I took a gentle path into the festival today as I wanted to begin by getting my bearings and obtaining a feel for the festival without trying to do too much on the first day. It’s a jam packed weekend with Breakfast Networking beginning at 8am and the evening stuff going on until past 10pm. I’m only human so I’m pacing myself and easing into the festival vibe, it’s been a good opportunity to take stock. On the surface it appears to be bedlam with 400 delegates and about twenty speakers flitting about the place, but it's actually a well oiled machine with plenty of help and guidance to get everyone into the right place at the right time. And there's a real buzz to the atmosphere, everyone here takes their work seriously and enjoys what they do and the community of like minds is like a background hum to the vibrant seminars.
To kick off I planned on going into the YOUR SCRIPT FROM GOOD TO GREAT with Kate Leys, who is a Script Editor for film and has worked on some of my favourite movies. As it happens they appear to be everyone else's favourite movies too as despite a room change to accomodate demand the seminar was full up by the time I discovered where it had moved to. I wasn't too concerned though because there were a ton of other things to choose from so I wandered over to Tuke Hall where there was an IN CONVERSATION seminar with writer/producer Tony Jordan and Producer Nicola Shindler. Both spoke with great passion about their work and gave very good advice about writing for television. While I don't write for TV (I don't know how) and hadn't really intended to I have great admiration for American TV writers and listening to Tonay and Nicola talk today I suddenly understood why writers who start off in TV and make a success of that can go on to have successful film careers. And a lot of that is seeing your work realised in a much shorter turnaround time than film gives. So you get to write lots and see it made, often within a couple of months, and see what worked and what didn't. Nicola in particular spoke about watching lots of varied types of television and understanding from viewing how transitions and multiple character structures work.
Two things really stuck with me. One was Nicola speaking about how writers are born, that there is a very specific skill to being able to tell a story that interests other people, it's very technical and intricate and a specific way of working that only certain individuals master, and the myth that everyone has a story to tell is actually just nonsense. I certainly felt glad when she said that, that I've spent a lot of time over the past five years to understand my own specific way of writing. I hope that understanding my own application of the craft and not just the craft itself will pay off for me in the long run.
The second thing that really struck me was what Tony called the single thing to hold on to is your own writers voice, your unique way of viewing the world. Writers who last in the industry and get work are writers who have that quality.
Other than writing both also spoke about production. Cost is obviously a huge factor and deadlines are a really big thing. It can cost a production a lot of money if the pre-production can't be done with the polished screenplay. Script Editors were also spoken about and advice given about how best to work with them, learning how to listen and how to gague when changes to screenplays will benefit the story, when they make no difference either way, and when to hold ground because the change might fundamentally damage what a writer is trying to say with the piece. It's a kind of filtering and an understanding of how to be easy to work with as a writer and be open to developing work and incorporating the ideas of others, while still knowing what the fundamentals are that shouldn't be changed. Very good advice indeed. All in all I felt very lucky to have been serendipitous enough to have walked into this room and heard these people speak.
So a great start to today’s fun at the festival and only the beginning of a very informative day! Next up DISTRIBUTION IN THE UK.
Bring it on!