My FIRST London Screenwriters’ Festival… What was it REALLY like? By Emma Pullar

Firstly, if you haven’t booked for LSF2020, you should do it now, here’s the link

Why are you still here?

Please book your ticket, you have twenty seconds to comply …

You now have fifteen seconds to comply!

Wondering what on Earth I’m talking about? Let me explain … ROBOCOP!

One of the highlights of LSF2018 was the Robocop: Script to Screen session.

Imagine sitting in cinema conditions, watching a classic cyberpunk action movie, writer friends either side of you, two industry pros are on the stage talking with legendary screenwriter Ed Neumeier about how his movie was made. OMFG! I must be dreaming!! Nope. It actually happened and then after we watched the movie the audience got to ask questions, and both of my friends asked a question! I was sitting between them like a stunned mullet. It was lucky Mark caught the Catchbox (portable microphone) before it smacked me in the head because I was sat there totally awestruck.

Robocop: Script to Screen was a finale to remember but there were so many highlights of LSF2018. I was at the festival as a speaker on a panel about novel writing, and as carer for my friend. I went into The London Screenwriters’ Festival as a novelist and children’s book author who dabbles in screenwriting. I came out a very different person, with lots of new ideas on where I want to take my career.

The Festival sparked a fire inside me that can never be extinguished.

I went to as many panels and talks as I could while aiding my lovely friend, who, as much as she needed me to help with mobility, was a great help to me as a guide and support for my first panel.

What exactly did I get out attending this amazing celebration of storytellers and creatives?

SO MUCH! And I didn’t even pitch or attend table reads.

I learned exactly which parts of the industry were for me and which were probably not for me. Writing for Games 0.9 was an eye-opener. Rhianna Pratchett (who was wearing the most awesome sparkly Batman ‘knuckleduster’ ring) gave the audience a clear picture of how the industry works and where writers fit in. I agree with Alfred Hitchcock in that the script is all important, and in the gaming world, it isn’t … yet. That is changing though. The girl next to me, who was also a Legend of Zelda fan (I have been playing this game since I was fourteen) was a perfect fit for the gaming world but it wasn’t for me.

Here are other panels/talks I attended & why they were super inspiring.

What Can Writers Learn from ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’?

I write dystopian novels – two published by Bloodhound Books. I love The Handmaid’s Tale and so this session was magic for me. It was a must for anyone wanting to master what it takes to write authentic characters and a convincing dystopian world. I learned an awful lot about what it takes to get the recipe just right for television and novels. Lucy is an excellent teacher and a lot of fun. My teenage daughter would have loved this session. They should teach this way in high schools.

The Beginning: Crafting the First Ten Pages That Hooks the Reader

What an inspirational and fun speaker Joey Tuccio is. His words are still echoing inside my head. “There are so many writers, make sure your work stands out!” I do take risks in order to get my work noticed so this was good to hear. At the end of his talk, Joey said he was going to pick people from the audience to pitch. I was HORRIFIED! Don’t pick me. I haven’t got anything prepared. I shrunk in my seat. A guy at the front put his hand up. Phew! Thank you, crazy dude. Seriously, who is nuts enough to volunteer to pitch to a room full of people … OMG! It’s my friend Mark! He didn’t know I was sat at the back. I was willing him to do well the entire time. He smashed it! Seeing your friends do well is a HUGE part of the festival. It’s not about competing, it’s about helping each other and cheering your peers on.

Writing for The Right Young Audience; how to hit your mark every time!

I’m a picture book author as well as a novelist but I’ve always felt drawn to writing children’s television. I love animation. My children are the perfect excuse to watch lots of kids shows. In 2015 I sent my first script to CBBC and they gave me some fab feedback and told me to get a pilot made. I had no idea how to do that so I put screenwriting to one side and concentrated on novels. After meeting the panel at LSF and listening to their experiences I realised children’s television was definitely for me. The speakers were warm, friendly and super talented. I made an important contact, and using her feedback, I now know how to move forward. THIS WAS WORTH ITS WEIGHT IN GOLD. Advice straight from a pro who is doing what you want to do. Where else are you going to get that? ONLY at The London Screenwriters’ Festival.

Creating Alien, Hitchhiker’s Guide, X-Files and Batman… Meet Dirk Maggs

Now, Aliens is one of my all-time favourite movies. The xenomorph is one of my all-time favourite monsters. Ripley is one of my all-time favourite characters … breathe, Emma! When Chris Jones announced the radio play three-page script competition I was so excited. OMFG! Then I realised I was going on a family holiday to Devon and had promised I wouldn’t take me laptop and the deadline was in a week. Noooooooooo!!! Hang on, I didn’t promise I wouldn’t take a notebook. Aha! I snuck off in the evenings to ‘read’ and wrote my Alien script longhand. I photographed it and sent it to my friend, who kindly typed it up and sent it in. My script, TERROR-SYNTH, was shortlisted. Whoop! Big thanks to Rachael for helping me submit. When our friend Kendall’s name was called as the winner we all cheered and stamped our feet. Then the fun began. The actors read their lines, directed by the legendary Dirk Maggs. Then the sound guy sat at his laptop, headphones on. He spliced the vocals with the music and sound effects, while we listened to Chris interview Dirk. In just one hour, the piece was ready. Chris turned off the lights and we listened to Alien: Airborne, in the dark. It had all the creepy sound effects from the movies. Laura was quivering beside me. It was scary. I freaking loved it. Inspired again. I’m going to learn how to write for radio. You can listen to the Audio HERE.

There you have it. That’s my view of the festival, and I didn’t even mention how much fun The British Screenwriting Awards are!

I’m told the three-day festival pass is over £700 in value. I can tell you, that’s true. Yet you’ll only pay HALF of that. Even if you’re not a screenwriter, it doesn’t matter, you’ll learn so much about craft and the art of storytelling. You can even pay for your ticket monthly.

LSF2020 is going to be a MONSTER! I mean that in a good way. You can bet there will be some BIG players in the industry there. What are you waiting for? Tickets are going fast.  Come to LSF2020 and unlock your future. Your career is in your hands, don’t let it slip through your fingers. Grab every opportunity.

BIO: Emma Pullar is a writer of dark fiction and children’s books. She dabbles in screenwriting and has won/been shortlisted for several short story/script competitions. You can find Emma on Twitter/Instagram/Facebook or lurking in the shadows, spying on people in the name of inspiration and creativity.