Message to attendees of London Screenwriters’ Festival 10


IMPORTANT… Please read, this is about your ticket to LondonSWF’10 (The Tenth London Screenwriters’ Festival on stage in London).

Hello and welcome again from the London Screenwriters Festival Team, and me, Chris Jones.

The last time I wrote to all the delegates of the festival was in March 2020, you know, before the pandemic. That feels like a decade ago now, right? I don’t know about you but I feel like Ripley at the beginning of Aliens, coming out of hypersleep to find a world that is both familiar and yet very different.

So… I want to update you on where we are at with LondonSWF’10 (the Tenth London Screenwriters Festival onstage in London) for which you have a ticket. There’s a lot to share and for us all to process, so please do make time to read this through.

Most important first, we are planning to run LondonSWF’10 in September 2021. And you still have a full pass for this event.

No doubt LondonSWF’10 will be different from past years. It will be different in many ways reflecting the world we find ourselves in, and the uncertainties we all face.

Before we go on, I want to share some of the challenges we face and ask that you consider these carefully, if only to help you understand our thinking and our goals in running LondonSWF’10.

Simply stated, here they are: running a festival that is as safe as is reasonable, keeping it awesome, retaining the opportunities it offers, while leveraging new technology where possible.

We already have around 1,000 people involved in the festival this year. That’s delegates, speakers and staff.

And you should know nothing is set in stone yet. Not the dates or venue, or even shape of the festival. Everything is fluid today, but with each day we move forward, things are solidifying.

The challenge we face is that there is a VERY wide spectrum of opinions about how to proceed.

From 18-year-olds who are healthy and gung ho, to sixty-five year olds who have asthma and have real medical concerns.

From Londoners who could walk to the venue, to Australians who are concerned about flights and getting trapped in quarantine.

From young, single and healthy speakers, to older speakers with health issues and families to support who are now risk-averse.

These are a handful of contrasting situations in this new normal. There are, like the number of people involved, a thousand variations.

And then there is Covid itself.

None of us knew about the Indian variant flare up just a few weeks ago so demonstrably, things could change rapidly at any moment.

There’s also the government. Whatever you think of them, I cannot ignore that they can change the rules at the drop of a hat. We all remember school kids going back on January 5th only to be told schools were shutting on January 6th. So we need to plan for a possible, last minute and unexpected shutdown or massive change in direction.

So, while I am 100% certain LondonSWF10 will happen this late summer / autumn, we have MANY variables to consider now and we will need a robust Plan B for everything we do.

So… Right now as I type this email, the broad plan is this.

We will run a live event with one main stage in London. We will likely operate social distancing, mask wearing, flow testing beforehand, ask for vaccine status etc. This means we can get together, celebrate and have fun. It SHOULD be safe to do so, or as safe as reasonable for now.

This to me seems sensible and a good balance between risk and benefit. Reasonably, if we are careful, if EVERYONE is tested and if most people have been vaccinated, we SHOULD be safe.

Second, we move online as many of the additional sessions as possible.

The Pitchfest being the biggest example. Right now, 75% of pitch execs are leaning away from committing to sitting in a room and having a rotation of people every five minutes for two hours. My guess is even if they say yes today, there will be lots of no-shows on the day.

So yes, lets move the PitchFest online now, expand the number of pitches (so you get more) and make it run longer too. Also you don’t lose ‘festival time’ to pitching. The same will be true for other stuff like Meet The Experts, Legal Clinic, Speed Networking etc. We MAY need to retire the Actors Table Read this year as organising hundreds of meetings with five or six people in each one is just logistically too challenging.

Third, we move some sessions online and run part of the festival a few weeks later, much like our past online LondonSWF365 festival.

In short, we open with an onstage-in-London experience, ONE STAGE, with parties and networking, followed by a two or three week online pitchfest, followed by a ten day online festival conclusion. All with the extras like Meet The Experts and Labs scattered in the gaps as it were.

We may also innovate some new ideas where we can leverage new technology to our advantage.

Moving some things online will definitely give us greater access to some people too. For instance, we simply won’t get any American speakers committing to fly in this year, they just won’t risk the quarantine, let alone being on a plane for eight hours. They WILL join us online of course.

So why not postpone again I have been asked?

Well for a number of reasons. First, last March my guess was that September 2021 MUST be safe. Right? We all agreed in the office at the time. And here we are now. Who knows if it will be any better in 2022 or even beyond? We can of course believe it will be safe, there is promising science to back that up, but it’s still a guess. And so far what I have learned is ‘expect the unexpected’ and ‘it will take longer than expected’.

Second, we got an Arts Council of England emergency grant. And to get the grant we need to commit to continue and run the event as planned.

Third, I just can’t retain staff or continue to pay for resources while we stand still. Each and every month drains more resources in a slow but steady trickle. In short, we cannot go into cold storage, we cannot escape slowly draining our meagre resources.

And finally, and personally, I need this to happen in September.

People seem to have had one of two experiences in the pandemic.

There are those who, through personal circumstance, could weather the pandemic with ease. Maybe they got furloughed. Some were even lucky enough to get furloughed AND then stayed home and wrote scripts, or started new ‘side hustle’ businesses. So it’s true that for some, the pandemic has been at worst, inconvenient. Maybe even a positive gear shift.

For other it’s been a catastrophe. Many of us have had no support, or they got ill, or worse, lost loved ones to Covid. Yes, it is true we finally got support form the Arts Council (though as I write this no money has hit the bank account yet – YIKES!), and it’s also true that thankfully, neither myself or anyone in the team has been very ill or lost people to Covid.. But, it’s been a VERY unpleasant and bumpy ride. For me personally, it’s up there in the top three worst years of my life. No top two worst years. So I need LondonSWF’10 to happen in September personally. Nothing will stop me.

Right now LondonSWF’11 is planned for Autumn 2023 as I need to step away for some time post LondonSWF’10.

OK. So what will happen next?

We are recruiting new staff now and in the coming weeks you will get a new ticket / re-issue ticket (we are still unsure how that will work as Eventbrite are looking into the best way to make happen).

You also still have access to ALL the videos from LondonSWF365 last spring. You can watch them at www.ScreenwritersFestival.Online

Also… we have been working hard at rebuilding LSFConnect where we can all have a profile, chat and watch ALL the videos from past festivals. We just checked and there’s over 650 sessions in the system! WOW! You will get access to all of those once this goes live in the next month or so.

Phew!

OK so if you have any questions, drop me a line – chris@londonswf.com. I cannot promise I will be prompt in my reply, we have half the team we had, to do twice as much as we did. But I will get back to you.

Lastly, I want to end on this thought.

Like it or not, the world has pivoted. Online, I guess characterised as Zoom, is here to stay. I have heard a LOT of people say ‘I don’t want to use Zoom or go online’. I get it. Personally, I wish we could uninvent Facebook. But we can’t.

Zoom and ‘online’ are now a major part of our industry. Pitching is almost 100% online now. Execs do not want to meet face to face anymore, Zoom is easier and more efficient.

It makes no difference how we want the industry to be, it’s how the industry IS that matters. It’s how the world IS that matters.

Change is constant, progress is an active choice followed by action. And in our case, MASSIVE action.

This year we get to design the most innovative, wide reaching festival yet. Play the game right and we will all find more opportunity than ever will be presented to us.

I get that we all want to go back to before the pandemic. I more than most want to do also. We were four weeks away from LondonSWF’10 last year when we had to postpone and lose everything we had invested to that point. And no, insurance didn’t cover it.

There is only one way. Forward. And I would ad upward of course.

Watch out for more messages from me. Also, the main website is quite out of date and we will be updating it in the coming weeks.

Stay awesome. Stay safe. Order some flow tests for free from the Government now, you will need them if you plan to attend in person in September. And I encourage you to embrace online. It’s where the future is at. It’s where you career and collaboration is at.

So get your damn Wonder Woman pose on. We are coming. And we will be god damn magnificent.

OK love and hugs.

Chris Jones
Captain of the London Screenwriter’s Festival

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