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BAFTA Blog November 2008 by Farah Abushwesha

20 November 2008
Actors performing at BAFTA/ROCLIFFE New Writing ForumBAFTA

Farah Abushwesha, curator at Rocliffe, describes November’s BAFTA Rocliffe New Writing Forum – the most popular and ambitious event yet.

This BAFTA / Rocliffe New Writing Forum event was the most popular yet, selling out in record time. Co-hosted by BAFTA chairman David Parfitt, the award-winning producer of Shakespeare in Love and forthcoming feature A Bunch of Amateurs, three script extracts were performed on the Princess Anne Theatre Stage in front of a live audience.

Two hours prior to the start, each script company - comprised some of the UK’s hottest actors, the three featured scriptwriters, and three up-and-coming directors - furiously rehearsed with script in hand in breakout rooms around BAFTA. Having never met before, and with only an hour to rehearse the script, it was a real challenge to get each piece read-through perfect, in time for the start of the event.

I knew the night was ambitious given our musical and visual additions to the event. This was the first time the event had been performed in the Princess Anne Theatre. There was a slight nervousness in the air as the main audience lights went down: the stage lit up, the visual backdrops by Kem White appeared on the screen and musical intros framed the script... as I watched the audience become absorbed into the diverse fictional worlds: firstly Papua New Guinea, then a London nightclub and finally 19th century Cambridge and Madras.

You could read the pride on the writers’ faces having watched their words transformed by flawless performances. Each writer had to come on stage for constructive feedback from David and comments from the floor - such public scrutiny is a challenge for any writer. Nevertheless, they took it in their stride and garnered useful comments to help them with further redrafts. The aim of the evening is to give the scripts a development work-out that that is interactive and productive, where everyone's opinion counts as long as it is constructive. On this, the event was a resounding success.

Despite having flown in from LA that lunchtime, David didn’t hold back in his practical feedback on the work. His comments opened up ideas about the work, which in turn, created heated discussion in the audience. His gracious and honest approach allowed for an objective debate which carried on into the bar well after the event had ended. His recollections about his own industry experiences, left the audience in no doubt that they were being given a very privileged insight into one of the UK’s most charming and successful independent producers.

Ian Irvine, writer of Nine a script about NGOs being kidnapped in Papua New Guinea, described his experience: "not only did it allow me to test out my screenplay's 'hook' [but] the feedback I received can only result in a stronger script."

Then there is the success of the last Forum (April 2008) where featured script Back to Jack by Claire Wilson was optioned on the night by Element Pictures, and is about to go into pre-production. "Rocliffe has done great things for my career; at my last reading I got an agent and this one... well... I thought it went pretty well" (Claire Wilson).

Judging by the sell-out success, the caliber of script submissions and attendees that the event discovers, the BAFTA/Rocliffe Forum is becoming a must-attend-event for anyone with an interest in developing and discovering new talent.

Rocliffee Handout 13 Nov 2008 (404.1 KB)