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London Screenwriters’ Festival 2016 Launch – Q&A with Julian Fellowes

This year’s London Screenwriters’ Festival was launched last night at Regents University in Regents Park, with a special Q&A event hosted by Producer and NFTS Director Nik Powell. The guest of honour was brilliant screenwriter Julian Fellowes, best known as the Emmy-winning creator and writer of ITV’s hit period drama Downton Abbey and for his Oscar-winning script of period murder mystery Gosford Park, directed by the late great Robert Altman.

Our Creative Consultant Maureen Hascoet and Marketing Coordinator Francesco Cerniglia loved the inspirational talk with the loveable, humble yet charismatic Fellowes whilst Powell was a candid, digressing moderator with self humour who couldn’t be more opposite to the composed screenwriter, yet they formed a very entertaining duo.

Fellowes touched upon several interesting topics over a generous hour and also answered many questions from the audience in insightful and graceful manner.

On writing the final episode of Downton Abbey: Fellowes noted how different it was for him as opposed to crafting any other given instalment of the series. Rather than have a story to entice potential new viewers and occasional ones, he was solely concerned with rewarding the loyal audience that had been on board since day one. 

On how he got into writing: he called it a random fall into a rabbit hole. He started off as an actor and his serendipitous initiative-taking on a project that was falling apart launched him into the new career path. 

On the late great Robert Altman: Fellowes said he owes everything to the Gosford Park’s director as that was the writer’s big career break and Altman managed to use his influence to keep Fellowes’ script unaltered by the studio machine.

On working with actors and directors: he advised the aspiring writers in the audience to always listen to notes because even if they’re wrong, they might help identify how other elements which need fixing.

On careers’ ups and downs: Fellowes encouraged to not be held back by the possibility of making a fool of yourself because eventually it will happen. You just need to accept it and move on. Also, one thing you must learn in your career as well as in your life is when something is just not going to go to fruition.

On writing great female characters: he noted that he was always surrounded by strong women in his life and that informed his writing. He finds women in period dramas very interesting as they were operating with many limitations and rules so they had to get what they wanted within the limits of that society. He was impressed by their manoeuvring and lateral thinking. 

On his style and his process: Fellowes acknowledged how the recurrent theme in all his work is self knowledge or lack thereof, which he considers the most important thing in life. Becoming a writer later in his career and getting success at 50 years old informed his craft when developing characters because as you get older you’re more forgiving of people’s different views.

The evening was everything it promised to be, setting quite a tone and a bar for LSF 2016 which will take place September 2-4 at Regents University. This year, Blueberry will be actively involved in producing a few panels at the festival. Stay tuned for more updates coming soon. Meanwhile get your passes while they last!