Category Archives: Opinion

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!

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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.

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

Confession: I Failed…

Hello, my name’s Anton and I failed. This is an open confession disguised as a big kick up the butt for me to sort out my writing. BBC’s great initiative Laughing Stock closes this week and I won’t be sending anything in despite it being exactly the sort of opportunity I should be taking.

I have no real excuse, I knew about it from late last year. I had three pilots in various states of completion and I chose one early. I started working on it and then I allowed myself to get absorbed by other things instead of working my socks off. Even going into last weekend I had a plan to get it done but a bout of flu and a family visit put paid to that. But it shouldn’t have because I should have done the work earlier. I really let myself done.

However, it’s taught me a BIG lesson. My perception of time and balance of work and writing is way out of sync. I used to be able to do a full day of work and a couple of hours writing in the evening but not any more. Age and the energies of being a new Dad have seen the back of that.

So I’m making big changes. I found I can do a few hours of work in the evenings no problem, so I’m going to swap a couple of hours of writing into my working day. And my punishment is to finish all three pilots before working on any new specs. Two of them have to be done by the end of March.

I will allow myself to work on a radio play that might suit the stage having had a very positive discussion about it. I’ll also try and get something on BBC Radio’s Newsjack to get some credits for 2011.

This failure has hit home more than any other. I don’t want to be seven years down the line and still making the same mistakes and excuses. I don’t even want to be seven days down the line and feeling that. So this post is also a statement of intent.

I believe anyone can change. Just don’t say ‘starting from tomorrow/next week etc.’ Start from NOW. Now I am an organised writer. It’s up to me to keep that title.

What’s Next?

So the London Screenwriters’s Festival 2010 is over , knowledge has been absorbed, contacts have been formed, so what is next for this writer?

No seriously, I’m asking you. Answers on a postcard… bye.

Ok, ok. The truth is I learned A LOT from the sessions at the festival and my next step is to assess the projects I’ve got on the go and see if they fit with the distribution tips I picked up in London.

Then I need to finish off the scripts I have in various stages of development (if they still fit the distribution matrix). I need completed samples/spec scripts not three or four first drafts of a good idea.

I have too many ideas and get too passionate about them, dropping projects instantly just to get started ‘on the one’. Of course every new idea is the best ever. Mainly because it exists in such a small form: an idea. You haven’t got into the mess of plotting, structure, characters or (the most damaging aspect) writing the bastard thing. First drafts do suck, not all of it, but a lot of it. And it makes your genius idea very, very mortal. It’s a lot easier to move on to a fresh new idea. DON’T DO IT!

I also had a meeting about a ‘dream writing job’ last week. Unfortunately, that bubble has been burst. The director, who has written the script, wasn’t interested in someone clearing up a far too messy, unfocused and busy script. He wanted a jokes-smith to heighten the comedy. We had completely different visions for the script. A shame but I wish the project well.

On the upside, I’m free to crack on with my scripts so good day!

London Screenwriters’ Festival 2010. Done.

I’ve held off writing this post as I’m still trying to digest what the hell just happened for four days in London. Like many, I’m still feeling a magical buzz from being part of a new, exciting and talented community.

So how to tell this story? I’ve decided not to go all Memento on your ass and do it back to front with flashbacks and tattoos. So let’s just try and start at the beginning shall we?

Even before the festival I had a great meeting with a rising comedy actress and agent who are putting together a stand-up/sketch recording to pitch to the channels. It’s all very promising and I liked their ideas and they liked mine so: exciting!

Then off to the pre-festival drinks in a bar that was… yeah, can’t describe it. A throwback? It certainly had character and characters! There was also a launch going on for a book called Looking At Uranus. Although it was announced the author couldn’t make it because they had gout. It was going to be that sort of night! Anyway, I met some ‘very interesting’ people and it was a nice way to ease into the networking.

I was going to do a day-by-day break down but they’ve all merged into one fantasy-like dream. I’m not even sure some memories happened. Did we have a hot-tub? Anyway, the Skype chat with John August was definitely one of the highlights of day one. I think most people I spoke to had a different favourite session of the weekend, which is a good sign of a festival with something for every one.

To be honest, I didn’t go to a bad session. Other highlights were Distribution in the UK, What the Buyers Want and Writing for the USA and European markets. All very specific and brutally honest.

Of course, what made this event extra special for me were the people I met. A lot of whom I hope to build strong relationships with on both a work and social level. It was all very inspiring and I can see the creative cogs starting to turn with more vigour as the days went by. After all, it can be a lonely place being a writer. I feel the buzz is partly down to being in a world full of other writers. And I thank everyone that I met for their time and company.

So what next? Well, I’m working on keeping those relationships going and a master plan, based on what I have learned over the weekend. The main thing will be to finish my existing projects. There is a lot to gain from having many samples of work. There are also some doors I need to shoulder charge but more as an Arnie rather than a Pee-wee.

So to completely bastardise  Vogler, I feel like I returned from the special world to the ordinary world with the elixir. Although, of course, this is the start of a new movie not the end. OK, let’s just call it a multi-million dollar franchise, shall we? Excellent.

The Social Network

So I saw a preview of this the other day and thought I’d make a few points that stopped a decent film from being a great film. Like, I said, it’s a decent movie and a very interesting story of how Facebook (something that most gravitate to hourly) was developed in a student bedroom and the break-up of the friends who created it.

The first major problem is pretty much inherent to nearly all movies that are based so closely on real life events. Reality usually doesn’t naturally fit into a movie structure. Continue reading