MetFilm School launches two Aspirant Writers Scholarships
By Jonny Persey
12 July 2023
Sometimes, we tell stories because we want to make people laugh, or make them scared, or give them a thrill. Other times, we tell them to change someone’s mind, to make them support our vision or buy our product. We might tell stories round a campfire, or at work, in the pub, in bed, during a speech… So it has always been.
These days, we use screens; small, medium, and huge, and whether it’s in a 30-second ad spot, a 90-minute film, or a 12-part series, our story’s ability to either change the world or get lost forever depends on the quality of the screenwriting first.
This is why MetFilm School is launching two new scholarships today, to support applicants on our MA Screenwriting course in Leeds – one for UK students, and one specifically for talent coming out of Yorkshire.
The Compulsion to Tell Stories
Talking to a few writing and producing friends over the last few weeks, I’m struck by the depth and breadth of inspirations and motivations that keep people doing this work, from a desire to entertain, to an urgency to drive change.
‘Courageous storytellers will always speak truth to power and fight for those with no voice. And we need that more than ever’, says Chris Jones, Splinter Unit Director on the latest Mission Impossible film, and Artistic Director of the London Screenwriting Festival.
Writer Dan Patterson, creator of Who’s Line is it Anyway and Mock the Week, puts this idea beautifully:
In times of such uncertainty and conflict, stories allow us to shape the world as we would like it to be. There is great comfort in creating stories where things really do come right in the end, where people learn and grow, and where human foibles can be laughed at.
Stories for Influence
In 2013, the global PR agency Golin came up with the fictional character ‘Ted Lasso’ to help NBC promote Premiere League football to an American audience. This concept has since become a multi-award winning series, and when talking with our students during an industry session, Golin’s Head of Data & Analytics, Jonny Bentwood, described this as ‘data storytelling’ – using it as an example of the power of story in shaping opinion.
‘When truths are less important than facts, and the uninformed opinion has equal weight with the expert’, Jonny explained, ‘getting a message across to key audiences is critical – and best accomplished by a narrative that hits hearts and minds’.
The Value of New Voices
At the heart of what MetFilm stands for is a commitment to developing new voices, and it’s a value shared by most people I speak with:
- ‘One of the biggest tragedies of our time is that not everyone’s stories get heard, so widening the net is so important to allow other voices in.’ – Anna Mohr-Pietsch (Head of Development, MetFilm Production) & Phoebe Campbell-Harris (Development Coordinator, MetFilm Production and MA Producing Graduate)
- ‘Innovation tends to come from those whose perspectives have not traditionally been explored on screen; innovation is what keeps these mediums alive.’ – Charlie Tidmas (Screenwriter and MA Screenwriting Graduate)
- ‘It’s amazing to see our students develop their original voices as writers, and the collaborative process that we teach and encourage is what they take with them into writers’ rooms around the world.’ – Sheridan Humphreys (MA Screenwriting Discipline Leader)
This is also why one of these two scholarships is explicitly aimed at emergent screenwriting talent from Yorkshire, which Jo Schofield, Senior Talent Executive at Screen Yorkshire, expanded on:
We’re incredibly lucky in Yorkshire to have the rich history of writers that we do. From Kay Mellor and Sally Wainwright, to Clio Barnard and beyond, it’s a privilege to see our depth of heritage reflected on screen.
It’s vitally important that our stories, both hidden and in plain sight, are continued to be invested in. This can only be achieved through recognising and supporting emerging talent in all its guises, and therefore I’m thrilled to see MetFilm School step up and offer this generous scholarship support.
The Joy of Telling Stories
Dan Patterson, who is himself currently writing a project set in Yorkshire, told me that ‘there is no finer feeling than to discover characters, and to breathe life into them. Of course, you need discipline and structure too, but the sense of fulfilment that comes from a successful bout of creativity is the greatest feeling in the world’.
MetFilm School Graduate, Vinay Patel, who wrote the BAFTA-winning Murdered by My Father, also said:
I first started writing as a way to be less lonely, with the hope that the worlds I imagined to escape into were ones that someone like me could more happily exist in.
But the great joy of my writing career has been discovering that the act of storytelling is the first step in the creation of a community – in making those fictional worlds a reality, I’ve been able to find my people.
Speaking on this sense of community, the current WGA 2023 Writers’ Strike highlights how the industry needs to better support the craft. With the continued impact of streaming services threatening fair payment for their work, and with technological advancements in AI diminishing the effort and creativity that goes into each line written, we hope that these scholarships can provide support to aspiring screenwriters, and to send a message of support to the wider community.
‘While we’re bombarded with a 24-hour news cycle’, Anna and Phoebe commented, ‘cinema helps us to escape and use our imagination’. And as Paul Morrison, writer and director of 23 Walks and Wondrous Oblivion, reiterated once more, ‘to be human is to tell stories’.
‘It’s through stories that we understand ourselves, and our place in the world’, Paul continued. ‘Some of us are called to fulfil this role. It’s a gift and a responsibility. Screenwriters join this honourable and ancient tradition. Each new generation needs to find its voice.’ So, in celebration of storytelling across all screen types and reasons, and in the spirit of nurturing new voices, we’re delighted to be launching these two new scholarships.
To find out more about the MetFilm School Aspirant Writers’ Scholarship for MA Screenwriting in Leeds, click here.