Magazine article Screen International

Chris Jones

Magazine article Screen International

Chris Jones

Article excerpt

Chris Jones talks about his role as the creative director of the first London Screenwriters' Festival, which will run Oct 29-31.

UK writer/director Chris Jones and producer/screenwriter David Chamberlain were so bereft when the Cheltenham Screenwriters' festival went into receivership last year that they decided to set up their own festival.

The result? The inaugural London Screenwriters' Festival, which takes place from Oct 29-31and features more than 75 speakers from the industry including Tim Bevan, Working Title development executive Amelia Granger, Ruby Films producer Paul Trijbits, TV writer Tony Jordan and Sophie Meyer, head of development at Ealing Studios.

The festival also includes a series of workshops covering script editing, how to self agent and writing for particular audiences.

Jones, who wrote and directed the 2008 short film Gone Fishing, which was shortlisted for an Oscar, is also developing a feature film called Rocket Boy. "I think I'm on the 17th draft. It's similar to Gone Fishing in terms of tone and feel. Emotionally and creatively."

He talks to Screen about the challenges of setting up a festival in 12 weeks and why it's vital that the industry supports our screenwriters of tomorrow.

Why did you decide to set up the London Screenwriters festival?

I was a keynote speaker at the Cheltenham Screenwriters Festival last year and when it went away, my colleague David Chamberlain and I got together and said, what Cheltenham created was so extraordinary that we couldn't allow that to disappear.

Because we are based in London, it made sense to have it in London and we just decided to go for it.We are rising from the ashes. We have taken Cheltenham's extraordinary groundwork and we've put our spin on it. There are some very different things, and it's about being a creative person in 2010.

How long have you been working on the festival?

We've been working on it for about 12 weeks, so we have gone from zero to full-tilt boogie in literally no time.

What has been the response from the industry?

The most extraordinary thing has been how amazingly professional film-makers, writers, producers and agentshave completely embraced what we are trying to do. I think they really get it.

I don't know a film-maker at any level in any field, who wouldn't acknowledge that the most fundamentally most important thing to get right is the script.

Everybody knows that and to have an event that focuses on helping people be better at what they do, just seems to make sense to everybody.

Do you feel that there is enough training for screenwriters in the UK?

There really is a gap. I think part of the problem is that there is only a certain amount of screen time available and so many people trying to get things made, that there seems to be gap between the people who have done it and the people who are trying to get in. That is the gap we are trying to bridge.

Another problem is that writers tend to sit in their own little space and have these wonderful ideas, but are often slightly disconnected with reality.

So as much as this is a place for people to learn new tricks and pick up professional contacts, its also a chance for writers to get together and talk about nothing but scripts and movies all weekend without being looked at strangely. It's a social gathering for likeminded people to say, look we're all crackers, we love this thing that we do, let's just enjoy it.

Have you had any experience running festivals before?

Not at all. …

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