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When Is Giving Up Not Giving Up? / 18 November 2014

It’s almost a month since I went to the annual London Screenwriters Festival, and as with previous years, it was a great experience. It was made easier this year (awesomely easier) by the fact that I gave up my pitching ticket at around 4pm the day before I pitched.

The festival runs from the Friday – Sunday, and like most years, they do optional training that week. So I was super excited (awesomely exited) to go to the Lee Jessup Career Transformation Day. This was exciting to me because whilst the festival is often (though not exclusively) writing focused they have other sessions as well, and this was a whole day about a writing career rather than technical writing.

I was hesitant because these days are on top of the festival ticket, but the week before I decided it would be worth doing a whole day of extra learning for forty quid. And learning about Hollywood too.

I wasn’t disappointed. I was really interested in stuff about branding yourself as a writer, and actionable steps about what we can do.

There were brief exercises for the day, in which we looked at our favourite movies and genres we liked to write in. We also got to write out a ‘personal narrative’ worksheet, and although we didn’t have to share this with anyone, I found myself still reluctant to write out the honest things about myself, though after a few minutes I did. (Irony alert – I’ve been writing my autobiography for god’s sake)

One of the many other things that was great to find out about was a writers portfolio, and what it should consist of. And then it hit me. Why am I pitching when I don’t really have anything ready?

A while longer I realised – this is why I pitched 3 different things to different people last year. All at ‘OK’ stages (ok, one of them wasn’t even started, but I was honest about that when I pitched), and the execs I pitched to actually liked the ideas! And that was a year ago, and as a friend pointed out in the lunch queue during the weekend: “Why haven’t you made any progress with this, you’ve had A YEAR.” Which is true (it’s also true that I’ve written my autobiography and produced my one-man play, but that’s beside the point).

So as I was sitting thinking about one pagers on Thursday, I emailed asking if someone else can use my pitch ticket if I don’t, and they could. So I gave it up. I now know exactly what I need for next year. I can still take baby steps in accomplishing them, and I actually am good deal of the way there already. I’m just not all there.

But not pitching had the additional effect of a much calmer festival attendance. I wasn’t fretting or panicking, it was just great to be there and learn things from all the sessions I attended. I gave a number of people my business card. I met someone from Channel 4 after a session (who I was going to pitch to) and got to ask them the questions I needed to know about, and left the festival not only on a high, having met old and new friends, but also with a clear plan of action for next year.

Since then, I’ve been listening to the archive of talks from past festivals (available to you if you buy a ticket for the 2015 festival) and learning more. Being more inspired, and looking back at my notes. Working on my scripts (now that I’ve done the last piece of work on my book (yay!) and whilst ideas for specific projects don’t come to me so easily, by next year, I’ll have a solid year of screen writing. And a portfolio ready.
So not giving up, is when you can find a better plan of action.

*Awesome was a keyword of the festival, which helped to create a great and supportive atmosphere, - as in "We're all Awesome." Which we are. Even you. yes, YOU.

Lee Jessup's book 'Getting it Write: An Insider's Guide to a Screenwriting Career' is available on Amazon

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