Help for N00bs?Complications Ensue
Complications Ensue:
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Friday, September 04, 2009

Jonathan writes
What would you suggest to a budding Canadian screenwriter who is looking for guidance and support? Are there any mentors one could approach? Perhaps organizations dedicated to helping out the scriptwriting comminity?
Being in Canada, you're in luck.

The Canadian Film Centre and the National Screen Institute both have a slew of programs for teaching cultural learnings. The CFC is the gold standard. If you can get into the Prime Time programme, you're several steps ahead in the TV world. The feature program is great too, except that then you're in the Canadian feature world, which I'm not entirely sure is a blessing. The NSI programs are outpatient clinics where you come in for a week, then work on your own for months, with access to a mentor, then come in for a week, etc.

All the festivals seem to have some sort of program for emerging writers. There are fellowships at Banff, and the Talent Lab at TIFF.

Telefilm runs quite a few programs for relative newbies. Spend some time on their website. In particular check out the Young Creators / Jeunes Créateurs program for funding films by creators under 35. Also the Sprint for Your Short. And Feature It! Many Telefilm programs include funding to hire a mentor or script editor to work with you. Some require credits. Some don't.

There are many Telefilm-funded workshops around the country. For example, there's the Screenwriters Bootcamp in PEI in June for Atlantic Canadians. I taught there a couple of summers, and some of the more promising guys there have gone on to agents, development deals and the CFC, like my boy Tommy Gushue.

There are various funding programs for making shorts, e.g. BravoFACT!, Telefilm and the regional development organizations (OMDC in Ontario, SODEC in Quebec, etc.).

For general support and community, there is Ink Canada, Karen Walton's community of screenwriters "and their sketchy friends." They hold irregular drinking sessions in most major cities. There's also the Montreal Film Group, if you're in Quebec.

Readers: I'm less familiar with the programs for aspiring writers. What am I missing?

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Don't forget about Praxis. It's open to all Canadian writers, and twice a year chooses five or six screenplays for its Fellowship.

You get assigned an experienced professional story editor (you can see a list of past ones on the Praxis site), with whom you get two full day sessions during a one week period, and a third followup.

They also organize related events like a practice pitch session with producers, or talks with folks from Telefilm.

About half of the year's winners are chosen for the Summer Readings, with table readings by professional actors and a full-on critique from a room full of all the story editors, other writers etc.

If you aren't from Vancouver, where they are based, they'll pay your travel expenses.

I've done it twice, first time when I knew zilch about the film world and almost as little about screenwriting. Well worth it, especially for a newbie.

By Blogger Elaine Littmann, at 9:04 PM  

I went to the National Screen Training Centre's Summer Institute for Film and Television. They have a couple options there for pitching things, and good classes with pros.

The Quebec Writer's Federation also has a mentoring program for all sorts of writers.

Alex mentioned the CFC alsready, but didn't mention the New Media option there, along with the Pilot program (plus the new program for feature-length comedies if features are your thing).

By Blogger Unknown, at 9:51 PM  

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