#TalentCampus a life changing experience

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London Screenwriters Festival – First EVER Talent Campus 2015

As I boarded the 6am train from Manchester to Stockport last weekend, I was still in shock after being selected to participate in the 2015 London Screenwriters Festival (LSF) ‘Talent Campus. Having received the phone call confirming my place on the Monday I only had a few days to find myself transport and accommodation for the ‘Ignition’ weekend.

On the train ride to London I was riddled with nerves, not only as it was going to be my first experience using AirBnB, my imagination being rife with serial killers, but also sharing the same space as the incredible talent that awaited me in the form of the other delegates.

Entering Ealing Studios increased the anticipation and nerves. Luckily through the fantastic LSF network that I was active in I recognised a couple of people and felt slightly more at ease. We were rounded up and taken to our base for the next couple of days and typical me headed straight to the back of the room. Chris Jones gave us a number of messages throughout the morning about the structure of the Talent Campus which involves ten days of intense screenwriting experiences plus writing weeks with a mentor.

Discussing fears was a common theme during day one and it was a clear indication of why so many of us writers feel stuck in our writing careers. Positivity and belief was something which Chris kept referring to and ended up with me walking on glass at the end of the day. Crazy I know, given that I was more scared about having to stand up and introduce myself in the afternoon than walking barefoot on glass. But strangely telling everyone that most of the time I feel like a fraud and that one day soon I will be found out was scarier than potentially slitting my feet open. Talent Campus has certainly ignited!

Stephen Follows gave a fascinating insight into the types of movies that receive investment and patterns which have emerged in recent years. The stats are not great for sports movies which is my current project, but for comedy is slightly better. Even so, my project will be more of a calling card. It’s a story I feel passionately about and that I want to write which is something that echoed throughout the weekend – write where your passion is.

12015069_10153497299290091_5261957336951402956_oJohn Yorke’s session on structure was like a breath of fresh air. He took the complicated structures that we read so much about in Robert McKee, Syd Field and Blake Snyder to an extent and explained in such simple terms that I felt like I had a lightbulb moment listening to him. It was also so valuable to hear about the structure of television which is something that is discussed less than the screenplay. I even spoke to him in the break and complimented his approach which is something I rarely climb out of my introvert self to do.

The session on social media was insightful – led by expert Lucy V Hay who holds no punches when delivering her talks. It certainly made me re-think how I use facebook as a tool. Lucy was joined by actress/writer and filmmaker Vanessa Bailey who opened up the world of Instagram to me. Now I thought I was quite an expert at social media without really appreciating how much Instagram is used today. Vanessa opened my eyes up to this visual medium and how I could use it to promote myself as a writer. Gone are the days of just taking photographs of my tea or my cats – thanks to Vanessa I see this area in a whole new light and something to work on in the future.

12052508_10153497621425091_8732243746859876171_oThe amazingly, super-talented and extremely patient Kate Leys delivered an inspiring day where she took us all back to basics with story. She dissected each of the twenty-eight campus members story ideas in front of everyone including the mentors. She treated each of us the same, and every comment or observation was thoroughly appreciated by us. When it came to my project Kate offered advice, research and told me that she would go and see the film if it was ever made which was the biggest compliment ever.

The Talent Campus was a lot of hard work, but we had time for some fun games which really brought out people’s personalities as we had to work as a team to get our hands on an Oscar winning script. Not for the faint-hearted and really did show us all that perhaps collaboration is a way forward when needed.12080249_10153497621415091_6478357696794230199_o

Going forward and with our mentors on board, there is now a three week writing period to put as much preparation into the LSF week as possible. I’ll be having weekly skype meetings with my mentor Karol Griffiths to get my project to the stage where I can pitch it comfortably at the festival. A lot of hard work will be endured between now and festival week but that is what the appeal of Talent Campus is – strict deadlines amongst a sea of supportive peers.

Finally, I left the first campus weekend feeling confident, assertive and privileged to be going through such an incredible journey with my fellow campers. These people really are uber-talented, supportive and hopefully will remain friends at the end of the ten weeks.

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