Launched three years ago, the International Screenwriters' Festival (July 1-3) has established itself as a key event on the festival calendar.
Taking place in Cheltenham, south-west England, the event attracts a wide range of industry delegates. 'It's about 50% writers and 50% everybody else: producers, directors, agents, script editors, financiers, and so on,' says festival director David Pearson.
This year's speakers are set to include Mike Leigh, Christopher Hampton, Ronald Harwood and Deborah Moggach. Executives set to attend include Jane Tranter, controller of BBC Fiction, and ITV director of drama Laura Mackie.
The event gives writers a much-needed opportunity to speak with peers. 'I was amazed by some quite well-known writers who said, 'Actually I've never met another screenwriter,'' says Pearson. 'There wasn't the kind of community that you get in other parts of the industry, and that means that you're less well informed.'
For new writers in particular, the opportunity to meet the industry and learn about the business is a major plus. The informality of the event means delegates have access to big-name attendees.
'One of the things people like the festival for is that it's quite intimate and informal,' Pearson says. 'Some of the most interesting things can come out sitting under a tree in the gardens, or having a drink at the bar.'
Last year's event attracted just over 600 delegates from 15 countries. The event has also taken an active role in addressing the profile of writers, and the much-covered Screenwriters' Manifesto was discussed at last year's event.
'A lot of what we do is to encourage screenwriters to think like producers,' Pearson explains. 'It's something (Gladiator writer) Bill Nicholson said and he's absolutely right: screenwriters don't have to be producers but they should think like them. If they do, they'll have a much easier time.'