Why community and total immersion is so important to creative people

I got a Tweet tonight about the London Screenwriters’ Festival at the end of October (and if you don’t know, I am the director of the festival) and we engaged in a short conversation about the value of attending the festival.

Here is one of the tweets in the conversation…

‘Its not like there r “new techniques” 2learn like 4other disciplines. Mayb u can explain?’

I tried to Tweet an answer, but Twitter just isn’t the forum for that chat and it was far from eloquent!

But it did get me thinking. Why do we attend, giving up valuable time and money that could be spent elsewhere? Of course everyone has their own agenda, a unique set of reasons to attend. For many, I know the seminars and sessions are invaluable – I have sat and watched most of last years online (inside our network) and have learned something from every one of them. But is there something more, something common to everyone?

I think there is.

Real life is both consuming and distracting. And screenwriting is a lifelong career that demands a large investment of oneself. The two can clash regularly and those skirmishes can lead to a loss of focus, momentum and passion.

And that is one of the big reasons I think so many writers attend the festival.

Because it is an extended period of time where one can be immersed in storytelling. It kind of re-centers us. Sure we go to seminars and learn loads of new cool things – that is all great of course. But that is expected.

It’s the ability to talk about nothing but screenwriting, to listen to no-one but screenwriting experts (both on the stage and sat right next to you), to eat dinner with screenwriters, jump on the tube with screenwriters… It’s about that total immersion. That’s why the event works so well.

And not just for our delegates. I realised last year that the hundred or so speakers who shared so generously are also on exactly the same journey. The festival is a place where they can experience that total immersion and spend time inside our own crazy tribe.

Somehow, this total immersion in our community re-ignites the passion, the dream, the desire to continue the long trek up what last week felt like Mount Impossible… but now feels like Mount Inevitable… and we are not alone.

And so to the Tweeter who asked, all I can say is this…

Being there and being immersed in the experience is perhaps more valuable than the many insights you will have, the new relationships you will form and the accelerated breakthroughs you will experience in your career and your projects.

But of course, you’ve got to be there…

Onwards and upwards


Chris Jones, Film Maker and Author


e: mail@livingspirit.com

4 Responses to Why community and total immersion is so important to creative people

  1. Gail September 30, 2011 at 7:15 am #

    Completely agree.

    I go to weekends and masterclasses because I want to focus my thoughts on the overall dream – getting a script made into a produced film – not because I want to learn how to write a script.

    Many people, including myself, have daily “money jobs” that pay the bills etc but more often than not these “money jobs” have nothing to do with film and screenwriting.

    For me, the London Screenwriters Festival, the Comedy Writers Festival, the upcoming Linda Aronson weekend or even your Guerilla Film Weekend – these weekends allow me to learn, allow me to network, allow me to dream but most of all they provide a safe, non judgemental space for me to say -without feeling like a fraud – that I’m a screenwriter.

    Despite the lack of tangible IMDb credits I am taken seriously and at face value at these weekends and THAT is the golddust. That is what makes me attend.

  2. Chris September 30, 2011 at 3:29 pm #

    Hi Gail – you nailed it! That’s why these events are so successful. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Kid In The Front Row October 16, 2011 at 8:17 am #

    I agree — the world is about other things, not screenwriting. The world is about gas bills and arguments with friends and political protests and the struggle for bread.

    Events like LSWF get you around people like you, the same animals. That can have a huge positive effect.

    That being said; they can also have the opposite effect. People get hooked on the seminars, on being seen as a writer around writerly types. It adds a layer of BS and stops the work getting done. I came to the screenwriters fest last year; and half of the people I met have not completed a project since; still countering with ‘I’m figuring things out’ and ‘I’m not quite ready’.

    So yeah, I agree but also disagree. It comes down to the person, and how seriously they take their craft. But it’s a great tool for those who are willing to put the work in.

  4. Phil October 3, 2012 at 8:51 am #

    At the risk of repeating the above posts, I agree too.

    Writing can be a lonely thing to do and it’s invaluable to mix with other writers, share stories, experiences and be inspired.

    It really does recharge the creative batteries and help to remind you why you do this in the first place.

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