We’re a few days in to the Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF), and so far it’s been a pretty inspiring time for screenwriters.

The EIFF kicked off the same day as the Scottish Film Summit, the first of its kind. Screenwriters, Producers, Freelancers, Crew, Educators, Directors and Location Services met up to discuss the issues facing the film sector today. I took part in the screenwriting sessions, and while I don’t want to chat about the specifics of the debates we had I will say that they were mostly positive. I think we came away with a very clear desire to have screenwriters more involved and empowered in the filmmaking process.

One thing I learned about at the Scottish Film Summit which is of particular interest to other screenwriters (and producers, and directors) out there is the proposed Joint Venture agreement for no/low budget films. This puts writers on an equal placement with the other early creative/financial investors – the idea being that we contribute our time to write and in the process become partners, rather than unpaid employees. Read more about it on a PDF from the Writers Guild of Great Britain (p27).

Yesterday I attended a couple of screenwriter specific panels at the Edinburgh Film Festival.

The first was on Developing New Talent, chaired by James Mavor, course leader at the Screen Academy Scotland. A panel of experts chatted about the opportunities available for new or emerging writers. They went through things like the 4Screenwriting scheme, the new form of Coming Up, and BBC Three iPlays. The panellists emphasised the need for a great calling card script for all writers, and extolled the virtues of writing something that you truly love, which is personal and represents you as a writer.

Later in the day I attended Moira Buffini In Conversation with Andrea Gibb. This was a fantastic and inspiring session and has made me desperate to sit behind the keys and write something new.

Moira Buffini describes herself as a ‘compulsive writer‘ and was an established playwright before writing for the screen. Her character dialogue is often stand out and beautiful – perhaps because of her background, and her experience that in theatre ‘you have people, and what they say. Your prime tool is the human voice.’

She credits being a actor first with helping her to cope with the inevitable knocks which come from screenwriting, but says that things still hurt. For her, ‘the best way to get over any painful projects is to make sure that the focus is on the next thing.’

Buffini thinks that two things are important as a writer: to keep your confidence (which ensures the best writing) and to ignore the devil on your shoulder who tells you that you’re bad.

Something that came across very acutely was the passion she has for her projects. When she heard about the opportunity to write Jane Eyre, for instance, she knew she had to do it: ‘nobody can write that screenplay but me.‘ She believes that producers look for that passion in writers.

She doesn’t just go for the next project she’s offered, either. After Tamara Drewe she turned down romcoms, after Byzantium she turned down horror. For her it’s about looking for a project that makes her think ‘what world is this going to take me into that I’ve never been in before?’

She is not a structural writer, rather she ‘works from the gut up’. Something particularly heartening for all the other writers out there who hate them is that she ‘won’t write a treatment because it kills my creativity.’

It’s hard to pick a quote to end on, as her session as a whole was filled with invigorating words, but this is one of my favourites:

Be courageous. People want your ideas, people want your voice. What the industry needs is your voice.’

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