How To Tackle Your First Treatment

Emerging filmmaker Lauren Vevers shares her experiences from the Northern Exposure Short Film Script Lab

29 November 2018

Before I applied to the Script Lab my confidence had taken a knock. I’d left a marketing job to concentrate on my freelance writing, which felt like a step in the right direction, but to make ends meet I was working several jobs and sleeping very little.

One of the most difficult things I’ve found about being a writer in a small northern city is the feeling of isolation that comes with it. It’s not that there isn’t a vibrant creative community here, just that most of us are too busy or stressed to commit to regular meetups, and it’s hard to push forward with your ideas when you’re lacking genuine critical discussion.  Your writing sits in a drawer, sad and unread, and that’s potentially the end of it

When I saw that Film Hub North and BFI NETWORK were offering to facilitate peer-to-peer development I didn’t hesitate to sign up, and was thrilled to be offered a place on the Script Lab in Newcastle (there was also one in Sheffield).

Session 1: Introductions

Our cohort had been asked to apply to the Lab with an idea for a short film, so everyone already had the germ of a story that we wanted to develop into a script.

The projects ranged from a period piece set in the 1500s to a modern-day horror set in a homeless hostel. We all came from different backgrounds with varying levels of knowledge about film, so having wildly different ideas was great.

Led by BFI NETWORK Talent Executive Jess Loveland and Talent Coordinator Shaun Harrison, the discussion about our projects was lively and challenging, and I came away with a renewed sense of enthusiasm for writing!

Session 2: Treatment

Jess asked us to record ourselves talking about our short films, without notes or prompts, for three minutes. At this stage in the process, my idea felt too enormous to contain. I knew key elements: it would be about a girl who fell in love with her best friend, it would be set in a Newcastle high school, and there’d be magic involved. I didn’t know how many characters there were or how it would hold together as a story.

By the end of the session, after everyone’s feedback, I had a head full of questions and a page full of notes to work up into a treatment.

Session 3: First Draft

Before the Script Lab, I’d been hesitant to write for film because I didn’t think I understood the language. If you’d asked me what a treatment was about three months ago, I wouldn’t have been able to answer you.

By the third session, I’d written a treatment and a few pages of script. In the space of a few weeks, and under the mentorship of the Talent Execs, I’d built characters with distinct voices and began to let them speak. We read each other’s work, and talked about how we’d get our scripts into shape for the following session.

Rehearsed Reading: Off the Shelf Festival of Words in Sheffield

Fuelled by coffee and excitement, our Newcastle contingent got the early morning train to Sheffield, where we met our fellow participants for a day of rehearsals.

This was a chance to see our work performed on stage and an opportunity for other industry professionals to see what we were working on. It was also a great way to connect with other writers and filmmakers.

After hours of workshopping our scripts, it was useful to see which lines of dialogue felt authentic and what felt clunky and needed changing. I gained a lot from the actors’ interpretation of my words, allowing me to start the second draft.

Session 4: Group Feedback in York

In York, we reunited with our Sheffield partners to reflect on the Script Lab so far.  

The following week we would be pitching our short films to producers at Aesthetica Short Film Festival, so part of our time was spent compiling a visual pitch document - a kind of lookbook - that would communicate to producers the core themes of our projects at a glance.

The pitching itself was a lot less scary than it sounded, and I’m currently in talks with a number of potential producers.

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Overall, the Northern Exposure Script Lab has helped my confidence as a writer enormously.  I’ve met some brilliant people over the last couple of months and learnt so much about how the industry works.

On top of the Script Lab, and as part of my involvement with BFI NETWORK and Film Hub North, I attended an Introduction to Film Directing Masterclass with feature film director Sam Masud which was an incredible insight into the craft.

I’m now certain that I’d like to be both a writer and a director and I’m grateful to BFI NETWORK and Film Hub North for all their support so far in achieving that dream. Even though I’m still very early in my career, I feel like I’m gathering momentum and have the determination to keep going until I get where I’d like to be.

 

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Lauren Vevers is a writer from Newcastle upon Tyne. She's working with Film Hub North as a participant on their Northern Exposure Script Lab. She is also an arts educator and runs creative workshops with youth and community groups.

www.laurenvevers.com

Find out more about the Northern Exposure Short Film Script Lab here.