Text logo with red "Campus" overlaid by the word "Campus" in white on a black background.
A group of people stand and smile for a photo in a room with black and red walls. Some wear name badges, and a few chairs are visible in the foreground.

The Explosive FIRST EVER Screenwriters’ Talent Campus by Mark MacNicol


My first Talent Campus experience was also my introduction to Airbnb.

The night before we started I met the three men I would be sharing a house with in Ealing for four nights. A heavily tattooed Russian, a smiling Colombian and an Albanian who didn’t seem to blink. None of them spoke English but that wouldn’t really have helped them anyway with me being from Glasgow.

The kick off session is called ‘Career Ignition’ and is the equivalent of your car key setting of an improvised device under your vehicle. One of those sessions Chris Jones is famous for. Like putting your finger in a power socket. To say the group were highly energised would be an understatement. If Chris had asked us to help him overthrow the government at that point we would have been up for it.

The next session with Stephen Follows in addition to being a fascinating insight into industry patterns was also very useful for me personally. I’ve raised £50k for my first SEIS feature but still got £100k to find. The stats he revealed are exactly what I had been looking for to give potential investors (and had been unable to find).

John Yorke gave us his take on the plethora of ‘structure’ books out there and while doing so managed to demystify an area that many of us if we’re honest are probably a bit confused by. Also his analysis of what makes good TV was mind-blowing.

Lucy V Hay opened up the world of social media for us in a way that only she could. A straight talker in an industry that isn’t renowned for them. I’ve invested a lot of time in Social Media but still took loads from her session.

As for Kate Leys, well she made it all sound so simple. That’s probably because it kind of is after one of her sessions. Each of our story ideas was dissected (by Kate and the group). It was authentic. You could tell she wasn’t handling us any different than she would one of her live projects. We appreciated her for it. Even those of us who heard things we probably didn’t want to.

We played some games. Took on some scary challenges. I stepped outside my comfort zone on more than one occasion. Chris even managed to get me dancing. In daylight. With no alcohol on board.

Now we move into our first three week writing period with our lovely mentors and also into our smaller groups. The experience of asking questions about our own stories as well as those of our peers during Kate’s session will be taken into this next three-week period. We have made a commitment that we will continue to hold each other to account.

In summary I would encourage any of you who get an opportunity to attend the next Talent Campus to do so. On a side note I also met a lot of lovely people who I suspect may even go on to become friends. Who knows, next time I come to London I may not have to use Airbnb.

Mark MacNicol
Twitter – @MarkMacNicol

This programme is supported by Creative Skillset’s Film Skills Fund, which is funded by the BFI with National Lottery funds, through Skills Investment Fund.

  • Mark MacNicol

    I’m most known as a writer and director but my real passion is exploring ways the arts and creativity can be used to help people achieve more positive outcomes. I have developed a unique model ‘anonymous-drama’ which is like drama-therapy for people who usually have no interest in either.

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