Local training initiative Creative Industry, supported by the Embassy of Ireland is offering six screenwriters the opportunity to attend a fully funded Advanced Screenwriting Workshop in

Mary Kate says she currently has a ‘batting average’ of 50% from her screenwriting workshops – half of the scripts she’s helped develop at the writing stage have gone into production.
Johannesburg over two long weekends the 8 -11 and 15 - 19 November 2007 at Sasani Studios.  Andrew Worsdale caught up with acclaimed screenwriter and teacher Mary Kate O’Flanagan who will be facilitating the workshop.

“One thing I know for sure is that there is a great hunger for scripts across the world,” says Mary Kate O’Flanagan the eloquent and immensely likeable Irish screenwriter and trainer who will be holding a series of workshops this November in Johannesburg.  She is a graduate of the prestigious MEDIA North by Northwest programme, has an MA in Screenwriting from Ireland’s National Film School and lectures and works as a writer and script consultant throughout Europe and is ranked on the highest international level in terms of her expertise in dealing with screenwriters.

Mary Kate says she currently has a ‘batting average’ of 50% from her screenwriting workshops – half of the scripts she’s helped develop at the writing stage have gone into production.  “Of course some of those other scripts still may get made – sometimes it can take ten years to get a movie made.”

She says that there are so many courses in screenwriting happening these days because it is a craft that involves definitive techniques.  “I use the Socratic approach when teaching.  Tell me what you want to do and let’s reflect on it. There are no complete hard rules – but there’s never been a Mozart in screenwriting – some genius who didn’t have to study – either technique or just other scripts or by watching a lot of films.”

“I always ask people why do you want to make this movie?  And if the reply is I have a great message for the world, I say forget it go get yourself a banner.”

Six screenwriters will be chosen and collaborators working with them on their films such as directors, producers and script editors will also be invited to attend. The weekends will consist of a mixture of screenings, lectures, writing exercises and workshops focusing on writer’s specific projects.

Amongst the films she will be screening are Jim Sheridan’s “My Left Foot”, Neil Jordan’s “The Butcher Boy”, Alan Parker’s “The Commitments” and Terry George’s “Hotel Rwanda”.  Whilst here she will also be travelling to Botswana to develop her own screenplay for the feature film “Thy Kingdom Come” which is inspired by the true story of the romance between Seretse Khama and Ruth Williams.  As for South African stories she says, “You have an advantage in that you really do have a potential of forty million plus audience members.  What I’ve learnt from my experiences in Ireland is that with government investing in the film industry and particularly in talent – we are developing a viable film industry that is moving away from politically driven stories about the troubles or Catholicism for example.  There always will be as many stories as there are people, but my instinct for South African writers is to tell stories of hope and to remember that good storytelling cross cultural barriers.”

Those who are invited to apply to attend are scriptwriters with broadcasting experience, those working in a broadcasting environment with production experience, i.e. directors, producers, script editors and actors, writers who have been produced or published in other media, i.e. radio, theatre, fiction, journalism and emerging writers who can provide a strong letter of recommendation from a producer.

In order to apply you must provide an outline of your proposed screenplay or a summary of your draft screenplay.  This can be as brief as one page, but ideally should be between 4 – 10 pages.  You are asked not to submit more than ten pages or finished screenplays or other examples of your work at this stage.

Next you need to provide a one-paragraph summary of your professional background and previous screenwriting or writing experience.

Finally applicants must provide a reference or letter of recommendation from an employer, past or present with full contact details for your referee – landline, cellphone and email.

The course has been fully funded by the Embassy of Ireland so it is being given at no charge and it’s only for a limited number, so O’Flanagan and organiser Fiona Walsh of Creative Industry understandably only insist on one thing  – they need to know that you are working seriously towards a draft screenplay that can be a success.  “The idea is to give writers a map of their first draft.  They should not think writing a movie is an insurmountable mountainous challenge, in many ways it is but we can help make it a climbable mountain, one that has a ski-lift!” says O’Flanagan.

Applications should be e-mailed directly to Fiona Walsh at fiona@creativeindustry.co.za by Monday 5th of November at 5pm and she can be contacted for further information on 072 298 7736