First up, Mike Gubbins, editor of Screen International, gives a talk on what kind of scripts are selling, what the current trend is, and what production companies are after. Mike spoke to a few execs to ask them what they want. “Edgy….but fresh. Freshly edgy. Authentic, but in a fresh and edgy way. Not gritty, no not gritty, don't want gritty. Just non-grittily edgy with a fresh and authentic quality.” In other words, they don’t know what they want but the ever-popular genres of comedy and horror got a mention. Mike encouraged everyone to think about the future: the internet. Not just for making films but for distributing them, too. And Blu-Ray. Get up to speed with Blu-Ray.
It’s been over a week since the festival ended so my memory is already a bit of a blur, especially as the website has taken down the programme so I can’t remind myself of what I did and didn’t attend. However, two highlights of the last day stand out. First, festival director David Pearson interviewing Jane Tranter, Controller of BBC Fiction. As Jane takes her seat, Elbow’s On a Day Like This plays over clips from the Beeb’s drama output. The song and the chosen snippets work well together, making it surprisingly emotive - curse you the power of musical montage! Jane then handles the questions carefully but in an honest and down-to-earth manner, too, and keeps her cool in the face of some semi-hostile questions from the audience (one from Marks & Gran, not sure which, I think it was Marks, who had a go at her for reducing the size of the end credits, which she conceded but it was out of her hands).
The last session for me was ‘What do Script Consultants Do?’ Indeed. This was with Phil Parker, UK’s very own script guru, and Joanna Leigh, last year’s Red Planet winner. Phil had developed Joanna’s winning script (Sam J, about Samuel Johnson writing the first English dictionary) prior to entry so it was fascinating (for me) to hear how Phil helped Joanna focus on the key dramatic drive of Samuel Johnson’s story rather than do a full biopic of his life as Joanna had originally intended.
Someone asked Phil about the difference between TV and film writing (as a lot of UK film scripts feel like TV). To paraphrase Phil’s response: “Film is one-off story with a plot and/or characters that possess qualities or characterisation that you wouldn’t normally see on TV. TV is about recurring characters and recurring situations. Also, in TV, the script editor or producer will give you specific notes on how they want your script to be written. In film, an exec might say ‘we’re not sure about the character’ or ‘act two gets a bit fuzzy’, and leave it up to you to fix the problem.” Phil went on to explain that low-budget films shouldn’t feel TV in their scale or story. He used Thomas McCarthy (The Station Agent and the upcoming The Visitor) as someone who wrote stories in such a way that you wouldn’t see them on TV, even though his films are low-key and low-budget.
After that, it was time to go, and Tim and I got in the car to take the 3 hour drive back to Bournemouth. Knackered! A great festival this year, much better than the previous two. The 3-day duration is a better format, and the festival continues to attract a top line-up of guest speakers from all around the world. I think that the delegates, the bloggers and the staff created a great vibe and gave a lot to the festival, making it a hoot from start to finish. Next year should be even better.