Hello everyone. I have just returned from a life changing experience that I’d love to share with you all in detail.
As you may know, I have regularly been to the London Screenwriter’s Festival for the past four years. Over that time I’ve repeatedly heard about something called the Talent Campus, and in September I heard a particularly high praise of it. So I decided to apply for it, and to my mild surprise, I got into the Talent Campus 5.0. If you are at all interested in screenwriting, you need to know about this.
I first knew things were going to be crazy when I arrived in London the day before. I saw on the facebook group that a couple of fellow ‘Campers’ were nearby so I went to say hello; they invited me to join them for dinner. We discussed our projects and I mentioned a TV pilot that’s been going nowhere for well over a year. Upon hearing the premise, one of them simply said, “it sounds like episode 6 should be episode 1.” And she’s absolutely right! A huge problem with my concept that I’d missed for so long- fixed just talking to a fellow writer before the Campus had even started.
And it only went up from there. I think every single day I came across a new little detail in one or two scripts that needed fixing. So many incredible people were there to offer insight into the film and TV industry. I was going to do a detailed section but I’d be here all week so these are some of the people who spoke:
Gub Neal (producer; Cracker, Prime Suspect, The Fall)
John Yorke (exec; Eastenders, Shameless, Life on Mars, author; Into The Woods: A five-act journey into story)
Jed Mercurio (Line of Duty, Bodyguard)
Gareth Unwin (producer; The King’s Speech)
Eleanor Greene (exec producer at Wall to Wall)
Jean Kitson (agent)
Samantha Horley (marketing exec)
Rachel Paterson (Casualty)
Oh, incidentally, Rachel was a previous Talent Camper. That’s how she started.
But the main focus of the Talent Campus is not to teach you how to write, but to get you ready for the business of writing. For instance, we were given a very entertaining variant of the prisoner’s dilemma in which we had to bid against/negotiate with a rival team to win a theoretical script before it sells to a big distributor; an insight into production companies. Organiser Chris Jones had us read the script and review successive cuts of his short film Seeing Him; an insight into the editing process. John Yorke set us an exercise to create a pitch for a drama series in groups; a taste of working in a TV writer’s room. And Stephen Follows brought some of his brilliant and fascinating data analyses into audience trends, which give you some surprisingly useful pointers for structure.
Coupled with that, it purges any fears or hang-ups you may have about talking to the great and the good of the industry. The first day was a super intense ‘getting to know everyone’ session. Anyone who’s been to the LSF knows what a force of nature Chris is, and he’s absolutely on fire at these things! If you’re the kind of person who’s not comfortable with hugging and dancing around and being generally Californian, don’t worry- you will be by the end of a day like this like I was. Everyone gets over their hangups together and the momentum just takes you away.
And that’s just as well, because this event is designed to make you face fears and overcome them. The grand finale on day one was walking over broken glass!! But once you get over the anticipation of negativity and just do it (nice and carefully), it’s no worse than walking on pebbles.
Then there’s day two, pitching a script which a live tarantula or cockroaches crawl over your hand and arm! Now I’m not too bad with spiders but I know I’m lucky in that regard, and the bravery I saw from some of the people in that room was astonishing.
But all that was just preparation for what followed on Saturday night: a fire walk.
We walked across 20 ft of 1600 degree hot coals. And the strangest thing was, I didn’t feel a thing. My feet were completely unscathed. And even those that got a little crispy had no burn marks at all the next morning. Watching these people transform into the ones that walked through that fire was truly amazing. And more importantly, this was all to raise money for a human rights campaign that you can still donate to, and I truly urge you to as it’s very personal to one of the Campers. The link is below:
I’m a different writer to when I started the Talent Campus, and a slightly different person too. Now I must go back to my assignments before the crucible (more on that at a later date!) But until then, I cannot recommend the Talent Campus enough. If you have any desire to write for film/TV professionally, I can only say sign the hell up for the next one!!