As it was my first invite to the festival I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but I was delighted to find it was a much more relaxed environment than other festivals I've been to. The speakers weren't hidden away in a green room and were very approachable. It was just a bunch of writer friends getting together to talk about what they love.
I even got to meet and chat with one of my writing heroes Jed Mercurio, without making a complete gibbering tit of myself... I think.
But the best bit, besides meeting Jed and the free food and wine, was the great advice from the speakers. Because everyone there was an established writer with at least one credit, the speakers didn't need to cover the basics and were much more informative. It was exactly what I needed.
As someone who meticulously plans what he writes, I found it very refreshing, and also a little scary to hear Jed Mercurio talk about how he never knows the ending of the series when he begins the writing process. On series three of LINE OF DUTY, Jed even went back and rewrote the first episode to kill off the planned series villain, played by the brilliant Daniel Mays. When I heard that my writer OCDs screamed at me not to listen anymore and run out of the room. I ignored them and I'm actually going to try and write a pilot episode of something new (without planning it... eek!) and just see where it goes... I may, however, end up dribbling in the corner of the room staring blankly at the wall, mumbling over and over to myself, "there must be a plan, there must be a plan, there must be a plan." We'll see how it goes.
Here are some of the other many valuable bits of advice I took from the day.
- Unheard Voices: Kay Mellor - Drama is writing about people in society who don't have a voice.
- Authentic plotting is very sought after. Research is key to this.
- Pitching: Don't over prepare or you'll lose the punch to your pitch and it will be in danger of sounding flat.
- Pitching: They want to hear what has driven you to write this story. What is it about the project that makes you passionate?
- Children's TV: Good drama. International. Push everything further.
- Returning series: Think the unthinkable and see how that changes things. Be bold.
If you have a TV credit, make sure you apply for next year. It's a brilliant and extremely informative day out.