The world's first major festival exclusively devotedto the art, craft and business of international scriptwriting is to be inaugurated next Summer.

The Screenwriters Festival(June 27-30), backed by Screen International, will be based in the UK town ofCheltenham, which is already home to a leading literary festival.

Major names from around theworld have been invited with sections devoted to writing for a global market.

The event is the brainchild of David Bill, chairman of the Cheltenham Film Studios, and David Pearson, a former BBC executive and award winning producer/director who is managing director of Arturi Films.

Before organising this event, Pearson helped set up the Sheffield International Documentary Festival, an internationally recognised forum for non-fiction filmmaking where he serves on the Advisory Committee.

Said Pearson of the Screenwriters Festival: "The script isvital. It is the most important thing. But there arevery few places where screenwriters can meet and converse with the actors,directors and producers who need their imagination, ideas and writing."

"Cheltenham, with its venues (and association with itshighly successful Literary Festival) with Cheltenham Film Studios is theperfect place to site a Festival devoted to the art, craft and business ofscreenplays."

Among the event's backers are Oscar-winning writer Julian Fellowes, whosedirectorial debut Separate Lies (which he also scripted) gets its UK releaseon November 18. Fox Searchlight has already opened the film to very favourable reviews in the US.

Fellowes said the emphasis on writing to attract a wide audience was a skillthat was underestimated.

He is interested in encouraging writing in a way that can be commerciallysuccessful in a global market.

"Commercial is used as ahorrible, pejorative word when it means is that a lot of people will want tobuy a ticket and that's all."

Writers could learn a lot fromsuccess stories like Richard Curtis, he added.

Screen International editor in chief, Colin Brown, said the growth ofinternational market meant the timing was right for the event, since the demand for well-crafted material will only increase.

"Whatever the future holds for the fast-changing world of internationalcinema, great storytelling will be the reason for people worldwide to keepwatching films. It all starts with the script."

Filmmaker Alan Parker and David Bill will be the first festival patrons for the four-day event. Celebrated UK producer Stephen Woolley, who made his directorial debut with the new Brian Jones film Stoned, has agreed to be on Screenwriters Festival board of directors.

The project has also been backed by Cracker screenwriter Jimmy McGovern and BBC chairman Michael Grade.

Organisers Arturi Films are working with Cheltenham Film Studios, South West Screen, Gloucestershire Media Group, Wiggin & Co and Cheltenham Borough Council to host it. Funding includes support from the Cheltenham Council, lottery money, through South West Screen, cash from the media industry and corporate sponsorship.