Towards the end of November, I was lucky enough to be given a place on the Scottish Book Trust's inaugural Screenwriting Lab, to be run by Adrian Mead. It's only taken me a MONTH to get some notes up about this, but what with Christmas, assignments, and then a gas leak at my Grandmothers, it's been a bit of a nightmare, anyway, enough whining, on with the notes.
There were 18 participants. The course ran over three days, and we covered a plethora of things including :
an overview of the film & tv industry,
brainstorming and generating ideas,
developing a positive and realist self-belief and attitude,
coping with feedback and getting the most out of it,
creating concise, relevant working documents (loglines, pitch docs and so on),
the best way to approach agents,
interpreting contemporary ideas and stories into workable formats,
workshopping a script and how to do it,
raising your profile as a writer,
rewrites and dealing with notes,
what actors, directors and producers want from a script.
The workshop covered all of those, and more, and was further expanded with visiting professionals :
First up was a substantial actors workshop from 2 brilliant visiting actors, Astrid and Paul. My script was lucky enough to be chosen, along with one other, to be workshopped in this section, and it proved to be a helpful opportunity to see how actors work with a script, and how they interpret a screenplay into life. The most important things I learnt were to be concise as possible on the page - lose the extraneous fat, and to leave some of the interpretation to the actors - don't overkill with information - they like being a part of the 'puzzle' in helping (with their performance) to make a character come alive. Another valuable thing, was that I learnt that I actually enjoy the collaborative process - I was nervous of the approaching workshop, once I knew my script was one of those chosen, but I found the experience rather exciting and constructive - nothing like hearing an actor physically speaking your words, for you to know instantly, which of those words are working, and which deaden the flow. Adrian was very aware that some of us may find, or have found, the collaborative process difficult or awkward, and was careful at each stage, to check how the Lab participants were finding the experience. It was a conducive atmosphere, where we were allowed to experiment, and speak our minds. The actors were very open and honest as we quizzed them - an enlightening workshop.
The final workshop was from Scott Ward and Mintu Mantenen who took us through visual narrative, and how writing for the screen differs from other forms of writing (not as easy as it sounds). We were introduced to shorts which featured no dialogue, and lots of worldwide cinema and forms of storytelling. I hadn't expected to enjoy this section as much as I did, but it was actually a little mind-expanding, and has already changed my way of thinking about dialogue.
All in all, an incredibly valuable experience that benefited hugely from having such an enthusiastic tutor. If you haven't already enjoyed the Mead experience then try to solve that in 2008. I appreciated and enjoyed the enthusiasm, but also found the fact that it was balanced with a good dose of realism and practicality, refreshing. The after-sessions in the pub, were just as useful, as Adrian and visiting tutors made themselves available for further discussions. Last but not least it was lots and lots of fun. I met novelists, a director, fellow students, and all other kinds of writer - and some of us are still planning on developing a little 'Power of Three' action in the new year - we networked like bitches, and didn't even have time to feel nervous or unsure.
The Scottish Book Trust deserves praise for being such a friendly and extremely well-organised host. They're Scotland’s national agency for reading and writing, and it's well worth signing up for their mailing list.
An absolutely worthwhile 3 days - if you get the chance, get yourself on it, especially if you're feeling a little jaded or confused as to what to do next in your writing career. Read more about Adrian Mead and another forthcoming workshop on adaptation here. Also bloggers Lucy and David have further blurb on the MIghty Mead so click click click like there's no place like home.