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Talent Campus is a calling… and boy, have I been called! By Antony Pickthall

It is only a few days since I left the Talent Campus and I am finding myself so changed by what I have experienced over the past month. Who is this strange and focused creature who has replaced me?

My expectations ahead of Talent Campus 6.0 were high. It was costing me money I didn’t really have and would involve me travelling back to the UK from a supposed new life in France.

I had been to a London Screenwriters Festival and pitched some ideas. I really enjoyed the energy and the dedication to the craft, but as a playwright first, I was still slightly suspicious of the way that screenwriting appeared to define itself by the number of people who could take your money and tell you that their way was the best way. Of course, there are always the films and the writers. The lucky ones, I told myself. I had had some experience of the professional life of the screenwriter but for various reasons over many years had fallen short of finding a way forward.

So Talent Campus represented a last attempt to understand what I needed to do now to transform the creative talent I know I have into a professional career. Now I believe I have found a way.

It is extraordinary having the good fortune, to read an email offering me the chance of a lifetime, follow the instructions, write the application, send the email, answer the phone from the TC team, agree that I was delighted to be accepted on this adventure, confirm that by paying the fee and then turn up in London ready to start work in a church (the first leg of TC took place at the Jesus Centre in London).

Like quite a few of the fellow writers I joined on Talent Campus 6.0, I thought it was going to be about honing my screenwriting skills. Of course it was so much better than that. I realised as we entered the five days of ‘Ignition’ that as long as I followed the simple advice from LSF’s Chris Jones to “submit to the training”, I would be able to do the one thing I had not been able to do in 30 years. Believe in myself. I would also be able to work on a plan to act on that belief. It was not about who I was or had been but about who I could be.

The experience was a mix of playful and challenging exercises, keynotes from industry legends like John Yorke and Tony Jordan, in conversations with agents, producers, screenwriters from a range of genres and most incredibly someone whose job it had been to actually sell films to international distributors, Samantha Horley.

We learnt the art of pitching and were bizarrely put through our paces with a series of challenges that seemed as far away from screenwriting as anything could be. Fired up with inspired mentoring, the experiences of Talent Campus alumni and the support of LSF and active mindfulness and deep relaxation, we roared. We also had the opportunity to actively network with some of the incredible people working in the British film and television industry today.

This was all wrapped up with some savvy use of digital technology, some immense coaching from Chris Jones and water, coffee, fruit, biscuits, sandwiches and genuine love. I will never forget pitching to LSF’s Bob Shultz with a tarantula climbing my arm, walking on broken glass barefoot or walking the length of a fire pit spread with burning hot coals.

The other participants who began as strangers are now my closest friends.

I have had the privilege to learn, collaborate and work with them as we all tried to make sense of this amazing experience.

We now have a ready made band of story warriors to write, pitch and make a difference right by our side. We all have a shared intimate experience upon which to draw for our future careers. We also have a wonderful bag of tools to help re-focus us when times get hard, as we know they will, because anything worthwhile is hard and sometimes makes us feel that everything just gets harder – but we know this and now we can overcome it too. A bag of tools that we can carry with us to our next projects and the most extraordinary thing is that I believe they won’t ever diminish in their power. How crazy is that?

If you are reading this and you have doubts about your creativity and value as a screenwriter, I can assure you that Talent Campus has been the best investment I have ever made in my career and my own personal development.

I envy you if you are going to take that call from the TC team because it has made a real difference to my life and you are yet to take those first steps to making a real change. It feels amazing.

Antony Pickthall

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