INTERVIEW WITH… LUCY V HAY OF LONDON SCREENWRITERS’ FESTIVAL
Today we have something a little different to the interviews we do with people who run film festivals, today we’re focusing on a screenwriting festival which of course is the first of many steps to making your film. So talking with us here we have the ever social media present Lucy V Hay to tell us about this year’s London Screenwriters’ Festival happening 24th to 26th October. Each year the festival features a plethora of workshops, seminars, talks and pitching sessions with some big active names in the industry – in the past the line-up has included Tony Jordan, Andrew Ellard, Lynda La Plante, Iain Smith, Tony Grisoni and more. Tickets can be purchased here (before they sell out!)
Tell us a bit about your job, and what you do…
Which one?! I’m a script reader and script editor, so all LondonSWF’s script reading for initiatives, contests etc is usually outsourced to my consultancy Bang2write, as well as my crack team of readers. We usually have in the region of 150-400 applications every time LSF runs a competition, though 50 Kisses got in excess of two THOUSAND. It’s important then my readers know what they’re doing: I want writers to feel safe with LondonSWF. As a result, all my readers have worked and/or interned at literary agents, production companies as well as done screenwriting and script reading courses. I’ve worked with many of them since the beginning of the festival too; creating strong relationships with reliable readers is very important. Some of them are now agents, filmmakers or run their own script consulting services.
We’re interested to hear what the role breakdown is of people that attend. Is it mostly screenwriters (obviously the namesake) or do producers, directors .etc. attend en masse too?
In terms of delegates, it’s a screenwriting festival, so obviously a very large proportion of people attending are screenwriters. However, lots of writer/directors and writer/producers attend too, because screenwriters are finally getting the message it’s up to THEM to make things happen, rather than wait for validation via being “picked”. That said, we run the script labs and speed pitching event every year and we get top names in the agency and prodco world coming to hear writers’ projects and pitches, plus there are always directors and filmmakers actively looking for writers at the festival, plus screenwriters who refer other screenwriters they’ve met. I’ve genuinely lost count of the number of career-advancing collaborations and deals I’ve heard my “Bang2writers” have made, directly facilitated by their attendance at the festival. This is what it’s all about!
What’s your advice to someone who’s attending the festival for the first time?
Know what you want out of the festival and plan accordingly. If you want to soak up the atmos and learn stuff, then make sure you check out the schedule and the LSF app and work out what it is you want to find out about in advance, so you can be sure you’re in the right sessions early (they fill up fast!). If you want to make valuable connections and grow your relationships, then know where the networking sessions are and find out how to work the room, knowing your loglines and being confident and interested in other people and THEIR work too. If you want to have your best shot of selling something or getting read requests, know that speed pitching is your best bet BUT don’t freak out!! I see so many writers go through the speed pitching sure it’s their ONLY chance but it’s not! You have to ensure you network properly as well: “someone who knows someone who works for so-and-so” is SO powerful, but most people are so hung up on their own stuff/ own POV they don’t process useful information like this.
And will you be speaking on the day as Bang2Write? Give us a rundown of what you’ll cover…
My latest screenwriting book “Writing & Selling Drama Screenplays” is out in September from Kamera Books, so I will most likely be doing a rundown of what drama is and how screenwriters can benefit from writing drama, just like I did a crash course in the Thriller genre last year, based on my previous screenwriting book. That was received very well and I repeated the session at The St Albans Film Festival in May this year. I will also probably be running the Script Labs for its fourth year, not to mention ducking in and out of the pitchfest as usual, listening to delegates’ practice pitches!
Tell us the best and worst part of your job.
I love the enthusiasm of the delegates at LondonSWF and the Bang2writers who understand they must make things happen and create their own careers. I see these writers working out what they want strategically and really going for it, grabbing every opportunity as a springboard, rather than a validation of whether they have talent, or have “made it”. They don’t concern themselves with things like that; they just get on with it and know they can do it. That’s not to say they don’t suffer from self doubt; they’re not super human. But they plough on through it and out the other side. They know a writing career is a journey and don’t put it all on a destination.
I think the crushing disappointment of writers when they don’t get selected for the LSF script labs or get the feedback they want, either via B2W or LondonSWF is probably the worst part of my job. I know how it feels, but more importantly often those writers are the exact opposite of what I just described: they DO put everything on the destination, rather than enjoy the journey. This means they often fail to advance either quickly enough, or even at all and that’s heartbreaking. I hate to watch writers go round in circles like that, but sadly if they won’t listen and are sure it WON’T happen for them, then it won’t! It is as simple as that.
Tell us one of your favourite films, and why you like it…
I watched a huge many dramas in preparation for my new book and came across a new film called HOURS, written/directed by Eric Heisserer (THE THING, 2010) which was the last film the late Paul Walker ever starred in. I was genuinely enthralled and astounded by this film. The understated direction and writing is just brilliant, plus Walker is quite the revelation: known best for the FAST AND FURIOUS franchise, Walker was known for his famous stunt driving, rather than his acting ability. Yet here in HOURS, as a young widower who must save his infant daughter in the midst of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, Paul Walker is 100% believable. I break down the film in my book from the page to the screen, with Heisserer offering some really intriguing nuggest of information about the development, writing and making of the movie. It was a real learning curve for me about the collaborative powers of writing, filmmaking and actor performance and I can’t wait to share it with everyone!
Thanks to Lucy for taking the time to speak to Festival Formula. Tickets and line-up information for London Screenwriters’ Festival can be found here.
Lucy V. Hay is Head Reader for London Screenwriters’ Festival, as well as a novelist, script editor and blogger who helps writers via her Bang2write consultancy. Lucy is the author of The Decision Book Series of YA novels and WRITING AND SELLING THRILLER SCREENPLAYS for Kamera Books’ “Creative Essentials” range. Check out all her books, here.