Media makers Maria Vermeed and Gavin Ingham discuss RMIT’s professional screenwriting program and share their tips for breaking into the screen industry.
Vermeed and Ingham were jointly awarded the 2015 Erin Thomas Award, which is given to the most enterprising student in the Advanced Diploma of Professional Screenwriting each year. The pair were recognised for their capacity to inspire others to collaborate and create.
Since graduating with their advanced diplomas, both Vermeed and Ingham have used the skills and knowledge they developed at RMIT to take the first steps towards long careers in the competitive field of screen production.
What skills and qualities has the Advanced Diploma of Professional Screenwriting given you?
Vermeed: I have had the privilege of being guided by several brilliant teachers who are professionals in the screen industry. After completing the diploma I realised I had gained more knowledge than I had ever hoped for – character development, script structure, critical assessment, editing, how to write with a budget in mind, collaboration, film history … the list goes on. The students in our class were very supportive and inspiring, and even today we still keep in touch to read scripts together, attend screen events, go out for drinks and collaborate on screen projects.
Ingham: I’ve learnt how to listen more deeply and how to turn the stories that people tell into screen stories, which are very different. But the most important thing I got from studying is the ability to turn an idea into a tangible film, and all the complexities that involves.
What are some of the projects you’ve been able to work on since graduating?
Vermeed: I have a lot of projects on the go – a feature script in its fourth draft that I’m hoping will go into production soon, a documentary now in post-production with the aim of being broadcast on television, a feature treatment, a children’s animation, and two cross-platform projects that could be the basis for web series. I’ve also raised funds for a short film based on a script I wrote in my screenwriting diploma. Seeing so much of my writing come to life is incredibly exciting.
Ingham: Inspired by some of the classes I took in the first year of my studies, I wrote a web series that is now in talks to be funded and picked up by SBS or ABC. I also wrote, directed and produced a documentary that has been well received in my local community.
How does RMIT prepare students for a career in the screen industries?
Vermeed: There were regular forums and Q&As with industry professionals, where we could get the benefit of their knowledge and experience. We also were given industry placement opportunities and taught how to best present ourselves in the industry, which can be quite competitive.
Ingham: Having the name RMIT on your CV opens a lot of doors in film and television. Each course is designed to give students real-life experience, and all of the teachers actually work in the industry – so they are a very valuable resource for new screenwriters.
What advice would you give to aspiring screenwriters?
Vermeed: Keep writing, be persistent, learn to accept criticism as a way to get better, and believe in yourself. Also be open to collaboration, because it expands the fun of writing and adds new dimensions to your projects.
Ingham: My advice would be to go to RMIT – I was able to forge industry connections at RMIT that I couldn’t have got anywhere else, and that’s one of the most important aspects of being a screenwriter.
Story: Bradley Dixon