withhold the monster’ thought, which he’d seen a lot in his youth but which often proved to be a bit of a let down if, when the monster was finally revealed, it was rubbish. The alternative thought which is about revealing the monster and using multitude to add tension was therefore the approach they took. When making the film he had to prove that they could create the monsters and that they worked some six months before shooting. As both writer and director, he mentioned how tiring it can be to take on both roles. He has an ethic of ‘plussing’ (improving) the work as much as possible but to be in production meetings and then go home to re-write and improve the screenplay left him fairly sleep deprived through sections of the process. The kids in the film are real teens playing their own age, and he worked to wherever possible, record only unmitigated behaviour in the actors. He spoke of impro being something that doesn’t really happen on set as it’s too expensive. Even those directors who improvise heavily tend to do that before shooting or at least get what’s on the page as a take to fall back on.

The towers in ‘Attack the Block’ being named after fantasy writers, Joe admitted his love of books. A Clockwork Orange was a big influence for the way he used language and slang with the film.

Tin Tin is his next project to be released but the script he wrote was actually finished prior to his work on ‘Attack the Block’ and that was a project that came to him via Edgar (Wright). The challenges with the screenplay for that revolved around things like having to condense the continuity of the characters so that they could all be present in the film at once and how some of the original work was quite weak in terms of story.

In a Q&A Joe Cornish was very giving with his replies, unflinching about the things he cared about with a forthright honesty that I really admired. He’s a very confident man and confident about his writing and filmmaking and I’ve gone from not really knowing who he was an hour ago to finding him to be one of the people I’ve been most impressed by out of today’s very good sessions. He’s an awesome person and I liked him a lot. This is one of the things I love about the screenwriters festival. There is always something very refreshing about the things and the people you discover. That’s certainly been my day today.

I finished up my day by joining the satelite hook up session with Chris Vogler and then networking drinks in the bar. A very, very full, very long day and an extremely pleasant one filled to the brim with incredible people both delegates and speakers alike!

Leilani Holmes

In Conversation with Duncan Kenworthy

Posted on: October 29th, 2011 by Leilani No Comments

Sitting in the talk session with Producer Duncan Kenworthy today and hearing him speak about his impressive body of work I suddenly realised that there is nothing he has produced that I don’t like. There’s some I haven’t seen but of the projects I have, I’ve loved every single one. I don’t think I could say that about anyone else in the UK film industry and I suddenly felt in awe of being seated a few feet away from someone who, before today, was only a legend to me.

Four Weddings and a Funeral, is probably the project that gets mentioned most of all when Duncan’s name is raised or praised. A commercial success from a low budget beginning the film is as popular today as when it was released. But for 25 years before he ever became a producer of films he worked in children’s television on such illustrious productions as ‘Sesame Street’ and working closely with people like Jim Henson (becoming VP of his company) and Anthony Minghella who’s subsequent career was founded on the work Jim and Duncan gave him.

‘Fraggle Rock’ for which he was co-creator and ‘The Storyteller’ were shows I loved (despite being way past child age when they aired in the UK) and that still have a huge following today, and though he says he finds ‘The Dark Crystal’ flawed and quite difficult to watch now, it’s still a film I have treasured and enjoyed for years, as indeed are ‘Four Weddings’ ‘Notting Hill’, ‘Love Actually’ and more recently ‘The Eagle’. All his features since leaving TV have a distinctly British flavour to them that is well received abroad making his endeavours some of the highest grossing UK film box office earners of all time and setting high standards for the industry to follow while also proving those standards can be achieved. Highlighting the comedy element of romantic comedies as vitally important gave an insight into why those genre of films succeeded so well, given the dialogue elements of comedy in them.

It became clear to me listening to Duncan speak of his work that Producing requires calmness and a kind of brutal honesty, that though delivered in his considered tone gave a clear indication of his backbone in making decisions that might seem very tough to individuals but ultimately serve the project. However when dealing with writers, he spoke about not treating writers as equipment but treating them with kid gloves and couching what you need to say in a way that doesn’t hurt them or their process.

Coming from a TV background where Producers have far more power than in film, Duncan is a true creative producer who takes his weight in the writer/producer/director trio and says there are three positions for a reason and that producing for a writer/director is more about helping them achieve their project in the way they want to achieve it than being a hands on producer who’s part of developing the work. In defining a producer, he spoke of the role as being a person who can connect money to talent and that if one can do that you can hire the expertise you need but may lack yourself.

Speaking about the industry in the UK at the moment, Duncan Kenworthy feels it’s doing well. It is hard to make films, as it should be, but with good material, with the right script you can get it made. As one of the people who originally set up the UK Film Counsel he felt it was short sighted to close it outright when a shake up might have fixed the problems stated as reasons to end it and felt like it’s function was still needed. He did say quite firmly that the UK tax credit was essential to having a UK film industry and that we’d be in trouble without it. Even though it’s often exploited by US studios that work flowing into the UK keeps the technical backbone of our industry relevant.

Speaking about his most recent feature, ‘The Eagle’ Duncan said that in retrospect he would have made more of the two men’s relationship from the beginning, in actuality the contention of the main characters was something that was largely created in post production to make up for the lack.

Answering questions from the delegates ended the session on an informative note from this well loved and infinitely dedicated Producer. His new work will be a remake of the musical ‘My Fair Lady’ and he feels that the story of a man who creates a person and then falls in love with her is very relevant to today. I sincerely look forward to liking it as much as I like the rest of Duncan Kenworthy’s repertoire and as much as I loved his talk today.

Leilani Holmes

Another 50 Ways to Break into the Business.

Posted on: October 28th, 2011 by Leilani No Comments

So in true serendipity Kate Leys session was full by the time I wandered up to the room it was in and instead I made my way into this session about breaking into the business, which was really good and a great way to kick off the festival.

Hosted by working Screenwriter, Script Editor and Filmmaker Danny Stack the panel comprised of Bernie Corbett, General Secretary of The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, Writer/Director Martin Gooch who has a vast catalogue of experience in film and TV, Writer/Producer/Director Vadim Jean who makes features, documentaries, TV and commercials (I know him best for the awesome Hogfather), and Chris Hill who two years since graduating from NFTS three years ago, has become a commissioned screenwriter and formed part of the ‘Skins’ writing team, as well as being a script consultant on the Oscar Nominated film ‘The Last Station’.

The guys had put together a list of 50 suggestions for breaking into the business split into beginners, intermediate and advanced level screenwriters. What was really nice was that along with each of the fifty bits of info came a bit of insight from the panel about their own experiences of how they had reached their current place in the industry, they all spoke with care for us and how we could approach our careers, preparing us for the hard facts of the industry. Not every industry professional would, I think, be able to speak so deftly and with such great eloquence about their own paths and still be able to pinpoint the specific choices they made that paid off for them years down the line like these guys did, so kudos to all the panel for some fascinating sharing of their paths. I was very impressed with all of them, a really cool bunch who deserve their success.

These are a few of the points talked about that I picked up on and tweeted about during the session,  blog & tweet, be a runner, join a group, make a film, but mostly just WRITE! Do as much as you can. Network. Write regularly (2 nights a week) and turn the Internet off when writing. Don’t be selfish, give time to working with other people. Feedback is subjective. Be careful you get feedback from those who’s judgement you trust. Build a portfolio of work. A really well written short is worth two badly written features. Don’t give up your day job until you have to & have built the resources to support yourself. Write in the spare time you get. Read the industry news & publications. Give yourself thinking time.Balance writing from personal experience with not limiting yourself to only that experience. Research what you don’t know. Ask. Do something. Just do it. Make a short film (or have one made of your writing) Learn about contracts, copyright and industry contracts. Research rights and practice. Producers will exploit you if you don’t. Pay attention to craft. Hook them in 3 pages not 10. Times are ruthless. Be compelling. Suck them in. Your competitors are the established industry screenwriters. It’s tough. Be prepared for that. Be proactive. You don’t need an agent until you get one. The important thing about networking at festivals, Cannes etc. is to maintain contact with your network. Keep in touch.


Leilani Holmes

The Comedy Broadcasters: NOW What Do They Want?

Posted on: October 28th, 2011 by Lucy V Hay No Comments

While everyone was swooning at the feet of Edgar Wright this afternoon, I was in an adjacent room at a superb, informative discussion about the state of British tv comedy, called The Comedy Broadcasters: NOW What Do They Want?, hosted by Paul Bassett-Davies. Guests included Mark Talbot of Hat Trick and writer-producer Jeff Atkinson and Chris Sussman, comedy commissioning executive at the BBC.

Paul started by apologizing for the lack of women on the panel. The good part of the story is that the female member of the panel couldn’t attend because she’s very busy with a project in production. Since there’s such an emphasis on pitching at the Screenwriters’ Festival, Paul opened by asking the producers present what they are thinking when a writer comes to them with a pitch. The first, universal answer was “Is it funny?” You would think that would go without saying, but apparently not. In my case, the simple and obvious often eludes me. It’s nice to be reminded. The rules for comedy pitching – and indeed writing – are no different from drama. Producers are looking for a page turner. Is there a character that they really want to know about. Writing comedy is more than “just writing jokes” and they said it was easy to spot when somone was just trying to do “funny” without a character or a compelling situation to back it up.

I’ve already heard several speakers today talk about the importance of finding and adhering to your own voice. Again, comedy is no different. Jeff Atkinson said that in Britain, we are lucky to have writers who have maintained a clear voice and that it was important not to lose that. There’s a certain amount of faith and courage that it takes to stick to that original voice – especially when writers are so eager to please producers. But the faith that you believe in what you are presenting really shines through, it would seem. Jeff Atkinson has been working with Jo Brand’s “Getting On” and cited that as a prime example of a show that has something to say first of all, a unique personal voice (Jo Brand did once work as a nurse, like her series character). That conviction, combined with personal experience, and in Jo’s case talent and real experience, produces something quite memorable.

How does a comedy writer get their work to these guys (and others like them)? The BBC looks at scripts almost exclusively through production companies. So if you want to pitch a BBC series, hook up with a production company first. 25% of their comedy material is developed in house, but even these are likely to be farmed out to production companies once they’re fully developed. Another advantage of going to a production company instead of the BBC is that if the Beeb says no, that production company can always go to someone else. Writers can often approach production companies themselves. Mark Talbot said that Hat Trick’s policy is that they never read unsolicited manuscripts – but not really. Officially, most UK companies do not read unsolicited work, but the truth is they probably do, if you approach them in the right way. It was also repeated that, from a producers point of view, a submission from an agent is no guarantee of quality. An agent will not get you a commission. You will do it. But when the deal has to be made and money comes into the picture, that’s when having an agent is essential – and when it will be no problem finding one.

It’s a boom time potentially for British comedy now, especially with Sky putting so much money into comedy. There was some disagreement on the panel about the value of online content as a calling card for writers. Some said you should never write for free – there’s always a way to monetize it. Others said it was a useful investment if what you had was really going to attract attention. There was a consensus that there is a new kind of writer coming down the pike – especially as transmedia/cross-platform content takes greater hold. Don’t be shackled by traditional restraints, was the message. Don’t self edit.


Neal Romanek

Up and at ‘Em!

Posted on: October 28th, 2011 by Leilani No Comments

So it’s Friday morning and my first blog of the festival. I’ve got my business cards at the ready, a stash of chocolatey snacks to keep my blood sugar up, the obligatory bottle of water that we actors always carry, iPhone, itinerary, a massive handbag to put it all in.. sunglasses for that festival fabulous look (a must have for any festival dahlink) and I’m ready to rock!

The festival actually started over an hour ago with the opening keynote. It’s an important part of the festival that I think helps energise the day and just allows people to acclimatise to the building and each other. It’s a very large festival with a lot going on and a lot of people, the days are long and it’s pretty non stop all weekend. So to have a grounding positive introduction and just settle in helps things not to become overwhelming. It’s bustling here and I’m thrilled to be milling about in the milieu!

And it’s also a chance to spot some familiar names and faces. Fellow screenwriter Neal Romanek is alongside me also blogging and tweeting from the festival so hopefully between us we can offer different perspectives and cover a bit more of the festival flavour. Both of us and numerous others who are part of the festival familiars will be live tweeting and there will be blogs aplenty on the London Screenwriters Festival Blog Page. A few other twitterati of my aquaintance are here and I’ve already been greeted by friendly faces and faces of friends. It’s feeling good to be here and to be focussed on screenwriting again. The highlight I’m looking forward to this afternoon is the In Conversation with Duncan Kenworthy not only because I hugely respect and love his work and am really looking forward to hearing his views, but also because my friend is his assistant and a pretty darn good writer too, so hopefully will be along to the festival too and I’m very much looking forward to catching up with him and hearing his take on it.

Then after that I’ll hopefully make In Conversation with Joe Cornish, Writing Games 2.0: the sequel and The hero’s Journey Continues.. so quite a full day indeed.. where did I put that chocolate stash?!

Right now I’m off into my first seminars and I think I’m going to opt for Kate Leys Produced or Rejected? Is Your Script The Best It Could Be, which will take me up to lunchtime.. and then a bit of networking is in store. Like I said… I’ve got my business cards handy! ;)


Leilani Holmes


Networking by Steven Russell of Love Me Not Films

Posted on: October 27th, 2011 by Lucy V Hay No Comments

An event such as the London Screenwriters Festival is, really, tailormade for networking. A lot of networking events I have been to are really thinly disguised mass back-claps in the pub, or a chance to put a face to the name of someone you already know. In the most traditional sense, networking is a case of getting to know people you don’t know yet. Where the best networking events succeed is in putting two peer groups together. The London Screenwriters Festival will attract writers (lots of you!) but also producers, agents and execs.

And here’s the rub; it’s not about what they can offer you. It’s what you can offer them.

I’ve seen it many times, sadly. The networker who is desperate to get in front of the most “important” person in the room. To monopolise the time of the most “successful” producer they can see present. To interrogate the person who they think can do the “most” for their career in the shortest possible time. They seem to define their interaction in terms of what the other person can promise them and their career… but this goes against the spirit of networking.

The London Screenwriters Festival is the opportunity to let the people you meet know exactly why you should earn your crust as a writer, and why they should be the ones to employ you. There is a community of people gathered who really respect the craft of the screenwriting (and I’ve met many who don’t). They are aware of the value of what you do, on a daily basis, to create something from nothing, to create event, character and plot on a previously blank page. What they aren’t aware of yet is your value. And your job is to let them know…

To me, the notions of “important”, “successful” and “most” in the above context are terms you define for yourself. And this is where networking will succeed for you. The real trick is to remember that you and your work are both unique beasts. You’re the only one who can do exactly what you do. It might be the voice you can bring to the employees of Holby City or to the aged vampire clans of “Being Human”. It could be the spec script that only you can write, centring on a unique personal experience or a little-known, well-researched historical event. It may be the fact that you worked for twenty years as an (INSERT INSANE JOB HERE). Working a night job, with night people, will effect the stories you tell. If you’re in a long distance relationship, writing on long train journeys, will effect the stories you tell. Your age will affect the stories you tell. You know all these things, but you need to perfect the skill and make the time to communicate these things to the people you meet at the festival. And that’s a great way to extend your network, in a meaningful and professional way.

Of course, most of all, it’s a screenwriter’s festival. The clue is in the title. You’re Harry Lime, Rocky Balboa, Iron Man. You’re Erin Brockovich, Bridget Jones, Coraline. You’re the titular character of the London Screenwriters Festival. People are there to see you. So reward their attention in you as part of their network. Keep it focused and professional, keep them interested and interesting, and you’ll do well.

Steven Russell runs Loves Me Not Scripts, a script development service that works directly with writers on their projects, and connects screenwriters with agents and producers. Find more information on their services at Facebook HERE  and their production work HERE. Follow of them on Twitter and find their blog, HERE. Steven is part of the panel for “Your Script and the 20 Common Pitfalls” on Sunday at 5pm.

I Hate Pitching By Neal Romanek

Posted on: October 26th, 2011 by Lucy V Hay 1 Comment

Around the UK, screenwriters are practicing their pitches for this weekend’s London Screenwriters’ Festival. Speed-pitching to producers is just one of the Olympic-scale events offered by the Festival (which is the biggest, baddest film writing festival in Europe, I think you’ll find).

Pitching to producers is terrifying for anyone, but particularly terrifying if you’re a writer. We’re just not very good at it. In fact, just about anyone in the world is better at pitching to producers than writers are. Pitching requires an ability to “boil it all down” – to reduce a breathtaking vision of depth and weight to a manageable glue that money will stick to.

Problem is that writers – real writers, like us – by their nature, want to tell the whole story. Actually, no, it’s worse than that. We don’t want to tell the whole story – we want to write the whole story, then give it to you and let your inner voice tell it to you as you read it. Having to boil it down is the opposite of what we got into this ridiculous racket for in the first place and it’s especially galling because one of the real reasons your pitching is so that the pitchee will not have to actually read your script and can simply repeat the pitch to her higher-ups who will in turn pass the pitch further up the chain until finally – perhaps in some Chinese whispered iteration that bears nothing to your original idea – it is jumped on as a Vehicle for someone else.

I hate pitching. Have I made this clear? And it’s not just because I have given some of the Worst Pitches In Christendom – well, maybe that’s part of it.

But however uncomfortable we are with it, pitching is in the natural order of things. Creatives have had to pitch to money men since before Michelangelo went before Pope Julius with nothing more than a set of storyboards and an option on a popular book. I always liken screenwriting to architecture more than any other creative endeavour. We’re in the blueprint-making business really. And blueprints have little meaning to non-architects. They have to be translated, truncated, spiced up – they have to be pitched – if they’re going to be realized as living projects that are going to employ hundreds of people.

So if you are pitching at the LondonSWF don’t be terrified. Or at least be comforted by the fact that, if you are terrified, it’s probably because you’re a real writer and not just some salesmen who thought he’d get into the movie business. Not that real writers can’t be good at pitching too, but it’s a separate skill, one that, in my case, has required a lot of practice. I’m pretty good at it now, but there were many embarrassing moments – incoherent rambling, forty minute beat-by-beat-by-beat exercises in tedium, hysterical enthusiasm in search of a logline. I have given some lousy pitches. But doing a lousy job is the only way you get good. So don’t worry about the quality of the pitches this weekend, but get in as many as you can. I’ll be there beside you, sweating from my upper lip, clearing my throat convulsively, stammering “Did I – Did I say that already?”. I hate pitching.


5 Pitching Tips (includes a model pitch if you’re worried/stuck)

REMEMBER – A Logline Is Not A Tagline! Make sure you know the difference for your pitch.

More in The Required Reading List under “Pitches & Prep”, an e-library of resources

Neal Romanek will be live blogging from the festival, so make sure you check back here from Friday onwards – and follow him on Twitter HERE. You will also be able to see live tweets from delegates, speakers, volunteers and other participants by using the #LondonSWF hashtag on Twitter, so DON’T MISS OUT!