London Screenwriters' Festival

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Why A Ticket To @Londonswf Pays For Itself By Dom Carver

Posted on: October 20th, 2011 by Lucy V Hay No Comments

I’ve always been a shy person, very quiet when you first meet me, so when I bought a ticket for last year’s festival I was determined to make the most of it. I found it difficult to approach people at first, but once I got into things I really began to enjoy myself. Soon I was talking to anyone and everyone, amazed to find I was surrounded by hundreds of people who wanted to share their passion for writing, just as I did…who would have thought it?

Needless to say I networked myself silly, but it was a chance meeting that brought the biggest surprise of the festival. I was in the bar networking my way around, politely refusing offers of drinks as I wanted to stay sober, when I spotted a friend. I hadn’t spoken to him since I arrived so I headed over to see how his festival was going. He introduced me to a producer. The producer offered me paid work on the back of my friend’s recommendation that I was a good comedy writer. It has taken a year to get to the point where writing is about to commence on my first paid feature screenplay, but it has been worth the wait. These things take time after all, even if I wish they didn’t. It just goes to show you only need one incident like this to make your ticket pay for itself.

Having learnt that networking works and it really is just as much about who you know as what you know, I carried on networking after the festival. This in turn led directly to getting another paid commission from a Dubai based director, this time on a short film, which went on to be chosen as an official selection at the Cannes Short Film Corner earlier in the year. Now the director and I are getting funding together to make our first feature, a thriller, looking to shoot in Canada late next year. Another London based producer has snapped up a comedy short of mine and has massive plans for it, which quite honestly made me giggle like a schoolgirl who had just met Peter Andre.

To add to all this I’ve connected with several script editors who like my work, producers who have offered me an open door to send them more of my work in the future and a great deal of others interested in me as a writer. Thing is I’ve had fun doing it and I’ve never felt networking is a chore. I’ve met a lot of lovely people, enjoyed their company, our chats, emails about writing and life in general and all of this has helped me improve as a writer able to market himself.

So don’t be shy when you arrive next Friday, dive in and say hello… It may just lead somewhere.

————–

Dominic Carver is the winner of the Prequel to Cannes Feature Screenwriting Prize 2011 and has just completed the first draft of a spec comedy heist feature A Fist Full Of Euros. Read Dom’s blog here, his website here and find him on Twitter here or email him at domATthescriptwriterDOTcoDOTuk.

LSF Success Stories, Pt 3. Penny Dreadful: Evolution of a Project by Elinor Perry-Smith

Posted on: October 17th, 2011 by Lucy V Hay No Comments

If I’ve learnt anything about this scriptwriting lark, it’s through the evolution of Penny Dreadful, a script I started to develop under the auspices of a scheme at London Metropolitan University. It started life as a realisation, on my part, of how fed up I was with the passive portrayal of women who are murder victims in Ripper stories.

So I decided to write a story about a woman who assumes the cloak of Jack the Ripper in order to wreak revenge. It was through London Met Uni that I met Lucy. In fact I chanted for Lucy in Buddhist fashion so that my script was assigned to her, having seen from her old blog that she was into horror. Then, ‘Penny Dreadful’ was called ‘Sever’ and it was a right old mish-mash structurally and included the sacking of Benin, a crippled aristo and more voodoo altars than you could shake a virgin’s thighbone at.

Lucy helped me sort it out into a half-decent piece of work (I think her exact words were: ‘There’s a really good idea in here, I just wish I knew what it was’) and subsequently, myself and some of the other participants presented it and other scripts at the EIFF. I’ve picked it up and rewritten it at least twice a year ever since. If you go to my blog you can see a short trailer for the script by MyVisualPitch. I also honed my synopsis, treatment and pitch doc skills on this story, which are just as important as the script, I now realise.

Only now, after 4 years is it anything like I hoped it would be. I tried out different versions of the first ten pages at Off the Page at the LSWF 2010 (read a review, here). I must say it was a revelation to me to see my words come to life with the skilled direction of Michael Clarkson and the cast seemed to be enjoying themselves very much. Matthieu Gras created some excellent storyboards that suited the story well and Nick Norton-Smith composed some suitably atmospheric music. I honestly couldn’t fault it.

I made some revisions to the first ten pages and entered them at Bafta 2011 with the Rocliffe New Writers’ Forum where ‘Penny Dreadful’ was trashed by the esteemed Julian Fellowes! He didn’t seem to like it at all, particularly the aristos being spanked by East End whores, though perhaps I touched a nerve there?

I’ve met a lot of good people over the years writing Penny Dreadful  and can’t recommend a live reading highly enough in terms of seeing how actors bring your words to life and how audiences react.

My latest plan is to turn Penny into a graphic novel. Another new skill for me! Bring it on…

4 Nights In August Script Comp – Longlisted Entries!!

Posted on: October 3rd, 2011 by Lucy V Hay 6 Comments

So we had a whopping 241 of entries for the Four Nights In August Competition! To say we were surprised is an understatement. Traditionally, script calls with very specific and difficult briefs like ours usually attract a small amount of entries and our readers initially predicted 50 – 60 entries, yet we received well in excess of this with a WEEK to go before the deadline. Amazing!

As ever, we’ll give you a look inside the spec pile, but first we will announce the top placing entries and their writers. All of the scripts below made it through the first round, gaining a second read. In NO particular order then:

BROOM by Dan Rogers
YOUNG PEOPLE TODAY by Debbie Moon
CHOICE by Gavin Harrison
SHATTERED by Lewis Swift
LOST AND FOUND by Mikey Jackson
OLD NEWS by Nicholas Buss
THE CHOICE by Kristi Barnett
AMY By Louisa Fielden
BURNING BOOKS by Steve Irwin
IN HEAD by Jamie Wolpert
KALAMATA by Hugh Prior
YOU by Dominic Brancaleone
PIRANHA by Kevin Pacey
SPLIT by Alexander Roy
HANNAH & GEORGE by Chip Tolson
FRACTURED by Lynne O’ Sullivan
BIRTHDAY by Michelle Golder
KIDS LIKE US by Martin Thelwell
WASTE by Bev Prosser
WORD ON THE STREET by Christian Hayes
OPPORTUNITY NOX by Stephen Atherton & Ian Gilbertson
WHY? By Milethia Thomas
EVERYTHING YOU NEED by Dave Turner
AFTERSHOCK by Christina Tring
BULLSEYE by Tom Kwei
CONSEQUENCE by Anne Marie Fry
4 NIGHTS IN AUGUST by Mark Hodges
FATHER TO THE MAN by Liz Holliday
THE ARROGANCE OF YOUTH by Sheila McGill
CAUSE & EFFECT by Jordan Sheehy
THEM & US by Daniel Hill
TWO FACES by Joseph Ackroyd
THE FLAME OF MY ANGER by Bella Nova
THE GAME by Terence Barry
RIOTERS AT THE GATES by Jon Cronin & Anna Carmichael
CHOCOLATE by Lizzie Mason
I WITNESS by Gareth Turpie
HOME INVASION by Christopher Bevan
FOUR DAYS ERE THE FESTIVAL OF DEACON LAWRENCE IN AUGUSTUS by Sara Atayiian

Please don’t be despondent if your script didn’t make it through the first round. As ever, there were some hard decisions to be made – I know competition readers always say that, but that’s ‘cos it’s TRUE! But don’t take my word for it, here’s some “insider info” from our readers about scripts that did not make it past the first round, yet they still loved:

Asib Akram, YESTERDAY’S NEWS. Our reader said, “I would have loved to have put this one through, but the petrol bombs just made it infeasible for the second phase of the contest, the filmmaking challenge.”

Karena Marie Satchwell, AMATEURS. Our reader said, “Brilliantly executed dialogue, the transitions from character to character were fab – but with so much smashing of property, it was just unsuitable for the filmmaking challenge.”

J Mockridge, OUTSIDE LOOKING IN. Our reader said, “A great idea with an interesting twist, but I was unsure of how it could be “translated” by MANY filmmaking teams without making an essentially identical film each time.”

Nikki Edwards, FRAGMENTS. Our reader said, “This one stood out for its simple yet effective structure… However this script scored low in feasibility too due to the need to break into a car AND break a shop window. Much of the first half of the script would have needed to be modified by filmmakers.”

Christopher Schiller, STAY HOME, STAY SAFE & Harry Loney, TOCK. Our reader said, “They both fell down on feasibility, but they both stood out for me because I really enjoyed them.” (Sometimes it really is as simple as that).

These are just a handful of the great scripts we received – and perhaps already you may see why your entry did not make it past the first round, as “feasibility” for no-budget filmmaking teams was key to ensure scripts progressed … If not however, don’t worry: I will be composing an in-depth “look in the spec pile” as usual later in the week, so keep your eyes peeled!

Team LSF are working very hard now to whittle down these longlisted 39 entries a shortlist and our next announcement is just days away. Good luck!

Get The Most Out of Speed Pitching by Jared Kelly

Posted on: September 30th, 2011 by Lucy V Hay 3 Comments

One of the more outstanding elements of the London Screenwriters’ Festival is the Speed Pitching. Whether it’s with agents, producers or both, speed pitching presents the golden opportunity to get your desperate face in front of the creative behemoths and life-changing giants who spend the rest of their year locked behind The Firewall of F*** Off.

There can often be a whisper of negativity and cynicism surrounding these kinds of sessions, especially from those who have participated in similar events and not had any success, but success really boils down to three massively important factors:

1. Have you got something that they want?

2. Can you present it to them in a way that makes them understand what you’re selling?

3. Have you got a snub-nosed .38 pointing at them under the desk when you slide them the “read my script or die” note?

I’ve speed pitched before. I pitched to three producers and it resulted in all requesting to read my work without me having to fire a single shot.

The guidelines are very straightforward: research who you’re pitching to, prepare the very best pitch you possibly can, and present it to the best of your ability without ******* your pants. Although the speed pitching sessions lasts five minutes, you really need to be pitching your project in 30 seconds, definitely in under a minute, allowing enough time to chat about your script and work. If you give a confident and succinct pitch, you are more likely to have a confident discussion about that script in the time remaining. If you don’t think you can pitch your project in under a minute, then you won’t be able to pitch it in five. I pitched two projects in each five-minute session and had a relaxed chat about both of them. Two producers requested to read one, the other wanted to read both. It is doable.

You need to strip your story back to basics to cater for the event and also for small attention spans. I guarantee it’s much better to have a brief pitch that leaves questions than a rambling pitch that creates doubt, plus, no matter how well rehearsed you are, the moment you sit in front of Scary Person Who Can Change Your Life, it’s understandable that you will most definitely, unquestionably, without shadow of a doubt, break down and start weeping uncontrollably, so creating a short pitch gives you less words to get wrong and less time to make a complete arse of yourself.

Introduce yourself, include any credits and awards (but leave out criminal records and diseases), thank them for their time and set the scene for your pitch. I said something like, “I’d like to pitch you a low-budget screwball comedy set in contemporary England.” Once you establish those basics they instantly know how to listen to your pitch. You’ve now got under one minute to briefly explain your story plus any business the script has been involved in (placed in any competitions, significant development, etc).

The session is immediately easier once you’ve got over that pants-soiling first hurdle, because then you’ll be fielding questions about a story and characters you should know inside out. Just don’t ramble. Have another longer and looser pitch prepared that expands your opening salvo into a half-page/one-page synopsis. Learn that in the same way and use it to riff back and forth while discussing your film.

Always have back-up pitches. Were they to apologise and say comedy isn’t really their thing, you can calmly respond with, “I have a creature-feature horror set in the Scottish Highlands at the turn of the century. Would you mind if I pitched that to you?” Hopefully this is less likely to happen because you’ll have researched who you’re pitching to in order to cater your pitch and projects to their preferences. Try saying that drunk.

Don’t take along scripts or USBs to thrust into their hands, but do take along carefully prepared one-page pitches and business cards. Your one-pager should include logline, synopsis, any script business and your details. Ask before you produce either of them. The producers who requested to read my work were not interested in my one-pagers, but other folk I met during the festival were interested in them (okay, so it was for a paper aeroplane competition in the car park, but I’ll take whatever I can).

Plan your pitch like you would when writing dialogue in a script. You need to hone it by reading it out, by performing it, to iron out any word combinations that don’t feel or sound right coming out of your mouth. Once you’ve got your pitch down, print off several copies to take with you and keep reading and rehearsing.

Remember the recipients of your pitch are not in your head (at least not until you follow them home and eat their brains), so make sure you explain your story as simply, clearly and calmly as possible without overselling yourself. Do not tell them your comedy is “hilarious” or your horror is “really scary”, that’s up to them to decide when they read it later that weekend at gunpoint.

It’s important not to confuse speed pitching with speed dating. Also, do not eat whilst pitching. I made the honest mistake of buying a baked potato with tuna, cheese and beans just before I was due to pitch. Not wanting to wait (cold beans? I don’t think so) I brought it to the pitching table. Turns out me going to all the effort of providing an extra fork for the producer is somehow not considered thoughtful. Neither is using that fork to stab the security guard. Basically, if you want to eat a baked potato during the pitching session, simply buy extra ones to give to each of the producers and agents when you sit down.

Good luck with your speed pitching and your writing and try to enjoy the experience!

Jared Kelly

Send in the Clowns

Posted on: April 4th, 2011 by Anton 1 Comment

By Hayley McKenzie
4th April 2011

So maybe you write drama and you don’t want to write sitcoms or sketch shows, it just isn’t your thing? So you don’t need to know about writing comedy, right? Wrong!

Of course, you could claim that any drama is either a tragedy or a comedy and can’t be both, and it’s a fair point but I’d say that many of the best dramas (Shakespeare, Dickens, anyone?) use comedy and comic characters all the time and nothing’s changed.

So, if you want to write drama, especially in UK television, then you’ll probably need to be able to write comedy as well. Just look at the following dramas, all of which use comedy  – ‘Coronation Street’, ‘Hollyoaks’, ‘New Tricks’, ‘Casualty’, ‘Hustle’, ‘Misfits’, ‘Being Human’, ‘Monroe’, ‘South Riding’ – yes, I did say ‘South Riding’, did you see Mr Huggins and Bessie? (more…)

April Fools’: The Joke’s Are On Us

Posted on: April 1st, 2011 by Anton No Comments


It’s April Fools’, the day where people are creating, avoiding or succumbing to pranks. So we thought we’d bring you a bit of light relief by posting some funny clips that we can all laugh at. Best of all, they all come from shows that the speakers at The London Comedy Writers’ Festival have worked on.

So enjoy… (more…)

Practical tips about writing comedy by Paul Bassett Davies

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

Hello.
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
Dylan Spicer – HAPPY BIRTHDAY
Elinor Perry Smith – GLORY HOLE
Graham Inman – SCENARIO
James Armstrong – AQUAPHOBIA
James Dwyer – PRAYERS ANSWERED
James Hickey – BAD DAD
Jared Kelly – BANANAS ARE NOT THE ONLY FRUIT
Jilly Gardiner – YELLOW ROSE
Joe Slack-Smith – MUSIC SELECTION
Keith Storrier – FATHERLY DATING TIPS # 1
Kulvinder Gill – THE DANGERS OF TWEETING
Pamela Jane Geddes – WHERE’S YOUR TEETH?
Paul McIntyre – FIRING A PIG OUT OF A CANON
Paul Nash – WHITECHAPEL
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
Paul McIntyre – FIRING A PIG OUT OF A CANNON

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”.

and

“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.

COMMENDED FUNNIES:

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…

TOP TEN FINALISTS:

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

AND THE WINNER IS….

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…)