Monday, 16 July 2012

BBC Writers Festival

I've left my blog about the BBC writers festival for a few days, just to allow myself to process the events. I arrived the night before the festival, on the Tuesday, and three days later was spat out the other side full of information and fizzing, like a shook up can of pop, with excitement. I've now had enough sleep that I have sorted through everything that happened and can hopefully put it into some semi coherent order.

Drinks on the Tuesday involved meeting lots of lovely writers and since this was the first time at the event for me, meeting other writers was an exciting highlight and to hear what they were working on and to share Twisted Showcase with them was quite brilliant. We might not have put the world to rights, but we put TV & Film to it.

The main event started midday on the Wednesday, but not after breakfast at a pub that claimed to have the 'best sausage in Leeds', they were good but if that's the best sausage Leeds has to offer I'll be surprised. The writers festival kicked off with an opening speech from Peter Bowker, which can be found on the Script Angel blog, thanks Hayley.

After that it was every writer for themselves, as there were choices as to what talk you wanted to go to. Choices which almost everyone i spoken to had forgotten which one they were in. Luckily boards were in the foyer letting you know which talk you were in, I was in Creating Contemporary Coppers.

Chaired by Toby Whithouse, this session featured Ashley Pharoah and Stephen Butchard, and everyone was treated to a tense and brilliant clip from Stephen Butchard's upcoming TV Cop drama 'Good Cop'. Other advice I picked up from this session was to have something unique about your police drama pitch, but don't try to be too unique, which reminded me of what Steven Moffat had to say about Elementary the CBS adaptation of Sherlock Holmes. On the flip side of creating cop shows with a unique element, both writers admitted that a return to the traditional cop show could be the way to go.

The next session I went to was by Peter Bowker and Patrick Spence, entitled Hanging in There and was about really believing in your ideas, your script and doing as it says in the session title. For evidence of how tough it can be Peter Bowker offered up his experience writing Occupation with took four years, twelve drafts with eight of those drafts being from scratch. Ouch.

There was plenty of choice for each session and I won't go into detail on all the session i went to as what is equally important about the festival is meeting new people and chatting in between sessions and across the road in The Wardrobe, which is actually a pub not a wardrobe.

I won't list the people I chatted to, and went on to one of the best curries I've had, there are far too many. By the  end of the night i must have told the story of how we made Twisted Showcase for no money and then got named in the top 25 in the. Guardian at least a hundred times.

Day 2 of the festival started early. I count 9 am as early, after a cup of tea and some more good chat I was ready for another day which kicked off with a John Yorke masterclass. After which i went to The Reality of Film a session with Joe Oppenheimer, Executive Producer for BBC films. He revealed that BBC films have an annual budget of 11 million, are obsessed with cast, they have stopped doing romantic comedies, make 8-9 films per year, amongst other advice and statistics.

The last two session involved Meeting the commissioners of BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky, and then an entertaining session with Toby Whithouse and Jack Thorne about setting up fantastical worlds where one of the main messages was that budget necessity can become a virtue.

So, all in all, a great festival with interesting sessions, but the highlight for me was probably meeting so many interesting people all with the same passion as me, writing. Also I got to introduce many people i admire to Twisted Showcase including Toby Whithouse and Jack Thorne and then to put the cherry on top since I wasn't sure of my way to the station a walk and a chat with Peter Bowker as my guide. Who inspired me just as much on that walk as he did in his introductory speech.

Bring on next year.

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