Lucy V Hay is a maestro script reader, editor and screenwriter. She's the head script reader for the London Screenwriters’ Festival (SWF), and focuses on her work as a novelist and blogger. Bang2write is her script consultancy where she blogs from, and over the years she has created an amazing network of writers at all levels. Some of the nuggets her blog offers focus on writing craft, submissions, pitching, genre, characterisation, writing research, as well as a script reading and editing service.
Hay’s blog started before Facebook or Twitter, and this platform started to gain a lot of traction, growing into a real community; offering real opportunities to expand her business by platform building, something that comes to Hay instinctually. “It’s a very lively group, engagement is extremely high.” She does, however, have to rule it with a rod of iron: “there are some naughty people in the group, and wherever there are writers, there are insane people!”
This woman is a bit of a real life warrior, the real 'WonderWoman'. She had a baby early on and proved you can still make a career for yourself if you retain your steel, stay focussed and work hard. Everything that she’s set out to do she has done. She wanted to publish a book, she did it. She wanted to publish another book, so she did it again; publishing a number of books both factual (on screenwriting) and a good few fiction works.
Upon reflection her greatest achievements are the things she didn’t set out to do. She didn’t know that she was creating a platform (Bang2write), she didn’t know she was creating a valuable community (Bang2writers). “I knew that I wanted to help people but I didn’t realise I was creating this safe space where people could be themselves and talk about writing and their hopes and dreams. I didn’t know that was possible, and I did it anyway. People come to me, say "thank you, you’ve changed my life; because of you I went to university; because of you I wrote this short script and I went looking for a director and found one and my film now exists; thank you for helping me believe in myself." I did it intuitively and without realising it, and built something that matters, and I am proud of that.”
In 2012, Hay had treatment for cancer and was unable to work. Her cancer journey was about 6 months, which in terms of cancer was relatively short. Although as she puts it, “it was very intense because I’d just had a baby, had to have an operation because I was ill, then they found cancer, then they had to treat the cancer.” So during that time she was very fragile mentally and physically, which was brought on by the chemo.
She didn’t work as such during this time, and Chris Jones at the London Screenwriters’ Festival kept her seat there warm. She carried on writing her blog and doing favour reads for friends, but that was all she could manage during treatment. Money was tight, “we lost my income overnight,” but Hay was very grateful it was a reasonably short-lived situation, and by the end of 2012 she was back at work.
Writing her own scripts has not been on Hay’s agenda for quite some time, since her cancer experience. She’s been focusing mostly on the blog, growing her business and writing books. However, in the last six months she has been writing with a partner, something new to her, having never had a writing partner before: her previous collaborations were as a script editor.
She pitched a supernatural horror to a friend and she loved it. Hay favours the Hollywood Japanese model of supernatural horror, whereas her friend likes the French and German stuff that’s going on. Between them, they will no doubt produce something really interesting. We don’t have much of this in this country, and Hay says that producers are interested in supernatural horror.
Their screenplay is currently being edited and she’s hoping to get it off to her agent shortly. They spent three times as long on the concept than they did on writing the pages, which were fleshed out really quickly. Taking their own advice they put the time into the concept and structure, nailed that, and the rest pretty much wrote itself.
If you want to get out there as a writer it’s much easier to get a book published than to land a film commission. But Hay’s advice on making a short is that it’s relatively easy if you work within the confines of your finance, or make use of crowdfunding.
To make a movie you can scale it up; if you collaborate you can achieve a lot more as a script writer. So the best way of getting yourself out there is to go and make a short, find people to work with, make a team and you will progress forwards. In terms of TV she advises to make shorts, especially as they’re so much easier to make now. Go after awards, using them as springboards to make meaningful contacts and relationships: especially micro shorts (five mins or less) which you could make for a couple of hundred quid (although you might need a couple of thousand pounds to enter them in all the festivals).
There are many things you can do in the short film world to get your name out there and get credits, get on the right people's radar and scale up from there. Know your strategy to build your career.