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
Formby beach is mostly empty of people as much of it is a national secret of tranquil beauty on the English coastline. Looking south one can see Liverpool’s majestic wind turbines and the ferries or ships that cruise towards Ireland. In the north is Blackpool’s coastline; its tower looking tiny from a distance. From the east where I’d come from are the pine trees and grasslands protected by the National Trust.
But I wanted to get closer to the debris which is washed ashore day by day; the glass, plastic containers, fishing lines, bits of wood and beach balls. The beach is awash with crab shells and seaweed. This year alone two bodies were washed ashore; their identity unclaimed.
I walked some distance until I found a rotting carcass. I was hoping it was a small whale but on close inspection I couldn’t decide if it was a sea lion or a dolphin. The animal’s face had been eaten away and its identity unknown. I took photographs while a couple of passersby tried to guess what it was. One man decided it was a porpoise and who was I to argue with him. The body was breaking down and blood oozed out of a hole on the side of its body.
Further up the beach lay the trashed body of a sea bird with it’s ribcage resembling the devoured bird of a Sunday roast; its identity unclaimed.
Watch this space for my new off shoot of my WEBZINE/BLOG/WEBASODE/REALITY TV SERIES: The Day in Life, aka: “I Really Want to Direct.” I invite people from all corners of the film and entertainment industry to take part. What people do for a living has always interested me and living in Hollywood, BIZ employees are everywhere. I will be inviting people to answer a number of set questions: the same set of questions goes to everyone, whether you are a brand new Production Assistant or a seasoned Director or Actor. I want to know what you are doing TODAY in your job, not the overall picture, although that will be covered in your introduction, together with some free publicity for you and your project (links to your website, etc). For example, if you are a Prop Master, you will describe what you are working on TODAY, no matter if you think it is interesting or not. I want to know what you are doing TODAY and why.
Of course, none of you really have to want to direct. I am genuinely interested in what you do and I’m excited to hear from anyone in the BIZ, big or small.
Each person who takes part gets free publicity and a plug for themselves or/and the project they are currently working on; links to websites, etc. And as most Q&A’s can be conducted via email, you can also supply your own photograph, taken on the job. Although I would love to do the honors if and when possible.
I got the idea from a Nancy Meyer feature, Holiday, where Cameron Diaz’s character produces trailers. As viewers, we take for granted what we see on the screen and many people aren’t fully aware of all the uniquely important jobs involved in making a movie. We know the director, producer, and actor gets all the credit and we kind of have an idea what their job entails, but what about the Sound Mixer or the Production Manager, or the Teamster. Giving a title to your career doesn’t tell me much, which is why I wanted to narrow the Q&A down to what the Producer or the Prop Master is actually doing THAT DAY, the whole 12-16 hours.