London Screenwriters' Festival

Archive for the ‘live events’ Category

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


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

So, What Do YOU Want?

Posted on: January 14th, 2011 by Lucy V Hay 2 Comments

Eastenders has got a lot of heat from fans for its cotdeath/baby swap storyline

So, we’re back! I had a blast at London Screenwriters Festival 2010 (read my account, here). We didn’t get *everything* right, sure, but we were learning on the job and the the festival was a big success, hence it returning this year – you can read speakers’ and delegates’ testimonials on the website here. We’ve got loads going on “behind the scenes” for LSF 2011 and you’re to be sure of some intriguing announcements in the near future.

At the moment we have a special deal going on – pay £24 a month in ten instalments, so you don’t have to shell out for your ticket all at once. Despite the various refund agreements in place, some people have said they’re still not sure about this; after all, what if we get a load of pants speakers or sessions people don’t want to go to?

But what’s brilliant about LSF I think is the ethos this is YOUR festival. As writers and filmmakers, you’re the people we want to talk to, connect with and inspire, because that’s what WE are too. So if you want to come to LSF, then why not help SHAPE it into the event you want?

Like you, I have LOTS of ideas of what could potentially make the “perfect” festival for me – so here are some of my suggestions for consideration to the likes of Chris Jones and David Chamberlain as they plot away in their cavern under Ealing Studios. If you like the sound of any of them, or have any suggestions of your own, then be sure to ADD THEM to the comments section here and make your voice heard! Let’s make OUR festival for 2011…


1) Fans vs Story Choices. In the last couple of years, thanks to the increasing use of social networks like Twitter and Facebook, we’ve seen the rise of fans challenging and changing the story choices made by writers and storyliners on the shows they love. Just recently, we’ve seen the furore over Eastenders and the cotdeath/baby swap storyline, plus we’ve seen fans go off the boil over the death of Ianto on Torchwood during “Children of Earth”. On the other end of the scale, fans have campaigned for cancelled shows to be reinstated or repeated, especially in America, proving to the networks certain shows do have fanbases after all. I would love to see a panel of working television writers discussing the nature of fandom – after all, without fans, no show could exist – and how much “power” fans should have “ideally”: how much is too much?

2) Successful Social Networking For Indie Film. Taking up the thread of social networking again, I would love to see a seminar or panel dedicated to successful models for building followings online for indie films. During the course of my own social networking for the likes of Deviation and of course The London Screenwriters’ Festival, I’ve seen much good advice on the likes of Mashable, but been very surprised to see little of it implemented, especially on Brit films. Instead I have seen many complaints from users – often fellow filmmakers – who say indie films offer boring updates or “spam them death”; on the other side of the scale, some indie film campaigns sink without a trace as they promise “not to bombard you with updates”! There must be a happy medium on this issue so indie films can take advantage of this fantastic, FREE, marketing tool.

3) Successful Social Networking For Writers. Social networking sites are often blasted as mere “procrastination”, but I happen to think they are VITAL in catapulting the amateur writer into the professional world. I often tell Bang2writers everything I have is due to the internet; as a single Mum, whilst I did work placements and worked for free when I could, it was my blog, “Write Here, Write Now” that got people’s attention. But when there are SO many blogs, so many tweeting writers, so many writers on Facebook, how can we use social networking to “stand out”? And why are so many blogs and accounts ignored or worse, considered a “bad advertisement” for a writer? I think a panel on considering the needs of the social networking world and how we “look” online could be a real eye-opener for writers.

4) The Psychological vs The A/Psychological: A Bestselling Novelist’s View. My ol’ mucker Julian Friedmann reckons us screenwriters should be writing novels as well as scripts and I totally agree with him. But moving “beyond” the image (the “A/Psychological”, if you like) and into the Psychological can be a daunting process for the screenwriter. After all, we’ve been training ourselves to use LESS prose, not more – and there are surprising elements to novel writing I never considered before attempting my own. With the success of Nanowrimo every year and so many scriptwriters confessing a desire to write prose, a look at the reality of WHAT gets on the page (rather than  just the “how”, the normal focus of such sessions it seems) I reckon this could be a real idea for LSF 2011.

5) Scriptreading Hell. End of the day, script readers and script editors are only human and have their pet peeves like anyone else. Whilst people might guess on story or beat choices – my now-legendary aversion to rape scenes as “beats” for example, I’ve harped on about it enough! – there are still errors writers make on a daily basis that alienate the reader RIGHT FROM PAGE ONE. Some of these errors are not errors at all, but calculated risks (like voiceover); others are based on seeing them way too much; others because the device in question has not been executed properly; others because said script, device, scene or page should BURN IN HELL. I would LOVE to get a bunch of script readers together with a bunch of hardcore writers who can take their scripts being put under the microscope like this before an audience, so we can really apply how a script reader might “see” a script, with real examples of real pages shone up on the big screen! (I figure this one would be a biiiiiiiig ask but could be really illuminating for all involved as well as the audience!).

So, like any of the above? Or would you rather have something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT? We can’t know ’til you tell us, so make sure you do…