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