So in true serendipity Kate Leys session was full by the time I wandered up to the room it was in and instead I made my way into this session about breaking into the business, which was really good and a great way to kick off the festival.
Hosted by working Screenwriter, Script Editor and Filmmaker Danny Stack the panel comprised of Bernie Corbett, General Secretary of The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, Writer/Director Martin Gooch who has a vast catalogue of experience in film and TV, Writer/Producer/Director Vadim Jean who makes features, documentaries, TV and commercials (I know him best for the awesome Hogfather), and Chris Hill who two years since graduating from NFTS three years ago, has become a commissioned screenwriter and formed part of the ‘Skins’ writing team, as well as being a script consultant on the Oscar Nominated film ‘The Last Station’.
The guys had put together a list of 50 suggestions for breaking into the business split into beginners, intermediate and advanced level screenwriters. What was really nice was that along with each of the fifty bits of info came a bit of insight from the panel about their own experiences of how they had reached their current place in the industry, they all spoke with care for us and how we could approach our careers, preparing us for the hard facts of the industry. Not every industry professional would, I think, be able to speak so deftly and with such great eloquence about their own paths and still be able to pinpoint the specific choices they made that paid off for them years down the line like these guys did, so kudos to all the panel for some fascinating sharing of their paths. I was very impressed with all of them, a really cool bunch who deserve their success.
These are a few of the points talked about that I picked up on and tweeted about during the session, blog & tweet, be a runner, join a group, make a film, but mostly just WRITE! Do as much as you can. Network. Write regularly (2 nights a week) and turn the Internet off when writing. Don’t be selfish, give time to working with other people. Feedback is subjective. Be careful you get feedback from those who’s judgement you trust. Build a portfolio of work. A really well written short is worth two badly written features. Don’t give up your day job until you have to & have built the resources to support yourself. Write in the spare time you get. Read the industry news & publications. Give yourself thinking time.Balance writing from personal experience with not limiting yourself to only that experience. Research what you don’t know. Ask. Do something. Just do it. Make a short film (or have one made of your writing) Learn about contracts, copyright and industry contracts. Research rights and practice. Producers will exploit you if you don’t. Pay attention to craft. Hook them in 3 pages not 10. Times are ruthless. Be compelling. Suck them in. Your competitors are the established industry screenwriters. It’s tough. Be prepared for that. Be proactive. You don’t need an agent until you get one. The important thing about networking at festivals, Cannes etc. is to maintain contact with your network. Keep in touch.