drawing by Miquel Calatayud  
  Tools for European Screenwriters' Training


TEST brings up the challenge of paying new attention to the quality of professional development programmes in Europe, and most particularly to examine the methods and tools used by these screenwriters’ and producers training programmes.

The overall goals of TEST are to

  • Create a common vision between industry and training/development programmes.
  • Update and improve the training for creative film development in the European audiovisual industry
  • Explore and define narrative identities within the professional context of cultural globalisation

TEST has a set of specific objectives

  • To build a platform to exchange about film development methodologies and training policies, taking into account the paradox in supporting individual creativity and marketable stories.
  • To consolidate and train a European network of consultants, mentors, tutors, etc. working for professional training and film schools.

TEST is a work-in-progress. Established in 2004 in a Seminar in Valencia and by various online activities that brought together in a second Seminar (June 2005 in Rome), a group of European managers of training programmes and a group of established European producers who met to discuss the results of two surveys (one about the consultants and the second about the European training and development programmes), carried out during the first year.

This work continues in 2006 with the development of two modules:

A 2-day debate to be held in London from 23rd to 25th of June 2006 to define new training parameters, tools and strategies for the creative film development of marketable European feature film. Three new training/development programs, strictly project-based, and emphasizing the interaction between producer and writer(-director) will be proposed as case studies:

  • FactFiction Lab, PAL London
  • P.R.I.M.E, trans FOCAL Berlin
  • Slingshot, London

A forum for continuous debate and exchange of information between writers, mentors, consultants, tutors, and other professionals working within the framework of professional training that has been established by the film industry, by training institutions and by film schools.

The forum will be used as a tool for opening up some of the lines of enquiry and discussion in the TEST Seminar. Following the seminar itself, on-line debate will encourage further discussion of the seminar results and the circulation of ideas and topics highlighted during the seminar.

TEST ONLINE consists of:

  • A Forum to exchange information about tools and strategies connected to the Seminar's topics.
  • Two Newsletters (May 2006 and September 2006) promoting key elements of the online forum and of the TEST Seminar, as well as other news generated between interested professionals.
  • The ESTP Database informs about the methods, topics and tools used by the screenwriters´ training programs as well as their qualitative and quantitative results
  • The Library proposing books, articles and researches and links related to the topics of TEST
  • The Test Surveys on Programmes and Consultants
  • The Archives of TEST 2004

Background to the formation of TEST

In order to increase the audience for European films a great deal of effort and funding has been made at all stages of film training, development, production and distribution, and particularly in the area of script development. Among these efforts, the European training programmes devoted to scriptwriting have worked hard to improve the technical and creative skills of screenwriters and the quality of their scripts at many levels. In reality most of the films produced in Europe in recent years have been engaged, in one way or another, with these programmes during their development.

Nevertheless, it is a fact that the gap between the stories proposed by European filmmakers and the taste of European film audiences is still pretty wide. This is reflected in a major paradox that training programmes have to cope with, i.e. how to emphasize the personal and artistic imagination and dimensions of the authors and their stories, and at the same time be able to channel their creativity to ensure marketable stories that can meet the practical and commercial demands of the European film industry.

This situation should not be a frustration but a challenge for film professionals and trainers to pay new attention to the best practice of creative development, writing and filmmaking processes; and particularly in improving the quality of subjects covered, the creative approaches, as well as the methodologies and tools used by the successful filmmakers in Europe.

Script development is obviously closer to alchemy than to cooking recipes. Therefore it is difficult to investigate, to be effectively operational. Nevertheless it is very necessary, after 15 years of practice in training and development programmes, to check if the skills and methodologies transferred are still relevant; taking into account the evolution of production, markets, and professional profiles in Europe now.

A major element identified in previous steps of TEST, is that the producers are not so willing anymore to delegate the script development to training programmes and their famous consultants. Over the last 15 years, the producers have appropriated, at least, the vocabulary and the tools of narrative dramaturgy and they are eager to do what is finally the most creative part of their job: playing a role alongside, and in a state of creative tension, with the author in the development of the script. To consider this role of the producers, to consider a new dialectic relation between consultants, producers and screenwriters could lead to dramatic shifts in “classical” screenwriters’ training programmes.

Another notable element is the changes of the production landscape over the last decade. Obviously television has acquired a major influence in the financing of most films in Europe. This influence is certainly not only financial, but also an influence on contents, formats, genres, etc. Which ultimately pushes, the screenwriter, the producer and the consultant into a specific log-frame, heavy enough to be seriously considered in terms of training strategies.

Ultimately TEST is a forum where these shifts- can be translated into (re)new(ed) programmes, imagined and designed with all the professionals interested and involved: heads/managers of high quality training/development programmes across Europe, script consultants, script doctors, tutors, screenwriters and writers(directors), producers, development executives, script editors and industry funding bodies.

Valencia, London, Lausanne, 12 April 2006

  © 2006, PAL, FOCAL and FIA