Sunday, July 06, 2008

SWF: Day One

Up at 5am. Pick up Tim. On the road at 6am. Two hours into the journey and we miss the turn off for the M5. Tim tells me it's because I was so engrossed in his new pitch but I have my doubts. Still, we manage to avoid Wales and get ourselves on the M5, arriving into Cheltenham shortly afterwards at around 9.15am.

We're only ever-so-slightly late for Barbara Machin's opening speech. It's an inspiring talk but not nearly as controversial or ranting as she said it might be in the intro. She talks eloquently and passionately about writing and writers, and it's the perfect speech to get the festival up and running.

The next session, How to Make a Living as a Screenwriter, felt a bit rough around the edges but the panel of speakers (comic book writer, sketch writer, radio writer) do a good job of telling the throng about the various writer-related ways you can earn some money while pursuing a screenwriting career.

Next up is the highlight of day one. Stephen Woolley and Kevin Loader talking about the 10 Producers' Secrets that Writers Need to Know. This was mainly Stephen's session, and was largely improvised. He said he didn't know if he had 10 secrets. He could have 8 or 80, and tomorrow he could have 50 more. He wasn't wrong. He filled the session with a wealth of information and insight from his vast experience in the industry. You could have listened to him all day.

I missed David Bishop's talk on comic book writing but you can check out how his experience at the festival went at his blog.

The scriptbite sessions (informal roundtable talks with guest speakers) were well underway, which also brought us up into lunch. Then, a talk with Oscar-winner Ronald Harwood about his career and routine (lots of coffee, cigarettes and writing, all before 9.30am! not bad for a 73 year-old!). It was really amusing and entertaining, thanks mainly to the slightly odd interviewer (an Irish psychologist) and Mr Harwood's openness about his life and times.

Lots of great sessions followed - Deborah Moggach, The Politics of Being a Screenwriter, How to Write a Good Treatment, Code of Practice update and a BSSC film screening, and the day ending with a Mike Leigh interview. Somehow I manage to miss all of these sessions as I spend the rest of the day talking and networking with writers, bloggers, producers and script editors!

At the end of the day, I sit in on a scriptbite session with the Head of Development at Ealing Studios, which is enjoyable as the roundtables allow you to listen & talk in a more intimate manner. The early start and long drive begins to catch up on me and I'm exhausted and thirsty. A couple of pints of cider sees me right, not to mention a few visits to the chocolate fountain where marshmallows and strawberries are supplied for dipping. Delicious! I am awake.

I manage to grab something proper to eat, and the drinking is moved from the main tent to the nearby Harvester (which is next to the Travelodge hotel where a lot of the delegates are staying). Most of the blogging movers and shakers are there, and a few more besides, and once we're kicked out by the alarmingly young and short bar manager, it's straight to Room 109 (take a bow, Piers Beckley) for a nightcap or two. This is quickly becoming a Screenwriters' Festival tradition. God bless you, Piers.

The Red Planet session is on first thing in the morning so I call it a night at about 1.30am, leaving Room 109 still in full swing. A really enjoyable day. Great to see so many familiar names and faces. A hugely friendly and positive vibe emerges and hangs around for the entirety of the festival. On to day two...


potdoll said...

yo Danny did Raj Persaud do his talk?

Schmucks with Underwoods said...

Hi Danny

Do you remember any of Steven Wooley's tips? Any? I would love to hear them or is it possible to get any podcasts or transcripts from this event? Sounds fun. Maybe I should check it out next year.
Cheers. SWU

Brendan O'Neill said...

Wish I'd known about Room 109. Iwas in the bar that night but went off to bed and cried myself to sleep. Still it was all bostin as we say up here in brum

Danny Stack said...

Pd: No! He was much gossiped about, though.

SWU: He spoke a lot about The Crying Game, and how that got rejected a trillion times because execs had a heart attack every time they read it but they stuck to their guns, and got it made they way they wanted.

And tons of 'duh, obvious' advice but with anecdotal evidence to back it up, like: make sure you're all agreed what kind of film you're making. His example was when he made a film with director Bill Duke and Woolley remarked that a scene wasn't as funny as it was in the script. The Duke looked at him coldly and said: "this aint no comedy." Much arguing later (Woolley had raised money for the film on the basis that it WAS a comedy), and the Duke conceded that it was a dramedy.

Brendan: Blast!

Schmucks with Underwoods said...

Thanks Danny! Always good to hear those rejections with a happy ending stories.

Unknown said...

Wasn't that Bill Duke project being financed by the Weinsteins too? 'Twas a great anecdote among many of the three days.

SWU: I was taking notes, the 10 tips were: 1.) Agree with what you're making. 2.) Don't get too distracted by research. 3.) Don't worry too much about story structure. 4.) Don't write a long script. 5.) Don't take rejection personally. 6.) Always listen. 7.)Don't write stuff outside the budget 8.) Don't put cliche lines in (e.g. Rembrandt sunset) 9.) Don't become a pawn in politics. 10.) Don't become possessive of your script.

I do recommend the festival.

Brendan: at least you were in the Travelodge, I stupidly booked in at some place miles away from the site. Live 'n learn.

Danny Stack said...

Thanks Will (and good to meet you at the fest). Jon Peacey also has a useful rundown on the Woolley/Loader session, here.

Anonymous said...

Raj Persaud was replaced by that brilliantly eccentric Irish pyschologist-bloke (Michael someone)... What a session.

Danny, it was lovely to meet you (and in the now legendary Room 109... Blimey).

Anonymous said...

Psychiatrist-bloke, in fact...

"Prof. Michael Fitzgerald - Michael Fitzgerald is Henry Marsh Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Trinity College, Dublin. He has a long career in exploring the relationship between artists, writers and mental health. He trained at St. Patrick's Hospital Dublin, Chicago Medical School, and The Maudsley Hospital and the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases in London. he has clinically diagnosed over 1700 individuals with autism and Asperger's syndrome and has served on the Government Task Force on Autism and the Family. He is currently writing a book about writers and creativity and has already had 16 books published."

Brendan O'Neill said...

He was a delightful chap! I sort of had lunch next to him and he kindly confirmed that I was autistic spectrum - but to be fair I think he thought everyone at the festival was!

Once did a reading at Trinity College Dublin. Managed to get a few poems into their lit mag "College Green" alongside famous Seamus.

Schmucks with Underwoods said...

Thanks Will - what did he mean by 10.) Don't become possessive of your script.

Did he mean be open to notes or allow yourself to be rewritten by directors, producers and other writers?

Unknown said...

SWU: Hmmmm, here's my translated scribbles for point 10:
10. It’s very easy to become possessive.
You can get into the ‘I don’t want to change a word’ mindframe. I had Neil Jordan do a script for me, but he just couldn’t see how to further it. So I brought in David Leland, who did a very good draft, but Neil hated it – that was the catalyst needed to see through the problem and get it done.

Always realise that there is only ever one first read for people. Trust people when to give the script to others. We want to get the script to the best it can be before we give it to an actor. If you’re not wanting to make changes with the script and give it to your agent, they’ll obviously agree with you . . . and then send it out to actors. This fucks it up for the producers because now the actor will never read the version they intended for them to read. Scripts circulate in L.A. very quickly without you knowing. If you want to get your script to Johnny Depp for example, there’ll be at least four scripts out there in order for him to get it. So make sure it’s the best version there can be.

That's all I got. I may upload all my notes to my blog. Hope it helps!

Anonymous said...

Very interesting indeed!

By the way: did anybody check out "Bonekickers" tonight? Felt like somebody tried to check a couple of "Cliché" boxes.

Horrible. And disturbing.

Tim Clague said...

it was an awesome pitch my man. In fact any pitch this good will now be known as M5er