London Screenwriters' Festival

Bring It On: Making LSWF A Success

Posted on: October 10th, 2010 by Lucy V Hay 9 Comments

Because it's not ALL about you...

So the fab Neal Romanek has asked this question via Twitter:

“It’s OUR fest – what do WE do to make The London Screenwriters’ Festival the biggest success possible?”

I think this is a great question. Too often writers go to an event thinking it’s all about them *personally* – I’ve been guilty of it, myself. However thinking of others as well is just as profitable to the individual too, if not more so.

But how, you ask? Here you go:

1) Go! That’s right, by patronising this event, you are giving a better deal to screenwriters everywhere. We’re now getting access to the kind of opportunities and industry figures we could only DREAM of ten years ago and it’s all because of events like LSWF. It’s all very well saying stuff like, “It’s too expensive” or “I can get *this or that* online for the same/less money” etc etc but we all have to invest not only in our careers, but in our community. If you really can’t go, you can’t go – I was unable to attend the first three years of the original screenwriters’ festival because it was held in July for example – but if you can, you really should.

2) Experienced vs. Newbies. There’s a strong chance most of the people at the festival will be strangers to you, but that doesn’t mean they are incidental or peripheral: any one of those writers in front of you could be the next Steven Moffat or Andrea Arnold and even if they’re not, does that make their efforts worthless? I’m consistently shocked by how many more experienced writers (especially those who haven’t yet “made it”) dismiss others beginning the screenwriting ladder as *merely* newbies. Similarly, never suck up to others you feel are more “experienced” or “better” than you. We might be at different stages, but we share a common dream, a common goal, ergo we’re all the same.

3) Screenwriting Karma. “Looking after number one” is our default setting as human beings, so it stands to reason that this can follow us into our writing, too. However, just like you have other important people in your “real” life, you will have others you feel are important in your “writing life” too. These are not necessarily ACTUAL friends, but people you admire, think are good writers or just deserve a break. The more generous you are to these people, the more generosity will come back to you. So, if you’re at the festival and see these people, be sure to make sure you meet/talk to them properly, don’t work on the basis of, “Oh well I can always Facebook them later”.

4) The Kindness of Strangers # 1: Networking. It’s a fact that networking terrifies most writers – yet it is a small world and there’s a good chance you have more connections that you think and can make it EASIER for yourself AND others. Frequently I read people’s work and say to them, “You know what? So-and-So likes to write stories like yours, you should meet up/send an email.” Sometimes it leads to a single meeting or flurry of messages and that’s it; other times it has begun a beautiful friendship or collaboration. So if you’re at the LSWF and see two people you *think* could get along for whatever reason, why don’t you introduce them?

5) The Kindness of Strangers # 2: Getting the Chance. Some of my best opportunities have come from tips or introductions from other writers. So if you’re talking to a producer at LSWF who tells you they’re looking for a particular project and then go on to talk to a writer who says they *have* that particular project, don’t be jealous and keep it yourself. Tell that writer to go and find that producer!!

6) Get Your Voice Heard – But Know What Is The Limit. We’ve all been at events where patrons use Q & As to promote themselves, their own agenda, make personal attacks on speakers or ask inappropriate, meandering or nonsensical questions. This is tedious for everyone, so let’s not let this happen at LSWF. If you ask a question, it’s absolutely fine to do it like this:

QUESTION ASKER: Hi, I’m [name], I’m a writer/script editor/fan of the show/whatever. I wanted to ask [short question].

Make sure people know who you are, but don’t make it ALL about you – and make the question concise and to the point. Write it down and read it out if you’re nervous, no one minds or will even notice. And whilst it’s fine to disagree with speakers’ sentiments/ideas/etc and ask probing questions, never, ever make personal attacks on speakers: what’s the point? All that happens is you look like an arse and that speaker will think twice about accepting an invite to an event like LSWF next time. Don’t spoil it for the majority.

7) Be Courteous. Sometimes you will find yourself in a session that doesn’t interest you after all. If you can, leave. If you can’t? Try not to disrupt it! I know it can be difficult; I’m reminded of a particular time I was at an event where I had an inappropriate attack of the giggles and it took ALL my concentration to contain it, especially as I happened to be sitting next to a writer I admire hugely and I didn’t want to look like a madly churlish schoolgirl. But it can be done. Similarly, cutting people dead you don’t want to talk to? It’s unnecessary, especially as we’re all writers and supposed to be creative – at least come up with a decent excuse!

8) Don’t Be Weird — Or Too Judgemental. We all work on our own most of the time, so a lot of us – me included – can get a little giddy with the gathering of likeminds in one place. Try not to let it go to your head too much and keep yourself reined in, cos it’s funny what people remember in the long run. Similarly, If you meet someone who gets a little OTT then, don’t go round telling everyone else to avoid him/her, that’s not kind. Last but by no means least, too much boasting/slagging of various programmes, films, people, the event etc is only going to end badly – for YOU.

Any I’ve missed? Let me know and I’ll add it and my thoughts to the list.

9 Responses

  1. Andrea says:

    Love it :) . Thanks so much for the advice – as a newcomer to both the festival and screenwriting, it’s hugely helpful to get pointers like these.

  2. Lucy says:

    Hi Andrea, you’re welcome… Thinking about our convo on Twitter earlier, the point I’d probably stress above all others is probably number 6 – introducing ourselves when asking questions is an absolute must and is often forgotten in heat of the moment.

  3. Andrea says:

    Good to know! Interestingly, that makes me wonder: how many of the delegates would, roughly, be actual screenwriters? 99%? 50%?!

  4. Amos Keppler says:

    The admission price is a robbery, quite frankly. No amount of interest is worth such an inflated price.

  5. Lucy says:

    Andrea – as the website says, “50 speakers, 450 writers and producers” but there will be script editors in there, some directors and so on. Will be really interesting to find out, though!

    Amos – the event is in London, so our overheads are of course high, but every attempt has been made to keep costs down and keep ticket price as low as possible, whilst still delivering a class A experience/opportunity. We’re giving delegates access to the brightest and best producers, agents, sales agents, actors, show runners, directors and other writers. That’s not to mention the workshops, panels, presentations, pitching, speed-networking and read-throughs during the fest and contests before the actual event (have you seen the £5K treatment prize?), including a free seminar next weekend on marketing for delegates. Oh – and you can get £37 off your ticket and no VAT to pay, making the price just £262. But if you don’t want to pay for your ticket, why not try your luck at one of the contests?

    FYI – for anyone interested who hasn’t joined up yet, the LSWF Facebook page is at http://www.facebook.com/londonswf and carries full details of our contest in conjunction with The Wellcome Trust, “Inspired by Science” as well as other details and links.

  6. Peter says:

    Amos I strongly disagree – as a natural cynic I’ve been a state of growing amazement at how little work actually comes from writing a project and sending it out as against the amount of work generated by meeting people, making contact, exchanging a few friendly words, making an impression and being remembered. I’ve paid I think around £266 for the three day festival, I’ve paid more than that for TWO 90 minute consultations with named script gurus who, though they were great, knew their worth and charged it. So the opportunity to not only meet other hermits like me, and probably bump into agents and producers, is worth quite a lot. If afterwards I feel it was not worth it I shall let you know. Cheers!

  7. Andrea says:

    Amos – Have to say, I agree with Lucy and Peter. I, too, initially thought ‘Blimey, that’s a lot!’ – but when you consider what you’re getting for that money (eg how much workshops, pitch opportunities, script analysis from Euroscript etc cost normally), the festival actually strikes me as great value. Before you even start to consider the money-can’t-buy networking opportunities it presents. :)

  8. Gary McGhee says:

    I live on a very low income, but didn’t hesitate to invest what little I have in this festival. Why? Because I’ve spent a lot of time working on a script/idea that I’m really excited about. I think it’s one of if not the best things I’ve written and I want to give it every chance of getting noticed, read, considered by the right people in the industry.

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