London Screenwriters’ Festival

Having never been to a dedicated screenwriting festival before, attending the LSWF was a pleasure in itself, particularly being in the presence of so many talented and friendly people.  Because I’d been invited to speak as part of a panel on game writing, I felt doubly pleased to be there as I was able to impart some of my knowledge and experience.

An event like this enables me to soak up thoughts and ideas from a whole range of people connected in all kinds of ways to the business of screenwriting.  Talking to an agent is very different to talking to a director or a producer or even other game writers.  The beauty there, of course, is that such a broad base gives a greater perspective from which to view my ideas when developing my own creative projects. 

However, all of the above didn’t stop me from feeling a little like a fish out of water.  Although I’m aware of the role of the screenwriter and how scripts fit within the development of film and TV, in theory, I have no professional experience outside of writing for games and the book I wrote on that subject.

The first evening, Thursday, started with drinks and networking at Regent’s College, which immediately brought home that I was entering alien territory.  I’d forgotten the advice I usually give to myself in such situations – everyone is just a person like me and many will likely be in the same situation.  I also should have remembered that most writers are very friendly and probably wouldn’t bite my head off before at least getting the measure of me.  Thankfully, I was rescued from permanent wallflower status by two extremely kind and friendly writers called Jess and Cleo.  And with their help the weekend was off to a great start. 

The evening continued with a talk by Chris Hill and Tom Williams, which was not only excellent, but gave me food for thought for the panel I was on the following day – how film scripts are always pared down to the absolute minimum while in games we often look for more ways to add content.

I was able to grab Chris afterwards for what I thought would be a few minutes of chat and ended up talking for the rest of the evening.  Such an enjoyable way to spend an evening with a truly great guy.  Thanks, Chris.

Friday morning began with a pleasant walk from the hotel to Regent’s College.  I spent quite a bit of the day chatting with people in the green room, but attended a couple of sessions – the keynote opening and the session on what comedy broadcasters are looking for currently.  The first of these set the tone for the weekend and the second was extremely helpful about an area in which I’m interested, having had a go at writing TV comedies.

And so onto the games writing panel.  Tim Clague, Andy Walsh, Antony Johnston, Ed Stern and myself talked about game writing in general, some of the specifics of what’s involved and attempted to answer audience questions as fully as we could.  I know that we panelists enjoyed ourselves, so I hope that the audience did, too.  Judging by the comments afterwards it would seem to have gone down well.  My only thought is that some people may still not be entirely sure of the details of what’s involved when actually at the game writing chalkface.  Perhaps a more structured, workshop-like session would be more appropriate next time.

Game writing panel at LSWF
Antony, Ed, me and Andy. Tim Clague took the photo.

The session was followed by informal chats with anyone who was interested, after which we went down to the student bar for food and beer.  This was great, until the beer ran out.  At least the people and conversation was top notch.

The beginning of Saturday saw a session on agents and how to get one.  Having never had a proper agent, I thought I’d attend and become more informed than I had been.  Much of what they said can be gleaned from reading the right books or information online, but it was interesting to each of them describe their own approach to the issues of unsolicited scripts, hopeful writers, etc.  Afterwards, in the green room, I got talking to one of the agents and if things work out right I may well find myself represented.

Although I spent much of the rest of the morning chatting with various other people, I was unable to catch any further sessions as I left just after lunch to make my way home.  Although I’d planned to leave on Saturday when I booked my travel arrangements, I now wish I’d stayed the full three days.

If anyone is thinking of attending the event next year, I thoroughly recommend it.  I hope they invite me back next year.