28 April 2017

Meet the alumni: Screenwriter & Puppeteer Dilpreet Kaur Walia

By Danny Kelly | Categorised in News, Student Stories, Industry Interviews

There are many Met graduates who have impressive, enviable and unexpected highlights to their CVs, but we’d bet that
MA Screenwriting alumni Dilpreet Kaur Walia is the only one who has had an actual Muppet named after her…

Dilpreet has recently been working as a Puppeteer Intern on the Sesame Street & Cbeebies co-production The Furchester Hotel. Since launching in 2014, the spinoff show has been a hit, with over 100 episodes now in existence. If working alongside the likes of Cookie Monster and Elmo wasn’t impressive enough, she was also “delighted” to puppeteer and voice her doppelganger -‘Muppet Dilpreet’ – in four episodes of the show.

Dilpreet clearly has an imagination and the astute sensibility suited for creating child-friendly content. Her concept for a children’s TV pilot was shortlisted in the BBC’s ‘Get a Squiggle On’ competition; she has volunteered with Islington’s The Little Angel Theatre; and she’s had an animation feature film script chosen as a quarter-finalist, in the US, as a part of Screencraft’s ‘Family-friendly Screenplay Contest’

Most recently, Dilpreet has been continuing work on her own material. In April she was invited to write a screenplay to be performed live for writers’ initiative Screen Rebels at London’s Phoenix Artist Club. The audience for this may have been adult, but they were still taken to a “magical world for a bit” with her animated comedy ‘Welcome to the Treatment Plant‘.

This month we had a chat with Dilpreet about some of her recent career highlights…

Talk us through a typical day working on The Furchester Hotel!

A typical day on the Sesame Street & Cbeebies co-production is great fun and creatively challenging! When you’re assigned a character, let’s say a background puppet, it’s important to look at the puppet’s characteristics and what you can achieve with the puppet’s movements, i.e. do they have long arms, short arms or even wings? What can you do with your puppet to contribute something funny or interesting to the scene? These were all questions I would ask myself when on set.

We must ask: who is your favourite character?

Oo, that is a tough one. As a kid, I loved Oscar the Grouch but if I had to choose one character from The Furchester Hotel family then I would choose Isabel since she is so small, cute and fluffy! 

Could you tell us about your involvement with Screen Rebels? 

I really enjoyed working with the Screen Rebels team and was delighted to be picked as a guest writer for their showcase. The brief I was given for the show was the topic of ‘rebirth’ and so it got me thinking about the rebirth of one’s mindset. That thought lead me to writing about tomatoes trying to escape a sewage plant! Although I kept the visuals light and fun I wanted to go deeper with the story and look at how so many people feel trapped by circumstances as opposed to challenging them and doing something to change their state, their reality. “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” – Oscar Wilde. It was really great to have the Screen Rebels team behind my vision for the show and bring the production to life. The cast were just so talented, a real joy to watch!

How did your recent show at Phoenix Artist Club go down?

The response was incredibly warm! It was a real proud moment seeing the words come to life in front of my eyes and seeing such a talented cast achieve that as well as performing a song I’d written too. It was a special experience in which I could sit in the audience and see how my work and characters could have an effect on the viewers, how it could make them laugh and connect them emotionally to the tomatoes’ journey. Some audience members spoke to me after the show and told me that they loved the visuals and felt like they were watching an animation. On hearing this, I felt like as a team we had won… We had allowed the audience to escape into a magical world for a bit… Seeing the smiling faces leave the show was an amazing feeling.

As a writer, what do you find particularly inspiring?

I’ve always found childhood fascinating and inspiring, it’s a time when the child has such a beautiful outlook on life, imagination and trying to understand the world around them. I like to look back to my childhood for ideas too and trying to remember how I viewed the world then. I also love animation, I’m a huge Disney/Pixar fan, so I look to visuals in 2D & CGI animation, stop motion and puppetry.

What motivated you to enrol on Met’s MA Screenwriting course?  

At University, I did a semester on writing for Radio and TV, I really enjoyed this module but I wanted to learn more about the format. After graduating I continued to practice writing and tried to teach myself about screenwriting outside of working hours. However, it wasn’t until I became extremely focused on writing and puppeteering that I decided it was time to learn more about my craft and take my education further. The mentors and visiting lecturers at Met Film were just amazing, I learned so much and am still able to apply those lessons to my writing today.

Lastly, a piece of advice…What’s your top tip for overcoming writers’ block?

I don’t believe in writers’ block I’m afraid. Yes, I understand that there can be times when you feel like you’ve hit the wall, but even then, you can find the answer within. I think if you’re struggling to write and believe that there is absolutely nothing coming to you then simply write that. Free-writing is always a good exercise to use! For example, ‘I cannot think of what to write about, oh dear, this is just boring since I am literally writing down my thoughts and they’re not fun at all. Oo a cat just jumped into the garden.’ If that’s what you write at least it’s something, something is better than nothing and who knows what free-writing can trigger? It could lead you on to the next best TV pilot idea… Good luck and just keep writing! You have the potential in you to live the dream you envision!

 Dilpreet studied our MA Screenwriting course – click here to find out more.

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