Day 1 of the London Screenwriters Festival

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Day 1 of the London Screenwriters Festival

Walking towards the prestigious Regents College I felt the anticipation of excitement, creativity and impending inspiration. The objective of the weekend was to be inspired again, but with the packed timetable and variety of sessions and speakers I wasn’t quite sure what form that would come in.

Once I got my festival accreditation I made my way into Tuke Hall where it was standing room only. However, I spied a vacant aisle seat midway down and parked my suitcase, my iPad and my grinning face down. After an excitable opening speech by festival director Chris Jones, we were on our way to our first session.

The Creative Screenwriter which combined a taught session and a book launch was my first encounter. Led by Zara Waldeback and Craig Batty, they combined both the theory behind the craft of screenwriting with techniques to improve creativity. These were very simple techniques which as a writer you do forget, and in my case get very lazy with the written language. They reminded us as writers that we need to train the craft, establish a creative practice and write regularly. I also came away with notes on not settling for my first idea, thinking about the verbs I use in my scripts and general day to day writing. We also discussed plotting, working with worlds, scene writing and using valuable objects. There was a lot to get through in the dedicated time given that their book was a decent length.

Ah yes the book!

I had never been to a book launch before so was new to how it worked. I did end up counting how many times they managed to plug ‘The Creative Screenwriter’. It was a book launch after all so I shouldn’t really have been put off by that, in the end I decided to purchase a copy and even got it signed by both of them. They were both passionate about their topic so spending a tender on a book was a worthwhile purchase for me – even though I swore earlier this year that I would only buy kindle books due to my house being turned into one giant bookcase.

The next session was by Peter Thornton – the creative head of comedy called “How can you play a part in British Comedy”. Again some good tips were given to the delegates.

By this time of the day though I was starting to feel the effect of getting up at 5am after only three hours sleep. Strong coffee and a break were definitely needed. Sitting in that session I made the conscious choice that next year I would suck up the extra nights accommodation cost and stay in London the night before.

There is plenty of networking opportunities to do in the breaks. I also wandered around the book stall, Writers Guild table and was constantly checking the LSF app which was so informative over the weekend.

The next session brought me fully awake due to the enthusiasm of the speaker and the content of the discussion which was Julie Gray’s “You are the HERO of the journey”.

Wow – I think the way that Julie projects her voice, her knowledge and her enthusiasm she could make the dullest topics seem excitable. If I was lagging in the tired stakes at this point of the day she brought me back to life like a shot of expresso! This was a pivotal moment for me in terms of my masters studies too. I have read lots of the theory books, listened to various lectures but for some reason Julie made it all click for me – at last I understood how important it is to take the protagonist on a certain pathway with my writing. Yes…that’s why X did this in that film, that is why Y was there when X did this… it was all making sense now. Sitting in Tuke Hall I felt like I was Jake Blues when he is in the church and he receives a “message from God” to put the band back together. I understood what I need to do with my characters from now on. It’s not about liking them at the start of my story, its about making sure they are flawed, with an inner need etc etc.

Key aspects I have taken from this session.

  • –           The protagonist must learn lessons and be in great pain
  • –           Characters are not about me, it’s about we
  • –           There should be something about that character that makes me feel uncomfortable
  • –           It should make me dig deeply and explore what makes me feel uncomfortable
  • –           Fall in love with the character on page 100, not on page 1

Okay now two things happened! The first thing is I started to think about the scripts that I have written so far, and how I hadn’t developed my characters as fully as I should. I didn’t know them inside out and as a result my storyline was weak. Okay, no worries as that is what re-writing is for.

The second thing is something that my poor husband is going to moan like hell about. I am going to be super-critical every single time I watch a TV show or a film with him as I will be looking for those elements that should be happening. If it was bad enough with my limited knowledge of the craft of scriptwriting (in that I have now either turned a film off or left the room as I cannot face spending time watching stories where I don’t care about the character, therefore the writing is weak) – well it’s about to become even more of a problem.

So, Julie gave me creative high during that session. I then went into the “Writing for Young Audiences” session with Rob Spackling, Chris Hill, Tim Bain and Tony Cooke.  I quickly realised I hadn’t read the brief fully and this wasn’t the session for me. My stamina was shot for the day and I had to retreat back to my hotel which was a tube ride away. Sleep was important as Julie Gray was scheduled for a 9am class on the Saturday and I thought if anyone is worth getting up early for – it is definitely that woman! I think I may have developed a little student crush on her, she is a teaching gem!

The Road to London Screenwriters Festival

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It seems a long time ago that I cashed in the early bird offer from the London Screenwriters Festival 2012. Having just completed my semester one script on my MA, I really thought it would be a useful event to attend.

But it certainly came round quickly. Now into the second year of my masters degree, before I knew it I was having to book train tickets, a hotel and start making choices as to which session I would attend.

My remit for this festival from the start was purely just to experience the whole event. I wouldn’t be pitching, I wanted to be inspired, meet other people like me and have some quality time in the writing world. In my “ordinary world” I mix with many people, and thankfully due to the job that I do and where I do it, I quite often meet writers every now and again. However, the draw of spending a full weekend with storytellers like me is as appealing as a cake shop to Roseanne.

At the same time I also started to feel a bit nervous about being on my own in a big city – London! Previously I have visited it a handful of times, and each of those I was with somebody. Never really thought about that in February when I was booking my early birdticket! Sounds silly but realising that was a bit nerve wracking but thankfully there is always a wind taker who will feed any negative thoughts.

So, the person who judged me by overhearing me communicating my fear of being alone in the city and laughed at me because I had never lived alone – well they just made me want to get on that train and show them. Yes I have lived with my husband from age 19, yes I haven’t lived alone but damn you it doesn’t mean I am not a brave person in my own right! I just love those wind takers…….they keep me wanting to strive!

Being the tight arse that I am I decided I would travel on the morning of the opening day, and save on an extra night hotel bill. Note to self – next year I will not be tight as being exhausted and falling asleep mid first day is not big, it’s not clever and it’s absolutely disrespectful to the speakers.

So, I spent the night before wide awake – couldn’t sleep as I was worried that I would sleep through the 5am alarm. I think I finally got to sleep at 3am, up at 5am – woke my husband up to give me a lift to the train station and so my adventure begins………


Blog slacker

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As this year draws to a close, I realise how little I have been blogging since I really injured my back, which was back in May.

It’s amazing at how an injury such as a slipped disc can change your whole outlook on life. I know there are many people in far worse health than I have been, but it has been really tough.

I look back to how fit I was in April when I completed theSalford10k. I felt amazing, both physically and mentally and my passion had grown for running. My longest run being 11.5 miles which at the start of the year I would never have anticipated that I could achieve.

Then 21st May 2011 I woke up with the worse pain I have ever experienced in my left buttock and leg. The next four months felt like hell. I tried chiropractic, intense physiotherapy and massage.  I felt the most stress ever in July when I was still crippled in pain and due to go to the States for 3 weeks with my family. In the end I wasn’t fit enough to travel, both physically and mentally.

Oh yes mentally! That was a massive shock to the system. I wasn’t prepared for how depressed I would feel. Injuries are not just a physical thing, but a mental one too. I suffered a couple of panic attacks which I hadn’t suffered with for years, so that really knocked my confidence. I didn’t feel myself, I had become desperate and pathetic – needing other people to keep me calm. How the hell had that happened? I hated myself every day that I felt like that. My poor husband must have felt so suffocated.

At the time of writing I have began running just a mile every other day. This feels like I am on the mend, but still hoping that my netball days are not behind me and that I will still be in a position to be able to play again. I am awaiting an MRI scan results too, although the scan was taken three months too late given that the pain has diminished somewhat.

I’ll never take my health for granted again. Being incapacitated and having to rely on other people is the worst experience ever. The darkest days being when my sons had to help me put my socks, shoes and tie my laces for me. I hope I never have to go through that again.