London Screenwriters' Festival

THE ANSWER IS: “YES, OF COURSE, ONLY AN IDIOT WOULD ASK THAT.” NOW, WHAT WAS THE QUESTION?

Posted on: March 9th, 2011 by Anton No Comments

Creative director Paul Bassett Davies answers some of your FAQs (Fantastically Annoying Quibbles) about The London Comedy Writers Festival.

CAN YOU REALLY LEARN HOW TO BE FUNNY?
I’m often asked this question, usually when I’m promoting my workshop called “Yes, You Really Can Learn How To Be Funny.” In fact, the real title of my workshop is less specific and vulnerable to litigation. I’m not like a hypnotist with a book called “I Can Make You Thin.” Although I do have book coming out called “I Can Make You Wish You Were Less Gullible (Price: £95). Okay, to answer the question. The way I see it, comedy is a mindset. It’s a way of thinking that uses certain muscles. You can learn how to locate and exercise those muscles, in the way that when you learn to ride a bike you start using muscles that you didn’t use before. That doesn’t mean you’ll automatically become an Olympic cyclist, but you can practice and get pretty good at it, and at the very least you should be able to cycle to your destination without falling off. Unless your bike is a bit frisky, and tries to throw you. That sometimes happens if the bicycle has been drinking.

 

WILL I LEARN HOW TO BE FUNNY AT THE FESTIVAL?
No. But you’ll learn everything else about comedy writing.

 

CAN YOU BE MORE SPECIFIC, PLEASE?
Sure. You’ll learn some basic techniques and dynamics of comedy writing. You’ll learn how some very successful professional comedy writers got where they are. You’ll learn how rising stars of comedy writing are breaking into the business, and how you can do it, too. You’ll learn how to get your work seen by the people who control the routes into broadcast comedy; how to write what will appeal to them; how to approach and pitch to them, and how to convince them to commission you. You’ll learn how to vastly improve your chances of writing a successful, produced comedy feature film. You’ll learn about the other avenues that are opening up in web comedy and transmedia. You’ll learn about effective writing disciplines and how partnerships work. You’ll learn how hard it is, and how rewarding it can be.

WHAT KIND OF PEOPLE CAN TEACH ME ALL THAT?
Well known names like Dan Mazer, Robert Popper, Rhona Cameron, Griff Rhys Jones, Jessica Hynes. (I’m not going to list their credits; if you don’t know them, check out their profiles for yourself on the site. What am I, your mother?) Also those whose work you’ll certainly recognize, if not their names; people like Paul Jackson and Jon Plowman, who have had, and continue to have, a massive influence. And some very important people you may not know about, like Simon Wilson, who makes the decisions about commissioning comedy at the BBC, and Lucy Lumsden, who is spearheading Sky’s drive into the original comedy market, and Newsjack producer Tilusha Ghelani. We’ve also got seasoned professionals like Brian Leveson and Paul Minett, who’ve written a whole string of mainstream TV hits and can give you invaluable insights into the craft, Rob Grant, and Doug Naylor, the co-creators of Red Dwarf, both of whom are now exploring great new projects, and John Langdon, who has been Rory Bremner’s main writer for ever.

WHAT ABOUT THESE PRE-FESTIVAL WORKSHOPS?
Three great session with a little more time to get into it. March 15th: the creators of BBC Online phenomenon Misery Bear look at the whole process of online comedy, especially using animation. Check out their latest film for Comic Relief. And then check out everything else they’ve ever done, especially Dawn of the Ted. It’s all very, very funny. March 22nd: simply about the best comedy writing masterclass you’ll get in under three hours, from Red Dwarf co-creator Rob Grant. March 29th: an intensive hands-on topical sketch writing workshop, in which you’ll participate in putting together a sketch from the day’s news, run by Paul Bassett Davies. Hey, he’s got the same name as me. What are the chances?

CAN YOU THINK OF ANY REASON WHY AN ASPIRING COMEDY WRITER LIKE ME SHOULDN’T SIEZE THIS AMAZING OPPORTUNITY FOR MYSELF AND MY CAREER THAT I REALLY CAN’T AFFORD TO MISS?
Let me think. Er… no.

 

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