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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Screenwriters' Festival 2009

"Is Jared coming? Where is he?"

These words have so far been frequently uttered, up to 100 times a day in the last three days... Factoid. But then I guess I should have known taking a fella with me who is allergic to ever turning up on time would be an issue. Luckily for me and the lovely Elinor, we have no qualms about leaving the bugger to fend for himself (rather in the same way we've both abandoned our children to fortune this week). Jared then turns up, out of the crowd, eyes wild with panic and booze-fuelled paranoia: "Where the hell did you go?? Didn't you know I'd be in the bar???" He's had a hangover every single morning we've been here! It's been rather fun in a perversely sadistic way, watching him over breakfast: he's been more and more grey in colour each day, shuffling food about on his plate before going off in search of the hair of the dog. FOR SHAME.

Observations so far: Cheltenham Ladies College looks like Hogwarts. Everyone started off saying things like "Walk with me" and "let's do lunch" and even, "But how do we monetize that?" as a joke and now everyone appears to be saying it for real. The SWF volunteers are awesome and know where everything is, even before you know you want to go there. Jason Arnopp appears to float on air in a Zen-like way, fluttering amongst everyone like a bird. Piers Beckley doesn't look like his blog picture and Phill Barron does. Julian Friedmann appears omnipresent, a bit like Jesus or Cate Blanchett. Oh and absolutely everybody appears to have an opinion on my sparkly eye shadow: 99% thumbs up, though one lady in the toilets asked me if I was a bit old for glitter. Nice!

I have been unable to rein in my uncool on two occasions - I GUSHED at one of my fave Corrie writers Damon Rochefort and randomly grabbed the awesome Olivia Hetreed as she walking past and told her even more randomly I'd read one of her scripts before running off again. *Le sigh*. Still I'm normally *ice cold super cool*(!), so childish enthusiasm has to surface every now and again >ahem<.

Got some fantastic notes for you all from some very good sessions and some more obvious tidbits too which never hurts to remind ourselves of. Not writing them now, 'cos we're off to the Rocliffe Forum reading, followed by yet more networking in The Queens Hotel. Tomorrow I have some producer speed dating, which just between you and me I'm DEAD nervous about, especially as all my friends with me have done it already. Apparently it's fine. I know that of course, but blarg -- scary. You know how it goes.

Oh is that the time?? Gotta dash... Speak soon my lovelies, wish you were here, let's do lunch. MWAH.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

I iz not here...

Hi, I'm not here. Or rather, I am here but I won't be blogging for the next week 'cos I'm at The Screenwriters' Festival and then, next saturday I will be filming Slash. Who the hell decided THAT was a good idea? Slave driving producer, that's who... Oh, right: me. Well, come on: it's a horror film and it's HALLOWEEN next saturday. How awesome is that? Well it seemed awesome six weeks ago when I decided, now I'm wondering how the hell I'm gonna shove everything into the next week. Hey ho. Whatever doesn't kill us makes us stronger, etc etc. I hope.

So it's gonna be radio silence from me for at least a week, but despair not: if you need your daily dose of rambling from yours truly, I can guarantee I will turn up on Twitter or Facebook during this time. Links below.

If you're at the Screenwriters' Fest too - come and say hello!!! Follow the sound of swearing and general interrogation of everyone and you're bound to find me. Alternatively, look for a brunette who's usually in purple or pink, a loooong black cardi and flared jeans who looks as if she's stepped out of a time warp circa 1977: that's me.

See you all soon!!!

Me on Twitter

Me on Facebook

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Let This Be A Lesson To You, Children ; )

I hear all the time from writers wails of confusion and irritation about how certain writers do well when they're yet to be discovered. "But they're so mediocre!" Said aspiring writers will say on message boards, forums and social networking sites. "If someone just took a chance on me, I'd do it so much better!!!"

Here's what I say: yeah right.

Check out John and Edward from the X Factor. Those guys SUCK at singing, but they're very entertaining. Both weeks the competition has run so far, much more talented singers have been voted off, yet those Irish twins are still there - despite repeated booing from the X Factor audience. I doubt they'll win, but I'm certainly not ruling it out altogether.

These guys have become the poster boys for what this competition is really about, what it's named for: X FACTOR. Not the Singing Factor. Not Dance Factor. Not Looking Really Cool Factor. End of the day, if you are rightly packaged - double trouble! How handy, not to mention memorable - it can work for you. You don't actually need that much talent. You just need to be in the right place at the right time.

And this can work for screenwriters too. Think about it: everyone goes on about talent, but what this means is so different to each person you talk to. It's unquantifiable. I've been called talented and I've been called a loser. We all have; we all will be again.

But PACKAGING - there's something that IS quantifiable. Being professional, knowing what you're talking about, pitching well, being polite, pleasant, someone to remember - we can ALL do that. But most of us don't. Most of us let self doubt crucify us - or believe erroneously the story we've dreamt up will do all the talking. IT WON'T. Preparation is key; remembering how you APPEAR is key. Sure you'll cock some stuff up and come across as a weirdo; learn from it, move on to the next one.

Basically it all comes down to this:

You are everything you have. So use it wisely.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Character Role Functions # 2: Movie Heroines - Who Gets Your Vote?

SPOILERS GALORE I often post here, there and everywhere about the veritable lack of decent female characters in movies and specs generally. So when my delightful stalker Jazz Juice emailed me this week and demanded to know who gets my vote as the "near perfect" movie heroine, I had no hesitation.... And you'd be surprised. It's not Ripley or any of her many imitators. It's not anyone played by Judy Dench, Maggie Smith or Meryl Streep, either. In fact, she's an oft-overlooked genre movie heroine...

... It's Julianne Moore as Sarah in Jurassic Park: The Lost World. Whilst far from a perfect film (how the hell DID that T-Rex kill everyone onboard the boat FFS??), I do actually think she's as close to a "real woman" we're gonna get out of Hollywood, especially in a genre film.

*I know, I know* -- WTF??? So let's consider the evidence:

She doesn't need a man - yet is all woman. Sarah goes to the island alone ahead of the rest of the party, so she clearly has balls of steel: there are BIG MONSTERS there, but she doesn't let that put her off. Refreshingly then, she doesn't act like a man as well. Despite putting up with no crap from the men, she has a maternal side, noted most when interacting with Kelly (Ian Malcolm's stowaway daughter) and is also a good girlfriend: whilst she chastises Malcolm for his belief she can't look after herself, she is also understanding based on his previous experience - and female enough to turn it ALL back on him: "If you wanted to rescue me, why didn't you rescue me from that charity dinner three weeks ago when you said you would? Or that dinner with your parents you didn't show up for?"

She draws on her predecessor, but doesn't mirror her. Ellie is Jurassic Park was not a bad heroine, but wasn't really involved enough in the main body of the action: IMHO, Laura Dern did what she could in a limited role, having only one real set piece to herself - the velociraptor in the electricity station - which was over very quickly and rather conveniently. In comparison, whilst Sarah shares some of Ellie's characteristics (her independence the most obvious), all manner of HELL is thrown at her: this enables us to look deeper INTO her character than Ellie's, since what Sarah DOES about it reveals what she is *really like*, a classic example of the screenwriting adage "characters are not what they say, but what they do".

She doesn't go to the island because she's stupid. Sarah takes a calculated risk, not a stupid one. She's experienced in her field and knows full well the island is dangerous, which is why she is so careful not to disturb anything - and it's worth remembering that UNTIL the men get there, she gets by completely undetected by the dinosaurs. In fact, had the mercenaries not landed there at all, she may well have made her target of "five or six days" to document the animals. In fact, the only stupid risk she takes is photographing the baby dinosaur up close -- which only goes wrong because she borrowed a camera from one of the men who didn't tell her it was almost out of film. As she says to Ian, "I've been working around predators since I was twenty years old: lions, hyenas... You."

She doesn't lose her head, even in mortal danger. There are a number of occasions in which Sarah's life is threatened throughout the movie - quite possibly more than anyone else, in fact. Yet despite this continual run of extreme bad luck, she never bewails her misfortune or does something *plain dumb* that marks her out as deserving to die like so many movie heroines (falling over and/or screaming a classic example). So whether she's being sniffed by a tyrannosaur (and having to protect a child at the same time), being chased by it or landing on a sheet of glass above a terrifying drop, or a velociraptor jumping on her back, she never once freaks out. This is in comparison to many of the men: Ian Malcolm stands by and watches, horrified, as the T-Rex goes in the tent and again when said velociraptor jumps on Sarah; another man FALLS OVER and is squished by the giant foot and of course most of the male hunting party run into the long grass and get picked off too.

She doesn't scream. I am so bored of movie heroines screaming in genre movies: there's a big monster, would you really waste time and breath screaming about it? Or would you simply leg it? Gotta be the latter. The only time Sarah even utters anything vaguely *like* a scream is when the velociraptor JUMPS on her back and I would categorise it more as a "yell of surprise", which is often involuntary. Again, much of the hunting party scream (even before they're eaten), despite being big butch men.

She uses her wits to get herself out of trouble. Women are not as strong as men: fact. That's why I get so pissed off seeing all these hotties kicking ass, there's no truth there for me - all we're doing is assigning traditionally "male" characteristics to women and whilst some women *are* as strong or stronger than *some* men, I think hottie-ass-kicking does little to further understanding of women as a whole. In comparison then, Sarah only faces danger down WHEN SHE ABSOLUTELY HAS TO, as anyone sensible (not just women) WOULD do. So rather than take on a T-Rex with the equivalent of Ripley's robot body armour in Aliens, Sarah mostly runs for her life - and Kelly's too, often hand in hand. I can get behind that; it's exactly what I would do, especially with a child in tow. She also relies on her own animal instincts, so it's a nice contrast in the barn when she and Kelly start digging for safety - as the velociraptors attempt to dig their way IN.

And perhaps most importantly:

She rescues herself, but accepts help when it is offered. I get really annoyed when I hear men say to women: "You're so independent, which is why I didn't help" and also when women say they DON'T want help EVER because they think to accept help from a man shows weakness. Just because a woman is independent does not mean she will not appreciate your help; she will always flock to your side when you need her (or should do!). Similarly, accepting help girls DOES NOT make you weak. This is shown up under the microscope here, because if Sarah can rescue herself - like in the barn - she will; if she can't (like in the truck over the edge of the cliff), she will accept a man's help gladly. Similarly, she will gladly take a distraction, like when Ian lures the velociraptors to the car, when she and Kelly escape into the barn. Why? Because she WOULD do the same for him.

So... What Movie Heroine does it for you - and why?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Tale of Two Readers

David has allowed me to indulge my John August fantasy by asking, "Do you think there is any value in sending a script to TWO readers at once? Or… Using a reader, re-write, then use a different reader?"

As with anything in this scriptwriting malarkey, I think it's principally down to the writer. I frequently use many readers at the same time on the same draft, because I'm a big fan of the Power of Three method. The way I see it, one reader might freak you out with a suggestion or observation (particularly story or structure-wise) two or even three others might NOT make - so what was a concern suddenly pales into insignificance.

A great example of this concerned a thriller spec I was polishing recently: I sent to four readers, all at the same time. One got back to me immediately with a damning report: he thought the story didn't work, he thought the characters weren't empathetic enough, the works - and he justified his reasoning well. But THREE other readers gave the story and characters the thumbs up. Suddenly I don't need to freak anymore: maybe he just DIDN'T LIKE the story or characters. Readers have their own opinions too (and rightly so). We all forget readers might not *like* a script, just like they might not *like* a movie, no matter how good it is and/or whether other people like it.

But there's also the point it can depend on the draft and where it is on the "rewrite scale". Personally, I don't tend to send very early drafts to multiple readers. I tend to send to one, trusted reader who can help me iron out the obvious stuff first - the lost opportunities in the plot, contradictory characterisation, dodgy dialogue, etc. We know, deep down, what our early drafts' problems are - but we're too close to the work, so we need someone to gently shove us in the right direction; I'm lucky in that I have several friends who I can rely on to help with this though. After this stage, I then start paying readers (and I DO get paid-for reads) for the more polished drafts, which I then compare and contrast with others' viewpoints on Po3.

So really: I'm afraid it just depends on your POV. I have Bang2writers who like to send work to me from the very first draft; others like to get Po3 and other peer feedback before paying someone like me to give the draft a going over. Similarly I know others who do the same as I do.

What do you do?

Monday, October 12, 2009

WTF? On Film: Guilty Pleasures

MEGA SPOILERSWe all have movies we're slightly ashamed to admit we love, particularly if we're screenwriters. Those movies might be unoriginal, hammy, badly executed with plenty of WTF? moments. Yet inexplicably these movies speak to us: we love them, watch them over and over again. We just can't help ourselves. I don't think there's a single person in the world who doesn't have at least one embarrassing DVD on their shelf.

For me, it's Underworld: Rise of The Lycans. The first movie was awful and the second even more so, but this one is great fun. I think it's because the *only* good thing about the first movie was werewolf king Lucien (Michael Sheen - he's "present" in Underworld 2, but only in flashback and only snippets from the first film, yuk!), so a whole movie devoted to him really floats my boat. Besides, I am actually in love with Michael Sheen, he's awesome: he could do anything, seriously, and I'd watch it. The fact then he spends most of THIS movie in near-states of undress or actually nude is a mega bonus, not least because I spend a lot of time stalking him on Twitter, the only celebrity I actually do (Hi Michael, run away with me, Kthxbye).

There's something delightfully Shakespearean about Rise of The Lycans: the vampire council sit every five minutes it seems and I was left in no doubt that if the Bard had written plays with vampires in, his scenes would not be unlike those, albeit perhaps a little more ironic and clever. OK, let's not forget *that* bit where Lucien watches his pregnant vampire girlfriend die AND THEN changes (WTF?? Oh he had a silver bullet in his shoulder... But this doesn't stop him AFTER she's dead??), but apart from that, it rolls along pretty smoothly, if predictably. Especially cos we've seen this story before... They actually tell the entire thing in flashback throughout the first movie. But hey! We get to see all the bits in-between and Bill Nighy gets to ham it RIGHT up and stalk about with a super-sour face on him, check this out: Rhona Mitra's in it playing herself of course as usual, but she actually fits in this movie. Steven Mackintosh makes a reappearance too and like the first movie, doesn't *really* do anything, but he riffs well with Nighy and there's that bloke from the first film who looks and sounds a bit like Ving Rhames, always a pleasure. (BTW, funny story: my son's father's girlfriend's MOTHER used to go out with Bill Nighy. Think I got that right... Small world).

So... yeah. I loved this movie: whilst my hatred of vampires is legendary, I love my werewolves, so this balances out nicely putting a werewolf in the protagonist's, instead of the antagonist's role (like the first movie). Some reviewers were very rude about the CGI here, but I thought it was fine: the running werewolves were good I thought and there's that great scene where the big spear things crash through the windows as the werewolf guys and Lucien were trying to escape the castle.... Though I am pretty sure they nicked the prison set straight out of Alien 3 and put the werewolves in it, but hey can't have everything.

So what's your guilty pleasure movie-wise? Don't pretend you don't have one, I KNOW you do....

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Male Spawn Strikes Again

About a week ago, I needed some cash, but being a writer of course I didn't have any. So I did what anyone would do - I asked my eleven year old son for some, since he seems to be freakishly rich thanks to guilty relatives on his absent father's side. Son said no problem, subbed me a tenner and wrote it down in his little book.

So last night I was brushing my teeth and Son wanders into the bathroom. "Mum, you owe me a tenner." He declares: "I may start charging you interest soon."

Interest?? Little bugger. So I said: "I don't remember you lending me a tenner," out of sheer badness.

Except Son has an ace up his sleeve: "If you don't give me my tenner back, I'll phone Childline and tell them you've been stealing my money to buy crack."

Touche.

Tony Jordan, my son is still available.

Monday, October 05, 2009

F*ck Off, You C*nts: Swearing In Scripts

DISCLAIMER: My less profane readers may want to skip this one... Oh, you saw the blog post title?? F*ck...! ; )Neil has been very vocal over his position regarding Anne Widdecombe's assertions in the Daily Express about profanity. Since I'm never one to let a good ruck pass me by, I thought I'd wade in too:

Neil! What the f*ck are you doing reading The Daily Express, you t*sser??


Lol. Kidding, obv: love you really Neilster (though not about the DE, WTF?). But seriously, the whole swearing debate really does my nut. I can see both sides: if you've met me in real life, you'll know I have the mouth of sewer. I don't give a shit, they're *just words*. But am I so happy hearing my children swear with such abandon?? Nope, I think it sounds HORRIBLE when little kids swear.

Yes, you're right: I'm a hypocrite. But guess what?? We all are to some degree on this issue of *just words*: I don't believe there is a person alive who isn't. We ALL have issues *somewhere* with profanity and defamation, even blasphemy: we all have a line we believe shouldn't be crossed. We might say words are *just words* when WE say them, but then we hear *other people* in the street swearing and yelling, do you call them chavs/pikeys/street trash? You might not believe in a God, but if your three year old yells, "Jesus Christ!!", does it make you wince? What if one of your mates calls your girlfriend a "c*nt", even said in drunken jest, are you gonna take that lads? It doesn't niggle... Even a tiny bit?? (By the way, when I was a little girl, I thought the "C" word I heard grown ups allude to was "COPULATE"... True story. I think I was thirteen before I heard what it really was, a boy at school called Adam told me. Dirty lil' f*cker, lol.

Words have power. Writers surely have to realise that... Saying various words are *just words* makes no sense to me. What if I called a black person a "Nigger" or an Asian person a "Paki"? You'd say I was a racist BITCH and you'd be right (not that I would EVER do that I hasten to add). And while we're at it, let's have a look at the "bitch" part - say that to a hetero male, would you? Of course not. But women and gay men, hey - it's *just* a word (!). I'm not a PC-nut and believe absolutely in free speech, but words can be used to undermine others and I think the worst thing we can do is forget that.

But for now, let's examine swearing as a CREATIVE tool and the arguments using it FOR and AGAINST in our work:

FOR: People swear in real life. Sure they do. They also go to the loo, have colds, breathe, talk boring rhetoric, repeat themselves, say "um/ah" constantly, start stories that never go anywhere, go ON AND ON in blog posts on the internet about swearing... You see where I'm going with this? Writers "get" the fact scripts are not supposed to be real life, but a representation of real life in just about everything except the swearing issue these days it seems to me. Yes there's a case for using *anything* in a script, but DO YOU NEED TO SWEAR CONSTANTLY LIKE PEOPLE IN "REAL LIFE"? 9/10, I'd say no.

AGAINST: It deadens impact. People often swear in moments of high emotion and this can be a really useful tool in writing - but if your characters swear every five seconds, how are you going to signify that high emotion? You've just brought everything to the same emotional level and actually sabotaged your ability to do that.

FOR: Sexy Beast was a f*cking great screenplay. For the record, I love Sexy Beast . But Sexy Beast was only remarkable for its use of "c*nt" because a) no one had done it so frequently and unashamedly before and b) 'cos it was BEN KINGSLEY who was saying it: you can imagine audiences all the way round the English speaking world: "OMFG! GHANDI SAID THE "C" WORD!!!" So much of killer dialogue depends on actor delivery. Think too what it looks like on the page, especially if it's a spec.

AGAINST: Audience/Genre expectation. Whether you like it or not, swearing is one of script readers' signifiers of who your audience is and what genre your script falls in. Society might be more tolerant of swearing now - hence Bruce Almighty being a 12A here in the UK"Over, to you, FUCKERS!!" - but then comedy allows for a certain amount of swearing within context (Bruce has an "excuse": he's at the end of his tether); as does horror or thriller. Every now and again we might even see the "F" word just past 9pm on the BBC in stuff like in the last series of Spooks (Adam: "Don't be a fucking coward!") or Waking The Dead last week: "Boyd: "You fucking bitch!!!"). Yet I see swearing with abandon, constantly, in ALL kinds of scripts - even TV series writers assert would fit the bill on primetime family viewing. I'm. Not. Kidding. It doesn't work and immediately gets me asking: does the writer actually know who they are aiming for and what slot/genre they are going for? Not good, especially in a script report.

FOR: Words Are Arbitrary. Yes, we might all have to agree what words mean dependent on what language we speak and what era we live in, but as I said earlier in this post, words are not JUST WORDS - words are our tools. How we use them - including swearing - makes us the writers we are. I've actually heard writers AGONISE over whether their characters say stuff like "How're you?" OR "How's tricks?" (as this could be indicative of *what type of character* we're dealing with), yet give NO thought to stuff like profanity. Weird.

And finally:

AGAINST: It's F*cking Boring!!! I once got a forty page script with seventy eight "c*nts" in. there's only one answer to that sort of profanity creatively I reckon and that's not, "What is society coming to??", but ZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

So looking at the fors/againsts there... Well it's quite obvious I'm AGAINST swearing on a swearing-for-swearing's-sake level. Like any other word, recognise its power AND its usefulness and PLEASE FOR F*CK'S SAKE USE IT WISELY. Kthxbye. ; )

Friday, October 02, 2009

Sarah Golding: Working With Script Editors, Initialize Films' Insider's Guide

I went to Initialize Films last night with my mate Jared (yes, the one who can't find his way to the RIGHT pub) to meet Sarah Golding and hear about her work as a script editor. Sarah's probably best known for being the script editor on The Constant Gardener, but has also worked as a script consultant, script editor or script executive on Patagonia (2009), Hotel (2009) , Mad, Sad & Bad (2009), The Edge of Love (2008) and in TV for Zenith Entertainment. Here are my notes - enjoy!
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SARAH GOLDING ON IMDB

THE REALITIES OF SCRIPT EDITING

Script editing is about negotiation: if the writer is resistant to an idea, really thinks it won't work, etc it's not worth fighting about; there is more than one way to tell a story, just keep going til you find the right solution. When there are conflicting voices and ideas in the development process, Sarah recommends going back to the point where it started for the WRITER. She also recommends noting what everyone - writer, director, producer principally - specifically LIKES about the story, discovering if "everyone is actually on the same page", or whether everyone *thinks* they are.

DIRECTING & WRITER/DIRECTORS

If directors are on board early, it makes it a lot more complicated: they must be convinced from the material on the page from the offset, otherwise they can't realise the film convincingly. All writer/directors are more "one than the other" in Sarah's view: they're never both roles equally. Sometimes a writer directing their own material does not get the subtleties of the script across, even though they've written it. Production processes or financial issues can take over or lousy chemistry between the actors. Sometimes the writer/director will simply believe those subtleties are there when it's not, because they're too close to the material. Sarah says readability of the script is key and very few directors realise this.

ADAPTATION

If you are interested in writing adaptations, Sarah recommends writing original scripts because "most production companies want a really good, original script" when vetting writers to do adaptations for them. Adaptation is about reinvention; they want to see if you can write as well. You need to bring your voice or your own unique spin to that adaptation as well.

STRUCTURE

Sarah was dismissive of paradigms and "methods" of structure when actually working WITH writers in actually editing their scripts together, preferring a "What if...?" approach, rather than "what's wrong". However she did say she might use such methods when preparing for scripts and identifying issues in the scripts during prep.

ACTION

Very few people write action well: don't slow down the read OVERDESCRIBING. Too much incidental information is "clutter" and confusing for the reader (echoed by one of my own posts, here). Also, a line of description between EVERY single line of dialogue is a bad idea in Sarah's view.

CHARACTER

If you feel character motivation or relationships is not coming across well on the page in your script, Sarah advises NOT revealing character via dialogue; SHOW them for who they are via what they do.

DEVELOPMENT MEETINGS

Sarah recommends writers NEVER decide on the spot about the script notes they're given (except for those "lightbulb" moments of course); no one expects you to. Script editing is an intuitive process, questions should be asked to "open the door" to find solutions to issues in the script and writers need to think this over before saying yes or no.

TV DRAMA SERIES

Sarah recommends working as a script editor on returning series. She says it gives people a real appreciation of what goes into series, how writers can bring their own originality to it within the constraints of the show; script editors must maintain a "balance" on the show, audiences don't want too many of the same "type" of story.

A returning drama series is the "gold standard" for any production company: if you can nab a space in the schedule, it's "pay dirt". However it's worth remembering there is so much space IN the schedule for your new series - what will they need to chuck out to fit yours in? How likely is it they will get rid of a well-established show to do this? "The same old war horses trundle on": is there room for half a dozen more new series a year? At the very maximum.

Sarah recommends working with a good independent production company in attempting to get your TV drama series to screen: she says the likelihood of getting a commission is high on their agenda, they're less likely to throw money away on development that will go nowhere. Some companies have the "Midas Touch" as far as the networks are concerned - though these companies are more likely to have their own creative team and less likely to take your original idea.

Finally:

*THAT* PHIL PARKER ARTICLE

Sarah agrees with what Phil says (link above - if you haven't read it, WHY NOT??): she says the main reason development can be problematic is because people stay such a short time IN their jobs before "moving on"; development does not offer a proper career structure. Script editors at the networks and in indies often "grow up" to become producers. There are more people developing than ever, it's become an industry - unlike places like France where there is NO money for development - but there ARE very inexperienced people developing our screenplays in the industry!
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Great stuff. I can recommend the Initialize evening seminars: they're very informal and relaxed. We were all sitting around a table, just a few of us, literally having a chat last: a good break from more traditional set ups. They have more evening seminars coming up in film finance, writing for online media and adaptation case studies, amongst others. Click here for a full calendar and more details.