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#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.

Happy New Year

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It’s been a while since I’ve blogged on here, and to be honest I feel a bit bad about that.

A couple of reasons really, I’ve been busy writing two plays and continueing with all the other writing commitments that I have. I’m struggling with an ongoing back problem which has made it just bareable to carry on working, but leaving me exhausted in the evening and just being damn right lazy.

I’m still to blog about my trip to NYC, the saga with my ailing back and my Christmas radio play.

For the person who read a review I did about a certain play that I endured at The Lowry who went on to say that I was a frustrated writer and hadn’t finished anything. Well I have and I had a radio play broadcast four times over Christmas. Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years Eve. I’m also well on my way to writing two out of six episodes of my comedy drama “The Starr GIrls” – yes you read it here first. Determined to get those finished and hopefully graduate this year with my MA in Television and Radio Scriptwriting, unless my back gets in the way. It would be a fabulous achievement to have completed my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in my thirties.

With the new year comes those awful new years resolutions. What is it that a different day, brings with it a time of reflection and the need to change things about oneself.

I don’t like new years resolutions – I much prefer to set myself targets. That way if I fail miserably I won’t feel like such a failure which I think with resolutions you do. I know, it’s the same thing really isn’t it?

What are yours? I love finding out from people.

I’m going to be joining weightwatchers again on Thursday – along with half of the population I suspect. I don’t know what’s happened to me in the past 18 months but my will power got up and left me, and with it it’s left some extra flab and a horrendous sweet tooth. I managed to lose a couple of stones before I started the job where I am now. But overtime it’s slowly crept back on. Not helped with having to decrease my exercise when my back started giving me hell shortly after returning from holiday in September. So back to fat club I will go, back to counting points, being hungry and if I am a grumpy cow at the moment it will get worse when my belly is screaming out for snickers and custard creams.

Facebook. Oh yes indeed this one rears it’s ugly head as I realise how much time I spend reading posts every day. I have eased myself off posting things on there other than posters, captions etc but I do need to stop reading it before I get up in the morning. It winds me up – full of attention seekers, show offs, baby bores or moaners. I much prefer twitter and have a fondness for a number of my followers, but just love the way I can watch TV and find out the opinion of others who are watching the same show as me. Powerful stuff.

I’ve already mentioned trying to pass my degree this year. I’m also going to try and not be a doormat that certain people in my life only contact when they want something. In future I am going to put myself first, and to stop tieing myself in knots to try and please folk.

Every payday I am going to treat myself to an item of clothing. Over Christmas I have looked through my wardrobe which is full of clothes which I never wear anymore, clothes that are faded and tattered. I have a couple of pairs of shoes and that is all. I realise that I really need to invest in making myself feel better about myself and it starts with clothes. A woman of my age should not live in converse, and work shoes – have no clothes to go shopping in other than jeans and a hoodie. No more, I wouldn’t think twice about spending money on my kids so it’s time to spend a little on myself.

And that’s it. There’s enough there to keep me going in 2014. We’ll see how many I actually achieve by the time I reach the end of this year. But, no matter what I do or don’t achieve this year one thing I did do was finally go to New York City. If I never do anything more with my life at least I have the fabulous memories of that wonderful city.

18 July : Word counts #wpad

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Love them or loathe them word counts are an essential part of being a writer and the thing we become obsessive about (well maybe just me).

• If I write five hundred words then I can reward myself with fifteen minutes on twitter and facebook.

• 45 minutes of radio should be approximately 7500 words. Heck I’ve written over 10,000 words – HELP!

• If I make the font size larger then does that mean that I can write less?

• If I make the font size smaller can I write more?

• Does anybody else think that word count matters?

• Does writing 140 characters constitute as actual writing?

I tend to be of the type that writes too much and then has to trim the fat from the script, rather than having to pan something out. I think being like this must be better than not having enough words on the page and then having to add dialogue to meet the word count.

Most writers are probably used to having to work to word counts anyway. Those who went to university had word counts drummed into them for three years (unless a Maths graduate etc). Any publication that is written for generally follows a word count too.

It’s a useful way to write anyway, given that it trains the writer to be economical with their words. I for one can waffle for England with my fingers.

This is a post for http://www.writesofluid.com blog writing challenge. One blog post a day for all of July.

11 July : Best non-fiction read (aka a social media rant) #wpad

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Social Media
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Like it or love it, social media is going to be round for some time and if you don’t get on board with it then you’ll just get left behind.

Twitter is my favourite online social networking service and I enjoy reading text-based messages of up to 140 characters, known as “tweets” by some of my favourite writers, sports personalities and friends.

Quite rightly Twitter has gained worldwide popularity, with over 500 million registered users as of 2012, generating over 340 million tweets daily and handling over 1.6 billion search queries per day.

Why do I enjoy using twitter and it not annoy me as much as Facebook does?

a) It’s so simple to use. Type in the tweet box and send – the only restriction is trying to limit your thought into 140 characters, but you soon get used to chopping words down.

b) You start to feel special once those followers start flooding through. Twitter is the pinnacle of making a person feel popular, appreciated and thankful that people want to follow you. If anybody dares to deny that they check their number of followers on a weekly basis is lying. Follow me @sarahcassidy

c) You make new friends. I’ve made some great new virtual friends through twitter just by following fellow writers like myself. I am hoping to meet a couple of them this year at the London Screenwriters Festival.

d) Twitter gives you an audience and you feel like people are listening to you. People tweet whatever crosses their mind – opinions, comments, jokes, questions and other people respond to it. Katie Hopkins is currently riding an incredible wave following on her twitter as she continues to upset/empower people through her non political-correctness tweets.

Facebookache

I have conflicting relationships with FaceBook.

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Thank goodness that facebook wasn’t around when I was spawning out my kids as I am sure I would have become one of those really annoying parents who posts every single baby photograph onto it.

You know the ones – Dexter’s first tooth, Dexter’s first smile, Dexter’s first shitty nappy, Dexter at school, Dexter at sports day, Dexter and his certificate for having his first shitty nappy, Dexter smiling at receiving his first certificate for his first sports day, Dexter asleep, Dexter asleep while holding his certificate etc.

I am no angel and am known to post the odd photo or two if my kids do something amazing, but it will be just the odd photograph or two.

I will post photographs of scrumptious food that is about to consumed in my greedy belly though as that is way more exciting than Dexter’s shitty nappy.

I also will post my holiday photographs though, because firstly I only allow a few people to view them so I won’t annoy the rest of my faceache friends who I don’t know in real life to view them, and secondly given that I lost 7 years of photographs on a hard drive that was irretrievable earlier this year it is always good to have a back up.

I also take holiday photographs specifically for facebook. A photograph a day was last year’s holiday quest and I’ve no doubt I will continue to annoy my friends with it this year too.

And yes, if I am visiting somewhere amazing in the world I will check into it. I really am that annoying.

But, one thing you will never see from me are photos of drunken nights out, being half naked like some people do, bitching about people, feeling sorry for myself, bragging (unless I am checking into a place), bullying others or requesting friends that I don’t speak to in real life (unless they are distant relatives).

The politics around faceache are immense.

A person who ignores me in everyday life will then request me as a friend.

Secondly, the people who are your friends on FB you suddenly find really annoying but you can’t unfriend them because then it gets weird. What would happen if you unfriended a relative? Has anybody actually ever done that? Did they live to update their status the next day?

Thirdly, you end up remaining friends with absolute numpties so that when you are having a bad day a click on their wall makes you feel so much better about yourself. Come on we all have those friends. It’s like watching Jeremy Kyle, you hate it really but you need to watch it every now and again to make you feel glad that you are normal.

Then comes the irritating birthday saga.

The only day you feel popular now is your birthday when everyone will write on your wall. Woah betide that person who didn’t post Happy Birthday on your wall. It’s been noted and don’t think I will be posting a greeting on their wall when it is their birthday.

Then comes the torment you go through on the actual day because the few people who used to telephone you on your birthday don’t anymore.

Back to the rant on how annoying Faceache is. Well it brings out the attention seekers too. You know the ones with the cryptic status’s such as “I am so unhappy” in a desperate bid for people to comment and ask you all about it. Yawn! Then there are those that will write controversial status’s to engage a long conversation on their newsfeed – again maybe they need to feel special?

Facebook seems to attract the racists, sexists, baby bores, stalkers and moany arses. How I would love to go back in time and never sign up for it. I’m no better than most, the only reason I keep it is to play scrabble, candy crush and read the groups that I follow – and of course keep tabs of those status updates for possible characters in any future writing.

The list could go on. On the plus side though it is a great tool for keeping in touch with friends and family overseas. I’ll be staying with in-law relatives soon in USA and Canada and being able to form a relationship prior to meeting them has been beneficial to me. I know a little bit about them before I meet them for the first time which will help with the nerves as I’m not the most talkative person with people that I don’t know.

Rant over folks, I need to update my status and tweet where I will be sunbathing this lunchtime.

This is a post for http://www.writesofluid.com blog writing challenge. One blog post a day for all of July.