Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Mad Rush Home

Screenwriters' Festival 2008 Day Three:

Woke up early and ate a full English in the food tent as usual.

First up was Terry Pratchett and who they adapted The Hogfather and The Colour Of Magic for Sky One. It was interesting to see which bits they left out and why, and which bits they moved around to make it work more visually. The most interesting thing for me was how much power and control over the decision making Terry had. They referred to him on almost every decision. If he didn't like something it wouldn't go in.

Next up was Kay Mellor. I was particularly looking forward to this one as I was a big fan of her TV series Playing The Field. She talked about the struggle she had to get Band Of Gold made and it was interesting to know that it was turned down several times before it was eventually snapped up. It just goes to show that even someone as bankable as Kay has difficulties selling their work to networks.

Last was Jane Tranter. She was bright, bubbly and very open on what she looks for and how writers can get there work commissioned by the BBC. She was very supportive of the BBC Writersroom, but when asked how many people have had their series commissioned through the Writersroom, she said she couldn't remember a single one. That's not to say that won't happen in the future though, so I still feel it's a very reliable source for getting into TV. After all writers who have sent in their work have gone on to write for some of the long running drama series produced by the BBC.

When Jane was finished I was out that door like a shot and in my car, as I had to be home for work at 6pm. The bloody stupid sat-nav sent me up a narrow country lane swearing to me that I could join the main road, but just ended up taking me round in circles for twenty minutes when I discovered the road it wanted me to go down had been fenced off. If I hadn't disobeyed that female voice and turned left when it wanted me to go right I'd still be somewhere outside of Cheltenham, sleeping rough in my car and living off people's pets.

Eventually I did get home or I wouldn't be here writing this. I will definitely be going next year. Can't wait.

Friday, July 11, 2008

How To Pitch While Hungover

Screenwriters' Festival 2008 Day 2:

I don't remember much of this day, because for some reason someone had filled my head with cotton wool and turned my tongue into sandpaper. I have brief memory flashes of room 109 the night before, but very little after.

And I found this photo on my phone.

Don't remember taking that at all.

Three great things happened on this day and are listed here in no particular order:

1) Tony Jordan, was a fantastic man he his, an all round entertainer. His Scriptbites session was fantastic. There were twelve of us sat around the table and another layer three people deep crowded around trying to listen to the man's inspiring words. Not that they needed to strain to hear, because Tony was very loud. I guess he learnt that from when he used to be a market trader. It was a shame we only got half an hour with him, but what a half hour....and he only answered one question. And it's official his sister does live a few doors down from my parents.

2) The man, the legend that is James Moran. His scriptbites session broke all records lasting a good three hours and a bit, mainly because Cat Randle kept hurling questions at him one after the other, unrelentlessly. The poor man even neglected to tell us he needed the toilet and had to make an emergency dash. And the fool came back for more questions. He could have kept on running, but he didn't. Sucker!!! I think James even learnt things about himself that day.

3) The producer who sat down next to me while I was quietly trying to recover from my hangover and insisted I pitch him two of my projects. The first went bad, but the second he seemed to like. Nice one. If you can pitch with a hangover you can pitch anywhere and at any time.
Went to bed early as I needed to drive home the next day.

Final day coming soon.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Mike Leigh

So, what did the great man himself talk about? Here is the gist of the conversation, as I admit I didn't make too many notes because I was so wrapped in what he had to say.

Mike always focuses on one project at a time, giving his all to that project until it is complete. He doesn't allow anything else to get in the way of that creative process.

Film making for Mike is a very "organic" process. You're making films not making scripts. The end product, the film, is the artifact, not the screenplay, which is why Mike only ever starts with an outline and not a fully written script.

It's in the rehearsals where the script takes shape, and the scenes are defined and created, through the improvisation of the actors. In Vera Drake during the rehearsals none of the actors playing Vera's family knew that her character had been performing illegal abortions, it was only when Mike introduced the character of the police detective that the actors became aware of the situation.

Mike also stressed that film is as much about place as it is character. Place can be a character on it's own.

See, I told you I didn't make many notes, but inspiring stuff none the less.

More to follow soon.

Friday, July 04, 2008

"Hi, my name is Mike."

As I shook his dry and wrinkly hand I couldn't help but note his shabby appearance. He wore combat trousers, which although clean, looked like they had been lived in for a while. The trousers hung from his skinny frame held in place by a flimsy pair of blue braces. His shirt, like his trousers, creased and worn with use, and his hair and beard, gray and unruly. However, it is was those brown eyes that sparkled with intelligence that told me there was more to Mike than his outward appearance. But more of Mike later.

The Screenwriters' Festival 2008 - Day One - Tuesday 1st July 2008

The journey down the previous afternoon had been mostly uneventful, the only exception being when my sat-nav decided to have some fun and suddenly announced, "at the roundabout take the first exit," while I was on a duel carriageway, miles from the next junction, or any roundabout for that matter. I think my exact words were, "what f&%king roundabout you stupid piece of technological crap?!?!?!?"

Anyway I did managed to arrive at my destination, meet up with a few others and down a beer or two before going to bed.

Tuesday was fantastic. There were so many people I knew at the festival and it was such a great atmosphere. But I wasn't there to meet up with mates, I was there to listen to the speakers and network myself to near prostitute proportions. I met one director who was interested in a film script I was pitching for a friend, and I also got to chat to several useful contacts to whom I could send copies of my various projects. Not bad for my first day.

The writing for comics session was really interesting and gave me the chance to finally meet the pointy shoe wearing David Bishop, author and ex editor of 2000AD.

A good day's networking was followed by a good night's drinking. I don't remember the Harvester and only a flash or two of Piers Beckley's now infamous room party. I think I left at about one to one thirty as my wife informed me I phone her and babbled absolute shit for fifteen minutes before she hung up on me.

Back to Mike. The man in question was Mike Leigh, multi award winning director. A fantastic talker. His beliefs and obvious love of film shone through, but what was most impressive was his strength, his absolute belief that his way was the only way. A true inspiration.

Day two to follow soon.