Today I attended the New Writers Day at the Cheltenham Scriptwriters' Festival 2006. When it was originally advertised I didn't fall into the category of Professional Delegate according to the wesite's guidelines - "This part of the Festival is generally for writers who have been optioned, produced or who have a projects that has been accepted in competition by recognised screen development agencies." So I signed up for the New Writers Day at £90.
I received an email a week before asking me to fill in a tick list of the sessions I wanted to attend - "Please find attached a tick sheet containing the session for Tuesday 27th June. Would you be able to tick which ones you are interested in and return to me, we want to make sure that everyone will get to the sessions of their choice." When I got there I was told that people had to sign up to the pitching sessions on their arrival, something as far as I was concerned I had already signed up for on the above tick list. I was told that this was not the case and that all the pitching sessions had now been booked up and I couldn't get on one. This was the main focus of my day and I was quite furious that I wasn't allowed to attend when as far as I was concerned I had already booked my place.
To make matters worse the rest of the events/presentations were basic at best, not really geared to what I would call New Writers trying to break into the industry. The guests simply went over stuff I already knew. It was all basic stuff aimed at people who have just decided to take up writing and not those who have been writing for some while and want a little more insider knowledge to help them along.
Most of the presentations were 45 mins long and so hurried that they were brushing over large chunks of information. The question and answer sessions at the end lasted no longer than 10 minutes allowing for 2-3 questions only. The delegates were then hustled out like sheep to the next presentation by a woman with radio and headset/microphone.
14.00 - 14.45pm Getting in - A Pitching Case Study the fourth presentation was by far the worst. The first 20 minutes were taken up by the presenters telling us their bios, which we already had in our welcome pack. They then talked about how shit the industry was at letting talent in for the next 15 minutes and then during the last five they answered two questions from the audience.
I staid for one last presentation on the legal side of things (contracts, etc) and was treated to a slide show that was brushed over so fast I didn't have time to make any notes. By this time I had had enough and I left for the two and a half hour journey home.
It was a total waste of time as far as I was concerned and I will be writing an email asking for my money back.
UPDATE: I think my lack of enjoyment can be put down to my expectations. Having a degree in scriptwriting I knew pretty much everything that was covered at the New Writers' Day. I was kind of expecting the day to be aimed at those writers who hadn't yet had a sale/commision/option. I wasn't expecting it to be aimed at those people just taking up the craft. 75% of the people who have contacted me seem to agree.
I have been reliably informed by Danny Stack that the Professional Delegates Festival is a winner. I shall be attending that next year.