Writers, Daniel Martin Eckhart, Paul Andrew Williams, Evan Leighton-Davis, Danny Stack and Steven Russell using their own experience and mistakes as early writers, covered the common pitfalls that new writers can make when marketing themselves, their work and writing their early screenplays.
In fact, the session was more positive than it’s title sounds, with the writers talking at length about the things a writer should and could do to give themselves a positive experience. The session was relaxed and friendly, with questions from the audience and advice ranged from picking your battles and learning to adapt when taking notes and feedback to not sending generic letters or emails, learning not to be difficult and just staying calm and pleasant, understanding that what you wear can be a visual metaphor for how people view you as a writer (a superman t-shirt not being a bad thing in some instances apparently!). Research was highly recommended so that your genre and style of work goes to production companies who actually are looking for that type of thing and so that you don’t earn producers’ disrespect.
Dialogue needs to be good and real (‘not shit’ director Paul Andrew Willams amusingly phrased it) and not written the way you’d be used to hearing it in other movies, but the way the people in your film would naturally say it. Rein in your ego (not reign in your ego as I mistakenly tweeted during the session!) and in person just take it easy, chat and be yourself. Producers are people too, they want to work with people they get along with. As long as you treat people nicely and approach them with respect they won’t care if you persist every so often if your work is good and you’ve made contact in the right way.
A lot was said about public presence too. It’s true that social networking and online presence has become a familiar thing for most of us, and while you can get away without an online presence right now often people will expect you to have one and the general consensus was that this aspect of working will mean that in five years time if you can’t be googled online then you’re nobody. But when in public internet space you have to take care with how you portray yourself. Don’t blow any fuses online. Maintain your online presence well & make a good representation of yourself. Social media is an extremely powerful thing. Don’t burn any bridges that you might want to use later. Danny Stack pointed out that blogging is not going to be for everyone but if you do decide to blog, do it well and make it about what you want to say. And to remember that it’s not an instant thing to benefit from blogging, it can take years for blogging and tweeting to pay off. Daniel Martin Eckhart brilliantly pointed out that there is always downtime from writing so blogging and micro-blogging are a great way to use social media to express things and show you know something about writing and about the world and why not take full advantage of that!
Paul Andrew Williams probably put forward my favourite bit of advice from the session. He said to establish a relationship now and allow it to develop for years before it reaches fruition and becomes truly beneficial, often partnerships forged years ago can lift both individuals up in time, especially if one does well an opportunity arises and they can bring the other into their work and lift them too.
Finally the consensus was not to fixate on luck. Make your own luck. A great and friendly last seminar of the festival and with a fantastic bunch of writers who were charming to listen to.