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Want to be the next Tarantino or Campion? The hunt is on for Ireland's undiscovered screenwriters

There’s a particular emphasis on people whose voices are not being represented fully on screen.

Image: Shutterstock/Syda Productions

YOU MIGHT BE nurturing a secret dream of becoming a screenwriter – but assume because you’ve never done it before, or have no contacts in the film industry, you won’t get there.

Now a new scheme has been launched by Fís Éireann/Screen Ireland that’s aimed at new and emerging writers – and it particularly wants to hear from people who aren’t seeing their own lives depicted on screen right now.

The Spotlight scheme for new and emerging writers is aimed at “discovering and developing fresh and exciting screenwriting talent in Ireland” and follows on from the successful 2018 New Writing Scheme. 

This latest scheme is intended as an opportunity for new writers to develop a feature film screenplay, with guidance and mentorship from leading industry figures at the very beginning of their careers. It will feature additional mentor support through Screen Skills Ireland.

The move comes at a time when there is a greater push for diversity in the movie world. For example, female screenwriters are still underrepresented – a 2018 study found that just 16% of screenwriters in UK film are women. The Geena Davis Institute analysed the top grossing family films from 2007 to 2017 and found that white leads outnumber leads of colour four to one, that fewer than 1% of family films feature a LGBTQIA lead, with the same percentage of family films featuring a lead with a disability.

Here in Ireland, the Women in Film and Television Ireland organisation pointed out that between 1993 and 2013 only 13% of Irish-produced screenplays were written by female writers. 

Screen Ireland released a six-point plan gender equality in December 2015, while its five-year strategy includes a focus on ensuring a diversity of voices in Irish film.

What will the successful applicants for Spotlight get?

  • Assigned a script editor
  • Receive a development loan of up to €8,000 for an individual or up to €10,000 for teams of two or more individuals
  • Industry showcase at the end of the scheme, to connect participants with industry contacts and develop opportunities for their career
  • Access to an industry mentor over several months as part of a structured mentoring programme through Screen Skills Ireland.

Screen Ireland describes itself as “committed to developing projects which are inclusive and representative of modern Ireland”. Because of this, it strongly encourages applications from people with diverse voices and underrepresented backgrounds.

“We have a number of different schemes but they’re usually for more experienced writers,” explained Eimear Markey, Development Executive with Screen Ireland to TheJournal.ie. “With Spotlight you don’t have to have any credits to be able to submit an application. We thought it was an ideal opportunity to put the call out for more diversity in applications because we’re very aware that there is a dearth of diverse voices coming in sometimes in the applications.”

With Spotlight, Screen Ireland wants to hear from people in particular who have “stories to tell that we don’t hear enough”, said Markey – such as writing about topics that deal with disability, mental health, LGBT community, ethnic minorities or other subjects. 

“We believe that the more fresh and innovative storytelling and original storytelling comes from people we are not hearing from enough,” explained Markey. 

“It really is to make sure we are covering other bases too when it comes to inclusivity and representation.”

She added that the diverse and original voices should ideally “have a timeless quality to them and universality to them”.

The freshest and most innovative storytelling comes from people who aren’t being heard and we want to make sure they are being heard.

Spotlight opens for applications on 1 October and the deadline for submissions will be Friday, 1 November.

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