Pitching Grand

The clocks have gone back and it’s beginning to feel a lot like… let’s just say late October. The early darkness can feel capturing at times but it can be equally captivating. In many ways, winter is the perfect time to write. Sure what else would you be doing? October has been properly hectic. The end of the Dublin Theatre Festival (which saw some amazing shows on the Dublin stage) and the London Screenwriters’ Festival have both kept me busy, as well as real life getting in the way.

The London Screenwriters’ Festival was non-stop from start to finish. I attended the informal drinks reception on the Thursday night and then the official opening took place on Friday morning. In fact, I went to the PitchFest Bootcamp early on Friday morning before the official opening, as I was pitching on Friday afternoon.  Like any festival, you need to choose which talks you go to and in doing so you choose not to go to others. Of the ones I went to they were all generally interesting, some more so than others.  Most were conducted in an interview style, with the industry professionals sharing their insights and anecdotes of the business. I attended the following talks over the course of the three day festival in the beautiful Regent’s University:

  • Everything I Know by Kate Leys
  • Why Writing An Indie Means You Are More Likely To Get Produced
  • The Long Hard Journey to “YES”… (why we pass and why we don’t)
  • The Pitch Factor
  • Meet the Super Agent: Duncan Heath
  • Dare to Dream and Keeping it Real
  • Writing the Paranormal Truth: The Enfield Haunting
  • Stephen Poliakoff: Exploring the uncomfortable and taboo
  • From the Usual Suspects to Mission Impossible: Meet Christopher McQuarrie
  • Pushing the boundaries of taste? Writing Horror that CUTS through…
  • Breaking into Ch4: How to fast-track your way into TV Drama
  • JAWS: Script to Screen LIVE with Carl Gottlieb

I found the most practical and informative to be Breaking into Ch4 and my personal favourites were Meet Christopher McQuarrie and JAWS: Script to Screen LIVE with Carl Gottlieb. Jaws was definitely the highlight for me; Gottlieb seems like a genuine gentleman of classic Hollywood standards and had plenty of humorous anecdotes about his involvement with Jaws. The most fun was The Pitch Factor on Friday night, where approximately 20 people pitched their idea on stage with the best pitch won the jackpot. It was great to hear such a variety of ideas and to see the different pitching styles across the group.

Beside the talks I attended, I also went to pitch my screenplay Grand to industry professionals as well as get feedback on the script in the Script Surgery. Needless to say I was quite nervous on Friday as I waited for 4pm to roll around. The PicthFest is a bit like speed dating. You enter a room with up to 14 industry people (execs/directors/producers/agents) all sitting at their own little table. You then queue to pitch to the ones you want to and you have 5 minutes to get your pitch done and (hopefully) make a connection.  I only had  4 people that I wanted to pitch to and on the day only 3 of them were there.  There were plenty of others but there was no point in me pitching a character driven drama to an exec who is strictly looking for sci-fi. The pitching itself went well and, as is often my case, I had been needlessly worried about it.  Of the three, one wasn’t interested, one felt it was too low budget but was interested in hearing any other ideas I had (and asked me to email them), and the third was interested and will get back to me. Overall I was happy with the outcome and to have had the experience. On Saturday morning I had script surgery with Euroscript (Paul Gallagher in specific) where we did a little bit of work on the script itself. Thankfully, there weren’t any major issues, so it really was a discussion about the story with some constructive feedback.  I enjoyed LSF overall and I’ll return in the future, however it might not be an annual thing. It was great to meet so many people and to hear of their creative journeys. I am glad I put in a bit of effort preparing for it and I’d advise future delegates to do likewise. Indeed, feel free to contact me for advice re: same.

In early November I’ll be attending the Waterford Film Festival, where my short screenplay Lacewing is a finalist in the best short screenplay category.  The programme looks exciting and I’m looking forward to seeing some interesting films. It runs from 6th – 8th November.

My current project, now titled The Fruit of Her Hands, is almost complete. I should have the first draft of the play finished over the coming week and then I have a few weeks to redraft before I submit it to the competition.  As is usual, the story has changed a bit from its initial inception and now focuses on the central character of Eilis and her husband Willie, rather than on Eilis and her sister Mary Kate. Mary Kate remains key to the story but to a lesser degree than previously imagined.  I struggled a bit with the logistics of the story but I think I’ve that sorted now. Sticking to an brief can be challenging at times but it also means that there is a sense of inherent structure to the idea.  The story is now concerned with Eilis’ fear that something bad will happen to Willie during the Rising and she will be alone with her son, similar to how Mary Kate is in Liverpool now that her husband is fighting in the Great War. Overall, it’s a traditional theatre piece that centres on two sisters supporting each other as the men in their lives are taken away due to their own calls to action.

Unfortunately we lost a giant of the theatre world in October with the death of Brain Friel (9 January 1929 – 2 October 2015). Friel had a literary career spanning more than half a century and his rich legacy will live on “long after the curtain has come down”. As an avid theatre goer and reviewer, I always carry this quote from the man himself in my mind when thinking if a play has reached the bar or not:

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