Thursday, April 19, 2012

Leading Bell Media Diverse Screenwriters Program

For the second year. I've been asked to lead the Bell Media Diverse Screenwriters program sponsored by the Writers Guild of Canada.  8 participants chosen from applicants in Eastern Canada converge in Toronto this week and I lead them through an intensive TV series writing workshop with the help of some amazing guest TV writers and show runners. They bring a TV series concept that they'll develop and pitch during the workshop.  After this week, they enter an 11 week writing period working with a WGC member mentor honing their series concept as well as writing or rewriting a pilot script for their series as well as writing a spec script, (a script for a TV show currently on the air).  At the end, one will be given a paid internship in the writing room of a Bell Media TV series, (which could be on CTV or any of their other TV networks.)

Showrunner David Barlow at far end of the table with the participants
I'm always pleased at being asked to do this workshop because it's a real joy to work with writers who are so keen and eager to expand their skill set.  This year, a couple of grads of the prestigious Canadian Film Centre's Prime Time TV writing training program are in this program.  All are produced in other media, like documentary and short film.  So we get to really focus on TV series and what makes shows work.  I designed the curriculum for the week last year when I led the first iteration.  The program was replicated in Vancouver later last year where it was led by my old pal TV writer Chuck Lazer.  Given the success of last year's program and then Vancouver's, I chose to just do it again with many of the same guests and a couple of new faces, including super show runners Cal Coons, David Barlow, Dan Redican and Peter Mitchell, lending their time and expertise to put the participants through their paces.

One of the highlights is the opportunity to meet and pitch their ideas to top development executives.  Today, reps from Astral, Rogers, Shaw, CTV and CBC came in and I must say their cogent and generous responses to the shows was really gratifying.  There's no arguing about the intelligence working at the networks.  I'm not pandering at all, even though they are the gatekeepers to writers and the audience.  I was really impressed.

The group stumbled in spots, but in the end, did great and I think they were given enough positive vibes that they know the broadcasters' door's now open for them.

Tomorrow is their last day with me and the guest show runners I'm bringing in.  They'll go through a comedy writing room simulation in the morning, meet role model TV writer/producers Sudz Sutherland and Jennifer Holness for lunch and then a drama writing room simulation in the afternoon.  At the reception afterwards, they'll meet the WGC member mentors they've been paired with who they'll work with over the next 3 months.  Then drinks.

I know I'll need one.

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