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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

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! 

The Guru In The Attic: Memento – A Weak Story, Redeemed By Structure? By Linda Aronson

Posted on: October 25th, 2011 by Lucy V Hay No Comments

Brought to you by Charlotte Bronte and Linda Aronson

Read The Guru In The Attic, Pt 1 HERE.

The story so far…

At Thornfield Hall

In the swamps near Thornfield Hall, Jane Eyre is catatonic with repressed lust for Mr Rochester, who hasn’t noticed because his reality TV show, So You think You can do an Appendectomy, has a chance of finance from a wealthy international organ donor bank that’s hoping for a spin-off called Strictly Come Kidney Harvesting.

Meanwhile, the guru in the attic, non-linear and parallel narrative script expert Bertha Antoinetta Rochester, has been approached by Steroid Productions to write a bio-pic about the Borgias called The Pope with the Dragon Tattoo, to be shot in Far North Queensland starring Hugh Grant as Pope Alexander VI and Vin Diesel as Michelangelo.

Bertha receives a letter.

Dear Guru in the Attic,

I have recently been approached by a group of businessmen who run a dispute resolution company. They want me to write a crime movie. However, while half of the group want me to construct it like Memento the other half have heard that Memento has a weak storyline made interesting only by its structure, so want it linear and say all non-linear is rubbish. What should I do?

Screenwriter (name withheld)

PS. At meetings these men all wear glasses, insist on sitting with their backs to the wall, and last week paid me for a treatment in bank notes stained with red dye. One laughingly said that if I didn’t write the film like Memento, I would get my kneecaps tickled with a persuader. Since I am not ticklish this does not worry me. However, should I register the treatment with the Writers’ Guild?

Dear Screenwriter,

Quite possibly this is not the time to point out that if Memento is indeed a very weak story made brilliant only by its non-linear structure this is a reason for anyone in the film industry to run into the streets weeping with joy, since, if true, it means any old nonsense can be turned into a cult success by its structure.

Personally, I don’t think Memento’s story content is weak, however if it IS weak, isn’t that even more of a triumph for the non-linear rendering?

Non-linearity is definitely a fix for many kinds of problem scripts. Properly done, it’s not only a way to tell stories that arrive in your head obviously needing flashback, or, like The Hours or Amores Perros clearly cannot transmit their message in the standard one-hero linear way. It’s also a miraculous fix for a wide range of top-heavy, predictable or anticlimactic storylines.

However, this does not solve your problems with your producers. I would suggest plastic surgery and an air ticket to South America. By all means register your treatment with the Guild

Kindest regards,


Meanwhile, Hugh Grant, Vin Diesel and the producers of The Millennium Trilogy Project are suing Steroid Productions because none of them has heard of The Pope with the Dragon Tattoo, and in North Queensland, tropical cyclone Brian has washed four crocodiles into the Borgia Palace and the fibreglass replica statute of David was last seen heading out to sea.

Bertha is unfortunately unable to attend the LSF . However, if you’re interested in hearing more about how to construct non-linear scripts (flashbacks, ensemble films, time jumps, structures like ‘Pulp Fiction’ ‘21 Grams’, ‘ Babel’ etc) , Linda Aronson will be talking on the topic in a two hour lecture on 30 October. Visit Linda Aronson’s website HERE.

Keep On Learning (Or Why Seasoned Pros should Go To @Londonswf) by Hayley McKenzie

Posted on: October 24th, 2011 by Lucy V Hay No Comments

You’ve made it! In fact, you ‘made it’ years ago and you’ve been a professional screenwriter/ producer/ director/ agent/ development executive for more years than you care to remember. So surely there’s no point going to the London Screenwriters’ Festival, right? Wrong! And here’s why.

1) The industry is constantly changing and if you don’t keep up you’ll be left behind.

2) New talent is always emerging and they might just have exactly the project you’re looking for. They’re also keen, enthusiastic and hungry to help you make the project a success.

3) New creative relationships create new worlds, new stories, new ways of working. What’s not to love about that?

4) Attending a session about something slightly left-field of your speciality (if you work in feature films, why not go alone to a session about writing for the games industry) might just make you look at your project with a fresh eye and give it an edge that makes it innovative, fresh and original.

4) However brilliant we are, there are others in our field just as brilliant as us. Listening to others who are also at the top of their game is inspiring and means we’ll go back to work on Monday morning more excited than ever about the work that we’re doing.

5) There’s a creative atmosphere at the London Screenwriters’ Festival that is exciting and energising, and we all need a bit of that from time to time, so I’ll see you there!


Hayley McKenzie is a Script Consultant with over ten years’ script editing experience in the UK film and television industry. She runs Script Angel and uses Twitter and Facebook to spread the word about screenwriting & filmmaking opportunities and events.

Announcement: LSF Advanced Mentor Programme Candidates

Posted on: October 23rd, 2011 by Lucy V Hay No Comments

Last week The LSF Advanced Mentor Programme was announced: delegates were invited to apply for a script workshop or “Lab” with either Linda Aronson (Non-Linear & Multi-protagonist); David Reynolds (Family Audiences) or Gub Neal (TV Drama). We had nearly 50 entries for just a few places in each Script Lab and as ever, my readers & I had some difficult choices to make!

Without further ado then and in no particular order, here are the LUCKY participants and their scripts who will take part in the Script Labs, which will happen during the festival next weekend:


Nell Denton, THE JAZZ TSAR





David Gilhooly, ROUNDABOUT


Darrin Grimwood, MYTHOS.



Julia Andersen, THE LEFT HAND

Nick Horwood, GURK THE SLAYER.

 Norah Henderson, CHUBB & PETER KING


 Sophie Petzal, SANCTIONED

Dominic Carver, WHITE KNIGHT

Tom Kerevan, WRECKERS

Paul Goetzee, OUT ON A LIMB

Steve Turnbull, MONSTERS.

Richard Wheildon, I AM YOU

Many, many thanks to all who entered and especially to those who didn’t make it through *this time* – all the entrants demonstrated impressive CVs and packages (ooo er, missus) and for them and indeed any other interested parties, here’s a brief overview of the pile:

Looking Out For Linda. The entrants submitting for Linda Aronson’s workshop were the most hotly contested, plus this was a VERY strong bunch indeed. There was some fantastic risk-taking in terms of storytelling, with ingenius methods of breaking up the narrative and character introduction. However, some ideas/premises were quite similar, meaning there was literally a hair’s breadth between applications at times and quite a lot of soul-searching for our readers. The scripts and writers that often made it through in this section were those with strong visual flair and that elusive “je ne se quois” in terms of grabbing the reader’s attention via an unusual, intriguing or shocking hook in the first instance.

Remembering the (Family) Audience. Bizarrely, sexual nudity, drunkenness, swearing and general bloodshed played a major part in many of the David Reynolds’ submissions. Despite Reynolds  being responsible for the likes of Finding Nemo, there was a dearth of talking animals, fish or supernatural elements like friendly ghosts which the readers predicted at the beginning of sifting the pile. Here the scripts and writers that made it through usually demonstrated a child-like charm or tone seen in the likes of Roald Dahl (even if there were no children in it); the gothic overtones of Tim Burton or an important element of family life, ie. Christmas, birthday parties or fantasy stories.

Identity Crisis. The TV scripts were some of the most accomplished in the pile, both on the page and in terms of previous development, but some premises *felt* quite familiar, especially with reference to existing stories and/or series. Others had a bit of genre crisis, making them difficult to place in the schedules writers claimed they were suited to. The scripts that made it through this round were those with a strong identity, with writers who had managed to visualise their story worlds not only in the script, but in the production bundle.

Once again, many thanks to ALL who entered and to the mentors for making this initiative possible, I hope to see ALL of you at some point during the festival!

Positive & Negative Deadlines by Michelle Goode

Posted on: October 23rd, 2011 by Lucy V Hay No Comments

Deadlines: “The latest time or date by which something should be completed.”

Deadlines. We have all come up against them at some point or other, be it a school assignment or a bill payment. But when it comes to writing it can take on two forms: professional and personal.

Professional deadlines will inevitably be important. If you’re contracted to complete a draft by a certain date, you’d be wise to do so. If you work as a script reader or editor, you’ll also have deadlines you will need to stick to lest you upset your clients.
However, as writers we also set ourselves personal goals and these can take on two forms: positive and negative.

Positive deadlines:

  • I’ll write each evening after dinner for at least half an hour
  • I’ll spend an hour each weekend reading writing-related literature
  • I’ll complete my short script by the end of the week
  • I’ll get this draft sent off to a script reader by the end of the month
  • I’ll get this feature script finished in time to enter the XYZ competition

These sorts of deadlines are fabulous – you’re positively reinforcing the need to be proactive and the art of dedication. You’re not being unrealistic and you’re training yourself to work within limited time-frames. Give yourself a pat on the back!

Negative deadlines

  • If I don’t get short-listed for a competition by the end of the year I’ll give up entering them
  • If [3 x production companies] give this feature script a pass then I will put it in the bin
  • If I don’t get paid work by by next birthday I will give up writing altogether

The “if” deadlines. Dangerous territory… By giving yourself these sorts of deadlines you are setting yourself up for disappointment. It’s like basing your career on chance and superstition.

So, what if those production companies “passed” on your script but gave encouraging feedback? Readers need to be harsh in their judgement when it comes to sifting through the spec/competition pile, but that doesn’t mean they don’t see potential and it doesn’t mean that, with a few revisions, your script wouldn’t have the chance of being given a “consider” or a “recommend”. Anything is possible if you work at it.

We all get frustrated when things don’t go our way, but if you are passionate about becoming a writer it’s essential you keep going and keep positive. Rejection is a big part of being a writer; for amateurs and professionals alike. It’s impossible to give yourself a deadline to succeed, because success comes in many shapes and forms and it takes time.

At the beginning of 2010 I decided I would be really organised and have a cork board with a sheet of paper for each month, onto which I’d write deadlines and enter as many competitions as I could. I wrote a bit but months passed, life got in the way (y’know, houses to be bought and decorated and all that) and guess what? The cork board remained empty. For the whole year. I only entered three initiatives. Rubbish, right? No. Sure, I felt like I’d let myself down given the big plans I’d made, but I realised that I had still achieved a lot throughout the year and that there would be more opportunities ahead. Sometimes you just have to get over your shortcomings and appreciate what you do achieve, however small a step it is on your journey.

If you feel yourself starting to think of those dangerous “if + negative” deadlines, turn them into positives by changing the “if” to “I’ll aim to” and the negative to a positive; “If I don’t manage it I’ll + positive”. So instead of “If [3 x production companies] give this feature script a pass then I will put it in the bin”, you can re-evaluate this as “I’ll aim to get my script to 3 x production companies. If they all pass on it I will get more feedback, re-work it and then try again”.

The London Screenwriter’s Festival will leave you feeling educated, rejuvenated, energised and raring to get going as fast as your writing/typing hands will allow. You will be setting yourself challenges and goals. Setting yourself personal deadlines will help you keep focussed, but you must remember not to set negative deadlines; only positive ones. And if things don’t go entirely to plan, allow yourself to re-evaluate your deadlines and don’t be too hard on yourself.


Michelle Goode is a script reader, editor and writer. Trained in script reading and proofreading/copy-editing, Michelle has read for The London Screenwriter’s Festival and Hollywood-based Screenplayreaders and also offers her services to individual clients via her script reading service Writesofluid at Read her blog here and follow her on Twitter here.