Guest blog by Gail Hackston aka @ScriptPunk
I have to pinch myself to think that it was only late October, four months ago, that I attended the London Screenwriters Festival for the first time. The growth in my writing portfolio, confidence as a writer and the opportunities that have come from both of those have been exponential. And although those were not necessarily the things I wanted from the festival, I’d have settled for them if you told me that’s what I’d get going into it.
Before I went, I felt like an absolute charlatan ordering 500 business cards with “Screenwriter” boldly stated under my name. That nagging little devil in my head was screaming “What a waste of money, you fool! Sack this off and go on holiday instead” Even the – usually more relaxed – angel on the other side was grimacing at the audacity of it. I hadn’t, after all, had anything produced, so how could I stand in esteemed company call myself a screenwriter? It’s borderline delusional.
Until last year I would describe myself as an aspiring screenwriter for in my head that is what I was. It was something I wanted to do, someday. The truth is labelling yourself as “aspiring” gives you somewhat of a safety net. It means you can wriggle out of doing it. You can let life get in the way and stop you from writing. After all, you’re only aspiring to be a screenwriter, you aren’t really one. Brutal truth is if you really want to succeed, you need to do away with the safety net of aspiration and declare yourself a screenwriter. Be bold. Yes it is scary, but there is power in the boldness that you can capitalise on.
For me, the London Screenwriters Festival was an opportunity to stand in a room with other people and declare myself a Screenwriter for the first time. What was amazing is it wasn’t just me who finally believed it, it was those I said it to too! No-one sniggered, no-one rolled their eyes and no-one corrected me. That was very powerful indeed.
The environment surrounding the festival was so incredibly supportive that when I left on the Sunday evening – applause ringing in my ears from Chris’ rousing “Go get ‘um tiger” speech – that I admit, I felt a little let down going back to real life. There was a big open road out there and somehow I had to take the knowledge I had gleaned over three and a bit days and map my way to the next suitable point in the road.
Here’s the thing. Going to the London Screenwriters Festival itself will not get you to where you want to be, but taking massive and consistent action after it will. So I did. First things first, I banished all traces of aspiring or new from online profiles, I just was. Secondly, I established a writing routine and I wrote. And wrote. And wrote. And wrote. And when I wasn’t writing, I was thinking about writing. And when I wasn’t thinking about writing, I was dreaming about writing.
Since then what has happened? Well, I am a Blue Cat Screenplay Quarter Finalist with a feature I wrote. I have just won the Circalit “Get Your Short Film Made” competition – a little short of mine will be made by Jason Wingard who won last years Virgin Media Shorts. Another short of mine is in production via a Canadian film making collective. And I have commitments from three other filmmakers to put my short scripts into production this year.
In the wide world of scripting and screenwriting, I am fully aware I am nothing and no-one. I trumpet myself because no-one else is going to do it. But I’m getting there. I’m a step on from yesterday and a quantum leap on from this time last year. So here’s my challenge to you, let this years London Screenwriting Festival be your springboard. Let it be the moment you decide to step out from the shadows and declare “I’m a screenwriter”. You never know where it might lead.