Highlights from the London Screenwriters’ Festival 2012

Filtering the Twittersphere to bring you the best tweets on writing from the London Screenwriters’ Festival 2012 taking place this weekend (Oct 26-28).

Here is a selection of tweets, not all tweets and certainly not from all sessions (for that you have to attend!).
Favourite tweets will be marked red.

Read their timeline on Twitter for notes from sessions:
@momentsoffilm @teenierussell @BrideOfChris @vexentrix @TomKerevan
@2weddings @dumbashtray @alli_and_that @liam_hughes @jjwardy
@dantheguyrosen @richarddinnick @Pipbest @LewSwift @Sofluid

Organisers
@londonswf

@Bang2write (script editor, writer, follow for writing tips and opportunities)
@livingspiritpix

Speakers
@AronsonLinda (writer, consultant); @julianfriedmann (agent, author of writing books);
@NoelClarke (writer-director); @RapturedTV (web series) @britwebseries
@PhilipShelley1 (script editor); @Julie_Gray (writer, script consultant);
@jazzchantoozie (writer, comedy editor of Huffington Post); @heatherAtaylor (screenwriter, director);
@thewritertype (comedy writer); @RolandMooreTV (TV writer); @ScriptwritingUK (writer, director);
@dmeckhart (screenwriter); @lukeryansays (producer, writer); @mrtonylee (writer);
@MorrisTess (writer); @PitchfestBob @Screenwriter12 (writer, producer); @wisemandebbie (composer);
@saucyhorse (digital marketing); @laragreenway (producer, director & writer); @mrdaveturner (screenwriter);
@frazer_lee (writer, director (horror)); @HayleyMckenzie1 (development consultant, script editor);
@Big_Light (Frank Spotnitz’s Big Light Productions); @YVONNEGRACE1 (follow her for into on writing soaps and series)

 

Selected tweets on writing:

Session: The Creative Screenwriter with Exclusive Book Launch
with Craig Batty & Zara Waldeback

“Format and rules are not enough. Must learn how to bring your creativity to screenwriting.”

“People go to see films for a story not to see if the film fits a format. Develop your ear for story!”
(via @vexentrix)

* * *

David Yates: “great writing is about great characters”
(via @BrideOfChrist)

* * *

Produced Or Rejected : Is Your Script The Best That It Could Be?
with Kate Leys

“The real story drives the movie, the character is struggling before the film even starts.

Now the character has no choice but to deal w/ the issue that has always existed.

First comes the writing, a rough draft; then the talking with a developer for example.

The film hook is what some refer to as a logline.

Keep reviewing your hook to make sure script is still following the hook.

The theme is in the movie throughout.

In a Billy Wilder film, the theme is everywhere, from camera angles to costumes.

Movie story characters are BIG – very clear and well defined personality.

Characters are always flawed; we are all flawed.

Characters should not be likeable, but we get them!

Characters want things, it’s not about what they do but what they WANT.

You need to know your character inside out.

Characters do not need to be explained to the audience.

Conflict really matter. Things have to go wrong!

Always ask “what can I do to make things worse for this character?” in every single scene.

Worse is defined as the worst thing that can happen to that specific character.

The ending is all about the end of the emotional journey.

People will usually remember the emotional ending, not the real ending.

Everything that happens in a story is connected by a central idea; everything that happens, happens because of something else.

Key questions to ask: Whose story is this? What does the person want? Why can’t they have it?

What do they need to realise/ understand? What’s stopping them?

What does the character have at the end that they did not have at the end? What is the question asked and what is the answer?

When there’s enough conflict it’s easier to write it.
(via @teenierussell)

“Things that go wrong: 6 accidentally leaving the story off the page. The big thing happens away from the page.

Things that go wrong 8: 30 pages of set up. Don’t show, don’t tell, dramatise! Throw rocks at characters.

Key questions: what do they have at the end that they didn’t have at the beginning?

Beauty is 4 words: Significance, unexpectedness, economy, inevitability.
(via @TomKerevan)

Kate Leys is a script editor; as head of development she has worked on films such as Four Weddings and a Funeral, Trainspotting, The Full Monty, Girl With a Pearl Earring, Leaving Las Vegas, Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead. She has taught at the Northern Film School, University of London and National Film School, and been a visiting lecturer at other universities; she speaks regularly at events (such as the London Screenwriters’ Festival), evaluates screenwriting courses, etc. Find out more on her website here

BAFTA Guru: Kate Leys offers some advice to writers – Tell The Story

* * *

Dynamic Dialogue with Pilar Alessandra

“Movie dialogue realistic but keep people’s attention. ‘on the nose’ is like truth. Verbal strategy to dialogue.
(via @BrideOfChrist)

Verbal Strategies we use: lying, flattery, avoiding subject, exaggeration, self deprecation, wise cracking, complaining.

Most powerful verbal strategy is silence.

Remember that characters already know things and won’t say it out loud but still need to communicate to audience.

Finding voices in dialogue, everyone speaks their own ‘language’.

People also speak according to profession, eg, lawyer speak.

Audience love the patterns and verbal rules the characters have, when the rule is broken there’s a change.

Go through your dialogue and try to simplify.

Top 10 tips for dialogue: Come in late leave early / cut down monologues/ play verbal games / trade lines (trademark line).

Top 10 tips: show subtext/ use language of character/ cut the chatter/ eliminate static phone call scenes.

Top 10 tips: end scenes w/ string verbal “buttons” / remember character’s agenda and strategy.

(via @teenierussell)

Allow yourself to write on the nose dialogue, then cross it out and replace it with an action.

To avoid over-mononloguing, circle a single sentence from monologue that sums it up. Usually 1st or last line.

(via @vexentrix)

* * *

Simon Beaufoy Q&A:

“Layer scenes so they don’t get cut, 3-4 things going on in a scene at once, themes, jokes, character development.
(via @jjwardy)

When action dictates character you’ve got melodrama and a problem. You need to match the two.
(via @momentsoffilm)

* * *

You ARE the Hero of the Journey
with Julie Gray:
(see her website: Just Effing Entertain Me, find her on Twitter @Julie_Gray)

“All movies are character-driven and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Writers need to use ‘observation, empathy and the deep well of personal experience.’

What’s YOUR dark night of the soul? What was the painful journey of transformation YOU made?

Don’t fall in love with who your character is on page 1. You want to love who they are on page 100.
(via @jazzchantoozie)

Writers have a directors vision already. You wrote it!
(via @TomKerevan)

If a meteor hurtles to earth I don’t give a shit unless I care about the character who might get killed.

Character is about we not about me. Writers are observers. We’re weird. This is what makes your writing.. Empathy.

Our deep well of experience is what gives us our understanding of what the character goes through.
(via @momentsoffilm)

New writers are afraid to put their characters through hell.

Great writers write about what scares them, what makes them uncomfortable.
(via @vexentrix)

Write 150 words on your character on page 1. Write 150 words on your character on page 100. [the latter] is the one you fall in love with.

Make your character vulnerable.
(via @2weddings)

* * *

Will Massa: A good logline includes core elements to suggest a good story: such as sense of character; character + conflict.

Set ups + Pay offs: Match your ending to your beginning. Ask a question, then answer it.
(via @Bang2write)

* * *

DAY 2

“Even from the worst feedback, you can get something out of it. Rejection is the norm in filmmaking.

David Varela: An artistic temperament can only be afforded by amateurs.
(via @heatherAtaylor)

* * *

Character and Structure: Twins Separated at Birth
with Julie Gray

“Tom Cruise in Rainman is a jerk, wants father’s business and money, but really needs father’s love and approval.

Characters want something from page 1, something attainable, but want is usually not what is needed.

General want is love/ affirmation, for example; specific want is more material and won’t lead to what you really need.

Most inner needs have to do with self forgiveness or approval from someone close and dear.

Inner need is usually a backstory.

Try to relate to inner need, do not write what you do not know about.

[Character] will make bad decision after bad decision based on an active flaw.

The movie does not drive the character, the character drives a movie.
(via @teenierussell)

* * *

Justin Young:

“A story – 30 scenes; B story – 20 scenes; C stories – 10 scenes. (writing for Holby City)

Each scene must do something to drive the action forward … NOT because the character says something funny.

You need enough humility to listen but enough ego to fight your corner. We want writers who hit the ball back over the net.
(via @Bang2write)

Peter Bloore on business of script development, he asks:

“When do you agree to compromise on your vision to “get the film made”?”
(via @dumbashtray)

* * *

Dramatic Tension… how to crank it up
with Mary Kate O Flanagan

“Two dramatic tensions are half as dramatic as one.

Mystery is the opposite to dramatic tension; if the audience doesn’t know what’s happening they’ll leave.

The magic happens between “will you?” and “I will”‘

(on sequence approach) Once a sequence ends, what’s the new tension?

Put characters into situations where they might have 2 options but both suck.

Give the audience a private moment with character where they take in what they’ve just done or gone through.
(via @teenierussell)

Keep the story moving with dramatic tension, but let your prot stop and feel the effects every so often. Earn those moments!

(via @liam_hughes)

* * *

Luke Ryan:

“Distinguish concept from premise. The premise is the way into the big idea. Concept most important.

Loglines have to be vital. You must be able to write the hell out of it. Be motivated.

(via @BrideOfChrist)

The ‘but’ (unexpected & ironic obstacle) and the ‘must’ (grow in a way to triumph) are the most important parts of the longline.

(via @alli_and_that)

* * *

ScriptLab (creating drama series) with @PhilipShelley1

“In the best returning drama series, you know what happens in the last episode when you start writing the first”

(via @Bang2write)

Rejection is permanent. It doesn’t matter how high up you are, you just get rejected by more important people.

In soaps, not only think about the end hook and the midpoint hook, think about the hook in each scene.

The best stories come out of a character’s foibles and flaws.

Jokes and character specific dialogue in spec scripts is memorable.

(via @alli_and_that)

* * *

Stephen May on produceability

“What’s the primary emotion you’re trying to elicit from your audience? Use that to think of genre.

Actors love reaction shots, something to do rather than say.

Don’t forget about the minor characters, they have reactions too.

(via @teenierussell)

What emotion are you trying to elicit? If you can do it page after page, scene after scene, you’re a screenwriter.

For universality, think about core experiences that all of us have had: family, the need for love, the pain of betrayal etc.

Write a bloody good part. Actors want to show off without words – write stuff for actors to DO. And write personal pain!

(via @jazzchantoozie)

Write pain and emotional experience to improve saleability.

(via @jjwardy)

* * *

Ralf Little:

“As an actor you want to be challenged and taken out of your comfort zone.”

(via @teenierussell)

* * *

DAY 3

The Non-linear Minefield
with Linda Aronson

“Dialogue is a very slow way to transmit information.

(via @LewSwift)

Non-linearity turns your film into a mystery story.

Content defines structure.

Parallel narrative types: tandem narrative (same time frame, same theme different adventures such as Traffic).

Types of parallel narrative: multiple protagonist, people together on a mission/ adventure (physical or emotional).

Double journey such as Brokeback Mountain – 2 characters travelling in either same or opposite directions or parallel.

Time jump structure: flashback can be simple or complex.

Flashback and multi-protagonist didn’t mix in the past but it’s no longer the case.

Writers should be aware of flashbacks, they are still used a lot.

If a story ends at the end of act2 turning point, you would usually end with a tragedy.

Pulp Fiction opens with 2nd act turning point.

There are many types of flashback.

Opening at 2nd act turning point gives the film a lot of energy, the audience wants to investigate.

In flashback drama you’ll usually have a detective character asking the questions such as a journalist or policeman.

Flashback goes wrong if it opens w/ the wrong scene.

Starting on the right scene is very important as audience will think the story is about that scene.

If you use flashbacks you need to understand them.

If you open with a flashback it has to be relevant.

Always jump of cliff-hangers but make sure they are the right cliff-hangers.

Flashbacks are happening all the time and could fix tired genres.

(via @teenierussell)

Content dictates structure. Your story will tell you what family of non linear film you are in.

To write non linear films you have to educate yourself. The form is always changing. Art changes.

You have to know what type of non linear film you want to write. You cant just say I want to write non linear.

Non linear films can hold together exposition heavy films by creating mystery. Eg 21 grams.

(via @TomKerevan)

Using flashbacks? Jump on cliffhangers! Make them want a flashback!

(via @dantheguyrosen)

Linda Aronson (@AronsonLinda): In multiple protag form, Don’t think ‘a group of characters gets together AND…’ think: ‘a group of characters gets together BECAUSE’

* * *

The Future of Storytelling: Moving from ‘Writer’ to ‘Creator’
with Luke Ryan

“Technology has become intermediate between creator and consumer.

Traditional distribution systems are breaking down but consumers still want creative content.

Direct communication with audience means immediate feedback.

Important to move from writer to creator.

(via @teenierussell)

The consumers are coming back around to become creators these days and it’s easier to become a creator of media.

Creators are now able to go directly to their audiences thanks to social media and the web.

The downside is there is a lot of noise in these markets. Not easy to be your own marketing/distribution. But not impossible.

Make sure your project looks relatively nice then deliver it to distributors who are looking for content.

There isn’t a single thing on iTunes that hasn’t sold. But Apple does take a chunk of the money too.

Marketing costs continue to go up. It’s still noisy in film world.

The two things you have to tap in to – awareness and definite interest.

When people have awareness and definite interest, you can minimise your spend on marketing.

Comedy trailers are hard – people have been burned before by all the funny jokes in the trailer. Word of mouth sells comedy.

TV is losing younger viewers because of the competition for eyeballs. Tablets, phones, computers etc.

How do you get your audience to reconnect with your shows when they are being challenged for their attention elsewhere?

Social media is the way to market yourself or your work independently.

You are more than a writer. You’re a creator. Realise there’s a home for all of your work – find them and grow them.

The old distribution solutions are an illusion. They may get you somewhere faster but you don’t need them to reach your audience.

Find the world and characters you want to explore, then find the most effective platform for your story.

Find story assets that appeal to differing demographics to pull a large audience in.

Transmedia blends content and marketing together, which expands the audience and brings money back to the producer.

Think about where your core story exists – film, tv, games – then where other elements of your story can exist alongside.

Think about shifting the timeline for your various platforms – ie. film 1 is set in present. Webseries is prequel.

Film is popular and communal. But can only go so deep, expensive and relatively the same for everyone.

TV allows for greater story depth & casual. Less investment per visit. But is interrupted narrative, reliant on a large following.

Literature is convenient, portable, immersive and leisurely. But time and thought intensive.

Immersive games have greater story depth, can be explored. But time consuming, physical skill. Expensive to buy and make.

(via @alli_and_that)

Future of film: feature film studios bought by tech companies and rise of direct distribution indie companies.

(via @dantheguyrosen)

Embracing social media is becoming vitally important for creatives, start now and build your own audience.

(via @VanessaMayfield)

A writer is a creator of worlds and people that we emotionally connect to.

(via @Rosaglover6)

Also check out Screen Australia’s “How to write a transmedia bible” by Gary P Hayes http://ow.ly/1PdWym  (PDF)

(via @rcosgrove)

* * *

Julie Gray

“Need a killer title – as Julie Gray would say, just effing entertain me! Needs to reflect the story!

Draft 5 is the *real* ‘first draft’. Get lots of feedback!

Knock 10% off the production budget by cutting 10 pages. Be economical – think like a producer/director.

(via @Sofluid)

* * *

The Truth: with X-files Writer and Producer Frank Spotnitz

(on X-files) “We really were figuring it out as we went along. Figuring out the mythology.

I kept coming up with mythology episodes that were unproduceable. When they figured out how to pay for them they became tentpoles.

The relationship between Mulder & Scully. X-Files was the mini movie version of television. Gender stereotypes were flipped.

Almost inevitably it began with an unexplainable crime. Each episode was driven by Mulder & Scully’s arguments. Kept it fresh.

The contradiction of scientist Scully believes in God & Mulder believes in anything but. Looking for higher intelligence.

Even the ickyest monster episode had ideas to help you make sense of life.

Some of the best works are about something. Stuff you can apply to your life.

Hunted: What if Jason Bourne was a person. Killing people. Was an idea for Sam & why she is that way, needs to be invulnerable.

Also these private armies, security firms & spy networks is a compelling issue in our world now.

The more passionate you are the more likely you’ll reach an audience. Cynical playing the odds won’t.

As a process the writers room is really successful. They argue out everything (cards on cork boards) and he moderates & solves.

In a good process the answer to probs feels right to all the writers.

The process is about putting the work first and your ego second If I can make your script 5% better why wouldn’t I? Or you mine.

A writers room is helpful in keeping it fresh. We pushed each other. A new script every eight days forces you.

Millennium: Season two changed as they couldn’t keep running it simultaneous to X-Files Changes in showrunners changed the feel.

(via @momentsoffilm)

Good research gives you a confidence & authenticity that you can’t fake.

(via @LewSwift)

* * *

Luke Ryan scriptlab:

“How big is the idea? How little can I make it for (but still make it good)? What is the return?

Do you give the ending away in a pitch? Always, YES. I need to know what I am investing in.

2 elements of a successful pitch: evangelism vs. creative delivery – which is who you are vs what’s on the page.

The shorter the better. I often know within 1 minute whether I’m gonna go with it or not.

Luke Ryan also reiterates: genre, audience + logline as things to nail in a great pitch. Plus tell us the ending!

Ppl have 20-30 things to look at. Don’t leave us wanting more, let us know EXACTLY what we’re dealing with.

(via @Bang2write)

* * *

Stephen May:

“Know the primary emotion that you want your audience to feel. Don’t have secondary story lines that pull against it!”

(via @liam_hughes)

* * *

Writing and Producing Mad Men: In Conversation with Lisa Albert
(Mary Kate O Flanagan)

“We had no idea anyone would ever watch this. After the first season we became more aware of things.

(on a particular episode) This is a Peter episode and we wanted to establish a frat boy style. Plus his account background that was important.
When his wife comes in Peggy is not introduced, only Don. Don is an asshole. Pete wants Don’s approval. The ep is Pete vs Don.
I look at that scene and they are all pretending to be grownups! They’re just babies.

The more specific details are the better. Hotel becomes ‘The Pierre’ in the script that adds something less generic.

Betty contrasts to the adult world of sexual mistakes and has this purer life. She pretends bad things aren’t happening.

Setting up a story world and characters we had to explore who they were. Learning Betty was infantilised helped define behaviour.

The Betty in Season 5 is more grown up.

We have a psychiatrist we use as a resource.

Betty is terrified of turning into the same as her divorced neighbour. She’s looking for how she’s different, finds they’re alike.

On Don: I don’t know how John Ham makes us root for him but he does. It’s all him.

We wanted Trudi’s to be a loving family. Nicknames were part of that. They contrast with the Campbells.

The original writers room was Seven. A lot of us had read the pilot seven years before it was produced. It got him Sopranos.

Back then nobody wanted to do period drama. Playboy Club, Pan Am failed. The secret to success is write a complex show.

We operate on the premise that everyone has secrets, a face they present and a face they don’t. Most shows have that.

Mandatory, we all read Revolutionary Road 1st season. I try & read the New Yorker. We have advertising advisors.

(via @momentsoffilm)

* * *

Writing Horror: Should You Take a Stab?
with Frazer Lee, Steven Sheil, Micho Rutare, Signe Olynyk

“Fear is universal.”

(via @teenierussell)

Horror session panelists say that one reason for zombie popularity is that we all fear loss of individuality.

If you want to write horror, be a scholar of the genre, know it and from there surprise your audience.

(via @dmeckhart)

* * *

Blog posts:

London Screenwriters’ Festival Day 1 by screenwriter juggler (@writerjuggler)

London Screenwriters’ Festival Day 2 by screenwriter juggler

David Yates, In Conversation by Leilani Holmes (@momentsoffilm)

Simon Beaufoy Q&A by Leilani Holmes

Julie Gray – You ARE the Hero of the Journey by Leilani Holmes

Richard Holmes – Feature Finance, Filming & Distribution by Leilani Holmes

Dr. Raj Persaud – Mind of Madness by Leilani Holmes

The Great British Pitchfest – You’re In The Room! by Leilani Holmes

See Blog and Storify Link Collection for more

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