Women Write Comedy: Underwire Film Festival, November 13th 2014

underwire_logo_resizedOn Friday, I battled harsh winds, torrential rain and ceaseless puddles that resembled something biblical to find comfort in the cosy surroundings and encouraging words of The Yard Theatre in Hackney Wick, where the Underwire Film Festival were hosting an all-day conference on ‘Women Writing Comedy’.

Served coffee and blankets on arrival, the event’s tagline “finding confidence in the collective” felt immediately applicable, as the intimate space of the theatre buzzed with the chatter and chirping of meeting new people who share the common theme of wanting to write. Like literary speed-dating if you will.

While they remain a rare creature, female scriptwriters are being commissioned to write sitcoms, screenplays and continuing series on both sides of the Atlantic. Nevertheless, as a collective and a society we should never mistake that for the job being done. Women are inching towards media and pay equality, but it’s incremental and not at all representative of our creative capabilities.

This event provided an all-female space, where energy, aspiration, ideas and laughter were the common currency. Effectively we had a room of our own to share our doubts, our questions and our successes and hopefully come away more resolute in our desire to become writers.

As women we need to blow our own trumpets more, and put an end to self-deprecation or asking permission to speak, or be heard.

Here are the top tips from the day:

  1. Vocalise your goals. Saying what you want out loud gives you the clarity and focus required to achieve them.
  2. Set yourself a specific target every year. E.g. finish editing that short film, put together a showreel, get an agent. Regardless of whether you take steps to achieve completion of this task each day, it’s unconscious presence in your mind often helps you streamline the opportunities you grasp.
  3. Apply to competitions. Whether or not you win is irrelevant. The looming deadline often helps you galvanise ideas that have been drifting around your imagination for months, and formulate something tangible. Success in a competition then becomes a bonus. Regardless of the result, you’ve written something and built yourself a platform upon which to improve. BOOM.
  4. Having several ideas/projects on the go at once is the key. It can become easy to get disheartened if you pour all your being into one passion project that for some reason doesn’t get made. If you disburse your emotional investment and keep several things on the go at once, not only will you look like a multi-tasker to potential employers, commissioners, agents e.t.c, but that rejection will be easier to swallow. It’s like having a favourite child, but never telling their siblings that’s the case.
  5. Never bin your Baked Alaska. If a project gets rejected, don’t think it’s because you’re a worthless, talentless writer. (Though that remains a possibility). It could simply be that the producer has recently taken on-board a similar project, that your narrative isn’t in fashion right now, or you’re not sending it out to the right people. There are plenty of reasons besides being in the wrong vocation that results in rejection. Put the script away, work on something else and when the time is right, success could be putty in your hands.

sarah_brocklehurst-0791_10x8Sarah Brocklehurst, a BAFTA-nominated theatre and film producer, was also on hand to discuss the writer-producer relationship. Her production company, SBP, champions new writing, and takes a particular interest in collaborating with female artists to create stories driven by women. Indeed, she emphasised the collaborative, symbiotic nature of her production process that involves working closely with writers and directors to ensure their visions are compatible and the original ideas remains intact on the screen.

Her advice to young filmmakers: “Don’t wait around for others to give you the opportunities you seek. If you want to produce, go out and produce. If you want to direct, then get hold of a camera. Trust your ambition, learn from your mistakes, persevere and work very hard”.

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