'It will be magical to see our words brought to life'
Soon after graduating from UEA in 2019, Olivia Weaver applied to be a screenwriter on the National Youth Film Academy’s SetReady course. She studied English Literature at UEA but says she had “zero experience in filmmaking”. Nevertheless, she got in, and was due to start in April 2020.
By then the country was in lockdown and the pandemic was dominating everyday life. Olivia describes the challenges, the benefits of meeting her colleagues online and the thrill of seeing her work performed, even if it was over Zoom.
"The distraction of scripting our short film in lockdown was invaluable"
I was initially quite disappointed that things were moved online, as I had been looking forward to the seminars in London on filmmaking, and I wanted to meet others. But a things progressed, I realised the new way of doing things could actually be a blessing in disguise. No expensive train tickets, no need to book accommodation in London, and more flexibility as every webinar was online. We had fascinating talks and Q&As from individuals such as Simon Bird from The Inbetweeners, and industry professionals such as screenwriters, producers, and directors.
Then I met all of the people in my filmmaking group on Zoom. It was strange, yet comforting at the same time as there was this feeling of solidarity. At the beginning of lockdown I had felt quite alone and isolated with the knowledge it could be a long time before I could see my friends again. Upon meeting my lovely new colleagues, I felt excited to collaborate on an exciting new project. And the distraction of scripting our short film in lockdown was invaluable.
Despite our enthusiasm and drive, the pre-production process presented its challenges. We set a target to raise £3,000 for the budget of our short film, Hell or High Water. This was no easy feat and it required hours of social media sharing, messaging, and promotion in the media. I spoke on BBC Northampton radio about our film, which is something I never would have done had I not been involved in this project, and one of our actors got our film an entire segment in his local paper.
However, we hit a slump—it was difficult to ask for donations amidst such a gruelling time for people financially. It seemed like we wouldn’t reach our target. But after pushing even harder to contact all of our friends, family, and colleagues, we managed to raise that £3k.
As for the scriptwriting itself, I was lucky. My co-writer is amiable, clever, and a pleasure to work with. We managed to divide and conquer the task of writing a script from scratch, and it's been such a rewarding process. We’ve had multiple read through with our group of actors, and this has been essential for us to gauge the effectiveness of the dialogue and how it translates from the page to the (Zoom) screen. We’ve pretty much achieved our final draft, and we’re set to shoot our film this month. As a writer, it’s going to be magical seeing our words brought to life.