The London Screenwriting Gin Festival

I went to The London Screenwriters’ Festival last year. Successor to the now-defunct Cheltenham Screenwriters’ Festival, it’s a good way to meet other writers and learn from those already doing well in the business.

I had a great time, met some lovely people, and would thoroughly recommend going.

As you may have seen elsewhere on the Internets, the festival organisers are putting on a short weekend specifically for comedy writers on the weekend of April 9-10.

The going rate is £149. Which is actually good value.

The other thing you might have seen is a lot of people offering discount codes if you buy a ticket. This is an affiliate scheme, so basically you get £25 off your ticket and the blogger gets £25 for themselves.

The lovely Michelle Lipton has decided to donate any money she gets through the scheme to Comic Relief.

Which is nice enough, I guess.

But I don’t think you should give money to the children living on the street abroad, or to those in this country suffering from domestic violence and sexual abuse, or to people who are having problems due to mental health issues – which one in four of us will experience at some point in our lives.

Instead, I think you should give your money to me.
And in return, I promise to spend it on gin.

Here’s how it works: When you book, use the special code GIN to get a £25 discount on the cost of your ticket. I’ll then get £25, which I’ll put aside in a special GinTin in the house, and whenever we run out I shall buy another bottle and think of you as I enjoy a perfectly-made slightly-too-strong gin-and-tonic.

I like gin. You like £25 off your festival ticket. How is this not a winning combination?

Of course, if you’d rather give your money to deserving people instead (though why you would want to I have no idea), use the code michellelipton when you check out, and she’ll give the £25 she gets to Comic Relief.

And I’ll buy my own damn gin.

Go on, say hello.

I’m off to Cheltenham next week for the Screenwriters’ Festival. You can find my thoughts on previous years by checking out this handy-dandy magic blogspot tag thing.

Executive summary: it’s excellent, and well worth the money. You can still get tickets from the festival website.

If you’re going to be coming along too and it’s your first time at the festival, you might be a little nervous about meeting people, especially if you’re going on your own.

Fortunately, we have a solution.

The lovely and talented Michelle Lipton, Jason Arnopp, Phill Barron, and myself will be holding our now-traditional go-on-say-hello-what’s-the-worst-that-can-happen networking do on the Sunday night.

By which I mean:

We’ll be down the pub, and we’d love for you to join us.

You’ll be able to find us in the bar of the Queen’s Hotel on the evening of Sunday 25th October from about six o’clock onwards.

It’ll be a chance to put names to faces and get to know people before everything kicks off in earnest on the Monday.

Hope to see you there!

Second Stage Launch

So I was at the launch do for the Screenwriters’ Festival last night. This was actually the second launch. We reckon they can probably fit one more in before the festival itself, which is October 26th to 29th.

In addition to a glass of free wine (which always cheers me up) and some starspotting in the BAFTA bar, we got to see a few people talk including a couple of agents, two writers who are at the end of the beginning of their careers (or possibly the beginning of the middle), and Christopher Hampton.

The common theme running through all of these presentations was this though: it takes hard work to be successful. A lot of it.

Christopher Hampton hasn’t done too badly for himself. And he’s got a pretty good hit-rate for features – fully one in three of the films he’s written has actually been made.

Both of the new writers are several features plus change (sitcoms, dramas, etc.) written before starting to get any traction at all. And even now they’re only just starting to emerge from the fray.

So: Work hard. Repeat until successful.

The helpful advice is all really in aid of promoting the festival, though. I mean, that’s what a launch is for. And what you really want to know is: is it worth the cash?

In my opinion, yes. I’ve been for the last few years, and I’d say there’s two main reasons to go.

Firstly, there’s getting to hear from writers who make a living at this. A lot of them, in the same place at the same time. Learning what they did right and wrong helps you to avoid the mistakes they made and make brand new ones of your own.

Secondly you get to hang around with other writers at the same stage as you are. It’s as much of a social event as it is a learning one. And to be honest, that’s the most useful thing of all.

Other bloggers were at the event too, and I’m sure they’ll chuck in their two’pennorth over the next few days. As of right now, the only post available is at Phill’s place. It has the advantage over this one in that it also contains a diagram of sperm.

If you’re thinking of going, don’t forget that you can get funding from your local screen agency.

Hope to see you there.

Screenwriters Festival

Fortunately Lee Thomson (he smiles, you know) has a roundup of other people’s thoughts on the festival which means that I don’t have to.

I believe some comedic pictures of the event may also be available from Jason Arnopp. The majority of them, sadly, are on facebook, and I find myself completely unable to recollect his Facebook Name at the moment.

A few random thoughts:

  • Next year, I’m going to take first class on the train, and I think you should too – it’s only an extra tenner or so if you buy a week in advance, and will make the trip so much nicer.
  • If the screenwriting agencies don’t show up at their promised sessions, help any other people who arrive by giving them good advice, then escape by leaping through the window. You will receive biscuits for your kindness.
  • Croquet is a vicious, vicious game.
  • The chances of being able to find anything vaguely resembling a Martini within the vicinity of the festival range somewhere between slim and none.
  • We don’t do catchphrases. There’s no evidence for that.
  • Room parties are a fine invention. Though you should probably try to keep the noise down to less than, say, jet-engine levels. Or the hotel duty manager may swing by and politely ask you to keep it down.
  • Tony Jordan really is a lovely man.
  • The ways of The Dark Arrow are both mysterious and disturbing.
  • Networking is not going up to the most famous person in the room and asking them to read your script. Networking is actually about going and having fun with your friends who work in the same industry.

I haven’t laughed as loudly, as long, or as often for a long time.

I’ll be there next year. I hope you will too.

The Beckley-Arnopp Cheltenham Scribomeet

If you, like Jason Arnopp and I, are going to the Cheltenham Screenwriters Festival this year, you may have several things on your mind.

Like “I don’t know any of these high-powered people. How will I get over my shyness and speak to anyone?”

Or “Whose round is it?”

Fortunately both of those questions can be answered at the same time by coming to the inaugural Beckley-Arnopp Cheltenham Scribomeet. Or possibly the Arnopp-Beckley Cheltenham Scribomeet. Whatever floats your boat.

It’s a non-threatening chance to meet other writers the evening before the festival kicks off. That way you’ll have some friendly faces to talk to over the next three days.

It will begin at 6pm blunt on the night of Monday 30th June in the Harvester pub next to the Cheltenham Travelodge.

Which should make it nice and easy to stagger home to your bed either there or in the Thistle.

Come along.
Say hello.
Drink beer.

Or we will destroy you with our giant floating hands.

Radio Silence

Am at the Screenwiters’ Festival for the rest of the week.

It’s not that I don’t love you, it’s just that I don’t have a stable Internet connection.

Normal service will be resumed some time next week.

In the meantime, why don’t you turn off this computer and tell someone that you love them?

Screenwriters’ Festival

Well, that’s my hotel booked for the Screenwriters’ Festival.

Apparently it’s like Glastonbury. Only without the drugs or the music, and with added writing and decent toilets.

OK, not much like Glastonbury at all then.

Instead, it’s four days of hanging out with other people in the industry, going to lectures, talking to writers and producers and directors, shooting the shit, and solving the problems of the world.

Not necessarily all at the same time. But probably.

I’m going for all four days, which is quite expensive at 364 quid, but I think it’ll be worth it. Also, as a writer, it’s a business expense. See? That’s a hundred quid saved in tax right there.

If you want to go but can’t afford it, you might want to consider the following options:

Me, I’m splurging on the Travelodge. Hope to see you there!

International Screenwriters Festival, Take Two

And when I say International, what I actually mean is In The UK.

In 2006, a bunch of brave souls attempted to set up a screenwriting festival outside of the US mainland. While by all accounts there were some teething troubles, it generally did well enough to return for an encore this year.

It’s divvied up into two parts, one for n00bs and one for pros.

Last time, I was too broke to go to the pro days, and didn’t think it worthwhile going to the beginners area. Which was a good decision by all accounts.  They claim to have fixed it this time by sprinkling more pro stuff into the n00b days, and by opening the pro days up to everyone. 

So I guess the only question is, just the pro days, or go to all four?

Decisions, decisions…