In just five years the London Screenwriters’ Festival has become the biggest of its kind in the world. Tickets are already selling fast for 2016 so I spoke to program director Chris Jones after completing another successful festival in the fall and asked him how it all began.
“For the three days, over 1,000 screenwriters, filmmakers, producers, practitioners, actors and executives congregate to share ideas, build powerful relationships, hear pitches and get a creative shot in the arm.
Most delegates report massive breakthroughs in their understanding of the business and craft, as well as huge acceleration toward their career goals. However, perhaps the most vital part of the festival is the inspiration and sense of belonging you will experience when you attend. Year on year, delegates report that the community at the festival is one of the main reasons they return.” LondonSWF
Ginger Liu: The London Screenwriters’ Festival is the largest of its kind in the world and now in its 7th year. How did it all begin and who was involved with its conception?
Chris Jones: In 2009 I gave the keynote at a screenwriters festival that subsequently closed. I thought the event was so good, I just had to pick up the ball and so LondonSWF was born. As a filmmaker first and a reluctant writer a very distant second, running a large scale event like LondonSWF really played to my strengths, as well as the infrastructure of my team. It also gave me perspective on what kind of sessions and initiatives we run, particularly things like the Actors Table Read where we get actors to perform scripts or Create50 where we all come together to write and produce a feature film.
GL: Why do you think the LondonSWF is bigger than Los Angeles or New York?
CJ: We are determined to help pave the way for one of our delegates to win an Oscar. We don’t just pay lip service to these kind of ambitions, we actively find ways to help our delegates create amazing opportunities. We also celebrate writers and writing. We promise ‘a great experience’ and strive to deliver a life changing experience. When you commit to changing peoples lives, it kind of raises the game of everyone involved.
GL: How has the festival evolved over the years?
CJ: The festival has grown every year and we strive to add new initiatives each year. Last year was the British Screenwriters’ Awards. This year we have something huge up our sleeves but we can’t announce until we are certain we can deliver it logistically. By now our delegates know and trust us. If we say we will deliver something awesome, we will deliver that promise.
GL: What successes have writers achieved which can be attributed to attending your festival?
CJ: I see other events claiming they discovered or launched the careers of successful people. It’s nonsense to suggest any single event was the moment it all happened. LondonSWF is one step on a long but exciting journey as a creative person. We have helped every delegate who attended any LondonSWF. It’s a privilege to be able to help people committed to creativity and I would never attempt to steal their passion, talent and glory.
GL: What makes the LondonSWF unique to other screenwriting festivals?
CJ: Passion from us to the delegates and speakers. And passion from the delegates. It’s infectious. People come for the speakers and the sessions. People come back for the community, to be part of a tribe of like minded folk who really get who they are down to the soul.
GL: What has surprised you most about the LondonSWF?
CJ: The community. It really does feel like an annual gathering of the tribe. It’s wonderful to be totally immersed with creative people who are all committed to being fully creatively self expressed. The atmosphere is extraordinary. You should come and be part of it, it will blow your mind.
GL: Who should attend the LondonSWF and why?
CJ: If you want to tell stories in any format, LondonSWF will feed you mind. But more importantly, it will reconnect you with your deepest core passion and reasons you began on the journey of creativity. You will leave tired but inspired.
London Screenwriters’ Festival 2016
2 – 5 September, 2016
Regent’s School of Drama, Film & Media
Regent’s University, London, UK
+44 (0) 208 144 0875
Interviewed and edited by Ginger Liu
Baz Luhrmann’s hugely anticipated Australia has all the elements of a classic epic movie but mixed reviews have cooled ambitions for success on the international stage. It is that country’s most expensive film to date with a budget of US$130m, an A-list cast including Oscar-winner Nicole Kidman and fellow AussieHugh Jackman. So much hype has surrounded Luhrmann’s new movie that the tourist industry is counting on the film’s success to uplift the industry’s decline. Talk about pressure. Kidman plays an English aristocrat who inherits a cattle ranch in Australia at the start of WWII. She teams up with cattle drover Jackman after rival owners plot to take her land. The pair drove thousands of animals across the country, fall in love, dodge Japanese bombs, and take in the panoramic vistas.
Milk is the much anticipated new movie from auteur Gus Van Sant and chronicles the assasination of charismatic Harvey Milk in 1978. Milk was the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California. His legacy is still apparent in San Francisco today where Milk is still a hero of the Bay Area.
On November 27 1978, Milk and Mayor George Moscone were shot and killed by another city supervisor, Dan White. White had recently resigned from his position and wanted his job back and blamed his former colleagues for denying his attempt to rescind his resignation from the board. White was convicted of voluntary manslaughter after using the infamous “Twinkie Defense,” sighting his addiction to sugary foods as a factor of his depression and subsequently a cause of his diminished responsibility in the deaths of these two men. White served just five years in jail and was released in January 1984. He committed suicide the following October 1985.
Checking off the essential ingredients that make a James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace didn’t disappoint in the hard, fast action department. From the moment the cinema lights go down, the audience is thrust in to an exciting car chase in Siena, Italy, with our hero destroying yet another gorgeous automobile. This time round it’s the stunning, and expensive, Aston Martin DBS.
At the 2008 Los Angeles Auto Show this week, the famous Bond car was in full view and commanding a $273,000 price tag. But one secret Bond fan paid a whopping $352,000 for the Aston Martin that was totaled at the bottom of Lake Garda, Italy, for the sensational first movie scene.
Checking off the essential ingredients that make a James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace didn’t disappoint in the hard, fast action department. From the moment the cinema lights go down, the audience is thrust in to an exciting car chase in Siena, Italy, with our hero destroying yet another gorgeous automobile. This time round it’s the stunning, and expensive, Aston Martin DBS. Check one, our hero is in a bit of bother; check two, he’s driving a fancy sports car; and check three, he is not in Kansas. Number four on my list is Bond’s sense of humor, which is sadly lacking in Daniel Craig’s follow up to the superior Casino Royal. Fifth and sixth on my list are two of the most essential Bond movie elements of its 23rd outing: the Bond girl and the villain. I realize that this contemporary Bond movie is trying its best to be a real life story of a spy and Quantum of Solace certainly had me holding my armrests throughout the stunning violence that Bond inflicts and endures. But Bond’s villain, Dominic Greene (Matthew Amalric), the chairman of an ecological organization called Greene Planet, is about as sinister a foe as green salad. We know he’s no match for Daniel Craig’s Bond, who is an impressive killing machine. Disappointing still, is the lead lady and lover of Greene, Camille (Olga Kurylenko). She’s a delicate, skinny victim of a Bond girl who doesn’t even land on her back for the good of Her Majesty’s secret service. Where Vespa Lynd (Eva Green) in Casino Royale was tough, sexy, and intelligent, Camille fails to deliver much of any emotion.
But beside the nit picking, Daniel Craig is the most exciting Bond ever and demands our constant attention. The violence is obvious and has consequences; people are in pain, people scream, and people die. And more importantly, the effects, in most part, are real and more awe inspiring than much of the computer generated garbage we see today. I just wanted more: more humor, more evil bad guys, and an incredible knock-out of a female lead. Imagine Angelina Jolie as a Bond girl and then you know where I’m coming from.