Well one week has gone by since the end of this years London Screenwriter’s Festival and I’m trying to cling tight to the elated feeling of possibility. I left Regent’s College last Sunday feeling like everyone was moving in the same direction together, with the same purpose and open-mindedness. The biggest thing you get from the festival is not a potential development deal, or a myriad of business cards, or even inspiration – but a feeling that you could walk up and start a conversation with anyone and that they’d be open and interested to hear about everything you’ve been working on. I got the impression that the people on the tube as I made my way home didn’t quite share the same optimistic feeling.
Anyway, I left the festival with so much, and while I steadfastly try to avoid the pull into mundanity of daily life, I’m also doing quite a good job of keeping the ball in the air as with regards to projects and motivation.
But here are the top things I took away from the festival this year:
1) Keep in mind a clear idea of where YOU actually want to go
I found it very easy during the festival, and indeed even before it, to get wrapped up in other people’s goals and paths to progress. I know what I’m working on, but all too often I would get distracted by people talking about distributors, sales agents or even Hollywood. I would start to try to understand my own projects in terms of how they could be developed towards one of these ends. However by the end of the festival I had been given a clear reminder of my chosen route to market – namely through online content – and that the best way to guarantee an audience for my work, is by building that audience myself and taking them from one project to another. I left the festival with a much clearer and realistic idea of my own goals, and I’ve been able to dive straight into reaching them.
2) Don’t be afraid of success
I think this was something I realised half-way through the festival – that much of the time it’s really easy to subsume yourself in whatever script you’re writing, and further give yourself excuses as to why you shouldn’t currently be pushing all your projects to the maximum potential. Because I am a film-maker it is very easy for me to just concentrate on ‘writing for myself’, thereby giving myself an excuse why it isn’t necessary for me to be pitching my ideas to big producers etc. Other common excuses I heard (and made myself) were “I didn’t feel I had anything to pitch” or “I’ll get back in touch with people when I feel the project is ready”. Now there’s a lot of sense in those comments, but as Leonardo Da Vinci said, “A work of art is never completed, only abandoned”, and sooner or later you need to give yourself the push to present your work to people who have the ability and resources to take you further. My resolution from the festival is to get savvy about approaching producers, pitching and making sure my projects have the best opportunity of being a success.
3) There is no big secret to success
Besides the need for some kind of talent, success only comes through lots of hard work. I’ve always been spurred on by Woody Allen’s quote “80% of success is just turning up” – meaning you’ve got to get ahead of the crowd and make it to the finish line. By following through and finishing a script/film/project you’ve already done most of the hard work, beating the majority of people who only sit and talk about it. But more importantly, there is no great barrier to the people who can make things happen for you. The secret is to simply take the initiative of getting in touch with them, pitch your project and see whether they say yes or no. If it’s a no, then you move on to the next person, or pitch the next project. But there is no secret language, or secret way of presenting or expressing an idea – it’s just about passion and enthusiasm.
These are the things which I have left with in the forefront of my mind. 2013 is going to be a year of driving projects forward and expanding audiences – being big and bold and loud. Not doing things on a small scale, but taking them to the maximum of their potential.