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Creative Essence, Taking Notes, and ‘Dreaming Whilst Black’ with Adjani Salmon

By Elise Czyzowska

22 August 2023

A few weeks ago, we published a blog sharing some of the top takeaways from our Masterclass with MA Directing Graduate and BAFTA-winning creator of Dreaming Whilst Black, Adjani Salmon.

In this piece, we spoke about the practical tips that Adjani shared with our students, including how he approaches pitching, why your Graduation Project is such an important tool, and how he maintains momentum for projects over years of development.

After such practical advice, however, Adjani also spoke at length about the emotional pull of filmmaking – with today’s blog, we’re asking you to embrace your creative essence, and to remember why you first got involved in this industry.

Finding your ‘Creative Essence’

The ‘creative essence’ of any project, Adjani began, can be summed up by three questions: Who are you making this for? Who are you speaking to? And what are you trying to say to both groups?

He continues, ‘to make something for someone, and to dedicate something to someone, are very different things. You see it in literature – authors want everyone to buy and read their book, but if you open the first page, you see four or five names. There’s a difference.’

You may not know the exact ‘essence’ of your project from day one, but with time, it will begin to take form. And, of course, Adjani reiterated that you can only figure out so much without showing your work to other people.

‘Publishing the work is critical’, he said. ‘If an audience doesn’t see it, you won’t ever really know what it’s about. Because the people you’re making the work for, or making the work to… you won’t know how they respond to it until you show it to them.’

Our Masterclass with Adjani Salmon

The process of note taking

While it can feel infuriating to have producers or commissioners suggest changes to your script, taking notes is an essential part of being a screenwriter. And in fact, it’s also a beneficial one.

Good notes should help you to consider your script in a new perspective, questioning whether something you thought was ‘obvious’ is clear to an outsider, and trimming any excess to leave only the best of the best.

Understanding the creative essence of your project can be a helpful tool when approaching notes:

People tell me that ‘Dreaming Whilst Black’ is about race. It’s not about race. It’s about a guy trying to break into the film industry. He just happens to be Black – and it so happens that if you’re Black in this country, certain things are going to happen to you.

Because I knew that, any note that didn’t maintain this idea for me, I didn’t do.

Adjani SalmonMA Directing Graduate, Creator of ‘Dreaming Whilst Black’

3 Tips for Taking Notes

  1. Take notes from everyone. You don’t have to make their changes, but every random person is a consumer, every person is an audience.
  2. Find the note behind the note. If someone has something to say about your project, there’s either a problem with your work, or you didn’t deliver it correctly.
  3. If you can do the note, and it doesn’t change your vision… do the note.


The creative essence of Dreaming Whilst Black

‘One thing I will say,’ Adjani added, ‘is that it took me time to develop the skills to know these things’. To demonstrate this point, he took us back to 2017-18, before Dreaming Whilst Black was a hit BBC Three show, and instead was a web-series in the making.

‘We were shooting the last scene of episode nine’, he explained, ‘and the Director of Photography, Caleb Wissun-Bhide, suddenly says to me, “I don’t buy it”‘. Originally, Kwabena would end the series seeing his film accepted to Sundance Film Festival – ‘”But”, Caleb said, “none of us have ever been to Sundance. It doesn’t make sense – what has he done to earn this?!”‘.

From questioning the final episode, the show’s essence emerged: ‘He can’t just succeed, because you need to know to keep going even when you don’t.

We sat there, the whole crew (about five of us!), and we figured out an entirely new ending, shooting two new scenes to make it work.

So, going into every project, you need to be asking yourself: What is this show about? And you’ll pitch your idea – but remember, what it’s really, really about… that will take time to get.

Adjani Salmon MA Directing Graduate, Creator of ‘Dreaming Whilst Black’