The Professional Programme

The Professional Programme runs for a calendar year  The next programme begins 1st February 2016).  Applications should be made as much in advance as possible.  See bottom of page for Application Criteria.

Who is this programme for?

This is a programme designed primarily, but not exclusively, for emerging talent.  Participants are considered active practitioners NOT students.  We work hand-in-hand with industry.  Our Mentors are amongst the most influential figures in the industry and include multiple Oscar and Bafta winners.  See our “Who we Are” page for details.

The emphasis of the programme is:

  • Storytelling for the Screen
  • Story Development as Writer and/or Creative Producer
  • Business Acumen and strategy for the Film and TV Industries

The Professional Programme is designed for writers, producers, directors and all film hyphenates (writer-directors, actor-producers, editor-writers etc)  wishing to get their work made and to develop a successful creative career.

The Programme is a primary stepping stone to professional engagement in the industry (e.g; a film commission as a writer, or a production job).  It can also be a preparation for further vocational development within the Institute.
The Professional Programme is particularly appropriate to participants who may have decided NOT to attend university or film school, or who have recently left.   It is also appropriate for film-makers returning to creative work after a hiatus through other professional development or family commitments.  This is a vocational programme to help emerging talent accelerate their learning curve.

What is the Course Content?
The Course Work includes:

  • Script writing
  • Creative Producing
  • Industry Networking
  • Detailed case studies of recent films and TV programmes
  • Business plans for film and TV projects

The Professional Programme is resolutely pragmatic and engages with participants as active creative talent not “students”.
Our programme develops all the essential skills for our particular industry but they are among the most valued by ALL employers, namely:

  • The ability to communicate with clarity and elegance in person and on paper.
  • An enthusiasm for collaboration.
  • A dogged determination to be pragmatic and “glass half-full”.
  • A healthy balance of humility and chutzpah.
  • The ability to improvise and be original within set parameters.
  • The stamina to revise work again and again.
  • Good time management.
  • The ability to develop a logical argument and counter argument.
  • A lifelong commitment to analyse human psychology (with an expertise in the reading of text and subtext in language).

The programme is one hundred per cent practical – no theory for theory’s sake.  It operates hand-in-hand with industry and is a route to a professional career in the arts or, indeed, any formal career.
To this extent it operates in marked contrast to traditional film-schools and academic bodies.  We NEVER use numbers to assess progress.
The Screen Arts Institute has a profound conviction that a traditional academic “student” identity is counter productive to the best creative endeavour.   But that is not to say that studying is “bad”.  On the contrary, it is essential.  But the Institute’s responsibility is to provide an environment for learning rather than impose knowledge.

Who runs the programme?

This programme is run by active professionals, not academics. (Notwithstanding this, Stephen May, the Director, is the Open University’s validator of Masters and Undergraduate programmes in this area and is the screenwriting tutor at Oxford University).   The entire ethos of the institute is to work hand-in-hand with industry.

How do you learn?
The programme will provide the opportunity for film-makers to develop their talent and craft at an accelerated pace.
We put small group work at the centre of our training processes.  This aids, of course, participant-led work but also allows for a high level of two-way communication between mentors and participants.  All of our staff are active film makers, including Bafta and Oscar winners, and our regular tutors are made up of the best and most successful in the business.
We learn through:

  • Workshops with Writers and Producers
  • Industry seminars with Sales Agents, Distributors, Exhibitors, Film Finance
  • Pitching verbally and on paper
  • Analytical screenings
  • Script-readings
  • Scripting (from shorts to full-length features)
  • Re-writing and more re-writing!

The emphasis of our programme is script/story-development and creative producing to high professional standards, working in partnership with the film industry.  So, we put particular emphasis on the skills required for TELLING and SELLING stories rather than simply the construction of them.  To this end, we have a pitch element in every course and on the Major Project we oblige writers/producers to produce several drafts of formally assessed loglines and one-pagers.
Our staff endeavor to create an inspiring and rigorous creative environment that sets the bar very high; that demands you work, consistently, to the very best of your ability; that challenges you to develop work that is the product of your highly individual sensibility rather than a lacklustre attempt to anticipate the market.   We tutors/mentors commit ourselves to objective support for your creative intentions and are mindful that our industry experience should not hoodwink us into a sense of creative superiority!
Experience is useful.   But talent, passion and a pragmatic desire to make the most of every opportunity are more important.  We celebrate those qualities in everything that we do.
Our course structure dovetails with the work of our “Storytelling for the Screen” programme and “Directing for the  Screen”.   This means that participants on the Professional Programme will benefit from extensive contact with other more experienced participants within the Institute.

Who can apply?
Participants must have and be able to illustrate:
Talent (illustrated through writing samples and/or finished films)
A commitment to professional standards
An enthusiasm for collaboration

Formal qualifications are not necessary.  2 x written references will be required.  All successful candidates will be interviewed.

What is the Programme Structure?
The Programme consists of 8 courses.

Stage 1:
1. Project Development (Treatments, tutorials, story-boarding)

2. Treatment & Adaption (Developing a TV project)

3. Business Skills & Production Practice (Mastering pitching, packaging and understanding the industry)

Stage 2: (self-directed work supported by tutorials)
4. Project Drafting (1st draft scripting, or Early Project Packaging)

5. Classic Cinema & TV (Analysing examples of classic storytelling for film and TV)

Stage 3:

6. Project Completion (Rewriting – 2nd Draft, or Advanced Project Packaging)

7. Project Packaging (Packaging production materials for Project – and developing strategy)

8. Industry Networking & Case Study (Research and introductions to the appropriate industry sector for the production Project, + business/aesthetic case studies of recent similar projects)

Is there a Programme Award on completion?
Participants who complete the Programme receive certification endorsed by our Institute’s governors.

Click here for: Comments from Graduates and Industry


 What is the 2015/16 Programme Timtetable?

Sep-Dec 2015
Short Film Dev Mondays 10-1pm
Business Skills 1 Mondays 2-5pm
Project Dev 1 Wednesdays 11-2pm
Network Wed 2-5pm
Feb-May 2016
Project Dev 2 Mondays 10-1pm
Contemp Production Practice Mondays 2-5pm
TV Project Wed 10-1
Network Wed 2-5pm
May-Sept 2016
Feature Drafting various
Short pre-prod/shoot various
Classic Cinema screens May-July Fridays 11am – 5pm
Sept-Dec 2016
Project Completion Mondays 10-1pm
Project Packaging Mondays 2-5pm
Business Skills 2 Wed 10-1pm
Industry Networking Wed 2-5pm


What is the fee?

The fee is £13,500  – and £9,000 if you are awarded a Merit Bursary.

To APPLY for programmes in 2015/16 we would like you to email us:

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.

2.   Please write a 4-6 page scene (standard screenplay format) where the context is: a man/woman has 5 minutes to catch a train to meet a dying relative, but they have lost their wallet.  We want you to hit a strong genre/emotion element; comedy, suspense, action, weepie etc.

3.   An analysis of a scene from a film that you have found particularly powerful, with an emphasis on analysing 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.   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)

5.   A CV of all relevant professional and educational experience.

6.   Two references from work colleagues.

Email to: