London Screenwriters Festival 2013

The London Screenwriters Festival ended a couple of weeks ago and already the emails telling me to sign up for next year’s festival have arrived. I’ve had time to think a bit about whether it was worth it or not.

First, the price. It’s £260, that’s quite a lot for a conference but then there was a wealth of speakers and producers from Hollywood, indies, the BBC, Sky and more. They get fed and pampered on your behalf, but for the price of a short holiday you are paying to spend long days listening to others – and talk. Oh, the talking.

LSF 2013

Lots of writers, myself included, aren’t big on talking about themselves but it is kind of the point of the conference. It is only one weekend but you never know who you may meet there. I chatted to a couple of guys who met at the 2012 and had gone on to writing scripts together.

There is a lot of talking, a lot of time to kill. Most people are there alone and it’s easy to talk about what they are up to or the latest writing news.

Similarly if you want to grab a seat at some of the more popular speeches you need to get there early – again an opportunity to chat. Yes it’s tiring, but it is rare to find yourself surrounded by so many people keen on writing.

Others there were just to get the experience, and some dived in at the deep end and were submitting scripts, pitches and themselves left right and centre.

Scripts at LSF

You could get professional actors to read through your script, or get a script session with firms like Euroscript to read through and critique it.

Myself I pitched to a Hollywood exec, a top agent and some independent film makers. That isn’t a boast (though I would boast if any slapped a cheque and a contract down after it), it’s just par for the course with the LSF.

And that was the least you could do. There are opportunities and also the attitude that, well, you’ve paid for it so make the most of it.

But what it ultimately comes down to is action. If you want to say you are a writer or screenwriter you write and you go to things like the London Screenwriters Festival . If you are already doing work in screenwriting, great, but if you are trying to get in you need to be able to have action to back up your words that you are a writer.

Best speakers at LSF 2013

  • Jose Silerio from Save the Cat!. Really good speaker, great notes and as I’m someone who likes his structuring, it’s good to have someone who cares so much and can take you through it.
  • Pilar Alessandro. Really knows her stuff, probably what I’d call a steretoypical Hollywood insider – loud, loquacious, trying to sell you something- and she knew exactly what she was talking about and told it well. She has online courses that are worth looking at, I changed my schedule to catch as many of her talks a I could.
  • Luke Ryans, aka, Hot Tub Time Machine guy. Don’t laugh (well do laugh at the film), he’s a Hollywood man and he was good, direct and with fun examples.
  • BBC and Sky producers in general. Quite a few from the networks and all were worth listening to. Good to know what is being commissioned on TV, particularly as Sky has only recently got into commissioning original content.
  • Julian Friedmann. An early Sunday start but worth it to catch this top UK agent. Heed his advice – if you want to be taken seriously know the industry. Subscribe to Broadcast and the other UK magazines, get an idea of what is going on. He even listens to his pitches, though if he signs you up make sure you buy a lottery ticket too as the odds are not good.

Recommendations if you go to LSF 2014

  • Get business cards, hand them out nilly willy as others do so anyway
  • Follow up – go on the website, follow others on the network and chat
  • Chat to people whenever you can. I am glad that I did.
  • Spread the cost, then it doesn’t feel so bad.
  • Get sleep beforehand or take the Monday off as they are long days.
  • Take your own food and drink as pricey.
  • Take notes, follow up and stay tuned.

Would I go again next year? I’ve already set up the direct debit.

By Jonathan Richardson

Jonathan Richardson is a writer and the editor of Considered Words.

He's worked as a journalist, writer and analyst for organisations including the BBC and Which? He's also written for the stage in Cambridge, radio and sketches at the Edinburgh festival.

He's now a freelance writer and data analyst.

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