Mari Vindis shares her recent experience on Talent Campus
Back in September 2018 I submitted the first ten pages of a screenplay to London Screenwriting Festival 2018 Talent Campus 05, run by its founder, the filmmaker Chris Jones. Of the 90 or so scripts submitted, 28 were selected to form Talent Campus.05. It’s a fully immersive experience that is unlike any other writing course. Talent Campus takes emerging screenwriters and shows them how to seize the day.
We started mid-December with various writing assignments to warm up our writing skills and keep us in the zone with no let up during the festive season. When others in my family were sitting down with a glass of bubbles, I had my laptop open penning a two-page scene with no dialogue.
By mid January we were off to Regents University in London to meet our fellow Campers and the five day “Ignition” phase. It very soon became clear this was a course like no other. We struck confident Wonder Woman poses and through guided visualisations, we let go of any nagging doubts that we were anything but warriors on our own hero’s journey. A truly amazing line up of some of the best known names in British film and TV, led discussions and workshops, including John Yorke – former head of Channel 4 drama and author of storytelling bible Into the Woods; Gareth Unwin – Oscar winning producer of The Kings Speech; Jed Mecurio -the writer of the hit TV series The Line of Duty and Bodyguard.
The screenwriting world is both competitive and elusive and can take years to break into with rejection common, and in order to prepare us for this oft flaky and tough world, we had to embrace extraordinary challenges. We learnt to walk on broken glass, pitch our scripts with tarantulas or cockroaches crawling across our hands and bare our writing souls. The philosophy behind the challenges is that if we can do this, we can do anything.
Each day the group shared stories and writing adventures and we were put into smaller groups, each with a screenwriting mentor and coach. The mentors are all longstanding and highly respected industry professionals and the coaches are former Talent Campus alumni and award winning writers. We were encouraged to discuss our projects and initiate a pilot for a TV series. On the final day where we had decamped to Ealing Studios, we became firewalkers. We strutted across the burning coals from a timber pyre lit earlier in the evening shouting our new fire brand names to embody our ferocious commitment to our newfound status as bona fide screenwriters. It’s what most of us already were and fire-walking helped us to believe it.
Four weeks of intense writing of treatments, one-pagers, log lines and project development ensued with weekly Zoom meet-ups, one-to-one mentor sessions and group support. This is where the serious writing happened and we all noticed a heightened sense of productivity as well as creativity. Finally we met for two more days in February to prepare for the culmination of the Talent Campus experience, THE CRUCIBLE.
This was a networking event with industry professionals in central London where we could pitch (no spiders or cockroaches this time) our projects and make connections with industry professionals. The invitation list included some of the top names in TV and film commissioning, agents, producers, film makers and actors were invited and we met the most approachable and friendliest people that day, just as happy to meet us writers and talk about our work. They are always looking for new voices with new ideas and scripts for TV, film, online streaming, radio, web series and VR.
As for me, I’m making my first short film as writer and producer. I would never have done that if it were not for Talent Campus.