As the International Screenwriters Festival begins work on its fourth edition, it's worth remembering that the number of events that have been able to break into the crowded international industry calendar are very thin on the ground.

But the festival, founded three years ago, was the perfect match of business need and a strong idea.

Most obviously it addresses a truism that writers have often been the forgotten element in the creative and business process.

Yet it has also performed a function that has been critical to its success and sealed its importance to the wider film business - bringing the worries and aspirations of writers into a clear industry context.

Delegates at the festival in the UK spa town of Cheltenham have rubbed shoulders with some of the most creative and brilliant names in the business.

This year's stellar line-up, for example, included Mike Leigh, Terry Pratchett, Christopher Hampton and Ronald Harwood.

Yet just as importantly they have been brought into contact with wider industry concerns.

At the most practical level, that has been through the onstage pitching sessions that have been a festival favourite. The search for this year's hopefuls has already begun. Click here for more.

More importantly, however, has been the business context. Founder and festival director David Pearson set out the agenda from the first festival that this would be an event that told it like it was.

'What I've noticed is that, unlike directors, writers are often isolated. They just don't know what is expected,' he said before this year's event in July.

The advice from an impressive line-up every year of industry figures can sometimes be blunt. An underlying theme every year has been to undestand the necessity to concentrate on audiences and to tailor ideas to real-life budgets.

Yet thebig positive has been the encouragement to see beyond the isolation to the opportunities.

For example, Jane Tranter, controller of BBC Fiction this year encouraged her audience to exploit co-production opportunities in TV drama and film.

'If you set it internationally, you get international funding. It's about asking you to be much more ambitious. We should take this opportunity to set drama on a bigger canvas.' Click here to see more.

The festival has also been a key testing ground for those campaigning for screenwriters to be given the status and rewards that there contribution demands.

It was in Cheltenham in 2006, that the Screenwriters Manifesto was given its clearest and most critical platform.

And in 2008, the more industry-focused Code Of Conduct was a major talking point. Click here for more.

Michael Gubbins, editor of Screen International, which has supported the event since it began and who spoke at this year's event, said it was easy to underestimate the scale of the achievement in founding the festival.

'There have been plenty of opportunistic attempts to set up events, with far more money than the screenwriters' festival, that have failed miserably.

'The success of this event comes down to a brilliant idea with clarity of objectives, executed by an amazingly committed team.'

  • Slideshow of 2008 festival
  • Festival website
  • Interview with founder and festival director David Pearson