We may only just be creeping into March, and treading with trepidation out of lockdown, but it’s certainly already been an action-packed opening to 2021 for the London Screenwriters' Festival.
Successor to the former International Screenwriters Festival in Cheltenham, the London Screenwriters' Festival has traditionally been held at Regent’s University London since 2010. Led by the wonderfully affable Chris Jones, the London SWF team passionately deliver a year-round programme of workshops, events and initiatives for screenwriters and those eager to dive deeper into the world of story. And, in response to the inciting incident of Coronavirus, LondonSWF has expanded its universe. Over 24 days, LondonSWF365 has brought 1,000 screenwriters and industry professionals together for an inspiring online edition of “the world’s biggest professional screenwriting event”.
“Of course, getting together online isn’t the same as in person”, explains Chris. “But those who have engaged have absolutely loved it, the hard-core LSWF attendees love it and people who can’t normally attend have been able to. The positives outweigh the negatives”. LondonSWF devotees evidently feel the same. The same number of tickets were sold for the month-long virtual event as the live festival!
With more than 100 speakers delivering stunning sessions on story, character, structure and more, LondonSWF365 has proved a welcome portal of inspiration for its community of writers and filmmakers. Kicking off proceedings on the 5th, Scott Myers delivered a fascinating lesson on the history and development of screenwriting. Peter Craig, the mastermind writer behind The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Parts 1 and 2 and The Batman, followed to delve behind the scenes of the Hollywood blockbuster. Delegates were then served a nostalgia-inducing treat with a screening of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves with live commentary from the film’s screenwriter, Pen Densham. The following week, star Thomas G.Waites called in to help dissect John Carpenter’s The Thing. Among the many other highlights included storytelling tips from Inside Out’s Meg LeFauve and Lorien McKenna, Jeff Deverett on producing for Netflix as well as sessions with legendary film editor Paul Hirsch and “Hollywood’s foremost story professional” Chris Lockhart. Elsewhere, the festival’s interactive Zoom sessions on Pitching have proved a hit whilst delegates have also been able to take some mindful time with Stretchersise for Screenwriters. And, with all live sessions available on demand for a year, the £60 ticket price is an absolute bargain for the quality and quantity of content on offer!
Yet, just as a good story thrives on conflict, so does the writer and Chris is equally clear on the current challenges facing screenwriters in an unexpectedly changed and evolving world. “Every writer over the last year has been writing. There is a backlog so producers will cherry-pick from the best and overlook the newcomers. There’s gold in the hills. It’s just that everyone is scrambling for it”. Film, TV and literary agent Julian Friedmann also voiced this dilemma during a session. “It’s not a great time to be a screenwriter. But it’s a great time to be a storyteller”.
Capitalising on its February slot, LondonSWF365 has ushered in a creative wave of possibility and positivity for a plethora of international writers and artists dedicated to transcend troubled times and bring great stories to the screen. Certainly, the community feeling of passionate storytellers brought together from all over the world has been simply extraordinary. “It’s a Festival with a capital F”, affirms Chris. “I never set out to create a screenwriting conference. If we are able to be a big success for the screenwriter, that’s fabulous. It’s a privilege to be part of their journey”.
All sessions are available on-demand here… www.ScreenwritersFestival.Online