Screenwriters are a pasty, malnourished bunch, sick in body and mind, who nurture their alcohol and substance
addictions by churning out derivative, ten-a-penny fantasies that appeal to the lowest common denominator. At least, that's our aim. From Sunset Boulevard to Barton Fink screenwriters are routinely portrayed as grasping, desperate moral vacuums, willingly prostituting their art for movie riches. One of Hollywood's oldest jokes is about the actress so stupid she slept with the writer. Even BAFTA decided that writers were too hideous for the public gaze last year, and banished us from the televised awards ceremony to 'the craft awards', to sit snugly with the other non-beautiful people who arrange lights, make things out of wood, or render hair effects in 3D animations. Despite this, the fact remains that without screenwriters no one else in the film industry would have a job. Without the script, without the idea, without the story, you don't have a film. Just pretty people with nothing to do on a sound stage. Hollyoaks, essentially. There probably is a collective term for screenwriters, but it will be something dismissive like 'a tantrum of screenwriters', or 'a group-whinge', or 'a pub of screenwriters'. Whatever it is, if you want to see what one looks like, you should come to London next weekend. From the 29th to the 31st of October, Regent's College in Regent's Park will be playing host to the London Screenwriters' Festival, an entirely new event, and one with big ideas. Intrigued by the possibility of one enormous pub of screenwriters, I chatted to David Chamberlain, the Festival Manager, and Chris Jones of Living Spirit Pictures, the Festival's Creative Director. The LSF arose from the ashes of the International Screenwriters' Festival, held in Cheltenham. When that event ran into financial trouble, David, in particular, was reluctant to let the experience die completely. “The Cheltenham Festival was a fantastic opportunity to network,” he says, “And I thought 'Gosh, we really shouldn't let something like this go. What can we do?'” What he and Chris decided to do, was to organise another festival. And I don't think anyone would envy them the job of organising the LSF. With meetings, panels, workshops and sessions happening across six different venues at every hour of the day for three days, and a list of speakers that may as well just be a roll-call of everyone who is anyone in the British film industry, they have put together a truly remarkable programme. So much so that it will be impossible for anyone to do all of the things they want to over the three days. There are multiple strands, taking in writing for films, television, animation, games, and new media. There are competitions, pitching sessions, and they will be making one competition-winner's film (Laurence Timms' The Dead Office) during the course of the Festival. They have also designed an online forum for Festival participants, and, as we speak, it becomes clear that there is a larger agenda to this Festival. It's about more than meeting new people and polishing up your writing skills in some workshops. “There is no British film industry,” Chris says, “Just a group of disparate people making do with what they have got. There is no defined, simple, and mechanical industry apart from a couple of big companies. We are it. Whatever you are doing, whether it's just putting videos on Youtube; wherever you are at, that is where the British film industry is.” The slogan of the LSF is Experience, Inspire, Connect, and it's clear that one of the focuses of the Festival will be the opportunity to meet other screenwriters and producers. David and Chris are enthused by the possibilities this can open up for people.
no matter what circle of development hell your spec screenplay is stuck in.” The infectious enthusiasm the two have. “The best learning is by doing. to you). but with its online community it has been designed not just to be a 3-day event. David Chamberlain is the Festival Director and is the writer and producer of Wednesday's Child. to support you.” Chris goes even further. and they can tell you how they got there.David says. but to provide a supportive community to help them move projects along through the year up until the next Festival. Twitter: @livingspiritpix Nathaniel Tapley is an award-winning writer for the screen. funny stories. You need us and we need you.” he says (not to me.” And that's a recurring theme as we talk. that you don't need anyone's permission to make films. Now its down to the writers. Get involved. the only person stopping you making a film is you. stage and print. small stories. Sign up. The London Screenwriters' Festival runs from the 29th to the 31st October 2010. no matter who has stopped taking your calls. You don't need permission or subsidies or quotas or anything more than a camera phone and some willing friends. “We need you to create a community. but we are in this together. Be part of the future. and open access to knowledge. and to connect you with other people in a support network. “We need you. The schedule is immense. big stories. We can try and give you momentum. Our discussion ranges across the closure of the UK Film Council to the opportunities and challenges presented by new technologies. and the real sense of possibility is refreshing in an industry prone to self-pity (check out my opening couple of paragraphs for a fine example). Our job is to give you the best tools. Just as long as we can do it from the pub. No matter what a parlous state we're in in. The Festival isn't just going to be full of panels with talking heads. heartbreaking stories: a whole new generation of films that still only exist as ideas in someone's mind. to really help you take responsibility and ownership for a writing career. and is author of the Guerilla Film Makers' Handbook series. “The costs of production are becoming so low. initiate projects then it will be incredibly valuable. And we will. Tickets are available here. Twitter: @Natt
. at Regent's College. Regent's Park. You can't get there until you start doing it. Throughout. There will be workshops and clinics with people who are at the level you want to get to.” he says. and if the Festival can achieve only a modest proportion of what it sets out to in terms of helping writers network. the creators to take the tools they have created and use them to make new stories. “There has never been a better time to be in the creative industries. the storytellers. there will be opportunities for listening and experiencing with professionals. and there's always a sense of excitement bubbling beneath the surface. Twitter: @dcwritesmovies Chris Jones is the Festival's Creative Director. the speakers are impressive.