"You can't learn by book how to direct a film." As September looms, future…
New voices: Meet Sydonie Calvert, Screenwriter & BA Graduate
For our first blog post of the year, we speak with screenwriter and BA Practical Filmmaking graduate Sydonie Calvert who completed her time at the School last year in style by scooping the Creative Excellence prize at our Smart Screen Creative Awards 2019 for her script, On the Clyde.
Speaking about Sydonie’s time at the School, BA Practical Filmmaking course leader, Jon Gilbert, said, “with her meticulous research, finely-tuned ear for authentic dialogue, and rich sense of character, Syd marked herself out early on at MetFilm School as a writing talent to watch. Working in the time-honoured social realist tradition of Ken Loach and Andrea Arnold, Syd blends political passion with heart and sensitivity.”
We spoke with Sydonie to find out more about what makes her tick as a writer…
What is your ‘elevator pitch’ for yourself as a writer?
Fast, funny, and free. (One of those isn’t true)
Where does an idea for a story usually come from?
I’m not entirely sure where my ideas come from, they’re not usually; ‘Hey I’ve had this idea that I’m going to write.’ I often start with a character or a theme I want to explore and let that gestate in my mind for a while. It can be a few weeks after I’ve had an idea that I’ll even make a note of it and from there I will see parts of that story in the world until I’m happy enough to start writing. I would say the only exception to this rule was my script On The Clyde which is based on a true event (the workers’ strike on the Glasgow shipyards).
Screenwriting can require self-discipline on a day-to-day basis – what are your tips for maintaining productivity?
As good as it is to set aside time for writing and productivity, the one thing you should do is put time aside for yourself. Maybe watch a film, start a new series, or read a book. Sometimes it’s good to not have anything planned and just see what your body wants to do. You can’t write if your mind is burned out, give yourself a break. I personally recommend a pint down your local with some friends.
Sydonie on the red carpet with her Smart Screen Creative Award for Creative Excellence
What has been your experience of moving from Scotland to London to study your BA course?
Moving from rural Scotland to London was definitely a culture shock but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love meeting people and with London being incredibly diverse, I feel I’m where I was always meant to be. Film has been something I’ve wanted to pursue since my teenage years and I wanted to end up in London at some point so why not go straight from school? That being said if I’d stayed in Scotland I’d have had my tuition covered… Swings and roundabouts I suppose.
How has studying all areas of the filmmaking process helped with your screenwriting?
Having an understanding of the filmmaking process as a whole is so important to the way I write. I am more considerate of those that will be working on set. It also gives you a good understanding of what is and isn’t possible. There’s no point in writing a massive space battle in a micro-budget short. The most important part of the process for a writer to understand is definitely editing; if you don’t consider how it will look at the end then it can be quite messy. Even if you don’t want to edit yourself, at least watch a few videos or read In The Blink of Eye to try and understand how an editor thinks when they cut a film.
Which of your past projects are you most proud of?
When Pigs Die is for sure my favourite child at the moment. During the BA we get to make a number of feature films and Pigs was selected as one of ours. To work with amazing tutors and friends to bring my weird, dark, comedy to life was so incredible. It is currently still being edited but no matter how it turns out I will be proud and forever thankful of everyone that helped with that film.
Lastly – if you could write a script for two actors of your choosing, who would they be and why?
I just saw JoJo Rabbit so Sam Rockwell has definitely been on my mind recently. He plays everything so genuinely so even when he’s in eccentric, wild roles, he always feels real. Also Phoebe Waller-Bridge; Fleabag is one of the greatest comedies of our time and her portrayal is simply brilliant. I think they’d have good on-screen chemistry as a brother and sister pair. I’m sure I could think of an awful situation to put them in.
Sydonie is currently working with A Tall Story productions co-writing an adaptation of Luca Bartolucci’s short Lambeth Lights – a social realist love letter to Charlie Chaplin. She has also recently written The Whistleblower for A Tall Story and Lab Studios, a 5 minute short set in WWI. Keep up to date with Sydonie’s projects at www.sydoniecalvert.co.uk
Interested in launching your career in the creative industries? Learn more about our BA Practical Filmmaking.