Nine new writers will introduce their debut feature film ideas during a special event at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF), combining presentation “pitches” and “script in hand” performances by an ensemble of actors.
“The writers applied for one of our Screen Writing Residencies Programme, which are part of Creative Scotland’s Creative Futures,” explains Claire Dow, Projects Manager at Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland. “They all came to the programme with some screen experience — some had worked in television, some had done lots of short films — but the caveat was that none had done a feature film.
“So they’ve been working on their first features, with some really top-notch script and story editors — Marten Rabarts (Head of Development NFDC), Molly Malene Stensgaard (former commissioning editor at the Danish Film Institute) and producer Olivia Stewart — who just gave so much of their time and energy to help get our writers from a one page treatment to first draft.”
The residential weekends started last November, meaning that the nine writers have had almost nine months to whip their ideas into shape for what is essentially an opportunity to pitch the films, but who does Claire hope are sitting in the Festival audience on Tuesday night?
“We’re hoping to get people who are looking for the new talent. It’s been been quite gratifying; we’ve already had some interest from Film Four and the BBC, but we’re hoping to find people who might be interested in further developing the scripts and at some point making them. It takes between three and five years for a script to be developed into a film — this is very early in the process for everybody, but it’d be great if somebody was picked up.”
Certainly, the nine films being proposed are very diverse. “There’s a thriller set in the wilderness of Scotland. There’s a sort of Holocaust escape story. We’ve a comedy, called Masterbaker, about erotic cakes. There’s a film inspired by ‘found material’ — footage of a family found on some old video tapes. One, Grenades, was a very successful stage play — that’s interesting, because adapting things from one medium to another is quite a different journey.”
Essentially, the event at the EIFF is a glorified “elevator pitch”. “We’ve got an ensemble of actors, and a couple of lovely directors — including Michael Hines (Chewing the Fat, Still Game) — who’ll do ‘script in hand’ readings,” says Claire. “Some of the writers have chosen to do presentations, with images and recorded material, while one is going to do something a bit different — which I won’t tell you about!
“They’ve got around eight minutes maximum to go: ‘This is my film.’ It’s not an event where we give the audience something and are looking for feedback. It is literally a presentation: ‘Here they are, let’s go to the bar afterwards.’ We want it to be short; we want it to be fun.”
Claire herself is certainly happy with the process so far. “I’m really pleased with the work that’s come out of it. We had 93 applications for the nine places, so the writers really went through the hoops to get on and be where they are now. I’m really delighted for them.”
Image © Douglas McBride