Did you go to the Cheltenham Screenwriters Festival this year? It was a blast. Euroscript ran a two day script clinic and drop-in centre. Writers dropped in to see the six of us for help with their pitches before they went off to meet the many producers, directors and agents who were floating around the place, feeling (I suspect) rather like they’d fallen into a pool filled with polite yet hungry piranha.
Good vibes – and much success. Many writers had good ideas but needed help learning how to get them across. They went away and used the pitches we developed together to get interest from the BBC, the Film Council, Warners, Optimum Releasing. One writer met me with great excitement in the café to tell me that the pitch we worked on resulted in both BBC drama and a top agency asking to see her work. She deserved it.
Others booked time and sent in material and we were able to help them understand their strengths and potential and move on to the next step. I saw ten projects plus those who came to the drop-in desk, and almost all of them were movies or dramas I’d have paid to see. Of course, whether I ever get the chance is down to the writer doing more good hard work and then the lottery that is film and TV over here. But by the time I left I’d heard at least one had serious interest from Warners and BBC Films.
The other clinicians were Paul Bassett Davies (who ran it), Anne Woods, Gabriella Apicella, Matt Tromans and Fenella Greenfield.
Breaking some windows
I’m also very proud of Euroscript for pushing the PC boundaries again. This time it was Paul Bassett Davies, a Perrier Award finalist, who ran a delightfully scabrous event on Offensive Comedy that for my money would be worth the entry fee on its own.
There’s always a load of competition for your time at SWF – from the talks and panel events to producer-writer speed-dating. I heard there was a good buzz about Janice Day’s workshop on making a living as a writer – and in return I hear she said very nice things about my work helping writers using NLP (see her blog). I dropped into hear Armando Iannucci on comedy with In The Loop producer Kevin Loader and then Kevin again plus team on his new film Nowhere Boy (he’s a busy boy).Interesting and informing, but you know it’s the same problem with many events at SWF – my one main niggle – don’t push too far, toe the party line and avoid making waves. Give me some good solid iconoclasm, more incendiary offensiveness. Stop telling people that all you need is to believe in yourself and tell them to get off their arses and break some windows.
Breaking the system
The best bits I tripped over were the impromptu meetings, like finding a circle of film makers talking about no-budget film-making – up-and-coming writers and success stories including Colin (£45 budget) writer-director-factotum Marc Vincent Price, producer Helen Grace, and Chris (Guerilla Film Makers Handbook) Jones who told how he gets quality stock, processing, etc for absolutely nothing. Message: too many Brits just hang around waiting for some government organisation to give them money. Work very hard, become supremely expert (especially in script) and go make waves.
Talking of which: I hear of uproar in the big Pitch competition when nine of the ten selected pitchers were men and only one woman. Big discontent and much debate. Whose fault? Who knows. Is it the system? Or Film Four, who made the selections? Or the quality available? Or the format? I’d love to know, incidentally, how many in the audience had put in pitches for selection – how many men and how many women. Anyone care to leak me the facts?