Second day kickstarted with a lively and interesting session on ‘Writing to Scale’, chaired by Maggie Ellis from Film London. Ed Blum (Scenes of a Sexual Nature), Rachel Robey (London to Brighton) and Jake West (Evil Aliens) spoke about their experiences getting their low budget films made, and how to be clever about using all your available resources. Jake West took us through the shoot for his first low-budget effort, Razorblade Smile, and how he used his parents’ house and all available rooms to suggest a variety of settings and situations (a bit of homemade green screen, too!).
There then followed a very interesting discussion on Diversity in Film/TV or “Want to See More of Me?” as it was officially called. Kate Leys (script editor, ex-Film Four) talked to Noel Clarke (writer/star Kidulthood and Dr Who), Tally Garner (Curtis Brown agent) and Anne Hogben (Writers’ Guild) about the attitude towards minority casting and how it should be changed. Noel was particularly good value, and didn’t mince his words about what he felt were the inadequacies and prejudices of the system, from white/middle class development right through to nepotism and people in privileged positions.
After lunch, Ashley Pharoah gave a very good commentary on episode four of Life on Mars, where Sam gets seduced into the seventies mindset of bent coppers, and tries to help a prostitute under a ganglord’s grasp, and bumps into his mother for good measure. Ashley explained how it was a difficult show to write for because it’s all told from Sam’s point-of-view (because he’s really in a coma, accept it), so they can’t cut away for tension, or plot, or exposition. So, the challenge for him was to combine the various story elements so that they all fitted one progressing and satisfying narrative. Top writing, indeed.
I took a time out after this session - you can zone out of too much of a good thing - so I missed Rowan Joffe talking about writing 28 Weeks Later, or producer Mia Bays talking about Writing Oscar Winning Shorts or Jurgen Wolf offering his tips on effective time management (these were all on at the same time!).
Then, just like last year, a scheduling clash. What to see? The inspiring and eloquent William (Bill) Nicholson (Gladiator, Shadowlands) or Stuart Hazledean, a UK-based writer who’s knee-deep in the Hollywood rewriting system. I opted for Mr Hazledean as I had seen ‘Bill’ speak last year, and he was doing the keynote speech for the Professional Sessions, so I could attend that instead.
Stuart Hazledean’s talk was fascinating ('The Invisible Writer') as he really is living the dream. He described how he wrote a high concept UK script ten years ago in a climate where no-one would ever dream of doing that kind of stuff in this country (Die Hard in the Underground). But it got him noticed and he got friendly with producers Jeremy Bolt and Paul Trijbits, fresh from their success with The Young Americans. Stuart headed to Hollywood with them to see what he could do. He used his savvy and common sense, and met UK execs and production companies, got a US agent, and pitched for ‘open book assignments’. Et voila. A Hollywood career is born. Not bad for someone who lives in Clapham. (He goes out to LA twice a year, spring and autumn, for about six weeks in order to meet, pitch, get the gig and return home to write).
Fever Pitch was on that evening but I missed it as I enjoyed a curry in town with the incomparable Jason Arnopp, Evan Leighton-Davis and Adrian Tanner. It was good to get away from the hustle and bustle of the Festival, and chill out over a balti. Evan and Adrian were covering the whole shebang for the BBC Film Network, so you can see their five minute round-up HERE.
The remainder of the evening was like the night before: networking, drinking, and Piers’s private stash of whiskey (god bless you, sir). On to the next…!