Workshops

#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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BBC Salford Sitcom Showcase

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On Friday night I attended the second year of the  Salford Sitcom Showcase at the BBC Studios in MediaCity. A colleague from my masters course had managed to secure extra tickets, and even better the tickets belonged to the gold wristband brigade.

The gold wristband brigade are looked after, something that “cheap seats” moi was not used to. And of course made the most of the corporate hospitality (darling!).

I enjoy the thrill of being in the audience, whether it is at a concert, theatre or in television studios. As I write this, I will be attending the Celebrity Mastermind recording tomorrow night which reinforces my audience geekness.

The Salford Sitcom Showcase is an event for the BBC to platform six theatrical presentations of new potential sitcoms to local audiences and to the industry professionals. I do believe that Citizen Khan was picked up at one of these showcases last year.

The first sitcom was called Chain Gang and was written by Kevin Cecil and Andy Riley who wrote together on Little Britain and Spitting Image. More recently they wrote the international box office success Gnomeo and Juliet. The log-line for Chain Gang is “At Sunbeans every macchiato is served with a smile…apart from one branch in Bristol, where it’s more likely to be emptied over your head”. The premise for the show is that the execs at Sunbean send in the wimpy Alistair, fresh from management training to turn around the Sunbeans branch lazily run by the ruthless Natasha, who sleeps with musicians by telling them that she works for a record label.

I really enjoyed this pilot episode, especially Paolo, a camp, Brazilian who spends his working day at Sunbeans on his blackberry – and that’s not the flavour of muffins either. Paolo was played by Stefano Braschi and I could easily see him being the lead character in this show if it did get commissioned as he was far more likeable than Natasha. A gag about him cleaning his cock-ring in the milk steamer had tears of laughter rolling down my cheeks.

The second production was called Homeboys and was written by Pete Jackson, who had a stint of acting with Ant and Dec on Byker Grove. I found this show started off very strong, lots of laughter and characters were set up almost immediately in their first scenes.

David and Brian are Homeboys; 20 something brothers still living at home, despite their parents’ best efforts to get rid of them. David and Brian are total opposites, David is a cocky salesman, and Brian is a recluse who spends his time under the kitchen table in a homemade bar.  The lovely Pauline McLynn from Father Ted and Shameless series starred as their quirky mother and for me she stole the show as she helped David to trick his boss into thinking that he was going to make a killer sale in damp-proofing.

Afterwards, myself and my peers were introduced to a few people who were involved in the production. I spent half an hour chatting to Pauline aka Mrs Doyle from Father Ted who was the most delightful and friendly person I could have met.

Afterwards, it got me thinking to my own goals that I have with the writing. Maybe one day it will be a script by me that has made it onto the shortlist for a live performance – who knows?

But, one things for sure, I definitely could get used to having priority seating, access to the actors, all you can drink wine and platefuls of fancy nibbles.