FORTHCOMING one day COURSES I’m running at the Indie Training Fund, London – STORY, CHARACTER & IDEAS masterclass (May 31) and SCRIPT EDITING ESSENTIALS (July 19).
Last weekend I ran my two day SCREENWRITING COURSE in London. It’s always great to meet new writers and this course was no exception – we had such an exciting, varied mix of writers.
One of the things I try to stress about the course is the opportunity to meet and get to know 19 other screenwriters. Some lasting friendships – and working relationships – have come out of these courses. And part of the course is stressing just how important it is to work on making your own network of writer connections.
With writing being such an isolated activity, it’s vitally important for morale that you know and can compare notes with other people in the same situation. Writers Groups who meet up regularly to give feedback on each other’s work (and share a laugh and a glass of something) can really help you sustain a career. And the online equivalents can be a great help too (we have a facebook group that is only open to people who have done this course – now up to 261 members! – that enables these writers to talk to each other).
And your fellow writers can be a great source of information about work and opportunities.
I always stress that the hour or two in the pub at the end of each day should be taken just as seriously as the actual course. It’s often in the pub afterwards that the real connections are made, and the really interesting information shared!
By chance on the Saturday my old mucker Phil Gladwin also turned up in the pub with another group of screenwriters, because he had been running the latest event in his ‘Tribe’ initiative. It was great to be able to introduce the two different groups of screenwriters to each other – so that they could swap notes on their work – and on the two courses!
And it’s always really stimulating to get a sense of where each of these writers is up to in their working lives, and how they can all help each other. So, for instance, we had one writer who has a lot of experience of working on ‘constructed reality’ TV shows (eg TOWIE, Made In Chelsea) and it was fascinating to hear how these shows are created, using so many of the same story-telling principles as conventional TV drama. We had a novelist looking to move into screenwriting. We had a comedy writer who is interested in how to use her comic voice in drama. We had a writer who has started to have some success in childrens TV drama. We had a police officer from Northern Ireland who is keen to find a way to use his work experiences as the basis for dramatic stories…I could go on. But this will give you an idea of the mind-blowing range of different writers we have on these courses – and how their different agendas can be of such value to each other.
We had three brilliant guest speakers – writers Regina Moriarty and Vinay Patel, both of whom have been on the Channel 4 screenwriting course (Gina in 2012, Vinay in 2015) and literary agent Matthew Bates from Sayle Screen.
It was really interesting to hear Gina and Vinay talking about how they manage their careers – and how working as a screenwriter (or a dramatic writer in any medium) is in so many ways very demanding. One of the key ideas that came through from both (and from Matthew) was how important it is to retain a sense of your own personal voice, agenda and passions as a writer, to try to find work that played to their strengths, to work at retaining a sense of their own voices and strengths as writers on every project they take on.
Coincidentally both writers’ first big breaks came on shows from the same (BBC) stable – Gina on ‘MURDERED BY MY BOYFRIEND’ and Vinay on ‘MURDERED BY MY FATHER.’ Both shows are superb and really showcase the talents of the writers, and both these projects opened many doors for them. And it was interesting to see when I came home from the course on Sunday evening that the 3rd film in this series, ‘MURDERED FOR BEING DIFFERENT’ won a prize at this year’s TV BAFTA’s. It’s a huge compliment to executive producer Aysha Rafaele that she has made three such high-quality single films, and is always prepared to put her faith in relatively inexperienced writers. We need more producers like her! I’m not sure what it says about the industry as a whole that shows like this – pioneering, high-quality, writer-led single dramas – came out of the Factual department rather than the Drama department – but what it does say is not great!
There are so many great writers and scripts out there; and not enough producers like Aysha who are prepared to put their faith in these new writers and fight to get their work on screen.
Matthew also talked about how writers need to be in it for the long haul – and that when approaching agents, writers need to have demonstrated their own sense of initiative, that they are a self-starter who has already forged their own contacts and place within the creative industry. And how it inevitably takes time to build up a body of significant writing work, and the sort of contacts you need. He emphasised how hard it is to make a living as a creative (in any industry) and how you should only go down this path if you’re absolutely committed to it.
But (in case this is beginning to sound too downbeat!) I should also say that the main thing to come out of the weekend is just how exciting it can be to sit in a room with 20 talented writers as they talk about their work, and pitch brilliant, exciting ideas. And how inspiring all three guest speakers were in conveying a sense of how fulfilling it can be when you do break through, when you’re being paid decent money to write something you’re passionate about, and in particular when that work makes it to the screen.
I hope to be organising another of these courses for the autumn – watch this space!
EVERYTHING IS COPY
I’d been looking for the Nora Ephron documentary EVERYTHING IS COPY for some time. Thank you to Xandria Horton who pointed me in its direction (Sky On Demand). It’s hard to find but very much worth seeking out. Nora Ephron was a great writer – whether of journalism, essays or screenplays.
Her work was so closely inter-twined with her life. The title is something her own mother (a Hollywood screenwriter, who co-wrote with Nora’s father) used as a mantra to Nora and her three sisters. And it’s a statement / question that is at the heart of the work of all writers. The film explores this issue fascinatingly but is about so much more too – family, friendship, ambition, relationships. A really thoughtful, inspiring celebration of a hugely distinctive and very brilliant writer.
Finally this week, two exciting, newly-announced dramatic writing schemes –
‘BAFTA is seeking 15 writers from areas of under-representation within our industries for its latest Elevate programme. If you are trying to progress your writing career in film or high end television drama or comedy but you feel held back by your disability, gender, race, sexual orientation or socioeconomic background or if you know someone who is, then we want to hear from you.
Those selected by our panel of industry experts, will receive a bespoke 12-month programme of support including networking opportunities, introductions, mentoring, tailored panel discussions, masterclasses and workshops focused on professional development.
This is not an entry level programme, this series is not about teaching screenwriting. Participants are required to meet a certain level of experience to be considered and must have at least one on-screen credit or commission.’
High Tide First Commissions
‘We’re thrilled to launch this year’s First Commissions scheme, our flagship Artist Development programme.
This year, we are partnering with Coney, Eastern Angles and Tamasha to engage writers and theatre makers from a wide range of backgrounds and artistic styles. The 18 month attachment, exclusively aimed at those who have never received a commission, will support artists in securing a full commissioning fee and developing their brand new plays over the attachment period.
HighTide and each partner organisation are looking for playwrights, theatre makers or artists with a burning idea who have vivid, theatrical voices. We are also interested in artists who may not necessarily identify as a ‘writer’ but have a desire to create theatrical, relevant and innovative work.
Applications are now open and will close at midday on 14th June 2018.’
The next newsletter will be on Friday June 1st,
All the best
May 18th 2018