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Author of Lydia’s Song

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Three days exploring story

18 September 2017

You may have noticed – I don’t normally write about writing. But, having just returned from a long weekend at the London Screenwriters’ Festival, it was too good not to blog about!

The London Screenwriters’ Festival is three days of networking, learning more about the screenwriting craft and having opportunities to have your work examined in detail and to pitch. One theme running through the festival was the importance of relationships in the industry, and whilst I agree that relationships are important, my primary goal in attending the festival was not to make new friends but to strengthen my own work and pitch it to those who could get my story made. Nevertheless, one lovely lady I met on the first day, handed me the business card of someone that she thought could be a useful connection for me, so of course relationships are valuable in more ways than one.

Clutching a handful of business cards, a few one-pagers and a bundle of nerves, I immersed myself in the festival as much as I could. I attended sessions on the craft of screenwriting and editing by big names such as Christopher Vogler, Pilar Alessandra and the formidable Lucy V. Hay, and came away flummoxed by the amount I’ve still got to learn. No caps please, no long scene descriptions without action, false movement is not movement, structure, structure and more structure!

Hayley McKenzie, a script developer, reminded us that the average screenwriter writes five spec scripts before they get their big break. One lady who got produced recently, sent out 400 emails to producers before she got her work produced. You could easily be put off by the statistics but of course resilience is the key and I don’t easily give up!

Laurence Gouldbourne, from Euroscript, gave me feedback on the first 10 pages of my Lydia’s Song script, and I was delighted to learn that I’d not made too many gaffs and even that I’d included a page-3 moment (had no idea what one of those was until he told me, and it’s nothing to do with nudity!).

The highlight of the weekend for me was the Actor’s Table Read. Two professional actors and a director read through and acted out a scene from my script. It was so insightful and moving, seeing my well-known characters come to life. The biggest thing I took away was that performance brings out aspects of your script that don’t work for the audience in terms of character and emotional arc, and I’m going to move some pieces of dialogue around as a consequence.

Getting a pitching session (like speed dating with producers!) was also one of the biggest aspects of the festival. I’d hoped to get a session on the Friday, but that slot was quickly filled up and I ended up having the last session on Sunday. It turned out to be the right session for me as out of the five producers I saw, four loved the sound of my story, and two wanted to see my full script, which is not a bad ratio at all! One producer told me that if he were Angelina Jolie he might be able to get into Cambodia but he didn’t think he had the connections to do so, whereas to one Chinese producer, the fact that it was Cambodia rather than China was appealing to her as the topic would be too politically sensitive to film in China!

So, having jotted down my thoughts from the festival, the first thing I’m going to do is go away and tighten up my script even more before sending it out. Ever onward.

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