Sundance London 2012

So I’m back from the inaugural, and slightly ironically rainy, Sundance London Film Festival and have been asked by many to give my opinions of the event. So here they are in concise segments reflecting the type of questions people yelled at me.

What is Sundance London?
Understandable question as there are a lot of ‘Festivals’ around at the moment such as Cannes Film Festival, London Screenwriters’ Festival and even the original Sundance. This is actually like none of them. Sundance London is a showcase of the best films from Sundance in the US. Giving us the chance to see what is hot over in there. A lot of the films already have distribution in place and there isn’t a great pressure to sell it over here. In essence it is more of a film-lovers’ festival than a film-makers’ festival although I’ll explain later why film-makers’ can get a lot out of it too.

Wasn’t It A Bit Expensive?
Not really. It worked out at £12 a ticket, plus travel and food, but it was hosted at the O2 Arena, which is probably the nicest cinema complex I’ve ever been to. Huge HD screens (a first for me), comfortable seats, lots of leg room so you didn’t have to get up (or get trodden on) if people needed to pass. Most of the films were followed by Q&As by the directors and these were the best films from Sundance so the level was high. I enjoyed all the films I watched and have spent £9 many times on films that totally sucked before.

Now compare that to going to Sundance in the states and all the costs there? Again, it’s not the same environment but it is a good taster.

Let Me Know If It’s Worth It? 
Well it was. Particularly, for film-makers actually. First, you may never see some of these films, otherwise, as they might not get a commercial release over here. Understandble from a business point of view but you’ll miss out on some fantastic examples of innovative film-making that can inspire your own projects.

Then there are the Q&As with directors. Now, these in themselves aren’t that insightful as the audience are a mix of film-lovers and film-makers so you get quite basic questions that even you know the answer to. However, because there are less film-makers’ in each screening the directors aren’t all swamped by people afterwards. I went with my co-writer Alli Parker and having really enjoyed Nobody Walks (my film of the festival) we were able to have a lovely chat with Director and co-writer Ry Russo-Young who seemed to enjoy talking about more technical topics.

Pre-emptive question: Would you go again?
YES. And the buzz around the festival was that they were delighted with how well it was received and plan to come back. For all the points above, I think its worth it for film-makers and film-lovers alike.

Highlights
My favourite two films were Nobody Walks and 2 Days in New York, both films about families and both written and directed by women. Not only is this refreshing and a reflection that the gender gap is getting smaller but these films were as much about the men as they were about the women. Hopefully, defying more stereotypes in the process.

Having said that, a special shout-out to my brothers Chris Rock who came-of-age in his acting career in 2 Days in New York as well as John Krasinski (Nobody Walks) who was the best I’ve seen him in a film to date.

Bring on Sundance London 2013!

London Screenwriters’ Festival 2011: The Aftermarth

It seems that quite a few of us are suffering from a huge comedown after the magnificent London Screenwriters’ Festival at the weekend. I’m only now digesting and dissecting all the emotions I’ve been through and this is my attempt at making sense of it. God help you!

For me, I think it stems from going to last year’s LSWF (2010), still very much living in a non-writing world where I knew very few writers in person and I was still solely working on my own projects. It was something that quite dramatically changed there and then and for good. I think I’m only just realising it now.

Thanks to the delegates I met and the inspiration and encouragement that the festival never fails to supply, I joined a group of delegates that, via twitter, started meeting up monthly for Script Chat drinks. This was incredibly important as it enabled me to maintain and build on a number of relationships I had started at the festival. Soon, these weren’t just other writers but collaborators, friends and some people found love (ahhh). Because twitter was at the core of this, communication with these new-found friends turned quickly from occasional to daily (writers, by definition, have A LOT of opinions and things to share!). Also, I’ve had the pleasure of working with quite a few of them on various projects.

So the difference between attending LSWF 2011 over LSWF 2010 was that I wasn’t just going to it knowing a few people that I had last met 12 months ago. I was going to it with a lot of familiar faces and friends, which is great when you want a balance between meeting new people and kicking back with friends. In fact, it was beneficial to meeting new people as “oh, you should meet…” became a popular phrase over the three days. Most of all, I realised that because I communicate with these people so regularly (and more often than a lot of my own friends) I wasn’t going to LSWF 2011 from a non-writing world any more. The connection was so much stronger and I enjoyed it even more.

So as well as missing being inspired everyday, learning priceless lessons and belonging to the asylum, I miss being around new and old friends. But you know what? I’m taking them with me and so should you.

This is really a message about the power of networking. A case-study, if you like. I hope people don’t fall into that trap of just writing a nice email to all your business card contacts only to exchange shorter and shorter emails until they fizzle out. See if they are on twitter, Skype or live nearby. Getting a group together is even better, there’s less pressure on individual relationships as you can just mingle. I don’t live in London but still come in just for Script Chat. Also, the LSWF Ning network is made for keeping in touch. It’s your delegates-only Facebook.

Whatever the case, try and find an informal way of staying in touch regularly. Make it part of the world you want to live in.

There will be more semi-delusional posts from me in the coming days, so thanks for reading.

Karen Barley

This is Karen Barley. And very soon something is going to happen to her! Mwahahahaha. Continue reading

The Horror of It All

BIG NEWS: I’m finally getting some time to write after over a year of upheaval and pretty much abandonment (bringing up my house, redecorating my son). I did some bits and bobs here and there but I feel like a footballer coming back from a long-term injury. It’s good to be back on my feet.

My main focus is to get back onto my comedy scripts but over the past few weeks all attempts of getting myself into that mindset has been thwarted by an idea that came to me about a horror film. Yeah HORROR (?!) Continue reading

Rob Grant’s Comedy Writing Tips

I was meant to do this before the London Comedy Writers’ Festival but a horrible bug struck me down for some weeks, causing me to miss the actual festival itself!

Anyway, here are my notes from Red Dwarf c0-creator (and therefore Legend) Rob Grant… Continue reading

Barnaby Thompson Q&A

I’ve been asked by quite a few people to give them the highlights of the insightful London Comedy Writer’s Q&A with the Head of Ealing Studios Barnaby Thompson and Head of Development Sophie Meyer. Of course nothing beats being there but I did make notes and here is a summary of the chat they had with Festival Director Chris Jones.

What type of film are Ealing Studios look for? High-concept and culturally specific films. So films like Full Monty and Four Weddings and a Funeral are prime examples of this.

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The Best Comedy Writing Books

I was recently asked on twitter (I actually have a human follower?) what comedy writing books I would recommend and thought 140 characters is probably not going to do my answer justice. So you get a wordy blog post instead. Continue reading