Directing for the Screen

Directing for the Screen – (next programme begins February 2018 – apply now)


This programme is aimed at Directors (working with Writing and Producing partners where desired)  wishing to get a feature made and distributed and, in addition, further develop their craft.   The programme is centered on the development and promotion of a major project – a feature film, TV drama/comedy, web-series – and the production of a short feature to spearhead that endeavour.

The ethos of the programme is “to shorten the odds of getting our movies/programmes made”.  We are an entirely pragmatic, vocational organization and have no interest in academia or theory for its own sake.

The SAI welcomes dual applications from director/producer, director/writer teams.  The programme is designed for busy professionals with flexi-schedules and concentrated workshops (generally all-day Monday for 26 weeks of the year).

The Screen Arts Institute will support the film-makers through a calendar year, aiding:

  • Script development and drafting
  • Storyboarding
  • Workshopping with actors
  • Shooting, editing and promoting to festivals a “selling” short (a stand-alone story or “teaser”)
  • Linking the major project to producers and distributors and/or setting up an independent production company (including an EIS Scheme and Tax Allowance Schemes)
  • Masterclasses with professional directors and Heads of Department (cinematographers, editors, 1st AD’s etc.)
  • Building a network of industry contacts
  • Taking the film-maker and project to market (pitching to distributors, sales agents, producers, financiers, broadcasters and cinema exhibitors) at a tailor-made industry event.

Participants who complete our programme will receive certification – but the primary benefit of our support is, of course, the working process itself.

Participants will leave the programme with:

  • A network of industry contacts.
  • A completed short feature.
  • A project folder and business plan for their feature (or long-form TV drama).
  • An advanced understanding and grasp of core directing skills.

We welcome applications from all, irrespective of experience, age, education.  You do not require a first degree.

Our programmes are run and mentored by a team of on-going industry practitioners – including Oscar and Bafta-winning professionals – we do not employ full-time teachers.  This is NOT an academic institution – everything we do is designed to have pragmatic use.

We are looking for film-makers who can illustrate their:

  • Talent
  • Commitment
  • Enthusiasm for creative collaboration

The Programme Consists of 3 stages, beginning in the February of each year – our next programme begins September/October 2015.

Programme Schedule

Stage 1
February – April (or Sept – Dec)

Consisting of 3 Interlinking Courses

  1. Major Project – Script/Story Development
  2. Production Development/Short Film Script dev.
  3. Advanced Directing/Producing Skills

Stage 2
April – August (on Sept start: Jan – August)

Consisting of 3 Interlinking Courses

1.      Pre-production for Short Feature
1.b   (Writer’s pathway)  Major Script Drafting
2.      Shooting
3.     Post-Production/Marketing Short Feature

Stage 3
September-December (for both Feb and Sept start programmes)

Consisting of 3 Interlinking Courses

  1. Feature project Development.
  2. Advanced production development & industry networking
  3. Project Promotion – Shorts to Festivals and on.

The cost of the programme is £15,000 per person.  Places are limited.

Participant Comments:

“I came out with two projects picked up by producers who had been a tutor and mentor – and who both won Oscars during the course. So I guess the benefits of the course and the quality of the teaching go without saying.” – Patrick Woodward, screenwriter

“The SAI has been an amazing experience.  I am a professional Script Editor and so story theory is something that I work with every day and the SAI, headed by Steve, manage to find new ways of opening my eyes on how to approach story.   The creative writing exercises are second to none, and the fact that I don’t have to try and script edit my own work, and let other people do it for me, has been absolutely priceless.  I can’t recommend it enough for any filmmakers out there…” – David P. Davis (Script Editor, Dr. Who, and now SKY Atlantic.

“I couldn’t encourage SAI enough to anyone. It’s rare to find such a positive environment for professional, creative growth with peers and mentors as experienced as the ones I’ve encountered.  As a documentary filmmaker the move towards fiction has always been a daunting thought. With the help of Stephen May and my fellow filmmakers I’ve been able to develop the dramatic potential in the stories I care about while working towards writing my first screenplays for TV and Film.  There’s no better programme for getting you in the room. In my time with the SAI I’ve work-shopped, shared and developed my ideas with the leaders of the industry gaining valuable feedback and contacts that will continue to inform my work for years to come.” – Zara Meerza, producer/director “Marfa, Texas” – and, while on the SAI programme, has secured an Associate Producer’s role at Warp Productions.

“The SAI programme has surpassed my high expectations.  The structure and support are superb and I’d recommend the SAI programme to anyone ready to take their next step in filmmaking.  Stephen May and all mentors and contributors are top industry professionals. This is a privileged position to be in.  A fantastic programme for people who learn from DOING.”-  Jacob Perlmutter, photographer/musician/filmmaker

To Apply:


(IF YOU HAVE ONLINE PROBLEMS, then you can contact: )

You will need to upload, the following:

1.   An example of your screenwriting (any length but it must be a piece of fiction).  And, If you are a director/producer – an example of a completed film/TV project (vimeo link or similar).

3.   An analysis of a scene from a film that you have found particularly powerful, with an emphasis on analyzing how the film-makers have achieved this power.  At the same time, we would like you to offer suggestions on how, perhaps, the scene could be improved. (400 words max.)

4.   A CV of your educational background and all relevant professional experience.

5.    Most importantly: please email us a logline and one-page pitch of the major project that you think you’d like to develop while on our programme. (600 words max.  Use Courier 12pt)